Pundits have billed this year’s election cycle as the “Year of the Outsider” and while that label is certainly relevant on the national scene, the best example might be found in a small district in East Harris County. House District 128, which consists mainly of the southeast Houston suburbs of Deer Park, Pasadena, and Baytown, serves as one of the primary battlegrounds between Texas conservatives and the state’s liberal Republican establishment.
Fighting for his political life is the insider’s insider: State Rep. Wayne Smith (R-Baytown). A piece of Capitol “furniture” for over fourteen years, Smith has long stood against conservative reforms in the Texas House. In 2012, Smith beat back attempts to close the revolving door that allows state agency heads to leave public office and immediately go to work as hired-gun lobbyists. Smith argued on the House floor that reform legislation would “prohibit people from making a good honest living when they leave the agency.”
A former lobbyist himself, Smith is notorious for “playing ball” with the lobby in Austin, and House Speaker Joe Straus has appointed Smith to a position where he can do just that. Last session, Smith chaired the House Committee on Licensing and Administrative Procedures and used his insider perch to try and stamp out conservatives seeking to expand economic liberty. The damage wasn’t contained to his committee, Smith also voted to increase his own office budget, provide food stamps to felons, and authorize billions in new debt.
One Houston blogger described Smith:
“He’s the sort of big business, old school Republican that doesn’t understand movement conservatism. And that is exactly what his endorsement list represents – mostly people making their living off of the government who cringe when they hear people wanting to slow the growth of government or increase transparency and freedom.”
In light of Smith’s record, conservatives are rallying behind a true outsider and grassroots candidate, Briscoe Cain. An outsider to the legislative process, Cain boasts a strong record of fighting for his convictions in the courtroom defending the unborn, religious liberty, and traditional marriage. Continuing his activism in spite of his campaign, Cain made headline news when he released invoices exposing four Texas Medical Schools for using tax dollars to purchase aborted fetal tissue.
Cain came in first place in the March 1st Republican Primary, besting the incumbent by almost 800 votes. However, because neither individual secured an outright majority, they’ll proceed to a runoff election. Conservatives typically fare well in runoff elections and Cain’s first place finish in the initial election should give him an edge. Additionally, the third candidate in the race, Melody McDaniel, issued a strong endorsement for him.
“I know both men well. I’ve evaluated the record and convictions of both, and for those who care about expanding freedom and conservative principles in Texas, Briscoe is your man,” said McDaniel. “I’m proud to endorse Briscoe and look forward to supporting him and voting for him on May 24th.”
For statewide conservatives, Cain’s victory would represent a major win headed into the next legislative session given Smith’s poor showing on the Fiscal Responsibility Index and similar tools that rate legislators on their voting records. Cain has been endorsed by Texans for Fiscal Responsibility, Texas Right to Life, Conservative Republicans of Harris County, and other conservatives around the state.
Texans are looking for outsiders – principled leaders who can enter a political process that’s become more about self-interest than selfless service and fight for taxpayers rather than against them. Voters in House District 128 can send just such a champion to Austin by supporting Briscoe Cain.