The retirement of U.S. Congressman Pete Olson (R-Sugar Land) has kicked off a contentious GOP primary fight that will be decided on July 14.
Though the initial field to succeed Olson counted 15 Republicans, voters in the suburbs to the southwest and south of Houston will choose between only two in the July runoff election: Fort Bend County Sheriff Troy Nehls, and businesswoman and activist Kathaleen Wall.
A military and law enforcement veteran, Nehls was elected sheriff in 2012 and was re-elected in 2016. He earned first place with 40 percent of the vote to Wall’s 19 percent, forcing a runoff between the candidates.
Since entering the race, Nehls has been accused of falsifying filings with the Federal Elections Committee by “knowingly and intentionally misrepresenting the employer and occupation of two donors.” He’s also come under hot water for actions he took as sheriff to oppose conservative reforms debated in the Texas Legislature.
Conservatives have criticized Nehls for his opposition to strong sanctuary city laws, which he said “[create] an us-versus-them attitude” between law enforcement and illegal aliens, and for his opposition to Texas gun rights.
After the Texas Legislature passed licensed open carry in 2015, Nehls attacked the policy and Texas gun owners in a chamber of commerce meeting.
“You shouldn’t allow a weapon at a library, and you shouldn’t allow a weapon at the central appraisal district. If you think for one minute I’m gonna allow anybody to walk into [that] office … with a weapon?” ranted Nehls. “Ain’t no way. Come down and arrest me. No, what you’d have to do is sue me for $1,500/day, ’cause I’m not letting anyone in [that building] with a weapon carried openly. Forget it!”
Both of the instances Nehls mentioned have been legal under Texas law since the Texas Legislature acted in 2015.
Running against him is Kathaleen Wall, a businesswoman and member of the State Republican Executive Committee.
Wall had previously attempted a run for the 2nd Congressional District in 2018, failing to make the runoff for the seat now held by Congressman Dan Crenshaw.
Since then, however, Wall has doubled down on her involvement with the party, serving on the State Republican Executive Committee, where she has led election integrity efforts over the past year.
In February, U.S. Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) endorsed Wall for Congress, adding to support she’s received from Texas Right to Life, the Texas Homeschool Coalition, and the National Association for Gun Rights.
Wall has also been endorsed by Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller, Texas Railroad Commissioner Wayne Christian, and eight Republican members of the Texas Legislature.
Over the past few weeks, Wall has been one of the most vocal critics of China. In a campaign ad that hit the airwaves last month, the congressional hopeful characterized the communist country as a “criminal enterprise masquerading as a sovereign nation.”
“China poisoned our people,” begins her TV spot that later says she will work to cut off trade, aid, and support to China and fight to replace “Made in China” with “Made in America.”
“It’s time to fight back,” Wall’s ad concludes.
Situated in Fort Bend County and containing portions of neighboring Brazoria and Harris counties, the state’s 22nd Congressional District is Republican-leaning but will be targeted by Democrats as an opportunity seat in the November election. The runoff election winner will face former U.S. Foreign Service diplomat and Democrat staffer Sri Preston Kulkarni in the November election.