Remember Shelley Luther, the Dallas salon owner who reopened her business during the coronavirus shutdown? She decided to turn her story into action and is running for a seat in the Texas State Senate. Tuesday night, she earned a spot in the run-off for that seat.
While everyone else was consumed with the presidential debate, a special election race was being held in the Dallas area. Sen. Pat Fallon (R-Prosper) is running for Congress so his seat has been vacated. The district is a solidly red district and stretches to the northwest around Dallas-Fort Worth. With 100% of precincts reporting, she and state Rep. Drew Springer of Muenster ended in a dead heat. The third-place finisher was the only Democrat running.
This is an impressive showing by Shelley Luther. The campaign was accelerated, with only about a month available for her to introduce herself to voters and make her case for why she should hold the office. Since neither outright won, Governor Abbott will have to set the date for a run-off between the two Republicans. Springer already represents a portion of Senate District 30. He said his strong performance in those areas Tuesday shows that constituents approve of his job performance. It is mostly a rural area.
“There’s a clear understanding they know who I am,” said Springer, who has spent four terms in the Texas House. “As we go forward, now we will have more time to visit with the folks in SD30.”
It’s not good news for Governor Abbott. She is striking a chord with business owners, especially small business owners like herself, who are suffering over coronavirus lockdown orders. Springer had to campaign against an unconventional Republican candidate who openly criticized the governor. She called him a tyrant on the campaign trail.
Luther, whose refusal to shutter her Dallas hair salon launched her into the national spotlight, has built her campaign for state Senate on defying COVID-19 shutdown orders.
She pitched herself to the crowd as a normal person like them, who would take their fight to Austin, even if it means going up against the state’s Republican leader.
“I’m embarrassed that we’ve been shut down that long, that our tyrant governor has embarrassed us completely,” she said.
When she defied Governor Abbott’s lockdown orders, she was issued a citation. She tore up the citation when it was issued. She was found in civil and criminal contempt of court for ignoring a restraining order. Dallas Civil District Judge Eric Moyé ordered Luther to seven days in jail and fined her $500 for every day the salon stayed open. She was given the opportunity to apologize and not serve any time in jail but she refused to do so. She went on to explain to the judge why she reopened.
“If you would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge that your actions were selfish, putting your own interest ahead of those in the community in which you live,” Moyé said to Luther inside the courtroom Tuesday.
“I have to disagree with you sir, when you say that I’m selfish because feeding my kids is not selfish,” she said. “I have hairstylists that are going hungry because they’d rather feed their kids. So sir, if you think the law is more important than kids being fed then please go ahead with your decision but I’m not going to shut the salon.”
Abbott released a statement at the time which disagreed with the judge putting Shelley in jail. He quickly understood that she had the sympathies of Texans as a woman operating a small business, trying to support her children.
“As I have made clear through prior pronouncements, jailing Texans for non-compliance with executive orders should always be the last available option,” he said. “Compliance with executive orders during this pandemic is important to ensure public safety; however, surely there are less restrictive means to achieving that goal than jailing a Texas mother.”
Governor Abbott reopened salons and barbershops shortly after all this happened. Senator Ted Cruz was supportive of her and enjoyed some publicity for going to her salon for a haircut.
Megadonor Tim Dunn, who backs conservative challengers to office-holders he deems not conservative enough, is backing Shelley. Springer had to spend the last part of the campaign in quarantine because his wife tested positive for the virus. Abbott didn’t endorse in the race. Voters in the district can look forward to more unconventional speech from her. She proudly says she is not a politician and embraces her outsider status.
“I never admitted to being a politician, but when it came down to who had the cojones when we were completely shut down and people were committing suicide, I stood up,” Luther said.