Races to Watch in Tuesday's Primaries

Election Day is upon us.

By Dianna Wray March 5, 2018


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The time has come, and Texas is officially kicking off the midterm election season by holding the first primary races in the nation on Tuesday. There are races going down all across Texas, and there are plenty worth watching, but it turns out some of the most intriguing primary races have Houston ties that make them particularly worth watching even if you don't treat politics like it's baseball. Here are the races with Bayou City ties that will be particularly worth watching as the returns begin to come in on Tuesday night:

The one where a longtime Republican state legislator is apparently now not Republican enough: State Rep. Sarah Davis is a moderate Republican of the fiscally conservative, socially liberal variety, and her constituents in and around the West University area that comprises State District 134 have elected her to the state legislature four times already, which implies that they like the job she has done. However, this time around Davis will face an opponent, Susanna Dokupi, who has been backed by the antivaxxer crowd. On top of that, Gov. Greg Abbott himself has been weighing in on this race, running ads encouraging voters to oust Davis from the primaries entirely, as we’ve noted.

Since this is Texas, and West U runs moderate but leans toward the conservative side of things, the primary is the race Davis has to win to secure her seat, since the midterms will be just a formality. If she wins, she’ll have withstood direct pressure from one of the most powerful members of her party in the state. If she loses, the legislature will lose one of the only moderates in the state House of Representatives. 

The one where Sen. Chuck Schumer is involved: It wasn’t a shock when longtime Rep. Gene Green announced he was retiring after holding his seat in the 29th Congressional District since the 1990s, and it wasn’t exactly surprising that longtime state Sen. Sylvia Garcia threw her hat into the ring to replace Green. Created in 1992, the district—largely Hispanic, and comprised of parts of Pasadena and north Houston—was originally expected to be carried by a Hispanic representative, but Green managed to beat Garcia during that first race and proceeded to hold the seat year after year from then on. Garcia even backed Green when he faced a primary challenger back in 2016, and everyone expected she would run for the Democratic nod and win the seat herself this time around. 

But then Tahir Javed, a healthcare executive, announced he was running for the Democratic nomination for the seat and raised more than $1 million, mostly his own money, in campaign contributions. And then, just as early voting started, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer endorsed Javed for the seat, a weird move to make in a race with a solid candidate with strong ties to the community in a state where there aren’t exactly a lot of reliably Democratic districts.

Right now, the prediction is that Schumer’s support paired with Javed’s money will make it difficult for Garcia to win outright, likely sending the race into a runoff, but we won’t know until we know. If Garcia wins, she could become the first Latina from Texas elected to Congress. But it may take a while to know how this race ultimately turns out.

The one where the Democrats are trying to tank one of their own: After Hillary Clinton beat Donald Trump in Congressional District 7 in 2016, it was clear that Republican Rep. John Culberson was going to face some serious contenders for his seat, and that’s exactly what has happened. The Democratic primary features seven talented candidates, with Laura Moser, Alex Triantaphyllis and Lizzie Pannill Fletcher leading the pack in campaign fundraising.

However, this has been a particularly tense race since late February when the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee posted negative opposition research on Moser, the kind of thing you are never supposed to do to someone from your own party. With so many candidates, plenty of controversy, and just enough campaign dollars in the mix, it’s hard to tell how this will turn out, but one of these people will be up against Culberson in the fall, so this won’t be the last time focus is locked on this district this year.

The one where a grandson of former-President George H.W. Bush may actually lose: The Bush family has had tremendous pull in Texas ever since George H.W. Bush arrived in Houston and was elected to Congress in 1967, but now things are looking dicey for the current Bush-in-Texas, Land Commissioner George P. Bush. This Bush iteration, son of Jeb, obviously a Republican, was initially hailed as the next big star of the Bush family, and won his office after the former Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson left to run for lieutenant governor back in 2014. But there have been some hiccups along the way. For one thing, Bush split from the rest of the family and backed Donald Trump. He also hasn't exactly overwhelmed some of his critics (including Patterson) with how he's handled his gig.

Patterson recently decided he wanted his old gig back and threw his hat into the ring for the GOP primary, partly because he says that Bush has done wrong by the office—the General Land Office response time post-Harvey was slow at best—and partly because Patterson maintains Bush is doing wrong by the Alamo. Yes, seriously. This is about the Alamo.

See, Bush came out with a plan to revamp the site of the “13 Days of Glory,” but the modernizing approach he was touting didn’t get a good response from the public. In fact, a lot of people hated it, enough to make Patterson feel like he has a real chance to unseat the younger Bush.

If Bush doesn’t get 50 percent of the primary vote, he’ll be forced into a runoff, and if he loses, that could be the end of his political prospects. Considering that such a thing would have seemed just this side of impossible four years ago, you'll want to keep a sharp eye on how this one plays out.

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