Texas Attorney General candidate Rep. Dan Branch was the featured speaker at the Downtown Houston Pachyderm Club this week. I first met Rep. Branch at the Texas Conservative Roundtable Policy Conference in February this year and was very impressed with the breadth and depth of his knowledge of state issues.
Branch started his talk with a story about Thomas Jefferson writing a note in 1820 to James Monroe telling him that if Tejas could be acquired, it would be the richest state in the union, without exception. He then said that in a sense, we are still living out the Jefferson vision with 1,400 people a day pouring in, we are now producing more than the state of California, and that we are gaining quickly on California both in the overall economy and population. Jefferson was the first anti-federalist and believed in states rights and individual liberties.
Overreaching federal government
Branch segued from the Jefferson story to the “great tension” between an aggressive, overreaching federal government that seems to have forgotten that states created it. It is critically important for Texans to elect an Attorney General that will stand up to this overreach and not back down. He specifically mentioned Eric Holder’s recent lawsuit against our Voter ID law after the Supreme Court struck down pre-clearance. Texas needs to force the federal government to take responsibility for the long border between Texas and Mexico, as well as securing our water rights with Mexico.
AG has critical role in continuing our heritage
Unlike his opponent the week before, Branch talked about the role of the Attorney General in state matters. He said that it was critical that the next AG continue the Texas tradition of transparency and openness in government, noting the role that the AG plays in issuing opinions on what information should be released under the Texas Public Information Act. He said that the government should be open on all details of the budget and pension plans and that we should err on the side of transparency in those decisions. Those 1,400 people a day aren’t moving to Texas for the economy alone but also for the live and let live mindset that we have. He also talked about the role of the AG in issuing opinions on legislation and how hard some of those decisions were to make.
Background and bio
Branch has been a lawyer his entire working life. He grew up on San Antonio and went to SMU law school which is where he met his wife. They have five children, three out of college and two still in. He worked briefly in Houston for Baker Botts, then worked the chief justice of the Texas Supreme Court. He has been rated at the highest levels for two decades by the people that rate lawyers for ability and ethics. Texas Attorney General is an important position and needs someone that has practiced law full time and not someone that is getting on the job training. It is outstanding to be a businessman, an investment banker, an entrepreneur but that is not what you are looking for in terms of qualifications for this position. Branch is the only one in the race that has practiced law at the highest levels for three decades.
Branch said that he grew up as a Reagan conservative, helping George Strake in 1984. He ran the victory fund that brought six new congressmen into the party and 250,000 new Republican voters. He knows how to work in the trenches and how to win. He was part of the first Republican majority in the Texas House since Reconstruction. He also talked about his ability to advocate for conservative ideas. He was the author of the bill to return a minute of silence to the classroom and fought that fight knowing that the left would challenge it. He mentioned working with Greg Abbott and Ted Cruz on that legislation and we celebrated its tenth anniversary this year. He also stood up to the legislature and after 2007 there must be a record vote on final passage of a bill. And he authored Prop 2, which eliminated the Medical Education Board this year.
Choosing a candidate
Branch noted that we are going to hear a lot of talk from candidates in this race but he hopes that voters pay attention to who has a record of getting things done and getting conservative solutions enacted. Much like his opponent did the week before, he urged voters to look at his endorsements, specifically mentioning former attorneys in the office, Ted Cruz’s staff, his fellow House members, the DPS, etc.
You can listen to his entire speech:
Question and answer period
I’ll highlight three audience questions and let you listen to his answers.
The first one has to do with his pro-life bonafides. There are a couple of bloggers being paid by the Smitherman campaign that have been critical of one of Branch’s votes on late term abortion. Apparently, this is making the email rounds and Ann Lee asked him about it.
The second one is something that is important to me so I asked him what he would bring to the ticket in November in terms of getting the vote out and helping Republicans win. His answer received a strong round of applause.
Lastly, Ron Hale asked him about a bill he authored to eliminate straight ticket voting and I think you’ll find his answer interesting.
The first thing I noticed was the difference in energy between Branch and his opponent the week before. It was easy to see Branch “fighting” for us. The second thing was his focus on state issues, something that his opponent didn’t bother to mention. We can’t simply focus on the federal government, the state has to keep functioning. Overall, I was very impressed, again, with Rep. Branch’s knowledge of the issues of the state. I was also impressed with his ability as a candidate to connect with the audience. He should be on anyone’s short list of candidates to vote for.