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Key races to watch as early voting underway for 2024 primary runoff

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(The Center Square) – Early voting is underway for the 2024 primary runoff election, which began on Monday and ends Friday. The runoff election is May 28.

On ballots statewide are 28 federal and state races with key Republican races to watch in the Texas House. They include one in southeast Texas that will determine if the Texas Speaker of the House stays in office and others with school choice as the primary issue.

Gov. Greg Abbott has endorsed several Republicans with the hope that once elected they will vote for a school choice measure next year. The Texas legislature convenes every other year. Last year, it was unable to pass a school choice bill that repeatedly passed the Senate but failed in the House.

According to polling, Abbott’s endorsements matter to a majority of Republican primary voters, who also overwhelmingly support school choice.

The biggest race to watch is in HD 21, where Speaker Dade Phelan, R-Beaumont, is being challenged by businessman David Covey. Residents in the district have been bombarded with numerous mailers and negative attack ads on the radio and television.

Phelan’s opponents argue House Democratic committee chairs he appointed block key bills from passing in the legislature. His supporters point out that Covey is backed by the same donors as former Democratic congressman Robert “Beto” O’Rourke, who ran against Abbott for governor and lost.

Last year, House Republicans successfully blocked two consequential bills. State Rep. Todd Hunter, R-Corpus Christi, blocked a bipartisan bill the Senate passed that would have banned entities from countries of foreign concern from purchasing land in Texas, The Center Square reported. Twenty-one House Republicans blocked a school choice bill championed by Abbott. The majority were primaried and many lost.

Key House races include HD 1, where incumbent state Rep. Gary VanDeaver, R-New Boston, is being challenged by Chris Spencer, who is endorsed by Abbott.

In HD 12, Republicans Ben Bius and Trey Wharton, who is endorsed by Abbott, are facing off. In HD 29, Jeff Barry and Alex Kamkar, who is endorsed by Abbott, are facing off.

In HD 30, small businessman and mayor of Victoria Jeff Bauknight, and former Jackson County Sheriff A.J. Louderback are facing off. Abbott has endorsed Bauknight and headlined campaign events with him.

“There’s only one candidate in this race who actually has a history of cutting property taxes, and that’s Jeff Bauknight,” Abbott said at a recent event, adding that he will work with him to “cut your property taxes even more.”

Three key school choice races include challengers endorsed by Abbott hoping to oust incumbents they argue are anti-school choice. In HD 33, political operative Katrina Pierson is challenging incumbent state Rep. Justin Holland, R-Rockwall; in HD 44, Alan Schoolcraft is challenging incumbent state Rep. John Kuempel, R-Seguin; in HD 58, Helen Kerwin is challenging incumbent state Rep. DeWayne Burns, R-Cleburne.

In HD 61, Keresa Richardson is challenging incumbent state Rep. Frederick Frazier, R-McKinney, who was dishonorably discharged from the Dallas Police Department. In June 2022, he pleaded no contest to two misdemeanor charges of attempting to impersonate a public servant. Last month, a judge dismissed the charges.

In HD 64, Andy Hopper is challenging incumbent and Abbott-endorsed state Rep. Lynn Stucky, R-Denton.

In HD 91, David Lowe is challenging incumbent state Rep. Stephanie Klick, R-Fort Worth. After purchasing porn and gambling URLs, Lowe unapologetically told NBC News he did so “to make a quick buck.”

Abbott has headlined several campaign events with Klick, who is also endorsed by numerous pro-life and law enforcement groups. She “has been a conservative champion” for her district and the entire state, Abbott said, playing a key role to pass border security measures, lower property taxes, and protect the integrity of women’s sports.

In HD 97 in Fort Worth, Cheryl Bean and John McQueeney are running to fill a seat vacated by state Rep. Craig Goldman. Goldman is running for an open congressional seat in the 12th congressional district against John O’Shea, whose campaign publicized false endorsements, The Center Square reported. Abbott has endorsed Goldman and McQueeney.

In the Texas Senate, in SD 30, Republicans Jace Yarbrough and Brent Hagenbuch are vying to fill an open seat vacated by state Sen. Drew Springer. Abbott endorsed Hagenbuch.

Two key Democratic races will be decided in Houston. In SD 15, state Sen. Molly Cook and state Rep. Jarvis Johnson are hoping to fill a vacated seat held for 40 years by former state Sen. John Whitmire. Whitmire was elected Houston’s new mayor. In HD 146, incumbent state Rep. Shawn Thierry is being challenged by Lauren Ashley Simmons.

In HD 80, Democrats Cecilia Castellano and Rosie Cuellar, the sister of U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, are hoping to fill an open seat in rural south Texas.

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