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Texas AG Ken Paxton's primary endorsements fail to topple Collin County incumbents Tuesday

Suspended Texas attorney general Ken Paxton talks with supporters at a Labor Day picnic hosted by the Collin County GOP.
Johnathan Johnson
Johnathan Johnson/ KERA
Suspended Texas attorney general Ken Paxton talks with supporters at a Labor Day picnic hosted by the Collin County GOP.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton wasn’t on the ballot for Tuesday night's primary. But five incumbent House members from Collin County who voted to impeach him were.

And Paxton endorsed several Republican primary challengers in his home base, Collin County, after that impeachment vote. Despite his popularity back home, none of the candidates Paxton endorsed prevailed against the incumbents Tuesday.

Three of the Collin County GOP Texas House members had significant leads late Tuesday against their Paxton-backed opponents. The other two races appear to be headed for a runoff election in May.

Brandon Rottinghaus, a political science professor at the University of Houston, said incumbents often have an advantage.

"Even though Ken Paxton's got some political juice in Collin County, it's not always enough to be able to unseat an incumbent," Rottinghaus said.

Abbott’s support seems to carry more weight with GOP primary voters. A pre-election study from the University of Houston Hobby School of Public Affairs found that 64% of Republican primary voters across Texas said they were more likely to support a candidate backed by Abbott, compared to 40% who said the same about Paxton. Abbott endorsed all but one of the Republican incumbents in Collin County.

Texas House District 89

Rep. Candy Noble received about 53% of the vote according to results from the Texas Secretary of State's website. She faced Paxton-backed challenger Abraham George in her primary race.

Abbott endorsed Noble and came to Collin County to campaign for Noble. She backed his failed school vouchers program, which would have used state public education funds to pay for private school tuition.

George stepped down as Collin County GOP Party chair to run. When he was the Collin County GOP chair, George praised Paxton’s acquittal in the Texas Senate impeachment trial. He said the trial was a waste of time and resources that distracted GOP members from priorities like the border and economy. He also called on voters to “clean” the Texas House.

George said in a previous statement when the impeachment was first announced that the House impeachment lacked due process.

“Real corruption is when you won’t allow fair and due process,” he said.

Texas House District 61

None of the three candidates in the Texas House District 61 GOP primary race won a majority of the votes. Representative Frederick Frazier, who won about 32% of the vote, will face Keresa Richardson in a runoff election in May.

Both Paxton and his wife, Texas State Sen. Angela Paxton, endorsed Richardson, who received about 40% of the votes in the primary race. She told KERA after a debate hosted by the Collin County Patriots that Frazier sided with Democrats too frequently.

“He’s definitely not the representative we need,” Richardson said. “We need new leadership, and Collin County deserves better. It’s time for change.”

Frazier voted to impeach Paxton, but he also faced other challenges. He accepted a deferred adjudication plea and paid some fines after pleading no contest on two misdemeanor charges of impersonating a public servant in a Collin County court in December.

He also pleaded guilty to a criminal mischief charge. His Republican primary opponent in 2022, Paul Chabot, reported to police that Frazier pretended to be a city code compliance officer to remove some of Chabot's campaign signs.

Texas House District 33

The Texas House District 33 Republican primary race is also headed for a May runoff. Rep. Justin Holland received about 39% of the vote. He'll face, Katrina Pierson, who received about 40% of the vote.

Pierson touted her win on social media.

"HD 33 had a choice — and over 60% voted for a candidate who will serve We the People, not the Austin Swamp and Democrats," she said.

Dennis London, who also challenged Holland, received about 22% of the vote.

Pierson is a former campaign spokesperson for President Donald Trump. She received $50,000 from Texans United for a Conservative Majority. The political action committee was launched by two West Texas billionaires, Tim Dunn and Farris Wilks after their previous PAC faced controversy when its then-president met with white supremacist Nick Fuentes.

The district includes only a small part of Collin County, with the bulk of it in Rockwall County. The Rockwall County GOP denounced Holland on social media in January for voting in favor of impeaching Paxton and for supporting Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan.

No Democrats filed to run in the district's primary race, so whoever wins the runoff in May will be the sole candidate on the ballot in the general election.

Texas House District 67

Rep. Jeff Leach won about 65% of the votes Tuesday night, a significant lead over his primary opponent, former Allen city council member Daren Meis. He thanked his supporters in a post on social media.

"After winning a resounding victory - with nearly 66% of the vote - I am more eager than ever to continue serving as your voice at the Capitol and more excited than ever to continue fighting for our future and for our families," Leach said.

Leach, who has held the seat for six terms, is known for being conservative. He spearheaded legislation banning businesses from requiring their employees to get vaccinated for Covid-19 and coauthored the bill that made it legal for Texans to carry concealed firearms in most public places without obtaining a permit.

But Leach’s GOP critics labeled him a RINO, a Republican in Name Only, because of his involvement in Paxton’s impeachment. He addressed that on election night according to a social media post from Tony Ortiz from Current Revolt, a conservative media outlet.

“I’ve been called a RINO, but I don't know what you call a RINO that just got 66% of the vote," Leach said.

Matthew Wilson, a political science professor at Southern Methodist University, said RINO once referred to Republicans who weren’t conservative enough. But he said the meaning has changed as allegiance to certain Republican politicians — like Paxton or President Donald Trump — has become more important to the party than loyalty to policy or ideology.

“The way that many people use it now is as an accusation of disloyalty,” Wilson said.

Meis accused Leach of going against the will of the voters for supporting Paxton’s impeachment. The Attorney General was elected in 2022 with 53% of the vote in Collin County.

Texas House District 66

Matt Shaheen, who has represented this statehouse district since 2015, received about 64% of the vote.

Shaheen thanked his supporters on social media.

"I want to thank the Republican voters of Western Collin County for allowing me once again to run as your candidate for the TX House of representatives in November," he said.

Abbott endorsed Shaheen, who supported school vouchers. Shaheen told the Texas Newsroom that Abbott's support is more beneficial to campaigns.

“Ken Paxton is pretty irrelevant when it comes to these campaigns. He’s somebody that’s had a mistress. He’s been accused of taking bribes,” he said. “So, it’s really not an endorsement that you want, if anything that probably hurts you.

Paxton backed Wayne Richard, Shaheen's challenger. Richard told the Texas newsroom that the impeachment trial inspired him to run.

“The House is a mess,” Richard told The Texas Newsroom. “I was not happy with the fact that our current rep, my opponent, voted to impeach knowing the information was probably not legitimate — rumors and innuendos — so I made a decision to run.”


Most of the Democratic primary races in Collin County only had one candidate on the ballot, including Representative Mihaela Plesa in Texas House District 70.

Plesa, who was first elected in 2022, is the only Democratic incumbent running in the county. Her opponent, Steve Kinard, defeated Joe Collins III in the GOP primary race for the seat with about 68% of the vote. Kinard has endorsements from Senator Ted Cruz and Texas State Senator Angela Paxton.

Texas House District 67 was the only contested Democratic primary race on the ballot in Collin County. Makala Washington, who owns a private bartending business called Personality on the Rocks, won about 65% of the vote late Tuesday.

Democrat Rachel Mello was also the only candidate in the Democratic primary race for Texas Senate District 8. Sen. Paxton, who currently holds the seat, was the only Republican on the ballot for her primary race.

Got a tip? Email Caroline Love at  clove@kera.org.

Caroline Love is a Report For AmericaCorps member for KERA News.

KERA News is made possible through the generosity of our members. If you find this reporting valuable, consider  making a tax-deductible gifttoday. Thank you.

Copyright 2024 KERA. To see more, visit KERA.

Caroline Love