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Prominent anti-LGBTQ+ attorney and former Harris County GOP chair Jared Woodfill is running for the Texas House and to replace House Speaker Dade Phelan.
Woodfill announced his candidacy for House District 138 this week, touting his legal challenges to COVID-19 mandates and LGBTQ+ legislation, and the four “Republican sweeps” that Harris County Republicans saw during his tenure as the local GOP’s leader from 2002 to 2014.
He’s running against incumbent Republican Rep. Lacey Hull, who was first elected to represent the northwest Houston district in 2020 with backing from Gov. Greg Abbott and U.S. Rep. Dan Crenshaw, R-Houston. Hull was ranked as one of the most conservative members of the Texas House this year based on an analysis of voting records by Rice University political scientist Mark Jones.
Woodfill’s campaign has already tried to frame Hull as a Republican in Name Only — RINO — by citing D ratings from two conservative activist groups. His campaign also accuses her of conspiring with Phelan — a longtime nemesis of Woodfill and other ultraconservative Texas Republicans — to “undermine” conservative legislation and impeach Attorney General Ken Paxton.
“The entire episode was an example of why ‘RINOs’ in Austin must be voted out of office,” Woodfill’s campaign website states. “Woodfill will be ready on Day 1 to bring decency back to HD 138, and return our conservative grassroots values back to the Texas House of Representatives.”
Woodfill and Hull could not be reached for comment Friday.
Woodfill has for years been at the helm of conservative Christian and anti-LGBTQ+ movements in Houston and Texas. In 2015, he and well-known Houston GOP powerbroker and anti-gay activist Dr. Steven Hotze played key roles in the defeat of an ordinance that would have extended equal rights protections to LGBTQ+ Houstonians, during which they compared gay people to Nazis and helped popularize “groomer” rhetoric.
The two have remained close, leading a pro-Paxton fundraising group during the attorney general’s impeachment this summer and spearheading legal challenges to COVID-19 closure mandates and election results in Harris County. Woodfill is also representing Hotze in a criminal investigation stemming from a 2020 incident in which a private investigator, allegedly acting at Hotze’s behest, held at gunpoint an air-conditioning repairman who he believed was transporting fake ballots.
Woodfill has faced his own legal issues: He has for years been at the center of an ongoing lawsuit in which a man accuses Woodfill’s former law partner and Southern Baptist leader Paul Pressler of decades of sexual abuse. In March, The Texas Tribune reported that Woodfill testified under oath that he was alerted in 2004 about child sexual abuse allegations against Pressler, who Woodfill was representing at the time in an assault lawsuit that was settled for $450,000. Despite that, Woodfill continued to work with Pressler, providing him with a string of young, male personal assistants who worked out of Pressler’s home. The lawsuit is set for trial early next year.
In 2018, Woodfill was also investigated for money laundering by the Harris County District Attorney’s Office after being accused of misappropriating funds from two clients of his law firm, though no charges were filed.
Hull cruised to reelection in HD 138 last year, beating her Democratic opponent Stephanie Morales by 15 percentage points — or about 8,000 votes.
Disclosure: Rice University has been a financial supporter of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribune's journalism. Find a complete list of them here.