PAMPA, Texas—A Texas House race that covers an area larger than the States of Connecticut, Delaware, and Rode Island combined is one of the biggest battlefields in Texas between the establishment and conservative wings of the Republican Party.
As part of our “On the Trail Tour,” Texas Scorecard spent some time in House District 88 interviewing Huddleston and speaking with Republican voters about the issues that matter most in the Republican primary election.
HD 88 is an oddly shaped district which forms a stair-step shape of 17 counties and runs from areas west of Lubbock north to Perryton and the Oklahoma border. It’s from that part of the district that Jason Huddleston, an insurance agent and homeschool dad who works as a football referee during the Fall, operates both his business and his campaign.
For Huddleston, politics isn’t entirely new – he served in a number of leadership positions including Student Body President while at West Texas A&M and has been an active community leader in Perryton – but a campaign that covers more territory than some states? That’s a challenge.
“Throughout this entire campaign I’ve put my faith in God and his plan rather than my own and it’s been amazing what kind of help he’s provided,” said Huddleston, who noted that voters have been far more receptive to him and his message than he ever expected.“I’ve had people tell me ‘I’m already voting for you, go on and talk to the next guy!’ and folks volunteer to help knock doors and host events for me completely on their own!”
The biggest challenge he’s faced so far? Combatting Ken King’s fake news.
King, who was elected in 2012 after narrowly defeating one-term incumbent State Rep. Jim Landtroop (R–Plainview), has a history of problems with the truth.
In 2012, King’s political consultants, Murphy-Turner and Associates, attempted to deceive voters by sending mail in support of King (and in opposition to Texans for Fiscal Responsibility endorsed Jim Landtroop) under the name “Texans for Fiscal Accountability.”
TFR successfully sought and received a restraining order against King’s consultant preventing them from issuing more confusing and deceptive mail and kicking off a legal saga that concluded with Murphy-Turner being ordered to pay thousands in court costs, sanctioned in court, and ultimately resulted in an agreement to publicly apologize and settle the trademark suit.
Now King no longer employs a political consultant to peddle mistruths on his behalf, he does that himself.
Speaking with a Panhandle radio station earlier in the campaign, King offered bald-faced lies concerning his votes in Austin to oppose border security funding and his liberal voting record as reviewed by Rice University professor Mark Jones.
Despite King’s claims to the contrary, he did vote against a budget amendment that would have redirected funds tapped for diversity training for increased border security equipment in 2015 and King’s voting record in 2017 earned him the distinction as the fourth most liberal Republican in the Texas House.
In King’s defense, he does perform marginally better on our preferred metric – the Fiscal Responsibility Index – where he is tied for the sixth most liberal Republican member of the Texas House with a score of a “40.”
But radio interviews aren’t the limits of King’s efforts to deceive voters, there’s also his campaign push card – supplied to Texas Scorecard by a Panhandle conservative who told us she will not be supporting King for re-election.
On the front of the push card are a number of items voters might want further clarification on, specifically his claims to be a “strong conservative” endorsed by the National Rifle Association and to be “100% pro-life.”
As evidenced by his horrendous record on the Fiscal Responsibility Index, King’s record is far from conservative and while his claim to be endorsed by the NRA is accurate, it omits the fact that he refused to support any efforts to pass constitutional carry during the legislative session. Especially pernicious, however, is his claim to be “100% pro-life” given his vote to allow late-term abortions of babies with fetal abnormalities.
That vote, and other failures to protect life, resulted in King earning one of the lowest scores among Republicans from the Lone Star State’s oldest and largest pro-life organization, Texas Right to Life.
The back of his push card obfuscates as well.
King notes he “balanced the state budget with no tax increase.” True, thankfully King did what the Texas Constitution requires and passed a balanced budget. But it’s also true that he voted with House Speaker Joe Straus to raid the Economic Stabilization Fund, also known as the “Rainy Day Fund,” and put Texas on a path toward higher taxes.
He says he “cut taxes and regulations for small businesses.” False. In the most recent session, King actually voted more times against cutting regulations and tax relief than he did in favor of them.
The lawmaker claims he “passed [the] largest border security plan in Texas history.” Partially true; the plan was only the strongest thanks to the Texas Senate’s insistence on restoring funding King and other House lawmakers initially opposed.
Though the first three claims are inaccurate at best, King’s final two assertions are true. It is interesting, however, that he chose to refer to dismemberment abortions as “partial-birth abortions” and placed “sanctuary cities” in quotes – two terminology distinctions favored by Texas’ professional Left.
Asked how he combats such propaganda, Huddleston said that he’s working on getting his message out and hoping voters see through the fake news.
“Folks out here are straight shooters and I think they can see through the tall tales Ken King’s campaign is spinning,” said Huddleston. “I’m just going to keep working hard to earn every vote.”
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.
Cary Cheshire contributed to this report.