Unlike most runoff elections this cycle in which conservatives were on offense, in House District 33 they’re playing defense against an encroaching establishment challenger.

After State Rep. Scott Turner (R-Frisco) declined to run for re-election, the election became a three-way open contest. Following the results of the March 1st Republican primary, the field has winnowed down to two.

Representing conservatives in the race is John Keating, a Gulf War veteran and Mayor Pro Tem of Frisco. Keating announced his campaign with the support of conservative State Rep. Pat Fallon (R-Frisco), who previously served with him on the City Council. Since his announcement, he’s garnered the support of the incumbent Turner, the vast majority of the pro-taxpayer lawmakers in the area, including State Sens. Van Taylor (R-Plano) and Bob Hall (R-Canton), and many statewide conservative organizations.

“John has been fighting for us long before he ran this campaign,” said Turner. “He’s a decorated Gulf War veteran, serving in the Army for 13 years. He’s a true conservative – not just by word but in deed.”

Though Keating’s strongest support is in Frisco and Collin County, the district also loops around and encompasses all of Rockwall County, where Keating’s runoff opponent, Justin Holland, serves on the Heath City Council.

With Turner and Keating both from Collin County, Holland’s backers have stoked the flames of factionalism. Seeking to make the race less about electing a leader with a conservative record and more about electing a Rockwall County resident.

No clearer is that sentiment expressed than in Rockwall News article aptly titled “5 reasons NOT to vote for Frisco’s John Keating to represent Rockwall Co. in March 1 Election” authored by publisher J.J. Smith.

“First, and perhaps most obvious, Keating is a Frisco resident and Frisco City Council member,” says Smith. “As such he’s been absorbed with Frisco and Collin County issues for years and cannot possibly know as much about Rockwall County as either of our excellent Rockwall County candidates, Heath Mayor Lorne Liechty and Heath City Council Member Justin Holland.”

Smith went on to argue against Keating, criticizing him for his conservative bona fides and support of conservative and pro-life causes. However, one Rockwall County resident says the same information is why she’s supporting Keating over Holland.

“This election isn’t about geography, it’s about principles,” said Donna Rolater, a conservative grassroots leader in Heath. “John Keating has a record of military and civic service where he has proven his conservative leadership. The only reason that Holland and his cronies are talking up Holland’s Rockwall roots are because he can’t compete with Keating on conservative values.”

The race will certainly be an interesting one to watch as conservatives cleave to a seat that has been in safe hands for a number of years. Meanwhile for the state’s liberal Republican establishment, taking the seat that challenged Speaker Joe Straus would be a jewel of a prize. At the end of the day it will come down to voters to decide.

Cary Cheshire

Cary Cheshire is the Vice President of Texans for Fiscal Responsibility. A 6th Generation Texan, Cary attended Texas A&M University was active in a number of conservative causes including Ted Cruz's Senate campaign. He has also worked on campaigns to elect conservatives to Congress and the Texas Legislature. Cary enjoys college football, genealogy research, and the occasional craft beer.

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