After dropping a bid for the U.S. Senate, Republican Roger Williams, a former Texas secretary of state and prolific fundraiser, easily rose above 11 candidates in the GOP primary to clinch his party’s nomination in the 25th District, which was made heavily Republican through redistricting. His primary win all but guaranteed him victory in the general election.
Williams grew up in Fort Worth, where his father was a Chevrolet dealer and his mother ran a needlepoint business. He attended Texas Christian University on a baseball scholarship. After graduating in 1971, he played with the Atlanta Braves farm team for four years until he injured a shoulder while sliding into first base. He returned home to run the family car dealership and to TCU, where he coached baseball for three years.
“I always thought I’d be a Major League Baseball player,” he said in an interview. “When you’re young, you never think you’re going to get hurt or get old.” Baseball is still important to Williams; he checks box scores every morning during the season and considers pitching legend Nolan Ryan a good friend.
It was a shared love for baseball that connected Williams and George W. Bush. A former owner of the Texas Rangers, Bush invited Williams to be a state finance chair for his 1994 and 1998 campaigns for governor, Williams’ first foray into politics. He made his way to Washington in 2000, when President Bush appointed him to the Republican National Committee’s Eagles program. He left that position to accept Gov. Rick Perry’s appointment as secretary of state. He was also Perry’s chief liaison to Mexico.
Williams, who was Sen. John Cornyn’s finance chair in 2002, said that political fundraising comes easily to him. “When you’ve got good people that you’re associating yourself with it, it’s not that hard,” he said. “I believe in my product, and my product is America. You get satisfaction that you’re trying to take your country in the right direction.”
By 2008, Williams was interested in running for the Senate seat held by Republican Kay Bailey Hutchison, who lost a 2010 primary race for governor to Perry. But Williams announced in June 2011 that he would instead run for the 25th District seat, which, after a court battle, was altered to stretch from the state capital in Austin to the Fort Worth area. The GOP-engineered changes prompted Democratic Rep. Lloyd Doggett to move to the 35th District. Williams overwhelmingly outraised the rest of the GOP primary field and beat tea party activist Wes Riddle in a runoff.
Williams ran on what he called a “pretty simple” platform. “It’s lower taxes, less government, cut the spending, defend the borders, listen to your generals, and understand the 10th Amendment,” he said. He generated controversy when he called President Obama a socialist at a campaign event, but he said he saw no reason to apologize. “Here’s a man that wants to own the banks, the car manufacturers, the student-loan programs,” he said. “It’s basically socialism versus entrepreneurialism and capitalism. That’s what we’re fighting.”