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McNeely: Collier takes another shot at office

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Dave McNeely

Dave McNeely

For Mike Collier, it’s all about the numbers — plus, for the past seven years, time spent in the political trenches.

Collier, 60, is a certified public accountant, a former budget analyst and auditor and eventually partner in the accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers.

He helped build an oil company and was its chief financial officer. Those are credentials that one would usually find in a Republican. But Collier is a Democrat. He says he’s a fiscal conservative and a social moderate.

“As a longtime auditor, I consider myself a numbers guy,” Collier said in a recent campaign email asking for support. “But at my core, I care deeply about the people of Texas and solving problems to improve the lives of everyone across the state. Right now, it’s clear we have so much work to do to make sure all Texans have the opportunity to meet their full potential.”

He’s run for statewide office twice before:

In 2014, he ran for state comptroller — truly a job for a numbers guy, accustomed to delivering sometimes tough truths. He lost that one to Republican Glenn Hegar, a state senator and former House member, by more than 20 points.

In 2018, Collier ran for lieutenant governor against Republican Dan Patrick, a former state senator from Houston, who had been elected in 2006 after years as a far-right Houston radio talk show host. Patrick had won his job as the Senate’s presiding officer by beating three-term incumbent Republican Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst in the 2014 GOP primary.

Patrick, 71, then beat Collier in the general election, but by just under 5 percent.

Election year 2018 also was the year that higher up the ballot was the re-election bid by Republican U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz against three-term Democratic U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke of El Paso.

O’Rourke had campaigned in all 254 Texas counties but lost by just under 2.6 percent.

Collier readily acknowledges that the momentum O’Rourke managed to build with his upstart campaign, that drew a stunning amount of grassroots campaign contributions, helped his own campaign.

But Collier also adds, with hope for his chances in 2022 against Patrick, that he got more votes than O’Rourke in 172 of Texas’s 254 counties.

Those were primarily rural counties, Collier said. And he thinks Republicans have grown used to counting on support from those non-urban counties without speaking to their issues.

But Collier says Democrats can cut into that taken-for-granted backing by pointing to what he says is insufficient state investment by the Republicans who control state government in things like public education, hospitals and broadband internet availability all over the state.

Collier also says that Patrick’s sometimes over-the-top actions have publicly demonstrated a thin skin to criticism.

For instance, Patrick recently called a news conference to complain about corporate executives who had echoed Democratic criticism of his strong backing for making voting harder and then angrily shouted at reporters for writing about it.

Collier said his internal polling shows Patrick’s positive-over-negative rating has shrunk from plus 10 to about plus 1.

Collier also said that he has personally learned a lot about campaign infrastructure, fundraising and other nuts and bolts of running for office.

Some has come from helping the 2000 campaigns of Dallas state Sen. Royce West for the Democratic nomination for the U.S. Senate, which he lost in a runoff to Mary “MJ” Hegar; and as a senior adviser in Democrat Joe Biden’s presidential campaign.

Collier also thinks he’s gotten better on the campaign stump, knowing issues on people’s minds and asking for money.

He said he is well aware that Patrick already has somewhere around $20 million in his campaign account.

But Collier is on a constant quest for grassroots financial help, is traveling all over the state, meeting and knowing more and more people and emailing a continuing stream of campaign messages about issues, plus asking people to donate.

He said Patrick outspent him about 10-to-1 in 2018, and he presumes Patrick will outspend him in 2022. But he thinks he can get by with a much more modest bankroll, partly because of the negatives that he thinks Patrick’s high-profile, combative, behavior brings about.

Finally, Collier also points to the steady gains in Democratic strength in Texas over the last few election cycles.

Democrats haven’t won a statewide race in Texas since 1994. But over the last decade, the overall voter turnout has increased, and the Democratic share with it.

Collier hopes he wins the Democratic nomination to take on Patrick in 2022 and to be there if a Democratic resurgence indeed happens.

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— Dave McNeely is an Austin-based columnist who covers Texas politics. His column appears Thursday.

Today's Bible verse

“Behold, You desire truth in the innermost being, And in secret You will make wisdom known to me.”

Psalm 51:6

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