In the reddest part of Texas, Republican officeholders aren’t immune to the current rift in the state GOP.
A slew of right-wing Republican candidates in the Panhandle are hoping to oust several more moderate incumbents in the upcoming primaries, and they’re garnering the support of many of the state’s ultra-conservative groups.
Christopher Collins, who reports on rural Texas for the Texas Observer, says there’s nothing new about seeing more conservative challengers. What’s different now, though, is the involvement of the far-right advocates like Empower Texans, Texans for Vaccine Choice and Texas Right to Life.
“Groups like that are really leading the charge for these challengers, both in terms of moral support and also monetary support,” Collins says.
He says three primary races in the Panhandle are good examples – two for the House of Representatives and one for the Senate. In the GOP primary for House District 88, Rep. Ken King has at least one serious challenger: Jason Huddleston, a homeschooling advocate from Perryton with strong views for school reform and against abortion.
Amarillo Rep. Four Price is also running against a challenger, Fritch City Manager Drew Brassfield, in District 87.
Of all three incumbents, Sen. Kel Seliger is the most politically vulnerable, Collins says. He will face Victor Leal, a Muleshoe businessman who owns a chain of Mexican restaurants, and former Midland mayor Mike Canon, who challenged Seliger in 2014 and almost won.
“I think [Seliger] should be concerned because one of these candidates who is challenging this time nearly beat him,” Collins says. “I mean it was a five point difference in 2014. Nearly beat him, and the same candidate is back.”
Collins says what’s interesting about the Panhandle is it’s one of the most conservative areas in the entire country, yet they continue to elect lawmakers like King, Price, and Seliger, who are Republicans with a pragmatic streak.
Written by Cesar Edmund Lopez-Linares.