A Lament for John Carona

He's not returning to Austin, after an election defeat.

The last Republican has been kicked out of Austin.
The last Republican has been kicked out of Austin.

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.


  • Edward

    If the Republican party continues to control Texas, we will soon have no roads, schools, or hospitals.

    It’s a shame that moderate Republicans are either too lazy to vote or too scared to vote against the Tea Party politicians who are determined to run our great state into the ground.

    • Chrissy

      You seem unaware that the medical districts and facilities in Texas’ largest cities have exploded while Republicans have been at the helm. You can thank their tort reform platform for that.

  • Greg Brown

    No New Taxes! Fees & Debt! No New Taxes! Fees & Debt! Sigh. . . I tried, but that flavor of Kool Aid still tastes nasty.

  • Everlasting Phelps

    The guy who endorsed Obama in 2008 claims that Republicans in Austin are short sighted.

    That’s HILARIOUS.

  • Avid Reader

    Huffines will have a tough hill to climb in earning Wick’s admiration. Better get a quick start to figuring out how to emulate Carona’s self-serving shady legislation tactics.


  • Bizarro Big Tex

    As one who had numerous friends who staffed Lloyd Bentsen and John Tower, I can tell you that both men believed that government was a cooperative process. Different parties, but a shared philosophy. The wheels had to turn or the machine of democracy could not function. Today the Tea Party seems perfectly happy if the wheels come off. Mind boggling. The late great Senator Everett Dirksen, the most successful Republican legislator at the state or federal level of the last six decades would be too liberal for their tastes.

  • CSP

    But Wick, who will now stand up for the interest of property management companies in the Legislature?

    For all the talk about the tea party knocking out Carona, there’s been very little consideration of the likely reality that a not-insignificant portion of the electorate was comfortable with Carona’s stand on the issues but wasn’t nearly as comfotable with his ethics and self-dealing in the Legislature. Given the very slim nature of Huffines’ victory, I imagine those voters probably cost Carona his seat.

  • Dubious Brother

    I am for term limits and I have often been told that we have term limits – they are called elections. Since our districts are gerrymandered to protect both parties, the only way the voters have to clean house is in the primaries. How many years has Corona been in Austin? It is over 30 I believe.
    On the national level, Congress has an 8% approval rating and yet we are sending back most of our gerrymander protected incumbent representatives. Should we expect change we can believe in?

  • Justice

    You notably fail (and failed in your original article) to mention Mr. Carona’s considerable self serving legislation in an industry where he is the single largest shareholder in the US. His efforts have diminished individual property rights and enriched him greatly. Good riddance

  • Mike

    Not sure why you’re complaining about Republicans being against taxes, if you want to use the power of government to confiscate peoples money under threat of imprisonment you can vote for Democrats, which, as has been pointed out, you did. It’s bad enough we only have two not very good and not very different options to choose from, certainly don’t need them being any more alike.

  • vseslav botkin

    Sheesh, drinkin that tort reform Kool-Aid, huh. Do we get to thank tort reform for Parkland, too?

  • Tim Rogers

    The National Review brings up another interesting point about John Carona. Let’s just say that the publication for which Wick once served as publisher does not agree with its former boss:


  • Avid Reader

    I don’t see anything in that article that shows they disagree with Wick’s position regarding Carona’s ability to say more than “no new taxes”. That said, do see NR not willfully ignoring his self-interested governing style that lined his pockets for years or his improper use of his senate seat to get unqualified family/friends into UT like Wick seems to do when covering Carona.