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  • Joan Carney, Precinct Chair #280

Texans must demand reform to end extremism, scandal

Updated: Apr 8

By JOE JAWORSKI, Galveston County The Daily News, April 3, 2024. Reprinted with permission of the author.

I’m a proud Texan, and it pains me to say this, but extremism, scandal and

infighting have consumed the Texas GOP who control us. This hateful environment cannot last.

It’s past time Texans unite to reform our scandalous state government. Texas legislators draw their own district lines, essentially choosing their voters; they serve without term limits; state ethics rules allow limitless campaign contributions and candidates routinely lie in political advertising to destroy their opponents and retain power. This combination is abusive.

A political civil war is afoot to see who’s a “real” Republican. This kind of purity test elevates extremism and discourages moderation. For example, the Texas House of Representatives’ tradition of sharing chairmanships with the minority party is now worthy of political censure. Compromise is a virtue, but in the X-rated political theatre of Texas government it’s sinful. Voters are checking out while moneyed insiders are grooming our state.

When the Texas House impeached Attorney General Ken Paxton, Midland

billionaire Tim Dunn bankrolled his acquittal via Dunn’s Defend Texas Liberty PAC contributing $3 million dollars to Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, the presiding impeachment judge, and funding a widespread Senate intimidation campaign that publicly warned Texas senators sitting as impeachment court jurors not to convict Dunn’s man in office.

Paxton celebrated his victory with a “revenge tour” in which Dunn and others spent more money to remove Republican House members who voted to impeach Paxton. On Super Tuesday, Paxton jettisoned three Republican incumbent judges on Texas’ highest criminal court, and 15 of the 35 candidates Paxton endorsed against pro-impeachment lawmakers won outright or pushed their challengers into expensive May runoffs.

Gov. Greg Abbott was once equivocal on the question of using public money to fund private school vouchers, so Dunn and others ran a candidate against him in in the Texas Republican primary in 2022. Abbott survived his primary, but the experience changed him. In the following 88th Legislature, and in four special sessions thereafter, Abbott demanded that the Legislature pass vouchers. His effort failed each time.

Abbott swore his revenge in the 2024 Texas Republican primary. Abbott received a record contribution $6 million check from Pennsylvania billionaire Jeff Yass to spend on removing anti-voucher House Republicans who conscientiously voted their districts.

Abbott succeeded in defeating seven and four more are in runoffs. Days later, Abbott published a fundraising email criticizing Democrats for accepting “out of state money” from George Soros to pursue their agenda. Abbott did not mention his out of state billionaire donor in the message.

The 9 million voters who declined to vote in the Texas primaries, but intend to weigh in later this year, will decide November’s winners.

Independent-minded voters seeking reform should elect reasonable Democrats and Republicans in November, and in the upcoming 89th Legislature these leaders should:

  • Cap campaign contributions so donors’ support can be given relatively equal weight

  • Schedule a referendum to amend the Texas Constitution to allow candidates a reasonable number of consecutive terms, but forbid careerism in a single office

  • Create an independent redistricting commission

  • Disallow legislators’ self-serving gerrymandering

  • Forbid deceptive political advertising, requiring all campaign statements to be supported by ascertainable sources

To become law, these reforms will require good faith legislating; to achieve that outcome Texas needs accountable, balanced leadership in office. Reform begins when we demand reform. Demand it now: In the newspapers, on social media, at town halls, and at the voting booth.

Joe Jaworski is a Texas attorney and former Galveston mayor.

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