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TikTok Ties Ignite Political Feud In Texas House Races

With the runoff elections just around the corner, several GOP Texas House members facing tough battles have turned their attention to TikTok, linking their opponents to the app due to its ties to major investors.

One significant investor in TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance, is Pennsylvania billionaire Jeff Yass, who holds a 7% stake in the company. Yass gained attention during the lead-up to the March 5 primaries for his $6 million contribution to Governor Greg Abbott’s campaign against House Republicans who opposed voucher legislation in the previous legislative session.

Yass is a vocal proponent of the voucher initiative, which would allocate public funds to support students’ private school tuition, and has poured $15 million into pushing for vouchers in his home state. 

Since last year, Gov. Abbott has been touting vouchers and has taken his fight from The Capitol to Texan’s voting booths. His efforts have resulted outright defeated nine members of his own party that opposed vouchers in the legislative session, and forced several others into runoffs

In an effort to sway voters, some GOP incumbents have sought to portray their opponents as aligned with TikTok investors like Yass.

House Speaker Dade Phelan is among those facing opponents backed by Yass, and launched a campaign calling his opponent, David Covey, “a puppet for West Texas billionaires and Pennsylvania TikTok investors” who support school choice-friendly candidates.

Similarly, Rep. John Kuempel, a seasoned House veteran, has utilized the TikTok connection in his online ads against challenger Alan Schoolcraft, emphasizing Schoolcraft’s ties to the controversial app, as first reported by The Austin American-Statesman.

Despite not directly mentioning Yass in their ads, Phelan and Kuempel have indirectly pointed to his involvement through their messaging.

On the other hand, other incumbents like Rep. Justin Holland, running against former Trump campaign official Katrina Pierson, does explicitly target Yass in his campaign messaging, accusing him of profiting from TikTok and accuses the platform of “turning young people away from American and Israel.”

The recent federal TikTok ban, signed by President Joe Biden, underscores the bipartisan concern over the platform’s ties to the Chinese Communist Party. The ban, part of a broader foreign aid package, mandates TikTok’s sale or risk being blocked from U.S.-based web hosting services within nine months.

While experts have said the TikTok ties won’t move the political needle, the voucher debate continues to be a key battleground issue for Republican voters in the upcoming runoffs, underscoring just how far Gov. Abbott is willing to go to bring vouchers to Texas. 

Written by RA News staff.


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