Voucher money won primary races. Voucher messaging didn’t. 


March 6, 2024  

CONTACT:  Nicole Hill, press@texasaft.org  

Voucher money won primary races. Voucher messaging didn’t.  

Gov. Greg Abbott’s “voucher revenge” primary election managed to unseat a handful of Republicans who defied him. But what do the results actually tell us?  

AUSTIN, Texas — For those searching for meaning in the results of Texas primary elections, you’ll have to peel back the $6 million dollar curtain. After an absurd infusion of out-of-state PAC and hobbyist billionaire money, Gov. Greg Abbott’s “voucher revenge” primary campaign spent upwards of $13 million to unseat six of the 16 Republicans who defied him by supporting their neighborhood public schools in the 88th Legislature.   

Let’s be clear: voucher money won some races last night, but Abbott loyalists who supported his voucher scheme also lost their primaries — from Rep. Jacey Jetton, author of one of the 2023 voucher bills, to Rep. Kronda Thimesch. We presume they will go unmentioned by the governor and the pro-voucher PACs at his side.   

What will also go unmentioned: None of Abbott’s chosen challengers actually ran on vouchers.  

Even just a cursory look at social media ad buys by the 16 Republican incumbents and their Abbott-backed challengers reveals how uncompelling private school vouchers are as an issue for Texas Republican voters. Border security hysteria, lies about gender-affirming care, defense of perennially indicted Attorney General Ken Paxton, and the endorsement of equally legally troubled former President Donald Trump made more appearances in these campaign ads than vouchers, the alleged driving force in this primary campaign cycle.   

When education did make an appearance in the rhetoric of Abbott-funded challengers, it was predominantly public education and the Texas Legislature’s failure to fund it. It’s a clever move to use the failure of House Bill 1, the omnibus education bill from the 88th Legislature, as a cudgel to swing at incumbent lawmakers. It’s doubly clever to omit why the Texas House killed its own bill: the poison pill of the governor’s private school voucher program.   

What is there to learn from this election night as we look at a likely five runoffs for anti-voucher Republican lawmakers this May? There is simply too much money in Texas politics, and Gov. Abbott is content to throw any of his fellow Republicans under the bus to please his billionaire donors.  

“It is impossible to draw real conclusions about Texas politics — and the will of Texas voters — in an environment saturated with the lies and money of billionaires, home-grown and otherwise,” said Zeph Capo, president of Texas AFT. “If last night tells us anything, it’s that Texas democracy cannot survive — let alone thrive — with this level of Wild West spending. Texans of all political stripes love their neighborhood public schools, and they believe educators deserve pay raises and smaller class sizes. With widespread layoffs at public schools across the state, vouchers are not the priority. The governor can crow about victory if he wants, but the tea leaves tell a murkier story.”  


The Texas American Federation of Teachers represents 66,000 teachers, paraprofessionals, support personnel, and higher-education employees across the state. Texas AFT is affiliated with the 1.7-million-member American Federation of Teachers and the AFL-CIO.