Tea Party and Independent Conservative Republicans of Texas

You may have read press reports about the new organization, Independent Conservative Republicans of Texas (ICROT). It’s a new group organized by state Sen. Dan Patrick (R-Houston) on the anniversary of the Tea Party movement. While the Tea Party appears to have been started by individuals who are not legislators, Patrick is taking advantage of his recognized status as the most conservative state senator to form this new organization of Texas legislators. The name is pretty descriptive. Democrats need not apply. The initial list of members (supposedly based on an invitation from Patrick) did not include many members of the legislature, but there seems to have been a landslide of membership applications. According to Capitol Inside, 90% of Republican state legislators are now members of the organization, including some that historically have been considered moderates.

Evidently all Republican legislators were given the opportunity to join (after the initial more limited invitations); even former Democrat Chuck Hopson (HD 11-Jacksonville), who switched to be a Republican before this year’s primary, has signed on. Some candidates who won in the Republican primary have been given membership subject to their election in November. Another very conservative state senator, Tommy Williams (The Woodlands), declined to join as did Senators Ogden (Bryan) and Wentworth (San Antonio). Sen. John Carona (Dallas), perhaps the most moderate of Republican senators, has joined the group along with other moderate Senators Deuell (Greenville) and Duncan (Lubbock). House members who did not join include Speaker Joe Straus (San Antonio), Dan Branch (Dallas), Dennis Bonnen (Angleton), Charlie Geren (Fort Worth), Jim Keffer (Eastland), Edmund Kuempel (Sequin) and Jim Pitts (Waxahachie). All these House members are important committee chairs and strong Straus supporters. Straus declined to join due to his position as Speaker.

All the above has been in a few news reports. The reason we blog about it is to speculate about any influence IRCOT might have at the polls, as well as some possible long-term implications.

Let's take the long term implications first. Some have asked IRCOT why moderate Republicans (and even a former Democrat) were allowed into the organization. Patrick responded, “I am not concerned how members voted in the past, I’m only interested in how they vote in the future, their commitment to our contract with Texas, and their pledge to put people before party.” My question is who will decide when a member doesn’t vote right (excuse the pun) in the future? If it’s Patrick, then those joining the group have taken some risk that they need to please one senator or risk public chastisement. Remember that Patrick is also a radio personality and his influence in the airwaves has proved to be substantial.

What about the upcoming November election? Why have so many legislators rushed to sign on? You’d have to ask each one, but Tea Party success in some of the legislative races comes to mind, as well as Perry’s primary victory relying almost exclusively on appealing to conservative Republicans. Moderate Republicans (for example, long-time incumbent Delwin Jones, HD 82-Lubbock, and Mabrie Jackson, who was endorsed by moderate former Republican Rep. Brian McCall) did not fare too well in the primary; perhaps identity with some conservative group is a prudent political move.

Will short-term expediency have a long-term cost? Maybe, but some may be concerned that without short-term expediency, there will be no long term.

For more information about IRCOT, check out the Fort Worth Star-Telegram’s PoliTex article.

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