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Marc LaHood rides Abbott, Paxton endorsements to victory over incumbent State Rep. Steve Allison in GOP primary

A man in a white guayabera shirt poses for a photo outside a bar.
Camille Phillips
Marc LaHood, the challenger in the Republican Primary for Texas House District 121, poses for a photo outside his watch party at The Angry Elephant in north San Antonio on March 5, 2024.

After three terms in office, State Rep. Steve Allison lost the Republican primary to challenger Marc LaHood. Allison represented Texas House District 121, which includes Alamo Heights, Terrell Hills, and parts of North East Bexar County, since former Republican House Speaker Joe Strauss stepped down in 2018.

With about 54% of the early voting tally, LaHood declared victory around 10 p.m., before most of the Election Day results were in.

“We did something that's never been heard of,” LaHood said.We can celebrate, but we can't celebrate too much because [in] November they're going to come hard, and we can't sit back. We're going to fight. We're going to bring the message to them. We're going to bring more people over, open their eyes, and we're going to have the biggest win this district's ever seen.”

Despite the slow roll out of the Election Day results, LaHood’s percentage held steady as the final precincts reported in.

The primary race between Allison and LaHood was highly contentious, and the market was saturated with TV ads and mailers backed by big donations, many from groups that want Texas to allow families to use public tax dollars to pay for private school tuition. Allison is a staunch public school advocate who voted against a measure that would have created a school-voucher-like program last year.

Last fall, Gov. Greg Abbott vowed to back primary race challengers of Republicans who voted against vouchers. In spite of the threat, 21 Texas House Republicans joined with Democrats to block their passage during a special session. When Abbott endorsed candidates in November, he pointedly snubbed the 16 anti-voucher Republicans running for re-election, including Allison.

A man with white balding hair poses for a photo in a light blue button-down shirt with a woman wearing a Steve Allison campaign shirt.
Camille Phillips
Three-term State Rep. Steve Allison poses for a photo with his wife Peggy at his watch party for the Republican Primary March 5, 2024.

“It makes no sense,” Allison said. “In my case, for example and I think it's the same for the 16 that [Abbott] came after, we've been with him on every single issue. I've been with him on every single issue since I've been in the House, except this one.”

In 10 of those 16 races, including House District 121, Abbott went a step further, endorsing candidates challenging those incumbents and providing major contributions to their campaigns. Abbott donated nearly $700,000 to LaHood alone.

Still, Allison said he doesn’t regret voting against vouchers.

“I have a long history of being opposed to private school vouchers. It's devastating to public education that we have a constitutional requirement to provide,” Allison said.” So, I have no regrets or apologies for my vote. I'd do it again.”

In an interview after he declared victory, LaHood said he believed the voters of House District 121 wants private school vouchers.

“Our messaging isn't political. I bring it down to the to the root,” LaHood said. “Education is about our children and about protecting them from indoctrination and giving them the very best education possible. Everyone wants that. They want the best for their child. And when you take all that noise out and you don't have the labels, they want it.”

When asked if voters still want school choice if it is described as public dollars being used to pay for private school tuition, LaHood said the funding could also be used for other things, like homeschool.

Allison narrowly outraised LaHood in February with $889,000. Charles Butt, the chairman of H-E-B and the force behind public education advocacy group Raise Your Hand Texas, donated $341,000 to his campaign.

If at least eight of the pro-voucher challengers supported by Abbott win election, Allison said he believes a voucher program will pass.

“I'm more concerned for Texas, because of the quality and the lack of experience of each one of those that would be coming in,” Allison said. “The Legislature and the House needs that experience, needs people that have some qualifications. They're going to be yes-people to the governor. And that's not what the Legislature should be.”

House Speaker Dade Phelan also financially supported Allison. Allison is one of a handful of Republican incumbents opposed by both Gov. Abbott and Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton. In addition to voting against vouchers, Allison voted to impeach Paxton last year.

LaHood said that when he first decided to run for the Texas House seat, people told him was too conservative for the district and that he would never win. Still, he said he was confident he could win the general election in November.

People are tired of being lied to. And at the end of the day, more than anything else, they care about their families, their security, their pocketbooks. Those are things that I think everyone cares about more than anything else,” LaHood said.

Democrats are hoping that discord among the Republicans in this race could help them flip this seat.

In November, LaHood will face Laurel Jordan Swift, who won the Democratic primary. She is a medical sales professional who opposes school vouchers.

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Camille Phillips can be reached at camille@tpr.org or on Instagram at camille.m.phillips. TPR was founded by and is supported by our community. If you value our commitment to the highest standards of responsible journalism and are able to do so, please consider making your gift of support today.