Former state senator Don Huffines has announced his bid for governor today.
“For too long, Texas has been let down by politicians who offer nothing but excuses and lies,” said Huffines in a press release.
“I am ready to take on the federal government and the entrenched elites of the Austin swamp. We will finally finish the wall and secure our border — and we’re not going to ask permission to do it. We will put Texas on a path to eliminating property taxes. And we will enforce our sacred voting laws, so that the voices of lawful voters are preserved and not diluted through corrupt election procedures.”
Huffines left behind a conservative record when he lost his Senate seat to Sen. Nathan Johnson (D-Dallas) in 2018, an election season during which Democrats enjoyed widespread success as Beto O’Rourke ran an aggressive campaign against Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX).
In his final session, he coauthored a bill that successfully passed into law to increase punishments for certain acts of voter fraud. In 2017, Rice University political science analyst Mark P. Jones ranked him the 4th most conservative member of the Texas Senate, and conservative ranking group Texans for Fiscal Responsibility gave him a score of 99 out of 100.
Notably, he chose not to receive a government salary or a “penny of government money” while he served in the legislature, according to his staff.
Though it died after his departure from the Senate, Huffines also previously fought to end the Driver Responsibility Program — called unconstitutional by the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas and other advocates — which multiplied surcharges on speeding tickets and other traffic violations.
More recently, Huffines offered cash rewards for voter fraud tips in the 2020 election.
Governor Greg Abbott’s coronavirus strategy frequently met with criticism from Huffines, who accused Abbott of letting local restrictions tighten and listening too closely to guidance from Washington.
“Local government should not be making these incredibly important decisions on how to stop the virus. This creates a hodgepodge of rules that propagate more anxiety and confusion,” Huffines wrote in a widely syndicated article condemning Abbott’s response as unsure and ineffective.
“The overstep by Texas’ local leaders was met with silence by the governor. Texas needs a unifying plan of definitive and clear rules which can only come from a governor.”
Huffines specifically pointed to instances of cities and counties shutting down faith organizations and said Abbott let these closures slip under the radar.
Ironically, Huffine’s fight against local regulations occasionally aligned him with Abbott during his days in the legislature. Huffines took the lead on one of Abbott’s legislative priorities in the 2017 special session to preempt local laws regulating cell phones in vehicles.
Huffines also largely laid the blame for February’s winter storm blackouts at Abbott’s feet.
“This disaster is [100 percent] at the feet of [Abbott]. Here’s his office number if you’d like to tell him what it’s like to sit in 40 degree temps,” Huffines wrote on Twitter.
Huffines is not alone. Abbott’s executive strategies have opened a rift in the Republican Party, especially with regards to his pandemic response. Texas GOP Chairman Allen West has bared his disdain for the governor’s executive orders at more than one public event, and he joined Sid Miller and other state senators in suing Abbott for unilaterally extending the state’s early voting period.
Abbott is a formidable campaigner and fundraiser, currently sitting with $40 million cash on hand in his war chest. He won reelection in 2018 by 13 points in the general election and sailed through the primary season with 90 percent support.