Race to the Right Exemplified in District 19

Several Republican primary battles in Texas seem to be about burnishing conservative bonafides, and few races better demonstrate this effort than the contest between James White and Mike "Tuffy" Hamilton.
Sat May 19, 2012 12:48 am
Facebook (James White) | AP Photo (LM Otero)

Two incumbent state representatives, Mike “Tuffy” Hamilton  (above right) and James White  (left), are fighting a pitched battle in the Republican primary over who will return to the pink granite Capitol to represent the constituents of the newly redrawn House District 19 in East Texas.

As seems to be the case with more than a few Republican primary contests, the candidates are locked in a race to the right. “[T]he candidates are circulating two very similar mailers, citing the same source, each accusing the other of being the ‘second-most liberal” Republican in the Texas House,’ according to the Texas Tribune ’s Morgan Smith wrote. She continued:

The race in deep south east Texas has the markings of a battle-by-proxy between state leaders who represent different factions of the Republican Party — House Speaker Joe Straus on the side of moderates and Gov. Rick Perry on the side of the conservative movement — and it has drawn considerable interest outside the district. It has the legislators going to the mattresses to prove their conservative bonafides to voters newly drawn House District 19.

Statewide officials, following Perry’s lead, have lined up to endorse White, who has also earned the support of conservative organizations like the Eagle Forum and Texans for Fiscal Responsibility. The tort reform lobbying powerhouse Texans for Lawsuit Reform has sunk more than $120,000 into his campaign since last fall. … Hamilton has the backing of the Texas Association of Business and Texas Association of Realtors and came into the race with a robust campaign war chest from his decade in the Legislature.

The huge new district now stretches from Livingston to the Sabine River and includes Polk, Tyler, Jasper, Hardin, and Newton Counties. Before this round of redistricting, White represented House District 12 (made up of San Jacinto, Trinity, Angelina, and Tyler Counties) and Hamilton District 19 (made up of Hardin, Orange, and Newton Counties.)

Hamilton, who has spent nine years in the state House, previously lived in Mauriceville (in Orange County, which is now part of House District 21). Hamilton moved to a house he owned in Lumberton so he could run in District 19. This move “has prompted accusations —which Hamilton denies—of carpetbagging from White’s supporters,” Smith wrote.

But who can actually be considered the “incumbent” in the new district is an open question. While Hamilton previously represented two counties in District 19 (Newton and Hardin), White has only represented one (Tyler).

The race has spawned at least one memorable commercial in which Hamilton panders to a conservative base by saying, “Liberals like Obama say we cling to our bibles and our guns. I wouldn’t have it any other way.” Watch that commercial below:

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