I came across right-wing former state Senator Don Huffines' name for the first time a few days ago when looking into GOP attempts to undermine election results. Huffines and his twin brother Phillip-- from the mega-wealthy car dealerships and real estate development family-- were both defeated in their state Senate reelection bids in 2018. Don represented SD-16-- entirely in Dallas County-- and consisting of part of north Dallas above University Park, southern Carrollton, most of Irving, northern Garland and most of Rowlett. 46% of the residents are white, 29% Hispanic, 11.5% Black and 10.7% Asian. Formerly, the district was considered so red that Democrats didn't bother to run there. Between 1992 and 2018, just two unsupported long shot Democrats bothered declaring themselves candidates and neither ran a competitive campaign. Republicans-- including crackpot fringe wing-nuts like Huffines-- ran unopposed. But, in 2018 Democrat Nathan Johnson, a lawyer and composer, challenged Huffines and beat him pretty decisively, 159,228 (54.13%) to 134,933 (45.87%), becoming the first Democrat to represent the district in over three decades. Huffines squealed like a stuck pig and ran around claiming the election has been stolen. He looked into a lawsuit but there were no grounds and he never followed through.
Most people who have ever heard of Greg Abbott, think of him as one of the country's most right-wing governors. Not right-wing enough for Huffines however, who is opposing him in a primary challenge next year. Sounding like a mini-Trump, Huffines is carrying on about an Austin swamp and insinuating that Abbott is a RINO and that only he is an "actual" Republican. He seems to be mixing up "Republican" with "Nazi" though.
With a tweet of his own two days before Huffines launched his primary challenge, Abbott continued to woo Texas conservatives, just as he's been doing ever since he set his sights on the Governor's Mansion eight years ago.
"In 48 hours the Texas House voted to: * Defund cities that defund police * Ban abortion at detection of heartbeat * Slash STAAR test requirements * Ban homeless camping statewide * Penalize protestors blocking roads * Ensure election integrity-- easy to vote, hard to cheat," Abbott said in the May 8 social media post.
Jessica Mason, the progressive Democrat running for a Dallas congressional seat, noted today that "Abbott is getting a taste of what he helped create. The same thing happened to Liz Cheney. Both Abbott and Cheney were comfortable spreading lies and waging a culture war as long as it benefited them, but now they are being seen as not doing enough for the fictional 'conservative struggle.' I honestly believe the push to make Texas more conservative will fail horribly. Our state is moving in an overall progressive direction."
Abbott's one problem with conservatives is that some of them are angry because he wasn't enough of a pandemic-denier. They are outraged that he had a statewide mask mandate and remain unassuaged even though he lifted it before it was safe. (Texas is still averaging around 1,000 new cases a day and only New York and California have had more deaths. 51,170 Texans have died of COVID on Abbott's watch. I guess if the number was twice or triple that, conservatives would like him more.) "[T]he actions remain a sore spot among some conservative activists," reported the Austin American-Statesman. "Michael Quinn Sullivan, who runs the conservative newsletter Texas Scorecard, has ridiculed Abbott's pandemic orders as 'regal edicts and power grabs.'"
Typically, conservatives drive the bus in Texas Republican primaries. So the 25% who place his pandemic response in the "regal edicts and power grabs" category might have an outsized influence in a head-to-head matchup with Huffines, who was ousted from the Senate by Democrat Nathan Johnson in 2018.
And that raises the question of whether the majority of GOP primary voters want a governing-minded governor, or would they prefer the let’s-shake-it-all-up model that propelled Donald Trump’s Republican Party makeover?
It's unclear who the Democrats will put up for governor-- a Castro brother? Beto? Wendy Davis, Lina Hidalgo?-- but I bet whoever run would much rather take on a proud extremist like Huffines than a closet extremist like Abbott.