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GREENVILLE, Texas—After falling just short in 2016, a conservative businessman is taking another shot at winning a Texas House election and retiring one of the chamber’s most disappointing Republican legislators.
Knocking on doors, putting out yard signs, and speaking at events is nothing new for Bryan Slaton, a conservative activist who rolled up his sleeves and ran for state representative in 2016 against incumbent Dan Flynn (R—Van) falling short by less than two percent. Now that he’s running a second time, Slaton says he’s really gotten his legs underneath him.
“We’re so much more effective this time,” says Slaton. “My campaign team and I learned a lot from the mistakes we made and we’re not making them. And now that a lot of the infrastructure is out of the way we can work hard on earning votes.”
As could be imagined, voter contact is given highest priority by the Slaton campaign. As a candidate he’s knocked on over 3,500 doors in the three-county district and his campaign has knocked over 10,000—all while Slaton outraised his opponent on the most recent financial reports.
Slaton attributes his repeated success to staying involved.
“I think a lot of candidates retreat from the community after a defeat, but that’s not what we did. We used the volunteer army we’d assembled to stay involved by holding local government accountable on the toll road and junior college,” said Slaton.
But running against Flynn, Slaton doesn’t just have to distinguish himself. He also has to contrast himself with the incumbent representative, something fairly easy to do given his rapidly declining record.
First elected in 2003, Flynn was once one of the Texas House’s most conservative lawmakers and one of the few who fought against falling in line behind House Speaker Joe Straus after his successful Democrat-led coup against Republican Speaker Tom Craddick.
But after conservatives were defeated, Flynn sold out and became a supplicant for the very regime he’d fought against—serving as lead attack dog against UT Regent Wallace Hall, a whistleblower who uncovered egregious examples of favoritism and corruption in the university admission process by which elected officials would secure admission to the university for their own children or those of wealthy donors.
A “Taxpayer Champion” in 2009 and 2011, Flynn’s rating on the Fiscal Responsibility declined first to a “B,” then a “C.” And in his most recent session, Flynn’s score sunk even lower. He now has a failing grade of a 49.
House District 2 stretches across Hunt, Hopkins, and Van Zandt counties. A safe Republican district, the primary election between Flynn and Slaton on March 6th will almost assuredly decide who represents the district in 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.