Texas GOP primary shaped by key endorsements, school choice


Texas Republican primary voters are more motivated by an incumbent’s stance on school choice legislation than by their votes to impeach Attorney General Ken Paxton, and more voters place value on endorsements from former President Donald Trump, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) than other prominent Republicans, according to a new poll released Tuesday.

The poll from the University of Houston (UH) Hobby School of Public Affairs surveyed 1,500 registered voters last month, and this week the school released a report analyzing the issues influencing Republican primary voters.

During the last special legislative session in 2023, 21 Republicans joined with House Democrats to strip education savings accounts (ESA) from an education omnibus bill, thus killing the possibility of passing any school choice measures with the current House membership. Since then, Abbott and Cruz have used the anti-school choice vote as the basis for a slew of endorsements against Republican incumbents.

According to the results of the UH poll, most Republican voters agree that school choice is a top issue, and 60 percent of respondents said they would be less likely to vote for an incumbent Texas House representative who opposed school choice legislation in 2023.

Fewer Republican voters polled indicated much concern over the House vote to impeach Paxton last year, with 46 percent indicating they would be less likely to vote for an incumbent House representative who voted for the articles of impeachment. Of those polled, 31 percent responded that an incumbent’s impeachment vote would have no impact on them, while 23 percent said they would be more likely to vote for an incumbent who voted to impeach.

Since the Texas Senate voted to acquit him last September, Paxton has vowed to support candidates challenging any incumbent House Republican who voted to impeach him. Thus far, the attorney general has endorsed in 44 races.

The UH poll also examined the power of official endorsements and found that 70 percent of Republicans would be more likely to vote for a candidate backed by the former president. The second most influential endorser was Abbott, with 64 percent of respondents saying they would be more likely to vote for a candidate supported by the governor.

In 26 Republican primary races Abbott and Paxton have fallen on opposite sides, but the UH poll indicates that Abbott-backed candidates have the advantage. Compared to Abbott’s 64 percent, just 40 percent of respondents said that they would be more likely to vote for a candidate backed by Paxton.

Paxton, however, has drawn support from Trump, and both men have endorsed David Covey, who is challenging House Speaker Dade Phelan (R-Beaumont) for the Republican nomination in House District 21.

After Trump and Abbott, Cruz wields the most influence with 61 percent of Republicans polled responding that they would be more likely to vote for a candidate endorsed by the senator. Among other well-known state Republicans, Lt. Gov Dan Patrick swayed votes for 42 percent, former Gov. Rick Perry for 34 percent, Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller for 21 percent, and Phelan for 9 percent.

Pollsters further broke down results by demographics and found that 63 percent of both urban and suburban voters were less likely to vote for an incumbent who voted against school choice. Although many rural lawmakers have claimed that their constituents oppose school choice programs, even 58 percent of rural respondents said they would vote against anti-school choice incumbents: a result consistent with previous polling on education issues.

The school choice issue appeared to resonate even more with independent voters — 70 percent of whom said they would be less likely to vote for an incumbent who voted against school choice. Independents were also less swayed by votes to impeach Paxton, with just 40 percent responding that they would be less likely to vote for an incumbent who voted to impeach the attorney general.

Fundraising efforts have not been hampered on the part of anti-school choice incumbents, and the latest financial reports show that thus far these incumbents have outraised their challengers. One such incumbent, Rep. Glenn Rogers (R-Graford), recently called for the elimination of the Texas Education Agency, which oversees the state’s public schools and intervenes in troubled districts.

The power of endorsements, combined with impeachment politics, could have significant influence over Phelan’s quest for re-election after Trump endorsed Covey last week.

The first test of Paxton’s endorsement power came last year when his preferred Houston City Council candidate attorney Tony Buzbee, who was one of Paxton’s defense attorneys during his Senate impeachment trial, fell short of unseating incumbent Council Member Mary Nan Huffman.

Dan Butcher

Dan Butcher (aka HP Pundit) is not a Democrat or Republican. He is a free thinking independent bringing you news and commentary with a dose of much needed common sense.

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