The special election for Senate District 30, located mostly northwest of the Dallas-Fort Worth metro area, has turned out to be a heated race between two Republican candidates, Texas House Rep. Drew Springer (R-Muenster) and Dallas salon owner Shelley Luther.
Springer and Luther, in addition to four other candidates, are running for the seat of Sen. Pat Fallon (R-Prosper) who was recently selected as the GOP nominee for Texas’ solid Republican Fourth Congressional District.
In August, Fallon sent a resignation letter to Gov. Greg Abbott effective in January, and Abbott promptly called for a special emergency election to be held on Tuesday, Sept. 29.
Prior to his resignation letter, Fallon told radio host Mark Davis that he would “would reserve judgment” about his potential successor and wanted to see candidates participate in several “fair and substantive” forums around the district.
Shortly after Abbott’s special election announcement, Springer made his campaign official and tweeted out that he had received Fallon’s endorsement.
Fallon has since campaigned for Springer, attending a forum on his behalf after Springer’s wife reportedly tested positive for the coronavirus.
“Drew is a man of character,” said Fallon.
Citing state house rankings from Rice University Baker Institute political science fellow Mark P. Jones, Fallon said, “Drew Springer has averaged in the top 10 percent [most conservative], 15th out of 150, all four terms. That’s not a ‘RINO,’ and that’s not liberal.”
In 2013, Springer ranked 8th most conservative by Jones’ analysis; in 2015, 17th; in 2017, 15th; and in 2019, 20th.
Fallon also defended against attacks on Springer concerning his employment with Ryan LLC, a tax services firm whose CEO, Brint Ryan, is a lobbyist.
“It’s frustrating when elected officials forget who they work for,” says a radio advertisement from the Parker County Conservatives PAC. “In this case, Drew Springer literally worked for a lobbyist. We need a state senator who represents us, not the Austin lobbyists.”
“What a bunch of hooey,” said Fallon. “You work for Microsoft? They have lobbyists. Sometimes their CEO registers as a lobbyist, so he can protect themselves. He’s not the lobbyist; they hire lobbyists. Same with Ryan. He worked for them for two years; they have 4,000 employees.”
The Parker County Conservatives have responded to such defenses by calling it “typical misdirection,” and criticized Springer for “intentionally [leaving] out his time with Ryan LLC” on his campaign website biography.
“Brint Ryan, Drew’s boss, was a registered lobbyist when Drew was under his employment. He was even working on legislation that went through Drew’s committee in Ways and Means, and Drew never recused himself of the votes that were in Ryan’s interest,” says the group.
During his speech on behalf of Springer, Fallon also indirectly attacked Luther, saying, “I don’t have any animus toward anyone up here, but I’m not going to personally support someone that wants to be my Texas state senator and never voted in a GOP primary, never voted in a municipal election, never voted in an ISD election, never voted in a constitutional election, never voted in a special election.”
At the forum, Luther responded to a question concerning voting and said that although she voted for Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential election, she had not voted in a primary, municipal, or constitutional election before.
“I never planned to be a politician. To me, that’s my biggest asset,” said Luther. “I did not get very political until my business was overtaken. That was very scary to me and very eye-opening. [. . .] Does that mean that I know nothing about politics? No, it just means that I wasn’t an active person and I didn’t share my views with people.”
Fallon also indirectly slighted Luther for her position towards Abbott in light of his lockdown policies, saying, “We don’t want somebody that’s going to be at odds with our Republican governor.”
The sitting senator was quick to add, “I didn’t support some of the things that he has done. [. . .] We need to open up Texas. I wrote him a letter about that, so did Drew. We don’t need contact tracing.”
This week, Fallon also joined a lawsuit against Abbott regarding his extension of early voting.
Asked what her top five legislative priorities were during the forum, Luther first said that legislation was needed to prevent another statewide lockdown.
“Everybody that knows me [knows] that the first thing that’s gonna come out of my mouth is, ‘We need to get Governor Abbott under control,’” said Luther.
Fallon and Luther then confronted one another in a heated exchange where they brought up a tweet from Luther that has been framed as support for Black Lives Matter (BLM).
Springer’s campaign argues that Luther “sided with BLM rioters over law enforcement” because of a tweet from June that states, “I don’t understand the division and hate between the Open America groups and BLM. We are fighting the same fight.”
Around the same time, Luther tweeted, “Looting and rioting small businesses that have nothing to do with the cause is domestic terrorism. Of course, BLM has EVERY right to peacefully protest.”
On September 10, Luther signed a “Back the Blue” pledge circulated by Abbott that promises to “support any measure that discourages or stops efforts to defund police departments in Texas.”
The exchange between Fallon and Luther exemplifies the heated nature of the race between the top two candidates — something also evident in the juvenile domain name battles.
Now, the former redirects to the website realshelleyluther.com, identified as paid for by Drew Springer for Texas, while the latter redirects to a video by Texas Gun Rights and Rep. Jonathan Stickland (R-Bedford) attacking Springer over constitutional carry legislation.
The site criticizing Luther brings up her voting record and the BLM tweet, as well as criticizes her for a $1 million loan she received from a conservative megadonor.
It also attacks Luther for an alleged “flip-flop” on COVID-19 shutdowns, citing a March Facebook post at the start of Texas lockdowns where Luther said if “major cities are closing down…every city should” in order to avoid delaying the pandemic and prolonging unemployment.
Luther’s pushback against the governor’s lockdown order came toward the end of April, over a month after her post.
In the video attacking Springer, Stickland says that he asked Springer to sign onto his constitutional carry legislation over twelve times, but that “every single time Representative Springer said ‘no.’”
Springer’s campaign website does not mention constitutional carry, though he touts an endorsement from the National Rifle Association.
He also boasts dozens of other endorsements from fellow state representatives,
Luther’s notable endorsements include state Sen. Bob Hall (R-Canton) and Collin County Judge Chris Hill.
Financial reports filed by the candidates show Luther and Springer in the vast lead ahead of the four other candidates.
Early voting began on September 14 and, to date, 35,000 residents in the district have cast a ballot.
The official election will be held on this coming Tuesday, September 29.
If no candidate receives over 50 percent of the vote, a runoff election with the top two candidates will take place.
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Daniel Friend is a reporter for The Texan. He participated in a Great Books program at Azusa Pacific University and graduated in 2019 with a degree in Political Science. He has studied C.S. Lewis’s science fiction trilogy and in his spare time you might find him writing his own novel partly inspired by the series.