AUSTIN, Texas -- A white Texas Republican lawmaker who suggested his political rivals on the ballot were motivated to run against him because they’re Asian dropped his reelection bid Tuesday following a backlash that included losing the endorsement of the state’s GOP governor.
State Rep. Rick Miller since 2013 has represented a suburban Houston district in Fort Bend County, one of the most diverse counites in the U.S. He told the Houston Chronicle that one of his primary opponents, Jacey Jetton, was running against him in 2020 “because he is an Asian” and decided “that my district might need an Asian to win.”
“And that’s kind of racist in my mind, but anyway, that’s not necessary, at least not yet,” Miller told the newspaper.
He went on to suggest that a second challenger, Leonard Chan, had similar motivations.
“I don’t know, I never met the guy. I have no idea who he is,” Miller said of Chan. “He has not been around Republican channels at all, but he’s an Asian.”
Gov. Greg Abbott withdrew his endorsement of Miller after the interview was published. Hours later, Miller released a statement to the newspaper and other outlets saying he would abandon his reelection bid and described his remarks as “insensitive and inexcusable.”
“My comments were not made with malice nor do they reflect who I am or who I strive to be,” he said.
Chan and Jetton told the newspaper that the remarks show why the suburban Houston district needs a change.
“It has nothing to do with whether I’m part Korean or anything else, it’s just the fact that I’m showing up and the other communities are excited about that. I think it’s unfortunate he’s trying to make it a race thing when it’s really just being willing to communicate with anyone in the district,” Jetton said.
Miller is from Sugar Land, the home of former Republican U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay. The population of Fort Bend County is split almost evenly, with 35% Anglo residents, 24% Hispanic, 21% Asian or other, and 20% black, according to a 2018 survey by the Kinder Institute for Urban Research.