Earlier this month, State Sen. Pat Fallon (R-Frisco) told nearly 200 activists he was considering mounting a primary campaign against incumbent U.S. Sen. John Cornyn. Many Texas GOP activists were excited at the news Fallon could enter the race, seeing him as the most credible candidate, but many among them now fear he is already looking for a way out.
A former college football player and Air Force officer-turned-small-businessman, Pat Fallon began his political career by being elected to the Frisco City Council in 2009 and served there until 2012 when he made the jump to state representative.
He then spent three terms in the Texas House before announcing a campaign for the Texas Senate against 18-year incumbent Republican Craig Estes. Fallon won that election by nearly 40 points.
During his time in public office, Fallon has developed a strong reputation as an across-the-board conservative, earning high marks on the Fiscal Responsibility Index, Pro-Life Scorecard, and other measurement tools. He’s also been one of the most aggressive advocates for grassroots-supported reforms such as protecting historical monuments, ending taxpayer-subsidized tuition for illegal aliens, and election reform.
But what the state senator is known for most is his intense, aggressive, and energetic campaigning.
Fallon famously ran seven marathons in seven days, and he’s applied a similar level of drive to his previous political campaigns, such as challenging Craig Estes to multiple debates and the tour in which he did 14 events in 14 counties in 14 hours.
It’s that drive and energy that excited activists at the True Texas Project meeting last Monday when Fallon announced he was forming an exploratory committee.
“If you think the incumbent cares about you and reflects your values, by all means, keep him,” said Fallon.
“Who do you think will be a better general election candidate … to energize the base and every right-of-center voter in the state? Do you think it’s the incumbent?” he asked attendees.
“Nobody campaigns harder than Pat Fallon,” said Julie McCarty, the group’s CEO.
“If Pat Fallon really runs, I think he can really win,” said another activist. “He could make John Cornyn look like Craig Estes.”
There was certainly energy in the room for the Monday-night announcement, and immediately thereafter for the ensuing media mayhem, but since then it’s beginning to feel like the energy is fizzling out.
There was a report Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick had called Fallon that Monday night and urged him not to run against Cornyn, something Fallon told Texas Scorecard didn’t happen.
Despite some reporting to the contrary, @FallonForTexas tells me he did not receive a call from @DanPatrick yesterday about his potential challenge to @JohnCornyn. Says he expects Patrick to allow members to decide for themselves. #txsen #txlege
— Brandon Waltens (@bwaltens) September 10, 2019
That said, Fallon hasn’t exactly fanned the flames of his candidacy since announcing he is exploring a run.
He hasn’t tweeted since August, and his Facebook page only shows one post on the issue. While some donors do report being contacted, Fallon has done exceptionally little to advance his campaign in the media.
Already, rumors are swirling that Fallon will back out and decline to campaign against Cornyn.
Some suggest he already has—alleging Fallon tried to get out of even attending the True Texas Project meeting on Monday night, or that he backpedaled what would have been a full announcement to only an exploratory committee.
“Pat Fallon doesn’t do anything unless he’s all-in—running for office, running marathons, you name it. Announcing he was ‘exploring’ a run for Senate was an out he could give himself without cancelling his announcement,” said one Republican political consultant. “If he believes Cornyn has drawbacks and that voters deserve a choice, he’s got to be all-in, and in a hurry.”
“It’s very unlike Pat Fallon to allow his political enemies to define the narrative, and right now that’s exactly what he’s doing,” said another.
Regardless of what any political consultant or activist says, Fallon has until December 9 to make his candidacy official. And so does any other potential Republican primary candidate.