Huntsville TX- The Walker County Republican Party held its annual Reagan Dinner on Friday evening in Huntsville, drawing a decent crowd and some notable guests to hear keynote speaker Republican Party Chairman Allen West. However, the presence of one elected official in particular raised some eyebrows.
State Representative Steve Toth (R-Conroe) attended the fundraiser, which is worth noting because Toth represents Texas House District 15 including The Woodlands and Spring areas in southern Montgomery County- and approximately a 45 minute drive from Huntsville, which is in HD-18, represented by Ernest Bailes (R-Shepherd).
However, Walker County does happen to be in the Texas 8th Congressional District being vacated Congressman Kevin Brady (R-TX). Toth’s presence at a political dinner outside his own Montgomery County could be a strong indicator that he is weighing a bid for Brady’s vacant congressional seat.
Toth has been widely rumored by the political class in Montgomery County to be a potential 2022 contender for the 8th Congressional District. He has substantial name ID and a legislative record as one of the most conservative members of the Texas House, representing HD-15, the same seat, in fact, held by Brady himself back in the 90s before winning his current position in congress.
Another reason it’s natural for local political observers to consider Toth as a potential contender for congress is that he has run for Brady’s seat before. Toth challenged Brady in the 2016 Republican Primary in what ended up being the congressman’s toughest election since he was first elected in 1996.
Although he entered the race late and was massively outspent, Toth nearly forced the incumbent into a runoff, garnering 37% of the vote to Brady’s 53%. Toth’s strength in his 2016 run came from both his and Brady’s home county of Montgomery. In Montgomery County Toth received 43% and held Brady down to 50.16%. Toth performed comparatively weaker in CD-8’s other counties, like Walker County, where he got 32% to Brady’s 55%.
Although Montgomery County is the largest voter base in CD-8 by far, establishing relationships in the district’s multiple smaller rural counties is a shrewd political strategy, especially in Walker County, the district’s second largest county. The rural counties could play a significant role in the 2022 primary, especially if multiple candidates from Montgomery County run, splitting that county’s vote.
Toth is not the only potential congressional candidate who made an appearance at the Walker County Reagan Dinner. Brady’s former campaign manager, Christian Collins, who says he is “strongly considering” a congressional run, was also in attendance. Collins spoke at the event about his outreach efforts to young people and the upcoming Texas Youth Summit that he is organizing.
To be clear, neither Toth nor Collins have formally announced a campaign for congress. Perhaps they just like Huntsville a lot or enjoy the scenic drive. However, careful observers can detect the sometimes not-so-subtle hints that a potential candidate is taking actions to position themself for a potential run. Attending a political function in another county, but one which happens to be in the same congressional district, could certainly be one of those hints.