Elections 2022State HouseAbbott Endorses Kitzman in Houston-Area Texas House Race After Incumbent Falsely Claims Governor’s Support

Rep. Stephenson has remained largely on an island during his re-election bid, lacking the support that is typical of House GOP incumbents.
May 19, 2022
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A candidate’s misstep in the relatively quiet campaign for House District (HD) 85 cranked the race up to 11 just days before the runoff election.

State Rep. Phil Stephenson’s (R-Wharton) campaign allegedly sent out a misleading text message to Republican voters this week, according to his opponent Stan Kitzman.

The graphic texted to voters reads: “I’m Governor Greg Abbott and I’m proud to endorse Representative Phil Stephenson for re-election.” Underneath is a picture of Abbott and Stephenson side-by-side, but the image is from Abbott’s 2020 endorsement of the lawmaker, which is still up on the campaign’s Facebook page.

“When our campaign learned of the text message, we reached out to Governor Abbott’s team to confirm,” a statement from Kitzman read. “A key member of his campaign told my consultant that the Governor had not endorsed Stephenson for re-election this cycle.”

“Phil Stephenson’s history of blatant dishonesty is not new to the citizens he represents or the new ones he seeks to represent. We look forward to ending that issue on May 24th.”

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The day after Kitzman’s release went out, Abbott issued an endorsement in the HD 85 race — but, instead, for Kitzman.

“Stan Kitzman served his country for 20 years in the Texas Army National Guard, so I know he will be a reliable partner as we work to secure our southern border,” Abbott said in his endorsement. “He is also a charter member of the Waller County Republican Club, and a trustworthy warrior for the conservative cause.”

Asked if the text message prompted the endorsement, an Abbott campaign spokesman told The Texan, “No, we did not want folks to be confused between an old general election and this runoff.”

Stephenson’s campaign did not respond to an inquiry by the time of publication.

The incumbent’s re-election bid has been atypical, neither receiving an endorsement from Speaker Dade Phelan (R-Beaumont) nor receiving much financial support from his House GOP colleagues. He was only given $1,000 from retiring Rep. Jim Murphy (R-Houston) but did receive $35,000 from the House Republican Caucus PAC in his latest report.

During redistricting, Stephenson was paired with Rep. Jacey Jetton (R-Richmond) in HD 26 by his home address, but then decided to run in his current seat, HD 85, which absorbed Stephenson’s hometown of Wharton. This caused some tension between Stephenson and the chamber’s GOP leadership, with the representative submitting a letter to the House Redistricting Committee expressing his dissatisfaction with the map.

After the lines were redrawn, Stephenson’s new district went from an R-57% rating to R-68% according to The Texan’s Texas Partisan Index, which analyzes the partisan leaning of specific districts.

Stephenson edged out Kitzman in the primary by less than 1,200 votes but failed to clear 50 percent, triggering a runoff. The pair now squares off next Tuesday for the GOP nomination and an easy path through November.

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Brad Johnson

Brad Johnson is 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.