For the first time since its inception, the Texas Patriots PAC, Montgomery County’s oldest tea party organization, will not be making endorsements for county commissioner races in the Republican primary. The Texas Patriots PAC has released its slate of endorsements, however, the races for county judge and commissioner precincts 2 and 4 are conspicuously absent.
The Texas Patriots PAC has long been considered one of the most influential players in county elections. The group was instrumental in electing Precinct 3 Commissioner James Noack in 2012, and has been heavily involved in commissioners races ever since; with varying degrees of success. Montgomery County Republicans have long been split between (for lack of a better term) the establishment who favor maintaining the status quo in county government, and the tea party insurgents and reformers, who have been trying unsuccessfully to gain a majority on the court since 2014. The Texas Patriots PAC has played a major role in backing the insurgent faction in past elections.
In 2014, the Texas Patriots PAC made its first push for a majority on the court, and came very close to succeeding. Texas Patriots PAC endorsed candidates Mark Bosma for county judge and Rob Harmon for Precinct 2 commissioner received the most votes in the primary, although both fell short of the majority needed to win outright. In the runoff, a competing slate was formed called the Texas Conservative Tea Party Coalition, diluting the strength of the tea party brand and allowing the more establishment candidates, Craig Doyal and Charlie Riley, to win the county judge and Precinct 2 races, respectively.
The Texas Patriots PAC made a major play for the court again in 2018, this time with more success. Tea party-backed Mark Keough unseated Doyal in a primary challenge. However, Riley defeated his tea party challenger Greg Parker in a runoff, and James Metts was elected in Precinct 4, allowing the more establishment faction to retain control of county government. The Texas Patriots PAC also backed non-profit founder Billy Graff’s campaign for Precinct 1 commissioner in 2020, however, Graff was defeated by feed store owner Robert Walker.
Given the Texas Patriots PAC’s long history of serious involvement in races for the Montgomery County Commissioners Court, their decision to sit this election out is significant.
In the 2022 Republican primary, Keough, who was initially elected with tea party support, is facing two challengers: Graff and City of Montgomery Mayor Sara Countryman. In explaining their decision to stay out of the county judge race, the Texas Patiots PAC commended Keough for his handling of the Covid-19 pandemic. However, they accused the court under his leadership of continuing to, “lack transparency and fiscal discipline.” The Texas Patriots PAC says ethical issues prevent them from supporting Countryman, while they do not believe Graff has a sufficient campaign to win.
Riley is being challenged by Jennifer Eckhart, while Metts is facing a challenge from Matthew Gray. While the Texas Patriots PAC declined to endorse either incumbent, they said both the challengers are, “credible with an insufficient campaign.”
The standard for an endorsement from the Texas Patriots PAC has always been, “The most conservative candidate with a viable path to victory.” Keough, Riley, and Metts apparently do not meet the ideological standard, in the view of the Texas Patriots PAC, while their challengers do not meet the “path to victory” threshold, according to the PAC.
The Texas Patriots PAC’s influence is strongest in The Woodlands and southern Montgomery County, while their sway is less significant in other parts of the county. Their endorsed candidates typically carry most voting boxes in The Woodlands, however, they suffered a defeat in the 2021 when an incorporation referendum they endorsed was defeated nearly 70% to 30%. The 2022 primary will be the first test of strength for the group since the defeat of incorporation.
The race the Texas Patriots PAC seems to be most interested in this cycle is the re-election campaign of State Representative Steve Toth (R-Conroe). Toth is a close ally of Texas Patriots PAC President Julie Turner. He was the author of the anti-Critical Race Theory bill that was passed last session. He also authored a bill to audit Texas’ largest (mostly Democrat) counties, however, it did not pass the House.
Toth is being challenged by establishment scion Maris Blair, who’s family objected to his support for incorporation. The Texas Patriots PAC is going all in for the incumbent, putting two check marks in front of his name on their voter guide.
The Texas Patriots PAC also somewhat unexpectedly recommended attorney and retired Navy JAG Jonathan Hullihan for Congressman Kevin Brady’s (R-TX) open congressional seat. Somewhat of a dark horse, Hullihan has been gaining support among local tea party activists, despite not having the extensive political connections of his two major opponents.
The Texas Patriots PAC endorsed all statewide incumbents except for Governor Greg Abbott. They are backing Abbott’s primary challenger, former State Senator Don Huffines. A negative ad against Abbott takes up almost the entire back side of the voter guide.
You can see the complete Texas Patriots PAC voter guide below. Early voting for the Republican primary begins February 14. Election Day is March 1.
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