While many of the runoff elections around the state featured establishment politicians launching false attacks on conservatives, none measured up to the race between State Rep. Wayne Smith (R-Baytown) and conservative attorney Briscoe Cain in House District 128.
Campaign mailers surfaced that accused Cain—a married father of three and First Lieutenant in the Texas State Guard—of being “well known to those who frequent Montrose area night clubs and gay bars.” Cain denied the baseless accusations while the Smith campaign issued statements denying credit for the mailer. However a third party revealed Smith’s claim to be untrue.
Dr. Steve Hotze, a Houston doctor and president of the Houston-based Conservative Republicans of Texas, said he was shown the mailer by Smith’s political consultant, Allen Blakemore. Hotze says he was asked to flip his support from Cain to Smith. Hotze refused to change sides and the mailer was never sent.
Meanwhile, Cain was building momentum after a strong performance in the March primary where he almost won outright, netting 48% of the vote to Smith’s 43%. While continuing to campaign aggressively, Cain also secured a major victory for Texans’ free speech rights by winning a temporary injunction in his lawsuit against Smith and the Texas Ethics Commission.
The lawsuit challenges the legitimacy of a law that prohibits anyone from using video footage of legislative proceedings in campaign advertising. In other words, the law is designed to protect incumbents from Texans seeing the work they do while in the legislature, as it effectively prohibits Texans from using a legislator’s own public statements against them.
The majority of observers peg Cain as the favorite to win the case when it is ultimately decided in December. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has already declined to defend the law, also believing it to be unconstitutional.
Despite the false narratives and political white noise leading up to the runoff, after the dust had settled, Cain had narrowly edged out Smith by a mere 23 votes. While such a narrow margin is usually subject to calls for a recount, Smith issued a press release conceding the race to Cain.
Cain’s victory is ultimately a win for the conservative movement statewide. But it’s also a long overdue triumph for Harris County conservatives who have been searching for a legitimate Republican alternative to Smith for quite some time.