Gov. Greg Abbott on Monday endorsed Hollywood Park Mayor Chris Fails in his primary challenge of four-term state Rep. Lyle Larson, who became the latest of several Republican incumbents to have Abbott come out in support of a primary opponent.
Abbott posted a video on his YouTube channel Monday morning in which he praised Fails’ stance on property tax reform.
“[Fails] knows firsthand the devastating impact that rising property taxes have on families and on small businesses,” Abbott said in the video. “I know that he will work with me to advance my plans to empower Texas voters to rein in skyrocketed property taxes for the people of his district.”
Fails told the Rivard Report that the endorsement in the state House District 122 primary came because of what he called Larson’s track record of voting to block property tax reform.
“My opponent has voted to block property tax reform in the past and I have committed to support Governor Abbott’s plan to get people some control over their property taxes,” Fails said.
Larson, who chairs the House Natural Resource Committee, told the Rivard Report that he thought Abbott was “misinformed on this endorsement.”
“It’s sort of strange,” Larson said. “[Fails] was against two of the three issues that [Abbott] called in the special session, tax reform and annexation [reform].”
Larson said he previously voted to cap the property tax rate at 6 percent, and would support a rate somewhere between 2.5 percent and 6 percent in the upcoming legislative session.
In last year’s legislative session, Larson introduced ethics reform legislation that would have prevented a governor from making appointments to a state board or commission if the potential appointee had made a campaign contribution of more than $2,500 to the governor in the previous year. The measure passed the House, but did not make it out of the Senate.
“I did not have the intention of focusing on [Abbott], but looking at all governors in the past and the future,” Larson said.
David Crockett, chair of the political science department at Trinity University, said Abbott’s decision to endorse the primary challengers of several incumbents would be a test of his influence.
“Greg Abbott wrote down a list of names at the last session of people who annoyed him,” Crockett said. “He is now going to use whatever influence he has to demonstrate, if he’s successful, his ability to punish people who criticize him and his agenda.”
Chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, Larson touts his conservative credentials, noting on his website his support for defunding Planned Parenthood and that he “helped pass Texas’ first Open Carry law.”
Fails, the co-owner of Alamo Shooting Sports Gun Store, is the third Republican challenger Abbott has endorsed ahead of the March 6 primaries. Last November, the Governor announced his support for Susanna Dokupil over State Rep. Sarah Davis (R-134), followed in January by an announcement supporting Mayes Middleton over State Rep. Wayne Faircloth.
Abbott’s nod adds another high-profile endorsement for Fails, who also received support from former governor and U. S. Secretary of Energy Rick Perry.
Despite those endorsements, Fails is at a considerable disadvantage in fundraising. In the most recent campaign funding reports filed last month with the Texas Ethics Commission, Larson’s campaign reported having $557,035 cash on hand to Fail’s last reported amount of $36,770.
Larson served as a San Antonio City Councilman for District 10 and Bexar County Commissioner for Precinct 3 before being elected to the state Legislature in 2010.