MONT BELVIEU, Texas—Activists across one of state’s most conservative districts are rallying behind a conservative business leader as he challenges an establishment lawmaker with a weak record.
Conservatives in House District 23 have been through the wringer when it comes to representation. Comprised of fast-growing Chambers County and most of Galveston County, the district was held by Democrat State Rep. Craig Eiland of Galveston until he stepped aside in 2014.
It was then that Republicans finally took the seat—tapping Dickinson insurance agent Wayne Faircloth who ran as a committed conservative who would stand up and fight for taxpayers in Austin.
But Faircloth didn’t fulfill his campaign pledge to fight the establishment, he quickly joined it and earned a dismal “C” on the Fiscal Responsibility Index. In his next session, Faircloth fared even worse and earned a failing grade on the Index.
Time and time again Faircloth sided with Democrats and a minority of Republican lawmakers to thwart conservative reform. There is no clearer example than when he voted against the chairman of the House Republican Caucus, State Rep. Tan Parker (R—Flower Mound), as he tried to pass legislation during the special session that would have strengthened Texas’ spending limit.
Faircloth also decided to pick a fight with Gov. Greg Abbott, accusing the governor of ethical misconduct, specifically: selling appointments for campaign contributions.
Such an assertion is something voters should find outrageous given Abbott’s dedication and leadership on ethics reform and Faircloth’s own votes to wage war on the First Amendment and suppress the free speech of citizens. In 2015, Faircloth voted for legislation that made it illegal for citizens to film in the Texas Capitol and would have criminalized the political activity of civic groups, including churches.
Faircloth’s attack on Abbott has so far failed to resonate with citizens, but they were certainly heard in the governor’s office. Earlier this year the governor came off the sidelines and endorsed Mayes Middleton as he seeks to take the seat.
“In the next legislative session, we have an opportunity to continue to pass reforms that make Texas even better,” said Abbott in a video announcing the endorsement. “To do this, we need leaders who will work with me to advance a conservative agenda that will benefit every Texan in our great state. That is why I am endorsing Mayes Middleton for state representative.”
Middleton has also received the endorsement of Texans for Fiscal Responsibility, Texas Right to Life, and national conservative leaders such as Congressmen Mark Meadows (R—NC) and Jim Jordan (R—OH), the current and former chairmen of the Congressional House Freedom Caucus.
Talking with Texas Scorecard, Middleton said while he was proud to have support from conservative leaders he was even more proud of the support he’s received from his fellow citizens.
“We’re in this campaign to return this seat to the citizens. For too long our conservative values have taken a back seat to the lobbyists and special interests in Austin,” said Middleton. “I’ve spent my life fighting the establishment and defending life, liberty, and property from big government and I’m headed for the frontlines.”
Middleton, who has knocked on over 2,500 doors and even raked the leaves of a voter in order to gain his support said he’s been amazed by the outpouring of support he’s received both at the donor level—of which he has more than 200 in the district—and from other conservative activists.
“Mayes Middleton unquestioningly is the proper choice and I hope you join me in selecting Mr. Middleton to represent our District, our Platform, and our Party,” wrote SREC member JT Edwards of Galveston in a letter endorsing Middleton. “Mr. Middleton espouses the highest levels of Party principles and values with his continuing, consistent, and courageous efforts to safeguard our Families, our Faith, and our Freedom. From his generous relief and recovery efforts during Hurricane Harvey to his pitched battles to limit runaway property taxes, Mr. Middleton’s deeds outshine that of the current Lobby-bought, unstable, and disconnected incumbent we currently have.”
A safe Republican district, the battle between Middleton and Faircloth will decide who enters the Texas House in 2019.
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.