The prospect of school choice next legislative session has led two groups that typically back Democrats to weigh in on the March 5 Republican primary.

One of those groups is the main political operation of billionaire H-E-B Chairman Charles C. Butt, the Charles Butt Public Education Political Action Committee.

The group set its sights this election cycle primarily on financially supporting the 16 anti-school choice Republicans running for re-election in the Texas House. It has also backed some Democrat candidates and is involved in several school board races.

Recent filings show Butt’s PAC has given the following to House GOP lawmakers:

  1. $340,609 to Steve Allison of San Antonio
  2. $299,301 to Ernest Bailes of Shepherd
  3. $242,359 to Gary VanDeaver of New Boston
  4. $228,972 to Justin Holland of Heath
  5. $192,609 to Glenn Rogers of Graford
  6. $156,484 to DeWayne Burns of Cleburne
  7. $145,167 to Travis Clardy of Nacogdoches
  8. $140,608 to Drew Darby of San Angelo
  9. $138,209 to John Kuempel of Seguin
  10. $130,359 to Reggie Smith of Van Alstyne
  11. $115,609 to Stan Lambert of Abilene
  12. $70,609 to Keith Bell of Forney
  13. $55,609 to Jay Dean of Longview
  14. $55,609 to Ken King of Canadian
  15. $40,609 to Hugh Shine of Temple
  16. $40,609 to Charlie Geren of Fort Worth

The Texas branch of the American Federation of Teachers has also decided to get involved in the Republican primary to defend the 16 anti-school choice candidates but has worked to obfuscate its donations.

Texas AFT’s PAC, the Committee on Political Education, gave $25,000 in contributions to the newly-formed organization Defend Rural Texas PAC.

Defend Rural Texas has, in turn, paid $3,200 in billboard advertising for Burns and Bailes each, with Bailes also receiving  $11,335 towards mailers. Burns previously gave Defend Rural Texas $10,000 when it started.

In addition, evidence of Texas AFT secretly campaigning for at least some of the anti-school choice Republicans emerged in screenshots and videos provided to school choice activist Corey A. DeAngelis.

One photo provided to DeAngelis even displayed a series of tasks Texas AFT volunteers should complete for “peer-to-peer texting” with voters that suggests Bell, Dean, and VanDeaver are the preferred candidates.

Texas AFT did not publicly endorse any Republicans this election cycle. However, in 2022, the group backed Bailes, Darby, Geren, Rogers, and Shine.

The Republican primary is today. Polls opened at 7 a.m. and will close at 7 p.m. local time.

Luca Cacciatore

Luca H. Cacciatore is a journalist for Texas Scorecard. He is an American Moment inaugural fellow and former welder.