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School choice, Paxton impeachment frame race between Holland & Pierson in Texas HD 33

School choice, Paxton impeachment frame race between Holland & Pierson in Texas HD 33
School choice, Paxton impeachment frame race between Holland & Pierson in Texas HD 33 06:58

NORTH TEXAS — Early voting is underway for the primary runoff election on Tuesday, May 28.

One of the most interesting races in North Texas is for House District 33, where Katrina Pierson, a former spokeswoman for former President Donald Trump, is trying to unseat incumbent Justin Holland.

Pierson is endorsed by Governor Greg Abbott, Lt. Governor Dan Patrick, and Attorney General Ken Paxton.

Both Pierson and Holland are far apart on some key issues, including school choice and Paxton's impeachment.  

The conservative district is in downtown Plano, Rockwall and Heath, and is now on the political radar of Republicans from across the Lone Star State.

On the campaign trail, incumbent Justin Holland highlights his experience and leadership positions in the Republican majority in the House and his connection to the community for 40 years. 

"Somebody who owns and runs a business, that's part of a local church here, that has been involved in local politics prior to being in office in the legislature," said Holland. "Somebody who's given back to the community."

His challenger, Katrina Pierson, highlights her conservative values and says voters in the district asked her to run. 

"Many of them have watched me on national television for the better part of 15 years fighting for conservative values and the incumbent unfortunately has abandoned the district over the years," Pierson said.

If elected, Pierson says her top three priorities include election integrity, border security, and school choice, taxpayer-funded education savings accounts or ESA's, also known as school vouchers.

Holland says his top three priorities if re-elected are property tax cuts, border security, and public education.

Last fall, he was among 21 House Republicans who joined Democrats to vote against Governor Abbott's school choice plan.

After the March 5 primary when Pierson and Holland ended up in the runoff, Governor Abbott endorsed her and started campaigning for her. 

When asked if he'd still vote against school choice given the fact that the Governor has been campaigning for Pierson, Holland told CBS News Texas, "Yes, yes. Because my vote has always been that way. I've never seen an ESA plan that I like or made good logical sense. I don't believe that it's actually conservative to write a blank check for a couple of billion dollars for a political issue. We don't need to come up with a new government entitlement program costing anywhere from $500 million to $2 billion that only 50,000 kids can take advantage of. Virtually, nobody in my district could have taken advantage of it."

Pierson told CBS News Texas she supports the taxpayer-funded education savings accounts. 

"The one thing that we know, the true ticket out of poverty is a quality education," said Pierson. "We know that education in Texas in some areas is very well, not so much in others. This gives the opportunity for a low-income family, or a single parent like I was, the opportunity to put their child in the school of their choice, whether it be faith-based, a charter school, and I just think that's amazing so many families want the opportunity and in my district, 85 percent of the voters wanted it."

In the March 5 primary, Abbott supported 14 Republican challengers, and of those, seven beat the incumbent and five ended up in a runoff.

Holland is also fighting for his political career. 

"A lot of my colleagues were taken out and they're trying to take us out," said Holland.

When asked what he thinks about that Holland said, "It's horrible because we're losing democracy because you can buy a House seat. I had $300,000 from a D.C. PAC spending against me just on this issue alone."

In response, Pierson said, "He spent $1.3 million just against me and all of that money was all special interest. The PACS that are supporting me are absolutely on board with our values in the district."

Pierson said she supports teacher pay raises. 

"Absolutely, I think our teachers are very underpaid," said Pierson. "Teachers in this district are on the lower end of the scale and these are the people who spend the most time with our kids throughout the day and they should be paid accordingly."

She was non-committal about whether school districts should receive more money per student, also called the basic allotment. 

"I'd have to look at all the finance piece because what's coming in the next legislature is a school choice measure when we see how all that's going to work out and I'd be happy to support it if it's the right thing to do," Pierson said.

Holland said he fully supports boosting taxpayer dollars for public education and teacher raises. 

"I can tell you right now, we need an increase in the basic allotment," said Holland. "We need teacher pay increases. We need bonuses for teachers, based on student achievement. We need not to penalize teachers who are doing a good job in districts that are doing a good job. If a kid is trapped in a failing school, then we should fix that school."

Pierson said another reason she entered the race is because Holland voted to impeach Attorney General Ken Paxton, along with most of the Republicans and Democrats in the House.

After a trial, the Republican majority in the Texas Senate acquitted Paxton of all of the articles of impeachment.

Pierson criticized the House vote. 

"I thought it was wrong for a number of reasons," Pierson said. "There was no due process, and I think the Senate trial uncovered a lot of the hastiness and the rushing of the process. That's the one thing we believe as conservatives is due process and the Attorney General was denied that."

Holland said despite the fact the Senate cleared Paxton, he has not second-guessed his vote to impeach the Attorney General. 

"No, because I believe that over politics and over party affiliation, we need to do what's right," said Holland. "I don't regret my vote."

Last year, the families of the deadly mass shooting victims at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde pushed hard to raise the age for someone to buy an AR-style rifle from 18 to 21.

The bill ultimately went nowhere, but Holland who previously voted for Constitutional Carry, was among the Republicans to join Democrats to vote a bill out of committee to the full House. 

"I felt it was the right thing to do," Holland said. "I'm a gun owner myself, I own many guns, I carry a gun. You have to be 21 years old to drink, you have to be 21 years old to gamble, you have to be 21 years old to purchase a pistol. I felt like it was something that could have been. I was willing to be part of the conversation." 

"The district does not support any measure of gun control," Pierson said. "The district is very much constitutionally conservative."

Early voting runs through 7 p.m. Friday.

Watch the full interviews of both candidates below:

Texas Rep. Justin Holland defends his position on school choice despite the political fallout 26:33
Candidate for Texas House District 33 Katrina Pierson supports school choice and teacher pay raises 13:36

Watch Eye On Politics 7:30 a.m. Sunday on air and streaming.

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