UPDATED February 5 with comments from Jeff Fletcher.

With early voting in the March 5 Republican primary just weeks away, voters in Texas House District 5 are deciding between an established incumbent and two challengers claiming conservative grassroots support.

The East Texas district covers part of Smith County and all of Camp, Rains, Titus, Upshur, and Wood counties.

Incumbent State Rep. Cole Hefner of Mount Pleasant is running for a fifth term. Before joining the Legislature, Hefner served as a county commissioner in Upshur County.

While Hefner maintains a relatively high conservative ranking on various scales, his standing has declined among some constituents.

He was one of 60 Republican House members who voted to impeach Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, which is a hot-button issue among many GOP primary voters.

Like many lawmakers, Hefner’s voting record on fiscal issues has become less conservative over the years. He earned an “A-” during his first legislative session but dropped to a “D” (66 out of 100) during the regular 2023 session.

Hefner, who is married with seven children, was also caught in a capitol sex scandal in 2021 involving fellow Republican State Rep. Lacey Hull of Houston. At the same time, Hull was allegedly engaged in sexual activity with lobbyist Jordan Berry, who is Hefner’s and Hull’s political consultant.

Despite the scandal, both Hefner and Hull were re-elected in 2022.

Hefner’s top campaign contributors in 2022 were House Speaker Dade Phelan and Texans for Lawsuit Reform. His top donors in 2024 are Phelan ($18,600), TLR ($10,000), and the Family Empowerment Coalition ($10,000), a new pro-school choice PAC.

Gov. Greg Abbott is endorsing Hefner along with all incumbents who supported his school choice plan.

However, some HD 5 constituents now support “anyone but Hefner.”

One is Bob Kecseg, a local Republican activist and former State Republican Executive Committee member who has endorsed both of Hefner’s challengers.

He said Hefner has become obedient to House leaders and is no longer responsive to constituents.

“Incumbents who are loyal to leadership and the speaker do not represent their district,” Kecseg told Texas Scorecard.

One of the two challengers in the race, Dewey Collier, is facing Hefner for a second time.

Collier ran against Hefner in the 2022 Republican primary to give voters an alternative. He earned 19 percent of the vote.

Hefner hadn’t faced a primary challenger since he was first elected in 2016.

Collier said he’s running again due to Hefner’s latest actions in the House, including his vote to impeach Paxton and his support for Phelan and Democrat committee chairs—another hot-button issue among primary voters.

While Collier is endorsed by State Sen. Angela Paxton (R–McKinney), her husband, Attorney General Ken Paxton, endorsed Hefner’s other challenger, Jeff Fletcher.

Fletcher also recently received the endorsement of Grassroots America: We The People, a conservative advocacy group based in the district that backed Collier in 2022.

In 2016, Fletcher was elected as judge of the 402nd District Court in Wood County. During his four years on the bench, he earned a reputation for having a hot temper and faced professional scandals.

Fletcher was publicly reprimanded by the Texas Commission on Judicial Conduct for “willful and persistent” violations in a family case. Fletcher recently said he has no regrets about violating the mother’s rights, who he claimed was a danger to her child, and would do it again. He also received at least one private sanction for lending “the prestige of his judicial office to advance the private interests of his court administrator and her family.”

He also became a defendant in an ongoing lawsuit brought by a police captain who alleges he was fired in retaliation for making unflattering statements about Fletcher and Wood County’s sheriff and district attorney at the time.

Fletcher lost his 2020 bid for re-election to Brad McCampbell, who highlighted concerns about the incumbent during his campaign.

His current campaign website leaves a gap in his background from1994 to 2017, but in 2006 CBS11 News in Dallas/Fort Worth reported that Fletcher was accused of fraud while working with a Dallas-based consulting firm called Parole and Probation Services. In response to a criminal investigation, Fletcher and his business partner claimed they were victims of a conspiracy.

Fletcher told Texas Scorecard that unbeknownst to him, professional con artist Andrew Robert “Bob” Coats stole his letterhead and posed as him to bilk prison inmates out of hundreds of thousands of dollars. Coats was sent to prison in 2010 and released in 2020.

Fletcher and Collier are expected to participate in a forum hosted by the Republican Women of Wood County on February 18.

Early voting in the March 5 primary election starts on February 20.

Erin Anderson

Erin Anderson is a Senior Journalist for Texas Scorecard, reporting on state and local issues, events, and government actions that impact people in communities throughout Texas and the DFW Metroplex. A native Texan, Erin grew up in the Houston area and now lives in Collin County.