After House Speaker Dennis Bonnen was forced to announce he would not seek re-election following revelations that he offered a quid pro quo to Empower Texans CEO Michael Quinn Sullivan and then repeatedly lied about it, a crowd of candidates quickly entered what was set to be a one-on-one GOP primary contest in House District 25.
Rhonda Seth, a Lake Jackson emergency nurse and community college professor, filed to run against Bonnen while he was still seeking re-election. However, following Bonnen’s announcement that he would not seek re-election to the Texas Legislature, four additional candidates entered the race: Angleton City Councilman Cody Vasut, longtime Brazoria County Tax Assessor-Collector Ro’Vin Garrett, former Freeport mayor and Brazoria ISD trustee Troy Brimage, and Bay City Chamber of Commerce President Mitch Thames.
With so many candidates, no individual won an outright majority, forcing a runoff between the two highest-performing candidates: Ro’Vin Garrett and Cody Vasut, with 29 percent and 22 percent of the vote, respectively.
Originally scheduled for May 26, the election was postponed to July 14 by Gov. Greg Abbott as part of the state’s response to the Chinese coronavirus. And while campaigning has looked significantly different this cycle (more phone calls, less block walking and campaign events), Election Day still looms on the calendar.
Unlike many runoff elections across the state, House District 25’s runoff election features two individuals who live in the same precinct. It also features two candidates with experience being on the ballot, winning campaigns, and serving in elected office. And more importantly, they have a record on important issues.
On those issues, Vasut has been more outspoken than Garrett, voting in opposition to higher property taxes while serving on city council and voting against the city opposing property tax reform. Vasut is also campaigning on constitutional carry, “opposing the abuse of local control to infringe on the private property rights of Texans or to enact overly burdensome regulations on businesses,” banning taxpayer-funded lobbying, and term limits.
Garrett likely isn’t such a fan of term limits, having held the elected position of tax assessor-collector for 19 years after working in the office for 16 years prior. Garrett also claims to have “worked during many legislative sessions, serving as a resource on property taxes and motor vehicle registration and title issues” and “[being] instrumental in helping pass numerous bills over the years, striving to best meet the needs of constituents and local government.”
Garrett doesn’t offer much information on the legislation she helped pass, but few property tax reform bills prior to the recently passed Senate Bill 2 (which limits the amount local governments can increase taxes without taxpayer approval) improved things for taxpayers in a major way. And on that issue, Garrett was silent, choosing not to testify on the legislation in 2017 or 2019.
Since the government shut down everyday life and political campaigning in response to the Chinese coronavirus, both candidates have looked to Facebook as their primary means of campaigning—seeking to use the social media site to connect with voters mostly on issues related to the shutdowns and to ask what Texas should do when lawmakers return to Austin.
Neither has taken an official position on whether Gov. Greg Abbott was wrong to keep Texas largely shut down for the time being, but Vasut did post to Facebook that he hoped reopenings would accelerate.
“The best policy for our small businesses is to let all of them reopen reasonably safely as soon as possible,” wrote Vasut. “I’m glad we’re on the path to doing so and hopeful that safe re-openings will continue to accelerate.”
As reopenings do accelerate, Texans can expect this race to heat up and provide more activity before the runoff election is held.
Situated along the Texas Gulf Coast, House District 25 is comprised of a portion of Brazoria County and the entirety of Matagorda County. It is a safe Republican district. The primary election runoff is scheduled for July 14.