One of the lowest rated GOP members of the Texas Senate was Kevin Eltife (R-Tyler). He opted to retire rather than face a contentious primary, creating an open seat. Three GOP candidates have emerged: State Rep. Bryan Hughes (Mineola), State Rep. David Simpson (Longview), and James Brown (Tyler).

Brown, with no governing record, was recruited to run for the seat by Austin’s crony establishment worried about having either Hughes or Simpson in the Senate. He’d be Eltife Jr., or worse. Brown is simply a non-starter for conservatives.

Hughes and Simpson, however, would both represent marked improvements from Eltife – though in decidedly different ways. Both men are “taxpayer champions,” based on their Fiscal Responsibility Index ratings. Both have challenged the status quo in Austin by fighting against the House leadership.

Simpson rose to prominence with the “tea party” wave several years ago, defeating a liberal Republican in the GOP primary. In the Legislature, he has usually been more willing to be the contrarian. Aside from making waves by offering legislation to relax marijuana laws, he could also be reliably counted on to make impassioned speeches pleading with lawmakers to respect constitutional rights and legislative process.

Hughes is more of a quiet warrior, who has earned a solid reputation on the right. He is congenial, sometimes to a fault. His work as the House’s “pro-life whip” endeared him to the state’s network of social conservatives.

Hughes has the public support of the region’s largest tea party groups, and – most notably – the endorsement of Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and other leaders.

What To Ask: Would Simpson hold Dan Patrick’s “feet to the fire” as some claim, or be a libertarian-contrarian obstructing reforms? Would Hughes’ congeniality be used to silence him in the upper chamber, or be an effective weapon in the Senate’s notoriously cloistered environs?

Michael Quinn Sullivan

Michael Quinn Sullivan is the publisher of Texas Scorecard. He is a native Texan, a graduate of Texas A&M, and an Eagle Scout. Previously, he has worked as a newspaper reporter, magazine contributor, Capitol Hill staffer, and think tank vice president. Michael and his wife have three adult children, a son-in-law, and a dog. Michael is the author of three books, including "Reflections on Life and Liberty."


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