Best of the Primary Runoff Election
Best Texas Senate Campaign
Best Texas Congress Campaign
Texas House Campaign
July 21, 2020
A livestock doctor from a town with less than 600 residents an hour west of Fort Worth, Glenn Rogers ripped the heart out of the hard right in the Lone Star State with an epic victory for the establishment in the ultimate clash of the GOP's warring wings in the hottest race on the Texas House primary runoff election this week.
The official record shows that Rogers defeated Jon Francis in overtime with more than 51 percent of the vote in an open race in House District 60 where the Democrats failed to field a candidate in 2020. But Rogers had been running against the entire Texas tea party for all practical purposes in a battle with a runoff foe who's married to the daughter of fracking billionaire and conservative megadonor Farris Wilks.
The Francis campaign had been choreographed like a chicken-fried Broadway production when GOP State Rep. Mike Lang of Granbury bowed out of the HD 60 race at the last-minute to clear the path for the Wilks family candidate to compete for a seat that no other potential candidates knew would be open until it was too late to run. Wilks made certain that his son-in-law would have a monstrous advantage in campaign cash and apparently thought he'd spent enough on the Francis bid that had shoved Lang out of the way with the promise of a job as a county commissioner as the consolation prize for his obedient deferral to tea party's first family in Texas.
Francis-Wilks kept it simple with a campaign that touted constitutional carry and the abolition of taxpayer-funded lobbying as the two most critical issues facing a state where a pandemic has killed thousands of people, ravaged the economy and catapulted state government to the brink of bankruptcy. Francis seemed to agree with President Donald Trump's assertions that the coronavirus crisis had been overblown and hadn't been a problem in rural Texas where the disease in reality has been spreading like wildfire. Francis didn't seem to realize that the Legislature won't have time to waste next year on partisan red-meat issues when it's desperately fighting to keep the state in business at a Capitol where the Democrats appear to be on track to take the Texas House majority in November barring a dramatic shift in GOP fortunes in the next few months.
The view of the pandemic from the mansion made it easier for Rogers to argue that the right-wing's number one Texas sugar daddy here was blatantly trying to buy the House seat with the installation of an in-law employee as the designated conservative candidate after the relegation of Lang to a Hood County commissioner contest that he would lose badly on the Wilks slate with Francis.
With a $1.5 million war chest that was mostly Wilks money, Francis had twice as much to spend on the runoff that had been extended for seven weeks as a result of the contagion that he'd dismissed as a city folks problem. But Rogers was forced to build a base of support that he couldn't expect to inherit with the help of money he raised from individual donors like Governor Greg Abbott, establishment interests like the Texas Farm Bureau, the Associated Republicans of Texas, the Texas Association of Realtors, the Texas Medical Association and a long list of other professional and business groups along with the public school advocates organization Texas Parent PAC. A former Texas Veterinary Medical Association director who served as a Palo Pinto Farm Bureau president and local school trustee, Rogers had vets in his area and across the state in his corner and a long list of agriculture organizations. Rogers raised $95,000 in the final week of the race - three times the amount that Francis managed to round up in that span of time.
But Francis hoped to more than offset the Abbott alliance with Rogers when U.S. Senator Ted Cruz rallied behind his campaign in OT as a major beneficiary of the Wilks family wealth. Cruz heaped praise on Francis as a personal friend and "rock-ribbed conservative who you can trust" to drain the swamp in Austin like he claimed that he and the president had teamed up to do in Washington.
Rogers had planned to challenge Lang in the GOP primary election before Francis replaced the incumbent n the tea party ballot lineup reshuffling when he signed up to run before a deadline that had been extended for a week after the current HD 60 representative decided to seek a demotion to the local level on the final day of the original filing period. Rogers had entered the competition after Lang said at first that he wouldn't seek a new term before changing his mind and saying he would before he did not.
But Rogers appeared to win the race based on an ability to connect with the voters in a campaign that was beautifully customized in the midst of the worst public health emergency in more than a century for the rural district that he will represent in the Legislature's lower chamber starting in January. Rogers was the kind of guy to whom a majority of the voters could relate en route to erasing a two-point initial deficit in the initial pre-pandemic primary vote before eliminating the Wilks candidate in overtime.
The Best of the Election selections for 2020 Texas primary runoff will be unveiled in separate installments.