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Most Texas House Primaries Won’t Be Decided Tonight

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo
Rep. Silvestre Reyes faces a tough Democratic primary challenge today and is the most likely Texas House Member to lose re-election.

At least one longtime House Member is at risk of losing re-election as voters across Texas go to the polls today to vote in primaries.

Rep. Silvestre Reyes faces a tough challenge from former El Paso City Councilman Beto O’Rourke in the heavily Democratic 16th district. O’Rourke’s bid has been boosted by a Texas-based super PAC, the Campaign for Primary Accountability, which has invested heavily in two House contests in the Lone Star State.

There are more primaries to watch than usual in Texas today, thanks to recently redrawn Congressional boundaries. Many of them are for safe seats that will not be contested in the fall but could still be decided in a July runoff.

Primary challenges to incumbents are especially rare. A Texas House Member hasn’t lost re-election in a primary since 2004. But that might change today — most likely with Reyes.

There has been no independent polling of the race, but the eight-term Congressman has indicated he’s taking the challenge seriously. Reyes has spent more than $464,000 this year and successfully sought the endorsements of both President Bill Clinton and President Barack Obama.

O’Rourke has spent at least $280,000 this year, and he’s had additional help from the Campaign for Primary Accountability. The group has spent $140,000 against Reyes.

The super PAC also focused on 16-term Rep. Ralph Hall (R), spending $166,000 against the one-time Democrat in the 4th district in northeast Texas.

“There’s a certain sentimental value to Texas,” said Curtis Ellis, spokesman for the Campaign for Primary Accountability. “The founder of the super PAC is from Houston. His family and his loyalties are tied to the heart of Texas. It makes sense that the best little super PAC in Texas would take an interest there.”

Elsewhere in the state, Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D) has two primary challengers: attorney Taj Clayton and state Rep. Barbara Mallory Caraway. Clayton is Johnson’s most formidable foe, and his fundraising has been strong. But even if Johnson can’t acquire more than 50 percent of the vote in the primary, Democrats don’t expect Clayton to defeat her in the July 31 runoff.

When Republicans originally redrew the Texas map last year, Democrats believed Rep. Lloyd Doggett’s Democratic primary would be the one to watch. He was set up to face state Rep. Joaquin Castro in a majority Hispanic district.

That’s not the case anymore since Democratic Rep. Charlie Gonzalez’s retirement paved the way for Castro to run for a nearby seat instead. Now Democrats expect Doggett will likely win re-election in the 35th district over his poorly funded primary challengers.

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