This District May Be 2020's Foremost Bellwether

If there was an epicenter of the Democrats’ landslide in 2018, it was in the affluent suburbs of Houston. Capitalizing on widespread angst over President Trump, Rep. Lizzie Fletcher ousted a longtime Republican congressman, John Culberson, with a pragmatic message of change. The diversifying district is home to the Bush family, but it voted for Beto O’Rourke in last year’s Senate election. Fletcher fended off a progressive primary opponent during the campaign, but ended up voting for Nancy Pelosi for speaker after winning her election.

Fletcher has kept a fairly low profile since her election, but she raised a whopping $583,000 in the first three months of the year. The district’s voters, who backed both Mitt Romney and Hillary Clinton, are protective of the energy industry that serves as the economic engine of their community but are also cognizant of the impact of climate change after the historic destruction caused by Hurricane Harvey.

If any one district can serve as a bellwether for the future political direction of the country, it might just be Fletcher’s. Adding to the intrigue, Republicans may be facing a heated primary between a distinguished combat veteran and a scion of the Bush family for the right to win back the seat. (Another candidate, Harris County GOP activist Cindy Siegel, is also running in the Republican primary.)

Wesley Hunt, who served in the Army during the Iraq War, is one of the party’s earliest recruits. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy endorsed his candidacy, and invited him to a big-dollar donor retreat last Sunday featuring Vice President Mike Pence and other top administration officials. Hunt was the only congressional challenger invited to attend. He told National Journal that he’s on pace to raise $400,000 for the second fundraising quarter and has built relationships with some of the party’s top donors in his home state.

But despite the high-level support, Hunt still faces the possibility of a battle royale in the GOP primary against Pierce Bush—the nephew of George W. Bush—in the same district that his grandfather (Bush 41) once represented. Hunt met with Pierce Bush for the first time over lunch last week, but he came away unable to convince Bush not to run against him. “Let the people decide who the best candidate is,” Hunt said.

If Bush entered the race, the primary would offer Republican voters a clear referendum over the direction of the party. Hunt calls himself a proud Trump-supporting Republican, adding that he agrees with nearly all the president’s policies. (He said his only disagreement with the president was on national security; he opposed Trump’s initial call to withdraw troops from Syria and Afghanistan.) If elected, he’d be one of the few African-American Republicans in Congress, a biographical asset that should help win swing voters in a diverse suburban district.

 Read more at National Journal

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