In February of 2018, Gov. Greg Abbott told voters in northern Bexar county to dump State Rep. Lyle Larson (R–San Antonio) in favor of challenger Chris Fails as part of his effort to replace liberal Republican legislators with more conservative opponents.
“Lyle Larson is one of the most liberal Republicans in the Texas House of Representatives,” Abbott said at the time. “It is time to replace ‘Liberal Lyle’ with conservative Chris Fails.”
That effort failed, and now Abbott has changed his tune.
In a statement released Tuesday morning, Abbott offered a full-throated endorsement of Larson, saying, “I am proud to endorse Representative Larson for re-election, and I am grateful for our partnership in building a better future for Texas.”
“The people of House District 122 can put their trust in Representative Larson to faithfully advocate for the issues that matter most to Bexar County,” he added.
The about-face has many conservatives wondering: What changed?
For Larson’s part, he did technically score better on the Fiscal Responsibility Index—up a single point to a 41 from his previous score of a 40. Not exactly Taxpayer Champion territory, and the score puts him in the bottom percentile of Republicans.
In a television ad last year, Abbott pointed out that Larson was a consistent roadblock during the 2017 session for conservative reform, highlighting his vote with Democrats against provisions to strengthen the sanctuary city bills during the last session, as well as his vote against property tax reform.
— Brandon Waltens (@bwaltens) August 27, 2019
This session, Larson didn’t do much better, again voting with Democrats to expand the size of government and even voting against Republican Party of Texas priority legislation to end taxpayer-funded lobbying—something Abbott had claimed earlier in the session was a priority for him, as well.
Conservatives took notice of the move on social media:
Lyle's voting record has NOT changed; still ranked in the lower 15% of the GOP in the House and BELOW average for the ENTIRE house (including Democrats). What changed was @GovAbbott shifting leftward- substantially. https://t.co/x2ubkbJPZV
— Michael Openshaw (@mopenshaw) August 27, 2019
— Jennifer M (@starsrule25) August 27, 2019
Abbott’s approach, however, should come as no surprise to conservatives who have watched his trajectory recently. Just last week, Abbott “proudly” endorsed State Rep. Dustin Burrows (R–Lubbock) despite an ongoing Texas Rangers investigation involving his role in the quid pro quo backroom offer made by House Speaker Dennis Bonnen.