Luther Scores $1 Million from Megadonor Dunn
as Backers Decry Springer Links to Lobbyists
By Mike Hailey
Capitol Inside Editor
September 19, 2020
Collin County Republican Shelley Luther appears to have the inside lane in a special Texas Senate battle that she entered with massive momentum and fueled up on Friday with a $1 million loan from Tim Dunn - a Midland oil executive who bankrolled the rise of the tea party here.
A hair shop owner who emerged as the nation's first lockdown protest celebrity during the spring, Luther has to be a heavy favorite in a maiden political voyage in a heavily-Republican district where the real competition initially could be a fight for a second spot in a runoff between GOP State Rep. Drew Springer and Jacob Minter as the lone Democrat in the race.
Minter, an electrician who's based in the suburb of Anna, could have a shot at overtime if GOP voters in the special Senate District 30 contest split their support between Springer and three other Republicans in Craig Carter of Nocona, Decatur engineer Andy Hopper and Denton Mayor Chris Watts while Luther falls short of 50 percent.
While Springer has the establishment rallied firmly behind, Luther has aligned her debut bid with forces on the hard right that had been at war with the more moderate wing of the GOP in Texas long before President Donald Trump surfaced in the political arena.
But Luther is a rookie in name only - having made the transition from suburban entrepreneur to state Senate frontrunner in a matter of months with a campaign that's been extraordinarily polished, off the charts unique and more heavily armed with the seven-figure boost from the chief contributor to the conservative firebrand group Empower Texans.
Luther had a treasure trove of name recognition that she earned almost overnight after reopening her Salon A La Mode in the midst of a statewide closure order and daring local authorities in Dallas to put her behind bars for simply trying to feed her kids. She's parlayed the publicity that she reaped into a verbal war against tyrany with the incumbent Republican governor as the main target of her wrath and Trump as a hero.
Springer is the status quo as a fourth term lawmaker who has the big special interests that Luther and her supporters are trying to villianize firmly in his corner along with a longer list of endorsements from lawmakers like himself than Luther has enlisted. State Rep. Bob Hall - an Edgewood Republican who's the most conservative lawmaker in the Texas Capitol's east wing - is backing Luther while outgoing Republican State Rep. Jonathan Stickland of Bedford has appeared to be a factor in the race on her behalf as well.
“The Austin swamp and Republican establishment will always pull out all the stops to prevent voters from sending an outsider like Shelley Luther to the Texas Legislature," Hall contended in a plug for Luther in the special SD 30 scramble.
Springer's "so compliant that he’s collecting politician and lobby endorsements like a swamp collects mosquitos," former Texas Senate Republican Don Huffines of Dallas said in a pitch for Luther this week. .
Abbott is supporting Springer as Luther runs against the governor. Luther's been getting third party help in an attempt to knock Springer out of the ring in the special election 10 days from now.
The Parker County Conservatives have stirred a tempest with a radio ad that tries to tie Springer to the Austin lobby as a consequence of the fact that he'd worked in the past for tax consultant and megadonor Brint Ryan. The group is attempting to taint Springer on the grounds that Ryan is registered as a lobbyist. Ryan runs a major consulting firm that has a handful of contract lobbyists on retainer at the statehouse in Austin. But Ryan doesn't lobby himself in the traditional sense of the word.
The roping of Ryan into the Senate showdown could be a risky play in light of the fact that the political committee for his company has been one of Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick's largest donors. Luther wouldn't want to alienate Patrick before she took the oath in a chamber that he controls.
But this is relevant in the eyes of Luther's camp with an ongoing attempt to ban taxpayer funded lobbyist as one of the hottest issues in the special Senate clash along with constitutional carry.