Business group endorses Abbott, other candidates

Dave Montgomery Austin Correspondent

The political action committee for one of the state’s leading business organizations today threw its support behind Republican Attorney General Greg Abbott over Democratic State Sen. Wendy Davis in the 2014 governor’s race. The Texas Business Association’s Business and Commerce Political Action Committee (BAC-PAC) also endorsed former Republican State Rep. Mark Shelton as its choice to succeed Davis in State Senate District 10. Five Republicans and two Democrats are running for the seat that Davis has held since January of 2009. The political arm for the powerful business group, which represents more than 3,000 businesses and 200 local chambers of commerce, unveiled its endorsements for statewide offices, Congress and the State Legislature following a closed meeting of the BAC-PAC Board in Austin. TAB President and CEO Bill Hammond said the PAC will hold off on making endorsements in contentious races for lieutenant governor, state comptroller and attorney general until contenders for those offices make their case before the board in candidate forums on Feb. 5-6. “We want our members to hear from those candidates personally before an endorsement is made in those races,” said Hammond. The race for lieutenant governor has emerged as one of the hottest contests of 2014, pitting incumbent Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst against Sen. Dan Patrick of Houston, Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson and Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples. The PAC board also deferred endorsements on several other races with multiple candidates, said Hammond. TAB spokesman Robert Wood said the organization threw its endorsements to candidates perceived to be supportive of pro-business issues. Most of the endorsements went to Republicans but several incumbent Democrats also won the group’s blessing, including State Sens. Kirk Watson of Austin, John Whitmire of Houston and Royce West of Dallas. But the group declined to endorse several Democratic incumbents in North Texas, including Congressman Marc Veasey of Fort Worth and State Reps. Lon Burnam and Nicole Collier, both of Fort Worth, and Chris Turner of Grand Prairie. The group endorsed State Sen. Kelly Hancock, R-North Richland Hills, and all eight Republicans in the Tarrant County State House delegation, including Reps. Diane Patrick of Arlington and Jonathan Stickland of Bedford, who both face primary challengers. All five Republicans who represent parts of Tarrant County in the U.S. House also received endorsements. Veasey, who was elected in 2012, is the lone Democrat in the Tarrant County congressional delegation. U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, who drew a last minute primary challenge from U.S. Rep. Steve Stockman, received an endorsement from the group, as did Fort Worth businessman George P. Bush, the grandson and nephew of two presidents who is making his first political bid in the race for state land commissioner. Bush is a heavy favorite but faces GOP David Watts and Democratic challenger John Cook.