Governor Abbott's Initial Salvo in the 2024 "Revenge Primary" was a Dud


EAST TEXAS — Governor Greg Abbott's first move in the "revenge primary" campaign, aimed at replacing Texas House representatives who oppose his private school voucher initiative, resulted in defeat for Abbott's chosen candidate.

Brent Money, a transactional attorney and owner of a title company in Greenville, narrowly lost to Jill Dutton, a former president of the Republican Women of Van Zandt and a former trustee on the Van ISD board. This special election was held to fill the seat left vacant after the expulsion of State Rep. Bryan Slaton (R-Royce City).

This election provided an initial glimpse into how voters are responding to Governor Abbott's strategy of financially supporting candidates who support his private school voucher plan.

Abbott's endorsed candidate, Brent Money, received endorsements from prominent figures such as Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller, and U.S. Senator Ted Cruz. On the other hand, Jill Dutton garnered local endorsements, including Greenville Mayor Jerry Ransom (who was once Money's employer), former Governor Rick Perry, House Speaker Dade Phelan (R-Beaumont), and support from Texans for Lawsuit Reform.

Notably, Texans for Lawsuit Reform has generally been critical of Paxton and supportive of Phelan. Under Phelan's leadership, the Texas House voted overwhelmingly to impeach Paxton in May 2023. While Paxton was acquitted by a Texas Senate led by Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, it was revealed that Patrick had received a $3 million campaign donation and loan from a pro-Paxton group associated with Midland oilman Tim Dunn. Just as Abbott pledged to replace Republican state representatives who did not support private school vouchers, Paxton has vowed to replace those who voted for his impeachment.

Dutton's victory was a narrow one, with a margin of 50.4% to 49.6% in an election that saw 13,537 votes cast. The Texas Tribune noted that this election offers an initial glimpse into the effectiveness of the "revenge primary" for both Abbott and Paxton. Dutton and Money emerged as the top two candidates from a crowded field of six in the November 2023 election. Money had won with 32% of the vote, while Dutton received 25%. However, Dutton managed to overtake Money on this occasion.

Texas House District 2 encompasses Hopkins, Hunt, and Van Zandt counties to the east of DFW, with Sulphur Springs and Greenville being the largest cities in the district. Although this district is geographically distant from Texas House District 72, where Abbott has endorsed Stormy Bradley as an opponent to incumbent State Rep. Drew Darby due to Darby's opposition to private school vouchers, Dutton's unexpected victory may provide insights into how rural voters are reacting to Abbott's voucher initiative.

Brent Money was a staunch advocate of Abbott's voucher plan, while vouchers are often perceived as a threat to the long-term sustainability of the public education system. In contrast, Jill Dutton, at one candidate forum, indicated she would consider Education Savings Accounts (ESAs) but only with stringent accountability measures in place for private schools. She complemented her stance by strongly advocating for the preservation of the Teacher Retirement System (TRS).

In District 72, Abbott has endorsed Stormy Bradley as the opponent of State Rep. Drew Darby, who opposes private school vouchers.

In east Texas, because of the unexpected vacancy caused by Slaton's expulsion, Dutton and Money face off again in the March 5 Primary Election.

Brent Money was exposed by Laura Loomer on Twitter for his previous life as a "Never Trumper." We do not know how far and wide this video was seen in rural east Texas, but it could have cost him the election.

Jill Dutton (L) defeated Gov. Greg Abbott's endorsed candidate Brent Money for the Texas House Dist. 2 election on Jan. 30, 2024.

Jill Dutton (L) defeated Gov. Greg Abbott's endorsed candidate Brent Money for the Texas House Dist. 2 election on Jan. 30, 2024.

Or it may have been Money's campaign consultants who lost the race. See below.

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