GOP runoff pits two similar Republicans in race for North Texas Senate seat

AUSTIN – In the Republican primary runoff, two candidates are vying for a state Senate seat in a conservative-leaning North Texas district that has a population base in Denton County.

Candidates Brent Hagenbuch and Jace Yarbrough served in the military and both attended Stanford University, but they have shown little camaraderie heading into the May 28 election.

Texas Senate District 30, which runs into Denton County, is a strong Republican district, meaning the winner of the May 28 Republican primary runoff will be the favorite to win the North seat. of Texas in November.

Yarbrough wants Hagenbuch excluded from the ballot, claiming on the campaign trail and in a lawsuit that the supposed front-runner does not live in District 30. Hagenbuch has called Yarbrough a “soft talker” who wants to be a career politician.

It has been a tough campaign.

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Hagenbuch, owner of a Denton-based transportation company, calls his effort a “résumé and referrals” campaign that has the backing of many of the state’s top Republicans, including Gov. Greg Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and U.S. Senator John Cornyn and the district’s current senator, Drew Springer. Those seals of approval, plus the endorsement of former President Donald Trump, make Hagenbuch the presumptive favorite.

“My experience aligns very well to be a successful state senator and I am very confident that we are going to win this,” Hagenbuch, 64, said in a recent interview.

Yarbrough, 37, said he is running a “young, grassroots, feisty campaign” in a district that spans 11 counties and includes parts of the cities of Denton and Frisco.

“We’re among good people,” Yarbrough said in an interview. “We’re getting help from a lot of good people across the district.”

In the March Republican primary, Hagenbuch led Yarbrough by about 2,400 votes, with 36.4% of the vote to Yarbrough’s 33.9% in a four-candidate race. Since neither of them obtained at least 50%, they will face each other in the second round.

The winner wins the Republican nomination and, in a district that voted for Trump over President Joe Biden by 22 percentage points in 2020, would be heavily favored to succeed Springer, the Muenster Republican, who is retiring after two terms.

Both candidates said their main issue is the increase in illegal immigration to Texas. Both support Operation Lone Star, Abbott’s border security effort, but Hagenbuch has attacked Yarbrough for what he characterizes as lackluster support for Abbott’s busing of migrants to Democratic-run cities outside of Texas.

In recent forums and radio appearances, Yarbrough said he credits the busing program for changing the conversation about immigration, but called it unsustainable. Texas taxpayers have spent more than $124 million on the program, which has sent more than 115,000 immigrants to New York, Chicago, Washington, Denver, Los Angeles and Philadelphia.

“Planting illegal crops across our country is not a viable long-term solution,” Yarbrough said. “My position is that now the only place they should go is home if they are in our country illegally.”

Yarbrough, a lawyer who has sued the government several times to promote conservative causes, maintains that he is the only Republican candidate eligible for the office.

The two candidates have been embroiled in a court battle over Hagenbuch’s eligibility after public records indicated Hagenbuch was registered to vote outside Senate District 30. He has a homestead exemption at a Little Elm home outside the district.

Hagenbuch was sued in multiple courts by Yarbrough and former candidate Dr. Carrie de Moor. An appeals court dismissed Yarbrough’s suit, and De Moor’s challenge failed to remove Hagenbuch from the ballot before the Republican primary.

The lawsuit remains active and Yarbrough has asked to intervene. Hagenbuch called it a dead issue.

“We have filed documents with the court,” Hagenbuch said. “They’ve all been checked and they already show documentation, voter registration documentation that shows it was in good standing.”

The documents included a $4-a-year lease that indicated Hagenbuch rented space in his company’s Denton office as a residence. She has since rented an apartment across the street.

Beyond disputes over character, little separates Yarbrough and Hagenbuch on cutting-edge issues of Republican politics. Both support eliminating property taxes, but offer little to achieve a goal the lieutenant governor has said is unrealistic. Both also favor Abbott’s school choice plan, which would allow some parents to use taxpayer money for private school tuition.

Neither had much to say about Speaker Dade Phelan, R-Beaumont, who is locked in a runoff for his seat.

Hagenbuch has had the financial advantage. He loaned his campaign $1.2 million, which he has been spending on campaign mailers, television ads and legal fees, according to campaign finance reports.

Yarbrough is also self-funded. He loaned his campaign $200,000. He has had more individual donors than Hagenbuch.

There is no clear picture of either candidate’s campaign finances since the March primaries due to filing deadlines.

Early voting begins May 20. Voters who cast ballots in the March Democratic primary cannot vote in the GOP runoff.

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