Davidsons opponent libertarian-leaning and political newcomer Mike Toth (right) has Texas conservatives worried about the influence of a $5000 contribution from PayPal co-founder and California billionaire Peter Thiel flowing into Toths 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 tomorrows run-off race for a seat on the powerful 3rd Court of Appeals. But something you dont see every day in Texas is taking place in the race for the 3rd Court o Appeals Davidsons 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 courts 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 Generals 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 Toths contributions for the race come from out of state records show.
Former Texas Supreme Court Justice Tom Phillips a Republican said hed never seen anything quite like" a recent mailer sent out by Toths Campaign.
Im 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 Toths donations plus his overt embrace of conservative policy positions all make his campaign unusual.
Its a new twist but if its successful it wouldnt 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. Its a natural evolution of having direct election for judges" said Jones.One of the most peculiar dynamics about Tuesdays 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 $15000 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
- Texas Alliance for Life
- Young Conservatives of Texas
- Hispanic Republicans of Texas
- Williamson County Republican Leaders Club
- Central Texas Republican Assembly
- Texas Trucking Association