Appearing eager to avoid a potentially expensive runoff for a special election in a coastal congressional district hard hit by Hurricane Harvey, Gov. Greg Abbott has endorsed Michael Cloud in the nine-way race to finish out the term of a disgraced former congressman.
With the resignation of former U.S. Rep. Blake Farenthold, R-Corpus Christi, in April, in the wake of revelations that he had used taxpayer money to settle a sexual harassment claim leveled by one of his congressional staffers, Abbott had used his emergency powers related to disaster relief to call the Saturday special election to fill out Farenthold’s term.
The Abbott endorsement comes after Cloud, the former chairman of the Victoria County GOP, won the backing of Bech Bruun, Cloud’s chief Republican primary opponent. In May, Cloud beat Bruun decisively in the runoff to be the Republican nominee in the conservative district in the November general election.
“With Michael Cloud, the voters of the 27th District will be sending a proven conservative to Washington who will represent their interests and restore integrity to the office,” Abbott said in a video endorsement message.
Abbott said he called the election to make sure the district had a voice in Washington as it vies for Harvey relief money, but critics of the election, including Farenthold, said it’s unnecessary and costly. The election could cost as much as $200,000. And if none of the nine candidates wins more than 50 percent of the vote, the 13 counties in the district, including Bastrop and Caldwell, will have to pay again to hold a runoff, likely in September.
The Abbott endorsement has frustrated the third Republican running in the special election.
Republican Marty Perez, a medical doctor from Corpus Christi, told the American-Statesman that “the Republican party puts a lot of pressure on all of us, including me, to back whoever the establishment is backing.”
Bruun, former chairman of the Texas Water Development Board, said he decided to back Cloud because he was “concerned with these counties impacted by Harvey having to expend resources to pay for a runoff that I’m hopeful doesn’t have to happen.”
He said no one from the governor’s office asked him to make the endorsement.
Two candidates filed as independents: Judith Cutright, who runs a Corpus Christi advertising agency, and paramedic Christopher Suprun. Suprun made national headlines in December 2016 when, as a Texas member of the Electoral College pledged to Donald Trump, he cast a vote for Ohio Gov. John Kasich.
Democratic candidates are Eric Holguin, a former official at the New York City comptroller’s office who won his party’s nomination ahead of the November general election; Raul “Roy” Barrera, a security officer at the federal court in Corpus Christi; and Mike Westergren, a Corpus Christi attorney.
Bay City teacher Daniel Tinus, a Libertarian, also filed to run.
In a district with a population of 700,000 people, only about 8,850 voters cast ballots in early voting, which ends Tuesday, said David Smith, a Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi political science professor.
In the May 22 Republican primary runoff, 25,000 voters cast ballots.