Abbott endorses Republican Sarah Davis’ challenger


Davis represents a swing district.

Hillary Clinton won the district during the 2016 presidential election by 15 points.

Gov. Greg Abbott on Monday endorsed a Republican Texas House member’s primary challenger in a swing district that voted overwhelmingly for Hillary Clinton in 2016.

Abbott said in an email that he supports Susanna Dokupil, a former assistant solicitor general who is challenging state Rep. Sarah Davis, R-West University Place. Davis, considered the most moderate House Republican, has represented the district since 2011.

“Susanna worked alongside me to defend Texas values when I was the attorney general,” Abbott said in a taped message sent with the email. “I trust Susanna, and I know that voters in House District 134 can trust her too to fight for their needs in Austin, Texas. She is a principled conservative who will be a true champion for the people of House District 134 in Houston.”

In a district that includes Rice University and the wealthy River Oaks neighborhood and where Clinton outperformed Donald Trump by 15.4 points in the presidential election, it’s unclear whether a more conservative Republican can win the seat. Davis won the 2016 election with about 54 percent of the vote in part by appealing to Democrats and outlining where she and they agree.

READ: Cornyn rescinds Roy Moore endorsement

“I have always voted my uniquely independent district, and when it comes to campaign season I have always stood on my own, which is why I outperformed Republicans up and down the ballot in the last midterm election,” Davis said in a statement after Abbott’s announcement. “Republican voters in HD 134 will not be told for whom to vote, and will not nominate a candidate who will be so easily defeated in the fall because they are a wholly-owned subsidiary of the extremist fringe group Empower Texans.”

Abbott said a day after the summer special session ended with the Legislature enacting just half of his agenda that he would support GOP challengers to Republican incumbents who did not back his priorities. Dokupil is the first GOP challenger Abbott has endorsed.

“It’s a little surprising for the governor to get involved,” especially because the seat isn’t open, said Mark P. Jones, a political scientist at Rice. “If Abbott is going to go after a Republican, Sarah Davis is probably at the top of the list.”

Davis is fiscally conservative and socially moderate, especially on issues of abortion, education and health care, Jones said. That makes her the perfect representative for her moderate district but a target in the Republican primary, where the “median voter” tends to be more conservative than Davis, he said.

If Davis loses the nomination, Democrats will have a better chance of picking up the seat, he said.

FIRST READING: `Let Her Speak:’ Inside the screenplay of the Wendy Davis (Sandra Bullock) biopic

Davis is chairwoman of the House General Investigating and Ethics Committee. From that position, she has pushed for several reforms for more accountability in state government. During the summer special session, she and Rep. Lyle Larson, R-San Antonio, asked Abbott to add ethics reform to the agenda.

Legislation she introduced would have prohibited lawmakers and elected statewide officials from lobbying immediately after leaving office. Other bills would have given the Texas Ethics Commission more oversight of local campaigns and political action committees inside and outside the state, increased disclosure requirements for vendors that do business with local governments to identify possible conflicts of interest, and extended conflict of interest disclosure requirements to members of governing boards at state agencies.

Another bill would have banned political contributions to the legislative and executive branches during special sessions and 20-day veto periods.

An Abbott spokesman said at the time that Davis and Larson were “showboating over proposals that are not on the governor’s call.”

Reader Comments ...

Next Up in Texas News & Politics

Community news: ACC hosts open house Saturday

TRAVIS COUNTY EAST AUSTIN ACC hosts open house Saturday Austin Community College’s Health Sciences Division will host an open house for those interested in exploring careers in health care from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday at the Eastview campus, 3401 Webberville Road. Community members and prospective students can tour facilities, view demonstrations...
Man and woman seriously injured in East Austin stabbing
Man and woman seriously injured in East Austin stabbing

Update 11:30 p.m.: Three people were taken to a hospital for stab wounds on Sunday night. Police were conducting an investigation underneath and around the Pleasant Valley Road overpass near 7th Street in East Austin. A third person was also taken to Dell Seton Medical Center with non-life threatening injuries about an hour after two others were rushed...
Texas Digest: Baby hippo dies at Dallas Zoo

DALLAS Hippopotamus born at zoo exhibit dies The first hippopotamus born at a new Dallas Zoo exhibit has died. Zoo officials said a female hippo gave birth early Saturday to her first calf, but she did not help the newborn to the surface of the pool soon enough, The Dallas Morning News reported. Harrison Edell, the zoo’s vice president of animal...
DPS trooper is shot east of San Antonio
DPS trooper is shot east of San Antonio

A Department of Public Safety trooper was shot in eastern Bexar County while pursuing a suspect around 3:20 p.m. on Sunday, according to the San Antonio Express-News. The incident occurred near Interstate 10 and Graytown Road, SAEN reports, and a suspect may have been shot as well. The Express-News reports that San Antonio police and Bexar County deputies...
Third-graders in Missouri selling raffle tickets for AR-15 weapon
Third-graders in Missouri selling raffle tickets for AR-15 weapon

Selling raffle tickets to benefit an athletic team is not new, but having an AR-15 semiautomatic weapon as the prize is drawing heavy criticism in the wake of the shooting at a Florida high school that killed 17 and injured dozens, The Kansas City Star reported. Third-graders in the southern Missouri city of Neosho were selling the tickets to...
More Stories