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The Voucher Battle Continues: GOP Runoffs Could Shape Texas Education

Last week, nine GOP incumbents who opposed vouchers were defeated by their pro-vouchers opponents, but the Republican runoffs could still change the future of vouchers in Texas.

The runoffs could have a great impact on the House, which has been moving forward to a more extreme right. Gov. Greg Abbott spent considerable time and resources promoting his pro-voucher candidates, but for Bill Miller, an Austin lobbyist and political consultant, the contest isn’t over.

Abbott “had a great day,” he told The Houston Chronicle. “He went after people, he spent a lot of money and he was very successful. But the game’s not over.”

On May 28, seven GOP incumbents will face off against their pro-voucher challengers, and the most anticipated contest is between House Speaker Dade Phelan and conservative activist David Covey.

Covey managed to beat Phelan 46% to 44.5%, but still fell short of the majority needed to win the GOP nomination. Phelan is being targeted by fellow Republicans for not supporting vouchers, for voting to impeach Paxton, and for appointing some Democrats to committee chairmanships.

Other Republicans targeted by their own party include Rep. Gary VanDeaver, a five-term Republican. His opponent, Chris Spencer, has received significant support from Abbott and pro-voucher groups. Still, VanDeaver has maintained that his opposition to vouchers is the reason he has a race.

“It’s really a battle for the heart and soul of rural Texas,” VanDeaver said of the GOP runoffs. “There’s no doubt that we’re seeing a purification of the Republican Party in Texas. And the message is very clear: you either toe the line or we’ll come after you.”

VanDeaver was one of 21 Republicans, mostly from rural areas, who opposed vouchers, saying they would undermine public schools. He was a former elementary school principal and superintendent. He has supported many conservative causes, but his attackers have said he has failed to secure the border.

“To attack me on the Second Amendment is just ludicrous,” VanDeaver said. “And if there’s anything lacking at the border, it’s because the governor hasn’t asked for it. I have voted with the rest of the Legislature to provide him everything he tells us he needs down there.”

Democrats, meanwhile, see the Republican infighting as an opportunity to challenge more right-wing candidates in the general election. While Republicans have historically dominated Texas politics, recent shifts within the party and demographic changes have raised the prospect of competitive races in previously solidly Republican districts.

Vandeaver said the rightward shift in the House could backfire by discouraging Democratic support for constitutional amendments, which require a two-thirds vote in both chambers.

As the runoffs approach, all eyes are on House GOP primaries, where the fate of incumbents like VanDeaver hangs in the balance. The outcome of these contests will influence the future of school vouchers in the state.

Written by RA News staff.


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