Allen Blakemore, right, guided Dan Patrick to win in race for super powerful post of lieutenant governor.


Steve Ray

Craig Murphy

Chris Perkins

Dave Carney


General Election Campaigns with Major Party Foes in Statewide, Legislative and Congressional Races - Minimum Five Candidates and-or Groups

Craig Murphy, Matt Brownfield, Justin Epker, Ross Hunt - Murphy Nasica & Associates
Greg Abbott, Joe Barton, Pete Sessions, Cindy Burkett, Linda Koop, J.M. Lozano, Tan Parker, Dade Phelan, Kenneth Sheets, Texans for Lawsuit Reform, Texas Republican Representatives Campaign Committee, Texas Republican Party, Texas House Leadership Fund, Red State Women, Dallas GOP, Harris GOP, Jefferson GOP, Fort Bend GOP

Allen Blakemore - Blakemore & Associates
Dan Patrick, Ryan Sitton, Paul Bettencourt, Donna Campbell, Brandon Creighton, Jim Murphy, Mike Schofield, Conservative Republicans of Texas, Texans for Lawsuit Reform

Bryan Eppstein, Chris Keffer, Bill Paxton, Tim Reeves - The Eppstein Group
Michael Burgess, Kay Granger, Kenny Marchant, Charles Schwertner, Dwayne Bohac, Gary Elkins, John Kuempel, Texas Medical Association

Eric Bearse - Bearse and Company
Sarah Davis, Wayne Faircloth, Larry Gonzales, Joe Straus, Texans for Lawsuit Reform, Texas Republican Representatives Campaign Committee

Todd Olsen - Olsen + Company
Jeff Brown, Wayne Faircloth, Kelly Hancock, Joe Straus, Associated Republicans of Texas, Texas Republican Party

Jordan Berry - Berry Communications
Ken Paxton, Brian Babin, Konni Burton, Charles Perry, Texans for Lawsuit Reform

Luke Macias - Macias Strategies
David Bradley, Konni Burton, Lois Kolkhorst, Matt Rinaldi, Jonathan Stickland, Tony Tinderholt

James Aldrete - Message Audience Presentation
Wendy Davis, Leticia Van de Putte, Gina Bevavides, Libby Willis, Celia Israel, Texans for Insurance Reform, Annie's List, Planned Parenthood, TOP Political Action Committee, Texas Trial Lawyers Association

Dan McClung, Robert Jara, Reed Hibbitts - Campaign Strategies
Hubert Vo, Mary Ann Perez, Texas Trial Lawyers Association, Annie's List


General Election Campaigns with Major Party Foes in Statewide, Legislative and Congressional Races - Minimum Five Candidates and-or Groups

Chris Perkins - Wilson Perkins Allen
Republican Polling
Greg Abbott, Glenn Hegar, Blake Farenthold, Lamar Smith, Konni Burton, Rodney Anderson, Cindy Burkett, Tony Dale, Sarah Davis, Wayne Faircloth, Rick Galindo, Linda Koop, Ron Simmons, Texans for Lawsuit Reform, Texas Republican Representatives Campaign Committee, Associated Republicans of Texas, Harris GOP

Mike Baselice - Baselice & Associates
Republican Polling
Dan Patrick, Ken Paxton, Mike Schofield, Ryan Sitton, Conservative Republicans of Texas, Texans for Lawsuit Reform, Texas Republican Representatives Campaign Committee, Harris GOP

Susan Lilly - Lilly & Associates
Republican Fundraising
Nathan Hecht, John Carter, Blake Farenthold, Bill Flores, Louis Gohmert, Randy Neugebauer, Pete Olson, Roger Williams, Jodey Arrington, Kelly Hancock, Rodney Anderson, Cindy Burkett, DeWayne Burns, Tony Dale, Will Metcalf, Kenneth Sheets, Joe Straus

Spencer Neumann - Neumann & Company
Republican Fundraising
Dan Patrick, George P. Bush, Joe Barton, Paul Bettencourt, Gary Gates, Sarah Davis, Al Hoang, Rick Miller, Jim Murphy, Dennis Paul, Mike Schofield, Conservative Republicans of Texas, Texas Republican Party, Harris GOP, Galveston GOP

John Doner - John Doner & Associates
Republican Fundraising
Dan Patrick, Brandon Creighton, Wayne Faircloth, Texans for Lawsuit Reform, Red State Women, Friends of the University

Vincent Harris - Harris Media
Republican Social Media
Dan Patrick, Ryan Sitton, Donna Campbell, Kelly Hancock, Conservative Republicans of Texas

Jeff Smith - Opinion Analysts
Democratic Polling
Libby Willis, Hubert Vo, Cole Ballweg, Susan Criss, House Democratic Campaign Committee, Texans for Insurance Reform, Texas Trial Lawyers Association, Texas Democratic Party, Texas Parent PAC

Jeff Crosby - Jeff Crosby Mail
Democratic Mail
Kim Gonzalez, Milton Whitley, Paul Stafford, Texas League of Conservation Voters, House Democratic Campaign Committee, Back to Basics PAC




November 21, 2014

Republican Strategists Dominate All-Star Squad
in No-Win Election for Wave-Ravaged Democrats

There are many different ways for political consultants to measure success in the general election in Texas in 2014. The conventional measuring stick called winning percentage isn't one of them though in a state where all of the Republican strategists who had clients on the ballot tied in that statistical category with perfect records at the polling plate.
Most Valuable Consultants
Texas General Election 2014

Best General Election Overall
Craig Murphy
Best Individual Campaign
Steve Ray
Best Organizational Effort
Texans for Lawsuit Reform

All-Star Team
Best of the Cycle, Statewides, Specialist, Democrat & More

Primary Score Card


The campaigns here were a seemingly bottomless treasure trove for out-of-state political professionals who raked in millions of dollars for services they were paid to provide for candidates, committees and party organizations on both sides of the aisle. While real Texas Democrats had nothing to celebrate in the wake of an electoral nightmare, about two dozen consultants from other states found a silver lining in colossal failure when they divvied up several million dollars that the Battleground Texas PAC shelled out in contracts and fees to them as part of an ostensible crusade to turn the state blue. That alone goes to show that winning isn't everything like the old cliche claims. Regardless of whether Battleground Texas laid the foundation for the most extensive grassroots network ever or turned out to be the world's largest toilet bowl, it's apparent in hindsight that the Democrats here were destined to lose in 2014 with or without the help of heavily armed national operatives who traded on old ties to the Obama campaigns.

That post-vote realization takes some of the luster off the victories that Republican consultants in Texas secured this fall in races that most couldn't have lost if they'd tried to do so. But some of the strategy designers and executioners for the GOP stood out from the pack nonetheless with the performances they delivered in the run-up to a general election that was fueled by the second massive red wave here in four years.

Dave Carney - for example - may be technically classified as an out-of-stater in light of the fact that his firm Norway Hill Associates is based in Hancock, New Hampshire. But Carney is an expert on the lay of the Texas political landscape as the longtime chief political adviser to Governor Rick Perry before he arguably took his game to an even higher level this year as Greg Abbott's lead outside strategist in a winning gubernatorial bid. Carney played a more valuable role than GOP consultants in other statewide races first and foremost because the candidate he was advising faced stiffer competition on paper in a fight with a Democrat who'd been a heavily armed national celebrity. But Carney wouldn't have been landing jobs like this for as long as he has if he didn't happen to be among the cream of the crop in the consulting industry.

A couple of Carney peers in the Texas consulting business - Rob Johnson and David White - gave their own stock a boost as well with their work as strategists for Republican Glenn Hegar in a victorious battle for state comptroller. Hegar, who gave up a state Senate seat after securing the statewide promotion, encountered Democratic opposition from a fall foe who would have posed a much more serious challenge in a GOP primary. Hegar would have won one way or the other with the help from the four-star team that he assembled.

No political consultant in Texas emerged from the general election in a sweeter position than Houston strategist Allen Blakemore finds himself in now. Blakemore served as the chief guide for Dan Patrick in a winning campaign that's propelled him to the top of power ladder here as the incoming lieutenant governor. Blakemore capped off one of his finest election seasons in a long career with Ryan Sitton's win in a Texas Railroad Commission race that he entered as a no-name underdog.

In a profession that depends heavily on specialists who the conductors that are known as general consultants couldn't win without, Republican pollster Chris Perkins elevated himself into the same basic league with veteran polling whiz Mike Baselice in an industry rivalry from which the up-and-comer appeared to emerge with a slight edge.

For conservative purists who appreciate fiscal discipline on the campaign trail almost as much as they do at the Capitol, GOP consultant Todd Smith helped longtime client Sid Miller get more bang for his buck than any other winning statewide candidate in a non-judicial race on the ballot in 2014. Miller - a former state lawmaker who'll become the new Texas agriculture commissioner in January - received one vote for every 39 cents that he raised for the statewide race. That's a major bargain when compared to an Abbott arsenal that dished out almost $17 for every vote he claimed in the state race at the top of the ticket. Smith helped Miller find ways to win without breaking the bank like the campaign's enlistment of Republican hero rocker Ted Nugent in a volunteer capacity as the campaign treasurer. While skeptics might note that Miller's Democratic opponent didn't raise a dime for the farm chief's fight, the loser proved to be almost as formidable as Wendy Davis herself in terms of the share of the vote that the Democratic contenders received. Smith would probably counter that by pointing out that Miller was heavily outspent in primary and runoff elections that he won anyway.

As far as the cash flow goes, Texas Republicans can thank their lucky red stars that all the rich Democrats who sent more than $10 million worth of checks to Battleground Texas from all over the country didn't simply give the money to veteran Austin strategist James Aldrete. One of the premier political consultants in America when it comes to Spanish-language advertising and Texas politics in general, Aldrete is one of the few remaining survivors from a Democratic consulting industry here that's been thinned out by attrition that's been exacerbated by a lack of good statewide candidates and the near-elimination of legislative swing districts. But Aldrete was one of the best on his side of the line when the Democrats were still in power here - and business was good in 2014 despite the massive partisan disadvantages as candidates with big money like Wendy Davis and Leticia Van de Putte enlisted his expertise for races that hindsight shows they had no chance to win. Aldrete scored a rare fall victory for a Democrat in a potentially competitive race as the consultant for freshman State Rep. Celia Israel of Austin in a rematch that she won nine months after she'd claimed a seat initially in a special election.

As far as the individual consulting scoring goes in the wake of the GOP table run, we're relying this time around on the eyeball test for both quantity and quality to determine the order in which the Texas strategists are ranked instead of numerical scoring system that may be slightly less subjective but no more accurate than the current scorecard measuring stick.

General Election Consultants

Allen Blakemore
Best of the 2014 Election Cycle
Dan Patrick for Lieutenant Governor & Ryan Sitton for Railroad Commission
Paul Bettencourt & Donna Campbell for Texas Senate

Dave Carney
Best Statewide Campaign
Greg Abbott for Governor

Rob Johnson & David White
Best Statewide Campaign Duo
Glenn Hegar for Comptroller

Todd Smith
Best Campaign for the Money
Sid Miller for Agriculture Commissioner

James Aldrete
Best Democratic Consultant

Chris Perkins
Best Specialist Consultant

Craig Murphy
Best General Election Overall

Veteran GOP strategist Craig Murphy has won more competitive races on the critical legislative battleground in recent years than most of his chief competitors combined. But that's not how or why he was the most valuable political consultant in Texas during the second half of the cycle that ended with the 2014 general election. While Murphy and his partners had the longest list of clients who were running as candidates or fueling their campaigns as major donor groups, they helped guarantee victory for about 99 percent of the Texas Republicans in competitive races this fall with some innovative ingenuity that was ground breaking and highly effective as well.

The GOP consulting firm Murphy Nasica constructed a computerized data collection and dissecting system that it used to expose the Democrats' vaunted Battleground Texas organization as a propaganda machine that was relying on psychological warfare in a mission that was supposedly aimed at turning the state blue. In a boldly decisive move that had ample potential to backfire, Murphy and his tech-savvy associates ripped the mask off the Battleground Texas strategy with a sample public unveiling of the Republican firm's voter identification and projection software application that had been designed to analyze the early turnout in the state's largest cities from every conceivable angle. The Murphy Nascia system was like a walk through the park at a Disneyland for political science enthusiasts with a myriad of charts and graphs of all shapes and colors that anyone with elementary computer knowledge could navigate. While the visual stimulation was very entertaining on its own, the central message that emerged from the data was that Battleground Texas might have a major credibility problem. A few days after the national operatives who'd spearheaded the effort declared that the early vote looked great for gubernatorial nominee Wendy Davis and the other Democrats on the fall ticket, Murphy Nasica unleashed its own numbers that indicated that the turnout had favored Republicans in the early going in way that suggested that a slam-dunk victory for the GOP was on the horizon.

The top Battleground Texas leader sought to shoot down the Republicans' early vote read as a flawed and misleading examination - and he declared that the group's more sophisticated and extensive review showed that the governor;s race and other key battles on the Texas ticket were going to be nail biters that would go down to the wire. But Murphy Nasica had backed up its tentative conclusions with real data that it carried out on the limb in a novel and daring fashion that attracted major media coverage - and Battleground Texas could counter this with nothing but assurances that the truth was on its side without anything tangible to substantiate that. The group's cover had been blown along with more than $10 million that true believers had contributed to the group that had ties to the Obama campaigns that might feel compelled to distance themselves now in the wake of the Battleground Texas disaster that Murphy's firm had done a lot to help bring about.

Murphy's tool box has featured a mix of conventional methods with newer services that are geared to advances in technology since a merger with a voter targeting firm that Matt Brownfield and Ross Hunt had established in Austin several years earlier. The dueling with Battleground Texas on who would turn out and how they would vote should be excellent advertising in light of the fact that Murphy's law prevailed once again.

Steve Ray
Best Individual Campaign

In a business that's revolves increasingly on political professionals who are hired guns for small armies of candidates, party organizations and special interest groups that operate as teams for all practical purposes, Steve Ray defies the trend as a go-to guy for clients who want a personal touch with a hands-on mindset. That's especially true if you're a former Democrat who's running for re-election to the Legislature at the end of your first full term as a Republican in a district that tilts slightly Democratic on paper. Ray is an absolute must-hire if this district happens to be anywhere near the former newspaper columnist's home base in the Corpus Christi area. State Rep. J.M. Lozano could testify to that after following Ray's guidance to what may have been the most impressive victory by any candidate on the Texas ballot in the fall of 2014.

While Ray had a cadre of local Republican candidates who won in an area that had been a Democratic stronghold until recently, he was able to hoist Lozano to the top of his priority list in a South Texas House race that Democrats had tagged as one of their top targets on the legislative Battlefield this year. The House District 43 contest - on paper - had appeared to be the most potentially winnable seat in the Democratic Party's scope at a time when it could concentrate more resources there with opportunities for gains more limited than usual on other parts of the map. Democrats thought they had a formidable contender in Kim Gonzalez - an assistant Nueces County prosecutor who lived in nearby San Patricio County where there are more GOP voters than there are in the district's other three counties combined.

But anyone who saw the challenger's residential status as an advantage would find out the hard way how tough it is to match wits with someone who'd become a regional political expert as an independent observer originally before crossing the line in time to help oversee the area's partisan transformation as a key insider player. When Lozano decided that he wanted to be the first Republican to ever win in his own home base of Jim Wells County, Ray went to work on the grassroots networking that it would take to knock down partisan walls in a place where a lot of voters had never voted for a Republican in their lives before doing so gleefully on the incumbent's behalf. Making history looked easy when Lozano claimed more than 58 percent of the Jim Wells County vote despite an infusion of Battleground Texas reinforcements and resources there for the Gonzalez campaign. But Lozano's adviser made sure that the heavy concentration on the mainland didn't come at the expense of support in San Patricio where the incumbent who's switched parties two years ago topped 64 percent.

A good consultant knows that trust is a two-way street - and Ray knew when to trust the candidate amid Lozano's refusal to go negative when the opposition began dropping the kind of bombs in the mail that make competitive political pro want to fight back. But Ray is the kind of consultant who wants to customize a campaign to fit a candidate's unique needs and assets - and he did everything he could to make sure that folks who were reliable voters and others who rarely voted at all would take the trouble to go to the polls to back Lozano because they'd like the guy personally. The partisan card that some Democrats wanted to play was worthless at that point.

Texans for Lawsuit Reform
Best Organizational Effort

They aren't classified officially as political consultants. But the seasoned professionals that manage the Texans for Lawsuit Reform's political action committee may have done more to shape the campaigns in some of the most competitive contests this fall than the people who were getting paid for their advice with the money that the group contributed.

As high-ranking officials for the group that pumped the most money into Texas campaigns in 2014 just like it's done in every election for the past 20 years, the TLR trio of Richard Trabulsi Jr., Drew Larson and Sherry Sylvester had as much influence in individual GOP campaigns in Texas as they'd decided that the candidates were going to need to win. Trabulsi gets more directly involved in campaigns than outsiders might expect for someone who co-founded the tort reform group and serves as its president. Lawson and Sylvester - as the TLR PAC director and communications chief respectively - have significant parts as well in campaigns when their assistance is deemed to be needed. The extent of TLR's participation in the decisions that consultants typically make depends in large part on the amount of funds that it's earmarked for a particular race and whether it determines that the money it's given is being spent wisely. Campaigns that employ strategists who TLR trusts from experience may be given more leeway to use TLR contributions as they fit within certain parameters. But most of the money that TLR donates to candidates comes in the form of in-kind contributions that are used for specific purposes that the tort reform group has defined after examining campaigns and their operational and mission plans to determine their needs and how much they need to be micromanaged to succeed.

With fewer truly competitive races on the general election ballot in Texas than normal, TLR had the ability to dive deeply into the races with the highest stakes like the battles for the state Senate and House that Republicans Konni Burton and Wayne Faircloth won respectively at the polls in November. The tort reform group had earned the right to call shots in those two particular races even before it poured hundreds of thousands of dollars in the final month before the election - and it felt like it had an obligation to its own donors to do everything that it possibly could to ensure that the GOP nominees were going to win.

But TLR's impact from the perspective of strategy advice, development and execution may have been bigger in terms of relative significance in races that were barely blips on the radar like Republican Rick Galindo's bid to unseat Democratic State Rep. Philip Cortez in the San Antonio where the incumbent had been regarded as the favorite up to the end. While some of the big trial lawyers who've been TLR's main political enemies have been more apt to keep a hands-off approach to the races they're bankrolled, the tort reform group gives more overall but has more strings attached as far as how it will be used is concerned. TLR officials were reluctant at first to dig too deep into the groups vast pockets at first when Galindo approached them about a helping hand in a bid that looked like a long shot at best. So the group's leaders told Galindo to get out in the district and to show them that he had the potential to be a viable underdog. Sensing that a wave was gathering steam off the Texas political shores like the killer red tsunami of 2010, the TLR folks decided in the nick of time that Galindo might have a chance if they took over and moved fast. For the record, that particular candidate is being referred to now as a state representative-elect after knocking the incumbent out with almost 53 percent of the vote.

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