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Republican Incumbents Win Runoffs, Bucking Historical Trend

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Voters filling in ballots | Image by vesperstock

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Republican incumbents who faced primary runoffs on May 24 won three out of their four races, defying the decade-long tradition of favoring challengers who progressed to the runoffs.

All four winning candidates in these elections were endorsed by Gov. Greg Abbott.


Rep. Stephanie Klick, the sole House leadership member in a runoff, prevailed over David Lowe to capture the Republican nomination for House District 91 in Tarrant County. The Texas Tribune reported Lowe had the financial support of highly conservative groups and attempted to portray Abbott-backed Klick, a nine-year veteran of the statehouse, as “insufficiently conservative.”

Reports that Lowe owned several sexually graphic URLs back in the 1990s led Klick’s camp to question his character.

Rep. Kyle Kacal defeated Ben Bius in House District 12, a mostly rural district that extends from Waco into College Station.

Abbott endorsed Kacal, while Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan endorsed Bius.

One of Bius’s national allies in the fight for school choice developed an ad accusing Kacal of being the “most liberal Republican inside the Texas House.”

Mike Olcott lost to Rep. Glenn Rogers in rural House District 60, which includes Hood, Stephenson, and Palo Pinto Counties.

Abbott supported the incumbent, while U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz supported the challenger in the first round of voting.

Only 8% of Republican incumbents won their runoff elections in the past decade. Four-term Rep. Phil Stephenson of Wharton enjoyed no such luck this year.

Stephenson lost to Stan Kitzman in House District 85. Abbott backed Kitzman instead of Stephenson after Stephenson’s campaign sent out mailers and texts claiming to have the governor’s support.

Stephenson previously found himself at odds with the Republican leadership in the House. In 2017, he voted against a plan to limit property taxes. In 2019, he called for the ousting of then-Speaker Dennis Bonnen, who had reportedly requested that a conservative activist attack Stephenson in the primaries.

Ben Bumgarner won the Republican House District 63 runoff against Jeff Younger.

Abbott and Phelan both sided with Bumgarner, but Younger was supported by the Defend Texas Liberty PAC, whose candidates often argued their opponents were not conservative enough, even on conservative legislation.

The Defend Texas Liberty PAC did support some winners in the runoffs, including Terri Leo Wilson in House District 23, Mark Dorazio in House District 122, and Nate Schatzline in House District 93.

In House District 19, Justin Berry was defeated by Ellen Troxclair in the Republican runoff. In the newly created Central Texas district, Troxclair, a former Austin council member, will face Democrat Pam Baggett in November.

Former State Senator Pete Flores defeated Raul Reyes in the Republican Senate District 24 runoff. In last year’s redistricting process, Flores’s hometown of Pleasanton was added to Senate District 24.     

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