In a press release this afternoon, Corsicana businessman Thomas McNutt announced his campaign for the Texas House seat currently held by House Speaker Joe Straus’ hatchet-man, State Rep. Byron Cook (R–Corsicana).
“The people of House District 8 deserve a consistent, conservative leader with the same values and beliefs as the voters of our district,” said McNutt in a press release. “People are tired of the games that Republicans are playing in Austin. They want results, and the Texas House, and our Representatives are failing to deliver.”
McNutt’s announcement sets up a potential rematch between the conservative and establishment factions of the Republican Party. In the 2016 Republican Party primary McNutt ran an aggressive campaign and came extremely close to ousting Cook, but ultimately lost by 225 votes.
The election is currently under review by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who launched the examination and a criminal investigation of the officials after Aaron Harris of Direct Action Texas found serious voting irregularities in one of the district’s four counties. According to county documents, Harris found nearly 1,800 fewer voters than total votes cast in the election.
Cook was originally elected to the Texas House in 2002 in a wave election for Republicans, but did little to establish himself as a serious lawmaker. Then in 2009, Cook enlisted a small band of turncoat Republicans and the support of House Democrats to overthrow Republican Speaker Tom Craddick of Midland and install Joe Straus.
Since then, Cook has chaired the State Affairs Committee where he serves as the hatchet-man for the Democrat coalition governing the Texas House, and has butchered the vast majority of conservative legislation that comes through his committee.
McNutt is a conservative activist and a vice president of his family’s business, the Collin Street Bakery, a well-known fruitcake purveyor with several highway restaurants. Last election he was endorsed by Texas Right to Life, Texans for Fiscal Responsibility, the Young Conservatives of Texas, and many other conservative organizations.
Should Cook run for re-election, a topic of much discussion in Austin, the race will almost assuredly be the most closely watched primary election in the state. McNutt is the first Republican to announce a challenge against an incumbent state lawmaker this year.