San Antonio Express – Patrick draws Republican challenger

AUSTIN — Scott Milder, a former two-term city councilman from the Dallas area, is mounting a primary run against Republican Lt. Gov Dan Patrick, who he calls a “ big bully” and “polarizing” figure.

“Somebody’s got to step up and give voters a choice,” said Milder, who officially announced his campaign Thursday. “He’s offended, he’s insulted, he’s alienated just about everybody across the state of Texas … If we don’t confront the bully, he is never going to stop.”

A senior political adviser for Patrick, who was first elected to the statewide office in 2014, dismissed the critique.

“Dan Patrick is unequivocally the hardest-working, most effective conservative leader in the history of the Texas Senate,” said Allen Blakemore, who added Patrick has “overwhelming support” among Texas Republicans, including endorsements from Gov. Greg Abbott and U.S. Sens. John Cornyn and Ted Cruz.

With less than four months until the March 6 primary, Milder is casting himself as a pro-business Republican who will preserve local control and invest in public education and infrastructure. An executive with Stantec Architecture, Milder and his wife also founded Friends of Texas Public Schools, a nonprofit that aims to “celebrate what’s right” with public schools, according to its website.

Milder opposes efforts to subsidize private-school tuition with state funding, an initiative Patrick championed in the recent legislative session. And he called the so-called bathroom bill, which would have restricted the public restrooms that transgender people can use, a “solution in search of a problem.” Patrick has said the bill was not discriminatory and was needed to protect women’s safety.

Milder has no experience in the state Legislature, but he recently served two terms on the Rockwall City Council before losing re-election earlier this year.

“I am well aware that it’s not a logical, natural next step from city council to lieutenant governor,” he said. “But nobody else is stepping up to challenge Dan Patrick; and if we let him go unopposed, that is sending a message that Texans are happy with what he is doing, and I just don’t think that’s the case.”

Milder declined to reveal how much money his campaign has pulled in so far or outline any fundraising goals, simply saying he won’t be able to compete with Patrick’s war chest. As of the latest filing report in July, Patrick’s campaign had more than $16 million cash on hand.

But he said the campaign will rely on grass-roots “networking” to get his message out, as opposed to running a big series of television ads.

“One of the things our campaign is banking on is that there’s a big anti-Patrick sentiment out there,” he said.

amorris@express-news.net