Days after Democratic lieutenant governor candidate Mike Collier released his first TV ad, a survey of Texas voters from the Dallas Morning News and University of Texas at Tyler found that state Rep. Michelle Beckley leads Collier by double digits, 31 to 19 percent.
Collier is a Houston-area accountant who first ran for lieutenant governor in 2018 and came within five points of defeating incumbent Republican Dan Patrick. Beckley is a North Texas business owner who was elected to the legislature after defeating a Republican incumbent in 2018.
Both canidates support expanding Medicaid in the state, fixing the power grid, and protecting abortion.
While the poll showed most Texans don’t know either candidate, Beckley’s favorability in the poll is surprising considering her second-place finish in the March primary, which saw Collier receive 42 percent of the vote and Beckley receive 30 percent.
Another DMN-UTT poll from January also showed Collier running behind Beckley, but little of the survey would end up materializing by primary election day.
Still, the numbers returned by the recent polling on the race are eye-opening considering Collier’s significant fundraising advantage and endorsements from Beckley’s statehouse colleagues. The state’s major newspapers, and groups like the Texas AFL-CIO, Planned Parenthood Texas Votes and Texas American Federation of Teachers have also endorsed Collier.
Between Feb. 20 and May 14, Beckley raised $12,499 in campaign contributions while Collier raised $487,963 — a 39 to 1 fundraising advantage.
Outside of fundraising challenges, Beckley appears to be facing repeated backlash from former staffers.
André Treiber, a DNC member and veteran legislative staffer in Austin, recently penned a Facebook post about other staffer’s experiences working under Beckley. In a message to the Signal, Treiber said he spoke on behalf of several staffers and Democrats from her district who feared reprisal.
“She is an awful employer whose tenure has been marked with high turnover and mistreatment of staff,” Treiber wrote, accusing Beckley of being tone deaf and racially insensitive, as well as being an ineffective legislator and public speaker.
Former staff members for Beckley, including her former chief of staff, also took to Twitter to endorse Collier.
“I stayed quiet about her abuse until very recently when I also endorsed @CollierForTexas,” Beckley’s former chief of staff wrote.
It is highly unusual for issues like this to spill out in public view from the tight-knit community of staffers that keep legislative offices afloat, and sources in the legislature tell the Signal that Beckley openly infuriated her fellow Democratic lawmakers and their staff during last summer’s quorum break, when Democratic legislators escaped Texas to fight for national action to protect voting rights.
At a time when many members were pushing for a full-court press and actively lobbying members of the U.S. House and Senate to take action on voting rights, Beckley alone committed an act seen as serving her own self interest: she took the time to shoot a television ad announcing that she would be running for Congress in North Texas, despite having just been awarded Texas Monthly’s “Furniture” award, a distinction reserved for the most underwhelming legislators.
Sources that we spoke with have described that decision as a line in the sand, and Beckley’s relationships in the legislature never fully recovered. Months later, Texas Republicans redrew the district Beckley filed to run in, forcing her into a heavily Republican district instead. It was at that point Beckley decided to aim for statewide office.
For his part, Collier seems undeterred by the polling and has planned an active final week of the runoff, with one source telling us Collier’s is already lining up meetings with important Democratic donors and power brokers to follow next week’s runoff should he secure the nomination.
Early voting for the race began Monday. Election day is May 24.
Fernando covers Texas politics and government at the Texas Signal. Before joining the Signal, Fernando spent two years at the Houston Chronicle and previously interned at Houston’s NPR station News 88.7. He is a graduate of the University of Houston, Jack J. Valenti School of Communication, and enjoys reading, highlighting things, and arguing on social media. You can follow him on Twitter at @fernramirez93 or email at email@example.com