A significant battleground in the quest for control of the House of Representatives, the contest for Texas’ 7th Congressional District is drawing national attention and significant spending commitments from political action committees.
The biggest commitment so far has come from the GOP’s Congressional Leadership Fund (CLF), which last week announced initial advertising reservations for candidate Wesley Hunt totaling $3.1 million.
After cruising to victory in a 6-way primary contest in March, Hunt is the Republican nominee challenging freshman incumbent Representative Lizzie Fletcher.
In response to the announcement, Hunt campaign manager Jim Hilk said, “The commitment by CLF to invest heavily in this district is proof of just how vulnerable Lizzie Fletcher is and the excitement around Wesley’s campaign.”
A March 8 poll from the Remington Research Group indicates Fletcher and Hunt are tied at 45-45. The poll also indicates that Fletcher has favorable/unfavorable ratings of 42 and 36 percent.
In 2018, Fletcher defeated 9-term incumbent John Culberson, and has sought to convey a more moderate position on oil and gas issues, but she has come under fire for voting to re-elect House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and voting to impeach President Trump.
The RRG poll showed Hunt with a favorable rating of 40 percent and 37 percent offering “no opinion,” indicating the West Point graduate and former Apache helicopter pilot still has ample opportunity to connect with voters and shift his favorable numbers upwards.
The Congressional Leadership Fund has specifically identified the TX-07 race as one they believe can be returned to Republicans in 2020.
Saying Fletcher has been more loyal to “radical socialists who want to put Texas oil and gas out of work” than to her constituents in the Houston Energy Corridor, CLF spokesman Will Reinert said, “This initial wave of investment will ensure Fletcher is held accountable for her far-left record and help send an American hero-Wesley Hunt- to Congress in November.”
The Hunt campaign has reported raising $920,000 in the first quarter of 2020, bringing total funds raised over the past year to more than $2.2 million.
The most recently available campaign reports indicate Fletcher has raised $1.7 million since January 2019, and has $1.9 million in cash on hand.
Democrat rival House Majority PAC (HMP) also last week announced reserved media buys in the Houston market totaling $2.2 million, but did not specifically identify Rep. Fletcher as a beneficiary.
Other Houston area congressional races the Democrats may target could include Congressional District 22, where coronavirus precautions have delayed a primary runoff contest between Fort Bend Sheriff Troy Nehls and Kathaleen Wall for the Republican nomination, and Democrats have selected Sri Preston Kulkarni in the contest to replace retiring Rep. Pete Olson (R-TX-22).
The CLF said the funds for Wesley Hunt’s campaign are part of a “first-wave” of reservations for broadcast, cable, and digital media platforms.
The group is expected to expand reservations later this year, and expansion could include purchases for TX-22 as well as other Texas races.
The Democrats’ HMP has also advised that they may expand media buys later in the year.
Earlier this year the Cook Political Report rated TX-07 as “leans Democrat” and TX-22 as a “toss up.”
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Holly Hansen is a freelance writer living in Harris County. Her former column, “All In Perspective” ran in The Georgetown Advocate, Jarrell Star Ledger, and The Hill Country News, and she has contributed to a variety of Texas digital media outlets. She graduated summa cum laude from the University of Central Florida with a degree in History, and in addition to writing about politics and policy, also writes about faith and culture.