By Jasper Scherer - December 9, 2019
Republican Fort Bend County Sheriff Troy Nehls announced Saturday he is running for Congress, joining a crowded field of candidates vying to replace retiring U.S. Rep. Pete Olson.
Nehls made the announcement on the conservative morning show “Fox & Friends,” then kicked off his campaign at Freedom Hall in Richmond Saturday evening.
“I have a passion for border security. I see our broken system,” Nehls told a packed crowd of supporters. “Make no mistake folks, it's been this way for decades, under not only Democrat leadership but Republican leadership. Nobody seems to ever want to do anything about it. But now we have a president in President Trump that said, you know what, we're gonna build a wall.”
Nehls’ announcement comes more than four months after Olson, R-Sugar Land, announced in July he would not seek a seventh term representing the district, which covers parts of Fort Bend and Brazoria counties and a sliver of south Harris County.
Nine Republicans have filed for the seat, according to the Texas Secretary of State, ahead of Monday’s filing deadline. At least three Democrats are running, too, including 2018 Democratic nominee Sri Kulkarni.
National Democrats have the district in their sights, encouraged by its quickly diversifying population and Kulkarni’s 5-point loss in 2018, a far narrower result than in prior years.
Nehls’ announcement was widely expected. After deciding not to seek a third term as sheriff, he launched an exploratory committee and was believed to be waiting to enter the race until early December, when he could announce without triggering Texas’ resign-to-run rule.
Under the law, officials who announce for another seat with more than a year and 30 days left in their term automatically resign from the office. By announcing Saturday, Nehls can stay sheriff.
In his campaign kickoff speech, Nehls expressed unwavering support for Trump, saying he backs the president’s “position on illegal immigration.” He also credited Trump for a recent strong national jobs report and the robust status of the stock market.
“I want to help support him and drive home his agenda,” Nehls said. “And the only thing you see the Democrats talking about today is impeachment. … It's nothing more than a distraction. But I'm telling you, it's going to work against them.”
At one point, Nehls raised the topic of the national debt, which recently surpassed $23 trillion. Riffing about the difficulty of tallying the number of zeroes in the number, Nehls said, “Can somebody tell me what's after that? We would find out if Pocahontas became our president,” a reference to the name Trump has repeatedly called presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren over the controversy surrounding her past claims of Native American ancestry, for which Warren has apologized.
Nehls also addressed Fort Bend County’s changing electoral trends, acknowledging that a “blue tidal wave” came over the county in 2018. But Nehls predicted a different result in 2020.
“I'm going to do everything I can to reach as many people as we can,” he said. “As a party, we have the right message.”
Shortly before Nehls took the stage, the wife of his twin brother Trever Nehls — a colonel in the Army Reserves who is currently deployed to the Middle East — announced Trever was running for Fort Bend County sheriff. Trever Nehls already had announced he was not running for re-election as a county constable.