Governor Greg Abbott endorsed eight candidates this week who are in runoffs that hadn’t previously received his support. They are:
- Justin Berry, House District (HD) 19
- Patrick Gurski, HD 23
- Caroline Harris, HD 52
- Rep. Glenn Rogers (R-Graford), HD 60
- Ben Bumgarner, HD 63
- Jamee Jolly, HD 70
- Barron Casteel, HD 73
- Laura Hill, HD 93
Abbott had already endorsed Rep. Stephanie Klick (R-Fort Worth), one of the four incumbents including Rogers, who was pushed to a runoff.
Some of these choices are not surprising, such as in HD 63 where Bumgarner, a Flower Mound city councilman, faces Jeff Younger whose son James has been the subject of a custody fight in which his mother says the boy is transgender. Younger has been critical of Abbott and the Texas legislature writ large for not passing legislation prohibiting gender transition procedures for children.
Another that is less surprising is in HD 19, where Berry faces former Austin City Councilwoman Ellen Troxclair. Berry, an Austin police officer currently indicted by progressive District Attorney José Garza for alleged actions during the 2020 protests-turned-riots, was endorsed by Abbott in his 2020 GOP runoff in HD 47 versus Jennifer Fleck.
After the Abbott endorsement of Berry was announced, it was criticized by national school choice advocate Corey DeAngelis due to Texas’ American Federation of Teachers’ endorsement of Berry that is no longer on their website — called an inconsistency due to Abbott’s previous statement of support for school choice legislation next session, something teachers unions strongly oppose.
The only incumbent to be endorsed in this wave who hadn’t been already is Rogers who is facing a challenge from his right by Mike Olcott, a donor to many grassroots conservative candidates. Two years ago, Rogers ran against Jon Francis, a member of the conservative mega donor Wilks family. The race was awash with money and Abbott came out hard for Rogers, marked by a $40,000 in-kind TV ad buy in the final days of the race.
Rogers was also, and still is, endorsed by the Texas AFT — on Sunday, Rogers put out a statement in the Brownwood News criticizing school choice proposals as “a trojan horse attempt to privatize Texas’ education system.”
In the heated HD 73 race, Abbott chose Casteel, a former New Braunfels mayor, over Carrie Isaac, a 2020 candidate in HD 45 and wife of former state representative Jason Isaac.
Abbott’s quote of support stated, “I trust Barron to reduce property tax rates,” raising an issue that’s become central to the race.
While in office, New Braunfels reduced the property tax rate but never adopted the “no-new-revenue rate” — the point at which property taxes collected are kept flat from year to year. In his own race, Abbott has not been so specific on the rates versus overall tax bills dynamic, saying about his own plan that the state “will deliver substantial and lasting property tax cuts.”
In fact, in the statement for Jolly, Abbott said she will “help cut property taxes for our families” and for Hill touted her time as Southlake mayor during which the city “cut property taxes while increasing funding for law enforcement.”
Each of Abbott’s endorsed House incumbents either won their primary outright or placed first while pushed to a runoff.
House Speaker Dade Phelan (R-Beaumont) also announced a few endorsements in runoff races, mirroring Abbott’s choices in some and diving into new ones as well. He endorsed:
- Elisa Chan, HD 122
- Frederick Frazier, HD 61
- Richard Hayes, HD 57
- Janie Lopez, HD 37
- Kronda Thimesch, HD 65
With these endorsements, it is likely to see the speaker jump in financially for these candidates in the run up to the runoff.
Phelan has supported each of the House GOP incumbents in runoffs, and aided at least three of them financially — Klick, Rogers, and Reps. Kyle Kacal (R-College Station) and Phil Stephenson (R-Wharton).
These outcome of these intra-GOP fights will decide portions of the makeup of the Texas House when the body reconvenes in January 2023.
Editor’s Note: This article has been updated to include new endorsements by Phelan.
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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.