Highland Park businessman Phillip Huffines on Monday formed a campaign finance committee to run for the Texas Senate, where he hopes to join his twin brother, Don.
Huffines, 58, chairman of the Dallas County Republican Party, is running for the District 8 seat in the Senate. He’ll be moving into the mostly Collin County district from Dallas.
The seat is held by Republican Van Taylor of Plano, who will be a candidate to replace Republican Sam Johnson in the U.S. House.
“I believe that in order for North Texas to remain prosperous, we need a seasoned, experienced businessman who can transform a vision into a reality,” Huffines wrote in an email to Collin County voters. “I hope to visit with you over the next few months as I seek to earn your support. I look forward to a vibrant discussion on how we can continue to make our state an even better place for all of us.”
Johnson announced his retirement earlier this year, which set off a political chain reaction that will create the open seat in the Senate that is expected to draw a crowd, including two Texas House members from Collin County.
Phillip Huffines was expected to form an exploratory committee for a possible Senate bid. But after polling and other research by his political operatives, he opted to dispense with additional study and become the first person to become an official candidate for the Senate seat.
While he campaigns for the Senate, Huffines will remain chairman of the Dallas County Republican Party. His term will end shortly after the March 2018 primary.
Huffines was elected chairman of the local GOP last year, replacing unknown tea party activist Mark Montgomery.
Last year, Montgomery beat incumbent party leader Wade Emmert in a fluke election, but resigned months later when he was unable to raise money for the struggling party.
If successful, Phillip Huffines will join his brother, Dallas businessman Don Huffines, in the Senate.
Don Huffines was elected in 2014 after beating incumbent John Carona in a tough primary battle. He told The Dallas Morning News that his brother would have to “earn” a Senate seat and that serving with him “would be a hoot.”
The Dallas senator could face opposition in his re-election bid. State Rep. Jason Villalba, a harsh critic of Huffines, has weighing a campaign against the incumbent.
Meanwhile, Phillip Huffines is likely to have a bumpy road in the GOP Senate primary.
Veteran Texas House members Jeff Leach and Matt Shaheen of Plano are eyeing the seat, and others could enter the race.
Huffines is moving into the district to run for the seat, and rivals will cast him as an opportunist.
Taylor said he’s already being lobbied by constituents to get involved in picking his successor.
“There’s pressure on me to support a candidate from Collin County,” Taylor said.
Candy Noble, a member of the State Republican Executive Committee, questioned Huffines’ decision.
“We already have great talent in Senate District 8,” she said. “There’s no need for someone to move into the district.”
Collin County Commissioner Susan Fletcher agreed.
“Phillip Huffines campaigned for his current job as the Dallas County GOP chair less than a year ago,” she said. “It’s unfortunate that he would move from Highland Park into our district simply based on political expediency.”
But Huffines has some advantages. The Huffines family name is known in North Texas, and his car dealer brother, Ray Huffines, does business in Collin County.
Phillip Huffines also will be heavily financed with a combination of campaign donations and his own money.
The contest is widely anticipated to be Collin County’s most competitive and contentious in years.
The last two men to hold the seat, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and Taylor, ran unopposed in their GOP primaries.