SAN ANGELO, TX — The Governor of the State of Texas finds himself caught in a two-front battle, and the size of the venue booked for his Feb. 9 campaign stop in San Angelo suggests his campaign may be acknowledging some challenges in convincing voters to oust State Rep. Drew Darby.
On one front, Abbott is embroiled in a civil war within the Texas GOP. The Governor is determined to unseat rural Republican state representatives who did not support his private school voucher initiative. On the other front, Abbott is engaged in a showdown with the Biden administration over control of the southern border with Mexico. Abbott's political landscape has drawn comparisons to General Robert E. Lee's situation at Gettysburg or even General Armstrong Custer's at Little Big Horn. By dividing the Republican voters who would typically support him, Abbott has left himself exposed while battling well-organized Democrats on the second front.
Abbott's Campaign Manager, Kim Snyder, who is orchestrating the internal Republican conflict, may be feeling the pressure. She has publicly issued at least two "cease and desist" letters aimed at former allies, warning them against displaying past Abbott endorsements on their campaign websites. Incumbent State Rep. Drew Darby received one such letter recently and promptly removed all endorsements, including a recent one from Congressman August Pfluger, from his website to avoid any conflict. In addition to Darby, State Rep. Travis Clardy (Dist. 11) of Nacogdoches, another former Abbott endorsee, received a sternly-worded letter from Snyder. It's worth noting that both Darby and Clardy were once considered for the role of Texas House Speaker and have been prominent Republican leaders in the state. While Snyder posted these strongly worded "cease and desist" notices on Abbott's campaign social media, a Google search of GregAbbott.com revealed that the Governor's website still featured old endorsements for both Republicans.
Abbott is set to host a rally for a relatively unknown challenger to Darby on Feb. 9 at the Old Central Firehouse, located at 200 S Magdalen. Although Stormy Bradley's campaign has not officially announced the location, we confirmed that Abbott's team has reserved the entire venue, which can accommodate 65 attendees, with its owner, Michelle Babiash.
Rumors have circulated in San Angelo that Abbott faced difficulties finding a venue for the rally. Initial attempts by the campaign team to use Immanuel Baptist Church were unsuccessful, as church elders objected. Pastor Ryan Buck, who played a significant role in passing the sanctuary city for the unborn ordinance, was should be considered an ally of a "true conservative" candidate. However, church elders, including former Tom Green County Judge Steve Floyd, a Republican, disagreed and did not want to become entangled in the political dispute between Abbott and Darby.
Michelle Babiash also expressed some concerns, saying, "I hope I don't lose customers from half the town. But I'm a businesswoman, and I'll rent the pizzeria to just about anyone who wants to pay the fee."
Tuesday night marked the opening of Abbott's "Revenge Primary" season in rural east Texas with a loss. Abbott-endorsed candidate Brent Money, a transactional attorney and owner of a title company in Greenville, narrowly lost to Jill Dutton, a former president of the Republican Women of Van Zandt and a former trustee on the Van ISD board. This special election was held to fill the seat left vacant after the expulsion of State Rep. Bryan Slaton (R-Royce City). The two will face each other again on March 5 in the primary. Money's concession statement, posted on X, revealed the animosity that the "revenge primary" is stirring within the Republican Party. Money stated that his opponent "told despicable lies about me and my family" and attracted Democratic voters.
A study by Austin political data analyst Derek Ryan claimed that 267 early voters out of the total ~13,600 were Democrats. Ryan has yet to publish the election day totals broken down by affiliation. Dutton won by 111 votes. In November, during a six-way race, Dutton secured the second position with 25 percent of the vote, while Money received 32 percent. Dutton gained significant ground during the runoff campaign, during which her opponent Money received Abbott's endorsement.
In District 72, primarily Facebook images are circulating, advertising the anti-Darby event scheduled for Feb. 9 in San Angelo. However, no specific time or location is mentioned. The last announcement of the rally was made on Jan. 24.