Run-off Elections Loom for Texas House

Polling center
Polling center | Image by Grace Cary/Getty Images

The March 5 primary in Texas sent a few candidates to the finale in November, but several key races did not overcome the threshold to prevent a second-round run-off in May.

Gov. Greg Abbott raised the stakes for incumbent House members earlier this year when some elected officials refused to vote in favor of school choice legislation that would allow families to use taxpayer money to defray the costs of private school or homeschooling. He used his campaign checkbook to back challengers against several anti-school choice Republicans.

“Republican primary voters have once again sent an unmistakable message that parents deserve the freedom to choose the best education pathway for their child,” Abbott said, as reported by the Austin American-Statesman.

Many of the pro-school choice candidates supported by Abbott ended up winning the March primary, as previously reported by The Dallas Express. Four races, however, did not yield clear victors.

Anti-school choice House incumbents DeWayne Burns (R-Cleburne), Justin Holland (R-Rockwall), John Kuempel (R-Seguin), and Gary VanDeaver (R-New Boston) are headed to the May run-off. Only VanDeaver got more votes than his challenger last month.

Another House incumbent heading for a run-off is Speaker Dade Phelan (R-Beaumont), who did not hit the 50% mark needed to avoid a second round. His challenger, David Covey, ended up just 131 votes behind in the tally.

Should Phelan fail to win in May, a chain reaction could be set off in the House as a new speaker will need to be selected. Covey was endorsed by Abbott, Attorney General Ken Paxton, and former President Donald Trump. Polling has shown the three are the most influential politicians when it comes to Texas voters, according to a University of Houston Hobby School of Public Affairs poll.

Phelan has been at odds with Paxton since he moved to impeach the popular attorney general. Paxton was ultimately acquitted by the Senate, as reported by The Dallas Express.

The speaker easily won his previous two elections but is now poised to fight for his political life next month.

Even if Phelan emerges victorious in the run-off, he will face a speaker election in the House, where many of his colleagues have already called for his resignation over his failure to advance Republican policy priorities. Phelan has been accused by fellow Republicans of garnering support from Democrats by offering them chair positions on key committees, as previously reported by The Dallas Express.

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