In a move that surprised many political observers, GOP Tarrant County Judge Glenn Whitley recently endorsed Democrat Mike Collier in the race for Texas lieutenant governor, over incumbent Dan Patrick, a fellow Republican. Carlos Huerta is a professor of political science at Texas A&M University, Corpus Christi. He told Texas Standard that at least some of Whitley’s beef with Patrick has to do with a perceived erosion in local control. Listen to the interview above or read the transcript below.
This transcript has been edited lightly for clarity:
Texas Standard: Glenn Whitley made these comments on a podcast by WFAA in Dallas, called Y’all-itics. Do you know why he is why Whitley’s backing Collier?
Carlos Huerta; Well, from what I my understanding, it’s a frustration about local control. The Texas Legislature has been passing laws that have limited what local officials can do, and one area has been property taxes. So my understanding of it is the county judge was upset about the limits placed on property taxes and taking away that local control. And that’s why he came out and endorsed Collier for lieutenant governor.
We’re talking about a dispute over local control. Wasn’t that something that Republicans have at least historically said that they support? In a sense, it seems like there’s sort of a dispute over what exactly Republican policies should be. Or am I reading too much into that? Is this a personal thing?
I wouldn’t classify it as personal. This is something we’ve seen in politics where discussion about local control, how local control’s important, yet when it comes time for it, ‘ell, that’s not what we meant. No, you can’t do these types of things.’ So I would argue it’s more about what you want politically, what your policy goals are, rather than a stated principle that local control is always better.
I guess it has to be noted, though, that Whitley has expressed displeasure with Patrick, going back. I think. At one point, according to the Texas Tribune, Whitley said that Patrick as lieutenant governor and this is a quote, has a stranglehold over what goes to the governor’s desk and is driving Gov. Greg Abbott to the far right. And I guess that’s the question. Does this represent a split among Republicans as to where Texas’ trajectory should be headed?
The Republicans have had their factions. They have the social conservatives and the fiscal conservatives and the social conservatives – Dan Patrick’s a good example of one, a leader of them. Some of the fiscal conservatives don’t feel as comfortable with them. And what I think you’re seeing here is the concern that, you know, perhaps the Republicans have gone too far to the right. And they had big wins on abortion rights. They had big wins on guns. And is that where the voters are in the state of Texas? I mean, that state wins Republican primary. Republicans would support it. That might not be enough to win in a general election.
It’s my understanding that Collier has jumped on Whitley’s comments and he is using it as a place to call out to moderate Republicans. Tarrant County, of course, used to be considered one of the most staunchly Republican counties in Texas, but that has started to change in recent election cycles. And I wonder, what do you think the impact of Whitley’s support of Collier could mean for Texas at large, or do you think it’ll have much of an impact?
Well, I think one instance is not going to have a big impact. I think it’s a cumulative effect. It is this going to have an impact in the campaign? Is Collier going to run with it? Are you all in the media going to be discussing it and picking this up? Is the question going to become, has the Republican Party become too conservative for Texas. And if there’s a perception that more fiscal conservative Republicans are coming out for Collier, then that could have an effect. So this could be the catalyst for this conversation to happen.
What about a response from Dan Patrick? Have you heard anything?
Well, the things that I’ve seen have been calling Collier. somebody who wants to spend a lot of money. And he is putting Whitley in there also. They’re not they’re not trying to keep taxes down. And that’s a tried and true Republican position. And we’re going to do all we can to keep property taxes down. And these folks are trying to raise them. So that’s the place they’re going to go. And to move the conversation to something like property taxes instead of other issues on the campaign agenda.