In the Republican primary for Texas House District 122, the opposing endorsements of Texas GOP leaders reflects how competing currents in the party trickle down to the local level.
The four candidates on the March 1 ballot hope to replace Republican state Rep. Lyle Larson, who has opted not to run for reelection in this traditionally GOP district covering the northern outskirts of San Antonio.
Larson was first elected to the seat in 2010 and has in recent years diverged from party leaders, even publicly considering the possibility of a centrist “Texas Independent Party” that would focus “fiscal issues and core government responsibilities.” He was the sole Republican vote against the party’s recent controversial bills on elections and “critical race theory,” and he introduced a failed bill to carve out exceptions for the near-total abortion ban. In 2018, Gov. Greg Abbott backed Larson’s primary challenger, whom Larson defeated by a wide margin. Larson, in turn, recently called on former Texas House Speaker Joe Straus to run for governor.
Larson has endorsed Adam Blanchard, a trucking industry executive who has emphasized a focus on economic issues in his campaign, and who has raised vastly more money than any of the other candidates in his first run for public office.
Meanwhile, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz has endorsed Mark Dorazio, a longtime local GOP leader and construction business owner with ties to conservative party activists.
The two are joined by former San Antonio City Councilwoman Elisa Chan and Mark Cuthbert, a USAA executive and Air Force veteran.
All four candidates have considerable overlap on issue positions, including a tighter border, property tax relief, preserving gun ownership rights, strengthening public infrastructure and heightening election security.
On the Democratic side, personal trainer Angi Aramburu is running unopposed in the party’s primary.
Blanchard, who owns a trucking business and describes himself as a practical-minded serial entrepreneur, has hammered a message largely focused on creating new jobs. Blanchard’s campaign has vastly outraised the other candidates.
Blanchard, speaking at the candidate forum, pointed to his efforts helping draft and push a bill to reform the trial process for litigation involving road accidents with big-rig trucks, which became law with some bipartisan support from San Antonio Democrats.
Blanchard said after being in Austin for almost the entire session, “it became very evident to me that we need more business owners in office.”
Blanchard has shown a willingness to cross party lines. While he has largely donated to Republican campaigns in the past, he also has donated to state Rep. Ray Lopez (D-San Antonio), for whom he once hosted a fundraiser.
In addition to his endorsement from Larson, Blanchard also has been endorsed by former Texas Secretary of State Hope Andrade, the Texas Trucking Association and Americans for Prosperity, a libertarian advocacy group founded by Charles Koch and his brother David Koch, who died in 2019.
Blanchard’s campaign finance reports covering the month of January showed he raised nearly $74,000, and spent close to $85,000. According to the report, his campaign had about $193,000 in cash on hand.
Dorazio previously served as the Bexar County GOP chair, helping plan the 2018 Republican state convention in San Antonio. He’s served as a precinct chairman for over 30 years.
“I’m the strongest conservative in this race with the longest track record of involvement in this community,” he said at a candidate forum Feb. 7.
His campaign positions include opposing the teaching of “critical race theory” in schools, advocating for the sovereignty of Texas against the federal government, stopping abortion and ending vaccine mandates.
In addition to Cruz’s endorsement, Dorazio also has been endorsed by former Texas Gov. Rick Perry.
According to campaign finance filings covering the first three weeks of January, his campaign raised $15,750, spent nearly $68,500 and still has slightly more than $67,500 remaining in cash on hand. The filings also show $150,000 in loans.
Chan, who owns an engineering business, served as the District 9 City Council member from 2009 to 2013, when she stepped down from her council seat to make an unsuccessful run for the Texas Senate.
“I came to this country as a graduate student with nothing. Now I’m a wife, a mother, and also a successful business owner,” said Chan, an immigrant from Taiwan, at the candidate forum. “I want to make sure the opportunities I have enjoyed continue to be there for future generations.”
Chan has expressed concern over illegal immigration, the strain of population growth on critical infrastructure, and, as listed on her website, the “unfair advantage” of trans athletes.
She said what distinguishes her from the other candidates is that she has served on City Council and has a policy track record, which she’s described as fighting to balance the city’s budget without raising taxes and helping to create jobs as the chair of the council’s economic development committee.
In the months leading up to her resignation from City Council, Chan attracted attention from national media after recordings of her expressing anti-LGBTQ views were leaked. In the recordings, Chan privately told staffers that bisexuality was “disgusting” and that homosexual couples should not be allowed to adopt children. Many groups, including the editorial board of the San Antonio Express-News, called on her to resign.
Chan has used the episode as a part of her campaign pitch. “I served with a very liberal city council, and I know how hard it is if you do not conform to the liberal narratives,” she said. “I was persecuted for 18 days by the Express-News because they wanted me to apologize for my belief in freedom of speech, but also family values.” Chan had cited free speech issues when she voted against a city proposal to update its nondiscrimination ordinance to add protections for sexual orientation and gender identity.
Chan has been endorsed by the Texas Alliance for Life, a pro-life group.
Her campaign has been largely self-funded. According to campaign finance filings covering the first three weeks of January, her campaign has taken out loans totaling $1.2 million. A campaign spokesman said much of that was carried over from her previous state Senate run. Meanwhile, Chan has raised $1,830 in that period, spent more than $106,000 and has more than $546,000 on hand.
Mark Cuthbert is USAA’s general manager of strategy, planning and innovation and Air Force combat veteran. He previously worked for the Boston Consulting Group, a corporate consulting firm.
Cuthbert has made his combat experience, as well as what he describes as a tough upbringing in the Chicago area, including the deaths of close family members, a center piece in his campaign pitch.
“I’ve seen the storm, I know who I am,” Cuthbert said during the Feb. 7 forum. “I’m not some weak-kneed politician who will sway with the wind. I’m not backed by lobbyists and special interests. I’m beholden only to one group, who is sitting here today.”
On his campaign website, Cuthbert stated legislative priorities that included a “thorough review of election processes,” a larger law enforcement presence at the border, funding infrastructure, and more.
According to campaign finance filings covering the first three weeks of January, Cuthbert raised $1,775 in the period and spent more than $21,000 in expenditures. His campaign has nearly $15,000 in cash on hand and has borrowed $20,000.