For most of Texas, election season has come and gone. But who will represent Senate District 30, which runs from Stephenville to Wichita Falls and Denton, has yet to be determined by voters.
Two Republicans are facing off in a runoff for the special election to replace outgoing state Sen. Pat Fallon, who won a U.S. House seat in November.
But the race to fill his seat could be about more than the seat itself. It could also tell us quite a bit about the future of the Republican party in Texas.
Allie Morris has been covering the District 30 race for the Dallas Morning News. She told Texas Standard that the runoff candidates, state Rep. Drew Springer and hair salon owner Shelley Luther, both Republicans, are in agreement on many issues. District 30 is a heavily Republican area. Luther gained media attention when she refused to close her salon in response to Gov. Greg Abbott’s pandemic-related restrictions earlier this year.
“Their biggest difference is in their tone and how they would approach representing this district,” Morris said.
Springer has been endorsed by fellow Republicans, including legislators and Abbott.
“Shelley Luther is really touting that she is not a politician, that she has no experience in elected office or really any ties in Austin,” Morris said.
Luther’s campaign has included “taking shots” at Abbott for his COVID-19 orders.
Morris says observers are watching the District 30 race to see whether the GOP electorate is ready to embrace an outsider who opposes the status quo – including any closure restrictions – or stick with a known quantity.
On the other hand, Morris says the race is somewhat unique because it’s a special election, held just before Christmas on Dec. 19, that may not attract high voter turnout.
“At a time when we have this pandemic and the shutdowns, I think that Shelley Luther is trying to capitalize on people’s frustrations,” Morris said. “And I think we’ll be able to look at this election and see whether that message is resonating ahead of a session when we are expecting lawmakers to take a look at Gov. Abbott’s powers during a public health crisis.”