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A special election to replace a North Texas state senator heated up over the weekend as the current officeholder campaigned on behalf of his chosen successor—another longtime lawmaker—against a newcomer supported by the grassroots.

At a candidate forum on Friday, State Sen. Pat Fallon (R–Prosper) defended four-term State Rep. Drew Springer (R–Muenster), who Fallon has endorsed to take his place in the senate, against grassroots challenger Shelley Luther—the Dallas salon owner who went to jail for opening her business in defiance of Gov. Greg Abbott’s shutdown orders.

“We don’t want somebody who’s going to be at odds with our Republican governor,” Fallon said Friday at the Grayson County Republican Women’s Club:

“I didn’t support some of the things that he has done about opening up. … So, he’s made some mistakes. He’s our Republican governor, the 80/20 rule … because you’re not going to get any bills passed unless the governor signs them.”

“Let me make something clear. I am accountable to my fellow citizens in Senate District 30. Not our Governor,” Luther responded Saturday on Facebook:

“This is exactly what is wrong with Austin. Our politicians are more loyal to Abbott than us, even when they disagree with him.

 

“I will work with Governor Abbott when he is fighting to protect the liberty of Texans, and I will oppose him when he pushes unilateral dictates that shut down our local businesses.”

A heated exchange between Fallon and Luther was also caught on video.

“You want me to go all in on this race?” Fallon asked Luther. “I have been 5 percent in on this race. You want me to go all in on it, I’m welcome to.”

Fallon said he attended Friday’s forum as a proxy for Springer because Springer’s wife has COVID-19, forcing Springer to quarantine. That prompted candidate Chris Watts, who also participated in the forum, to question whether Springer violated quarantine guidelines by attending other campaign events earlier in the week. Fallon said Springer maintained social distancing at those events.

Luther, Springer, and Watts are among six candidates—five Republicans and one Democrat—running to fill the state senate seat Fallon is vacating in anticipation of winning the 4th Congressional District spot in November.

Gov. Abbott called this month’s “emergency” special election to fill the seat on August 23, a day after Fallon resigned, giving voters just over 30 days to get to know the candidates. That was also a day after Luther announced she intended to “throw her hat in the ring” for the seat.

Springer announced his candidacy—along with endorsements from Fallon and several other lawmakers—immediately after Abbott called the election.

He’s still on the November ballot for House District 68 as well, with a Democrat challenger. If he wins the senate race, he’ll also need to win the House seat, then resign from it, thus setting up another special election.

“This has become a straight-up fight between Abbott and the ‘Kumbaya’ Professional Political Class vs. the grassroots and people who remember what limited government and principles should look like,” longtime conservative activist Mike Openshaw posted on Facebook, adding that the problem in Austin is that “people who stay for too many terms” are too easily swayed by lobbyists and other political insiders.

“Respectfully, being willing to be jailed for fighting over-reaching government shows principle; that counts for something, Patrick,” Openshaw added.

“So, I see my employee Patrick Fallon (Pat always says we are his bosses), who quit, now telling me who I should hire to replace him,” posted constituent Linda Rice. “No.”

“This attitude is not what we want in CD4,” added Sara Buskirk. “Thank you for naming all the Establishment in Grayson. This is exactly why the patriots are mad. We don’t support back room deals of moving up the ladder.”

Over the weekend, Luther picked up endorsements from conservative Collin County Judge Chris Hill and Young Conservatives of Texas, while Springer was backed by the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, which said Luther was trending too “far right.”

A Republican is expected to win the conservative senate district—though a runoff may be needed for a candidate to receive the required majority of votes.

Senate District 30 includes 14 mostly rural counties: Archer, Clay, Cooke, Erath, Grayson, Jack, Montague, Palo Pinto, Parker, Wichita, Wise, Young, and parts of Collin and Denton.

Early voting in the special election is underway now through September 25. Election Day is September 29.