Mar 6, 2024 - News

Abbott wins big on election night

Photo illustration of Texas Governor Greg Abbott with lines radiating from him.

Photo illustration: Allie Carl/Axios. Photo: Brandon Bell/Getty Images

Gov. Greg Abbott's name wasn't on the ballot Tuesday, but he was the big winner.

Driving the news: Five of 10 Abbott-endorsed challengers defeated incumbents while three others forced runoffs.

Why it matters: Abbott spent more than $6 million between late January and late February against Texas House Republicans who defied him on school vouchers, and last night's results show Abbott's power to shape the Texas Republican Party.

What they're saying: "I'm concerned with what's going to happen at the state Capitol next year," Rep. Steve Allison, R-San Antonio, told KSAT as it became clear that he had lost to Abbott-backed challenger Marc LaHood. "These were quality representatives targeted by the governor. And what he did is inexcusable."

Between the lines: The results also underscored the power of personal grievance politics in the Age of Trump as House Speaker Dade Phelan heads to a May runoff election.

  • Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick both targeted Phelan, a fellow Republican.
  • Paxton wanted to punish Phelan for encouraging House Republicans to impeach him on corruption allegations while Patrick has long bitterly feuded with Phelan.

By the numbers: Challenger David Covey, an oil and gas consultant and party activist, received 46.3% of the vote and Phelan got 43.2%, according to unofficial results.

  • "Let this runoff be a rallying cry for all conservatives across Texas," Paxton said in a statement. "We must continue to stand firm against the liberal agenda represented by Dade Phelan and his allies."
  • In addition to Paxton and Patrick's endorsements, Covey received the support of former President Trump and Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller.

Yes but: Republican Rep. Jeff Leach of Plano easily won re-election.

  • Paxton targeted Leach after he gave an emotional closing argument in Paxton's impeachment trial, urging senators to convict him.
  • Abbott endorsed Leach.

Meanwhile: Paxton ousted three Texas Court of Criminal Appeals judges he targeted over a 2021 ruling that stripped his ability to single-handedly prosecute voter fraud.

The bottom line: When Abbott's push to pass school vouchers fell short, he warned lawmakers he would remake the Legislature to extract victories in the 2025 legislative session.

  • Targeted incumbents were made miserable by the governor's aggressive campaigning, which saw him make more than 50 campaign stops since mid-January, per a Houston Chronicle tally.
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