On Monday, Republican State Rep. Rick Miller of Fort Bend made eye-popping comments accusing his primary opponents of running solely because of their ethnic background. Miller announced on Tuesday that he will no longer seek re-election.
“He’s a Korean,” Miller said of his opponent Jacey Jetton, the former chairman of the Fort Bend GOP, according to the Houston Chronicle. “He has decided because, because he is an Asian that my district might need an Asian to win. And that’s kind of racist in my mind. But anyway, that’s not necessary, at least not yet.”
Miller also said that another Republican primary challenger, Houston Fire Department Leonard Chan, “jumped in probably for the same reason.”
Jetton slammed the remarks.
“It has nothing to do with whether I’m part Korean or anything else, it’s just the fact that I’m showing up and the other communities are excited about that,” Jetton said. “I think it’s unfortunate he’s trying to make it a race thing when it’s really just being willing to communicate with anyone in the district.”
The chair of the Fort Bend GOP also condemned Miller’s remarks, calling on him to “strongly consider” dropping out.
Miller took the chair’s advice.
Fort Bend County is about one-fifth Asian, according to the Kinder Institute for Urban Research.
Miller’s comments are the latest in a series of questionable actions and remarks made by Texas Republicans over the past year. This is creating challenges for the GOP in Texas as it grapples with its diversity problems amid the state’s changing demographics.
Fort Bend provides a microcosm of the GOP’s diversity problem. Traditionally a Republican stronghold, the county has shifted to Democrats in the wake of a more multi-racial and diverse electorate. The 2018 midterms elections ended in a near-sweep for the Democrats at the local level and the sole Republican survivor did not face a Democratic challenger.
Miller won re-election in 2018, but he did so by less than 5 points compared to 40 points in 2014 and 15 points in 2016. Miller represents one of the nine Republican-held districts that voted for Beto O’Rourke and is thus a prime target in the Democratic effort to flip the Texas House.
“I’m very fearful we’ll lose this in 2020,” Jetton told the Chronicle.