Piece of Mind: Slaton Walks Narrow Path to Defeat Flynn

Jul 17, 2020

By John Kanelis

I admit to having trouble understanding how this campaign played out.

State Rep. Dan Flynn is among the most conservative members of the Texas House of Representatives. He has earned the highest praise imaginable from conservative political activists … yet somehow, he ran into an opponent who said Flynn isn’t “conservative enough.”

Then the Texas House District 2 Republican got beat by Bryan Slaton, who campaigned to the right of Rep. Flynn. My confusion rests in trying to understand how Slaton managed to perform the mother of all political tightrope walks.

Slaton won the GOP primary runoff and now will face Democratic challenger Bill Brannon this fall. Slaton will be the prohibitive favorite to keep the solidly Republican district in GOP hands.

Flynn is an avid supporter of Donald Trump. He stakes out many far-right-wing views on a whole array of issues: church/state separation, gun control, abortion. You name it, Flynn takes the right-wing view.

And yet …

Slaton managed to paint Flynn as some sort of squishy GOP moderate, a guy who fostered good relationships with two speakers of the Texas House, both of whom are believed to be political moderates. Former Speaker Joe Straus has left the Legislature after the 2017 session; the current speaker, Dennis Bonnen, will leave the House after this fall’s election, as he chose to forgo another term in the House.

This is just me, but I find that portrayal kind of weird. I disagree with Flynn’s ideology, but I find nothing wrong with reaching good working relationships with politicians who hold differing views. I mean, there is something called “the common good” that at times requires competing ideologies to set aside their differences in search of the same goal.

Slaton managed to win the endorsement and the work of a group called Empower Texans, the right-wing political action committee that tends to meddle in Republican Party primary fights. Empower Texans did so in the House District 2 contest and their guy managed to win. It is interesting to me that Empower Texans isn’t known for its spirit of compromise. Thus, it threw its support behind a candidate who, I think it is safe to presume, will adhere to Empower Texans’ hard line on all legislative matters.

So, my question would be: Will the constituents who live in House District 2 be well served on all matters by an elected lawmaker who will not bend – even just a little – if the district’s well-being is at stake?

John Kanelis, former editorial page editor for the Amarillo Globe-News and the Beaumont Enterprise, is also a former blogger for Panhandle PBS in Amarillo. He is now retired, but still writing. Kanelis can be contacted via Twitter @jkanelis, on Facebook, or his blog, Kanelis' blog for KETR, "Piece of Mind," presents his views, and does not necessarily reflect the opinion of KETR, its staff, or its members.

Kanelis lives in Princeton with his wife, Kathy.