SD-25 Primary: A Bellwether for Republican Extremism

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Last week's announcement that San Antonio Councilwoman and noted anti-LGBT bigot Eliza Chan was entering the Republican primary against incumbent and noted anti-abortion extremist Dr. Donna Campbell immediately elevates what was already going to be an interesting re-election effort into the “must watch” category.

Campbell was already facing a primary challenge from San Antonio businessman and former Bexar County Commissioner Mike Novak, who framed Campbell as ineffective and clearly out of touch with the corporate business interests he aspires to represent.

Chan's entry into the race further complicates matters, as she recently raised her profile as a public homophobe through her opposition to San Antonio's non-discrimination ordinance.

Read more on how this primary will highlight the GOP's out-of-touch stance on women's health, fair pay, LGBT rights, and economic equality.Some recent history in SD-25: Campbell was elected to SD-25 in a run-off in July of 2012, besting seven-term incumbent Jeff Wentworth. Both candidates survived the initial threat of TLR darling Elizabeth Ames Jones, who spent a princely sum to fail to win a Senate seat after stepping down from the Railroad Commission. The same electorate that propelled Ted Cruz to victory over David Dewhurst for US Senate helped put Dr. Donna in the State Capitol.

Campbell has been a favorite of far-right conservatives since her challenge against Congressman Lloyd Doggett in TX-25 in 2010. She won all but one of the counties in that iteration of the district, but as Doggett prevailed in Travis, he won the race. However, Campbell purportedly had armies of out-of-state volunteers canvassing on her behalf, and I expect that she will again enjoy vigorous support from people who want to turn the clock back to 1714 in 2014.

Campbell drew a short two-year straw and must run for re-election this cycle. Mike Novak's entry into the race came in mid-August, accompanied by a clear sign that Dr. Donna failed to bend over backwards for business interests:

“There is clearly a disconnect between Donna (Campbell) and a large sector of the constituents,” said Novak, 61, adding that Campbell's career as a doctor and lack of elected positions “does not translate to the type of experience you need to be effective in the Capitol. That is a different world.”

It's true that an obsession with regulating vaginas doesn't translate into job growth, so good job on Novak for figuring that one out. I'd expect him to be as anti-choice as most Republican legislators, however I doubt he'd make criminalizing abortion his most pressing focus if elected.

As for Chan, her entry into the race wasn't a huge surprise after word spread of a name ID poll that included Chan, conducted in mid-August, at the height of Chan's opposition to San Antonio's non-discrimination ordinance debate. (It passed. Suck it, haters.) Chan became perhaps most closely aligned with opposing the measure after audio recordings of her strategy session to defeat the ordinance became public, in which she used deeply homophobic and offensive language to describe LGBT Texans.

Arguably the race — a Republican primary, y'all — is still Campbell's to lose.

With three candidates in the race a run-off again seems likely, and with the backdrop of a likely Lite Gov run-off featuring the likes of some combination of Dewhurst, Dan Patrick, Jerry Patterson, or Todd Staples (my money's on Patterson vs. Patrick, FWIW), the electorate that comes out to the polls may again favor Campbell as they did last time.

At her core — her crazy, flat-earth core — Campbell is a staunch far-right social conservative. It's hard to imagine anyone occupying any space to her right on the ideological spectrum unless they openly advocated for the shut down of human civilization. She's one of the most prominent anti-abortion voices in the Senate, which is all the more ironic since she ousted former Senator Jeff Wentworth, the “hairy legged man” who had historically voted with pro-choice Democrats.

Campbell also has a strong record of overt homophobia. She pushed a bill last session that would have prevented transgender individuals from using an affidavit of sex change to get a marriage license. It passed the Senate but never made it out of House Committee. She also wrote a letter opposing the non-discrimination ordinance, arguing that “Any ordinance that ostracizes a majority of its citizens for their personal religious beliefs is wrong,” demonstrating a lack of understanding of antidisestablishmentarianism that should sit well with GOP primary voters.

Campbell's weak spot — and one I'd expect Novak to exploit in the primary — is her vote FOR the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act on the floor of the Senate. And Campbell didn't just vote for it — she was the deciding, 16th vote in favor of the measure. All other Republican female Senators voted no. A proverbial stopped clock, Campbell managed to be right on that issue last session, and women can be glad her hands landed on equal pay for equal work.

Perry vetoed the legislation at the behest of the business community, and that's the very constituency Novak seems eager to represent. Will Novak attack Campbell's vote for equal pay in the primary, and if he does, won't that just underscore how much the Republican Party hates women's equality? I won't be surprised if audio emerges before the primary's over from Novak telling business community members that Campbell's vote for Fair Pay is a reason to oust her.

So. Chan's got the public homophobia, Novak's got corporate welfare, and Campbell's got a virulent anti-abortion history. Which faction of the Republican primary wins this one? It will be interesting to watch.  

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About Author

Katherine Haenschen

Katherine Haenschen is a PhD candidate at the University of Texas, where she studies political participation on digital media. She previously managed successful candidate, issue, voter registration, and GOTV campaigns in Central Texas. She is also a fan of UCONN women's basketball and breakfast tacos.

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