The attack ads are underway in one of the most-watched congressional races in Houston with less than a month until voters hit the polls.
Republican Kathaleen Wall’s new ad slams fellow Republican and Fort Bend Sheriff Troy Nehls for his handling of human trafficking cases. In the 30-second ad, Wall has Constable Wayne Thompson claim Nehls “allowed it to get much worse” in Fort Bend County since he became sheriff.
“Troy Nehls’ record on human-trafficking is disappointing,” Thompson says in the ad supporting Wall.
Nehls called that assertion a lie, saying he’s investigated and closed numerous illicit massage parlors which he said are potential venues for sex trafficking. He also said his office created a hotline for people to report sex trafficking cases.
“Kathaleen Wall is doing what she has done her entire campaign: sling mud and spread lies,” Nehls said. “She knows good and well Wayne Thompson, who does not have a single detective on staff, is lying through his teeth.”
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Nehls and Thompson have a history. Last year Nehls implemented a new policy that has his office responding to more calls in unincorporated areas of the county instead of allowing Thompson’s office to respond.
That prompted Thompson to later accuse Nehls and his office of being too slow to respond to the calls and putting the community at risk. Nehls called that accusation false.
Nehls and Wall are battling in a July 14 Republican Primary runoff. Early voting starts on June 29.
Nehls won the first round of the primary in March with just over 40 percent of the vote despite Wall’s major financial advantage. But because he didn’t hit 50 percent in the crowded primary field, he will now face Wall, who finished second with 19 percent, in the runoff.
Wall, a big GOP donor over the last decade, has already spent over $4 million of her own money on the race according to the last campaign financial reports filed back in April.
They are running in the 22nd Congressional District, which includes most of Fort Bend County plus parts of Brazoria and Harris counties. The winner will face Democrat Sri Preston Kulkarni in November.
The race for the 22nd Congressional District is considered one of the most competitive in the nation. Incumbent U.S. Rep. Pete Olson, R-Sugar Land, is retiring from Congress this year. In 2018, Kulkarni came within 5 percentage points of beating Olson, giving Democrats hope they can flip the seat in 2020. The Cook Political Report in Washington, D.C., ranks it as one of 22 toss-up races in November.
Nehls is running on his public service experience, pointing to 30 years in the military and in law enforcement. Wall, meanwhile, has tried to position herself as a better potential ally to President Donald Trump, regularly featuring the president in past ads.