Two Republicans in a runoff to represent a North Texas House seat sparred Saturday over a campaign sign controversy that’s threatened to overshadow substantive issues in the race.
In a candidate debate held in McKinney, House District 61 hopefuls Paul Chabot and Frederick Frazier answered questions about sign shenanigans and the resulting criminal investigation that has yet to be resolved.
Texas Scorecard reported last month on Chabot’s accusations of sign vandalism that triggered an investigation by the Texas Rangers. Since then, documents surfaced showing Frazier was the target of the investigation, which involved allegations of impersonating a public servant and potentially related theft. On March 29, the Texas Department of Public Safety advised the Texas attorney general’s office that “charges are pending against one or more individuals” in the “ongoing criminal case.”
Voters continued to have questions, and the candidates were asked to answer them on Saturday.
Chabot said he doesn’t know who stole his signs. What he does know is that he filed complaints with local authorities about missing and vandalized signs. Due to a conflict of interest, the McKinney Police Department handed off the case to state law enforcement.
“Through an investigation through McKinney PD and/or the Texas Rangers, they have come up with an additional charge of impersonating a public servant,” Chabot said. “Now a special attorney has been assigned to this.”
Frazier said neither he nor anyone on his campaign had anything to do with Chabot’s signs disappearing. But he didn’t answer questions about impersonating a public official, saying “there’s a due process” and he’d “really like to get this cleared up as fast as possible.”
Candidates and Issues
Chabot and Frazier were the top two finishers in a three-way Republican primary on March 1, sending them to a runoff to be the party’s nominee for the open House District 61 seat.
Chabot is a former military intelligence officer and retired deputy sheriff from California who now runs a relocation business and a nonprofit to fight youth drug use.
Frazier is a Dallas police officer and former McKinney City Council member who stepped down during his first term to run for the Legislature.
In Saturday’s debate, Chabot and Frazier gave similar answers to questions about most issues.
Both also said they do not think their opponent would do a good job.
While both candidates said they oppose Democrats serving as legislative committee chairs, some voters saw this as a change for Frazier.
In January, he said he would vote for a House speaker who continues to appoint Democrats as committee chairs. On Saturday, he added Republican cliques decide who the speaker will be.
“The party picks,” he said. “Dade Phelan didn’t put in to be speaker.”
Each clique vies for who they want. … The party splits up. And then you have to do math, because the numbers push the speaker up, and sometimes those numbers have Democrats in there. And that’s just how the speaker is made.
Chabot said the problem grassroots Republicans are concerned about is Democrats chairing committees. “If we as Republicans are elected to lead, we need to lead. And we also need to not support and be openly against any elected regardless, if they are going to put a Democrat in charge of a committee.”
He said Republican lawmakers’ fear is that if they don’t go along to get along, then they won’t get committee assignments or be able to push through legislation.
“If that isn’t the essence of corruption and broken and dishonesty and unethical behavior, then shame on us as Republicans,” he said.
We are literally allowing Democrats to help control the conversation. We better start sending representatives to Austin who have the courage to stand up and to lead on these core issues.
“That sounds good,” Frazier responded. “But let’s go back and look at last session. … You had the most conservative session in Texas history.”
“We should’ve and could’ve been doing so much more,” Chabot said. “Texas should be leading consistently.”
The candidates also clashed over what constitutes lowering property taxes—lower tax rates or lower tax bills.
“Did we lower the taxes by lowering the tax rate? Yes, we did,” Frazier said, blaming rising appraisal values for driving up property tax bills.
“This is about the tax rate versus lowering taxes, which are two completely different things,” Chabot said. “We’ve got to be honest with voters. … As conservatives, we want to lower taxes overall.”
As explained by Plano City Councilmember Shelby Williams, local governments set their tax rates after appraisal values are set. If officials don’t lower tax rates enough to offset rising property values, tax bills go up.
Who Will Voters Pick in the Runoff?
The newly redrawn House District 61 covers a vertical slice of Collin County that includes parts of McKinney and Frisco. The area was formerly represented by State Rep. Scott Sanford (R–McKinney), who decided not to run for re-election.
Frazier finished first in the March 1 primary with 42 percent of the vote.
Chabot came in second with 37 percent—a difference of about 800 votes.
The May 24 runoff is likely to have a much lower turnout, so getting supporters to the polls is key.
Both runoff candidates are looking to win over third-place finisher Jim Herblin’s voters.
In the primary, Herblin branded Frazier a liberal “RINO” who “can’t hide the truth.”
Some Herblin voters stand by that assessment of Frazier; others are adamantly opposed to Chabot.
A straw poll of 68 attendees at the debate showed 62 percent favored Frazier and 38 percent chose Chabot. Of the 68, 29 said they backed Herblin in the primary, but there was no breakdown of who they’re supporting in the runoff.
Frazier is supported by a number of police and firefighter unions and endorsed by former President Donald Trump and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, whose runoff endorsements have favored establishment candidates.
A voter guide produced by local grassroots group Collin Strong and distributed at the debate shows every local and state conservative group endorsing in the race recommends Chabot.
It was noted that some Democrats were in Saturday’s debate audience. It’s not clear if either candidate intends to court Democrat voters who didn’t vote in the March primary to cross over and participate in the Republican runoff, which they can legally do.
One district voter told Texas Scorecard it comes down to which candidate is most conservative, not endorsements or sign shenanigans.
Assuming Republican voters agree on who that is, runoff results will depend on how many conservatives—versus moderates or even Democrats—turn out to vote in the Republican primary runoff.
Early voting in the primary runoff is Monday-Friday, May 16-20. Election Day is Tuesday, May 24.