Associated Republicans of Texas: Moderate Republican

Tribe: Moderate Republican

Associated Republicans of Texas‘ (ART) sole mission is to elect Republicans to office in the state of Texas. Tracing its roots back to a meeting in the mid-1970s, ART boasts to having played a pivotal role in turning the state from deep blue to deep red. Legislative outcomes are less of a priority for ART than simply securing as large a majority as possible for Republicans.

Their PAC rarely, if ever, will support a challenger to a sitting Republican incumbent. Instead, ART focuses its efforts on electing Republicans in some of the few “purple” or “swing” districts in the state. That’s why, geographically speaking, much of their money is spent electing urban Republicans in the state’s major metro areas.

ART’s financial support isn’t concentrated on those at the top of the food chain in the House. Those seats are secure, and thus don’t necessarily need ART dollars. Rather, their key supporters are mostly mid-level Republicans who will follow House Leadership, coupled with some members who lean conservative yet don’t regularly rebel against leadership.

A quick look at the top ten recipients of ART dollars in the Texas House shows a clear bent toward supporting the Moderate Republican tribe.

Top Ten Texas House Recipients – 2016 Cycle
DeWayne Burns $35,000
Sarah Davis $30,000
Wayne Faircloth $25,000
Jason Villalba $20,000
John Cyrier $15,000
Jay Dean $10,000
John Raney $10,000
Stan Lambert $10,000
Paul Workman $10,000
Angie Chen-Button $5,000
Total $170,000

***Shown are the top ten supported  candidates who won the office they sought, as they have votes to examine from the 85th Legislative Session.


Pro-ART Spin:

Conventional wisdom says you can’t win if you don’t have players on the field. ART has taken this mindset to heart and believes the best way to help Texas is to stack the deck in Austin with as many Republicans as possible. Their pitch to donors centers on electing so many Republicans that the Democrats don’t even need to show up for work. As Republicans have a near super-majority in both chambers and hold all statewide offices, some might argue their approach has worked — they have helped usher in an unprecedented era of Republican rule in a state as large and diverse as Texas.


Anti-ART Spin:

Most legislators and politicos don’t like to admit what history reveals more often than not to be true: personnel is policy. ART’s mission to elect anyone and everyone with an “R” next to their name, regardless of what they believe, seems oblivious to this fact. Conservative voters and advocacy groups counter ART’s approach by asking: what difference does it make to elect Republicans if they vote like Democrats? Indeed, some of ART’s key legislators are among the most liberal members of the Republican Caucus. And while some ART-supported legislators have shown a willingness to buck House Leadership, they are the exception to the rule.


The Bottom Line:

ART’s political tribe is reflected by those they invest most heavily in: Moderate Republicans, those who more often than not follow the liberal leadership of the House, but are willing to go against the grain if they sense the political winds shifting against them.

To ART, all that matters is electing Republicans to office; votes on specific legislation aren’t necessarily important. Their thinking? With a supermajority of Republicans, Texas will generally move in the direction ART and their donors want. It won’t be fast; it won’t be entertaining; but it will happen because there won’t be as many Democrats in office. Unfortunately for ART, despite the significant resources they invest in legislators during campaign season, they don’t have much sway at the Capitol. None of their key supporters are major players in House Leadership, and several have shown a willingness to resist Leadership if they believe it will cost them at home. Of all eight PACs we have highlighted in this series, ART likely has the least impact on actual legislative results.

If a voter sees a large donation from ART, it  likely means this: the legislator is either a mid-level follower with no real influence, or someone who follows House Leadership blindly until smacked squarely in the face with a vote that could directly hurt them at home.


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