Granger Goes Negative

(Granger Attack Ad)

By Jim Ellis

Feb. 17, 2020 — Veteran Texas Congresswoman Kay Granger (R-Ft. Worth) faces a serious Republican primary challenge that will be decided on March 3. With no public polling available, outside signs suggest the race is getting close. Otherwise, a 12-term incumbent would not be launching negative ads against her low name ID opponent.

Once the political domain of former US House Majority Leader Jim Wright (D), Texas’ 12th Congressional District has seen Granger dominate this area’s politics now for almost three decades. She became the first female mayor of Ft. Worth before winning her congressional seat in 1996, and now stands for a 13th term in the 2020 election.

The congresswoman’s GOP challenger is former Colleyville City Councilman Chris Putnam, who made himself wealthy in private business before running for political office. Putnam’s rise into politics is a familiar story. The local city council was blocking one of his business moves, so he decided to run himself and won. In the following election, he and his allies converted every seat on the panel. Putnam didn’t seek a second four-year term on the council, saying he had accomplished his original set of goals.

Now he is challenging Rep. Granger, even though his locality of Colleyville is not in the 12th District. Putnam raised significant money through the end of the year and has the wherewithal to add some more of his own should the situation call for such action. Of the $535,000-plus that he raised through the end of 2019, $250,000 was self-loaned.

For her part, Granger is taking this campaign seriously. She spent more than $1.1 million even before 2019 ended, and figures to spend whatever she needs to in 2020 to saturate her messages.

Controversy is swirling in this district. Granger’s son, J.D., is executive director of the Trinity River Vision Authority’s Panther Island project, which has a two-fold goal of solving a flood control problem while yielding re-development areas along a 12-mile stretch of the river that would eventually surround Ft. Worth’s central business district.

Through her position on the House Appropriations Committee, Granger was able to secure major funding. At this point, however, the project has failed to materialize despite hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars being invested, which is a point the local media repeatedly drives home.

Confusion and attacks are now surrounding her pro-life position. When the National Right to Life Committee and the Susan B. Anthony Fund endorsed Rep. Granger for her commitment to the pro-life cause, the Texas Right to Life organization took the opposite position. The local committee countered with a Putnam support ad that contains footage of the Congresswoman proclaiming her pro-choice position during an MSNBC interview (see ad below).

(Texas Right to Life Ad)

Now, Granger is striking back with her own negative ad (see ad at top) attacking Putnam as a carpetbagger and as a wealthy business owner once sued for fraud. She is also heavily publicizing her endorsement from President Trump, which has generally proved as a golden attribute for candidates in Republican primaries.

It is doubtful Granger’s vulnerabilities have risen to the point of endangering her re-nomination, but Putnam is a serious candidate who may be hitting his stride at the right time. The Club for Growth has endorsed the GOP challenger and will be spending significantly in this district to further create a negative image of the veteran incumbent.

More will become clear as we move closer to Election Day. For now, it appears that Rep. Granger will likely withstand the attacks and win re-nomination. The final result, however, will be much closer than we typically see. In fact, the last time the congresswoman faced primary opposition occurred in 2012, when she was re-nominated with over 80 percent of the Republican vote.

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