Gov. Greg Abbott rescinded his endorsement of state Rep. Rick Miller on Tuesday after the Sugar Land Republican said he was facing primary challengers because they are “Asian.”
“Representative Miller’s comments are inappropriate and out of touch with the values of the Republican Party. In light of Rep. Miller’s comments, the governor is withdrawing his endorsement,” Abbott spokesman John Wittman said in a statement to The Texas Tribune.
Abbott endorsed Miller for another term on Oct. 15, calling him a “strong, principled conservative who has represented the people of Fort Bend County with integrity.” The governor has backed all but a few House Republicans for reelection at this point.
By late Tuesday morning, a page featuring Abbott’s endorsement of Miller had disappeared from the governor’s campaign website.
In an interview with The Houston Chronicle, Miller said that two of his opponents — former Fort Bend GOP Chairman Jacey Jetton and Houston Fire Department analyst Leonard Chan — likely joined the race because they're Asian in a district with a sizable Asian population.
“He’s a Korean. He has decided because, because he is an Asian 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 said of Jetton.
Chan “jumped in probably for the same reason,” Miller told the Chronicle. “I don’t know, I never met the guy. I have no idea who he is. He has not been around Republican channels at all, but he’s an Asian.”
In separate interview with the Tribune, both Chan and Jetton said they were disappointed by Miller’s comments.
“I’ve stood by why I'm running and I’ve never run as an Asian or a Korean or anything other than another conservative Texan wanting to do good for the state,” Jetton said. “I don’t know where he decided to come up with these comments, but it’s unfortunate.”
Both said Miller hasn’t reached out to apologize for his remarks.
Miller hasn’t faced a primary challenger since 2012, but faced three challenges this year from Chan, Jetton and insurance agent Matt Morgan. Miller was not immediately available for comment on Abbott’s statement, but previously told the Tribune he was in Dallas for a “special event honoring our work for foster children.”
Democrats are also targeting the seat after Miller won reelection last year by nearly 5 points and Beto O’Rourke, the Democratic U.S. Senate nominee, carried it by 2 points. Four Democrats have filed for the seat in 2020.
Miller’s district includes most of Fort Bend County, one of America’s most ethnically diverse counties: 20% of its residents are Asian, 20% are black, 24% are Hispanic and 34% are white. Clinton won the county decisively in 2016.