Texas Democrats came out strong on Tuesday, with voters winnowing fields of candidates for the 2018 midterm elections. So far in several congressional races, it’s looking like no candidate will get more than 50 percent of the vote, meaning the top two will advance to a runoff on May 22.
Democrats, long shut out of conservative Texas politics, fielded candidates in all 36 of the state’s congressional races. They have their eyes on a few key opportunities: the Seventh Congressional District in Houston, the 23rd Congressional District outside San Antonio, and the 32nd Congressional District in Dallas — all districts Hillary Clinton won in 2016.
Democrats are also watching 21st Congressional District closely, which runs from the area north of San Antonio up to Austin. The seat is open after Republican Rep. Lamar Smith announced he would retire.
There are already strong indications of voter enthusiasm for Democrats; early voting totals blew away previous records. More than 885,000 Texans cast ballots through early voting, a 50 percent increase from the previous record of 592,000 in 2014, according to the Houston Chronicle. The early voting numbers clearly had Republicans worried, with incumbent Sen. Ted Cruz telling supporters that Democrats would “crawl over broken glass in November to vote.”
The Republican and Democratic primaries in the US Senate were called as of 9:15 pm, but votes in multiple precincts are still being counted. Full vote totals are available online.
US Senate race
- Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-TX) — Congress member representing Texas’s 16th Congressional District
- Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) — incumbent
Senate race overview
O’Rourke is the progressive Democrat who has been campaigning across Texas Barack Obama-style, drawing crowds in even the most conservative areas, according to the Texas Tribune. He’s running on a platform calling for access to universal health care and progressive immigration policies (basically the antithesis of Cruz).
Cruz is certainly not the most well-liked Republican in the Senate but he has a 50 percent approval rating among Texas voters, according to a Morning Consult poll. However, his fate is somewhat tied to President Donald Trump’s approval rating, which is much lower. O’Rourke faces extremely long odds in November, but Democrats will try to tie Cruz to Trump as much as possible and hope that Trump’s approval rating in the state dips even lower in the coming months.
The Texas governor’s race
- Andrew White, a business executive and son of former Texas Gov. Mark White
- Lupe Valdez, the former Dallas County sheriff and a US Army veteran
- Gov. Greg Abbott — incumbent
Democrats face very long odds in their attempt to unseat Abbott, an incumbent who is one of the most popular governors in the country. Valdez and White were long expected to emerge out of a crowded field of nine candidates and advance to the May runoff, which they did on Tuesday night.
As Rice University political science professor Mark Jones put it: “The race between Valdez and White determines who loses to Greg Abbott in November.” Both candidates were dismissive of this narrative, and told Vox they believe Texas demographics are changing to favor Democrats.
Both candidates are running platforms on fixing Texas’s education system and spending less on what they call wasteful state spending on enhanced border security. Here’s more about White and Valdez.
Seventh Congressional District — Houston
- Lizzie Pannill Fletcher, a longtime Houston attorney
- Laura Moser, a former freelance journalist and activist
- Rep. John Culberson (R-TX) — incumbent
Houston attorney Lizzie Fletcher won a spot in the runoff with 30 percent of the vote, and it looks like progressive activist Laura Moser has edged out Jason Westin for second place. NBC Politics called the race late Tuesday night.
JUST IN: Lizzie Fletcher to face Laura Moser in Democratic runoff in Texas' 7th District, after Fletcher fails to reach 50% and Moser lands in second place— NBC Politics (@NBCPolitics) March 7, 2018
The Seventh Congressional District drew by far the most national attention after a fierce battle between the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) and Moser. Back in February, the DCCC published an opposition research memo against Moser based on a 2014 Washingtonian piece by the candidate that said she’d “sooner have my teeth pulled out without anesthesia” than move back to her grandparents’ home in Paris, Texas. The memo also raised questions about contracts with her husband’s political consulting firm.
“When there’s a truly disqualified general election candidate that would eliminate our ability to flip a district blue, that’s a time when it becomes necessary to get involved in these primaries,” DCCC spokesperson Meredith Kelly told Vox. “This district is too important to let it go without trying.”
So far, it’s looking like the DCCC’s attempt to swing the race backfired.
23rd Congressional District — San Antonio area to the Mexico border
- Gina Ortiz Jones, a former US Air Force veteran and an official at the Office of the US Trade Representative under President Barack Obama
- Rick Treviño, a San Antonio teacher (will likely make the runoff)
- Rep. Will Hurd (R-TX) — incumbent
Gina Ortiz Jones and Rick Treviño advanced to the May primary; as of 11:30 pm with about 155 for 348 precincts reporting, Ortiz Jones had garnered 40 percent of the vote. Treviño managed to get into the runoff with 17.5 percent of the vote, after running neck and neck with fellow candidate Judy Canales for second place.
The surprise of the primary was that Jay Hulings, a former federal prosecutor endorsed by Rep. Joaquin Castro and House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer — didn’t make it into the runoff. Hulings was polling in fourth place as of 11:30 pm, with 155/348 precincts reporting. Ortiz Jones has the endorsement of Emily’s List and LGBTQ and veterans groups along with strong fundraising numbers.
32nd Congressional District — Dallas
- Colin Allred, a civil rights attorney and former NFL player
- Lillian Salerno, a former Obama administration official who served as the deputy undersecretary for rural development
- Rep. Pete Sessions (R-TX) — incumbent
Colin Allred earned 40 percent of the vote on Tuesday as of 11:30 pm, with Lillian Salerno in second place with 17 percent. (Salerno was tight in the polls with former investigative reporter Brett Shipp.) The Democratic candidates for the 32nd District are staunch progressives, running on issues including voting rights, education, the economy, and immigration.
As we get closer to the November general election, Democrats are sure to try to tie incumbent Pete Sessions to Trump; Sessions’s voting record aligns almost perfectly with Trump’s policy priorities.
This post will be updated as more races are called.