Exclusive: Mike Collier launches lieutenant governor bid
Making his third bid for statewide office, Mike Collier tells Axios he's running for lieutenant governor, jumping into the Democratic primary for a seat that's been held by Republicans for more than two decades.
State of play: It comes as no shock that Collier's throwing his hat in the ring. In 2018, the Houston-area accountant lost by fewer than 5 percentage points to Republican Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who is now seeking his third term. Since then, he's been a vocal critic of Patrick and launched an exploratory committee in April that he called more of a “confirmatory" committee.
"We came very close in 2018," Collier tells Axios. "I pretty much made the decision right after election day: Keep the network and the infrastructure."
Through a mix of procedure and politics, the lieutenant governor controls what bills make it to the floor of the state Senate.
By the numbers: Collier outperformed every Democratic candidate in two-thirds of the state's 254 counties in 2018, including former U.S. Rep. Beto O'Rourke, who narrowly lost to Sen. Ted Cruz the same year.
Of note: O'Rourke has said he's considering a run for governor in 2022.
- Collier's strengths were in rural counties, while O'Rourke won the five biggest counties in Texas.
- Collier hopes O'Rourke will run at the top of the ticket because the pair's mix of rural and urban voters could position them for a win: "There's a higher likelihood of success for both of us," Collier tells Axios.
Yes, but: Collier will first have to face Matthew Dowd in the Democratic primary, a former George W. Bush reelection strategist who later switched parties. Dowd previously worked for Bob Bullock, the last Democrat to be elected lieutenant governor in the state.
- And other Democrats could very well jump in this race.
A rematch against Patrick would mean facing the Republican's $23 million war chest and name recognition for a second time. Plus, Democrats haven't won a statewide election in Texas since 1994.
- So far, Collier has raised more than $1 million, nearly four times the amount raised at this point in his 2018 campaign.
- Patrick, who was first elected in 2014 and has pushed the Senate further to the right, largely ignored Collier in his 2018 reelection bid and refused to debate him.
His platform: Like in 2018, Collier is framing himself as a policy wonk, businessman and "problem solver." He said he'll focus on funding public education, lowering property taxes, reopening hospitals in rural counties and expanding Medicaid.
- He's also urging lawmakers "to fix the damn grid," referring to the Texas power grid, which failed during the February storms and left millions without power.
- Texas lawmakers also passed red meat items like abortion restrictions and the permitless carry of firearms earlier this year, meaning Democrats like Collier will have to take on wedge issues that could polarize some voters.
His campaign team includes former Biden staffers, such as ad maker Rick Fromberg, finance lead Crystal Perkins and pollsters Matt Hogan and Mayra Cuevas. Collier also hired Courtney Grisby, former Texas Democratic Party African American Organizing director, as his senior adviser.
What's next: Collier will kick off his campaign with a statewide tour this month, with the first stop in Austin on Monday, hosting outdoor-only gatherings with fully vaccinated guests.
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