‘The governor took a political risk’: Dr. Paul Fabrizio reacts to TX HD 71 election & various local races

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BIG COUNTRY, Texas (KTAB/KRBC) – In this week’s Big Country Politics Sunday conversation, Professor of Political Science at McMurry University Dr. Paul Fabrizio discussed the recent election results and what they mean for those in office and the community.

In the sheriff’s race, incumbent Ricky Bishop triumphed over his competitors, Elias Carisquillo and Shay Bailey.

“What it means is that he can go forward into this next term, confident that the voters here support him. That sort of stuff is really helpful when he gets into negotiations with the county commissioners over budgets. If there’s any issues that come up, everybody’s going to look at him and go, This man has won this job three times now. He beat back opposition from people who were associated with the sheriff’s department to win this last round. So he goes in with the, I would argue, in an enhanced position of respect and security as he goes forward in his job,” Fabrizio said.

Political Analysts review Texas House District 71 Candidate Forum

Looking at the results, Taylor County saw many incumbents re-elected, something Fabrizio attributes to familiarity in the community.

“In any election where there’s a challenger or an incumbent, the incumbent usually wins. What we saw here all the way through District 71, the congressional race, and the sheriff’s race is that the incumbent mostly won handily. County Commissioner Randy Williams, Jody Arrington, and Sheriff Ricky Bishop all had good name recognition in the community. With that name recognition, were able to beat back the challengers who confronted them, so it really helps to be the incumbent… When you go and ask for money to raise for advertising, people know your record. They’re familiar with you. So, the challenges are usually faced by people who aren’t known. So unless the incumbent is caught in some scandal, then usually the challenger loses, and the incumbent wins,” Fabrizio said.

When asked what he think it would take for a challenger to rise above an incumbent, Fabrizio recalled when Bishop ran for sheriff against incumbent Les Bruce.

“He challenged the incumbent, Les Bruce, two elections ago, and he won. There were questions about what was going on in the sheriff’s department at that time. I think there were a couple of prison jail escapes, so the people were looking [and] going, ‘Is this right?’… Maybe this guy isn’t the right person for the job. So Ricky Bishop was able to do that and say he was not the right person. We need a different way to look at it. Ricky Bishop really talked about salaries, and we needed to raise salaries, and he said we all have a better relationship with the county commissioners who provide the money. And so that was enough to get him over,” Fabrizio said. “You have people who are familiar with the sheriff’s department who are challenging Ricky Bishop. Could Ricky Bishop be experiencing the same thing that took place two elections ago? Is he, in fact, vulnerable? What I thought was interesting about the sheriff’s race is that there was a lot of attention focused early on the sheriff’s race. These accusations were brought up, and they raised questions about how Bishop is managing the department, not even about pay and retention. And so all those hearken back to a couple of races ago for the Sheriff’s Department, but then all those accusations stopped. And the race just sort of disappeared from the public’s eye and it was overtaken by the state representatives… So, if any of those challengers had a chance against Ricky Bishop, it just disappeared with the state representative race.” Wow. So I mean, in the end, voters, I mean, how do I want to say is a lot of voters don’t pay that much attention to what is going on. So you need something that’s going to get their attention. And there wasn’t any obvious scandal; there wasn’t any, you know, prisoner escapes from the jail. So there was nothing to grab onto where the state representatives, there’s plenty. There was so much to pay attention to.”

District 71 House candidates respond to rumors & burning questions in candidate forum

This year, Taylor County residents saw something unusual for the area: a race with many ads, endorsements, and tough challenges. Fabrizio shared that he couldn’t recall another race like the District 71 race between Stan Lambert and Liz Case.

“Very much unprecedented. Here in Taylor County, I can’t recall another race that was like that. The amount of money that was spent, the endorsements. I mean, a presidential endorsement: Donald Trump endorsed the challenger, Liz Case. When was the last time a presidential candidate stepped in to any local race here, it’s never happened before. So that was all really, really amazing. But I think what we have to talk about is we have to get to the core of what’s going on. And the core of it is that the Republican Party, as the majority party in the state, is now purging itself as it defines itself. So, it’s trying to define itself in a certain way. Ken Paxton, Greg Abbott, Ted Cruz, and Donald Trump want to define the party sort of as an insurgent kind of thing. And there’s the old business establishment Republican Party, and what’s taking place is that the insurgents went after the business establishment, called them rhinos, say Republican only a name. So they’re narrowing down the definition of what a Republican is as they get more and more power. We are seeing the Republican Party trying to become, in a certain sense, really strictly defined under the leadership of Donald Trump, with no one else really allowed to be a politician in that mix,” Fabrizio said.

School vouchers were a significant part of this District 71 House race, primarily because of Stan Lambert’s choice not to vote with school choice in favor of Greg Abbott. Fabrizio shared his thoughts on what could come next for school vouchers.

“I think the Governor has demonstrated his power. The governor’s spending, we don’t know officially how much money, but the government, by spending this money and picking candidates and going after those who did not support school vouchers, the government is saying, Hey, you’re gonna do it, my way,” Fabrizio said. “If, after the runoff, which will be at the end of May, the speaker is kicked out… the new speaker, whoever he is, is simply going to be a supplicant to the governor, the governor is going to dominate. And so the people who are elected owe their existence to the governor; the governor is going to call those chips in and say, Hey, I got you in this office; you are going to support me.”

‘This is an election about control’: Gov. Abbott endorses Liz Case for Texas House in Abilene, Rep. Lambert rallies for re-election

He believes people will remember these elections due to Abbott’s risk-taking.

“People will remember the elections; the governor took a political risk. Well, you have to remember the Republican Party is really centered in rural areas. You go to the big cities; the Republican Party is really not very important. You go to the rural areas; the Republican Party is incredibly important. So the governor, by what he did, by going and challenging the incumbents all through the state and saying, Hey, you supported local interests, you’re not supporting statewide interests. The governor is really challenging and taking a risk here. He’s saying, we need to nationalize this, we need to pay attention to what’s important for all of Texas, not what’s important for just rural Texas. So he won in a great many of those races. So, the governor got voter support for him nationalizing this election and saying local interests are less important. That’s a big deal. But is there going to be a consequence for that, where rural areas are going to lose influence? If Liz Case had won, representing Abilene would be a woman who only moved here recently. You know, whenever she got here, whether it was four years ago, or whenever she is not tied to this as Stan Lambert was, so would she really represent rural Texas, or would she instead represent Greg Abbott? And that’s really the whole thing right here. That’s what this is about.”

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