2022 Runoff Election ResultsElections 2022State HouseAbbott-Backed Kitzman Upsets Rep. Stephenson After Incumbent’s Misleading Endorsement Claims

The incumbent's loss came after his campaign falsely claimed an endorsement from Governor Abbott this cycle.
May 25, 2022
The only state-level incumbent to fall in Tuesday night’s primary runoff elections was Rep. Phil Stephenson (R-Wharton), who lost to challenger Stan Kitzman by more than 2,200 votes.

“I’ve been proud of this opportunity but to represent these counties is especially important to me and to have a chance to work for our constituents,” Kitzman told The Texan after the House District (HD) 85 result became known.

He added that his number one priority in the legislature will be to secure the southern border, something the state has tried desperately to accomplish over the last year and a half.

HD 85 was made even stronger for Republicans in redistricting, assuring an easy path for Kitzman through November.

Stephenson first won election to the Texas House in 2013 and has won each race since. But last year his district was redrawn to exclude his home address, though it absorbed his hometown of Wharton.

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At the tail end of the campaign, Stephenson began touting Gov. Greg Abbott’s endorsement — the problem being, he didn’t have the governor’s support this time around. The quote and image his campaign circulated were from 2020.

This led to a last-minute Abbott endorsement for Kitzman that, if it didn’t tip the scales toward the challenger, allowed him to run up the score on his opponent.

“It’s unfortunate that it had to happen that way but it shook out all right despite it,” Kitzman added about his opponent’s campaign tactic in the home stretch.

Stephenson’s bid for re-election was unusual for an incumbent, not receiving either much support from Speaker Dade Phelan (R-Beaumont) nor from his other colleagues. He did, however, receive $35,000 from the House Republican Caucus PAC.

Kitzman will face Democrat Larry Baggett in November before he can take his seat in the state House chamber come January 2023.


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Brad Johnson

Brad Johnson is a senior reporter for The Texan and an Ohio native who graduated from the University of Cincinnati in 2017. He is an avid sports fan who most enjoys watching his favorite teams continue their title drought throughout his cognizant lifetime. In his free time, you may find Brad quoting Monty Python productions and trying to calculate the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow.