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What's at stake in Tuesday's Texas primary runoff election

What's at stake in Tuesday's Texas primary runoff election
What's at stake in Tuesday's Texas primary runoff election 21:00

Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan is among the Republican incumbents fighting to keep their seats in Tuesday's primary runoff election. There's potential statewide fallout if he and others lose. Jack sits down with both Republican incumbent State Rep. Stephanie Klick and challenger David Lowe, who are again vying for Texas House District 91 in Tarrant County. Abortion is in the headlines after the Texas Medical Board's latest attempt to clarify when the procedure should be performed remains under scrutiny. 

Jack Fink covers these stories and more in the latest edition of Eye on Politics (original air date: May 26).

All on the line

On Tuesday, Texans will go to the polls in the long-awaited primary runoff election.  

There are several hotly contested races on the ballot.

Some are for open seats: 

  • The Republican runoff for the 12th Congressional District in parts of Fort Worth, Tarrant and Parker Counties
  • The Republican runoff for the 30th District State Senate seat in parts of Frisco, Denton and more rural areas 
  • The Republican runoff for State House District 97 in parts of Fort Worth, Benbrook and Crowley

Some fights are pitting challengers against well-funded Republican incumbents in the Texas House who have political targets on their backs and whose political careers are now hanging in the balance. Some incumbents are going it alone – without the help of the state's major Republican leaders.

One person whose race stands out is Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan. He's battling challenger David Covey – and this contest is now the state's most expensive House race in history, with $5.7 million spent according to Ad Impact Politics.

Phelan could become the first speaker in Texas in decades to lose a primary and there are a variety of Republican heavyweights hoping to unseat him:

They include Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who gave Covey $100,000, Attorney General Ken Paxton, and former President and presumed GOP Presidential nominee Donald Trump, who bashed Phelan during his speech at the NRA Convention in Dallas last weekend.

Meanwhile, last week, Phelan held a campaign rally in Beaumont featuring former Gov. Rick Perry, who called the speaker a leader in the area. 

The two candidates are trying to get their supporters to the polls. If Phelan loses, it could change how the Texas House is run and potentially what legislation passes. 

It would also be a big deal in southeast Texas, because Phelan is a historic name there. 

Jack discussed both elements with Jeremy Wallace, who covers politics at the Texas Capitol for the Houston Chronicle and San Antonio Express-News. Watch below:

How Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan's primary fight could impact the next legislative session 20:44

The battle for Speaker Phelan's seat highlights the fact that Texas House districts are really in play in Republican primaries this year like rarely seen before.

Gov. Greg Abbott has targeted Republican incumbents who voted against his school choice or voucher bill. This past week, he crisscrossed the state to get out the vote for the candidates he's backing. He was campaigning in North Texas four out of five days.

Gov. Abbott's campaign says it will have spent $3 million on the runoff elections helping candidates. That's after spending $6 million on his favored candidates for the March 5 primary.

Paxton has also campaigned for some of the same Republican challengers as the governor. But he's targeted the House Republican incumbents who voted to impeach him. 

Political re-match

One key Texas House race is the Republican primary runoff for District 91, which includes North Richland Hills, Watauga and Haltom City, between incumbent Rep. Stephanie Klick and challenger David Lowe.

It's a rematch from two years ago, when Klick won by less than 800 votes — only 9,000 people voted.

Watch Jack's one-on-one with State Rep. Stephanie Klick below:

Rep. Stephanie Klick defends her seat for Texas House District 91 17:39

Watch Jack's interview with David Lowe below: 

GOP candidate David Lowe challenges Rep. Stephanie Klick for her seat in the Texas House 13:37

Abortion in the headlines

Abortion is back in the headlines in Texas. 

Last week, the Texas Medical Board held a hearing on potential new rules aimed at clearing up confusion by doctors on when they can perform the procedure legally. But doctors say they need more precise guidelines because the ones presented don't reduce "fear and misunderstanding" surrounding potentially violating the law.

Violating Texas' near-total abortion ban could result in a $100,000 fine or life in prison. 

The Board countered that every specific circumstance cannot be identified, therefore the law cannot be narrowly defined by a pigeon-holed set of criteria. 

Kate Cox, the Dallas mom who left the state to have an abortion after a lethal fetal anomaly diagnosis, testified that this guidance would not have helped her doctors. 

"We should not force pregnant Texans to get sicker or to wait for an inevitable miscarriage and go through childbirth to deliver a baby that has died or will certainly die," Cox said. "It is medically reasonable to give mothers and families the best chance at building their families, which may include terminating a nonviable pregnancy so they can have a chance at a viable one. I needed that chance.

The Texas Medical Board will reconvene in June and will then decide whether to present the current guidelines for the vote or begin the public comment process with updated guidance. 

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