San Marcos Mercury | Local News from San Marcos and Hays County, Texas

by BRAD ROLLINS

As legislators slog through the second month of their biennial session, Gov. Rick Perry will headline the Hays County Republican Party’s annual Lincoln/Reagan Dinner next week.

If you go…

Who: Gov. Rick Perry

What: Hays County GOP Lincoln/Reagan Dinner

When: 6 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 28

Where: 11508 Carl Road, Austin

Info: Call Linda Kinney at 512-785-8810 or visit the party’s website here

Local party officials say the state’s longest serving governor — and a short-lived contender for his party’s presidential nomination last year — is expected to talk, in part, about two hot-button state issues: public education and water.

The  event is 6-9:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 28 at Texas Disposal System’s exotic game ranch, 11508 Carl Road in the Creedmoor area of south Austin.

Perry’s failed presidential bid in 2012 made him a national figure as well as an object of pundits’ ridicule for his tongue-tied debate performances against a polished Mitt Romney. He remains popular in Texas, however, and has not ruled out seeking a fourth full term in 2014, nor running for president again in 2016.

Perry will address a resurgent Hays County Republican Party whose nominees won every countywide race they contested in 2010 and again in 2012.

With Gov. George W. Bush at the top of the ticket in 1998, Hays County joined much of the rest of the state in swinging Republican. By mid-decade, all but one member of the five-member Hays County Commissioners Court were Republicans as were the district attorney, sheriff and four district judges. In November 2006, local Democrats re-emerged in dramatic fashion, taking four seats on the commissioners court and picking up the district attorney post, too. When Republican Sheriff Allen Bridges died in office in December 2008, the Demcrat-controlled commissioners court got to appoint a Democratic sheriff, former Texas Ranger Tommy Ratliff.

All the Democrats’ gains were erased, however, almost as quickly as they were won. In 2010, Republicans prevailed in every contested race including county judge and precincts 2 and 4 commissioner seats, tilting the commissioners court once again 4-1 in favor of Republicans. Ratliff and County Court at Law Judge Anna Martinez Boling, also appointed to finish the term of a deceased officeholder, lost special elections.

Republican repeated their Election Day dominance in 2012, winning the district clerk office held for years by Democrat Cecelia Adair, who retired. The only surviving Democrats in countywide office, District Attorney Sherri Tibbe and County Court at Law Judge Linda Rodriguez, ran unopposed the last time they were up.

Most of the political drama in recent years has centered on intra-party fights within the Hays GOP as candidates aligned with the Tea Party movement take on incumbent officeholders. Shawn Blakeley won the county chair position in last summer’s primary, besting a better-funded opponent supported by most Republican elected officials and publicly endorsed by his predecessor.

Hays County was also a stronghold for State Sen. Donna Campbell’s successful challenge of longtime State Sen. Jeff Wentworth.

COVER: Gov. Rick Perry is the keynote speaker for the Hays County Republican Party’s annual Lincoln/Reagan Dinner on Feb. 28. TEXAS TRIBUNE PHOTO by SPENCER SELVIDGE

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