HOUSTON, Texas—After one lawmaker decided to run for Congress, voters will have to decide between three candidates to fill the open seat in an election that will determine if conservatives can continue to take seats in Harris County.
Located in Northwest Houston, House District 126 is drawn to be a conservative seat, but like many areas of the Lone Star State hasn’t been served very well in the Texas House. For years liberal Republican State Rep. Patricia Harless (R—Houston) held the office with the help of Democrat voters supporting her in the Republican primary.
When she announced her “retirement,” Kevin Roberts announced his campaign to fill her seat and conservatives were delighted—here was someone who could restore true representation to the district. He was even endorsed by Texans for Fiscal Responsibility.
But when he entered public office, Roberts quickly abandoned the principles and promises he made on the campaign trail. He and his freshman colleague Tom Oliverson (R—Cypress) began referring to themselves as House Speaker Joe Straus’ “wingmen” (even creating themselves lapel pins) and saying they were going to “get things done from the inside.”
Sadly, all they accomplished was sacrificing their voting records on the altar of access (and earning a disastrous rating on the Fiscal Responsibility Index)
In the case of Roberts, his rating on the Index was worse than Harless’ had ever been.
That’s why no one in either Austin or Houston was surprised when Roberts, or “K-Rob” as he began calling himself, announced that he’d be taking a pass on re-election and try to parlay his state office—along with his brother in law, Mark Lanier’s, cash—into a Congressional campaign to replace outgoing US Congressman Ted Poe.
Roberts’ late departure left an open seat and three candidates are now scrambling to fill it: conservative lawyer Kevin Fulton, establishment-friendly businessman Sam Harless (the husband of the retired lawmaker), and SREC Committeewoman Gail Stanart, the wife of Harris County Clerk Stan Stanart.
As part of our “On the Trail Tour,” Texas Scorecard spent some time in House District 126 interviewing Texans for Fiscal Responsibility-endorsed Kevin Fulton and talking to conservative activists.
For Fulton, he sees the race as a question for voters on the kind of representation they want to have.
“With Sam Harless, voters will be getting a known commodity. It’s the same with Gail Stanart,” said Fulton. “I know them both and have nothing against them, but everyone who knows them knows that I am more conservative.”
As is always the case in Harris County, campaigns can be majorly impacted by the slates such as Dr. Steve Hotze’s Conservative Republicans of Texas, which has endorsed Fulton, but block-walking, phone-banking, and all other efforts are still important.
“I’m out hustling just about every day trying to earn votes and I’ve got a growing campaign team working with me as well,” said Fulton.
But while Fulton’s been working and is gaining support from conservatives, Harless has been gaining endorsements from liberal groups like the Texas Association of Business, which opposed the sanctuary cities ban Gov. Greg Abbott signed into law.
Though it is likely headed to a runoff election the safe Republican seat will be decided in the primary election.
This article is part of Texas Scorecard’s “On the Trail Tour” series. To view more field reports on campaigns across the state of Texas, visit our website here.
Zach Maxwell contributed to this report.

Cary Cheshire

Cary Cheshire is the executive director of Texans for Strong Borders, a no-compromise non-profit dedicated to restoring security and sovereignty to the citizens of the Lone Star State. For more information visit StrongBorders.org.