Gov. Greg Abbott (R) endorsed former Waller Co. Comm. Stan Kitzman (R) in the runoff over Rep. Phil Stephenson (R-Wharton), one of four Republican legislators forced into runoffs this cycle. Abbott is at least the third statewide election official to endorse Kitzman, joining Comp. Glenn Hegar (R) and Agriculture Comm. Sid Miller (R).

In March, Stephenson finished first in a four-way primary with 40% of the vote, followed by Kitzman (35%), Fayetteville insurance agent Fred Roberts (16%) and Brookshire educator Art Hernandez (10%). The latter two candidates combined raised less than $8K for the race.

Stephenson can blame redistricting for this runoff appearance. Since he was elected in 2012, Stephenson has represented southern Fort Bend Co. and all of Jackson and Wharton Cos. His colleagues dramatically redrew HD85 (Safe R) by removing Jackson Co. and much of Fort Bend Co and adding Austin, Colorado, Fayette and Waller Cos. In the March primary, Stephenson received around 80% of the vote in counties he has represented and around 25% in counties that were added to the district.

Unlike the other three House Republicans forced into runoffs, Stephenson received virtually no campaign contributions from his colleagues’ individual campaign accounts or personal funds save for a $1K check from Rep. Jim Murphy (R-Houston), who did not seek re-election. The House Republican Caucus PAC, to which his colleagues contribute, has provided more than $35K this cycle out of the $122K he has raised to date.

The caucus PAC also contributed $35K each to the other three Republican legislators facing runoffs since their respective primary elections. Their colleagues, including Speaker Dade Phelan (R-Beaumont), contributed from their campaign accounts and personal funds to the other three Republicans: $415K to Rep. Stephanie Klick (R-Fort Worth), $270K to Rep. Glenn Rogers (R-Graford) and $64K to Rep, Kyle Kacal (R-College Station).

Since 1996, just seven of 34 incumbent legislators forced into runoffs have prevailed. All the victors finished first in their respective primaries. Only one incumbent with a first-place margin of less than 10 points has prevailed in 26 years: Rep. J.M. Lozano (R-Kingsville) went on to win after finishing just 0.6 points ahead of second-place finisher Bill Wilson II. Lozano was facing Republican primary voters for the first time after switching parties and had the backing of state Republican leadership, which Stephenson clearly does not as he faces Republican primary voters in four counties for the first time.

Early voting continues through Friday for the May 24 runoff elections. Through yesterday (Wed.), nearly 265K people (1.52% of registered voters) had cast ballots in the Republican runoff in person (75%) or by mail (25%). Just under 165K (0.95% of RVs) had cast ballots in the Democratic runoff in person (56%) or by mail (44%). A little over 6K more Democrats have returned mail ballots so far than Republicans (73K to 66K). Just over 100K more Republicans have voted in person so far than Democrats (197K to 92K).

AG (Lean R): A new ad from the Atty. Gen. Ken Paxton (R) campaign, “Protect Texas Kids, Defeat George P. Bush,” seizes upon a Bush comment that teaching critical race theory curriculum (which the ad misspells) was “overly politicized” and that he would seek to avoid litigation over it. The video link we have is no longer viewable.

CD30 open (Safe D): Cryptocurrency traders’ Protect Our Future PAC disclosed an addition $280K in independent expenditures supporting Rep. Jasmine Crockett (D-Dallas) in her runoff against Jane Hope Hamilton. The PAC has spent $426K since the primary, for which it spent $993K supporting Crockett. Another crypto PAC, WEB3 Forward in late April disclosed $250K in independent expenditures supporting Crockett after spending $1M before the primary.

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