Lisa Luby Ryan’s Victory Is a Landmark Win for Faith and Family
If one ever needed proof that Texans voter their values, look no further than Texas Values Action endorsed Lisa Luby Ryan’s victory in State House District 114, an urban district in north Dallas that has historically been friendly to incumbents.
Lisa Luby Ryan, an interior designer and grassroots leader who firmly committed to standing up for religious liberty and marriage, privacy protection, and the rights of the unborn, handily defeated incumbent Rep. Jason Villalba 53-47 percent in the March 6 Republican Primary. In contrast, Villalba had a record of repeatedly voting against family values and against the Republican Party platform, as well as making spectacles of that opposition.
Ryan will go on to face Democratic nominee John Turner in November. Looking back at last week’s primary, here’s why Ryan’s victory matters to the future of faith and family issues in Texas.
1) Voters in an urban Dallas district chose a faith and family candidate. Voters in an urban Dallas district chose a faith and family candidate over and entrenched incumbent. Ryan made no secret about her support for religious liberty and privacy protections, being “100% pro life”, nor of her passionate support for issues important to Texas families, like school choice. She was happy to tell anyone about her membership in Gateway Church, one of the largest evangelical churches in Texas, and her pastor stood by her. Ryan was also known for her Christian testimony, sharing her redemption story on I Am Second. Informed voters knew they were getting not only a strong Christian in Ryan but a socially conservative one.
2.) Voters in an urban Dallas district rejected outspoken opposition to faith and family policies. Rep. Villalba scored a failing 48 percent on our 2017 Faith & Family Scorecard (down from 66 percent the session prior). His voting record did not align with the platform of the Republican Party of Texas platform, either: Villalba voted against religious freedom for faith-based child welfare providers (in opposition to plank 104); he refused to support protecting privacy for women and girls (see plank 87); if that wasn’t enough, he voted to actually punish business owners for not allowing men into women’s intimate facilities (see plank 79); he voted to stop protecting unborn children (plank 94), and he voted against religious freedom for attorneys (see plank 84). In a primary in which more than 90 percent of statewide GOP voters supported a referendum to protect privacy, it is easy to see why the voters were upset with Villalba.
3.) There is no “blue wave” certain to wipe out social conservatives. In the Texas Senate and House, every Texas Values Action endorsed incumbent that supported the Texas Privacy Act won their election. Ryan’s win was no different. Statewide, as Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick pointed out, Republican voters drew in 1.5 million voters as compared to a million Democratic voters, dispelling projections of a “blue wave” wiping out conservatives in the primary and many Republicans in November. As a matter of fact, Sen. Ted Cruz with four challengers on the Republican ballot collected more votes (1.3 million) than the three Democrat candidates combined (1.04 million).
4.) Values won over name recognition. Villalba was cast as an ineffective, back-bench legislator in Ryan’s campaign materials. But the incumbent had no difficulty making headlines frequently for his stinging critiques of President Donald Trump and opposition to the more conservative Freedom Caucus wing of the House. Villalba’s tough-talking antics on Twitter, even against grassroots activists and bloggers, drew plenty of attention — the question was whether it would play well with his constituents (apparently it did not).
5.) Local money equals local support. According to our previous analysis, 80 percent of Ryan’s individual contributions came from donors within Dallas County. By contrast, outgoing and recently censured Texas House Speaker Joe Straus (who killed the Texas Privacy Act) donated significant money to Villalba’s campaign, along with several statewide associations and lobby groups. That Ryan was able to out-raise Villalba with mostly local support shows that district was ready for a change in representation in Austin and were eager to hand the seat over to someone whose values more closely aligned with the voters’ priorities.
Ryan’s victory is a good signal of things to come in upcoming elections. Though Villalba was once hailed “the future” of the Republican Party, North Dallas voters charted a new course on Tuesday – a future in which religious liberty flourishes, families prosper, and every human life is valued.