Austin attorney and lobbyist Trey Blocker confirmed he would challenge Agriculture Comm. Sid Miller (R) in the Republican primary. Blocker initially indicated he would run if Miller was tapped for a role in the Trump administration.
Blocker established a campaign committee in July, and his semiannual campaign finance report indicated he had $750K on hand, all from a loan he made to his campaign. Miller reported having $514K on hand after raising $157K during the last few days of June (More than half of that amount was for use of a motor home for eight months.). Blocker is the only announced statewide challenger to report more cash on hand than the incumbent.
The candidates have already traded verbal jabs.
“I’m running because we need to bring honestly, integrity and fiscal responsibility back to the Department of Agriculture,” Blocker said in a video posted to his campaign’s web site. “We’ve watched a career politician, embroiled in ethical controversies, raise taxes and grow government at a level that would make Bernie Sanders proud.”
On social media, Miller welcomed Blocker to the race. “I’m not surprised he filed, but honestly, I’m shocked he is running as a Republican,” Miller said in a Facebook post, citing Blocker’s contributions to Democrats. “I guess that’s what you do when you’re a low-level lobbyist mired in the Capitol swamp.”
Since 2008, Democratic officeholders and candidates have reported a little over $8K in contributions from Blocker. In the same period, he gave to $59K to Republicans.
“It’s hard to take him seriously when he claims his agriculture experience comes from cleaning out horse stalls as a kid,” Miller said, adding that his opponent “doesn’t know jack-diddly about Texas ag.”
Miller, a rancher and former six-term representative from Stephenville, was the top vote-getter in a five-way 2014 Republican primary to succeed former Land Comm. Todd Staples (R), who unsuccessfully ran for Lieutenant Governor. Three of his rivals combined spent $1.4M in the final month of that primary campaign, vastly dwarfing Miller’s $35K in expenditures. Miller defeated former Rep. Tommy Merritt (R-Longview) in the runoff, 53%-47%, despite being outspent 9-to-1. He went on to defeat Democrat Jim Hogan, who never campaigned and spent no money, in the general election.
As far as we can tell, this is Blocker’s first run for public office.
Earlier this month, Miller released a list of 100 endorsements, including a number of movement conservative thought leaders such as former Texas Eagle Forum President Cathie Adams, Conservative Republicans of Texas President Steven Hotze, Texas Home School Coalition President Tim Lambert, NE Tarrant Tea Party President Julie McCarty and Empower Texans President Michael Quinn Sullivan, whose group has already endorsed Miller.
It remains to be seen if agricultural and other business groups will back a candidate. In 2014, the Texas Farm Bureau’s endorsed candidate finished in last place in the Republican primary, and the group did not endorse in the runoff for the first time in a quarter century.
Mertens attorney and cattle rancher Tom Caudle and Mineral Wells nonprofit director Kim Olson are vying for the Democratic nomination.
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