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Two races personify Texas GOP split

Profile image for Denton Record-Chronicle Editorial
Denton Record-Chronicle Editorial

The dust has settled after Tuesday's primary elections.

Congratulations to state Rep. Lynn Stucky, R-Denton, who was re-elected to a second term in the Texas House of Representatives. He beat newcomer Mark Roy because he was a well-known good guy involved in the Denton County community for 20 years.

Roy, on the other hand, was plucked overnight from obscurity by Republican operatives who don't like Stucky because they believed he is not conservative enough. Roy's only qualification was military service. It might have been enough in 1956, but it wasn't enough in 2018.

State Rep. Pat Fallon, R-Frisco -- who is running for the Texas Senate -- destroyed incumbent state Sen. Craig Estes, R-Wichita Falls. Seventeen years in the state Senate provided no advantage for Estes. If Denton voters perceived Stucky as a community asset, they perceived Estes as a joke who only showed up in town at election time.

The Stucky-Roy and Estes-Fallon races personified the split in the Republican Party of Texas.

All four men are conservative Republicans. One could barely slide a piece of paper between their positions on key issues. In a ludicrous bit of rhetorical contortion, Roy and Fallon attempted to portray Stucky and Estes as "liberals." It worked for Fallon but not for Roy.

Voters have no clue what the words "conservative" and "liberal" mean today. The words are so opaque and nonspecific that they are meaningless. Each voter can imbue them with whatever meaning they want.

Texas Republicans are hopelessly split into two camps. On one end are the business-oriented "conservatives" such as Stucky and Estes. One the other are social conservatives such as Roy and Fallon. We'll call them the "ultra-conservatives."

The conservatives are against abortion, gun control, illegal immigration and property taxes. The ultra-conservatives are against those things, too. But during the campaign, they claimed their conservative opponents are actually liberals who favor abortion, gun control, illegal immigration, sanctuary cities and property taxes.

Of course, political consultants concoct this nonsense because they view the electorate as incapable of understanding complexity and nuance. Hence the cynical reliance on silly labels of conservative and liberal.

Republican candidates proudly proclaim themselves "conservative Republican" on their campaign material, and this raises an interesting question for the upcoming general election between Republican nominees and Democratic nominees in November.

Democrats must start embracing their party label on advertisements and yard signs. Yes, it's tough to be a Democrat in Texas, but they should proudly acknowledge support for a woman's right to choose, more gun control, amnesty for illegal immigrants, gay rights and happily paying property taxes to support public schools.

How will like-minded voters find them if they hide in the shadows?

If Democrats such as U.S. Rep. Beto O'Rourke have any hope of beating Republican incumbents such as U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz in November, they must mobilize a record turnout. Anti-Trump sentiment alone will not do it. They must embrace their values and run on them.