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Craig Goldman wins GOP runoff in outgoing U.S. Rep. Kay Granger’s district


Craig Goldman wins GOP runoff in outgoing U.S. Rep. Kay Granger’s district

May 28, 2024 | 9:36 pm ET
By Matthew Choi Robert Downen
Craig Goldman wins GOP runoff in outgoing U.S. Rep. Kay Granger’s district
State Rep. Craig Goldman speaks at a panel during The Texas Tribune Festival on Sept. 23, 2022 in Austin (Eddie Gaspar/The Texas Tribune)

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WASHINGTON — Texas state Rep. Craig Goldman beat business owner John O’Shea in Tuesday’s Republican primary runoff to represent the 12th congressional district, the Associated Press projected.

The high-stakes race pitted an established Republican lawmaker who voted to impeach Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton against a right-wing candidate who had the attorney general’s backing. Goldman is the chair of the Texas House Republican Caucus and was targeted by Paxton and his allies because of his role in the impeachment last year.

Goldman, the favored candidate of Fort Worth’s business community, will run to replace U.S. Rep. Kay Granger — the longest serving Republican in the Texas delegation. Though Granger did not endorse in the Republican primary, her allies said Goldman embodied her pro-defense, pro-business conservatism.

Goldman led O’Shea with more than 60% of votes Tuesday evening, according to unofficial results.

The district is solidly Republican. With its current boundaries, the district would have voted for former President Donald Trump by over 18 percentage points in 2020. No Democratic candidates have raised competitive sums of money or been backed by House Democratic leadership.

O’Shea’s progress into the runoff in March’s primary race beat the odds, with Goldman vastly outraising him. O’Shea had raised only $236,000 with $30,000 ahead of the primary. Goldman, meanwhile, had raised over $1.4 million.

The fundraising gulf only grew in the months ahead of the runoff. Goldman had raised over $2.2 million by the beginning of May, with over $702,000 in cash on hand. O’Shea had raised just over $341,000 by then, with over $36,000 in the bank.

In addition to Paxton, O'Shea's campaign was endorsed by an array of far-right, Trump-aligned figures, including longtime political operative Roger Stone, former national security advisor Michael Flynn and retired Army Gen. Paul Valelly. Flynn and Vallely are both prominent figures in the QAnon community.

Downtown Fort Worth was keen to see someone continue Granger’s style in Congress. Goldman received donations from a host of business-focused organizations, including interest groups representing the energy, banking, nursing, realty, rail, wholesale and insurance industries, to name a few. He also got backing from the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, a major donor for candidates who support Israel.

“He will be a serious member of Congress that people will enjoy working with on both sides of the aisle,” Fort Worth Mayor Mattie Parker said in an interview earlier this year. Parker, a former staffer for Granger, endorsed Goldman. “And he will also try to follow in the footsteps of Congresswoman Granger and the interests that are best for CD 12.”

Despite that business community support, the district had shown signs of a rightward shift. Tarrant County Judge Tim O’Hare won his seat in 2022 over former Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price, a Republican he said was not conservative enough. Rick Barnes, the former Tarrant County Republican Party chair, narrowly beat incumbent Wendy Burgess for tax assessor in the Republican primary in a surprising upset. The position can be a launching pad for higher office.

Redistricting also incorporated more of Parker County into the district in 2021. Parker County is much redder than Tarrant County, with over 80% of voters choosing Trump in 2020. President Joe Biden won Tarrant County by less than a percentage point.

Granger announced she would retire in October after 27 years in office. She was the first Republican woman elected from Texas to the U.S. House and previously served as the mayor of Fort Worth. She was the chair of the House Appropriations Committee, which sets funding levels for federal programs every year, until stepping down from the position this year.

Granger never publicly said why she was retiring. But other members said they saw her growing less content with the polarization of Congress, particularly within the Texas delegation. The House Republican conference was often at odds on issues ranging from government funding to defense spending — conflicts thrust into the national spotlight during the multiple rounds of voting for the House speaker.

Goldman vowed to continue to spend to defend U.S. allies overseas. But support on the right wing of the party for foreign aid has waned, especially to Ukraine. Right-wing Republicans urged for stronger border security measures before spending money in Ukraine.

Goldman faced pushback during an April debate with O’Shea when he said he would support Ukraine aid. Goldman asserted that aid to Ukraine was necessary to prevent U.S. troops having to be sent to serve in Europe. O’Shea said he was a “hard no” on more aid to Ukraine.

Perhaps the biggest split between the two was Goldman’s role in Paxton’s impeachment. The Texas House voted 121-23 to impeach Paxton on charges of bribery and abuse of office in May of last year. The state Senate voted to acquit Paxton, who returned to office in September. He went on to endorse primary challengers for the Republicans who voted to impeach him, including House Speaker Dade Phelan.

As a top Phelan deputy, Goldman was a target for Paxton’s ire.

“I don’t think you guys should promote this guy,” Paxton said at a campaign event for O’Shea.

O’Shea blasted Goldman for his role in the impeachment, which he characterized as a sham that “was very disgusting.”

O’Shea said he and Paxton were personal friends going back to Paxton’s time on the Texas House Banking and Finance Committee when O’Shea worked in community banking in North Texas.

After the race was called, O'Shea said "I hope Rep. Goldman will represent the people of Texas CD 12 in the manner he presented to them and pray for his success."

Goldman had powerful friends, too. Gov. Greg Abbott endorsed him as a “proven conservative fighter for Texas” and joined him at a campaign event in Fort Worth. Former Gov. Rick Perry and all of the district’s state senators also endorsed him.

Conservatives for American Excellence, a super PAC dedicated to preventing far-right candidates from winning office, spent over $600,000 in the race against O’Shea. It was one of the only two races in Texas the group spent in, the other being in the 26th district against Trump-acolyte and internet personality Brandon Gill. Gill won his March primary outright.

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