The Republican runoff race in Congressional District 27, which sprawls along the Texas coast and takes in parts of Bastrop and Caldwell Counties, is emblematic of the current political dynamic within the Republican Party.
Bech Bruun, a 39-year-old Corpus Christi native, has worked his way through an array of state jobs, including in the administrations of Govs. Greg Abbott and Rick Perry, most recently as chair of the Texas Water Development Board. Carrying the endorsement of the former governor and boasting a substantial money-raising advantage, he is the conventional favorite.
But Michael Cloud, a 43-year-old communications firm owner who is the former chairman of the Victoria County GOP, trailed Bruun by only two points in the initial March primary. Cloud, whose company does video production and website development, has tried to use Bruun’s government work against him, suggesting he’s out of touch with the district in which he grew up.
“Lawyers and politicos are overrepresented as percentage of population in Congress,” he argues.
Bruun, who chaired the Texas Water Development Board, counters that Cloud has “no relevant experience” and that his own work on the state’s major water infrastructure issues has prepared for him for cutting through bureaucracies to get things done.
The Bruun campaign has raised $426,131 through early May, according to the latest campaign filings; the Cloud campaign has raised $259,077.
Cloud got a boost when the conservative-minded Club for Growth recently announced in April it was backing him.
The district, whose biggest cities are Corpus Christi and Victoria, is largely rural. Trade and agricultural issues are key, but both candidates said they have found GOP primary voters are especially interested in national issues, especially immigration.
But some of the debate has centered on Hurricane Harvey relief.
Bruun said he would have voted for an omnibus deficit-busting spending bill because it included aid for Hurricane Harvey victims. He pointed out that even deficit hawk U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, voted for the measure.
Cloud suggested to the American-Statesman he would have not have voted for the bill.
“I support Harvey relief, but we don’t need to mortgage our grandchildren’s future with a bill that no one one’s read,” he said.
Bruun said the stance reflects Cloud’s reverence for former GOP congressman and presidential candidate Ron Paul, whose endorsement Cloud touts.
“Effective leadership is about going to D.C. taking tough votes,” Bruun said. “On the issues important to my congressional district — infrastructure, military support, disaster recovery — Ron Paul was famously against all those things.”
For now, Bruun and Cloud are locked in a seemingly perpetual campaign. Even as they compete in this runoff to be the Republican nominee come November, they — and seven other candidates — square off in a special election to finish out the current term of U.S. Rep. Blake Farenthold, R-Corpus Christi, who resigned in April amid sexual harassment claims. That election, too, could have a runoff.
This week found Bruun driving to Lockhart for another meal of barbecue and politics — the event marked the endorsement of state Rep. John Cyrier, R-Lockhart.
Cloud said he is logging as many as a thousand miles a week in his Toyota 4Runner. “We’re measuring the campaign in oil changes,” he said.
The winner will face the victor of the Democratic runoff. Raul “Roy” Barrera, a security officer at the federal court in Corpus Christi, faces off against Eric Holguin, a former official at the New York City comptroller’s office, for the Democratic nomination.
The runoffs are on May 22.
About the candidates:
• Served as chair of Texas Water Development Board; chief of staff for state Rep. Todd Hunter, R-Corpus Christi; general counsel for the Texas House Committee on Judiciary and Civil Jurisprudence.
• Has an undergraduate degree in International Business from UT and graduated from UT Law School in 2006.
• Married (his wife is chief operating officer for the Texas Trucking Association) with three kids and lives in Rockport.
• Owns a Victoria communications firm and is a member of the state Republican executive committee.
• Received an undergraduate degree in mass media communications from Oral Roberts University in 1997.
•Married (his wife is a public school teacher) with three kids and lives in Victoria.