Gov. Greg Abbott is expanding his criticism of incumbent members of the Texas House, blasting one lawmaker for helping place Democrats in leadership positions.  

First elected to the Texas House in 2016, State Rep. Justin Holland (R–Heath) has drawn the ire of conservatives with a series of high profile votes in contradiction to the party’s priorities this year. 

School choice has also been the top priority for Abbott, and he has begun endorsing challengers against Republicans who opposed a plan to create education savings accounts.

Holland was one of 21 Republicans to vote with Democrats to strip a school choice proposal out of school spending legislation. However, that’s not the only time he has bucked the GOP.

Holland was one of just two Republicans on the House Committee on Homeland Security and Public Safety to join Democrats in voting to raise the age from 18 to 21 for semi-automatic rifle purchases larger than a .22 caliber. He was also among the 60 Republican members who voted to impeach Attorney General Ken Paxton. 

Additionally, he voted against a proposal in 2021 to prohibit Democrats from serving as committee chairs. 

This led the Rockwall County Republican Party to issue a notice to voters in the district, informing them of Holland’s voting record. 

“We respect Rep. Holland for the good votes he has made on our behalf over the years; however, he has grown increasingly unresponsive to voters and the Republican Party especially over the last two legislative sessions. In doing so, he has insulted and belittled local Republican voters and your Rockwall County Republican Party,” the letter by the county party’s executive committee reads. 

The notice was shared on social media by Abbott, who noted that Holland “voted against gun rights and school choice, but voted to put Democrats in leadership positions.”

This is the first time Abbott has criticized Democrats being placed in leadership positions. 

House Speaker Dade Phelan, meanwhile, has embraced placing Democrats in leadership positions, appointing eight Democrats as chairs of the chamber’s 34 standing committees during this session. 

Before becoming speaker in 2021, Phelan praised the bipartisan nature of politics inside the Texas Capitol, saying it’s a model that works “pretty darn well” and is not always about “Republican versus Democrat” or “left versus right.”

Matt Rinaldi, the chairman of the Republican Party of Texas, said he was thankful for Abbott’s leadership, noting, “Sometimes, it’s necessary to state the obvious: School choice is good. Democrats in leadership positions are bad.”

Holland has two opponents in the upcoming primary election: former Trump spokesperson Katrina Pierson and businessman Dennis London. Abbott has not yet endorsed in the race. 

Abbott has also not endorsed Phelan, who faces two primary opponents of his own, for re-election. 

The Republican primary election will take place on March 5. 

As of publishing, Holland did not respond to a request for comment. 

Brandon Waltens

Brandon serves as the Senior Editor for Texas Scorecard. After managing successful campaigns for top conservative legislators and serving as a Chief of Staff in the Texas Capitol, Brandon moved outside the dome in order to shine a spotlight on conservative victories and establishment corruption in Austin. @bwaltens