Roberts, Wall appear headed for runoff in GOP race to replace retiring congressman Ted Poe
Republican voters apparently will get another two months to determine who will win the party’s nomination for the 2nd Congressional District seat of retiring U.S. Rep. Ted Poe.
Kevin Roberts, a state legislator, and Kathaleen Wall, a big GOP fundraiser, appeared to be the top two vote-getters in the race, according to early-voting returns Tuesday night. Former Navy SEAL Dan Crenshaw was in third place.
If those numbers hold, Wall and Roberts will battle in a May 22 runoff to determine who will take on the winner of the Democratic primary. Education nonprofit director Todd Litton had a commanding lead over Navy veteran J. Darnell Jones in that contest, potentially allowing Litton to avoid a runoff election.
Already the race for the 2nd Congressional District has become one of the most expensive in the nation, with more than $8 million spent in the race. Much of that is due to Wall, who has become the nation’s top self-funded candidate for a congressional seat. Wall put $6 million of her own money into the race.
The candidates are hoping to succeed Poe, R-Atascocita, who announced late last year that he was retiring from Congress. The seven-term congressman was treated for leukemia in 2016.
The heavily gerrymandered district covers areas in West Houston, loops up to Harris County’s most northern edges and stretches east to take in Humble and Atascocita.
Six other Republicans in the race were well behind in early-voting returns. They are hospital executive David Balat, investment banker Justin Lurie, attorney Jonny Havens, businessman Rick Walker, attorney Jon Spiers and patent attorney Malcolm Whittaker.
The winner of the seat will get a two-year term that pays $174,000 a year.
Wall has leaned heavily on her Texas roots to win over voters. In her first TV ad, she talked up her upbringing on a ranch near Centerville and how she studied engineering technology at Texas A&M University. Now she is an investor and consultant for small high-tech startup companies, she said.
“I am running to take Texas values to D.C. and get D.C. out of Texas,” Wall, 51, told the Chronicle, using a phrase she repeats often.
Elected to the state Legislature in 2016, Roberts has focused on his experience; he is the only one of the Republican candidates to hold elective office.
“I am the only proven conservative with actual accomplishments,” Roberts said. “We need someone with legislative experience who can be a strong voice for the district and hit the ground running.”
Roberts, 51, is an Amarillo native who was raised by his grandparents. The married father of two children has a bachelor’s degree from Texas Tech University and works as the executive director of the Lanier Law Firm
Roberts, who was endorsed by the National Rifle Association and Harris County Judge Ed Emmett, ran TV ads in the final weeks that showed Wall stumbling over words at a candidates forum. Roberts said many voters had only seen Wall in her slick TV ads.
“Here is Mrs Wall unedited,” Roberts said of the ad. “It’s up to voters to decide if Wall is capable or not,”
Wall, who was endorsed by Gov. Greg Abbott, has tried to tie herself to President Donald Trump, running ads that tout her support for Trump and his positions. She even includes photos of her and Trump together though the president has not officially endorsed a candidate in the race.
Besides the Abbott endorsement, Wall also has picked up support from U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz as well as the Texas Right to Life PAC.
The 2nd District has been a solidly Republican district during Poe’s tenure. However in 2016, Trump won just 52.4 percent of the vote in the district, giving Democrats hope that they could pull an upset in the congressional race under the right circumstances.