State Rep. Jim Keffer (R-Eastland) has spent $750,000 in the 2014 primary election cycle to fend off a challenge from political newcomer Cullen Crisp prior to today’s Joint Primary Election. One of House Speaker Joe Straus’ closest allies has spent three-quarters of a million dollars to keep his position in the legislature. His opponent has spent less than $150,000.
Keffer isn’t the only incumbent defending his ground, but he is spending the most in the House.
Texas Monthly’s liberal blogger Paul Burka on Monday wrote that “Keffer is one of the most vulnerable of Straus’ lieutenants.”
On June 31, 2013, Keffer reported to the Texas Ethics Commission that he had $352,812.37 cash-on-hand. Between July and December, he spent $196,000. Between Jan, 1 and Feb. 22 of this year, he spent $533,000.
Luke Macias, the campaign consultant for Crisp, told Breitbart Texas that another $50,000 has been spent by outside groups in support of Keffer.
Crisp, meanwhile, has reported spending just under $150,000. Another $175,000 in outside spending has been spent supporting Crisp.
Longtime political observer Mike Hailey, who runs the political subscription website “Capitol Inside,” has listed Keffer as number two on his list of “most vulnerable” incumbents.
Only three of the chamber’s most conservative incumbents — Charles Perry of Lubbock, Jonathan Stickland of Bedford, and Matt Schaefer of Tyler — are being challenged in the GOP primary. The challengers to Stickland and Schaefer are being funded largely by Austin-based trade associations and political groups considered friendly to Straus, including the Texas Association of Realtors.
Rep. Stefani Carter of Dallas, who also votes with the conservative bloc, faces three challengers but those came after she initially announced she would leave the House for a statewide race, only to return after the field to replace her began to fill.
Meanwhile, eight of Straus’ allies retired rather than face challenges this year, or are seeking other office. And another dozen are being challenged in their primaries.
Not all are as vulnerable as Keffer, but several come close. Five other races featuring Straus-friendly incumbents include:
Incumbent Angie Chen Button of Richardson is facing stiff competition from Sachse city councilman Jarod Patterson. The race got people in Dallas County talking when Button screamed at an audience when she did not get the last word at a debate.
Freshman incumbent Bennett Ratliff of Coppell worked with Democrats and liberal leaning Republicans, like Dallas County’s Jason Villalba, in drawing conservative challenger Matt Rinaldi out of the district during the 2013 legislative session. Not to be so easily defeated, Rinaldi moved several blocks so he could still mount a challenge.
Incumbent Linda Harper Brown of Irving is being challenged by former one-term conservative Rodney Anderson of Grand Prairie.
Two-term incumbent Lance Gooden of Terrell is facing a rematch from Dr. Stuart Spitzer. In 2012, the election went 54-46 for Gooden.
Incumbent Diane Patrick of Arlington is up against Bronze Star recipient Tony Tinderholt. While the incumbent has clear advantages, Tinderholt has mounted an aggressive grassroots-focused campaign.
Follow Michael Quinn Sullivan on Twitter @MQSullivan