Brandon Creighton and Dan Branch: Key Lieutenants for Straus Leadership Team

In an article for the Capitol Inside, Mike Hailey discusses Texas Senate District 4 Special Election candidate Rep. Brandon Creighton's perceived upcoming endorsement of Senator Ken Paxton for Texas Attorney General. Brandon Creighton, as well as Ken Paxton's run-off opponent Rep. Dan Branch, are both represented by seasoned political consultant Ted Delisi, which could turn into quite the predicament for Delisi. However, as an establishment Republican and a key lieutenant on House Speaker Joe Straus' leadership team, there is speculation that Creighton is simply using this endorsement to make inroads with tea party activists.

The entire Capitol Inside article has been reposted below with permission from Mike Hailey:

Senate Contender's Intervention in Statewide Fight Could Put Longtime Republican Strategist in Bind

By Mike Hailey
Capitol Inside Editor

A veteran Republican political consultant could find himself in a sticky situation if one of the candidates he represents endorses a separate client's opponent in a statewide runoff fight.

The potential predicament stems speculation that State Rep. Brandon Creighton of Conroe may be preparing to pitch his support to State Senator Ken Paxton for an overtime showdown with State Rep. Dan Branch in the battle for the GOP nomination in an open race for Texas attorney general.

Creighton and Branch have both been relying on advice from GOP strategist Ted Delisi of Austin in their bids for higher offices in 2014. Branch and Paxton are competing for the job that Attorney General Greg Abbott decided not to seek again so he could pursue a campaign for governor instead. Creighton had been running statewide himself for a period of time last year as a candidate for agriculture commissioner before shifting his sights to a Texas Senate vacancy that will be on the ballot in a special election on May 10.

Branch - a Dallas legislator who's been a member of the House since 2003 - already faces an uphill climb after finishing 10 points Paxton in the March primary election when the first-term state senator from McKinney claimed 45 percent of the vote.

While the special Senate contender probably isn't well known enough statewide for his endorsement to have game-changer potential in the runoff phase of the attorney general's contest, it's significant in light of the fact that Creighton and Branch have both been key lieutenants on House Speaker Joe Straus' leadership team. Creighton has wielded added clout as the chairman of the House GOP Caucus since early last year. Branch has been one of the lower chamber's most powerful members as the Higher Education Committee chairman and a close personal friend of the GOP speaker who appointed him to the post.

But Creighton's intervention in the attorney general's race will spark inevitable speculation on whether he's attempting to give his own campaign a boost more than he's trying to help Paxton as the endorsement recipient. Creighton has been doing his best to keep State Rep. Steve Toth of The Woodlands from monopolizing support from conservatives and tea party activist as one of four Republicans who are doing battle for the Senate seat that Tommy Williams relinquished with an early resignation last year. Gordy Bunch, a member of The Woodlands municipal governing body, is a candidate in the special Senate District 4 election as well. Former Senate member Mike Galloway, who served one term in the 1990s, also is running for the SD 4 post in a field that he entered right before the filing deadline.

Paxton has strong support from many of the same conservatives forces that Toth and Creighton have been courting at a time when Republicans who've been running to the right have been substantially more successful than primary rivals who've had the GOP business establishment in their corners in races at the state level in Texas this year.

Toth, a freshman legislator who unseated an incumbent in the GOP primary election in 2012, was one of about a dozen House Republicans who endorsed Paxton immediately after he launched a campaign for attorney general. Creighton may be hoping that his own alignment Paxton will minimalize whatever his special election rival's benefit might have been from an association with the Collin County senator as a result of the early endorsement in the statewide contest.

Delisi - in the meantime - could be stuck in the middle of the maneuvering with Creighton and Branch as two of the leading candidates in his consultant portfolio during the current election cycle. There was speculation that Creighton had planned to endorse Paxton without soliciting Delisi's opinion to avoid potential resistance and a possible debate with the advisor on whether he was making the right move.

Delisi has been one of Governor Rick Perry's longtime strategist who's advised a long list of high-ranking Republicans in state and federal races. Delisi has family members who've been major players in Texas politics as well. Delisi's mother served in the House for 17 years until stepping down in 2008 - and the consultant's wife is a former Perry chief of staff and campaign manager whose resume includes a stint as the Texas Transportation Committee chair. Delisi runs a firm called Flintrock Consulting.


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