A Republican primary race for an open North Texas senate seat has sparked a fight over the state’s residency requirements for legislative candidates. Court action is expected Monday in two cases challenging establishment-backed candidate Brent Hagenbuch’s eligibility to run in a district where public records show he doesn’t reside.

Four GOP candidates filed to run for Senate District 30, after incumbent State Sen. Drew Springer (R–Muenster) announced on November 7 he would not seek re-election: Carrie de Moor, Cody Clark, Jace Yarbrough, and Hagenbuch.

Hagenbuch resigned as chairman of the Denton County GOP to run for the senate seat and quickly drew high-profile endorsements from Gov. Greg Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, and several Republican state senators.

However, many Denton County residents noted a problem: Hagenbuch lives in Senate District 12.

The other primary candidates noticed as well and filed administrative challenges to Hagenbuch’s candidacy with the Republican Party of Texas, which is responsible for verifying the candidates’ eligibility.

State law requires senate candidates to live in the district they seek to represent for one year before Election Day—in this case, November 5.

Yarbrough, de Moor, and Clark submitted multiple public records showing that Hagenbuch does not reside in SD 30.

Hagenbuch registered to vote at the address of his Little Elm home, which is in SD 12, in 2017, and he has a current homestead exemption there. Voting history records from the Denton County Elections office show he voted using that address on October 29, 2023.

A voter registration application dated November 13 shows Hagenbuch claiming a new residence at the address of his company’s just-completed office space in Denton, which is within SD 30. However, state law forbids voters from registering at commercial addresses, and a city ordinance forbids anyone from residing in commercial buildings.

On his candidate application dated November 16, Hagenbuch lists the commercial address as his “permanent residence” and attests to residing there for one and a half months, or since approximately October 1—four weeks before he cast a ballot using his home address and three weeks before the city certified the building for occupancy.

“Mr. Hagenbuch’s hasty attempt to fabricate residency in Senate District 30 is contradicted by public records,” Yarbrough’s attorneys said after the RPT denied the administrative challenge.

In a January 3 letter responding to the challengers, RPT Chairman Matt Rinaldi agreed that Hagenbuch’s homestead exemption, voting history, and candidate application raise “serious factual questions concerning his residency and, consequently, eligibility to run for State Senator in SD 30.”

But while the state’s residency rules for candidates are clear, Rinaldi noted that courts have broadly interpreted the Texas Election Code’s definition of “residence.”

Thus, Rinaldi said, it was not “appropriate” for the party to reject Hagenbuch’s application. “There remain factual questions outside of the Application and what is conclusively established by the identified public records, which must be resolved by judicial action,” he said.

De Moor and Yarbrough then filed separate legal actions challenging Hagenbuch’s residency.

De Moor sued Hagenbuch and the RPT in a state district court in Denton County, “seeking swift judicial action to prevent Hagenbuch from capitalizing on his obvious violations of Texas Election Law.”

Yarbrough petitioned the Second Court of Appeals to “compel” Rinaldi to declare Hagenbuch “administratively ineligible to be a candidate for the Republican nomination for the senator from District 30.”

Both cases are set for action on Monday, January 8.

A hearing in De Moor’s challenge is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. in the 393rd District Court in Denton County. Hagenbuch’s attorneys filed a motion on January 3 saying Hagenbuch was too busy campaigning with Springer to show up in court on the 8th, and that he shouldn’t have to testify or produce any documents.

The Second Court of Appeals set January 8 at 5:00 p.m. as the deadline for a response to be filed in Yarbrough’s case. A reply is then due by January 15, but the court said it “may consider and decide the case before a reply is filed.”

On Friday, Clark released a statement saying he had filed a criminal complaint with the Texas Rangers regarding Hagenbuch’s sworn candidate application.

“A man that will lie to you, will steal from you,” said Clark. “If candidates for office are able to lie about their fundamental qualifications for office, we do not have free and fair elections.”

“If Hagenbuch stays on the ballot, Texas may as well change the law to make running for the legislature like running for Congress and drop the requirement of residency in the district, because the residency requirement will have been rendered meaningless,” said Rohit Joy, a grassroots Republican activist in Collin County who has followed the case.

Candidates often skirt the residency requirement by claiming an address of a second home or property they own but don’t live at, or by renting an apartment within the district they want to represent.

But a state law passed in 2021 (Senate Bill 1111) clarified that a person “may not establish a residence at any place the person has not inhabited” or register to vote at “a commercial post office box or similar location that does not correspond to a residence.”

The law was authored by State Sen. Paul Bettencourt (R–Houston), who has endorsed Hagenbuch.

Republican State Sens. Donna Campbell (New Braunfels), Brandon Creighton (Conroe), and Pete Flores (Pleasanton) also endorsed Hagenbuch.

Hagenbuch, Bettencourt, Campbell, Creighton, and Flores are all clients of political consultant Allen Blakemore, a longtime advisor to Dan Patrick.

State Sen. Tan Parker (R–Flower Mound), another Blakemore client, also endorsed Hagenbuch. Parker represents SD 12, where Hagenbuch could have chosen to run without attempting to change his residency to a commercial address.

A number of local officials also endorsed Hagenbuch, including Denton County Sheriff Tracy Murphree and Denton Mayor Gerard Hudspeth.

None have withdrawn their endorsements over the challenges to Hagenbuch’s residency or his alleged false statements on voter registration and candidate filing applications.

Hagenbuch owns a transportation business in Denton and is a Navy veteran. Attorneys defending his eligibility to run for SD 30 include State Rep. Richard Hayes (R–Hickory Creek), who is also a past Denton County Republican Party chairman, and former Texas Secretary of State John Scott.

De Moor is an emergency room doctor from Frisco and is endorsed by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton.

Clark is a former Denton police officer and small businessman.

Yarbrough is an Air Force veteran and attorney.

Three candidates filed to run in the district’s Democrat primary.

SD 30 includes 11 counties: Archer, Clay, Cooke, Grayson, Jack, Montague, Young, and parts of Collin, Denton, Parker, and Wichita.

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.