The last two election cycles saw a marked shift right-ward for the Texas GOP, but it’s not nearly enough for Governor Greg Abbott and Attorney General Ken Paxton. The two top Republicans in the state are eying the coming primary as a chance to both settle scores and put down all resistance to their agendas.
In 2022, 43 percent of Texas Republicans faced primary challenges. This cycle, it’s at least 57 percent. While that increase is not that unusual, it’s weird for so many of them to be driven by the governor.
Abbott is still stinging from his humiliating defeat on school vouchers. He campaigned across the state promising that Texans would be able to use taxpayer money for private, mostly religious schools. Rural Republicans in the House, fearful of the inevitable loss to their public schools, voted down the idea alongside Democrats.
In response, Abbott has endorsed six challengers to the Republicans who voted against his plan. One of those challengers is Hillary Hickland, who is taking on Hugh Shine (R-Temple). Abbott made it clear that he was endorsing Hickland in order to try again with vouchers in the 2025 legislative session.
“We need a champion like Hillary Hickland to make sure we deliver on a promise of ensuring parents will be able to choose the best school for their child,,” he said when he endorsed her.
In Amarillo, both Abbott and Paxton have lined up behind a new face, Caroline Fairly. Her father Alex is a wealthy businessman who the state GOP is targeting to become a new megadonor. She is vying for a seat being vacated by another opponent to Abbott’s voucher plan.
Glenn Rogers (R-Graford) voted against Abbott’s vouchers and to impeach Paxton, drawing the ire of both men. Abbott and Paxton have endorsed Mike Olcott, a research scientist to try and take Rogers’s seat.
Olcott is an arch conservative who wishes to end all gender affirming care for Texas minors while at the same time supporting medical freedom so long as that means no one can require a vaccination. Still, his website makes it clear where his priorities lie. Despite being the last entry on his Issues page, his section on education and “parental choice” is the largest by word count. Olcott doesn’t mention vouchers specifically, but he brings up many of the culture war points that have been used to sell parents on a need to get their children out of public schools such as “Marxist” indoctrination.
Paxton seems less ideologically driven in his endorsements than Abbott. His picks are more centered on revenge for his impeachment in the lower chamber for misuse of office, charges he is still being investigated on by other authorities. Still, it’s fair to say that removing any Republicans in the Texas House that were willing to impeach an attorney general from their own party is likely to pave the way for other extreme right bills. Whatever the reason, the right-ward shift is inevitable if Abbott and Paxton get their way.