Elections 20222022 Sees Uptick in GOP Primary Challenges to Texas House Incumbents

After a low number in 2020, more GOP incumbents will face primary races in the 2022 midterm elections.
December 1, 2021
The number of Republican incumbents in the Texas House who are facing primary challengers is swelling after a lull of GOP intra-party competitions in the previous election cycle.

So far, at least 17 representatives who have not announced other plans face primary challengers who have either launched a campaign or formally filed to be on the ballot before the upcoming deadline on December 13, 2021.

In contrast, only 11 incumbents faced primary challenges in 2020 — the fewest in two decades.

Though there are still a few weeks for more challengers to further inflate the number of GOP primary races against incumbents, the current amount puts the state on track to match the challenges seen in 2008 and 2010.

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Turnover via election loss tends to be higher when there are more challengers, but the two metrics don’t always correlate perfectly.

For instance, in 2004 and 2006, there were one or two more challenges to incumbents than in the most recent election. However, excluding two lawmakers who were paired together for the 2002 election after redistricting, no incumbents lost reelection during those years. But in the 2020 GOP primaries, two incumbents faced a runoff election and both lost.

And while the peak of primary challenges was last seen in 2016 with 32 races, the most challenger victories came in 2014 when there were only 23 challenges.

The candidates themselves play a crucial role in the outcome of the elections, and challengers who carry more name recognition or have the financial backing to build that recognition are typically more adept at unseating an incumbent.

Some challengers have found success in repeatedly running against the same incumbent, such as Rep. Bryan Slaton (R-Royse City), who defeated the incumbent of House District 2 in 2020 after challenging him for several elections in a row. Now Slaton will face his own challenger, Clyde Bostick.

On some occasions, a seat can flip back and forth between two members, as it did in House District 4. Then state Rep. Lance Gooden — who had first unseated an incumbent in 2010 — lost reelection in 2014 to Republican Stuart Spitzer but then unseated Spitzer in 2016.

There is at least one opportunity in 2022 for a seat to flip back to its predecessor, as former state Rep. George Lavender is reportedly seeking a rematch against Rep. Gary VanDeaver (R-New Boston) in House District 1.

VanDeaver unseated Lavender in 2014 and subsequently won again against Lavender as the incumbent in 2016.

A number of other candidates in the upcoming election cycle have likewise run for office in recent years and built up some name recognition, though did not win.

For instance, two of the candidates in the special election for state Senate District 30 last year, Shelley Luther and Andy Hopper, are running against different House incumbents.

Luther is challenging Rep. Reggie Smith (R-Sherman) while Hopper launched a primary campaign against Rep. Lynn Stucky (R-Denton).

Other Republican incumbents with primary challengers include:

  • Rep. Cecil Bell (R-Magnolia) is being challenged by Kelly McDonald.
  • Rep. Cole Hefner (R-Mt. Pleasant) is being challenged by Dewey Collier.
  • Rep. Travis Clardy (R-Nacogdoches) is being challenged by Greg Caldwell, Rachel Hale, and Mark Williams.
  • Rep. Kyle Kacal (R-College Station) is being challenged by Ben Bius and Joshua Hamm.
  • Rep. Ernest Bailes (R-Shepherd) is being challenged by Janis Holt and Ronnie “Bubba” Tullos.
  • Rep. Ryan Guillen (R-Rio Grande City) is being challenged by Mike Monreal.
  • Rep. Andrew Murr (R-Junction) is being challenged by Wesley Virdell.
  • Rep. Glenn Rogers (R-Graford) is being challenged by Kit Marshall and Mike Olcott. 
  • Rep. David Spiller (R-Jacksboro) is being challenged by Mark Middleton.
  • Rep. Phil Stephenson (R-Wharton) is being challenged by Fred Roberts.
  • Rep. Stephanie Klick (R-Fort Worth) is being challenged by David Lowe, Anthony Reed, and David Silvey.
  • Rep. Giovanni Capriglione (R-Fort Worth) is being challenged by Mitchell Ryan.
  • Rep. Steve Allison (R-San Antonio) is being challenged by Michael Champion.

The filing deadline for the March 1, 2022 primary election is on December 13, 2021.


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Daniel Friend

Daniel Friend is the Marketing and Media Manager for The Texan. After graduating with a double-major in Political Science and Humanities, he wrote for The Texan as a reporter through June 2022. In his spare time, you're likely to find him working on The Testimony of Calvin Lewis, an Abolition of Man-inspired novel and theatrical podcast.