VanDeaver Outfoxed Governor En Route
to OT Win with Top Incumbent Campaign

Capitol Inside
June 1, 2024

Dade Phelan (R-Inc)
Most Valuable Player

Gary VanDeaver (R-Inc)
Best Inumbent

Andy Hopper (R)
Best Challenger

John McQueeney (R)
Best Open Race

Lauren Simmons (D)
Best Democrat

Rick Perry (R)
Best Cheerleader

Miriam Adelson (R)
Best Donor














Gary VanDeaver
Best Incumbent Campaign

The New Boston Republican sent Governor Greg Abbott reeling in an angry snit earlier this year when he took credit for killing legislation that would have made it possible for migrants to receive public subsidies to attend private schools in Texas.

Abbott couldn't dispute the actual facts in the northeast Texas lawmaker's claim about the school choice bill that Abbott made into a higher priority than border security, guns, abortion and all the other issues that the state is facing combined. But the Republican governor had not taken the time to try to anticipate the kind of creative spin that Republican representatives he'd targeted in a vouchers revenge crusade might employ to protest themselves from him.

So Abbott countered VanDeaver's scenario about school choice for illegal immigrants with a personal assault on the GOP lawmaker's character in a gotcha-back attempt on social media. "Gary VanDeaver is a fraud," the state's top leader snarled on X. "Every session he served in the Texas House he voted to use your taxpayer dollars to provide free education for illegal immigrants at your local public schools."

Abbott forgot to mention - however - that he'd signed the budgets that funded public education for residents and migrants alike in all of the five regular sessions that VanDeaver attended as the representative for House District 1. The Republicans in Austin were never trying to be generous with the same people who they want to get out of the state. They've had no choice as a result of legal and constitutional constraints.

VanDeaver joins Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan on the team of all-stars that Capitol Inside has assembled based on the best performances in the second round in the competition for state and federal offices on the ballot this week. Phelan was the unanimous choice for most valuable player in the Texas runoff. VanDeaver is next in line for accolades with the most outstanding campaign for an incumbent (not named Phelan) in overtime.

Abbott claimed three victories in the runoff vote in House races that featured incumbent Republicans when challengers Helen Kerwin of Glen Rose, Katrina Pierson of Rockwall and Alan Schoolcraft of San Antonio beat State Reps. DeWayne Burns, Justin Holland and John Kuempel respectively. But the governor sustained bitter defeats when David Lowe of Fort Worth, Andy Hopper of Decatur and Keresa Richardson of McKinney ousted State Reps. Stephanie Klick, Lynn Stucky and Frederick Frazier in OT.

So Abbott's hopes for a winning record in runoff fights with House Republicans would hinge on challenger Chris Spencer's fate in a bid to oust VanDeaver in HD 1 with substantial help from the governor. Abbott campaigned in the district for Spencer and contributed $350,000 to his campaign to eliminate the fifth-term lawmaker who he'd portrayed as a con man. Spencer had a war chest that was almost twice the size of VanDeaver's - thanks largely to the governor. Conservatives were ready to start popping the corks as assured each other before the OT vote that VanDeaver was toast.

But VanDeaver beat Abbott's candidate in overtime with 53.5 percent of the vote on Tuesday. That put the governor's runoff mark in incumbent races at a disappointing 3-4.

VanDeaver stressed the experience he'd gained as a key player on public education on the budget-writing Appropriations Committee - and played up his old-school conservative credentials like the support he'd had from the National Rifle Association. VanDeaver's strength in the education community has been second to none for a Republican. VanDeaver said he'd been duly warned by the governor's team that Abbott would be coming after him if he refused to capitulate on school vouchers. And he did - nostrils flaming.

But the worm may have turned when VanDeaver hatched the clever attempt to expose the vouchers bill as a thinly-veiled freebie for illegal immigrants. That hit a nerve big time. Abbott's counter attack gave VanDeaver the kind of free advertising that money can't buy against a challenger who would have had no chance without the governor and couldn't win in HD 1 even when he did. .

In the end, VanDeaver won because he'd been an effective representative and represented his district in the northeast corner of the state the way a majority of the voters deserve and respect. The folks in his parts don't take kindly to bullies from Austin telling them what to do. They appreciate a guy that will keep fighting for them even though it puts his job at risk.

But VanDeaver has two separate badges of honor to wear on his sleeve after eliminating Attorney General Ken Paxton's candidate in the first vote before handing the governor his worst defeat in the first two rounds in 2024.

more to come ...








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