Texas Republican in Primary Fight Takes Lead in Slamming Pelosi

Rep Kay Granger‘s sponsorship of a resolution denouncing Speaker Nancy Pelosi‘s tearing up a copy of President Donald Trump’s State of the Union address may help shore up Republican support against a primary opponent, strategists from her home state of Texas said.

Democrats on Thursday tabled the resolution (H. Res. 832) that Republicans rallied behind in response to Pelosi’s dramatic gesture when Trump finished his address Tuesday night.

Granger took the lead on the resolution less than a month before she will face Chris Putnam, a technology company executive, in a March 3 primary. Granger, the ranking Republican on the Appropriations Committee, has faced criticism that she’s not been sufficiently fiscally conservative or loyal enough to Trump.

Sponsoring a resolution is a sign Granger is taking Putnam more seriously than past challengers, said Brendan Steinhauser, a Texas GOP strategist who called the matchup “the marquee primary” on the Republican side.

(Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Rep. Kay Granger

The resolution disparaging Pelosi is a “timely red-meat issue” playing to larger feelings of frustration among conservatives toward Pelosi, Steinhauser said.

“It’s a good time to say, ‘Look, I’m with you,’” he added. “It’s a shrewd move on her part.”

Granger’s sponsoring of the measure is meant to signal to her constituents she is loyal to the president, said Matt Mackowiak, a Texas-based Republican consultant.

“As popular as Trump is among Republican primary voters, Pelosi is equally unpopular,” he said. “Anything you do to criticize or push back against what she’s saying will be well-received.”

Granger’s sponsorship of the resolution wasn’t related to her primary campaign, said spokeswoman Sarah Flaim.

“This was an official action she took as Representative of the 12th Congressional District of Texas, and she did it because it was the right thing to do,” Flaim said.

Granger said Pelosi’s actions were “disparaging” especially toward Trump’s guests for the evening who were referenced in his speech, which included a student and her mother and members of the military.

“Her ripping up the speech is also ripping up their careers,” Granger told reporters shortly after the vote. The resolution called Pelosi’s action “a breach of decorum and degraded the proceedings of the joint session, to the discredit of the House.”

Budget Backer

Granger is one of the few Republicans facing a strong primary challenge this cycle. The Club for Growth plans to spend more than $2 million backing Putnam, according to a spokesman.

“She supposedly opposes Pelosi on impeachment but has spent years voting for Pelosi’s budget busting spending bills,” David McIntosh, the group’s president, said in a statement. “If Granger had torn up Pelosi’s budgets instead of blindly supporting them, Texas conservatives would not be outraged with her record on spending.”

A radio ad from the group said Granger “trash-talked President Trump” — a reference to 2016 when she called for Trump to remove himself as the Republican nominee for president after an Access Hollywood tape showed him making vulgar comments about women.

Granger has supported Trump as president, praising him for supporting military funding and protecting the border. Trump gave Granger his “Complete and Total Endorsement!” in a December tweet. The Congressional Leadership Fund has run several ads in her district, touting Trump’s support for Granger.

Granger began the year with more than $773,000 in cash on hand, compared to Putnam’s $407,000, according to filings with the Federal Election Commission.

Mackowiak said he expects Granger to prevail in the primary given her history as mayor of Fort Worth and Trump’s stamp of approval.

“The longer you’re in Congress, the more vulnerable you are to an outsider coming after you at the right time,” he said. “This will be a test case as to whether this is the right time.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Emily Wilkins in Washington at ewilkins@bgov.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Bennett Roth at broth@bgov.com; Kyle Trygstad at ktrygstad@bgov.com