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The political class has a way of rallying around its own.

As a Texas state senator in Austin, I quickly learned the first rule for newly elected members was to never expose the bad actions of your colleagues or to hold them accountable to their campaign promises. Most of the politicians in Austin believe compliance and obedience to party leadership is the highest virtue an elected official could exercise. The idea that legislators would vote for what their constituents back home demand—rather than for what senior leadership or lobbyists in Austin are pushing—is completely foreign to politicians on both sides of the aisle. 

Legislators routinely hide behind one another and work to ensure each individual Republican’s record is indistinguishable from that of their colleagues. I’ve seen it first hand. In this way, no particular lawmaker is accountable when important legislative priorities disappear. In order to be comfortably reelected, legislators insist on avoiding taking votes on controversial campaign issues. Failing to accomplish voter priorities gives them the ability to campaign on the same things over and over. Since they push what the special interests want, they quickly line up the lobby money and a long list of their fellow colleagues’ endorsements to drown out any potential insurgent candidates. 

An example of this behavior is currently on display. When State Sen. Pat Fallon was chosen as the Republican nominee for John Ratcliffe’s congressional seat, the Austin establishment immediately fell in line behind one of its most compliant members, Drew Springer, to fill Fallon’s senate seat. Over the course of his political career, Springer has cultivated the type of record that lobbyists and special interests love to see. His own advertisements tout a taxpayer-funded lobbying ban … from which he voted to exempt his own district. Now he says he wants to author constitutional carry, a bill that I filed in the senate, and that he refused to support as a co-author, when in the House. He’s so compliant that he’s collecting politician and lobby endorsements like a swamp collects mosquitos. 

Voters should have the opportunity to hear from all of the candidates. A month is hardly enough time for them to do so. A short campaign offers few opportunities for voters to engage with candidates. The establishment believes this favors their preferred candidate because they have the necessary money and infrastructure already in place. So when the time came to schedule this special election, rather than putting this race on the general election ballot in November, Abbott chose to leave the voters scrambling in order to undermine any effort by conservative outsiders to take on Springer and the machine that’s backing him. Early voting is already under way, and most voters still don’t even know there is an election going on. What an advantage for the Austin swamp. 

Unfortunately for them, someone has stepped up to challenge their nonsense. Back in May, Shelley Luther, like many Texas small-business owners, was being crushed under the weight of Governor Greg Abbott’s lockdown orders. When faced with the choice of bowing down and complying with the unreasonable draconian orders by laying off her employees and losing her business, Shelley chose to stand up. She opened her business and let her hair stylists get back to work. A state district judge jailed her for it, but outraged Texans rallied to her cause. Thanks to Shelley, Abbott was forced to reverse his orders.

Her incredible courage ruffled feathers. She exposed the cruel consequences of the government’s overreach and the effects the establishment’s decisions could have on the lives of ordinary, hardworking Texans. She brought the governor’s egregious actions into the public eye. Shelley successfully went from “political nobody” to “voice of the people.” That’s why the Austin establishment is so scared of her.

The atmosphere in Austin is toxic and extremely vengeful. It discourages legislators from standing on principle or following through on campaign promises. It encourages them to lie to their voters during campaign season and then to fall in line once they get elected. The Austin swamp’s darling, Drew Springer, has made a career of just that. His record shows it. Texans are best served when we elect people with courage and the tenacity to fight for the values on which they campaign. Shelley Luther has already been to jail for standing up for what she believes, and I have confidence that she’s ready to be held accountable to her constituents for how she votes in office. I believe she’ll defy senior political leadership when necessary to continue standing up for all of us. But even more than that, I know that Drew Springer won’t.

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 [email protected].