Texas Gov. Greg Abbott on Tuesday urged Republican voters to replace State Rep. Wayne Faircloth in March’s primary election and released a video endorsing Faircloth’s challenger, Chambers County oilman Mayes Middleton.
Abbott released the video on his Facebook page Tuesday morning.
“During the next legislative session, we have the opportunity to make Texas even better,” Abbott said. “We need real leaders who will work with me to advance a conservative agenda that will benefit every Texan across our great state.”
Abbott called Middleton a “successful entrepreneur” and a “principled conservative.” He did not mention Faircloth in the video.
“I know that he will fight along my side to lower your property taxes,” Abbott said.
Both Middleton and Faircloth said the endorsement was a surprise — though Galveston residents began receiving campaign mailers featuring a photo of Abbott and Middleton together on Tuesday.
“It’s really exciting,” Middleton said. He said the endorsement comes because of a “failure of leadership and a failure of conservatives principles” on Faircloth’s part.
“The governor knows that I will fight for his agenda,” Middleton said. “I will fight to put it into action regardless of who’s in the way.”
The endorsement is a blow to Faircloth’s campaign. The two-term incumbent is facing a challenge from Middleton, who has never served in public office.
Middleton has the backing of influential conservative political groups, including Empower Texans, a lobbying group that regularly supports some of the most conservative policies proposed in Austin. Middleton is a board member of the Empower Texans Foundation.
At last check, Middleton also maintained a large lead in campaign fundraising.
Faircloth, who operates an insurance agency in Dickinson, has been supported by outgoing Speaker of the House Joe Straus, a major dividing line among Texas Republicans in this year’s primaries.
Tuesday’s endorsement marks the second time Abbott has endorsed a challenger in a Republican primary this year. In November, he endorsed Susanna Dokupil, who is running against Houston-area Rep. Sarah Davis.
Davis was a vocal critic of Abbott during last year’s legislative session. Faircloth, in contrast, was more reserved and took few, if any, jabs at the governor and his preferred policies.
During last year’s special session, Faircloth voted for a version of Senate Bill 1, the session’s major property tax reform bill, that would have required voter approval of property tax increases.
Faircloth voted the same way as members of the House Freedom Caucus — who are among the most conservative members of the House — on that issue.
The property tax bill failed because the House and Senate versions of the bill differed on when a vote would be triggered, and the two houses could not reach a compromise. Faircloth did not object when the House of Representatives moved to adjourn with 27 work hours left in the session — while some House Freedom Caucus members did.
Middleton said Faircloth enabled the House to help kill the proposed changes to property taxes.
“I think you’ve got to lead in the fight,” he said. “Good things don’t happen by accident and you just don’t do the right thing when it’s easy.”
Faircloth did split from the governor on an issue regarding local tree ordinances.
Abbott had sought to stop cities from creating regulation of homeowners who wish to remove trees on their properties. That drew objections from environmentalists, including a group from Galveston, where protecting large trees has been a major focus in recent years. Faircloth sided with the local groups — arguing that communities knew better than the legislature what rules were best for them.
A stripped down version of the tree bill, which created a tree-planting credit to offset local fees, was passed during the special session. Faircloth voted for that proposal, and Abbott signed it into law.
The winner of the primary election between Faircloth and Middleton will go up against Galveston resident Amanda Jamrok, who is running as a Democrat.
The primary election is on March 6. Early voting begins on Feb. 20.