DENTON, Texas (AP) — A Dallas salon owner who was sent to jail for defying coronavirus lockdown orders and became a symbol of conservative angst over COVID-19 restrictions advanced to a runoff for a Texas Senate seat on Tuesday night.
Republican Shelley Luther finished in a virtual dead heat with four-term Republican state Rep. Drew Springer as both advanced. Luther had 31.7% of the vote in a special election to fill a vacated seat in a heavily Republican North Texas district. Springer, a Muenster tax consultant, tallied 31.83% of the vote. Jacob Minter, the lone Democrat in the six-candidate race and an electrician heading up a quality control team for a union in Sherman, finished third with 21.06% of the vote.
The district reaches from Stephenville and the northern suburbs of Dallas and Fort Worth to Wichita Falls and the Red River.
Luther’s springboard into politics came in May when she spent about two days in jail for refusing to shut down her salon despite Republican Gov. Greg Abbott’s emergency orders. She received $500,000 in donations with the help of conservative activists at a time when protests over COVID-19 restrictions unfolded across the country.
She has hammered Abbott and effectively made her campaign a referendum on the governor’s handling of the pandemic. Nationwide, other GOP candidates are also counting on lingering voter resentment of lockdown orders to help boost them into office, at a time when President Donald Trump’s reelection may hinge on persuading voters that the worst is behind America.
A date for the runoff election has not yet been scheduled. The winner will succeed Republican Pat Fallon, who resigned to run for a seat in the U.S. House.