GOP tourney puts 2 similar Republicans in race for North Texas Senate seat

AUSTIN – In the Republican primary, two candidates are vying for a state Senate seat in a conservative 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 showed little camaraderie heading into the May 28 election.

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

Yarbrough wants Hagenbuch thrown off the ballot, claiming in the campaign and in a lawsuit that the perceived front-runner does not live in District 30. Hagenbuch called Yarbrough a “smooth talker” who wants to be a career politician.

It was a bruising campaign.

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State Senate candidates are working to unseat the GOP primary rival for a North Texas seat

Hagenbuch, owner of a Denton-based trucking company, calls his effort a “resume and referrals” campaign that boasts the support of many of the state’s top Republicans, including Gov. Greg Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, US Sen. John Cornyn, and current district Sen. Drew Springer. Those seals of approval, plus former President Donald Trump’s endorsement, make Hagenbuch the presumptive front-runner.

“I’m very well suited to be a successful state senator, and I’m very confident that we’re going to win this,” Hagenbuch, 64, said in a recent interview.

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

“We’re out and about with good people,” Yarbrough said in an interview. “We are helped by so many good people in the district.”

In the Republican primary in March, Hagenbuch topped Yarbrough by about 2,400 votes, with 36.4 percent of the vote to Yarbrough’s 33.9 percent in a four-candidate race. Because neither received at least 50%, they face each other in the round.

The winner gets 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, R-Muenster, who is retiring after two terms.

Both candidates said their top issue is the rise of illegal immigration in Texas. Both support Operation Lone Star, Abbott’s border security effort, but Hagenbuch attacked Yarbrough for what he describes as lackluster support for Abbott’s transportation of immigrants to Democratic-led cities outside Texas.

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

“Illegal seeding 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 advance conservative causes, says he is the only GOP candidate eligible for the job.

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

Hagenbuch has been sued in several courts by Yarbrough and former candidate Dr. Carrie de Moor. An appeals court threw out Yarbrough’s lawsuit, and de Moor’s appeal failed to remove Hagenbuch from the ballot before the GOP primary.

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

“We provided documents in court,” Hagenbuch said. “They were all screened, already showing documents, voter registration paperwork, all proving that he was in good standing.”

The documents included a $4-a-year lease indicating Hagenbuch rented space in his company’s Denton office as a residence. Since then, he has rented an apartment across the street.

Beyond character disputes, little separates Yarbrough and Hagenbuch on issues at the forefront of Republican politics. Both support eliminating property taxes, but offer little in the way of achieving a goal the lieutenant governor 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 had the financial advantage. He loaned his campaign $1.2 million, which he spent on campaign mailings, television ads and legal fees, according to campaign finance reports.

Yarbrough was also self-financing. He loaned his campaign $200,000. He had more individual donors than Hagenbuch.

There is no clear picture of either candidate’s campaign finances since the March primary because of filing deadlines.

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

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