General Election Updates
With the general election fast approaching a recent dollar figure came to my attention. $200 million (I feel like this number should have an exclamation point but perhaps I’m the only one that is shocked by this figure). This number comes from the most recent campaign finance report from our major candidates for Governor. Governor Abbott and former congressman Beto O’Rourke have raised a combined $200 million.
That seems excessive.
That number is one that most of us have no concept of nor will ever have to consider. For the sake of perspective, how much will $200 million dollars buy today? Currently the median home price in Texas is $257K, so $200 million will buy you approximately 778 single family homes or a small subdivision. The Frost Bank tower in downtown Austin cost $137 million in 2003–after inflation lets just call that a wash and assume you could probably get the equivalent today for approximately $200 million. The yearly budget for the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission (not the largest or the smallest state agency) is around $54 million, so you could fund the TABC for almost 4 years at its current budget.
For a campaign there are no “tangible” assets acquired during the campaign itself. There are some people employed and payroll taxes paid, printing services required, some office space rented, a variety of consultants paid to consult and some gas and airline fuel paid for and consumed. Most of that money goes to the purchase of paid advertising on a variety of screens, audio speakers and mailboxes.
All with the goal of capturing our attention for a brief moment so that when (and if) we step into that voting booth we will have some recollection of something we have seen or heard that might sway our decision making at that instant. It is a less than exact science, for we are a fickle group with very short attention spans.
One might ask, what are the powers and duties of the Governor of Texas that would warrant this level of support? With just a minimum amount of research, the answer to this question is readily apparent. The Governor of Texas can:
- Sign or veto bills passed by the Legislature.
- Serve as commander-in-chief of the state’s military forces.
- Convene special sessions of the Legislature for specific purposes.
- Deliver a report on the condition of the state to the Legislature at the beginning of each regular session.
- Line-item veto portions of the state budget bill.
- Make appointments to a large and varied number of state commissions and boards that actually oversee the daily running of our state government.
What the Governor cannot do is introduce legislation, make committee assignments in the House or Senate, or vote on any piece of legislation. The Governor can suggest, recommend, support, or threaten to veto legislation but that is where it ends. It is up to the individual members and their leadership whether any Governor’s policy suggestions are accepted or denied.
All of these duties are indeed important. Something that should be included on this list is the ability to make emergency declarations. This ability gives broad authority to the Governor during declared disasters such as: hurricanes, floods, tornados, epidemics, etc. The Governor can activate the state guard, suspend certain laws and make emergency funds available to assist local and regional political subdivisions. Most of us are aware of the use of some of these powers during past emergencies, some of us may have actually experienced the results of these powers once enacted, for better or worse.
As for the motivation for contributors to any campaign those reasons are as varied as the $200 million dollars that have been contributed so far. Ensuring each’s own version of “good government” is usually the motivation.
My “good government” may be completely different than your “good government”, that’s what makes elections and politics combative. It has long been said that Texas politics is a contact sport. That has never been truer then now.
Election Day is Tuesday, go vote.
And save the date for TWGGA’s Legislative Day: January 31, 2023! More info coming soon.