House District 18, northeast of Houston and close to the Louisiana border, has two candidates running against incumbent Republican State Rep. Ernest Bailes of Shepherd.

Janis Holt and Stephen Missick are challenging Bailes, who has served in the Texas House since 2017.

Bailes is a rancher and agriculturist. His top priorities during his time in office have been securing the border, defending the Second Amendment, and maintaining local control over schools.

Bailes has recently become one of Gov. Greg Abbott’s targets, after Bailes voted against a school choice program for Texas students in November 2023. 

Bailes was also identified as one of the architects of the Colony Ridge illegal alien housing development, which is located in House District 18. Last weekend, Bailes posted on Facebook that Abbott wanted to help the development of Colony Ridge solely because the developers contributed to Abbott’s campaign. “I worked with Governor Abbott’s office directly on this bill and Governor Abbott personally signed off his approval,” wrote Bailes. He argued that when he didn’t agree with further legislation to assist the Colony Ridge developers, the developers donated to Abbott’s campaign and “bought the Governor’s signature and blessing for the Opportunity Zone designation.” 

Bailes’ timing is notable since he’s been questioned on his role in Colony Ridge’s existence since the fall but is only choosing to blame the governor during the primary. The governor responded to Bailes’ accusation saying Bailes is “defensive” because he also took donations from the Colony Ridge developers and has “failed his district.”    

Bailes has received endorsements from the National Rifle Association, Texas Alliance for Life PAC, Associated Republicans of Texas, and Texas State Association of Fire Fighters.

The top contributors of Bailes’ campaign include Speaker of the Texas House Dade Phelan, the Charles Butt Public Education PAC, Texas Farm Bureau AGFUND, and Associated Republicans of Texas.

Holt, who is Abbott’s endorsed candidate for this election, has a background in business and cattle farming. Her main campaign priorities are promoting school choice, lowering property taxes, securing the border, and advocating for unborn life. 

In addition to Abbott, Holt has received endorsements from Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller, Young Conservatives of Texas, Texas Right to Life, Texas Home School Coalition, Texas Values Action, Texans for True Conservatives, and Family Empowerment Coalition PAC.

Holt’s campaign has primarily been funded by Gov. Abbott and Family Empowerment Coalition PAC.

Missick has served as a military chaplain and is currently a Bible teacher and author. His priorities are preventing the growth of Colony Ridge, lowering property taxes, and advocating for school choice and parental rights. 

Missick has not received any endorsements but was given an “AQ” rating from the National Rifle Association.

Early voting has begun and ends March 1. The primary election is March 5.

Amelia McKenzie

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