Joe Straus is marking his stragglers for everyone to see by giving them the most help. The Texas House Leadership Fund (the Fund), a political action committee controlled by the Speaker, has given to 13 candidates and the largest donations are going to endangered incumbents.
Barbara Nash, the PAC’s top recipient, has collected $25,000. Nash, an Arlington incumbent, faces two challengers in her newly-drawn district. Recently Aman Betheja of the Texas Tribune marked her as endangered.
Chuck Hopson, a reeling Straus lieutenant, has received $19,000 from the Speaker’s fund. Hopson is a recent convert to the Republican Party who famously remarked that he would not be changing his Democrat voting practices in the Texas House just because he was changing parties. According to the Young Conservatives of Texans and Empower Texans Hopson honored his word, maintaining a liberal voting record.
Hopson was also singled out by the Texas Tribune as vulnerable in his primary.
Hopson clearly paid his Speaker dues. In early 2011 as chair of the House Ethics Committee Hopson ran cover for Straus ally Larry Phillips when Brian Hughes revealed that Phillips (representing the speaker) threatened reprisals for conservatives who opposed Straus’ reelection to speaker. The threats that Phillips leveled and Hughes reported were, in fact, carried out.
House freshman Lance Gooden is another recipient of contributions from the Fund. Gooden’s in-district support has been slipping steadily over the course of the election. During the session Gooden was a reliable workhorse ridden by Jim Pitts, chair of Appropriations. Gooden was even caught admitting to earmarking the budget by conservative stalwart Jodie Laubenberg.