Establishment groups are out in force ahead of the Republican primary runoff election, spending big to keep additional incumbents from succumbing to challenges from the right.

Texans for Lawsuit Reform is part of this activity. According to Austin observers, the establishment juggernaut, which completed its mission to reform out-of-control lawsuits in the state, has now shifted to protect incumbents.

According to its website, the TLR PAC has endorsed and is spending heavily on a handful of primary runoff races, mostly to defend incumbents.

State Rep. Stephanie Klick (R-Fort Worth), whom David Lowe has forced into a second consecutive runoff election, received over $250,000 from TLR in the first round. In the runoff, TLR has given $135,000 in direct contributions and another $22,000 in kind.

Hailed as a stalwart conservative when she defeated Todd Smith, Klick has been criticized in recent sessions for her performance as a committee chair. During the 2019 legislative session, Klick failed to advance election reforms advocated for by conservatives.

One session later in 2021, on Klick’s watch as chair of the Public Health Committee, legislation that would protect children from child gender mutilation failed to pass. Entering the campaign’s final week, Klick’s account has dwindled to just over $108,000.

Another Republican, like Klick, who finds himself in a repeat battle is Lynn Stucky (R-Sanger). In the last cycle, Andy Hopper narrowly missed defeating the incumbent lawmaker. TLR has given Stucky $134,309 in combined direct and in-kind donations.

A handful of Republican candidates TLR is backing, though at varying levels of giving, are at odds with Gov. Greg Abbott over their opposition to school choice: DeWayne Burns (Cleburne), Justin Holland (Heath), Gary VanDeaver (New Boston), and John Kuempel (Seguin).

VanDeaver, an endorsed incumbent, has received the least from TLR, taking in just over $31,000, according to Transparency USA.

Also endorsed by TLR, State Rep. Frederick Frazier (R-McKinney), received $347,000 ahead of the March primary. The freshman lawmaker, whose felony charges have hampered him, had the worst performance of an incumbent member of the House in the first round of the election.

He’s taken $133,000 thus far in the runoff election from TLR in direct contributions and in-kind spending.

Justin Holland was not far behind Frazier in an abysmal incumbent performance, although with different baggage. The Heath-based Republican is best known for his petulant posture toward Abbott’s push for school choice in 2023.

TLR gave nearly $85,000 to Steve Allison in his failed attempt to ward off a challenge from Marc LaHood. Since the primary, TLR has switched to supporting LaHood in a seat likely to remain Republican in the November general election.

Allison was also against Gov. Abbott’s school choice legislation in 2023.

TLR has also donated $68,000 to embattled House Speaker Dade Phelan (R-Beaumont) in his runoff election against David Covey. The speaker has spent an eye-watering $3.8 million to keep his seat, which appears crucial to expanding gambling in Texas.

Early voting is underway and ends on Friday; Election Day is Tuesday, May 28.

Daniel Greer

Daniel Greer is the Director of Innovation for Texas Scorecard.