As the polls closed on the evening of November 6, 2018, Texans watched as the down-ballot coattails of the Senate campaign of Robert Francis “Beto” O’Rourke–dubbed the “Beto effect” by some—caused a significant loss of Republican seats in Harris County.
But perhaps it was the final loss of the night that came as the biggest shock. In the late hours of the evening, House District 132, which encompasses Katy in the northwestern portion of the county, fell into Democrat hands by the slimmest of margins—113 votes out of 66,675 votes cast.
The loss meant that two-term Republican State Rep. Mike Schofield was replaced by Democrat State Rep. Gina Calanni.
Little can be said of Calanni and her voting record in office that will come as a surprise. During her first term in office, she earned a 22 on the Fiscal Responsibility Index, voting in lockstep with fellow Democrats to grow government and stop conservative reforms—such as a bill to prevent taxpayer-funded lobbying.
Texas Right to Life gave Calanni a 0 percent on their Pro-Life Scorecard for her dismal record on protecting the unborn, including a vote on the budget in which “Calanni went out of her way to oppose a pro-life amendment to prohibit hospitals that commit elective abortions from receiving tax funds.” Calanni also publicly supported allowing cities and counties to continue using Texans’ tax dollars to benefit the abortion industry by voting against Senate Bill 22.
With Beto’s star having since faded, and a presidential election on the ballot, two Republicans see an opportunity to reclaim the seat.
But first, they must get through the primary.
Angelica Garcia, a small business owner, entered the race last summer following the legislative session. Early on in the campaign, Garcia garnered support from Gov. Greg Abbott, who endorsed her candidacy in August, even recording a campaign video alongside her.
Her priorities, as listed on her campaign website, match the standard Republican positions—protect the border, alleviate taxes, defend the Second Amendment, etc.
She also says that protecting life is one of her priorities as well, though an endorsement from Texas Alliance for Life—a “pro-life” organization that has worked behind the scenes in Texas to kill life-saving legislation and give establishment politicians political cover—may be enough to give some conservatives pause.
Additionally, campaign finance reports reveal her top donor is Associated Republicans of Texas, an organization that has often supported establishment Republicans, such as pro-abortion State Rep. Sarah Davis (West University Place), over conservative challengers in recent primary elections.
Also vying for the Republican nomination is a familiar face in the district. Former State Rep. Mike Schofield, who lost the seat in 2018 after holding it for four years, is trying to make a comeback into the Texas House after spending the last session working for State Sen. Pat Fallon (R–Prosper).
While far from the tip of the spear as members battled against former Speaker Joe Straus during his time in office, Schofield wasn’t exactly embraced by the political establishment, either. During his first term in office, Schofield earned a 76 on the Fiscal Responsibility Index. However, in a rare feat, his score improved when he returned, and he earned an 82 during his second session.
From a fundraising perspective, Schofield clearly has the edge, which is unsurprising given his previous tenure in office. He reports having $129,715 cash on hand, while Garcia has just $3,501.
From expenditures so far, however, the candidates are on more even footing, with Schofield spending $53,547 and Garcia not terribly far behind with $38,025.
While Schofield has brought in some donations from nearby lawmakers such as State Reps. Mayes Middleton (R–Wallisville) and Valoree Swanson (R–Spring), a $2,500 donation from State Rep. Dustin Burrows (R–Lubbock) sticks out on his campaign finance report. Burrows was forced to resign last year as chairman of the Texas House Republican Caucus for his role in the backroom, quid-pro-quo scandal that led to Speaker Dennis Bonnen’s announcement that he will be leaving the legislature.
Because there are only two candidates in the race, there is no potential for a runoff. Republican voters in the district will select their nominee on March 3, before facing Calanni in November.
Texans for Fiscal Responsibility has not issued an endorsement in the race.