Friday, May 1, 2009

Kay's open letter to Paul Burka...

Paul Burka earlier this week posted an open letter to Kay urging her to follow Arlen Specter's lead and become a Democrat. That kind of thing is obviously not particularly helpful to someone running in a Republican primary, so Kay fired back today (link).

Excerpt follows...
Dear Paul,
You have covered me throughout my career in public service to Texas so you remember I was a proud Republican even when we could hold our gatherings in a phone booth. Having helped make the GOP the dominant party in Texas in the late 90s, I am committed to helping us get back on track both here in Texas and in the nation. We should rebuild for the right reasons—because we can make Texas better.
While I know you wrote your article tongue in cheek, there is nothing humorous about the setbacks the party has suffered in the past decade under Rick Perry’s tenure. I plan to lead our state as a Republican who brings Texans together to achieve our common goals–better education, better transportation, better access to health care. Rather than narrowing our party, I will expand our party again to those who stand with us for lower taxes, fiscal responsibility, small businesses, and individual freedom. We should then strengthen our majority in the Texas Legislature as well as in local elections, which have eroded and even disappeared over the past 10 years.
My Republican Party is still the party of Lincoln and Reagan, and I want to be the Texas Republican who leads the party and its elected officials back to governing responsibly, respecting the taxpayers and preparing our state for its bright future.
All the best,
Kay Bailey Hutchison
[Sent by Rick Wiley, campaign manager]

Sent by Rick Wiley. Probably written by Rick Wiley, as well then. Some of this response makes sense, but it doesn't really do anything to put at ease the minds of conservative GOP voters. In fact, it may cause even more problems.

"Access to health care" may poll really well among the elderly or among suburban women with kids, but when I see that phrase, I can't help but think of Kay's votes to expand S-CHIP. Expanding S-CHIP, year after year and vote after vote, is a blatant backdoor path to government run health care. The entire letter back to Paul and especially lines hinting at socialized medicine doesn't really blunt the damage that comes from people suggesting that Kay might switch parties. Her letter back should have been a conservative boilerplate letter, hi-lighting her strengths and conservative accomplishments.

The other weak part of this letter, pointed out by some of Rick's likely "Blog Management Team" in the comments, is that Texas is still a Republican state, and the legislature is still a Republican legislature. Every statewide position is still Republican. While Kay has served in a prominent leadership position in the GOP caucus within the U.S. Senate, Democrats took over Congress. Responsibility for how many Republicans are elected falls on neither Rick nor Kay. It's just stupid to suggest that because Kay was a high ranking member of the GOP Senate caucus that therefore Norm Coleman didn't kick Al Franken's tail, Colorado went to the Democrats, and Elizabeth Dole lost. It is an immense stretch to make those claims. Tom Craddick didn't lose the Speakership because of Rick. Jim Murphy didn't surprisingly lose to that Democrat woman in Houston because of Rick. Linda Harper-Brown didn't barely win because of Rick. Bryan Daniel didn't lose to Diana Maldonado because of something Rick did. Dallas County didn't go 100% Democrat because Kay lives in Dallas. That entire line of logic is not even logical. It's just really stupid.

The other problem I have with Kay's letter to Paul Burka is that it fails to acknowledge the things we Republican grunts have been working for in Texas over the past decade. Success is more than elections. Success can also be about getting things done. It fails to acknowledge our hard work and success on tort reform. A lot of us bled for that victory, and Rick was right in there with us. It fails to recognize how hard a lot of us have fought working to make Texas government spending the most transparent in the country. There are a whole host of issues that we little old Texas Republicans are very proud of from the past several years. Redistricting is a good example of a win for Republicans that was hard fought and not going to win anyone any brownie points with the media. Nationally, Texas is one of the rare spots where Republicans are still in charge, even among deep red states.

Finally, I really don't like Kay's letter because it attacks Rick from the left during a legislative session when Republicans are trying to pass voter ID and get a number of other conservative issues through. It undermines that process by sending a signal to some of these wishy washy legislators that they can defect and have cover from Kay.

I am going to give Kay a pass on this because I think she probably had very little to do with this letter, but it is really a whiff. It's just a big missed opportunity to firm up her conservative bona fides. If I had to assign a grade for this little stunt, I'd give it a C minus. It would be worse, but I do like her one solid line about "lower taxes, fiscal responsibility, small businesses, and individual freedom." The entire letter should have been about those things, not about trying to win favor among Austin media elites.

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Hey now, campaign characters. Be nice. I know a lot of you on both sides, so I don't want any overly foul language, personal attacks on anyone other than the candidates themselves, or other party fouls. I will moderate the heck out of you if you start breaking the bounds of civility.