At this time two years ago, it was unclear if U.S. Rep. Kay Granger, R-Fort Worth — one of the most well-known figures in Tarrant County politics — would survive a primary challenge from the right. Former Colleyville city councilman Chris Putnam earned national headlines for his well-funded campaign against Granger, the most senior Republican woman in the House.
Now, just days away from the beginning of early voting in the primary, Granger faces an unobstructed path to a 14th term representing Texas’ 12th Congressional District, where she is one of two Republican women representing Texas in Congress.
Her two primary challengers, political newcomers Alysia Rieg and Ryan Catala, have raised funds in the hundreds of dollars, not the $1 million or so necessary to be a viable contender, according to TCU political science professor James Riddlesperger. Incumbents are re-elected with “astonishing regularity,” and without name recognition it’s nearly impossible to win, he said.
Early voting starts on Monday, Feb. 14. Election Day is Tuesday, March 1. To find more information about polling places and voting by mail, visit Tarrant County’s elections website.
Riddlesperger referred to Granger as the “Dwight Eisenhower of Fort Worth,” known more for her service as Fort Worth mayor in the 1990s than for her identity as a Republican. A spokesperson for Granger did not respond to multiple interview requests.
“She has a popularity that transcends political party in a time when that is a really unique characteristic,” Riddlesperger said. “While Granger has been a very loyal Republican in her time in Washington, there are a lot of people in Fort Worth that remember when she was just a problem solver and not a ‘Republican’ problem solver.”
Putnam, whose most notable supporters included Tarrant County Sheriff Bill Waybourn, announced his intention to campaign against Granger again last fall, but dropped out before the filing deadline in December. He did not respond to interview requests, but wrote on Facebook that his “family has different personal priorities for our next chapter.”
“I will continue to be very active in politics as an activist, donor and influencer continuing our fight for better government and to protect our conservative values with all of you,” Putnam wrote on Dec. 14.
The political playing field has shifted significantly since Putnam’s challenge in 2020, Riddlesperger said. Republicans are on the cusp of retaking control of the House after the 2022 election, which is not unusual during the midterm elections of a president’s first term, he said.
Meet the candidates
Incumbent Kay Granger will face Ryan Catala and Alysia Rieg in the Republican primary. Trey Hunt is running unopposed for the Democratic nomination.
If Republicans gain the majority in the House, Granger would move from minority leader to chair of the powerful House Appropriations Committee, which approves all federal spending legislation. Riddlesperger suspects that this calculus played a role in Putnam’s decision not to run this year.
“Obviously there’s a huge incentive for Fort Worth to re-elect a member of Congress who is going to be in charge of a $4.5 trillion budget and can redirect some of that money in our direction,” Riddlesperger said. “Even if people are not entirely enamored of Kay Granger, they don’t want to do anything that would jeopardize Fort Worth’s growing influence in Congress.”
Granger’s Democratic opponent in November is already set. Trey Hunt, a 27-year-old homeless outreach specialist, is running unopposed in the Democratic primary and will face an uphill battle against the incumbent. Hunt previously worked on the campaign of Lisa Welch, the Democrat who lost to Granger by more than 100,000 votes in 2020.
“I provide a very unique experience in that I was born and raised in this district,” Hunt said in an interview. “I’m a more accurate representation of the ideology that the district now has.”
Hunt is also critical of Granger “reaping the benefits” of infrastructure funding while voting against the $1 trillion bill that sent billions to infrastructure projects across the U.S. For more than a decade, Granger championed the Panther Islander/Central City flood control project which received more than $400 million in federal dollars last month.
“Other than Nancy Pelosi, she’s probably the most important woman in Congress and certainly within the Republican caucus,” Riddlesperger said. “If she was able to swing getting funding for Fort Worth while she was the leader of the minority in the Appropriations Committee, imagine what she might be able to bring to Fort Worth and north Texas as chair.”
Haley Samsel is the environmental reporter for the Fort Worth Report. Her position is supported by a grant from the Marilyn Brachman Hoffman Foundation. Contact her by email or via Twitter. At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.