Last week, Bill King announced he was driving to Austin to file paperwork and create a new political party in Texas called the Serve America Movement (SAM) Party.
Bill King is a businessman, author, and attorney who was a former Houston mayoral candidate in both 2015 and 2019. In 2015, he narrowly lost to the now-Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner by garnering 49 percent of the vote in the runoff election. One of King’s more notable books is entitled “Unapologetically Moderate.”
King announced he would serve as the founding chairman of the party. The Texas SAM Party is an affiliate of the national SAM Party, which was formed in 2017. Additional affiliate states include Connecticut, Pennsylvania, and New York.
In founding the party, King said, “I have long been concerned about the state of our civic life at all levels of government. Poll after poll shows that neither the Democratic nor the Republican parties represent a large swatch of voters in the middle of the political spectrum.”
At its inception, the state SAM Party will have to recruit candidates and cultivate registered voters to affiliate in order to qualify for the 2022 ballot. The party can do this by convincing voters to sign a petition or attend local SAM Party conventions. They will have to reach the threshold of 83,000 affiliates, which equals 1 percent of the total votes cast in the 2018 gubernatorial election.
In acknowledging the potential difficulty of starting an additional party, King said, “There are those who will say that a third party cannot succeed. I say that a third party must succeed. Because candidates of the two incumbent parties have been reduced to pandering to their ideological bases to win their respective primaries, neither is offering solutions to address the very real challenges dancing our country today. That must change.”
At Least One State Lawmaker Has Expressed Interest
Notably, current State Rep. Lyle Larson (R–San Antonio) has indicated that he met with King and is considering a SAM Party affiliation. Larson has long been vocal in calling for a third party in Texas.
Larson said, “I do think something like this is appealing to people all over the country. We’ve just got to see over the next few months how that works. But the polarization that’s happening right now, in Texas and in Washington—people are sick and tired of it. They want people to work together and they want them to solve their problems, and that’s not what we’re getting.”
Larson was vocal about his concerns with the Republican Party in the lead-up to the most recent legislative session. In June of last year, Larson published an editorial entitled “We need to get rid of the two-party system” in the Galveston County Daily News and argued that “the majority of Americans are centrist” and a new independent party in Texas “could balance out the fractious far left and right leanings of the incumbent parties.” Larson was also challenged by a fellow lawmaker: “Put your money where your mouth is, and if you want to run as an independent, run as an independent.”
Larson continued to run as a Republican.
He was one of a few Republican lawmakers who supported expanding Medicaid in the last legislative session and recently requested it be added to a special session coalescing with Democrats.
Larson was endorsed by Gov. Greg Abbott last cycle, even after criticizing his own party. Abbott even endorsed against him just one election cycle earlier, calling him “Liberal Lyle.”
Larson has consistently scored at the bottom of his own caucus on various legislative rating schemes.
Prospects for Success
As additional justification for the need of a new political party, King cites a recent poll published in The Dallas Morning News where 52 percent of voters described themselves as moderate or only slightly liberal/slightly conservative.
He has previously expressed that he and other party officers have had several conversations with existing elected officials who sympathize with his claims for a new party, but none have publicly come out in support yet.