If you are a Republican primary voter residing in Texas’ 8th Congressional District, chances are you have received at least a few sample ballots from various groups urging you to vote for their selected candidates. Every election cycle political activists debate whether the slates are a positive or negative force in our politics, but one thing is for sure: they do have an impact.
In the 8th District, the major slates are split between the top three candidates: retired Navy SEAL Morgan Luttrell, Texas Youth Summit Founder Christian Collins, and attorney and former Navy JAG Jonathan Hullihan.
The slate that has recently had the most success winning local elections is a relative newcomer on the scene: the Republican Voters of Texas PAC. The RVT PAC is composed of a number of Republican Party precinct chairs and other people active in the community. It tends to lean establishment and was created as an alternative to the local tea parties who have historically dominated polling places in Montgomery County.
The RVT PAC initially endorsed Collins. However, a couple days after announcing their endorsements, they found two more proxy votes for Luttrell- enough to bring Collins below the 60% threshold of support required for an endorsement. The RVT PAC eventually issued a joint recommendation of Collins and Luttrell.
However, Collins does have one slate all to himself. He is the only CD-08 candidate endorsed on the Link Letter, which is put out by Harris County conservative activist Terry Lowry. Although Lowry’s Link Letter is best known for its involvement in Harris County, he does mail it into Montgomery County in the primary. Western Harris County now comprises a substantial portion of CD-08 as well.
However, the most famous (or infamous, depending on your view) Harris County slate would probably be the Conservative Republicans of Texas, founded by Dr. Steve Hotze. Interestingly, CRT endorsed underdog candidate Hullihan. Hotze mails to Montgomery County as well as Harris County, and specifically targets 65+ voters with mail-in ballot applications. The endorsement should give Hullihan a boost; we’ll probably have a better idea how big that boost will be when the absentee ballots come in.
Finally, the slate that has historically dominated Montgomery County elections, particularly in The Woodlands: the Texas Patriots PAC. The Texas Patriots PAC, run by longtime president Julie Turner, is the oldest tea party organization in the county. They have faced stiff competition from the RVT PAC in the last couple local elections, and this primary will be the first test of their strength since the group suffered a big defeat in the November 2021 The Woodlands incorporation referendum. Rather than go with one of the more well-connected candidates, the Texas Patriots PAC opted for a somewhat riskier play and endorsed Hullihan. In terms of sheer political impact in the district, this is probably Hullihan’s most important endorsement. In the height of its power, the Texas Patriots PAC endorsement alone would have probably been enough to put Hullihan in the runoff. However, the part of the county where the Texas Patriots PAC is the strongest, The Woodlands, was taken out of CD-08 in the redistricting process. Historically their influence has not been as strong in other parts of Montgomery County as it is in The Woodlands.
The Montgomery County Tea Party PAC, which broke away from the Texas Patriots PAC after disagreements over candidates in the 2012 election, decided not to endorse candidates for federal election this cycle. They have endorsed or recommended candidates for CD-08 in several past elections, including Craig McMichael in 2014, Steve Toth in 2016.
While Hullihan has probably benefited the most from the slates this primary, each of the top three candidates are on at least one major slate. How important the endorsements will be will of course remain a mystery until election day. However, what’s sure is that their role in the GOP primary will remain highly controversial, especially among those who’s preferred candidates did not receive an endorsement.
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