Can Conservative Republicans Win In Swing Districts?

If I’ve heard it once on the House floor, I’ve heard it a hundred times. “Steve, we need moderate Republicans in Districts like that. After all, a Conservative Republican could never win a general election against a Moderate Democrat challenger.” Tuesday evening gave us plenty of examples of just how wrong that lame excuse is when it comes to not standing for the values that differentiate Republicans and Democrats.

Texas State Rep. Steve TothThe first victim of this skewed thought process was State Representative Diane Patrick from House District 91. While Representative Patrick scored an “F” with Texans for Fiscal Responsibility and Young Conservatives of Texas (during the 83rd Legislative Session) it was widely believed that if her votes more closely resembled those of a Republican, she would never make it past a Democrat in the General election. Representative Patrick was met head on by Toni Tinderholt in the Republican Primary and lost. Republicans were shocked that a conservative Republican like Tinderholt could beat the veteran Republican who outspent him 4 to 1. Once the General election came around Tinderholt found himself in a battle that was being waged against him on two fronts. The first front was against Liberal Democrat Cole Ballweg. The second front was waged by establishment Republicans as they told the people of House District 91 that their interests would be better served if the Democrat were to be elected instead of the life long Republican and Gulf War Veteran Tinderholt.

This swing district now had a choice between a Moderate Democrat that supports the expansion of Obamacare and a conservative that was openly opposed by Republican community leaders. Tuesday evening voters chose the conservative Republican over the moderate Democrat 56% to 40%. Say it isn’t so [mc_name name=’Sen. John McCain (R-AZ)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’M000303′ ]! Wait, there’s more.

Linda Harper Brown of HD-105 also serves in a swing district and was opposed by Conservative Rodney Anderson in the Primary. We all knew that Anderson would be opposing Linda as he made his intentions to run very early in the Session. Harper-Brown scored a D with both Texans for Fiscal Responsibility and Young Conservatives of Texas. What I heard over and over again was “It would be great to have someone as Conservative as Rodney but Steve, he can’t win in the General election. The ORVS (Optimal Republican Voting Strength) in HD-105 is 51% Republican and 49% Democrat. No way can a conservative win in the general election.”

Anderson ran a strong and unapologetic campaign that focused on the values of GOP Conservatism and how it contrasts those of his Moderate Democrat opponent, Susan Motley. Tuesday night saw the election of the candidate that was believed to be too extreme win with a 13 point spread.

Are there more examples? You bet. Democrat Senator, Wendy Davis’ seat is the only swing district in the Senate and it was won by grassroots Republican, Konni Burton over Democrat Libby Willis by a 52% to 44% margin. In the House, retiring Democrat Craig Eilands’s seat is a swing district that saw the Conservative, Wayne Faircloth beat Democrat, trial lawyer Susan Crist by a 54% to 44% margin.

There are several other great examples from Tuesday night but I’ll close with this one. House District 117 has seen this seat flip back and forth between the R’s and the D’s each election cycle. John Garza ran and won as a staunch conservative in the Tea Party wave of 2010. Unfortunately John served as a moderate and disappointed his base. While Garza ran again in 2012 his base was a no-show and resulted in the election of moderate democrat Philip Cortez. Cortez was opposed in this evenly matched district by Republican Rick Galindo. Galindo ran on the promise that he will fight any new taxes, he will support 0-based budgeting, he will defend life from birth to natural death, he will support charter schools and school choice and the 2nd Amendment rights of every Texan. Tuesday evening should send a very strong message that if Representative-elect Galindo’s voting record in June of 2015 doesn’t line up with his campaign rhetoric, he won’t be asked to come back and his seat will fall back in to the hands of the Democrats in 2016.

What happens in Austin stays in Austin, no longer holds true. The voting records of the Legislature have never been more transparent and accessible. Voters who choose to identify themselves as Republicans do so because they believe in those values. The only problem is that they don’t believe in politicians that won’t stand on those values. Conservative Republican voters have sent office holders in swing districts a very clear message; If you don’t deliver a strong, conservative voting record then don’t expect to see us in November 2016.