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After Bonnen departure, key Republican State House races take center stage


By Bethany Blankley

In the wake of scandal surrounding the departure of former Texas House Speaker Dennis Bonnen, several candidates he was accused of targeting and supporting were up for reelection on Super Tuesday.

Of the 29 contested State House Republican primaries in 2020, two involved an incumbent targeted by Bonnen facing a primary challenger, seven featured an incumbent given money by Bonnen facing a primary challenger, two were open primaries where the conservative group Empower Texans made an endorsement, and two were contested primaries for a seat held by a member of the Texas Freedom Caucus, according to an analysis by the nonprofit organization Ballotpedia.

District 2 incumbent Dan Flynn, District 9 incumbent Chris Paddie, District 30 incumbent Geanie Morrison, District 106 incumbent Jared Patterson, and District 129 incumbent Dennis Paul, all received donations from Bonnen. All but Flynn won their races receiving more than 70 percent of the vote.

District 2 heads to a runoff election with Flynn receiving 44.47 percent of the vote Tuesday. He will face Bryan Slaton, who received 35 percent of the vote. If no candidate receives more than 50 percent of the vote, the top finishers head to a run-off.

Paddie won 77 percent of the vote; Morrison won 78 percent of the vote; Patterson won 76 percent of the vote; Paul won 78 percent of the vote.

District 72 incumbent Drew Darby was targeted by Bonnen, according to a recording made public by Empower Texans. Phil Stephenson, also an incumbent who received a donation from Bonnen, was also identified as a target according to the recording.

Darby won 86.9 percent of the vote; Stephenson won 78 percent of the vote.

The House Freedom Caucus comprises 10 House Republicans who openly opposed Bonnen and sought to retain two seats in primary contests this year. Election results in 2020 will determine whether the caucus will have eight, nine, or 10 members in the 2021 Legislative Session, Ballotpedia reports.

Four Republican candidates ran for District 60 House seat and District 128 incumbent and caucus member Briscoe Cain faced a primary challenge from moderate Robert Hoskins. Cain received a donation from Bonnen and is also a House Freedom Caucus member. Cain won 79 percent of the vote.

In District 60, Jon Francis won 45.9 percent of the vote. He will face a runoff against Glenn Rogers, who received 43.78 percent of the vote.

This Republican primary election season for the Texas House was less competitive than past election cycles, Ballotpedia reports.

Between 2014 and 2018, an average of 27 incumbents faced a primary challenge, with 40 total Republican primaries, and five incumbents who were defeated in primary elections. In 2020, only 11 of the 29 Republican primaries for the Texas House of Representatives involved an incumbent.

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