87th LegislatureElections 2022State HouseAustin GOP Allies Shed Past Partnership, Set for Challenge in New House District

Ellen Troxclair and Justin Berry, Central Texas GOP allies turned rivals, will face off in a newly drawn district in next year's primary.
October 19, 2021
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Just a few months ago, Ellen Troxclair and Justin Berry were running as a kind of joint ticket for Central Texas legislative positions. 

Troxclair, then running for Senate District (SD) 24, and Berry, then set for a rematch against Rep. Vikki Goodwin (D-Austin) in House District (HD) 47, will now face off in a newly drawn seat in the area.

HD 19 contains five counties — Burnet, Blanco, Kendall, Gillespie, and a portion of Western Travis County.

Things change quickly in politics, and the once-allies are now throwing shots across each other’s bow. HD 19 became a potentially viable option once state Rep. Terry Wilson (R-Marble Falls) chose to run in HD 20, which followed the lines of the district he currently holds.

Troxclair, a former Austin city councilwoman, halted her Senate bid after months of campaigning once the state legislature drew former state Sen. Pete Flores (R-Pleasanton) into the district and Lt. Governor Dan Patrick threw his support behind the former senator.

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On the first day of October, hours after Wilson’s decision was made, Troxclair announced she’d now run in HD 19 and has been campaigning since.

She announced with the endorsement of Burnet County GOP Chair Kara Chasteen, who said, “Ellen is a fierce advocate and a principled conservative who has proven that she will stand up for the people of HD 19 and our shared values, even in the face of adversity.”

On Monday, the Austin Police Officers Association (APOA) released a statement of support for Berry should he run in HD 19. 

Troxclair replied, saying, “I’m surprised to hear that Justin Berry may be giving up on opposing Vikki Goodwin in HD 47 to run against me in HD 19 instead. I announced for HD 19, an entirely new district [with] 5 counties, weeks ago. HD 47 was [one-eighth] of Travis [County]. Quite a stretch to act entitled to it.”

HD 47 was made a D-58% district by the legislature’s approved maps according to The Texan’s Texas Partisan Index, a 7 percent swing from its rating with the current boundaries.

In their statement, APOA criticized Troxclair for her vote while on the council against a December 2017 proposed police contract. That proposal included a 9.5 percent pay increase. A different version was eventually approved, and it included a 7 percent pay increase along with increased police scrutiny through a stronger Office of Police Oversight. That contract still made Austin police the highest-paid in the state but pay for cadets and new officers lagged behind some other departments in Texas.

To this criticism, Troxclair replied, “With my support, APD budget increased 13 [percent] ($48m) while I served. I voted FOR the contract [with] $44 million in additional pay — [with] highest pay in the state. I support our police officers & keeping our communities safe, and I have the record to prove it.”

A poll released by the APOA of voters in the proposed district found that Berry received 19.4 percent support while Troxclair pulled in 9.5 percent, with 71.1 percent undecided.

And Tuesday morning, Berry made his run for HD 19 official. About Troxclair and her “entitled” comment, Berry told The Texan, “[I]t’s very unfortunate that Ellen chose to announce the day after she and I talked about my intent to run in HD 19.”

“I supported and endorsed her for a run for Senate. Never wavered in that, even when their lines got redrawn in a way that she didn’t like. We stayed there for her because she’s someone that I view as a friend.”

He added, “But this election is not going to be about Ellen and I. It’s going to be about what I’ve always set up to do what I’ve campaigned on before and what I’ll campaign on now.”

“We need a voice at the capitol, someone that is going to focus on public safety, focus on property tax reduction so we keep our house and not be taxed out of them,” said Berry of his campaign. “Someone that focuses on making sure that our Second Amendment rights are not violated and infringed upon. Ensuring that we’re there to help protect those unborn lives that are constantly under threat.”

Berry said he decided to run again back in January, a choice that he argued became firmer when Texas Democrats flew to Washington, D.C. to break quorum and prevent an election reform bill from passing.

“It’s one of those things that when we saw what took place, especially as time went on, they just further lighted that passion inside when we saw all these liberals fly to DC. And, you know, went AWOL and abdicated their duties, responsibilities. That’s not what representation’s about, don’t run from the fights that are in front of you, even if it doesn’t look like you’re going to have a winning day. You still don’t run from your duty.”

There may yet be a third challenger in this fight as state Rep. Kyle Biedermann (R-Fredericksburg) has yet to announce which district he will run for in 2022. Biedermann was drawn into HD 19 along with Wilson but also has a home in New Braunfels, within the new HD 73.

Biedermann said he’d announce this week which district he’ll run in.

Even without Biedermann’s entry, the race for HD 19 is already off to a fast start not long after the legislature settled on its boundaries.

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Brad Johnson

Brad Johnson is an Ohio native who graduated from the University of Cincinnati in 2017. He is an avid sports fan who most enjoys watching his favorite teams continue their title drought throughout his cognizant lifetime. In his free time, you may find Brad quoting Monty Python productions and trying to calculate the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow.