High Campaign Costs and Unprecedented Political Shifts in Texas Primary Runoff Elections

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The Texas Primary Runoff elections held on Tuesday, May 28, 2024, have resulted in significant political shifts. Seven incumbents (six Republicans and one Democrat) were defeated, while two Republicans retained their positions. These outcomes will undoubtedly have far-reaching political implications for the general election in November and the 89th Legislative Session starting in January 2025. One of the most intriguing aspects of these elections was the disparity in campaign costs, with data from Transparency USA shedding light on the financial strategies employed by various candidates.

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Expensive Campaigns

The campaign of incumbent Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan (R-Beaumont) against David Covey (R) was the most costly by far. Phelan’s campaign expenditure reached an astounding $12,655,784.40, equating to $987.73 per vote. This expenditure was significantly higher than any other candidate’s, and despite the financial outlay, Phelan narrowly secured victory by 366 votes, outspending Covey by a ratio of 6 to 1.

Another high-expenditure campaign was that of incumbent State Rep. Justin Holland (R-Heath), who spent $1,815,392.61, or $231.29 per vote. Holland was defeated by Katrina Pierson (R), who spent $725,466.46, equating to $71.56 per vote.

In Texas House District 44, incumbent State Rep. John Kuempel (R-Seguin) spent $2,478,522.33, or $347.67 per vote, but lost to former State Rep. Alan Schoolcraft (R), who spent $838,122.17, or $94.19 per vote.

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Campaign Efficiency

The election highlighted significant differences in campaign efficiency. For instance, Ben Bius (R), who ran for the open House Seat in District 12, spent $1,053,981.53 but only secured 27.6% of the vote, costing $273.05 per vote. His opponent, Trey Wharton (R), won by spending just $294,791.48, or $29.11 per vote.

In the race for Texas House District 58, incumbent State Rep. DeWayne Burns (R-Cleburne) spent $1,224,352.86, or $347.67 per vote, but was defeated by Helen Kerwin (R), who spent $696,249.40, or $90.78 per vote.

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Consulting and Marketing Expenditures

Murphy Nasica and Associates emerged as the most costly political consulting firm, with candidates spending over $8 million on their services. Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan alone spent $3,379,931.85. Other losing incumbents, such as State Rep. Justin Holland, spent $1,348,773.85, State Rep. John Kuempel spent $2,209,183.73, and State Rep. Frederick Frazier (R-McKinney) spent $1,034,889.32.

Another notable consulting firm was KC Strategies LLC. Incumbent State Rep. Gary VanDeaver (R-New Boston) spent $871,034.28 on their services out of a total of $1,038,109.36, defeating Chris Spencer (R) by over 1,500 votes. State Rep. DeWayne Burns (R) lost re-election despite spending $950,369.83 on the firm.

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Close Races & Costs

Several races were decided by narrow margins. The contest between Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan (R) and David Covey (R) was decided by 366 votes out of 25,260 total votes cast. The candidates collectively spent nearly $15 million, with Phelan accounting for almost $13 million of that total.

For the open seat in Texas House District 97, John McQueeney (R) defeated Cheryl Bean (R) by 300 votes out of 10,646 total votes cast, spending almost $600 thousand compared to Bean’s nearly $230 thousand.

In Texas House District 139, Charlene Ward Johnson (D) won against Angeanette Thibodeaux (D) by 188 votes out of 4,834 total votes cast, spending under $50 thousand compared to Thibodeaux’s over $100 thousand.

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Low Expenditure Campaigns

Some campaigns were notable for their low expenditures. In House District 76, Lea Simmons (R) defeated Summara Kanwal (R) by just 324 votes, spending only $1,385.94 compared to Kanwal’s $11,420.04. Simmons spent $2.18 per vote, while Kanwal spent $36.49 per vote.

In the open House District 97 seat, both Democrat candidates had minimal costs per vote. Carlos Walker (D) spent $10,369.92, or $8.46 per vote, while Diane Symons (D) spent just $5,169.19, or $5.31 per vote. This seat is likely a safe Republican seat.

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Loan Impact on Campaign Funding

Many candidates relied heavily on loans. In the open Texas House District 12 race, Ben Bius (R) had $1.1 million in loans, while his opponent, Trey Wharton (R), had only $40 thousand in loans.

Chris Spencer (R), who lost to incumbent State Rep. Gary VanDeaver (R), had over $300 thousand in loans. Former State Rep. Alan Schoolcraft (R), who defeated incumbent State Rep. John Kuempel (R), had over $350 thousand in loans.

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Implications for the Future

The 2024 Texas Primary Runoff elections have underscored the significant financial disparities in campaign spending and efficiency. The data highlights substantial differences in cost per vote and campaign outcomes, revealing that high expenditures do not always equate to success. These insights into financial strategies and resource allocation provide valuable lessons for future elections.

The outcomes of these elections will influence the general election in November and the 89th Legislative Session in January 2025. As detailed financial reports become available, further analysis will be essential to understanding the full scope of campaign finance dynamics in Texas.

The Texas Primary Runoff elections of 2024 showcased the complexities of political campaign financing, highlighting both high and low expenditure strategies. With seven incumbents unseated and notable spending disparities, these results will shape the future political landscape in Texas. As the general election approaches, these insights will be crucial for understanding the evolving dynamics of campaign finance and voter engagement.

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