In February of 1983, after the 25th Annual County Judges and Commissioners Association Conference at Texas A&M University in College Station, the County Judges and Commissioners Association of Texas (CJCAT) formed the County Officials Political Action Committee (COPAC) to promote the legislative goals of county officials and to fund legislators in Austin who were friendly to their efforts.

The current registered agent and Treasurer of COPAC is Attorney James P. Allison, who also serves as the registered agent and Senior General Counsel of CJCAT. Allison is a prominent voice in the Democratic Party, being heavily involved in the party for the majority of his life. Before working with CJCAT and COPAC, Allison was serving under appointment as Chief of the County and Local Government Section of the Office of the Attorney General by Democrat Texas Attorney General Mark White.

An in-depth review of COPAC reveals that the vast majority of candidates supported by COPAC in the last three General Elections were Democrats. Out of 23 candidates COPAC endorsed, 19 were Democrat and only 4 were Republican. The last three Primary Election candidate pools looked much different. Out of 29 candidates supported by COPAC, 23 were Republican with only 6 Democrats. These numbers raise concerns that COPAC’s strategy may be to support the least conservative candidate in Republican Party Primary and Runoff Elections, and then back the stronger Democrat candidates in General Elections.

COPAC and the 2018 Primary, Runoff, and General Elections 

During the 2018 Primary Elections, the COPAC supported eleven Republicans and one Democrat. At that time, in the Republican Primary, there existed two distinct factions, those who were opposed to House Speaker Joe Straus and those who were in support of Joe Straus.

Among the Senate races in the Republican Primary, the COPAC backed incumbent Kel Seliger for SD 31 and challenger Cindy Burkett for SD 2. Both candidates were viewed as pro-Straus candidates. While Seliger won his reelection to SD 31, Burkett failed in her attempt to unseat Senator Bob Hall in SD 2.

Among the House races in the Republican Primary, the COPAC backed incumbents Chris Paddie for HD 9, Travis Clardyfor HD 11, Wayne Faircloth for HD 23, Hugh Shine for HD 55, J.D. Sheffield for HD 59, Four Price for HD 87, and Ken King for HD 88, all of whom were pro-Straus candidates.

COPAC supported challenger Dave Campbell in his race against incumbent Kyle Biederman for HD 73. In the seat vacated in HD 13, COPAC supported Ben Leman whose race ended up in a runoff election against Jill Wolfskill. Every Republican Party Primary candidate that COPAC endorsed won with the exception of Wayne Faircloth in HD 23 (who lost to Mayes Middleton) and Dave Campbell in HD 73 (who lost to Kyle Biederman).

In the Democratic Primary, COPAC backed incumbent Garnet Coleman for HD 147.

During the 2018 Runoff Election, COPAC supported six Republicans running for seats in the House of Representatives.

COPAC backed incumbent Scott Cosper for HD 54 in his race against Brad Buckley, Keith Bell for HD 4 in his race against Stuart Spitzer, Cody Harris for HD 8 in his race against Thomas McNutt, Ben Leman for HD 13 in his race against Jill Wolfskill, Reggie Smithfor HD 62 in his race against Brent Lawson, and Steve Allison for HD 121 in his race against Matt Bebee to replace the seat formerly held by Joe Straus. Most of the candidates supported by COPAC were endorsed by groups who leaned heavily towards pro-Straus candidates. Every candidate COPAC endorsed in the runoff won with the exception of Scott Cosper for HD 54 (who lost to Brad Buckley).

On June 18, 2018, several months after being found guilty of bribery, Democrat Senator Carlos Uresti resigned from his Senate District 19 seat. Eight candidates filed for office and a special election was held on July 31. Among the eight candidates, Republican Pete Flores and Democrat Pete Gallego received the vast majority of the votes. A Special General Runoff Election was held on September 18. During the Special General Runoff Election, the County Officials PAC supported Democrat Pete Gallego for SD 19 in his race against Republican Pete Flores. The PAC failed to keep the Democrat seat from flipping to Republican.

During the 2018 General Election, COPAC supported seven Democrats and one Republican running for seats in the Senate and the House of Representatives.

In the Senate, COPAC backed Democrat challenger Beverly Powell for SD 10 in her race against Republican incumbent Konni Burton and Democrat challenger Nathan Johnson for SD 16 in his race against Republican incumbent Don Huffines.

In the House, COPAC backed Democrat incumbent Victoria Neave for HD 107 in her race against Republican challenger Deanna Maria Metzger, Democrat challenger Vikki Goodwin for HD 47 in her race against Republican incumbent Paul Workman, Democrat challenger Sharon Hirsch for HD 66 in her race against Republican Matt Shaheen, Democrat challenger Julie Johnson for HD 115 in her race against Republican incumbent Matt Rinaldi, and Democrat challenger John Bucy for HD 136 in his race against Republican incumbent Tony Dale.

The only Republican supported by COPAC in the General Election was Republican incumbent Andrew Murr for HD 53 in his race against Democrat challenger Stephanie Lochte Ertel. Every candidate COPAC endorsed in the general election won with the exception of Sharon Hirsch for HD 66 (who lost to Matt Shaheen).

The result? During the General Election, COPAC was successful in protecting two House seats – one Republican and one Democrat – while flipping five Republican seats to Democrat, two in the Senate and three in the House.

COPAC and the 2020 Primary, Runoff, and General Elections 

During the 2020 Primary Elections, COPAC supported seven Republicans and four Democrats.

In the Republican Primary, the County Officials PAC backed incumbent Chris Paddie for HD 9, incumbent Geanie Morrison for HD 30, incumbent J.D. Sheffield for HD 59, Glenn Rogers for HD 60, incumbent Drew Darby for HD 72, incumbent Phil Stephenson for HD 85, and challenger Robert Hoskins for HD 128. Out of these seven races, two (Sheffield for HD 59 and Rogers for HD 60) would advance into runoffs. Of the remaining five, every Republican Party Primary candidate that the PAC endorsed won with the exception of challenger Robert Hoskins in HD 128 (who lost to incumbent Briscoe Cain).

In the Democratic Primary, COPAC backed incumbent Alex Dominguez for HD 37, incumbent Tracy King for HD 80, incumbent Senfronia Thompson for HD 141, and incumbent Garnet Coleman for HD 147. Every candidate the PAC endorsed in the Democratic Primary were reelected to their House seats.

During the 2020 Runoff Election, COPAC supported three Republicans running for seats in the House of Representatives. COPAC backed Ro’Vin Garrett for HD 25 in her race against Cody Vasut, incumbent J.D. Sheffield for HD 59 in his race against Shelby Slawson, and Glenn Rogers for HD 60 in his race against Jon Francis. Of the three races, COPAC was only successful in securing Glenn Rogers as the Republican candidate for HD 60.

During the 2020 General Election, COPAC supported six Democrats running for seats in the House of Representatives. At the time, Democrats were in need of flipping a total of nine Republican districts statewide to gain a majority in the Texas House.

In the House, COPAC backed Democrat incumbent Vikki Goodwin for HD 47 in her race against Republican challenger Justin Berry, Democrat incumbent Erin Zwiener for HD 45 in her race against Republican challenger Carrie Isaac, Democrat incumbent Michelle Beckley in her HD 65 race against Republican challenger Kronda Thimesch, Democrat incumbent John Turner for HD 114 in his race against Republican challenger Luisa Del Rosal, Democrat incumbent Gina Calanni for HD 132 in her race against Republican challenger Mike Schofield, and Democrat incumbent Jon Rosenthalfor HD 135 in his race against Republican challenger Justin Ray. Every candidate COPAC endorsed in the general election won with the exception of Gina Calanni for HD 132 (who lost to Mike Schofield).

The result? While COPAC was successful in protecting five Democrat House seats, COPAC lost one Democrat seat to a Republican.

COPAC and the 2022 Primary, Runoff, and General Elections 

During the 2022 Primary Election, COPAC supported five Republicans and one Democrat.

In the Republican Primary, COPAC backed incumbent Glenn Rogers for HD 60, incumbent Reggie Smith for HD 62, incumbent David Spiller for HD 68, incumbent Gary VanDeaver for HD 1, and Paul Pape for HD 17. Every Republican Primary candidate that COPAC endorsed won their primary with the exception of Paul Pape in HD 17, who advanced into a runoff with Stan Gerdes.

In the Democratic Primary, COPAC backed incumbent Alex Dominguez for Senate District 27. Dominguez came in third in a race which sent Democrats Morgan LaMantia and Sara Stapleton-Barrera into a runoff.

During the 2022 Runoff Election, COPAC supported six Republicans and one Democrat running for seats in the House of Representatives.

In the Republican Primary Runoff, COPAC backed incumbent Kyle Kacal for HD 12 in his race against challenger Ben Bius, Paul Pape for HD 17 in his race against Stan Gerdes, incumbent Glenn Rogers in his race against challenger Mike Olcott, Barron Casteel for HD 73 in his race against Carrie Isaac, incumbent Phil Stephenson for HD 85 in his race against challenger Stan Kitzman, and incumbent Stephanie Klick for HD 91 in her race against challenger David Lowe. Out of the six Republican candidates supported by COPAC, three won their races (Kacal, Rogers, and Klick) and three lost their races (Pape, Casteel, and Stephenson).

In the Democratic Primary Runoff, the COPAC backed John Bryant for HD 114 in his race against Alexandria Guio. COPAC was successful in securing Bryant as the Democratic candidate for HD 114.

During the 2022 General Election, COPAC supported five Democrats and three Republicans running for seats in the Senate and House of Representatives.

In the Senate, COPAC backed Republican incumbent Robert Nichols for SD 3 in his race against Democrat challenger Steve Russell and Democrat Morgan LaMantia for SD 27 in her race against Republican Adam Hinojosa.

In the House, COPAC backed Democrat incumbent Erin Zwiener for HD 45 in her race against Republican challenger Michelle Lopez, Democrat incumbent Vikki Goodwin for HD 47 in her race against Republican challenger Rob McCarthy, Republican incumbent Brad Buckley for HD 54 in his race against Democrat Jonathan Hildner, Democrat John Bryant for HD 114 in his race against Republican Sarah Lamb, Democrat incumbent Julie Johnson for HD 115 in her race against Republican challenger Melisa Denis, and Republican incumbent Steve Allison for HD 121 in his race against Democrat challenger Becca DeFelice.

Every candidate the PAC endorsed in the general election won.

The result? During the General Election, COPAC was successful in protecting two Senate seats and six House seats – five Democrat and three Republican.

Are Democrats ‘More Friendly’ to County Governments than Republicans?

If COPAC supports more Democrats than Republicans in the General Elections, does that mean that COPAC sees Democrats as more friendly to their efforts than Republicans are? Are Democrats more friendly to county governments than Republicans?

Henderson County Republican Party Chair Daniel Hunt shared, “Conservatives are always better for government than Democrats. Conservative Republicans are the ones who are going to govern the most friendly to the populace because they are the ones who govern with the most respect for the Constitution.”

State Republican Executive Committeewoman Christin Bentley (SD-1) shared, “Republicans should find COPAC’s campaign finance reports greatly concerning – especially since COPAC is connected to the County Judges and Commissioners Association of Texas – an association that is offering training to our county judges and commissioners. If COPAC is seeking to help Democrats elected in the General Elections, what are they filling the minds of our judges and commissioners with at their meetings?”

Even the Republicans COPAC has endorsed gives Bentley reason for concern. “Our rural counties are made up of the most conservative Texans in the state, yet they are electing some of the most moderate Republicans in the Legislature. COPAC is funding moderate candidates in our most conservative districts and, unfortunately, getting results.”

Hunt concluded, “I think it is important that we know more about who is endorsing some of our candidates. Before you make a donation to a political action committee, you might want to check out that organization. We have to be educated and make sure we are supporting PACs and candidates who are truly representing conservative Republican beliefs and values.”

This is a commentary published with the author’s permission. If you wish to submit a commentary to Texas Scorecard, please submit your article to submission@texasscorecard.com.

Mark Lee Dickson

Mark Lee Dickson is a director with Right to Life of East Texas and the founder of the Sanctuary Cities for the Unborn Initiative.

RELATED POSTS

7/12/24 The Justice for Jocelyn Act

-Nehls and Cruz Introduce Justice for Jocelyn Act to Strengthen Detention of Illegal Aliens -House Republicans Call for Action Against Countries Refusing to Repatriate Illegal Aliens -New Victim Revealed in Sex Abuse Lawsuit Against Lorena ISD