It’s interesting that Gov. Greg Abbott has snubbed incumbent state Rep. Wayne Faircloth and endorsed his opponent for Texas House District 23, political newcomer Mayes Middleton.
That endorsement also is the first thing voters interested in broad-based representation in Austin should scratch off their lists of candidate pros and cons.
That’s neither an endorsement of Faircloth nor a statement of opposition to Middleton, who strikes us as a bright, personable man and he’s clearly worked hard to meet and talk to voters in this part of District 23.
In fact, it’s hard to find a group bigger than two without someone who recently answered the door to find Middleton on his porch wanting to talk about the race.
What we’re saying is this: The last person we need representing us in Austin is someone who’s primarily Abbott’s pick. Middleton may be more than that, but this endorsement constitutes perhaps the first item of political baggage he’s accumulated in his short career. Not a lethal load, but something to be overcome.
What Abbott wants in the legislature is people who’ll support whatever Abbott and his special-interest backers want, whether that’s in the best interest of most of the people back home or not.
The governor proved to our satisfaction during the most recent regular and special legislative sessions that he’s mostly interested in consolidating power in Austin around a very narrow agenda of items important to hardly anybody but the far-right of the Republican Party, and bills designed to benefit big business by shifting most regulatory power to Austin.
He showed great disdain for both local governance and political compromise, both of which are fundamental to democratic government.
Abbott said it best himself as he lamented last year to a conservative special-interest group about the “patchwork of local regulations,” in the state.
“As opposed to the state having to take multiple rifle-shot approaches at overriding local regulations, I think a broad-based law by the state of Texas that says, across the board, the state is going to pre-empt local regulations, is a superior approach.”
As we’ve argued before, a patchwork of local regulations is a fair description of the 50 United States and results from the concept of states’ rights, which the Texas Legislature lists among the most fundamental and sacrosanct of our political ideals, whenever doing so is expedient to its agenda.
The governor and others in Austin were frustrated during the last session by not being able to pass every item of a long list of socially conservative bills and bills designed to gut local authority.
They were frustrated by opposition among Democrats, of course, but mostly by opposition among others in the GOP who disagreed about whether passing those bills was in the best interest of their constituents.
There’s a push now among political special-interest groups, such as Empower Texans, of which Middleton is a member, to prevent that from happening during the next session by purging the legislature of anyone not fully committed to every song in their hymnal.
Abbott took the unusual step of endorsing incumbent Faircloth’s opponent because Faircloth had the audacity to oppose a few things that Abbott supported.
Faircloth has proved that he’s willing to stand up for his constituents even against a powerful governor and some deep-pocketed special-interest groups pushing very narrow agendas.
What we need to see from Middleton is some indication that he would do the same.
What voters in District 23 should be asking is who the challenger would answer to in Austin — Abbott and Empower Texans or the people back home.
• Michael A. Smith