Abbott Touts Vouchers Victory Despite
Losing Record in House Runoff Contests

Capitol Inside
June 10, 2024

Governor Greg Abbott declared victory in the primary runoff election's wake when he announced that he'd secured a sufficient number of votes to pass a school choice bill in the Texas House after targeting moderate Republicans who teamed with Democrats to block the proposal there last year.

But Abbott has been a bust when it comes to forecasting the fate of vouchers legislation - having claimed last year in March that he needed only two more votes to pass a school choice measure in the House before falling 13 votes short on an amendment to ban outlays on education savings accounts the following month. Two dozen House Republicans voted for the state budget proposal that prohibited the use of taxpayer funds on private school subsidies. Twenty GOP representatives voted to kill Abbott's coveted school vouchers bill in special session last fall.

Texas House Races with GOP Candidates
Who Governor Backed in First Two Rounds
Helen Kerwin Lynn Stucky (I)
Alan Schoolcraft Stephanie Klick (I)
* Katrina Pierson Frederick Frazier (I)
Marc LaHood Jacey Jetton (I)
Janis Holt Kronda Thimesch (I)
Hillary Hickland Chris Spencer
Joanne Shofner Stormy Bradley
Mike Olcott Liz Case Pickens
Caroline Fairly Jeff Bauknight
Paul Dyson Alex Kamkar
Pat Curry Hatch Smith
Don McLaughlin  
Trey Wharton  
John McQueeney  
Jeff Leach  
Morgan Meyer  
* Half point for runoff  



The Republican leader of the nation's largest red state does appear to have more than enough current and future House Republicans on board to make his school choice dreams come true in 2025. But Abbott's overall performance in the school choice revenge and resurrection crusade could hurt his chances for an appointment as the vice-presidential nominee on Donald Trump's ticket in the general election in the fall.

Abbott's predecessor - Republican Rick Perry - was named best supporter for the runoff vote two weeks ago as the leading cheerleader for House Speaker Dade Phelan's successful survival quest in the face of monstrous opposition that conservatives incorrectly portrayed as unwinnable for him. Phelan's victory in round two in House District 21 was more valuable than all of the wins that Attorney General Ken Paxton, Abbott and Trump chalked up here in the primary and overtime elections combined.

Abbott fared better in the initial election on March 5 when five House Republicans he campaigned against lost seats while a sixth who received a pass from the governor went down in defeat as well. Abbott backed challengers who knocked off three more incumbent Republican representatives in the runoff election on May 28.

One of the candidates who Abbott vigorously supported in OT - Rockwall Republican Katrina Pierson - appeared poised to win without the need for his support after ignoring her campaign in round one. Pierson defeated State Rep. Justin Holland of Rockwall in the runoff by almost 13 percentage points to give the governor a superficial victory on paper in House District 33.

But Abbott posted a losing record overall in Texas House contests in the runoff election with five wins against six defeats after breaking even in four open races on the GOP ballot in OT. Abbott finished with a 3-4 record in House fights with incumbent Republicans in the second round of the 2024 vote.

That pushed the governor's cumulative mark for the first two rounds to 8-3 in races with Republican state representatives who he targeted in the primary election and runoff vote. The governor's record in House fights with incumbents ended up at 8-8 for the first two rounds when the five House Republicans who he supported in losing efforts are added to the equation. Abbott went 13-11 in the two elections combined in House races with incumbents who he targeted, GOP representatives who he supported in the second round and candidates in open contests on the primary and runoff ballots.

While the Pierson win has a major asterisk for Abbott, the three House Republicans who his candidates beat in overtime - State Reps. DeWayne Burns of Cleburne, John Kuempel of Seguin and Holland had appeared to be all but doomed in the first election in a state where GOP voters are substantially more conservative in runoffs. State Rep. Frederick Frazier - a Plano Republican who Abbott endorsed then ignored - entered the runoff as a prohibitive underdog before challenger Keresa Richardson crushed him in the runoff by 35 points.

But Abbott most stinging defeats clearly came in a quartet of House races that he thought he would win when GOP State Reps. Lynn Stucky of Sanger and Stephanie Klick of Fort Worth were unseated in OT after Republican State Reps. Jacey Jetton of Richmond and Kronda Thimesch of Lewisville fell in the March primary vote. Abbott poured record sums of his own donors' cash into the four House contests in which the incumbents he supported lost by substantial margins in all but one case.

The runoffs exposed apparent weaknesses for the Texas governor in the suburbs in the northern half of the Dallas-Fort Worth area where Abbott lost Klick, Stucky and Frazier in the runoff in contests that weren't close. Stucky and Klick lost in overtime to challengers Andy Hopper of Decatur and David Lowe of Fort Worth in rematches in districts where the incumbents won by narrow margins two years ago. Lowe and Hopper won 13 points and 16 points respectively in races that represented major snubs for Abbott in the fastest-growing suburbs in the Lone Star State.

Abbott vowed vengeance for 20 House Republicans who snubbed him on school vouchers in a fourth special session in November last year. All of the governor's success in runoffs with GOP representatives came in districts where he targeted moderates as payback for their opposition to school choice. Five of the House Republicans who Abbott defeated are based in rural areas. Allison and Kuempel represent districts in the San Antonio area while Holland is based on the eastern suburban edge of the DFW area.

After backing challenges who were eliminated in the first vote by State Reps. Drew Darby of San Angelo and Stan Lambert of Abilene, Abbott sustained a major defeat in the runoff when State Rep. Gary VanDeaver of New Boston beat a challenger in a district where the governor had branded the incumbent as a fraud.

Abbott - for reasons he never divulged - gave passes in the first round to several House Republicans who'd opposed school choice including State Reps. Keith Bell of Forney, Jay Dean of Longview, Charlie Geren of Fort Worth Worth, Ken King of Canadian and Reggie Smith of Sherman. Smith lost despite that particular break.

The governor could try to pump up his record for the initial election on paper by including a long list of House Republicans who ended up running unopposed or facing primary foes who were not competitive. You could make a case that Abbott's list of quality wins should include a few Republicans who won fights that appeared to be competitive on paper in the first round like State Reps. Morgan Meyer of Dallas and Jeff Leach of Plano. The addition of Leach and Meyer to the Abbott winners circle pushes his overall record in the most significant contests for the House in round one to 15.

But the overall Abbott mark has to be disappointing given the vast sums of political capital and resources he invested and massive hype that it generated in the first ever wholesale targeting effort in legislative races by a Texas governor. Abbott ended on a depressing note despite an overall mark above water with a 5-6 record in the runoff on the House battlefield.







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