When crony-incumbent State Rep. Jim Keffer announced his retirement, voters around House District 60 cheered. Keffer had been instrumental in colluding with Democrats to install Joe Straus as speaker of the Texas House. The “RINO of Eastland” received a near-death experience at the hands of voters in 2014, when he barely won re-election despite an 8-to-1 spending advantage over his little known challenger.
But Keffer didn’t retire voluntarily. He did so under threat of a challenge from a popular Hood County constable, Mike Lang (whose even-more-popular wife Katie, the Hood County clerk, made national headlines defending traditional marriage). Lang started in the spring traveling the sprawling district, and didn’t slow down after Keffer withdrew from the race.
On the March GOP primary ballot, Jim Keffer’s name will be spelled “Kevin Downing.” Downing is a former Keffer campaign backer whose inability to connect with voters around the district is countered by the warm embrace he’s received from the Austin establishment. Downing’s only real accomplishment seems to be hanging out with liberal Republican Charlie Geren on various boards and commissions.
What’s The Difference: Lang’s long service in law enforcement, coupled with an indisputable record of conservative activism, stands in stark contrast to Downing being mostly absent. Downing will be a big hit in the Austin lobby popularity contest, while Lang is meeting with actual constituents. But Lang has to keep working for it.