State House candidate Jason Villalba — battling in a GOP runoff to represent Lake Highlands and North Dallas — brought out his heavyweight support Friday at a fundraiser hosted by fellow Dallas attorney Joe Garza.
Villalba, who’s running his first political campaign, faces former state Rep. Bill Keffer in the July 31 runoff. He enters the last few weeks of the campaign as the underdog, having finished second in the May primary.
But even though the low turnout election could favor Keffer, who’s more well-known among voters, Villalba predicted he would prevail.
Headlining the event was U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, who, receiving a standing ovation when introduced, championed Villalba as a thoughtful, but steadfast conservative and noted how rare it was for her to jump in such a race.
“Not one other person in the state of Texas have I endorsed in the primary, even though I’ve been asked a lot,” she told the crowd of about 50 people that gathered at the Highland Park home of attorney Joe Garza. “The reason is he’s the future.”
Vallalba said there’s a “clear distinction” between him and Keffer, in terms of leadership style. He said he wants to focus on “people, not partisanship.”
And while Keffer has staked his campaign on being the “true conservative,” Villalba said voters are looking for a representative who will best serve the community.
Keffer, who represented the old District 107 from 2003 to 2006, said in a phone interview that he agrees there are differences in how they would approach the job.
He said he makes no apologies for being perceived as a hard-line Republican, and he jabbed at Villalba’s more consensus-building ways. “I’m a little puzzled about Jason’s emphasis on reaching across the aisle,” Keffer said.
To prove his confidence, Villalba joked about the extra prayer he planned to make on the morning of Election Day.
“Lord, keep me well-rested tonight because we’re going to have one heck of a victory party,” he said.
Hutchison, along with state Sen. Florence Shapiro, echoed Villalba’s sentiment that there needs to be a different kind of leadership coming into both Austin and Washington.
Shapiro said government needs more problem solvers, not a bigger crowd of people who will just say, “No.”
And Hutchison said Villalba is just the candidate to fit that bill.
“As I’m on the exit ramp,” she said, “I want to make sure the next generation coming in are the right kind of people who are thoughtful and … who know the community.”
Hutchison then nodded at Villalba and added, “And I know that God will give you energy for that victory party.”