Wryly spitting out the end of the sentence as though it were an expletive, Miller told the attendees, “I’m going to have to admit I’m an incumbent.”
Gubernatorial challengers Allen West, Don Huffines, and Chad Prather headlined the political event, sponsored by grassroots organization True Texas Project, an activist group focused on culling nominal Republicans from Tea Party-style conservatives.
Leaders of the True Texas Project all recommend Huffines in the primary. However, the group bluntly supports “anyone but Abbott,” whom it deems a false conservative, and has taken similar stances on most other incumbents this cycle. The True Texas Project board members unanimously recommend Louie Gohmert to replace Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, David Schenck to replace Texas Supreme Court Justice Evan Young, and Clint Morgan to replace Court of Criminal Appeals Judge Scott Walker. Board members are split between Trayce Bradford and Daniel Miller to replace Lt. Governor Dan Patrick.
The issues in these races are part of a larger conflict inside the Texas GOP between the “establishment” and the grassroots — a fissure that the incumbent agriculture commissioner seems to uniquely straddle.
Miller was the only incumbent featured at the event. Additionally, Miller stumped against Abbott, encouraging attendees to vote for one of the challengers. Slamming the governor for the failure of the Texas grid during last year’s February freeze, Miller said the disaster decimated the agriculture industry, especially dairy and poultry companies.
His opposition to Abbott is not new. Miller sued the governor over his unilateral extension of the state’s early voting period in 2020, and he appeared outside the Governor’s Mansion to protest Abbott’s coronavirus policies in October. At the time, Miller’s criticism of Abbott was enough to inspire widespread speculation that he would run for governor. Earlier this month, Miller complained to The Texas Scorecard, a grassroots conservative publication, that working with Abbott has been “kind of like working with Sasquatch,” claiming the governor never communicates with the Texas Agriculture Department.
While Miller’s frank opposition to Abbott comes as no surprise, it does distinguish him from other statewide Republicans. Patrick, Paxton, Comptroller Glenn Hegar, and Railroad Commissioner Wayne Christian have all tended to refrain from criticizing the governor.
Miller’s darling status in the eyes of grassroots groups becomes even more unique in light of the fact that Miller is facing a challenge from the right. Outgoing state Rep. James White (R-Hillister), one of his primary challengers, has accused Miller of fiscal hypocrisy for his choice to raise fees on farmers and other licensees, sometimes by more than 100 percent.
Though polling for the agriculture commissioner race is sparse, 41 percent of almost certain Republican primary voters said they would vote for Miller in a University of Houston survey conducted throughout late January.
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