Greg Abbott, Tim Dunn spending millions in Texas GOP primary fights over vouchers, impeachment

Texas Republican leaders, megadonors, and political groups are spending big, pouring millions of dollars into campaigns ahead of the March 5 primary, a litmus test for the future of the Texas GOP. Deep Cracks school vouchers and the impeachment of Attorney General Ken Paxton.

 Political interest groups like Texans For Suit Reform have donated more than $6 million to incumbents and PACs in the past month, and a small group of voucher supporters, state leaders, and far-right megadonors separately injected at least another $8 million into the primaries.

From January 26 to February 24, the most recent campaign finance reporting period, Gov. Greg Abbott spent $6.1 million to pack the Texas House of Representatives with members who will pass the school voucher bill. Last year, about two dozen Republicans joined with Democrats to block Abbott’s years-long crusade to pass a law allowing state money to subsidize private school funding. 

Among the top recipients was Janis Holt, a school board trustee and owner of an air purification company who comes to challenge state Rep. Ernest Bailes, R-Shepherd. The governor kicked in about $671,000 to Holt, mostly for advertising, accounting for almost 92 percent of her campaign contributions over the last month.

Holt also received financial support from the Family Empowerment Coalition PAC, a group that advocates for school vouchers; Texans United for a Conservative Majority PAC, a group mostly funded by right-wing West Texas oil tycoon Tim Dunn; and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick. Abbott and those three donors made up 99.7 percent of Holt’s fundraising from January 26 through Saturday, the period covered by campaign finance reports released Tuesday.

During the same period, right-wing billionaires like Tim Dunn have increased their donations. In the most recent reporting period, Dunn’s new group, Texans United For A Conservative Majority, spent more than $2.5 million on its campaign to oust incumbent members of the Texas House of Representatives who voted last summer to impeach Paxton, an important ally of the state’s right wing. Paxton was acquitted by the Senate.

Abbott made it his top priority last year to give families taxpayer dollars to enroll their children in private schools, but the proposal ran into a wall of opposition from Democrats and 21 largely rural Republicans in the Texas House, meeting the same fate as other voucher bids over the years.

Bailes also came within striking distance of Holt’s Abbott-boosted fundraising, thanks to nearly $300,000 from Butt’s PAC. 

Patrick, meanwhile, spent around $19,000 on text message ads in support of Phelan’s primary challenger, GOP activist David Covey. He contributed to several other candidates who have openly vowed not to support Phelan for speaker if they are elected.

The lieutenant governor had pledged in December not to campaign or spend money on Phelan’s race or “any other House race,” despite intense acrimony between the two GOP leaders.

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