Race to Raise: Allison vs. Beebe

With the retirement of Texas House Speaker Joe Straus, the race to replace him quickly soared to the forefront of the Texas primary season. All Texas House seats are valuable, as roughly 27 million Texans are represented by only 150 State Representatives, but the significance of the HD 121 seat is undeniable, as its winner represents a symbolic victory for either conservatives or more moderate Republicans.

A small business owner and Air Force veteran, Matt Beebe twice before ran unsuccessfully against Speaker Straus; the 2018 primary was his third attempt at the HD 121 seat. Steve Allison, a 71-year old lawyer, received the backing of the liberal outgoing Speaker. The primary race in March saw six candidates vying for the seat, with Beebe finishing first at 29.56% and Allison close on his heels netting 26.34% of the first round of ballots. Ultimately, in the runoff, Allison was able to marshal enough resources and support from the district to overtake Beebe.

Here’s a quick look at the numbers:

Texas House District 121 – By The Numbers
Steve Allison – Primary   Steve Allison – Runoff  Matt Beebe – Primary Matt Beebe – Runoff
Total Money Raised $190,879.68 $375,726.17 $102,309.78 $254,711.99
Total Number of Donations 226  243 57 60
Average Donation Amount $844.60 $1,546.20 $1,794.91 $4,245.20
Total Money Raised In-District $94,968.68 $62,550.00 $8,742.00 $12,485.00
Total Number of Donations In-District  170  117 31 32
Percent of All Money Raised From In-District 49.75% 16.65% 8.55% 4.9%
Total Money Raised Outside District $95,911 $313,176.17 $93,567.78 $242,226.99
Total Number of Donations Outside District 56  126 26 28
Percent of All Money Raised From Outside District 50.25% 83.35% 91.45% 95.1%
Total Expenditures $378,759.64 $257,653.66 $81,852.21 $154,266.66
Total Votes 3,910 6,054 4,388 4,482
Cost Per Vote $96.87 $42.56 $18.65 $34.42

While conservative Republicans celebrated Speaker Straus’ exit, moderate and liberal Republicans as well as Democrats bemoaned his departure. Straus was the most prominent roadblock for both Governor Greg Abbott’s and Lt. Governor Dan Patrick’s slate of conservative reforms. Now that he’s gone, moderate and liberal Republicans and Democrats will need to find a new champion. Could it be Allison? Likely not right away, as he certainly has big shoes to fill.

Key Takeaways from the HD 121 Race:

  1. Conservative vs. Moderate Republican Advocacy Groups.
    The battle lines in HD 121 weren’t new to anyone who follows Texas politics. Conservative advocacy groups such as Empower Texans and Texas Right to Life  backed Beebe to the tune of $153,446 and $100,000 respectively. More moderate Republican groups such as Associated Republicans of Texas and Texans for Lawsuit Reform supported Allison at $91,386 and $70,000 respectively. Allison’s runoff victory was a big win for the moderate wing of the Republican party, as they were able to hold onto Speaker Straus’ seat and replace him with another legislator likely cut from the same cloth.
  2. Speaker Straus Gets Involved.
    It’s no secret Speaker Straus didn’t want the seat he’s vacating to fall into Beebe’s hands. Having run against each other twice, the men share no mutual affection. After Beebe surprised many by coming in first in the March Primary, Straus directed his Texas House Leadership Fund to pump $32,500 into Allison’s campaign. It’s likely Straus’ contribution of resources and relationships within the district helped Allison overtake Beebe.
  3. Lawmakers Enter the Race.
    Two current Texas House members invested significant resources in the HD 121 race. As is often the case on the House floor, State Representatives Chris Paddie and Jonathan Stickland found themselves on opposite sides of the fight. Paddie backed Allison and donated $6,500 to his campaign, whereas Stickland supported Beebe with contributions totaling $29,409.01. Seeing these men go toe-to-toe isn’t unusual, as their approaches to governance in the legislature couldn’t be more different. Paddie advocates fervently that legislators should “vote their district” — a philosophy shared by Straus which supporters argue puts the needs of one’s constituents first. Opponents claim this approach isn’t grounded on principle and often leads to votes which might benefit a specific district at the expense of the rest of the state or citizenry. Stickland, on the other hand, campaigns as a principled conservative — a philosophy supporters say keeps him from going native in Austin. Opponents claim this approach is too restrictive and doesn’t give room to address real world problems. Allison’s alignment with Straus and Paddie likely signals which tribe he’ll side with in the next legislative session.

Before you go

Charles Butt, CEO of H-E-B and a 2016 Democrat primary voter, contributed $25,000 to Allison’s bid. Butt is one of the largest donors in Texas politics, with his contributions routinely spanning both sides of the political aisle. Butt’s donations usually benefit whichever wing wields the power in Austin; since moderate Republicans are currently running the Texas House of Representatives and backed Allison, Butt’s hefty contribution makes perfect sense.


Our Race to Raise series takes a deeper look at the most high-profile races of the election cycle, focusing specifically on money raised by those seeking to serve in public office. Stay tuned for the next installment.

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