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House District 71: Lambert vs Case

Voting for Texas’ party primaries is underway. And some of the 2024 contests for a place on the November ballot are a bit more intense than usual.

In several Republican races, usually, shoo-in incumbents are facing their first significant primary challenge in years.

That includes State Representative Stan Lambert of Texas House District 71. Lambert’s one of several Republicans who voted to impeach Attorney General Ken Paxton and stood against Governor Greg Abbott’s push for school vouchers.

That’s caused those top Republicans to throw their support behind Lambert’s opponent, newcomer Liz Case.

Since 2017, many Texas House District 71 residents have gotten used to Stan Lambert as their representative. The district includes Abilene and surrounding communities, where he’s a familiar face. “I live here. I’ve lived here pretty much all my life. This is where I’ve raised my children. This is where we go to church. We love the Big Country,” says Lambert.

Lambert says he’s built a strong conservative reputation by keeping taxes low, boosting rural education, and growing jobs. At the state Capitol, he’s also served on important committees, like the House's on Business and Industry.

But he says the most notable aspect of his political approach is his willingness to listen to different perspectives from his constituents, “I’m not afraid to say I don't know. If there is a question I'm not familiar with, we’ll go research and try to see what we can find out before we try to take a position on it. And try to hear from both sides because I think there’s always two sides to every question.”

But that philosophy’s earned him some strong detractors, including Governor Greg Abbott. Late last year, Lambert opposed a school voucher-like program, one of Abbott’s top legislative priorities. Abbott’s been vocal about supporting Republican primary challengers facing off against incumbents who blocked the measure.

In House District 71, Abbott’s thrown his endorsement behind the new kid on the ballot: Liz Case, a ranch owner and relative newcomer to Abilene.

On the campaign trail, Case has said she’d be cordial towards Democratic colleagues, but would not vote with them, “You need someone that’s going down to Austin and fights for conservative values. That’s something that I haven’t seen done because if that was happening I wouldn’t need to run.”

Case is also being backed by both former President Donald Trump and Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton. But she stresses that, if elected, she wouldn’t be beholden to anyone, “Some people are under the impression that if they do something for you then that means that they’re going to get a favor in return, and for a lot of politicians that’s kind of how it works. But I’m not a politician so that’s not how it’s going to work with me.”

Trump's backing several candidates, including Case, who are running in primaries against Republicans who voted to impeach Paxton and opposed school vouchers. Representative Stan Lambert says all this attention has Big Country voters wondering about the influence of outside money playing in their district, “When you kind of combined all that together it has evolved into a very strong amount of funding that is coming primarily from outside the state directed towards those of us (who) voted a certain way.”

Lambert acknowledged the backlash he received for his stand against school vouchers, but he said he stands by it, “We all know doesn't fit all. What works in Houston doesn't necessarily work in West Texas and vice-versa. So there are arguments for vouchers that I understand but I think the cons far outweigh the pros and so that's why I’ve taken the position I have like several other rural representatives have taken.”

What he’s more concerned about are Liz Case’s campaign ads, which he says misinterpret his stance on school funding.

Case is also highlighting her family’s ties to the district, where she says they’ve had a ranch for 18 years. 15 of those she spent commuting from Dallas every weekend. Until COVID hit. Then, Case decided to move here full-time.

She also touts her time advocating at the state Capitol, “I’ve spent about as much time in Austin, though, as I have in Abilene. To be truthful. For the last eight years during session, I’ve been going on my own time and my own dime because our friends down there need to be held accountable.”

When it comes down to it, elections are all about numbers. The Republican primary for House District 71 could be broken down by a few. The number of dollars spent on a campaign, the number of endorsements per candidate, or even how long they've been living in the district.

But at the end of the day, there’s only one number that really counts: How many votes Lambert and Case each get between now and March 5th.

View the Early voting Schedule here: