AUSTIN — It’s a new campaign for lieutenant governor hopeful Mike Collier.
The Democratic nominee for the most powerful political position at the Texas Legislature now sees himself within striking distance of Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick. With the Nov. 8 election less than 100 days away, Collier has gone on the offensive with national advertisements on cable news channels speaking to Patrick personally, telling the two-term lieutenant governor that he’s “gotta go.”
The aggressive tone is a shake-up from a candidate who has been criticized for a sometimes academic tone that does not energize voters. And Collier was out of the gate early in his attacks on Patrick, accusing him of being soft on reforming the Texas electric grid that came within minutes of a complete collapse during the deadly 2021 winter storm.
Collier hopes to avoid becoming a two-time loser to Patrick, who beat Collier in 2018′s race by 4.8 percentage points.
In recent weeks, his ads have run on national networks like Fox News, CNN and MSNBC as well as local broadcasts. Now the campaign is expanding its video buy to YouTube, where it will advertise on the video broadcasts of the Joe Rogan Experience and the Howard Stern Show.
On those platforms, the Collier campaign hopes to make inroads into two voter demographics where they hope to see possible gains: white and Latino men.
Rogan’s audience in particular is made up of a large percentage of men, around 70%, according to some surveys. The campaign recognizes this, and despite the Democratic Party making major gains with suburban women, Collier campaign manager Ali S. Zaidi said they feel like the large number in those programs’ audiences who consider themselves independent of political parties makes them an ideal demographic to spend money wooing.
“We’re now expanding that ad buy online to placement with Joe Rogan and Howard Stern, where the majority of the listening audience is composed of independent men that are a critical electorate for us heading into the fall,” Zaidi said.
“It’s a demonstration of us playing offense and playing offense early, which is not something that we as Democrats traditionally have been particularly strong at,” he said.
The 30-second ad shows Collier talking directly into the camera, criticizing Patrick for his role in appointing a major Republican donor to be the chair of the Electric Reliability Council of Texas’ board, with truck commercial-esque music playing in the background and ending with Collier’s oft repeated campaign slogan, “Fix the damn grid.”
University of Houston political scientist Brandon Rottinghaus said that Collier’s campaign is wise to go after white males, a demographic Democrats have been losing for more than 30 years. The race between Gov. Greg Abbott and Beto O’Rourke at the top of the ticket will rally much of the base and should create turnout akin to what Texas saw in 2018′s midterms, Rottinghaus said.
“It’s not a bad play to spend a little time in that world and see if you can move the needle a little,” he said.
In a polarized electorate, swing voters are harder and harder to come by, and at the top of the ticket, the governor’s race will likely be won by whoever can turn out more of their base. Democrats are tied down by the unpopularity of President Joe Biden. But Republicans in Texas face headwinds from the failings of Texas’ electric grid, the Robb Elementary School shooting and the overturning of Roe vs. Wade.
Internal polling from Collier’s camp and public polling from the University of Houston show him trailing Patrick by 4 percentage points. Polling has also shown a majority of Texans believe the state is headed in the wrong direction.
Collier’s campaign is hoping to capitalize on that. It has largely focused on the failings of Texas’ electric grid, though some Republicans recently attacked Collier over his remarks on school vouchers at the Texas State Democratic Convention, where he said, “Vouchers are for vultures.”
Zaidi said that they welcomed the attention, and that if Republicans want to make the lieutenant governor’s race about school choice and the electric grid, they can “bring it on.”
“We want to continue to have the discipline to make sure that we are fighting the campaign on our terms and not Patrick’s terms,” Zaidi said. “He wants to make this election about extremist policies and things like CRT or whatever that are not the real challenges facing the people of Texas.”
Patrick’s campaign did not respond to messages seeking comment.