House District 1 includes Bowie, Cass, Lamar, Morris, and Red River counties.

Incumbent State Rep. Gary VanDeaver (R-New Boston) will face challenger Chris Spencer in the May 28 Republican primary runoff election.

Gary VanDeaver

VanDeaver has been a rural educator and served as the Superintendent of the New Boston Independent School District in Bowie County before becoming the current HD 1 state representative in 2015. After the most recent session, VanDeaver was given a score of 47 by Texans for Fiscal Responsibility, a 65 by Young Conservatives of Texas, a 68 by Texas Right to Life, and a 78 by the American Conservative Union.

According to Transparency USA, VanDeaver’s campaign has received over $260,000 from the Charles Butt Public Education PAC. Furthermore, in addition to contributions from organizations VanDeaver has been endorsed by, he also received money from current Speaker of the House Dade Phelan. VanDeaver had about $450,000 cash on hand as of the last campaign finance report. 

VanDeaver has been endorsed by Associated Republicans of Texas, the Texas Municipal Police Association, Combined Law Enforcement Associations of Texas, and Texans for Lawsuit Reform PAC.

Chris Spencer

Spencer is a business owner and is currently the chairman of the Sulphur River Basin Authority, after being appointed by Gov. Greg Abbott in 2018.

Spencer’s campaign has received over $250,000 from Abbott. Family Empowerment Coalition PAC is also one of Spencer’s contributors, with the rest of his campaign donations coming from individuals. Spencer had $166,000 cash on hand as of the last campaign finance report.

Spencer has received endorsements from Gov. Abbott, Attorney General Ken Paxton, Sen. Ted Cruz, Texas Agricultural Commissioner Sid Miller, and Texas Railroad Commissioner Wayne Christian. 

The Issues

Over the past several weeks, Texas Scorecard questioned all state legislative runoff candidates on issues important to voters as they head to the polls. 

State Rep. VanDeaver did not respond to any of the inquiries.

Regarding Republicans appointing Democrat committee chairs, Spencer said he will vote for a house speaker who will not appoint a Democrat chair. “The Republican Party is the majority in the Texas House. It is time to act like it,” noted Spencer. 

Spencer strongly believes the border needs to be a priority, and said that if elected, he will use any funds necessary to stop the crisis.

Similarly, Spencer said that if elected, he will fight the sale of Texas land to hostile foreign nations.

When asked about gambling expansion, Spencer stated he does not support any expansion.

Spencer also stated that he fully supports school choice and parental involvement while VanDeaver voted with Democrats to strip the school choice element out of the bill entirely.

Regarding election security, Spencer said that he believes Texas’ elections are generally secure, and if elected, he will fight to keep it that way.

Spencer stated his view on citizens’ Second Amendment rights, laws in the upcoming legislative session should increase firearm access rather than restrict it.

When asked what he would like to see in a speaker candidate, Spencer said, “He or she must be a Republican, a staunch conservative, committed to not only appointing Republican chairs only but Republican majorities on committees.” Spencer also told Chris Salcedo in a recent interview, “I do not support the re-election of Dade Phelan to the House of Representatives, much less being speaker.” 

Election Day

The winner of the Republican runoff on May 28 will win the November general election by default since there is not a Democrat candidate. Early voting for the runoff election begins Monday, May 20, and runs through Friday, May 25. 

Amelia McKenzie

Amelia is a senior at Liberty University in Virginia. She is studying Digital Journalism and is currently a fellow with Texas Scorecard.