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Texas’ largest university is embroiled in one of the most closely watched Republican primaries for State House.
State Representative John Raney of College Station faces a primary challenge from John Harvey Slocum, the son of RC Slocum, theBeloved former football coach at Texas A&M University. Raney also has a history with the university, as a graduate and founder of the off-campus Texas Aggieland Bookstore.
John Harvey Slocum plastered his campaign materials with the school’s brown and white color scheme, as well as images of the campus and football stadium. He even included the school’s logo as the backdrop to a fundraiser invite.
But the documents appear to run counter to a university rule that “prohibits the use of any of its symbols, insignia or other identifying marks” in connection with political activity. A university spokesperson said its licensing department contacted Slocum’s campaign after learning of the material and “alert it to the violation”.
“They said they would cooperate,” spokeswoman Kelly Brown said in an email. “If this continues, we will follow our procedure by sending a cease and desist letter.”
Raney criticizes Slocum on materials.
“I think this demonstrates a lack of judgment on his part, and frankly a lack of respect for Texas A&M University,” Raney said in a statement. “In any case, I think he owes an apology to Texas A&M and an apology to the Aggies in this community for attempting to dishonestly imply that he has Texas A&M’s support in this campaign.”
Slocum’s campaign isn’t backing down from joining A&M. His consultant, Josh Robinson, said it was “pretty difficult” not to include A&M in the campaign because he is so central to Slocum’s life story.
“To tell his story, we have to reference and show his time at A&M, and we’re proud to be a Texas Aggie,” Robinson said, noting that “two-thirds of [Slocum’s] the closest is brown and white.”
“It is in no way disrespectful, as Mr. Raney insinuates.”
Despite A&M’s statement, it is unclear to what extent Slocum is cooperating with the university. On Wednesday, Slocum aired a television ad that included an old photo of college football players and an aerial view of campus.
The primary has been mostly cordial so far. Robinson said the Slocum campaign finds it interesting that Raney isn’t Aggie’s legislative caucus chair, saying people “notice the Brazos Valley doesn’t have a leader in the State House.” The current president is Representative Kyle Kacal of Bryan. Raney founded the caucus and served as its first chair in 2019, and members take turns chairing each session, according to Raney’s campaign.
The primary is one of the most interesting races involving a challenger in the March 1 ballot. It takes place in a community that is notoriously supportive of its university, especially the football team. A&M is the main driver of the local community. Its football games regularly attract over 100,000 fans – a population roughly similar to the town of College Station.
Slocum entered the race at the last minute – minutes before the December filing deadline – and poses a unique threat given his surname, which is well known in Aggieland. RC Slocum served as A&M’s head football coach from 1989 to 2002, becoming its most successful coach of all time. He served as interim athletic director in 2019 and remains employed by the university as a special assistant to the president.
John Harvey Slocum featured his father in his campaign. An invite for a campaign fundraiser on Tuesday said supporters could pay $500 to get a photo with special guests, including RC Slocum.
Brown said such activity is acceptable for a university employee as long as they “show up” at the event.
John Harvey Slocum ran a largely positive campaign, touting the “local leadership” he would provide and talking about common Republican issues like border security and the economy. He also made it clear that A&M is central to his desire to serve.
“I made this decision to run based on a community and a university that I love,” John Harvey Slocum said at his campaign launch. “We have the brightest minds in the world right down the street at A&M, and we should have someone working every day to create opportunities to keep these kids here and give them the privileges that we have to live in this community.”
Armed with the support of House Speaker Dade Phelan, Raney ran on things Republicans have accomplished in recent legislative sessions, like increased border security spending and a law that punishes local governments that seek to “defund the police”. Raney isn’t letting voters forget his connection to A&M, either: A TV ad calls him “proud Texas Aggie” as it shows him driving his car, with a close-up of the class ring on his finger.
Slocum has been a serious fundraiser. Slocum said it has raised over $200,000 by the end of January and hopes to top $350,000. Campaign finance reports show Raney raised $96,000 from Sept. 3 to Jan. 20. He had $89,000 in cash as of Jan. 20, while Slocum had $64,000 in cash.
There has also been intrigue surrounding one of Raney’s neighboring GOP colleagues, Kacal. Slocum had originally planned to launch his campaign at a ranch owned by Kacal – sparking speculation over his position in the primary – but later changed the venue, citing the weather. Kacal did not respond to a request for comment at the time on whether he supported Raney or Slocum.
Disclosure: Texas A&M University financially supported 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 journalism of the Tribune. Find a full list here.