• November 22, 2019

12 candidates declare ahead of filing deadline - Odessa American: Government

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12 candidates declare ahead of filing deadline

12 candidates declare ahead of filing deadline

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Posted: Sunday, October 13, 2019 5:00 am

Kicked off with the long-serving U.S. Rep. Mike Conaway’s July 31 announcement of his retirement, the 11th Congressional District election has already drawn an entertaining mix of candidates and it promises to get even livelier by the time March 3 dawns on the Republican primary.

With 12 hopefuls having announced their candidacies, observers are sticking pluses and minuses onto the variegated field and warning voters to hold onto their hats because the political winds will soon reach gale force.

  • 37-year-old Midland City Councilman J. Ross Lacy.
  • 41-year-old San Angelo native August Pfluger II, an Air Force Academy graduate and former Air Force fighter pilot.
  • J.D. Faircloth, a CPA and former Midland mayor, announced on Friday.
  • 65-year-old Odessan Jamie Owen Berryhill Jr., director of the Mission Messiah residency program for women and a 2004 congressional candidate.
  • 30-year-old former Midlander Brandon Batch, an Austin businessman and former longtime congressional aide.
  • Rodeo cowboy Wacy Alpha Cody of San Angelo.
  • Businessman and veteran Robert Tucker of Comanche, which is 80 miles east-southeast of Abilene.
  • 39-year-old Air Force veteran and trucking company owner Wesley Virdel of Brady.
  • Ned Luscombe of Midland, a registered nurse.
  • Oilfield service company supervisor Ross Schumann of San Angelo.
  • Dr. Richard Bartlett announced his candidacy, but dropped out less than a week later.

Also, Democrat Jon Mark Hogg, an attorney and former San Angelo city councilman and mayor pro-tem, and Brady independent Jeffery Cady, a nursing home maintenance manager, have said they’re running.

No one can actually file with the state party until the congressional filing period between Nov. 9-Dec. 9. The fee is $3,125 and the general election is on Nov. 3, 2020.

Former Midland County GOP chair James Beauchamp complained that some of the candidates haven’t lived in District 11 in years, saying that Texas law doesn’t require you to live in the district to run.

Having been one of the first two party chairs in Texas to endorse Donald Trump for president four years ago, Beauchamp said he has been dismayed to see GOP leaders back Trump through the many ups and downs of his first term. “The single greatest detriment to the Republican Party is going on about Nancy Pelosi and this, that and the other Democrats being out to get us,” he said.

“We had the White House and majorities in the House and Senate a few years ago and still couldn’t get our stuff done. When you have a party that is not willing to call somebody out when he’s wrong, you’ll have a way bigger problem on down the line.”

However, Beauchamp said Trump remains popular in the east-west-running and vast 11th District and the candidates will generally “wrap themselves in Trump” during the contest. He said the heaviest-voting primary counties in the 29-county district are, in order, Midland, Hood, Tom Green and Ector.

Hood County Republican Chairman David Fischer of Granbury hadn’t heard of a Hood County candidate getting into the affray and did not expect one. “Lacy, Pfluger and Tucker have been here and I have been contacted by Berryhill,” Fischer said.

“Our voters will look for a man who supports President Trump because the president stands up and fights for his ideals. He’s not passive and doesn’t back off from the Congress.

“There is no way to avoid a runoff because there are too many candidates, but I think it may come down to two really strong candidates who have already been here.”

Saying Hood County will send 20,000 primary voters to the March 3 polls, Fischer said, “Being on the edge of the district, we feel like we are neglected a lot.

“If a candidate wants our vote, he needs to come visit us, not just once but a lot. We’re interested and we like to participate. There will be a huge turnout here, especially with it being a presidential year.”

Ector County Republican Chair Tisha Crow said the contest is becoming what she had expected since Conaway, who has served since 2006, announced he would not seek re-election and that he was retiring. “We knew it would be a free-for-all,” Crow said.

“We’ll see who actually files when filing opens. I think it will be a slightly different field than what we have now.”

Noting that the principal thing going on now is fundraising, she said the candidate who will ultimately be chosen is probably among those who have already declared. “He is in the race now because there is no way he could have been silent this long and raised enough money,” Crow said.

“It will be a substantial money race,” she said, predicting that a total expenditure of $1.2 million-$1.5 million will be necessary.

She said Midland-Odessa will continue being the main determinant of the outcome, significantly because Granbury is a popular retirement center for Permian Basin residents, especially Odessans, and they’ll back the Basin’s interests from 300 miles away.

Tom Green County Republican Chair Jeff Betty said organization and fundraising are crucial because the district is expensive to campaign in. “While it is always possible in a field this large for a less well-funded candidate to do well, I believe it is unlikely to be the case in this race,” Betty wrote in an email.

“Early indications to me suggest that August Pfluger has strong support both financially and organizationally. Mr. Lacy has strong financial support and his family has been active in Republican circles for many years, but he has some baggage from his time as a city council member.”

Betty said the candidates’ personal and professional qualifications will be more important than ideology. “Mr. Pfluger’s impressive history, as well as his terrific relationships with so many in the Concho Valley, make him the clear frontrunner in my opinion,” he said.

“I like and respect Jon Mark Hogg, but clearly we do not need another Democrat in the House of Representatives, given the disastrous behavior of those already in office.”

The 11th Congressional District encompasses Andrews, Brown, Callahan, Coke, Coleman, Comanche, Concho, Dawson, Eastland, Ector, Glasscock, Hood, Irion, Kimble, Llano, Margin, Mason, McCulloch, Menard, Midland, Mills, Mitchell, Palo Pinto, Runnels, San Saba, Sterling and Tom Green counties and parts of Erath and Stephens counties.

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