Texas Legislature

Shelley Luther on the Offensive after Abbott Endorses her Texas Senate Opponent

Shelley Luther walks over to speak to the media and supporters after she was released from jail in Dallas on May 7.
Shelley Luther walks over to speak to the media and supporters after she was released from jail in Dallas on May 7. AP Photo/LM Otero
Gov. Greg Abbott may have officially endorsed her opponent on Tuesday, but state Senate hopeful Shelley Luther doesn’t care. As her latest campaign flyer shows, she can always fall back on her art chops anyway.

Abbott’s endorsement of Muenster state Rep. Drew Springer comes as the Dec. 19 run-off election nears for Senate District 30, which covers 14 counties including parts of Denton and Collin counties. Luther led Springer by 164 votes in a September special election.

In a tweet on Tuesday, the Dallas hair salon owner reminded followers of her longstanding beef with the Texas governor.

“We have expected from day one that the establishment would pull out all the stops, spending well over a million dollars, much of which is coming from liberal lobbyists and even a Democrat billionaire donor,” Luther wrote, in part. “This is all an effort to give Drew Springer a promotion and keep a fighter like me out.”
For those needing a refresher, Luther was briefly jailed earlier this year after she flouted an executive order closing her business and countless others to slow COVID-19 transmissions. The move transformed her into a conservative heroine, and she soon announced her bid for the Senate seat vacated by Republican Congressman-elect Pat Fallon.

Luther has made a name for herself as an outspoken Abbott critic since her brush with the justice system, so Tuesday’s fiery statement didn’t come as a surprise. What did, though, was the dramatic campaign flyer, which reads in all-capital red letters: “ON DECEMBER 19TH, IT’S TIME TO CHOOSE.”
Draining the swamp one mask-wearer at a time. - SHELLEY LUTHER/TWITTER
Draining the swamp one mask-wearer at a time.
Shelley Luther/Twitter
On the right side of the flyer, the sun is shining. Luther and outgoing President Donald Trump stand in front of a hay-filled pasture and what appears to be a grazing horse. She beams. He smirks. Professional art designers and photographers die a little inside to see what technology in the hands of amateurs has done to their crafts.

Darkness enshrouds the flyer’s left, where Abbott and Springer appear in grayscale, submerged in a woefully undrained swamp. Oh yeah, and they’re both wearing masks, as one naturally does when wading in swamps.

Luther didn’t respond to requests for comment, so we can only speculate as to what she meant by her flyer’s eye-grabbing juxtaposition and rich use of symbolism. Still, its meaning seems clear: Abbott and Springer are valiantly and bemaskedly tackling the morass of governing a divided nation during a pandemic while Luther surrounds herself with a horse and jackass while traipsing about in a field of horseshit.

Or it could mean Trump good, masks bad. We don't speak Republican, so we're not sure.

Although many conservative pundits and politicians have mocked mask usage, that type of anti-mask rhetoric may be falling out of favor, said Mark Jones, a political science professor at Rice University. Republicans’ antipathy toward mask-wearing has waned as the pandemic continues to rage.

“If [Abbott's endorsement] brings over 1,000 more people who will now come out and vote, that could be the difference between victory and defeat." – Mark Jones, political science professor

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Many of Luther's Facebook supporters seemed unmoved by the news of Abbott’s endorsement.

“Swamp creatures vs. a breath of fresh air!! Shelley Luther for Senate!” one person said in a comment.

“We need common sense in Austin! Gov Abbott puts the Abbot [sic] back in Abbott and Costello!” wrote another.

Springer did not respond to a request for comment.

Abbott’s endorsement likely won’t change the race’s dynamics much because it was already apparent that the governor preferred Springer, Jones said. Most dyed-in-the-wool Republicans recognize Springer’s proven conservative track record, one that Jones said Luther lacks.

The governor has lost some love since the pandemic hit, Jones said; liberals are upset he hasn’t imposed stricter safety mandates and conservatives are angry he’s enforced any at all. Still, the majority of Texans are more in sync with Abbott than they are Luther, Jones said.

Meanwhile, Luther has earned some die-hard fans in recent months who may actually make the effort to hit the ballot box once more, Jones said. The results will boil down to voter turnout in the end, which is typically much lower during runoffs.

Even if Abbott’s endorsement isn’t a total game-changer, Jones said, it may still hold enough weight to deliver Springer a win.

“If he brings over 1,000 more people who will now come out and vote, that could be the difference between victory and defeat,” he said.
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Simone Carter, a staff news reporter at the Dallas Observer, graduated from the University of North Texas' Mayborn School of Journalism. Her favorite color is red, but she digs Miles Davis' Kind of Blue.
Contact: Simone Carter