Greg Abbott begins offensive against school voucher opponents, endorsing first House primary challenger

3 months 3 days 1 hour ago Wednesday, November 29 2023 Nov 29, 2023 November 29, 2023 4:01 PM November 29, 2023 in News- Education
Source: https://www.texastribune.org/

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Gov. Greg Abbott is starting to make good on his threat to politically target fellow Republicans who oppose school vouchers, issuing his first endorsement of a primary challenger to a House member who has helped thwart his top legislative priority of the year.

Abbott on Tuesday backed Hillary Hickland, an activist mother who is running against Rep. Hugh Shine, R-Temple. Shine was one of 21 Republicans who voted earlier this month to strip a voucher provision out of an education bill, delivering the most decisive blow yet to the governor’s agenda.

"Hillary Hickland is the kind of new conservative leader we need in Austin to deliver results in the Texas House," Abbott said in a statement. “This past year, she worked relentlessly to empower parents by traveling to Austin to advocate for Texas families and students.”

Abbott’s endorsement of Hickland is the first time he has backed a primary opponent to a House Republican since May 2022, when he backed Stan Kitzman, the successful opponent to Rep. Phil Stephenson, R-Wharton. Before that, Abbott endorsed three primary challengers to House Republicans in 2018 and one prevailed.

Abbott has already endorsed for reelection all the House Republicans who voted against the amendment that removed the voucher program from the education legislation. And on Monday, Abbott quickly endorsed a candidate to succeed a voucher opponent, Rep. Kyle Kacal, R-College Station, after he announced his retirement.

Shine and Abbott have a more personal history on the issue. When Abbott was touring the state earlier this year to build public support for his voucher proposal, Shine appeared with the governor at a private school in his district.

Shine, who announced his reelection campaign late last month, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Since 2017, Shine has represented House District 55, a Republican-leaning district in Bell County. He previously served in the House from 1986-1991.

Hickland is a mother of four from Belton who took her three school-aged children out of public schools in recent years. In addition to advocating for vouchers, Hickland has also been outspoken about sexually explicit books in school libraries.

Hickland describes herself as a “strong supporter of school choice in the form of Education Savings Accounts,” the voucher initiative that Abbott supports.

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at https://www.texastribune.org/2023/11/28/new-article-greg-abbott-school-vouchers-hugh-shine-endorse/.

The Texas Tribune is a member-supported, nonpartisan newsroom informing and engaging Texans on state politics and policy. Learn more at texastribune.org.

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