AMARILLO, Texas—Grassroots Texans across a wide swath of the High Plains will be asked to decide between two candidates to send to the Texas House in 2019: incumbent State Rep. Four Price (R–Amarillo) or Fritch City Manager Drew Brassfield.
As part of our “On the Trail Tour,” Texas Scorecard spent some time in House District 87 interviewing Brassfield and talking to everyday Texans about the upcoming Republican Primary election on March 6th and the issues most important to voters.
The election has a similar feel to most campaigns taking shape across Texas right now – an establishment Republican lawmaker trying to fend off a challenge from the right from a relative political newcomer.
Price fits the definition of establishment lawmaker to a “T.”
A wealthy attorney first elected in 2010, the well dressed, polished, and professional Price quickly climbed the ladder into the inner circle of Texas House leadership serving as a loyal surrogate to Speaker Joe Straus – even giving his nominating speech in 2015.
“We enjoy a history like no other state and a trajectory like no other state. We operate the 12th-largest economy in the world,” said Price on the House floor in 2015. “That, members, has not happened by accident, and I’m proud of the gains that Texas and this House have made since 2009 under his leadership.”
He has gone unchallenged in the Republican primary until now.
Where Price is more posh, Brassfield – who has been endorsed by Texans for Fiscal Responsibility – is a little more salt of the earth. A fourteen-year law enforcement officer, Brassfield is no stranger to hard work which comes in handy as the City Manager of Fritch, a small town about 36 miles north of Amarillo.
“Folks out here in the Panhandle, they work hard,” Brassfield told Texas Scorecard. “And here in Fritch, our government is pretty limited. We provide water, trash service, sewage, and security for our citizens and that’s about it. I’m not interested in the government running my life and I don’t want to run the lives of my neighbors.”
Brassfield says Price’s voting record in Austin, something that stands in stark contrast to his campaign rhetoric back in Amarillo, is what he has the biggest beef with.
“His voting record in general has just been for bigger government, but his votes on the two Schaefer amendments are the ones most out of touch with the voters I talk to,” Brassfield said. “Voters out here are conservative. They believe every life is sacred and we need to uphold the law when it comes to sanctuary cities.”
Price opposed State Rep. Matt Schaefer (R–Tyler), chairman of the Texas Freedom Caucus, on efforts to save unborn children from late-term abortions and to stop liberal Texas cities from harboring illegal aliens.
Schaefer’s first amendment attempted to close a loophole in Texas law that prevents unborn children diagnosed with a potential fetal abnormality from being protected against late-term abortions.
During the debate on Senate Bill 8, legislation relating to the disposal of fetal remains became a legislative vehicle for amendments further limiting abortion. Schaefer’s amendment (Amendment 22) would have added the following language to Texas law:
A physician may not perform or induce or attempt to perform or induce an abortion if the physician s’ sole purpose for performing, inducing, or attempting to perform or induce the abortion is because of a fetal abnormality, including a severe fetal abnormality, and the probable post-fertilization age of the unborn child is 20 or more weeks.
But while conservatives were successful in attaching several other amendments to the bill, Schaefer’s effort to end the abortion loophole failed after a number of Republicans—including Price— joined Democrats to defeat it.
And after they defeated the effort to protect the unborn, what they did next was even more shameful.
Though doing so would not affect the outcome of the vote, a large number of Republican legislators entered statements into the journal claiming that they voted in error.
“When Record No. 1391 was taken, I was shown voting yes. I intended to vote no,” reads Price’s statement.
The second Schaefer amendment that Price opposed was Amendment 9 on Senate Bill 4 (Record 415), which successfully restored the stronger provisions into the sanctuary city bill after they had been gutted by State Rep. Byron Cook (R–Corsicana) to appease Texas House Democrats. The vote largely came down to a test of which legislators would remain loyal to the liberal leadership and which ones would vote with their constituents.
Ultimately, 81 Republicans in the Texas House voted with Schaefer. Only Price and eight other Republicans voted against strengthening the provisions against sanctuary cities.
Speculation among Texas political observers is that those who voted against the amendment did so in order to preserve their ability to work with House Democrats – something already borne out by Democrats campaigning for office.
In October, Drew Landry, a Democrat running against State Rep. Dustin Burrows (R–Lubbock) announced his support for Price running for Speaker of the Texas House.
For the record, Four Price or Drew Darby would make a great House Speaker.
— Drew Landry (@LandryForWestTX) October 30, 2017
Though it is still a little early yet and strong winds are a constant force on the High Plains, neither Price nor Brassfield have that many yard signs out.
“Mine came in last week and since then, I’ve been working to put them out. You can see the callouses from driving the T-posts,” said Brassfield, revealing his wounded hands.
“This is what it’s going to take to win: hard work,” he said.
This article is part of Texas Scorecard’s “On the Trail Tour” series. To view more field reports on campaigns across the state of Texas, visit our website here.
Zach Maxwell contributed to this report.