Texas House runoff elections could seal revenge wins for Paxton, Abbott

Texas House runoff elections could seal revenge wins for Paxton, Abbott

The highly anticipated primary election runoffs in Texas are guaranteed to make waves Tuesday, as Gov. Greg Abbott (R) and Attorney General Ken Paxton (R) look to finally shut the door on the political careers of a select group of vulnerable Republicans who have wronged them in the past year.

Abbott has taken aim this election cycle at the Republican incumbents who voted against his signature school voucher program. Paxton is targeting the Republicans who voted to impeach him.

Along with Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick (R), Abbott and Paxton targeted a slate of 16 Republican lawmakers who defied them, pouring money into their opponents’ campaigns and rallying with them in the weeks since.

The party leaders needed to unseat six of the 16 to turn the state House numbers in their favor on the school voucher vote. They were nearly successful the first time around, with five seats flipping and four more at risk in the runoffs Tuesday.

One of the most closely watched runoff races Tuesday will be in District 21, where House Speaker Dade Phelan (R) faces challenger David Covey, who has the endorsements of Paxton, Patrick and former President Trump.

Phelan led the impeachment effort against Paxton and has sought to keep Patrick’s allies from dominating the House as they have the Senate. He did not vote against Abbott’s vouchers program, and Abbott did not make an official endorsement in the race.

Phelan, after it was clear the March 5 primary race was headed to a runoff, described his battle against Covey as “the battle for the soul of our district.”

“This runoff is not just another race, it’s the frontline of the battle for the soul of our district,” he said in a statement at the time. “While my opponent hides behind empty rhetoric, dishonest advertising and surrogate voices, I stand before voters with a clear record of service and conservative success.”

This primary contest is the state’s most expensive House race in history, with $5.7 million spent, CBS News reported, citing Ad Impact Politics.

In total, Phelan and seven other House Republican incumbents face runoffs Tuesday.

In District 1, Paxton and Abbott both targeted incumbent Gary VanDeaver (R) — who voted for impeachment and against vouchers — but Abbott’s candidate of choice, challenger Chris Spencer, advanced to the runoff and will face VanDeaver on Tuesday.

In District 33, incumbent Justin Holland faces Katrina Pierson, a former national spokesperson for Trump’s 2016 campaign, who was endorsed by Paxton. Holland voted for impeachment and against vouchers.

In District 44, incumbent John Kuempel faces a runoff Tuesday against challenger Alan Schoolcraft, who was backed by both Abbott and Paxton. He voted for impeachment and against vouchers.

In District 58, incumbent DeWayne Burns faces challenger Helen Kerwin, who was endorsed by both Paxton and Abbott. Burns voted for impeachment and against vouchers.

In District 61, incumbent Frederick Frazier faces challenger Keresa Richardson, who was one of the two candidates Paxton endorsed in the race. Frazier voted for impeachment.

In District 64, incumbent Lynn Stucky — who voted for Paxton’s impeachment but who did not cross Abbott on vouchers — faces Paxton-backed challenger Andy Hopper. Abbott backed Stucky in the race.

In District 91, incumbent Stephanie Klick faces Paxton-backed challenger David Lowe. Klick voted for impeachment but not against vouchers. Abbott endorsed Klick.

On the federal level, there are a couple of high-profile races headed to runoffs Tuesday.

The race to succeed high-ranking Rep. Kay Granger (R), who is not running for reelection, will head to a runoff Tuesday, in the 12th Congressional District, with Craig Goldman running against John O’Shea.

Incumbent Rep. Tony Gonzales (R) faces a runoff in the 23rd Congressional District, against Brandon Herrera. Gonzales represents a border district and has at times broken with his party to work across the aisle on legislation to strengthen border security and on gun control. He was censured by the state GOP party for his more moderate positions.

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