The most atypical Texas congressional primary in 2020 will be in the Republican race for Texas’ 4th Congressional District.
John Ratcliffe, a Republican, resigned from the seat after the U.S. Senate voted in May to confirm his nomination as the Director of National Intelligence in the Trump administration.
On Saturday, GOP precinct and county chairs in the district will meet in Sulphur Springs to determine who will replace Ratcliffe on the Republican ticket in November for the currently vacant seat.
His appointment to the new office triggered a withdrawal from the race, and under state election code (Sec. 145.036), a Congressional District Election Committee (CDEC) from the party must choose his replacement on the ballot.
Based on the list of county and precinct chairs provided by the Texas Secretary of State, there may be around 150 delegates in the CDEC that will elect a candidate.
A wide field of candidates have expressed interest in seeking the seat, nine of which filed with the Federal Election Commission (FEC).
But filing with the FEC is not a requirement to be considered as a nominee by the CDEC, nor are there any requirements for individuals to file with the Secretary of State for the selection process as there are in a traditional primary election.
Anyone who is qualified to run in a congressional race can be nominated during the CDEC meeting.
Nonetheless, a field of clear candidates has emerged, with 14 participating in a recent forum hosted in Titus County on August 1.
Videos of the event are broken down into five parts and available here.
The candidates to appear at the event were:
- Rodney Adams
- Casey Campbell
- John Cooper
- Steve Gorman
- Aaron Harris
- Trace Johannessen
- Tim McCord
- Jim Pruitt
- Travis Ransom
- Zach Rateliff
- Jason Ross
- Christopher Schell
- Joe Vrasic
- Bob Worthen
Manning was involved in a car accident on July 29 — just a few days after another candidate in the race, Fifth District Court of Appeals Justice David Bridges, was killed in a collision by a suspected drunk driver.
Originally scheduled for Saturday afternoon, the forum was postponed to the evening because many of the participants attended Bridges’ funeral.
At the CDEC meeting on August 8, candidates — “and/or their representatives,” according to the Republican Party — will have one last opportunity to make their case to the delegates before the vote.
In order for a candidate to be chosen as the new Republican nominee, “a person must receive a favorable vote of a majority of the members voting,” according to state election code (Sec. 145.036).
Of the candidates in the crowded field, some have notable connections or have received significant endorsements.
Fallon, for instance, has been backed by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) as part of his “Cruz 20 for 20 Victory Fund.”
The senator reportedly plans to raise and funnel $100,000 through his PAC to each of the endorsed candidates, including Fallon, though the FEC shows no filings for the PAC yet.
Cruz is also rumored to attend the CDEC on Saturday and speak on behalf of Fallon.
Though Fallon reported no contributions or expenditures on the pre-convention filing, a more recent 48-hour notice shows that he contributed $25,000 to his own campaign.
Other candidates have reported raising more money, such as Jason Ross, the former district chief of staff for Ratcliffe who has picked up a large number of endorsements from local leaders.
In his last report, Ross reported having raised a total of $73,000.
Though the Hatch Act prohibits Ratcliffe from endorsing a candidate in the race, Ross has emphasized his close ties to the former congressman, citing a statement in last year’s congressional record.
“I could have never expected or deserved a better supporter, defender, confidant, and friend than Jason Ross,” said Ratcliffe at the time.
Floyd McClendon, a former Navy SEAL who lost in the March Republican primary for Texas’ 32nd Congressional District, has also jumped into the race and has received substantial financial support.
McClendon has raised over $800,000 during the election cycle, and though most of it was directed toward the TX-32 race, he reported $59,000 cash-on-hand in the latest pre-convention filing.
Other candidates who reported their fundraising numbers to the FEC are:
- Travis Ransom, the mayor of Atlanta, Texas, who raised $49,000;
- TC Manning, with $44,000;
- Bob Worthen, who raised $41,000;
- Aaron Harris, the chief of staff for Rep. Lance Gooden (R-TX-05), with $12,000; and,
- Trace Johannessen, a city council member for Rockwall, who raised $9,000.
Harris, who also founded the government accountability political organization Direct Action Texas, has received endorsements from Grassroots America — We the People and the Young Conservatives of Texas.
The GOP nominee that the CDEC selects is expected to win in the November election, as the district is strongly Republican with a Cook Partisan Voting Index of R+28.
In the 2016 presidential election, Trump carried 75 percent of the district and Clinton carried 22 percent.
The Texan will be in attendance at the CDEC on Saturday to report on the event and results of the nomination.
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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.