Conservative Republicans Back Donna Davidson in Race Against Libertarian-Leaning Mike Toth

Toth backed by gay libertarian billionaire pushing Same-Sex Marriage & Marijuana Legalization

Texas Insider Report: AUSTIN, Texas — “Donna Davidson is a strong conservative who has the integrity, character, and legal qualifications to serve on the 3rd Court of Appeals. She will be a voice of common sense and I ask that you join me in supporting her campaign!” says Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar of Davidson’s capabilities for tomorrow’s run-off election.

Davidson’s opponent, libertarian-leaning and political newcomer Mike Toth (right,) has Texas conservatives worried about the influence of a $5,000 contribution from PayPal co-founder and California billionaire Peter Thiel flowing into Toth’s campaign coffers.

Thiel is a gay libertarian who has campaigned for same-sex marriage, marijuana legalization and other controversial measures.

Long-time Republican Party worker Donna Davidson, who has served as the Republican Party of Texas’ General Counsel after also having advised former Governors Rick Perry, George W. Bush and numerous other on legal and campaign matters over the years, is facing political newcomer Mike Toth in tomorrow’s run-off race for a seat on the powerful 3rd Court of Appeals.

But something you don’t see every day in Texas is taking place in the race for the 3rd Court o Appeals – Davidson’s opponent is actually embracing big out-of-state campaign contributions, considered unusual in a Texas judicial race.

To say that this has raised eyebrows would be an understatement.

The 3rd Court of Appeals, whose six current members are all Republicans, hears important State Government & Regulatory Cases due to its being based in Austin, where cases involving state government often originate because of the proximity to the State Capitol & Legislature in Austin. The court’s 24-county jurisdiction includes Travis County, where the Capitol and major government agencies are located.

Yet many Republicans worry that Toth, a special counsel in the Texas’ Attorney General’s office, has raised too much political money from out of state to adhere to the traditional way of Texas thinking. Close to one-third of Toth’s contributions for the race come from out of state, records show.

Former Texas Supreme Court Justice Tom Phillips, a Republican, said he’d “never seen anything quite like” a recent mailer sent out by Toth’s Campaign.

“I’m concerned anytime a judicial candidate suggests, even indirectly, that his or her election will lead to a particular policy outcome,” said Phillips.

Tactically speaking, its unusual for judicial candidates like Davidson and Toth – who typically promise to adhere to a certain “Judicial Philosophy,” while avoiding stating their personal positions on controversial social policy issues – to openly discuss an issue that could come before their court. Because Judicial races in Texas have typically been low-key affairs, often governed by different contribution limits, experts believe that out of state money could be a sign of things to come, particularly if Toth should win.

Mark Jones, a Rice University political scientist, said the source and size of Toth’s donations, plus his overt embrace of conservative policy positions, all make his campaign unusual. 

“It’s a new twist, but if it’s successful, it wouldn’t be surprising to see it become more common come 2020,” said Jones, warning that voters should brace for more candidates like Toth, should he be elected. 

“If the elected position on the ballot exercises power, then it makes perfect sense for people who want to influence the direction of that power to give money there. It’s a natural evolution of having direct election for judges,” said Jones.

One of the most peculiar dynamics about Tuesday’s Run-Off is the fact that one of controversial groups who have donated to Toth actually has an ethics-related case pending before the 3rd Court of Appeals, on which Toth may sit.

Empower Texans, whose oil-rich-money political action committee contributed $15,000 to Toth, has also endorsed him.

Davidson has won the race for Conservative Endorsements by statewide office holders, having earned the backing of:

  • Former Gov. Rick Perry
  • State Comptroller Glenn Hegar
  • State Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller
  • State Railroad Commissioner Wayne Christian
  • State Senator Brian Birdwell
  • State Rep. Jason Isaac
  • State Rep. Dan Flynn
  • State Rep. Tony Dale

Davidson is also backed by the:

  • Texas Alliance for Life
  • Young Conservatives of Texas
  • Hispanic Republicans of Texas
  • Williamson County Republican Leaders Club
  • Central Texas Republican Assembly
  • Texas Trucking Association

And another indication of the role big, out of state money is playing in the race, Toth’s donor and Florida Joel Lumer has also given Toth’s family $24,000 for their children’s college funds, as well as a Canon Ef 200mm camera lens and a “monetary gift” of $2,268 according to campaign records and personal financial statements filed with the Texas Ethics Commission.

Lumer, who Toth says is a “longtime friend,” contributed $5,000 to Toth for both the primary race, and another $5,000 for the run-off.

One of Toth’s other major non-Texas donors is former hedge fund manager John Thaler of Greenwich, Connecticut, who recently notified the Texas Ethics Commission that he plans to exceed the $5,000 expenditure cap the judicial candidates agreed to, which allows Toth’s opponents to ignore donation and expenditure limits.

While big wads of out-of-state money may have moved political newcomer Mike Toth ahead of long-time Republican Party worker Donna Davidson in the fundraising race for Tuesday’s 3rd Court of Appeals Run-Off, Railroad Commissioner Wayne Christian predicted, “I have known Donna Davidson for many years, and I wholeheartedly endorse her as a candidate for the Third Court of Appeals. Donna has the integrity, wisdom and experience to serve as a fair and impartial justice.

“Join with me in supporting Donna Davidson for the 3rd Court of Appeals, Place 6,” said Christian.


Source: Texas Politics

Conservative Republicans Back Donna Davidson in Race Against Libertarian-Leaning Mike Toth

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