In Texas House District 33, State Rep. Justin Holland of Heath is trying to stave off a Republican primary challenge from Katrina Pierson, a former consultant to Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign, and United States Marine veteran Dennis London.

Holland first won HD 33 during the 2016 elections, taking over for Scott Turner. In 2022, London attempted to primary Holland, losing by over 43 percentage points—69.2 percent to 25.8 percent.

The district has changed somewhat since the Texas Legislature’s reconfiguration of the state House districts in 2021, including all of Rockwall County but incorporating slightly different rural parts of Collin County.

Why It’s Happening

Pierson, a longtime Texas political operative, told Texas Scorecard when she first announced her run in mid-December that she was running to fix the state House, which has been “a bottleneck for conservative priorities for too long.”

Holland had voted in 2021 against a measure to prohibit Democrats from serving as committee chairs. He also backed then-State Rep. Dennis Bonnen of Angleton as House speaker in 2018, who appointed Hugh L. Brady as parliamentarian.

Texas Scorecard noted that Brady, a senior lecturer at the University of Texas at Austin’s School of Law, has a history of supporting Democrats in elections. He also served as general counsel for the White House Office of Administration under former President Barack Obama.

“A small group of liberal Republicans like Justin Holland have formed a coalition with Democrats to block or water down conservative priorities,” Pierson stated.

“Justin Holland voted to put radical Democrats in charge of key committees so they could kill conservative bills,” she continued. “Holland even helped put a radical Obama Administration lawyer in charge of House proceedings.”

More recently, Holland backed the impeachment of Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton. He also helped advance legislation out of committee that would have raised the age from 18 to 21 for semi-automatic rifle purchases larger than a .22 caliber.

Last fall, Holland voted for an amendment to Gov. Greg Abbott’s education spending package that removed a proposed school choice program.

Those votes led the Rockwall County Republican Party to issue a notice to voters in the district, which was shared by Abbott on the social media platform X, formerly known as Twitter.

Who’s Backing Who?

According to Transparency USA, Holland’s top contributor this election cycle is State Rep. Dade Phelan of Beaumont, the GOP speaker of the Texas House, who was recently censured by the Republican Party of Texas. He has given roughly $65,475.

The Texans for Lawsuit Reform PAC is his next top donor at $65,250.

TLR started in 1994 as a single-issue advocacy group pushing for tort reform and has since gone on to become one of the top players in Texas politics, using its over $35 million to protect establishment politicians and big business interests.

Holland has hauled in tens of thousands from other PACs and nonprofits, including the Associated Republicans of Texas (ART) Campaign Fund. 

ART is primarily funded by John L. Nau and his wife, Barbara. John Nau is CEO of Silver Eagle Beverages, one of the country’s largest Anheuser-Busch distributors. He is Abbott’s campaign treasurer and was appointed by Abbott to chair the Texas Historical Commission.

Holland received a rating of  53 out of 100 from Texans for Fiscal Responsibility (TFR), near the middle of the pack for Republican state representatives. His score was near the bottom half of Republicans for the Young Conservatives of Texas’ metric, which placed him at 69 out of 100.

The National Federation of Independent Business’s Texas branch, Texas Alliance for Life, Plano Police Association, and Association of Texas Professional Educators have endorsed Holland.

Pierson, meanwhile, is getting most of her campaign money from the Texans United for a Conservative Majority PAC, at $50,000. The group is primarily funded by oil businessman Farris Wilks and his wife, JoAnn.

Her next top supporter is the Family Empowerment Coalition PAC, which contributed $10,000 to Pierson’s campaign. The rest of Pierson’s funding comes mostly from small-dollar donors.

Pierson has the endorsement of Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller, Paxton, State Rep. Tony Tinderholt of Arlington, and Texans for Fiscal Responsibility. She also has the recommendation of Texans for Vaccine Choice.

London is almost entirely funded by small-dollar donors.

He has the endorsement of Allen B. West, a former chairman of the Republican Party of Texas and U.S. congressman, as well as the recommendation of the grassroots organization True Texas Project.

Other Issues

Holland voted in favor of Senate Bill 4, legislation making it a state crime to illegally enter Texas from over the southern border. Abbott signed the measure on December 18, and it took effect the same day.

Regarding the expansion of gambling laws, Holland voted for House Joint Resolution 102, which looked to amend the Texas Constitution to legalize some sports betting in the state. It was killed in the Senate.

Holland also voted for House Joint Resolution 155, which sought to amend the constitution to legalize casino gambling. However, HJR 155 did not receive the full 100 votes needed in the House to pass as a constitutional amendment. 

On Pierson’s website, she highlights the major issues she is focusing on: phasing out property taxes, banning the Chinese Communist Party from owning land, and ending taxpayer subsidies for illegal aliens.

London stressed the abortion issue on his website, calling for a complete “abolition” of the practice. He also emphasized his support for school choice and ending the practice of Democrat committee chairs in the GOP-controlled chamber.

Election Day

Early voting for the Republican primary election starts February 20, and Election Day is March 5. The GOP primary candidate who prevails will win the deeply red district, as no Democrat is running for the seat.

Luca Cacciatore

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