Tom Pauken takes on Greg Abbott for GOP nomination
Long-time conservative ‘battling for soul of Republican party'
SAN ANTONIO – Tom Pauken is a name many Texans may not recognize, but he's hoping to change that.
A long time conservative who worked in the Reagan White House and once led the state's Republican Party, Pauken is taking on Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott for the GOP nomination for Texas Governor.
"I'm a little frustrated, it seems that too many people are influenced by the big money crowd and the Austin insiders," Pauken said.
It was that frustration that convinced Pauken to run for Governor.
With conservative roots that stretch back to his days working for Barry Goldwater's campaign for President in the 1960's and a stint in the White House under Ronald Reagan, Pauken said he's fighting for the soul of the Republican Party, taking on what he calls the remnants of the Karl Rove political machine.
"It's too much of an elitist small group of people running the party and controlling state government and I don't think that's healthy for the conservative movement, the Republican party or the State of Texas in general," Pauken said.
Pauken was elected Texas Republican State Chairman in 1994 and later retired from politics until Governor Rick Perry tapped him to chair the Texas Workforce Commission in 2008. There, he championed vocational education over standardized testing.
"We were neglecting vocational education, leaving a lot of young people behind because of this silly idea everyone is going to go to a 4 year university," Pauken said.
"I pushed for more local control at the public school level, multiple pathways to a high school degree and more opportunities for career and technical education."
When it comes to school finance, he opposes the so called Robin Hood method currently used.
"Gregg Abbott and I have a 180 degree difference on that issue. He defends this transfer of local property taxes from some districts to others," Pauken said. "Local school property taxes should stay local. There's a better way to find the $1.1 billion for the property poor districts than taking it away from 374 school districts which is what we do now under this system."
Pauken isn't looking to beat Rick Perry's record of longest serving governor, instead he supports term limits.
"I just think we've got too many career politicians both in Austin and in Washington," he said. "I'm in favor of two terms for statewide elected officials and I will live up to that."
Pauken would also like to improve the state's transportation system, but he isn't interested in paying for more toll roads.
"I would dedicate all funding in transportation to transportation infrastructure and that's for road building, maintenance and repairs. Part of that money is diverted today and that all needs to go to transportation," Pauken said. "As much as possible we emphasize free roads not toll roads and where we do go the toll road route they have to pay for themselves."
Pauken said many of his friends and political allies tried to talk him out of a run for Governor believing it would be impossible to take on Abbott and his $25 million war chest.
He'll have to build a large grassroots movement to overcome that mountain of money but he's up for the challenge.
"They brag about how much money they've raised, but we've got to take back the party and build it from the grassroots up," Pauken said. "If I thought that Greg Abbott were an authentic conservative who would provide the kind of leadership we needed for the future of our state I wouldn't be in this race."
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