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Key Endorsements, Issues Will Influence Texas GOP Legislative Primary

Hobby School Survey Considers Impact of Vouchers, Paxton Impeachment, Trump Endorsements, Other Factors

Texas Republican primary voters say they will weigh a number of key issues and endorsements as they cast ballots in state legislative races, with 70% saying they are more likely to support a candidate backed by former President Donald Trump. Slightly fewer said the same about candidates endorsed by Gov. Greg Abbott and U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, at 64% and 61% respectively, while endorsements by other Republican officials carry considerably less weight.

The latest research from the Hobby School of Public Affairs at the University of Houston offers new insights into how the hottest debates of the past year will shape decisions by Republican primary voters, from border security and debates over school vouchers to efforts to impeach Attorney General Ken Paxton. 


Voters in the March 5 Republican primary for Texas legislative seats will weigh incumbents’ voting histories on outlawing unauthorized immigration, banning transgender girls from girls’ sports teams and adopting school-choice vouchers – among several other controversies in the state.
Photo by Element5 Digital / Pexels

“People who vote in the primaries tend to be the most committed voters, and in the case of the Republican primary, the voters lean conservative to very conservative,” said Renée Cross, senior executive director of the Hobby School and one of the researchers. “This survey’s results are certainly consistent with that trend. For example, we found 86% said they are more likely to support an incumbent who voted to make unauthorized immigration a state crime during the last session, while 85% said the same about those who voted to ban transgender girls from playing on girls’ sports teams.”

Other issues that dominated the 2023 legislative session and a series of special sessions are also relevant for the March 5 primary. Early voting begins Feb. 20.

“School vouchers have been a key priority for Gov. Abbott, who called a series of special sessions in an unsuccessful attempt to pass a bill that would have given parents taxpayer-funded vouchers to send their children to private schools,” said Mark P. Jones, political science fellow at Rice University’s Baker Institute and a senior research fellow at the Hobby School. Jones noted that 60% of GOP primary voters are less likely to vote for an incumbent who voted against vouchers, while 24% said it will have no effect and 16% said a “no” vote on vouchers will make them more likely to support a candidate.

Voters are more closely split on the Paxton impeachment, with 46% saying they are less likely to support an incumbent who voted to file articles of impeachment against Paxton, while 31% said it will have no impact. An additional 23% are more likely to support a candidate who voted to impeach Paxton.

Among the report’s other findings:

  • Removing House Speaker Dade Phelan from office has become a rallying cry among some of Phelan’s fellow Republicans. Primary voters appear less concerned, with 26% saying they are more likely to support a candidate who pledges to vote against returning Phelan for another term as speaker. 62% say it will not affect their vote, and 12% are less likely to vote for a candidate who opposes Phelan.
  • 42% of primary voters say they are more likely to support a candidate endorsed by Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, and 43% say his endorsement makes no difference. 15% say it makes them less likely to support a candidate.
  • 40% are more likely to support a candidate endorsed by Paxton, the attorney general, while 41% say it has no effect and 19% say it makes their support less likely.
  • Primary voters indicated that a 2021 ruling by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals striking down the attorney general’s ability to prosecute voter fraud without permission from local county prosecutors will impact their decisions in those races. 60% are less likely to vote for an incumbent judge who voted in favor of the decision – all three Republican Court of Criminal Appeals judges up for reelection in 2024 voted in favor – while 20% are more likely to do so.
  • More than three-quarters of Republican primary voters have favorable opinions of Trump (79%), Abbott (77%) and Cruz (76%), while more than half view Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (69%), Patrick (56%) and Paxton (51%) favorably.
  • Although billionaire conservative donors Tim Dunn and Farris Wilks are well-known to GOP elites, fewer than one in five Republican primary voters know who they are.

The full report is available on the Hobby School website. Previous reports focused on the presidential primary races and November presidential election in Texas and the Texas U.S. Senate race.

The survey asked 1,500 likely Texas voters about their preferences regarding candidates and policies in the upcoming primary election. It was conducted between Jan. 11 and 24, 2024, in English and Spanish. The margin of error is +/- 2.5%.

— story by Jeannie Kever

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