February 4, 2020

House Hopeful Could Get Trump Association Lift
with Rick Perry in Camp for Fight with Wilks Family

By Mike Hailey
Capitol Inside Editor

Jon Francis (R)
House District 60
30-Day Report: $16,275
Total Donations: $626,292
Campaign Loans: $40,936
Cash on Hand: $341,389
Glenn Rogers (R)
House District 60
30-day Report: $57,678
Total Donations: $161,904
Campaign Loans: $50,100
Cash on Hand: $93,302
Kellye SoRelle (R)
House District 60
30-Day Report: $760
Total Donations: $14,187
Campaign Loans: $0
Cash on Hand: $1,191
Christopher Perricone (R)
House District 60
30-Day Report: $760
Total Donations: $760
Campaign Loans: $0
Cash on Hand: $175

Source: Texas Ethics



Texan Rick Perry's intervention on an establishment Republican's behalf could have a game-changing effect in an open Texas House battle in a district where the chief primary foe is married to the leading tea party financier in the Lone Star State.

Perry - the former governor who'd been an original member of President Donald Trump's cabinet until stepping down last fall - will be giving GOP hopeful Glenn Rogers of Graford a critical boost when he campaigns for him later this week in House District 60.

Perry revealed his plans to stump for Rogers as the HD 60 contender revealed another major ally with a $30,000 contribution that he received from the Texas Farm Bureau's political action committee in January and reported to the state this week.

Perry's active support will effectively put the president in Rogers' corner for all practical purposes by virtue of his association with the White House as the energy secretary until stepping down last fall while still on good terms with Trump.

The ex-governor's emergence in the relatively rural district represents a significant setback for Jon Francis - a Cisco Republican who'd appeared to be the frontrunner in HD 60 with a massive infusion of cash from father-in-law Farris Wilks and other members of his wife's family after entering the competition belatedly in December.

Moderate Republicans had complained that Wilks had been attempting to buy the House seat after GOP State Rep. Mike Lang of Granbury paved the way for Francis' entry into the ring by waiting until the day after the December filing deadline to pull the plug on a re-election race. The timing of Lang's withdrawal prompted election officials to extend the deadline for filing for a spot on the primary ballot in HD 60 by a week. Francis signed up to run on the day that window closed on the expanded enrollment period.

Wilks has bankrolled the hard right in Texas since Perry won his final term as the state's chief executive in 2010. Lang had depended heavily on Wilks family money in two winning campaigns in HD 60. Establishment forces have raised the specter that Lang's decision not to run again after months of wavering had been choreographed in a way that would reduce the primary competition for Francis.

Granbury attorney Kellye SoRelle and Rogers had both been preparing to challenge Lang in the March 3 primary election before the turn of events that put Francis in their paths as a potentially insurmountable obstacle. Mineral Wells Mayor Christopher Perricone had entered the GOP primary field in HD 60 on the final day of the initial filing period.

Francis - an officer in the Wilks family fracking business - wasted no time seizing the favorite status when he raised more than $600,000 from contributors in the final two weeks of 2019 with most of that coming courtesy of his spouse's relatives.

But after rounding up more than $100,000 during the second half of last year for the HD 60 race, Rogers demonstrated that he had no plans to back down from Francis and the Wilks when he raised almost $58,000 in the first three weeks of January when he beefed up his war chest even more with a $50,000 loan.

Francis still has a monstrous money advantage on paper with more than $341,000 in the campaign bank heading into the final month before the primary election. Rogers reported a cash balance of more than $93,000 late last month on his latest report that the Texas Ethics Commission made public on Tuesday.

Perry could be an equalizer for Rogers as a supporter whose value can't be measured in dollar signs. Rogers, a veterinarian whose clinic is based in Mineral Wells, is a Texas A&M University graduate like Perry.

While Francis appears to have access to an unlimited amount of money, he probably would find that any additional funds that he raises would have a diminishing value in a state House race that will be unfolding in Trump's long shadow now with Perry taking sides in the fight.

The ex-energy secretary who ran for president twice entered the political arena in the 1980s as a Democrat in the Texas House that the state's current minority party still controlled at the time. Perry switched to the GOP in 1989 before a winning race for Texas agriculture commissioner the following year. Perry was elected lieutenant governor in 1998 before his ascension to the state's top job two years later in the wake of Republican George W. Bush's election as president.

SoRelle appears to be fading, however, after reporting only $760 in contributions in January when she had less than $1,200 in cash on hand on the 23rd day of the month. Perricone raised 73 cents more than SoRelle last month after submitting a December report that listed nothing but zeroes on the donations line.

But Perricone and SoRelle could play the spoiler's role if they garner enough support in the March primary vote to force a runoff that would most likely pit Rogers against Francis in the heavily Republican district where no Democrats are running in 2020.


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