Texas Gov. Greg Abbott on Monday endorsed a primary challenger to a fellow Republican, state Rep. Sarah Davis of West University Place, following through on his promise earlier this year to play a more aggressive role in the 2018 election season.

Abbott released a video throwing his support to Davis opponent Susanna Dokupil, who worked under Abbott when he was the state's attorney general. 

"We need leaders in Austin who will join me to build an even better future for Texas," Abbott said. "That's why I'm so proud to support Susanna Dokupil for state representative of House District 134 in Houston, Texas."

Davis, who chairs the House General Investigating and Ethics Committee, clashed with Abbott over the summer over the governor's decision not to include ethics reform among a list of 20 items he directed lawmakers to tackle during a special session. Heading into that special session, Abbott had raised the prospect that he could back challengers to incumbents who were less than supportive of his agenda.

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Dokupil, who served as assistant solicitor general in the attorney general's office, is the first person Abbott has endorsed this cycle who is a primary challenger to an incumbent.

In a statement following Abbott's endorsement of her opponent, Davis defended her record in the Legislature and predicted her district would be won by a Democrat if Dokupil defeated her in the GOP primary. 

“I have always voted my uniquely independent district, and when it comes to campaign season I have always stood on my own, which is why I outperformed Republicans up and down the ballot in the last mid-term election," Davis said. "Republican voters in HD 134 will not be told for whom to vote, and will not nominate a candidate who will be so easily defeated in the fall because they are a wholly-owned subsidiary of the extremist fringe group, Empower Texans."

Empower Texans is a conservative organization that has been critical of Davis and other allies of House Speaker Joe Straus, R-San Antonio. One of its affiliated groups, Texans for Fiscal Responsibility, has already endorsed a number of primary challengers to House incumbents next year but not Dokupil.

Abbott made his first endorsement in the 2018 House primaries last week, backing state Rep. Paul Workman, an Austin Republican who authored legislation for Abbott's special session agenda. Workman faces a primary challenger from his right, Jay Wiley.

Read related Tribune coverage:

  • Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez told the Tribune she is "in the exploratory process" of a possible run next year against Gov. Greg Abbott. [Full story]

  • "It has been a tough cycle to recruit candidates," former U.S. Housing Secretary Julián Castro said about the challenges for Texas Democrats in 2018. [Full story]

  • U.S. Rep. Ted Poe, R-Humble, announced that he would not seek another term in Congress next year, the third Texas Republican to do so in a week. [Full story]

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