The liberals had gathered to hear Mike Collier, a Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor, speak at the Oct. 6 meet-and-greet. Huddled in small groups, a subtle urgency underscored each exchange.
For these North Texas Democrats, it’s high time to ditch Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, and they hope Collier could be the one to make it happen.
After the event, Collier carved out some time to catch up with the Observer. It was day three of a 30-day statewide tour, and he appeared energized.
“We’re 10% of the way there,” the Houston-area accountant said, grinning. “We’re just getting warmed up.”
Two days prior, Collier formally announced his candidacy for lieutenant governor. He’d launched an exploratory committee months earlier, but The Associated Press notes he’d already made it clear that he planned to run.
Collier moved to the state when he was 14, eventually graduating from the University of Texas. He built a CPA practice and did merger and acquisition work in the energy arena before getting “angry enough” to enter politics.
When he ran for Texas comptroller in 2014, Collier knew he’d lose, but he refused to stand by as the GOP won unopposed. Then during the 2018 midterms, he tried for lieutenant governor and came within 5 percentage points of beating Patrick.
But Collier insists that his third statewide campaign will be the charm, adding that he “wasn’t the least bit discouraged” by his previous losses. He also made important connections while serving then-candidate Joe Biden as senior adviser for the state of Texas.
Plus, Collier’s candidacy comes at a time when Patrick’s disapproval rating is at an all-time high: 42% as of August 2021, according to polling by the University of Texas/Texas Tribune.
Collier also hopes former Congressman Beto O’Rourke will appear on the 2022 ticket. If O’Rourke challenges Republican Gov. Greg Abbott, Collier thinks his own chances would improve.
“I got more votes than he did in two-thirds of the counties in the state; he got more votes than I did in a third of the counties. He got more votes in total because his were the urban counties and mine were the rural counties,” Collier said. “But if he gets my numbers in rural and if I get his numbers in urban, we both win.”
Failure doesn’t seem to rattle Collier. When he was 14, he was the worst trumpet player in his school’s band, but he worked almost obsessively to become the “best trumpet player in the state in 1979.”
Collier, who insists he won't take corporate money to fund his campaign, expects to do better this time around.
"We ain’t going to fix the grid if the lieutenant governor doesn’t try." – Mike Collier, candidate for lieutenant governor
His penchant for numbers is apparent: Collier said he’s raising money at four times the rate as he did last time and there are 7.5 times the number of donors. This time, early into the race, his events were attracting crowds two to three times as large as they were at the end of the last cycle.
“To this candidate,” he said, “it very much feels like we’re not only picking up where we left off, but we’re also tapping into more and more energy than last time because of what’s happened recently in Texas.”
To many Democrats, Texas is at a critical juncture, and the way Collier sees it, democracy is failing entirely. The state’s leaders don’t represent the majority view, he said, and hate and divisiveness are plaguing its politics.
Unemployment skyrocketed during the beginning of the pandemic, public education is underfunded and property taxes are brutally unfair to homeowners and small businesses, he said. Meanwhile, tens of thousands of Texans have died from COVID-19 and more than 200 perished because of February’s winter freeze.
On top of that, the Texas Legislature is “vilifying” trans kids, and women may die because they no longer have access to the health care they need, he said.
Many state senators would be relieved to have him in the role, he added.
“We ain’t going to fix the grid if the lieutenant governor doesn’t try. It just isn’t going to happen,” Collier said. “And the other side of that coin is we ain’t attacking trans kids if the lieutenant governor says that’s immoral.”
Another player recently announced his candidacy, too: former Bush campaign strategist Matthew Dowd, who will run as a Democrat. But Collier said he was prepared for a primary challenger; he’s just surprised he’ll be up against a one-time Republican.
Speaking directly after the event, Kristy Noble, chair of the Dallas County Democratic Party, said she believes Patrick is vulnerable. Certain soundbites could come back to haunt Patrick, who once falsely implied that unvaccinated Black people caused COVID-19 to spike; he also said that many grandparents are willing to die to keep the economy open.
“That shows that we need a different leader,” Noble said. “I believe that Mike could do that, or any Democrat can go up against Dan Patrick and win.”
Another attendee, Jan McDowell, is running for Texas' 24th Congressional District, which she also aimed for in 2018 but lost by around 3 points. As a retired CPA herself, she said she appreciates politicians who have good financial sense.
Plus, Collier has been working hard traveling around the state for years, she said.
“He knows people, he cares about people, he definitely gets the issues,” McDowell said. “He has solutions to offer, and I think he’d be awesome.”