Texas Gov. Greg Abbott was set to lob another salvo at state Rep. Wayne Faircloth on Wednesday, this time in the embattled state representative’s own backyard.
With early voting in the Texas primary elections underway, Abbott was scheduled to appear at a Get Out the Vote/Mayes Middleton campaign rally at Katie’s Seafood in Galveston. Abbott’s trip, however, was stopped by bad weather — which prevented him from flying from San Antonio to Houston and making it to the island for the event.
Abbott endorsed Middleton for Texas House District 23 last month, but Wednesday was the first time he was scheduled to appear in the district with Middleton, a Chambers County oilman who is making his first bid for public office.
Instead, Abbott spoke over a speakerphone to a crowd of more than 100 people, saying that Faircloth needed to be replaced in Austin.
“Mayes need your help,” Abbott said. “I need your help.”
While Abbott’s appearance my have been prevented by weather, his influence, and that of many other out-of-district interests, are being felt in the final days of the primary campaign.
Middleton is a member of a group of candidates across the state backed by Abbott, in reaction to the results of the 2017 legislative session. Since making his endorsement, Abbott has touted Middleton as a person who can help push property tax-restricting proposals through the statehouse. Faircloth has made his campaign about defending the stances of local communities — which, for instance, pushed back against Abbott’s tax proposals during the last session.
If that’s where the candidates differ, Faircloth and Middleton are similar in that they’ve raised far more money from sources outside of Galveston and Chambers County than inside.
Of the $166,346.55 that Middleton has reported collecting since 2017, 59.5 percent has come from donors in Harris or Travis counties, according to state campaign finance reports. Of the $322,903.61 Faircloth has collected, 77 percent has come from those two counties.
Much of Faircloth’s funding comes from political action committees, according to the reports. Faircloth, who is an insurance agent, received more than $70,000 from the Texas State Farm Agents PAC and more than $60,000 from the Associated Republicans of Texas PAC, a business-oriented group with ties to retiring Texas Speaker of the House Joe Straus.
One of Middleton’s biggest outside donors is Houston mega-donor Holloway Frost, who donated $10,000 to Middleton in 2017. Frost has contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars to Abbott’s political action committees.
Faircloth has raised more locally, raising $47,690 from donors in Galveston and Chambers County. Middleton has raised about $30,167 from those two counties, according to campaign records.
Interestingly, both men can name the same person as their largest in-district donor. Lisa Halili, the vice president of Prestige Oysters in San Leon, has donated $11,000 to Faircloth’s campaign, and $3,000 to Middleton’s, according to campaign records.
Middleton’s campaign is not relying as heavily on donations to support it. The owner of an oil company, Middleton has loaned himself nearly $1 million, according to the campaign records.
The role of money, and where it comes from, is at the center of some of the attacks coming out of both campaigns.
At Wednesday’s campaign event, Middleton, without naming Faircloth, criticized legislators who take money from lobbyists.
“They’re thinking of the lobbying job they’d like to get when they’re out of office,” Middleton said.
Faircloth, in a news release timed to coincide with Abbott’s appearance, accused Middleton of obfuscating how long he has lived in the House district, pointing to Harris County property appraisal records and absentee ballot applications to raise the specter of a Houston resident running for a non-Houston seat.
“Mayes Middleton lived in Houston, claimed Houston as his home and now is lying about it,” Faircloth said.
Middleton has responded to the claim before, saying he lives in his family’s home in Wallisville.