Texas Politicians Stand to Gain from Trump Presidency

The dust is beginning to settle, and now that Donald Trump is president-elect and the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate have stayed in Republican control, we've got to ponder what this means for Texas politicians.

For some, Trump's shocking win means the end of the world as we know it, but for his Republican supporters, it means they stand to score some pretty sweet gigs in the new Trump administration. And the odds are good that Trump's cabinet will include some Texans.

Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick headed up Trump's Texas campaign, and while Patrick says he's not interested in serving in Washington D.C. himself, he is submitting a list of Texas names for Trump to consider putting in key positions in the Trump administration. (Yeah, it's still weird that there's going to be a "Trump administration.")

Former governor Rick Perry and Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller are both being vetted to potentially become the Secretary of Agriculture in Trump's cabinet. Representative Michael McCaul's name is being submitted for him to potentially become director of Homeland Security or as attorney general, according to Patrick. Texas Supreme Court Justice Don Willett, the one who has the awesome Twitter account, has been on the list for months as a potential U.S. Supreme Court appointee.

It's a savvy move, because Texas has a large voting bloc within the Republican caucus, with 25 members, so Trump would do well to make them happy. In some cases, this would also mean that Texas politicians who were either thought to be in the twilight of their political careers (ahem, Perry) or who most people figured would never rise much further (Miller) are now potentially going to end up working in the federal government.

With Perry and Miller, either one would make for an intriguing choice. In Miller's case, the commissioner hit all of his marks when it came to Trump support. Miller endorsed Trump early on, he went out on the campaign trail and enthusiastically stumped for him, and even had a Twitter screw-up just days before the election, when his account called Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton a "cunt."

Traditionally, that little social media misstep or, you know, any of the other mistakes Miller has made since becoming Ag commissioner in 2014, might have barred him from getting anywhere near a White House cabinet. But in a world where video exists of the president-elect stating he likes to "grab women by the pussy" and he is still about to become the actual leader of the free world, anything is possible.

So yeah, Miller may get the post. If he does, though, fingers crossed he gets to keep using Twitter and Facebook.

And then there's Perry.

Perry is also a contender to become agriculture secretary, and the surprising part of that is it makes some sense. Perry does actually have experience in this field. He started out as Texas Agriculture Commissioner before becoming the longest-serving governor of the state. He grew up in small-town Texas, he went to Texas A&M, and we know that he can talk with farmers and ranchers about the industry. (You don't stay governor of Texas for as long as he did without grasping how agriculture works.)

Perry was not a Trump supporter early on. In fact, he actually went after the Donald and was one of the few Republican presidential hopefuls who succeeded in standing up to Trump. Of course, once Perry was bounced out of the running, and it became clear Trump was going to be the GOP pick,  Perry stepped up and endorsed him. Hence why Perry may have a shot at harvesting some reward for his support now.

Meanwhile, Trump's victory, paired with the Republicans' keeping control of both the Senate and the House, is another win for the Texas GOP. The numerous Texans chairing congressional committees will probably get to keep their posts, according to Jeronimo Cortina, a University of Houston political science professor.

On top of that, Texans are going to be vying for more leadership positions in Congress. Speaker of the House Paul Ryan is expected to be up for re-election as speaker when the lame-duck Congress convenes. Ryan will need Texas support, and he has traditionally been popular with the Texas delegation, but his schism with Trump in the weeks leading up to the election may cause some problems.

Ryan took a conciliatory tone about Trump once the president-elect had clearly won, and the two will have some common goals on issues like taxes and some policy, but Ryan's opposition to Trump may still see him ousted as speaker. And if he does go, there are rumblings that at least three Texans may be candidates to replace him, including Representative Mike Conway of Midland, Representative Jeb Hensarling of Dallas and — we're not kidding on this one — Representative Louie Gohmert, according to the Texas Tribune. (Gohmert's possible candidacy is particularly troubling, as we've mentioned before.)

However, not everyone is going to be cashing in for backing Trump. (Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush isn't being mentioned for any appointments so far, and we're betting he's going to have an awkward Thanksgiving since he was the lone prominent Bush to endorse Trump.)

The politicians and other influential supporters who got aboard the Trump train early on stand a much better chance of being rewarded for their support than the ones who, well, lagged on backing him or even downright refused to do so.  Yes, Senator Ted Cruz, we're looking at you.

As we've noted before, Cruz made a fascinating decision to take a stand against Trump, refusing to pledge his support onstage at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland. It was a gutsy move but one that Cruz apparently soon came to regret. He was booed at the convention and it soon became clear that Cruz, never the most popular guy within his party, was and is actually in danger of losing his seat in the Senate.

So Cruz endorsed Trump, but it may have been too little, too late. There are still rumors of Cruz facing a Republican challenger in the midterm primaries. Sure, there's talk about nominating Cruz to the Supreme Court — and it may well happen, assuming Trump finds it easier to forgive, forget, nominate and thus potentially neutralize the resident bomb-thrower of the Senate — but keep in mind Trump reportedly keeps a GOP "enemies" list, and it seems 99 percent likely that Cruz is on it.
KEEP THE HOUSTON PRESS FREE... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Dianna Wray is a nationally award-winning journalist. Born and raised in Houston, she writes about everything from NASA to oil to horse races.
Contact: Dianna Wray