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4 Candidates, All Republicans, File for Special Election to Replace Tommy Williams in Texas Senate

by: Joseph Vogas

Tue Mar 11, 2014 at 01:00 PM CDT

Rep. Steve Toth (left), Rep. Brandon Creighton (center), and Gordy Bunch (right) are three of the four Republicans to file for the special election in Texas' Senate District 4
Last October, Sen. Tommy Williams (R) announced he planned to resign from the Texas Senate rather than serve out the remainder of his term. The special election to replace him will occur on May 10, with early voting occurring from April 28 until May 6. Senate District 4 covers southeast Texas and includes all of Chambers and Jefferson counties and portions of Galveston, Montgomery, and Harris counties.

Monday, March 10 was the filing deadline to run in the special election for Senate District 4. Filing to replace Sen. Williams are Republicans State Rep. Brandon Creighton, State Rep. Steve Toth, former Texas Senator Michael Galloway, and businessman Gordy Bunch. Reps. Creighton and Toth announced months ago they would not seek re-election to their seats in the Texas House and would instead run in the pending special election and are considered the frontrunners. Sen. Galloway has been a frequent candidate for Senate District 4, he has been a candidate for the office in 1992, 1994, 1998, 2002, and 2008. The 2014 special election will be Michael Galloway's sixth bid for the office. He won the Republican nomination in 1992, 1994, and 1998 and only won the general election in 1994.

Rice University Political Scientist Mark Jones identified Reps. Creighton and Toth as having similarly conservative records. Toth, however, is likely to be viewed as the favorite among movement conservatives because he ousted an incumbent Representative in the 2012 Republican primary and Creighton held the position of majority leader within Speaker Straus' leadership team. As of the end or December, Creighton has the financial edge over all other candidates, but as was saw in this year's primaries, so long as one candidate has enough funds to compete, that candidate can win.

No Democratic or third party candidates filed to run for the seat. If no candidate receives more than 50.0%, a runoff will be necessary. Whomever wins the special election will hold the seat until it is up for its normal election in 2016.

Last week The Texas Observer wrote up an excellent recap of this race, before Sen. Galloway's entrance. Learn more about the candidates and how they will likely push the Texas Senate further right from the Texas Observer after the jump.

Williams resigned in October to take up a lucrative position at Texas A&M, he was capping off a conservative but somewhat idiosyncratic tenure in the Senate.  He was one of the primary legislators responsible for the voter ID law that passed in 2011, but this session, as chair of the Senate Finance Committee, he was responsible for a lot of spending increases that accompanied 2013's newly healthier state coffers. He helped push major spending packages on water and transportation infrastructure, something that infuriated the right wing of his party. In 2009, he was on Texas Monthly's list of worst legislators; in 2013 he was named one of the best. Then he announced he was stepping down, forcing a special election scheduled in May. Whoever wins will replace him for the remainder of his 4-year term, which ends in 2016.

The two GOP candidates are state Reps. Steve Toth and Brandon Creighton, who both hail from the far right of their party. Toth has been a smart but fiercely conservative-sometimes obstinate-state rep, serving The Woodlands since 2012. His freshman term in the House was filled with conflict. On the House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee he frequently sparred with those seeking reform. He carried a bill that would have nullified federal gun laws, one of the most absurd gun measures ever floated in the Texas Legislature. In August, he tweeted that President Obama was about to launch military strikes in Syria to "support his friends in Al-Qaeda." He didn't accomplish all that much, and his decision to run for Senate after just one term came as something of a surprise.

Creighton's no centrist, either. Since 2006, he's represented Conroe in the House. In 2011, he chaired the Select Committee on State Sovereignty, a red-meat machine that had little practical impact. He supported campus carry, and Toth's nullification bill. But as chairman of the House GOP caucus, he may be more comfortable playing the inside game than Toth is: He attempted to employ a couple of clever maneuvers in support of the big water bill last session, whereas Toth has often acted as a bomb-thrower.

There's also Gordy Bunch, a political outsider and Coast Guard veteran from The Woodlands. Creighton's and Toth's political ties and House experience make them the favorites for the seat, but anything's possible in a special election. It's possible that Bunch could force the already-strangely timed May 10 special into a runoff.

THE MONEY: The latest financial information comes from January 15, but it has Creighton blowing his opponents away in fundraising: He has more than $1 million on hand, having spent more than $205,000 in the last six months of the year. Toth spent $48,000 and had $123,000 on hand. Bunch, meanwhile, spent only $8,000 in the same time frame but retained over $274,000.

See a complete list of who is running for Texas Senate in our Burnt Orange Report Texas Senate Candidate Tracker.

You can follow me on Twitter at @trowaman.

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Do not republish without express written permission.

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