Despite heavy spending from establishment aligned special interests, grassroots conservatives swept the election for The Woodlands Township board of directors. Winning all four seats up for grabs, the group pulled off a stunning political upset that has left local power brokers and developers reeling.
Running as “Residents’ Advocates”, incumbent Gordy Bunch, along with John Brown and Bruce Rieser won by sizable margins. Residents’ Advocate Brian Boniface also unseated longtime incumbent and board vice-chair Mike Bass. The results change the dynamics of the board considerably, with Residents’ Advocates going from a three seat minority to having six out of the seven seats on the board.
The election was largely dominated by the misleading claims made by a special interest group called “The Woodlands Concerned Taxpayers,” who backed an opposing slate. TWCT was founded by former board chair Bruce Tough, who was unseated last year by Laura Fillault. Filings show that the group spent at least $244,000 in an attempt to maintain control over the board.
For weeks, voters in The Woodlands have been inundated with negative mailers, TV ads, signs, moving billboards, and paid canvassers from TWCT warning of a “rushed incorporation” and 70 percent tax increase if their candidates were not elected, despite the fact that no candidates have advocated immediate incorporation, and no tax rate study on incorporation has ever been conducted.
Residents’ Advocates ran on their opposition to The Woodlands Parkway extension, a project favored by developers owning land along the proposed route, but rejected by 83 percent of The Woodlands voters in a 2015 bond election amid concerns it would increase traffic on the existing parkway. Tough and Bass supported the project, while Bunch and his allies led the opposition, making Bunch the target of developers and county officials after the bond was killed.
TWCT spent over $72,000 on TV ads attacking Bunch and promoting his opponent. The voters however, rewarded Bunch’s opposition to the parkway extension with a resounding win, sending him three more allies on the board.
The results are a repudiation of crony special interest money in The Woodlands, as well as a clear message to county government that The Woodlands will be taking a larger role in determining its own future. For the first time in the history of Montgomery County, grassroots activists will have the majority on a major government entity.
“The glory goes to God and the victory belongs to the residents of The Woodlands.” Said Bunch, “I’m honored to continue to serve the community and am looking forward to welcoming the new directors.”