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Gov. Abbott: School choice wins in Tuesday’s GOP primary runoffs in Texas

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(The Center Square) – The Texas state legislature now has enough votes to pass school choice initiatives after Tuesday’s Republican primary runoff election , Gov. Greg Abbott said Tuesday night.

“The Texas Legislature now has enough votes to pass school choice. This is a victory for every Texas family across our great state,” Abbott said after multiple Republican pro-school choice candidates ran to challenge anti-choice incumbents and won their elections in the March 5 primary and Tuesday’s runoff elections.

“While we did not win every race we fought in, the overall message from this year’s primaries is clear: Texans want school choice,” Abbott said. “Opponents of school choice can no longer ignore the will of the people. As we look ahead to the November general election, we will continue to work tirelessly to elect strong, conservative candidates who will ensure every child in Texas has access to the best education possible – regardless of their zip code or economic background. Working together, we will create an even brighter future for generations to come.”

Severe storms on Tuesday caused some polling locations to remain open after the 7 p.m. closing deadline. As of 10:30 pm local time, many of the races had yet to be called.

The Associated Press projected winners in races where 99% of votes had been counted, including in one of the most closely watched races – involving House Speaker Dade Phelan, R-Beaumont.

Phelan is projected to have won his race by a narrow 50.7% to 49.3% advantage, defeating challenger David Covey by less than 400 votes. His win dashed the hopes of conservative activists’ attempts to unseat him in a bitter and expensive primary race.

In his victory remarks Tuesday night, Phelan said, “I am immensely grateful to the voters of Southeast Texas, who have spoken loud and clear: in Southeast Texas, we set our own course – our community is not for sale, and our values are not up for auction. I owe a profound debt of gratitude to every voter and volunteer whose relentless dedication turned that vision into tonight’s resounding victory.”

In other races, key wins on Tuesday night brought Abbott one step closer to fulfilling his pledge to bring school choice to Texas.

Last year, 21 House Republicans opposed a school choice bill the Texas Senate repeatedly passed. After the legislative session, five retired and 16 ran for reelection.

Throughout the primary season, Abbott endorsed and campaigned for candidates who he says support school choice, including those who challenged incumbent Republicans that Abbott previously endorsed who were among the 21.

In the March 5 primary election, pro-school choice candidates won big, The Center Square reported. Six incumbent Republican lawmakers who opposed school choice lost outright. Four more were forced into a runoff election by pro-school choice candidates. Four pro-school choice candidates won their races in open seats.

In Tuesday’s runoff election, three incumbent Republicans challenged by pro-school choice candidates appear to have lost: DeWayne Burns (HD-58), Justin Holland (HD-33), and John Kuempel (HD-44). Helen Kerwin received 57.5% of the vote to Burns’ 42.5%; Katrina Pierson was the projected nominee defeating Holland by 56.4% to 43.6%. Alan Schoolcraft was leading Kuempel by a vote of 55.3% to 44.7%.

All vote totals are unofficial until certified.

In HD 1, Gary VanDeaver appears to have defeated his challenger Chris Spencer by a vote of 53.1% to 46.5%.

In HD 29, Jeffrey Barry was the projected nominee defeating Abbott-endorsed pro-school choice candidate Alex Kamkar. In HD 61, Karesa Richardson was the projected nominee defeating Abbott-endorsed pro-school choice candidate Frederick Frazier.

Trey Wharton in HD 12 is projected to have won his race; Andy Hopper in HD 64 appears to have won his race; and Lea Simmons in HD 76 appears to have won her race – all pro-school choice candidates. None were officially called as of late Tuesday.

Several races remained too close to call, and in others small percentages of votes had been counted as of 10:30 pm local time.

Other Republican candidates endorsed by Abbott won their races, including former state Rep. Craig Goldman, who won his runoff election for an open seat for Congress in HD 12 and Brent Hagenbuch who won his state Senate SD 30 race.

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