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Who Are The Eight Republican Incumbents Forced Into Runoffs? 

This year’s runoff election is shaping up to be particularly intense, thanks to the efforts of Gov. Greg Abbott and Attorney General Ken Paxton.

Their influence has led to eight incumbents being pushed into runoff races. Notably, only Reps. Stephanie Klick and Gary VanDeaver of the eight incumbents finished first in their primaries, setting the stage for a nerve-racking election night.

According to TX Elects, no incumbent legislator who finished in second place in their primary has won a runoff since 1992.

Why The Carnage?

Gov. Abbott spent much of last year advocating for public school vouchers, which would provide grants for parents to send their children to private schools. However, during the legislative session, Democrats and rural Republicans banded together and defeated the Governor’s voucher proposal.

In response, Gov. Abbott vowed to take the battle to the ballot box, investing over $6 million to support Republican challengers seeking to unseat the rural Republicans who opposed his voucher agenda. This year, Abbott himself is not on the ballot, allowing him to leverage his substantial war chest to influence primary elections.

In total, Gov. Abbott endorsed 14 Republican Texas House challengers. In the primaries, seven of them won, two lost, and 5 of them went to runoffs.

Adding to the political drama, Paxton is also out for blood this election season. He targeted Republicans who voted to impeach him last summer.

Out of the 35 Republican Texas House challengers endorsed by Paxton, just five of them won outright, with another five headed to runoffs, including House Speaker Dade Phelan – who was the number 1 target of the far-right.

According to TX Elects, Speaker Phelan risks becoming the first sitting House Speaker to be ousted in a primary or primary runoff since Speaker Rayford Price lost the 1972 Democratic runoff.

Gov. Abbott and Paxton at times worked against each other. According to The Texas Tribune, in the eight instances where they backed different candidates, Abbott’s choice won outright four times, Paxton’s pick won once, and the remaining headed to runoffs or were too close to call. 

Who Are The Incumbents Forced Into Runoffs? 

Red School Icon= Helped block Gov. Greg Abbott’s voucher proposal in the fourth special session.

District 1

The runoff in District 1 features incumbent Rep. Gary VanDeaver and challenger Chris Spencer. The district covers Bowie, Cass, Lamar, Morris, and Red River counties in northeast Texas.

In the primary election, VanDeaver received 46% of the vote, while Spencer got 43%.

Both candidates acknowledged the contentious nature of the campaign, citing significant outside interference and negative tactics. VanDeaver, a retired educator with ten years in office, expressed frustration over the interference of outside influences.

“It has just been unbelievable the amount of outside interference that’s come in, the nastiness of that interference, just the untruthfulness of a lot of what has been put out. It has been very frustrating,” VanDeaver said.

Meanwhile, Spencer, a private businessman, attributed the negativity to third parties with vested interests.

“A very spirited, hard-fought campaign with the focus on the issues and not personalities,” Spencer said.

District 21

Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan is facing the toughest challenge of his political career. He risks becoming the first state speaker in over 50 years to lose a primary. In the initial round of the Republican primary in March, Phelan trailed his opponent, former Orange County GOP chairman David Covey, by nearly 1,000 votes.

“This runoff is not just another race, it’s the frontline of the battle for the soul of our district,” Phelan said in a statement. “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.”

The runoff election for Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan on May 28 has become a battleground for the far-right wing of the GOP, which views Phelan as a traitor. Attorney General Ken Paxton, retaliating against Phelan for supporting his impeachment, has campaigned for Phelan’s opponent,

Covey, backed by Defend Texas Liberty and conservative activist Tim Dunn, portrays himself as the true conservative, criticizing Phelan for appointing Democrats to House committees and pledging support for Texas secession.

Despite previous easy victories, this race is Phelan’s toughest yet, as polling shows he is the most unpopular Republican leader in Texas. He faces opposition from Paxton, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, and Gov. Greg Abbott.

District 33

Although Rep. Justin Holland was on Gov. Greg Abbott’s “hit list,” Abbott did not initially back Katrina Pierson. However, after Pierson narrowly led their three-person primary race and pushed Holland into a runoff, Abbott started to endorse her. Despite Pierson’s previous criticism of him, Abbott began supporting her campaign financially.

Pierson, without initial support from prominent GOP figures like Trump, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, or Sen. Ted Cruz, gained endorsements from Abbott and Patrick after the primary.

The governor’s move indicates that he views Holland, who did not secure 40% of the vote in the primary, as vulnerable. 

Holland, a 40-year-old real estate broker and former Heath City Council member, is seeking a fifth two-year term in the House. He has alleged that Pierson would be “a puppet for the people that are trying to buy her vote right now” and said her lack of experience in elected office casts uncertainty on how she would vote in Austin, as first reported by The Texas Tribune.

“Her best quality is that she’s a talented communicator,” Holland said. “When she talks in front of a crowd, she doesn’t really scratch the surface on anything, doesn’t ever really directly answer questions about policy. She just kind of answers the way she was trained to talk on TV.”

District 44

Seven-term state Rep. John Kuempel faces a tough battle for an eighth term after strong opposition to his votes against school choice legislation and for the impeachment of Attorney General Ken Paxton pushed his campaign into a runoff.

In District 44’s primary election, no candidate secured a decisive victory in the four-man race, Kuempel garnered 45.98%, while Alan Schoolcraft received 49.12%. David Freimarck and Greg Switzer trailed at 2.35% and 2.54% respectively.

Schoolcraft, who is running a pro-school choice platform to align himself with the conservative wing of the GOP said in a statement that he was the unequivocal conservative choice.

“From day one, I have demonstrated that I am undeniably the real conservative in this race. Not a single moment have I wavered from my dedication to faith, family values, and conservative principles,” he said.

District 58

Rep. DeWayne Burns was forced into a runoff after coming in second with less than 50 percent of the vote in Tuesday’s primary. 

Burns will face Helen Kerwin, who secured the most votes in the House District 58 race, receiving 11,519 votes (49 percent). Burns garnered 9,706 votes (41 percent). Kerwin’s campaign has received high-profile endorsements from former President Donald Trump, Governor Greg Abbott, and Paxton.

The runoff was further ensured by a third candidate Lyndon Laird, who received 2,329 votes (9 percent), preventing any candidate from securing a majority.

District 61

Keresa Richardson, who garnered about 40% of the vote in the March primary, will face incumbent Rep. Frederick Frazier in the May runoff. Frazier received approximately 32% of the vote.

During a recent forum, Frazier highlighted his conservative legislative history, particularly his support for lowering property taxes.

Frazier’s previous runoff campaign was marred by controversy when he pleaded no contest to two misdemeanor charges and not guilty to a criminal mischief charge for allegedly impersonating a McKinney city code enforcement officer during the 2022 Republican primary runoff. A Collin County district court judge recently dismissed these charges, and Frazier has been discharged from the deferred adjudication plea he accepted late last year.

Frazier also faced backlash for voting to impeach Attorney General Ken Paxton, along with four other Republican state representatives from Collin County, Paxton’s home base. Paxton has endorsed several of their primary challengers, including Richardson. 

Frazier continues to argue that working with Democrats is essential for legislative progress in Austin. “We have to have bipartisan bills to work, and you have to have a group effort on certain issues to get across the finish line,” he said.

District 64

Incumbent Lynn Stucky and challenger Andy Hopper will face off in a runoff for the Republican nomination for Texas House District 64. In the March 5 primary, Hopper led Stucky by 3.4 percentage points. Hopper received 46.7% of the vote, while Stucky garnered 43.3%. Third candidate Elaine Hays got 10%.

Hopper criticizes Stucky’s conservative credentials, citing his vote to impeach Attorney General Ken Paxton and support for a significant spending increase. Meanwhile, Stucky defends his conservative record and accuses Hopper of accepting donations from a super PAC linked to white supremacist Nick Fuentes.

District 91

State Rep. Stephanie Klick has been forced into a runoff for Texas House District 91 after receiving 48.09%, while her challenger David Lowe garnered 46.10%. The third candidate Teresa Ramirez trailed with 5.82%.

Klick, who has represented the district since 2012, faces a rematch against Lowe, whom she defeated in 2022. Unlike the rest of the primary runoff races, Klick, the incumbent, is the one backed by Gov. Greg Abbott and Dade Phelan, while Lowe has the support of Texans United for a Conservative Majority PAC.

Early voting has already started in Texas (May 20-24,) go to this article to see how to vote. The runoffs are on May 28th. Stay tuned for more updates. 

Jovanka Palacios
Jovanka Palacios
Jovanka Palacios, a Mexican-American Politics Reporter and Managing Editor at RA's Gun Violence Watch, unveils the Capitol's inner workings. Focused on Public Education and Gun Policies, she passionately advocates for informed dialogue, delivering concise, impactful insights into the intricate political landscape.


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