Conservative nonprofit groups and coalitions are converging on Texas for this year’s Republican primary to push for candidates that stand for education freedom and challenge those who do not.

The latest group to throw its hat in the ring is the School Freedom Fund (SFF), an arm of the national anti-tax organization Club for Growth (CFG). Starting Wednesday, SFF’s $1.15 million television advertisement blitz across eight primaries begins.

“Candidates need to realize they can’t claim to be conservative while simultaneously opposing school freedom and taking cash from radical education bureaucrats,” School Freedom Fund President David McIntosh stated in a Wednesday press release. “Voters will hold them accountable on Election Day.”

SFF’s buy will target GOP lawmakers that voted to strip Gov. Greg Abbott’s proposed school choice program from a $7.6 billion education funding bill. The provisions were tabled after 21 Republicans, mostly in rural regions, joined Democrats in the 84-63 vote.

Specifically, SFF is targeting State Reps. Gary VanDeaver of New Boston, Travis Clardy of Nacogdoches, Ernest Bailes of Shepherd, Hugh Shine of Temple, DeWayne Burns of Cleburne, Glenn Rogers of Graford, Reggie Smith of Sherman, and Steve Allison of San Antonio.

It comes at the heels of the AFC Victory Fund (AFC VF), the American Federation for Children’s affiliated independent expenditure-only political action committee, announcing last week that it would target 12 GOP lawmakers that oppose school choice.

AFC VF’s list included the same names as SFF but also included State Reps. Justin Holland of Rockwall, John Kuempel of Seguin, Stan Lambert of Abilene, and Drew Darby of San Angelo.

At the helm of both groups’ funding is Jeffrey S. Yass, billionaire co-founder of the Susquehanna International Group.

OpenSecrets showed that in 2022, Yass gave $10 million to SFF—which is on top of the $5 million he gave a year prior. He also contributed half-a-million towards AFC VF in 2023.

SFF’s second-biggest donor is longtime Club for Growth contributor Virginia James, with a donation totaling over $1 million. AFC VF’s second largest donor is Charles & Potomac Capital CEO Joseph V. Popolo Jr., who gave them $50,000.

Beyond nonprofits, Yass gave $6 million to Abbott’s campaign in December. 

Abbott has announced his support this election cycle for all 58 House Republicans that voted for the school choice program and has also endorsed several primary challengers against the 21 that did not.

He kicked off the offensive in November, endorsing conservative advocate Hillary Hickland against Shine for the HD 55 seat.

Most recently, Abbott endorsed former State Rep. Alan Schoolcraft for House District 44 against Kuempel, calling him a “crucial partner as we continue to ensure Texas remains the best place to live, work, and raise a family.”

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has also been independently raising money and campaigning against Republicans that voted to impeach him. That means some members, like Rogers, fall in the crosshairs of both Abbott and Paxton.

The Primary Election is set to occur on March 5. Early voting begins February 20.

Luca Cacciatore

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