Voters in northeast Texas to choose between Brent Money, Jill Dutton for special election runoff
Voters in northeast Texas are picking between two Republicans on Tuesday in a special election runoff that marks an early test for the GOP’s warring factions in the March primary.
The runoff in House District 2 pits Brent Money against Jill Dutton for the seat of expelled former state Rep. Bryan Slaton, R-Royse City.
The contest has served as a bellwether in the Texas GOP civil war that broke out after the House impeached Attorney General Ken Paxton for abuse of office last year — and the Senate acquitted him after a trial months later. The runoff is also the first electoral snapshot atof Gov. Greg Abbott’s political strength since he set out to build a House GOP majority that is more favorable to school vouchers.
Paxton and Abbott have backed Money, while Dutton has the support of allies of House Speaker Dade Phelan, R-Beaumont, like Texans for Lawsuit Reform. Money also has the backing of the far-right political universe that came under fire in October after one of its key operatives, Jonathan Stickland, hosted white supremacist Nick Fuentes at his office.
Money is a Greenville lawyer who previously served on the City Council there. Dutton is the former president of the Republican Women of Van Zandt and also was a Van ISD board trustee.
They were the top two finishers in a six-candidate special election in November, with Money getting 32% of the vote and Dutton receiving 25%.
The winner of Tuesday’s runoff will get to finish Slaton’s term, which goes until January 2025. Regardless of the winner, Dutton and Money will face off again immediately in the March 5 primary for the GOP nomination to subsequently serve the full term in the seat.
In a unanimous vote last year, the House expelled Slaton after a committee investigation found the married lawmaker got a 19-year-old intern drunk and had sex with her.
The runoff has been contentious. Dutton has run radio ads saying Money has lied about getting most of his money from a “disgraced PAC with neo-Nazi affiliations,” a reference to the group that Stickland led. Defend Texas Liberty has continued to attack Dutton on Money’s behalf, claiming she raised property taxes as a school board member.
When it comes to the main issue for Abbott — school vouchers — both candidates have voiced support for his agenda. But Dutton has been less supportive of the idea in the past, and she has used the runoff to appeal to educators over Money’s flirtation with overhauling the state’s teacher retirement system.
Dutton has had a major fundraising advantage in the runoff. She reported $287,000 in contributions on a campaign finance report covering Jan. 1-20, while Money disclosed $110,000.
House District 2 covers three rural counties east of Dallas. The seat is solidly Republican.
Polls are open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday.