Gov. Greg Abbott endorsed Republican primary challenger Susanna Dokupil, a Houston business owner and former assistant solicitor general, over Rep. Sarah Davis (R-Houston).
“Susanna worked alongside me to defend Texas values when I was attorney general,” Abbott said in a video posted to his campaign’s YouTube page. “She is a principled conservative who will be a true champion for the people of House District 134.”
Abbott pledged to be more involved in primary races this year following the House’s failure to pass several social conservative priorities during the special session. His prior endorsements this cycle have gone to incumbents, including Rep. Paul Workman (R-Austin), which drew some criticism from movement conservative groups. Those groups applauded Abbott’s endorsement of Dokupil. In a blog post, Texans for Fiscal Responsibility/Empower Texans called Davis “a blockade against conservative legislation,” and its president referred to Davis as one of Speaker Joe Straus’s (R-San Antonio) “cronies.”
“I have always voted my uniquely independent district,” Davis said in a statement. “Republican voters in HD134 will not be told for whom to vote and will not nominate a candidate who will be so easily defeated in the fall.” Davis specifically called out Empower Texans in her statement. The group has given her a career grade of “F” on its Fiscal Responsibility Index, and it endorsed her 2016 primary challenger.
Unlike many legislative districts where movement conservative groups rally around challengers against more moderate Republican incumbents, HD134 is not a safely red district.
Hillary Clinton carried HD134 by more than 15 points in 2016, but every other statewide Republican prevailed. Republican candidates had a 3K-vote advantage in straight-party voting, but just 53% of voters cast a straight-party ballot, one of the lowest rates observed in the state. Republican candidates running districtwide ranged from 39% (Trump) to 56% (Justice Eva Guzman), one of the largest spreads observed in any district in the state. Davis won re-election by 10 points.
By comparison, in nearby HD128, nearly 70% of voters cast a straight-party ballot, and every Republican candidate had better than a 17K-vote advantage in straight-party voting. The spread of Republican candidates running districtwide was much tighter than in HD134, ranging from 67% to 69%. Rep. Briscoe Cain (R-Deer Park) faced no Democratic opponent after ousting the Republican incumbent, Wayne Smith (R-Baytown), in the Republican runoff.
In 2014, Davis was the highest vote-getter among state Republican candidates in HD134. She received nearly 5K more votes, and nearly 11% more of the vote, than Greg Abbott. She received more than 7K more votes, and nearly 15% more of the vote, than Dan Patrick.
Several Harris Co. Republican precinct chairs drafted and circulated a resolution to censure Davis for having “the most left-wing voting record of any Republican.” The tactic has become increasingly popular among movement conservatives since the end of the special session, but it did not appear that the executive committee would vote on the resolution at its meeting today.
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