News broke recently that State Rep. and Taxpayer Champion James White will have a primary opponent in the upcoming election cycle. Given that his challenger, Rep. Mike “Tuffy” Hamilton, would have otherwise been paired against one of the three worst Republicans in the House this session, some ulterior motives are likely at play.
The Texas Observer (a left-leaning Texas political news outlet) broke the news last week that Rep. Mike “Tuffy” Hamilton (R-Mauriceville), planned to move into Hardin County, located inside Rep. James White’s newly drawn District 19. Rep Hamilton will be moving out of Rep. Allan Ritter’s (R-Nederland) new district.
The Observer does not specify what prompted Mr. Hamilton’s move over to Hardin County, but speculation about a strategic political move is an easy assumption to make. Just look at Rep. White’s record compared to Rep. Ritter’s.
Rep. White, a freshman, was originally endorsed by this organization and lived up to the hype. He was recognized as a Taxpayer Champion, scoring an outstanding A+ on our Fiscal Responsibility Index. Rep. White was also courageous enough to vote in opposition to Speaker Joe Straus at the beginning of the session.
Rep. Ritter, on the other hand, was a Democrat that switched to the GOP after feeling the political winds shifting at the start of session. He was one of three Republicans that failed our Fiscal Responsibility Index with an F, joining a new group of colleagues we labeled “Bottom of the Barrel”.
The Observer did not report that Rep. Hamilton is seeking a new job during the interim or a closer location to family, for example, which would have been perfectly legitimate and understandable.
So why else would he be challenging Rep. White instead of Rep. Ritter? Rep. Hamilton scored a C+ on our Index this session, leaving lots of room for improvement, but certainly better than failing taxpayers altogether. Wouldn’t it make more sense to stay put and challenge the Republican incumbent who voted a lot like a Democrat instead of the solid conservative and Tea Party backed incumbent?
To you and I, it definitely doesn’t make sense, until you look at what may be going on in the background.
Rep. Hamilton was a strong Straus supporter and was awarded as such with the chairmanship of the House Licensing & Administrative Procedures Committee. The committee has jurisdiction over matters pertaining to, among other things, “the regulation of greyhound and horse racing and other gaming industries”.
It’s no secret that Speaker Straus and his family have business interests in horse racing and are set to make millions off slot machines at race tracks if they were to become legal. And it just so happened that Rep. Hamilton and his committee voted out a bill that would do just that. (It never made it any further, fortunately.) Rep. Ritter wasn’t on the Licensing & Administrative Committee to have cast a vote in favor of the bill, but he is on record supporting gambling in Texas.
So it’s not hard to see what might be stacking up against Rep. White. For the House leadership, having two pro-gambling members is definitely better than one, especially if it means knocking off a rising conservative willing to challenge the “good ol’ boy” system in order for them to maintain control.
What other reason could there be for a member of the House leadership to go so far as to move across district lines in order to challenge Rep. White instead of the former Democrat?
Keep in mind that this is just speculation at this point, and may all end up being a moot point if Rep. White prevails in the primary. However, the evidence is strongly pointing in the direction of intra-party politics at work and taxpayers are likely to suffer as a result.
Conservatives from across the state need to keep a close eye on this race.
Dustin Matocha is the Social Media Coordinator of Empower Texans / Texans for Fiscal Responsibility.