Three candidates are now running to be the Republican nominee for Texas House District 1 in the March 2024 primary.

All three participated in a sometimes-heated town hall meeting Thursday night hosted by the Republican Women of Red River Valley.

State Rep. Gary VanDeaver (R–New Boston) confirmed at Thursday’s meeting that he is running for re-election to represent HD 1 in northeast Texas, which includes Bowie, Cass, Lamar, Morris, and Red River counties.

Lamar County Republican Party Chairman Scott Hommel also announced his candidacy Thursday night.

Conservative activist Dale Huls announced weeks ago that he is challenging VanDeaver.

VanDeaver has held the seat for 10 years. Before that, he spent 33 years as a school teacher and administrator. He has a career “F” rating on the Fiscal Responsibility Index, and his top donor in the 2022 election cycle was House Speaker Dade Phelan. His 2024 campaign finance report shows no contributions yet this cycle but $196,000 in cash on hand.

Huls is an Air Force veteran and retired NASA engineer who has been active in conservative grassroots politics across the state for more than a decade. Since launching his campaign earlier this month, Huls has raised about $10,000.

Hommel, who hosts the conservative radio show Red State Report, was slated to moderate Thursday night’s town hall with Huls and VanDeaver but bowed out after announcing his candidacy, although he did respond to some of the questions.

One question that drew heated responses from the challengers was whether the candidates support the Republican Party of Texas priority to stop appointing Democrat committee chairs.

VanDeaver answered “no,” adding he thinks “there is some value to it.”

Huls said “yes,” he unequivocally supports that priority. “We don’t elect Republicans to put Democrats in charge.”

Hommel also answered “yes,” noting that Texas is the only state with a Republican-controlled House that has Democrat chairs.

Huls and Hommel also said they support eliminating property taxes. VanDeaver said he was open to considering a variety of tax-reduction proposals, acknowledging there will still be “creep” in Texans’ property tax bills under the measures just passed by the Legislature.

VanDeaver was also asked why he voted to impeach Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton—a vote many in the room clearly opposed.

He replied, “I can’t address that because of the gag order.”

Other candidates may enter the race, but that is less likely now that incumbent VanDeaver has confirmed he is running again.

The Texas Ethics Commission maintains a list of candidates who have filed campaign treasurer reports, indicating they intend to seek an office.

The period for candidates to file for a place on the primary ballot is November 11-December 11, 2023.

Primary elections will be held March 5, 2024.

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.