In 2010 I wrote a cover story on John Carona entitled “The Last Republican.” Why that title? Because John represented the last and the best of the old GOP.
He believed in a state government that was fiscally responsible, paying its bills, keeping debt down, and planning for the future. The new Republicans seem to believe in only one thing: no new taxes. If that means we have tollroads instead of state roads at four times the cost to the taxpayer (because the private owners have to recoup their investment), that’s fine with them, because it means no new taxes. If it means state government borrows to keep up with population growth, that’s fine with them, because it means no new taxes (and it also means that one state agency, TxDOT, is $30 billion in debt with service on that debt taking up one-half its budget). In this new regime, short-sightedness is a virtue. It drove John Carona crazy.
Carona wasn’t quiet about it either. He called out his own party, and for that he was branded a heretic. And finally he was defeated last night by a tiny margin by Don Huffines, a fine man who perfectly epitomizes the new GOP. Huffines will be comfortable in Austin. He can make a speech or two, vote against taxes, and go home for dinner. It seems to be what every other Republican in the Senate does.
I admire John Carona. I may someday admire Don Huffines if he uses his considerable business expertise to examine the state budget and come to understand the flim-flam for what it really is. But I’ll warn him right now that there is no reward for seeing what others would rather ignore. By defeating Carona, he just taught us that lesson one more time.