The billboard, featuring John Carona's miserly grin accompanied by the words "Our State Senator," went up months ago on Central Expressway, long before Carona's reelection bid had drawn an opponent. Perhaps he sensed that, with the current political climate what it is, a primary challenge would be inevitable. Or perhaps he simply wanted to remind the hundreds of thousands of commuters that pass beneath his gaze each day of his power and benevolence in true Big Brother fashion.
Whatever the reason, investing in the billboard was a shrewd investment, now that real estate developer/car-dealership scion Don Huffines has stepped into the race.
Huffines, as The Dallas Morning News' Wayne Slater reported this week, will be challenging Carona from the right.
His initial critiques focused on Carona's votes for state budgets that increased spending and his support for a bill granting in-state college tuition to the children of illegal immigrants. He also blasts "career politicians who find it more beneficial to vote for special interest groups than to vote for their constituents," a line he might have pulled from next to Carona's picture in the dictionary.
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Relatively tame, as far as political attacks go, but Huffines seems eager to take the gloves off. He's taken to calling Carona "one of the most liberal Republican senators in Austin," according to Quorum Report.
As proof, Huffines points to a 2009 proposal to designate a stretch of Interstate 20 in southern Dallas as President Barack Obama Freeway that Carona "carried the torch" for. Indeed, the record shows that Carona didn't just support the bill, which ultimately stalled; he was a co-sponsor with a fellow Senate fixture, Democrat Royce West.
Carona dismisses the attack, calling it "nothing at all," and Huffines will have his own past mistakes to answer for (e.g. this mustache), but nowadays showing one iota of support for Obama, much less naming a major highway in his honor, is high treason in the GOP. That it was a symbolic gesture, a show of camaraderie with a colleague from across the aisle, makes it even worse.
Carona may ultimately succeed in slithering away from Huffines' attacks, but he'll have to go on trial first. The jury is Republican primary voters. The verdict comes in March.