Special interest casino gambling is spending big to protect incumbents who have carried their water in the Texas legislature.

According to campaign finance reports filed on Monday, Sands PAC donated nearly $650,000 in a mixture of races, including returning incumbents, failed candidates, and those taking part in primary runoff elections, 

Already defeated incumbent Kronda Thimesch (R-Lewisville) received $54,000 from the PAC following her loss to attorney Mitch Little in the March primary. Drew Darby (R-San Angelo), who notched an unimpressive primary victory in March, received $25,000.

Embattled House Speaker Dade Phelan (R-Beaumont) received $100,000 in direct contributions from the Sands PAC and $512,163 in-kind spending, which the Speaker and other candidates obtained from a newly formed and well-funded vehicle for Sands and its owner.

Earlier this week, Texas Scorecard reported on the political spending of the “Texas Defense” PAC, a newly established committee funded by Miriam Adelson, the owner of Sands Casino.

Along with Phelan, the Texas Defense PAC supports embattled incumbents Frederick Frazier, Justin Holland, John Kuempel, and John McQueeney, a candidate for the open seat vacated by State Rep. Craig Goldman.

Frederick Frazier’s felony-plagued candidacy received $496,000 from the Defense PAC and $50,000 from Sands, as did Holland.

Seguin-based State Rep. John Kuempel also received $50,000 from Sands. Kuempel’s father, the late John Kuempel, was a proponent of expanded gambling and authored measures during his time in the legislature to that end.

Alan Schoolcraft, a former lawmaker, is challenging Kuempel and has the backing of Gov. Greg Abbott after Kuempel voted to strip school choice from an omnibus education bill in 2023.

All incumbent lawmakers forced into runoffs (Frazier, Holland, Kuempel) voted to expand gambling in Texas during the 2023 legislative session, despite the issue not being a priority for Texas voters. The only incumbent who missed out on funding and voted likewise was Gary VanDeaver (R-New Boston).

Democrats Jarvis Johnson and Nathan Johnson (no relation) received $50,000 and $9,000 in funding from Sands, respectively.

The two open-seat candidates backed with Sands’ primary run-off funding are McQueeney and Brent Hagenbuch. The latter is in a highly contentious race for Senate District 30.

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick is the only other lawmaker to receive funding from Sands PAC, according to the runoff report, receiving $200,000. 

Adelson has teamed up with Shark Tank personality and Dallas Mavericks minority owner Mark Cuban to expand gambling in the state.

Recently, Cuban has made headlines for his liberal positions in support of DEI and other woke agenda items.

Early voting for the primary runoff election ends Friday, May 24, and Election Day is Tuesday, May 28.

Daniel Greer

Daniel Greer is the Director of Innovation for Texas Scorecard.