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Texas Senate District 1, State Board Of Education Races Top GOP Runoff Ballots

Keven Ellis defeated Mary Lou Bruner, who almost won the GOP nomination in March with 48 percent of the vote.
The Texas Tribune
Mary Lou Bruner and Keven Ellis are hoping to represent District 9 on the State Board of Education. Northeast Texas voters will pick between the two Republicans in a May 24 runoff election.

By this time next week, the people of Texas Senate District 1 should have a new senator-elect. Runoff elections statewide are next Tuesday. In the KETR listening area, Senate District 1 includes Paris and Lamar County, as well as Red River, Franklin and Wood counties. Most of the District is in the Ark-La-Tex region. District 1 includes Texarkana as well as Tyler and Longview.

Audio transcript

Tyler businessman Kevin Eltifehas represented the district for 12 years. Eltife chose not to seek re-election. Instead, the open seat was contested by a couple of sitting state representatives, along with two other Republicans. The two state reps are the ones who made the runoff. Mineola attorney Bryan Hughes almost won the primary outright, with 48 percent of the vote. But Longview timber entrepreneur David Simpson made it into the runoff by finishing just 13 votes ahead of the third-place candidate.

Hughes has outpaced Simpson in the fundraising department. But on matters of policy, the contrasts between the candidates are few. Both lawmakers are standard-bearers for the policy stances generally of most concern to Texas Republicans. Both oppose Medicaid expansion in Texas. Both stress increased border enforcement and immigration controls.

About the only stark contrast between the men's platforms has to do with the legal status of cannabis. Hughes favors the status quo, while Simpson favors legalization. Simpson has cited the medical uses of the plant as well as his own faith for his view -- saying, "I don’t believe that when God made marijuana, He made a mistake that government needs to fix." Hughes, in contrast, supports current laws, saying, "Every law enforcement officer and prosecutor that I had asked has confirmed that marijuana is a gateway drug."

Hughes has been endorsed by Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who presides over the Senate. Hughes has also been endorsed by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton. Simpson has expressed concerns over the current legal trouble regarding Paxton's financial dealings.

Meanwhile, the District 9 State Board of Education Race for Northeast Texas has been a strange one. That office is also going to runoff. Mineola retired schoolteacher Mary Lou Brunergot the most votes in the March primary, despite having received national attention for some bizarre statementsmade on social media. The statements include a claim that President Obama had formerly been a gay prostitute and that the United Nations was conspiring to use Obamacare as a way to kill Americans.

Bruner finished with more than 48 percent of the vote in March. Lufkin chiropractor and school board president Keven Ellis finished with about 31 percent of the vote and qualified for next Tuesday's runoff.

Yesterday, a prominent East Texas tea party activist group withdrew its endorsement of Bruner. The news was reported by the Tyler Morning Telegraph. According to a spokesman for Tyler-based Grassroots America - We The People, the group's decision came after a May 4th appearance Bruner made in Tyler before a group of East Texas school superintendents. Bruner made severalinaccurate claims about East Texas schools and students at that meeting. Also, a video of the meetingcirculating online has increased attention to the event. You can find links to campaign websites and other items related to next week's Republican primary runoff election at our website, KETR dot org.

Mark Haslett has served at KETR since 2013. Since then, the station's news operation has enjoyed an increase in listener engagement and audience metrics, as well recognition in the Texas AP Broadcasters awards.