Democratic Lt. Gov. Candidate Collier Trying to Beat Republicans at Their Own Game

Democratic lieutenant governor candidate Mike Collier during his Fort Bend teacher's tour earlier this year.
Democratic lieutenant governor candidate Mike Collier during his Fort Bend teacher's tour earlier this year. Mike Collier via Facebook
Of all the races on Texas' midterm ballot Tuesday, the one that's built up the greatest disparity between the attention paid to it by the media, the Observer included, and its potential effect on the lives of everyone who lives in the state is the battle between incumbent Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick and his Democratic opponent, Mike Collier. Patrick and Collier have battled to become, arguably, the most powerful person in state government almost anonymously, but there are signs that some voters may be perking up.

Thanks to Patrick, they haven't debated. Nor have they seen more than a fraction of the more than $100 million that's poured into the U.S. Senate race between Sen. Ted Cruz and U.S. Rep. Beto O'Rourke come into their race. Patrick's ads have popped up on cable news channels, but they've hardly swamped their airwaves.

The polls in the race, which have been rare, have shown Patrick with a consistent lead. If you spend even a couple of minutes hanging out on Texas election Twitter, however, you'll see conservatives either replying to Collier or talking back to Patrick, letting the candidates know that they've crossed party lines to vote for the Democrat.  Collier has also been endorsed by Patrick's Republican primary opponent Scott Milder and Republican Harris County Judge Ed Emmett.

A substantial fraction of the Texas GOP, likely not a winning fraction, but a fraction, has bought into the message Collier is selling — improved funding for public schools, reining in property taxes for individuals and controlling the state's debt. Collier is especially critical of Patrick's support of school vouchers and failure to close loopholes in state law that Collier says allow companies to pay less than their fair share in property taxes.

Patrick — a conservative firebrand who devoted much of the last legislative session to pushing for Texas' so-called "bathroom bill" — has spent most of his campaign in private airplanes, holding press conferences around the state at airports and popping up occasionally on Fox News to talk about the border wall, arming teachers or the migrant caravan. Collier has done everything he can to get Patrick to debate, in addition to meeting with teachers across the state to promote his plans for public education.
Collier's platform sounds more than a little conservative, and it's no mistake — he used to be a Republican. Throughout his campaign, he stressed his willingness to approach his role as lieutenant governor and president of the Texas Senate in a nonpartisan way — focusing on the issues that have frustrated moderate Republicans in Texas, rather than throwing out liberal red meat.

"If you took Collier and you put him in Washington state," veteran Republican campaign consultant Vinny Minchillo told the Observer late last month, "[Republicans] would be complaining that he's too conservative. He'd be a hard Republican, he'd be a hard "R" there. It's all about where you are."

In Texas, Collier has liberal advocacy groups like Progress Texas running education-focused ads on his behalf. 
"Mike Collier is a retired accountant who has positioned himself as the 'education finance' candidate. Public education is a critical issue in Texas as are the property taxes which fund them; Collier's background is well-suited to tackle this issue," Progress Texas said when it endorsed Collier ahead of Texas' primary in March. "Education finance may be the single biggest bipartisan issue in Texas, and Collier is best suited to take Lt. Governor Dan Patrick to task on that subject and so many others."
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Stephen Young has written about Dallas news for the Observer since 2014. He's a Dallas native and a graduate of the University of North Texas.
Contact: Stephen Young