As some businesses in Texas begin to reopen, attention is once again being placed on the Republican primary runoff elections.
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.
That’s a day State Rep. Dan Flynn (R–Van) is probably not looking forward to, as runoff elections often prove perilous for incumbent lawmakers.
In Texas’ House District 2, a northeastern district which includes the counties of Hopkins, Hunt, and Van Zandt, Flynn finds himself in a runoff race against Bryan Slaton after failing to garner more than 50 percent of the vote during the primary election on March 3.
And Flynn’s record provides plenty of ammunition for his opponent.
First elected in 2003, Flynn was once one of the Texas House’s most conservative lawmakers and one of the few who fought against falling in line behind House Speaker Joe Straus after his successful Democrat-led coup against Republican Speaker Tom Craddick.
But after conservatives were defeated, Flynn sold out and became a supplicant for the very regime he’d fought against—serving as lead attack dog against UT Regent Wallace Hall, a whistleblower who uncovered egregious examples of favoritism and corruption in the university admission process, by which elected officials would secure admission to the university for their children or those of wealthy donors.
A “Taxpayer Champion” in 2009 and 2011, Flynn’s rating on the Fiscal Responsibility Index declined first to a B, then a C. And for the last two legislative sessions, Flynn has earned an F for his dismal record of voting against taxpayers and supporting bloated budgets and new taxes.
When Republican Priority of Texas legislation to ban taxpayer-funded lobbying—prohibiting counties, cities, school districts, and other local entities from spending taxpayer dollars for the purpose of lobbying the state legislature—reached the floor of the Texas House, Flynn voted to water down the bill before ultimately voting against the bill itself.
During the primary campaign earlier this year, Flynn came under heavy fire for his spending. A 2017 article by The Texas Monitor labeled Flynn as one of the biggest spenders in the Texas House, shelling out six-figure amounts from his campaign fund to travel to conferences all over the world, as well as spending nearly $200,000 on Austin living expenses and $30,000 on furniture.
Mailers sent by Slaton took aim at some of his campaign-funded lifestyle expenses, including nearly $14,000 spent on cookies and using his campaign fund to pay for a Netflix subscription.
Flynn also stood by disgraced Texas House Speaker Dennis Bonnen after an audio recording was released, revealing he attempted to offer media credentials to Empower Texans CEO Michael Quinn Sullivan in exchange for the political targeting of certain Republican House members.
While Bonnen was forced to announce he would not seek re-election in October of last year, it didn’t stop him from handing over $15,000 in cash to Flynn’s campaign earlier this year.
On election night in March, Flynn failed to gain more than 45 percent of the vote, despite representing the district for 17 years. He now goes head-to-head with Bryan Slaton, a conservative small businessman from Royse City, who has challenged Flynn in the last two primary elections.
Though both campaigns have been rendered much quieter than would have been expected before the Chinese coronavirus shutdowns, Slaton is using all means available to get his message out to the district.
Slaton has vocally urged Gov. Greg Abbott to reopen all Texas businesses, launching a petition on his website to allow people to get back to work.
And though in-person meet-and-greets and the like are currently out of the question, Slaton has used videos posted on his Facebook page to connect with voters, clarify his positions, and contrast with his opponent.
In just the last few weeks, Slaton has used his digital platform to advocate for the abolition of property taxes, ending overly broad laws that give government excess power during emergencies—and his pledge to oppose any tax increase.
Flynn, meanwhile, has been forced to echo many of those sentiments, writing to Abbott and urging him to allow all businesses to reopen and to freeze property tax valuations for 2020, though not calling for their abolition.
Voters in HD 2 will have to balance those recent statements, however, with Flynn’s record during his long tenure in office.
The primary election runoff is scheduled for July 14.