Primary Runoff Election … Conservatism 101

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Election day for the 2018 Primary Runoff is next Tuesday, May 22nd. If you haven’t voted yet and you care about defending traditional conservative values in Texas, do go and vote in this election. Low turnout is expected in this midterm, non-presidential election year so your single vote counts a great deal. As of May 18th, 12,060 votes have been logged in the Democratic Party primary runoff, 10,690 on the Republican side. There are 1,049,400 registered Bexar County voters.  For polling sites on election Day, May 22nd, go to the Bexar County Election website.

Russell Kirk (1918-1994), considered by many conservative leaders today as the father of modern American conservatism published his great work, The Conservative Mind, in 1953. Kirk provided the intellectual, conceptual framework for understanding the opposing political pillars of conservatism and liberalism, philosophical principles as far apart as the North and South Poles.

Kirk defined a conservative as “a person who endeavors to conserve the best in our traditions and our institutions, reconciling that best with necessary reform from time to time. A conservative is not, by definition, a selfish or a stupid person; instead, he is a person who believes there is something in our life worth saving.”

Popular 20th century American political and opinion leaders studied and put to practice the political and economic fundamentals of conservative thought advanced by Kirk and before him Edmund Burke and Founding Father President John Adams. These leaders included Senator Barry Goldwater; authors, pundits, and  commentators – former communist Whittaker Chambers, Bill Buckley, Brent Bozell, and Pat Buchanan; President Ronald Reagan, economists Milton Friedman and Arthur Laffler, Congressman Jack Kemp, and others.

What does this have to do with the primary elections? Simply this … how do we judge candidates today? Yes, experience, academic background, professional achievement and competency are all factors. But how do we differentiate candidates vying for critically important judicial and legislative offices especially if their backgrounds are similar? I would suggest to our readers (especially since this is a periodical for conservative minded thinkers) that candidates should be evaluated ultimately on the basis of standards in reference to the philosophies and example set by these conservative philosophers, academics, and political leaders.

What these giants of the conservative movement in America share in common is an abiding commitment to these first principles of governance:  Limited government, robust national defense and secure borders, traditional family values, religious and individual liberty protections, and adherence to free market principles.

Ronald Reagan’s speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference on March 3, 1981 in Washington, D.C. is as relevant today as it was 36 years ago. It stands as a defining conservative manifesto for our times. Judge your candidates of choice by these principles:

We can make government again responsive to people not only by cutting its size and scope and thereby ensuring that its legitimate functions are performed efficiently and justly. Because ours is a consistent philosophy of government, we can be very clear: We do not have  a social agenda, separate, separate economic agenda, and a separate foreign agenda. We have one agenda. Just as surely as we seek to put our financial house in order and rebuild our nation’s defenses, so too we seek to protect the unborn, to end the manipulation of schoolchildren by utopian planners, and permit the acknowledgment of a Supreme Being in our classrooms just as we allow such acknowledgments in other public institutions.” (Source: Speaking My Mind. Selected Speeches by Ronald Reagan, Simon and Schuster, 1989)

I make it a point as the president of a conservative, faith-based political action committee (PAC) to interview candidates not only about their academic and professional experience but their values and philosophy of life. Which spiritual leaders do they admire? What charitable organizations do they support? Which former president(s) do they hold in high regard? Which Supreme Court justice has been exemplary? Which Supreme Court case do they believe has had the most impact on our society? When does life begin? Should Democrats and Republicans sign a pledge to support their party’s platform of principles? Why or why not? Understanding candidates as best as we can through interviews, surveys and questionnaires, reading their opinions and listening to their campaign speeches help us crystallize our final choices.

I recommend Chip Roy for U. S. Congress, District 21. Mr. Roy has the inside track on experience working closely as the Chief of Staff and  advisor to Senator Ted Cruz and Senior Advisor to Governor Rick Perry. His stated purpose in running for Congress bears repeating:

“It’s past time for the American people to reclaim our God-given right to live free from government interference – to break the back of the Washington establishment and end the never-ending cycle of politicians who campaign as conservatives only to let the swamp run the show – telling us they’re not for amnesty but then supporting it, telling us they’re repealing Obamacare when they’re not, telling us they’re for balanced budgets while laughing off the President’s 5-year balanced budget.

Enough. It’s time for genuine, proven leadership to fight for our children against a tide of govern-ment  regulation, spending, and coercion that threatens their future. Together, we will seize this moment in history to unite Americans around our shared commitment to limited constitutional government and our right to live free in our communities and according to our faith.”

I recommend Matt Beebe to succeed Speaker (Rep.) Joe Straus for State Representative, District 121. Beebe is a principled conservative. I heard Matt give his testimony during the HB2 omnibus pro-life legislation debates in 2013 at the state capitol. His impassioned speech in defense of innocent unborn life inspired many listeners in the chamber including this author. Matt Beebe walks the walk. He supports prolife organizations such as Texas Right to Life and the Heidi Group. He identifies himself as a “strong conservative, informed by my faith, I believe society is better when the government promotes and encourages Judeo-Christian values”. He admires public leaders like Supreme Court Justices Antonin Scalia (r.i.p.) and Clarence Thomas; ;conservative and courageous legislators like Matt Schaefer, Matt Krause,  and Matt Rinaldi.

His opponent, Steve Allison, is the hand-picked successor of Speaker Joe Straus, who did everything in his power to thwart the legislative priorities of the Governor in the last legislative session, likening Governor Abbott’s priorities to a pile of “horse manure”. Allison is a vocal opponent of school choice, supports unrestrained growth of state funding of public education; like Straus,  supports unrestrained municipal tax increases and objects to limiting the growth of spending as fixed to population growth championed by the Governor.

While Beebe has signed the pledge to support a new Republican Speaker who wins the majority of the Republican members’ votes, Allison has not, indicating like Straus that the Democrats and moderate/liberal Straus cronies should be able to vote for the new Speaker which would ensure another moderate Republican directing the House down the same rat hole Straus  led the House into in the last  and prior sessions to obstruct the legislative priorities of the Governor, Lt. Governor, and conservative, hard working  members of the House.

Last week Lt Gov. Dan Patrick issued a statement on May 16th announcing that he was actively engaged, funneling close to $600K into the campaigns of five principled, conservative state senators including Sen. Donna Campbell who represents Bexar County.  He called attention to Straus’ surreptitious contributions to liberal candidates (so called “responsible Republicans”) and organizations, laundering his campaign contributions amounting to $1M through large PACs. According to a statewide watchdog group, Straus has given a $600K contribution to the Texas House Leadership Fund, a liberal group  controlled by Straus and his cronies and $350,000 to the Associated Republicans of Texas, an independent  liberal organization run by establishmentarians like Cyndi Taylor Krier and other Straus allies.

I recommend the election of Judge Joey Contreras for District Judge, 226th Judicial District. I interviewed Judge Contreras on the phone last week. He is a delightful gentleman to talk with. Let me tell you more about him. He supports the St. Jude Children’s Hospital. He has a BS in Economics from Cornell and law degree from UT Austin. He has been a federal and state prosecutor and now judge serving the public for 30 years. He was appointed by Governor Greg Abbott to fill the unexpired term of Steve Hilbig last year on the 187th district court. He is running for that same office.

Former President Ronald Reagan represents his political philosophy; Oliver Wendell Holmes, his judicial philosophy. The Supreme Court case which most impacted American society in his view is Brown vs. Board of Education. He believes Roe v. Wade was wrongly decided and set a very bad precedent because the justices could not cite a precedent in the constitution. The decision was not based on the merits of the arguments for legalizing abortion but was “outcome oriented”.

Current political issues worry him about the state and future of the country because of the personalization of divisive issues and the ugly, dishonest, bigoted behavior we witness in public especially against conservatives. He is a strict constructionist and textualist in the mold of Justice Antonin Scalia. He would fall 100% on the scale on the strict constructionist side.  We had a very pleasant conversation about Justice Scalia, his wit, his humor, civility, and towering intellect and the example and legacy he left as a conservative Supreme Court jurist.

I believe Judge Contreras’ opponent, Karl Alexander, has a fine resume but does not have nearly the depth of experience and qualifications possessed by Judge Contreras.

I recommend Todd McCray for District Judge, 226th Judicial District. I conducted a detailed phone interview with Mr. McCray.  He has tried over 100 cases before a jury, over 1,000 as a prosecutor, and has represented over 1,000 clients in private practice. He considers himself  “100% a strict constructionist as opposed to broad constructionist (diametrically opposed to activist judges who interpret law based on progressive, socio-political  considerations). Political issues of primary important to Mr. McCray is ” protecting human life because life is the preeminent, sacred God given value. Self defense for the safety of home, loved ones, community and nation”.

I recommend Laura Heard for Judge, County Probate Court No. 2. She has more than thirty years experience in Texas probate law. Her questionnaire responses were extensive. She was instructive in giving us a window into the daily responsibilities of a probate judge. We were impressed with the empathy that she explained is needed in probate court cases:

“I have seen how there are people who literally have no appropriate family members to serve as Guardian, especially in the child abuse cases I have been involved in. My goal is to find a way to serve those people who need guardians and for whom there is no government program nor family member to help them.

Judicial candidates, Libby Wiedermann and Julie Hardaway, chose to ignore multiple phone calls and emails requesting a questionnaire response or phone interview.  They were given ample time and notified that an endorsement would not be possible if adequate information about their background, experience, values and philosophy was not forthcoming.

I support Cynthia Brehm for the office of Chairperson of  the Republican Party of Bexar County.  As I stated in a previous commentary, Brehm deserves a fair chance in winning your vote. She is not part of the country club clique dividing the party. She works hard for the Party. She has ran twice in two municipal elections as Mayor and Council representative. She was the largest vote getter for the District 8 race in the Republican primary. She graduated from the University of Hawaii Magna Cum Laude, and is a Distinguished Graduate from St Mary’s University with a Masters in Public Administration. She is an experienced fundraiser, a bilingual grassroots activist,  who desires to reach out to the Hispanic communities in San Antonio districts to expand the party base in a city divided along geographical lines.

Her opponent is supported by the establishment old liners in the local county party who fought and were defeated in the resolution vote to censure Joe Straus. Precinct chairs who make up the grassroots leadership in the local Republican Party believe Gonzalez has been invisible and inactive in the work of the local party who has not served in any position of leadership, never been present in party meetings, or led any efforts to further the work of the county party in fundraising, supporting candidates, and broadening the base of Republican voters.

If you have not voted yet, we encourage you to perform your civic duty. It is shameful  that at the end of early voting in this primary runoff election, only 2% of the electorate has voted.

[The opinions expressed in this commentary are those of Phil Sevilla, the editor of  The Alamo Torch.]