Friday, June 13, 2008

Thoughts on the chairman's race

There are a lot of things that can be said about Tina Benkiser. Like every elected official, there are people who sing her praises and people who criticise her. That said, Benkiser is not a mouthpiece for leadership. Sure, she doesn't directly attack the party's elected officials (nor should anyone expect her to). But she has been a lot more independent of them than her predecessor, Susan Weddington. On several occasions, Benkiser has taken the grassroots concerns to the leadership and spoken out on the behalf of the base of the party, which is more than I can say of her predecessor. Here are a few examples where Benkiser has taken a public stand on key conservative issues that differ from the stands taken from the party's leadership:

* gambling -- when leadership was thinking of using expanding gambling to pay for school finance, Benkiser spoke out about the party's opposition to gambling.
* HPV -- When Gov. Rick Perry tried to do an "opt out" mandate, requiring sixth-grade public school girls to get a vaccine from the sexually-transmitted Human Papiloma Virus (HPV), Benkiser expressed her opposition immediately (as did GOP legislators).
* Eminent domain -- Benkiser did a statewide media tour highlighting the party's support for property rights and the need for more action on this issue. (Perry vetoed a bill in 2007 that would have given land owners more rights in the condemnation process.)

And I've probably left out a few examples.

I sympathize with some of the concerns raised by the people who are disagree with Benkiser. The party leadership since the late 1990s has been heavy-handed in some instances, and I can understand where they are coming from on some of their concerns. But I felt it needed to be said that -- despite criticism from some in the party accusing her of being a mouthpiece -- Benkiser has, in fact, stood up to the elected officials on at least three key issues.

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