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.
A court-drawn interim map gave Democrats a few more opportunities to pick up seats — although not as many as the party had hoped. Texas picked up four new House seats this cycle because of population increase — two were drawn to be safe Democratic seats and two were drawn as safe Republican districts. Still, only one House race out of 36 districts is expected to be competitive this November.
Democratic Primaries to Watch
If there’s a competitive House seat anywhere in Texas, it’s Rep. Francisco “Quico” Canseco’s majority Hispanic 23rd district in south Texas.
Two noteworthy Democrats are running for the chance to defeat the freshman Republican: state Rep. Pete Gallego and former Rep. Ciro Rodriguez. Attorney John Bustamante (D), the son of former Rep. Albert Bustamante, is also running, but he’s not expected to win.
National Democrats favor Gallego to win the nomination, but it is unlikely he’ll avoid a runoff with Rodriguez. The League of Conservation Voters has spent $200,000 to boost Gallego’s campaign in a crowded field that includes candidates with significant name identification.
Across the state in southeastern Texas, there’s also a crowded Democratic primary for the new 34th district. This seat includes part of the competitive territory from freshman Rep. Blake Farenthold’s (R) current district, which became a safer GOP seat under the new map.
The eventual nominee is all but assured to be the next Member of Congress in this heavily Democratic district. But it’s unlikely he will get there without a runoff first.
In a field of eight candidates, the top Democrats are attorney Filemon Vela, Cameron County District Attorney Armando Villalobos and former Willacy County District Attorney Juan Angel Guerra. Earlier this month, Villalobos was in the headlines for his bribery indictment — not a promising sign for his race.
There’s another crowded field of Democratic contenders in the new 33rd district around Fort Worth. This majority-minority district is comprised of a coalition of black and Hispanic voters. And much like the 34th district, the nominee will probably become the next Member.
The top candidates are state Rep. Marc Veasey, Fort Worth City Councilwoman Kathleen Hicks, businessman David Alameel and former state Rep. Domingo Garcia. Alameel dumped more than $2 million into the race, most of which comes from his own wallet.
Democrats are likely to see a runoff that includes two of these candidates. Local Democrats speculate the top two will probably be Veasey and Garcia, but Alameel’s heavy spending could push him into the runoff.
Republican Primaries to Watch
Last year, Republican mapmakers made Doggett’s seat unwinnable by moving it west to a more Republican area. Doggett opted to run in the new 35th district instead, leaving this staunchly Republican, west Austin seat open.
A dozen GOP candidates are seeking the nomination in the 35th, making a runoff certain.
Republicans said they would be surprised if former Secretary of State Roger Williams did not make the cut. He’s the only candidate to mount a serious television campaign in this district.
Most of the speculation surrounds who might come in second place. Former state Railroad Commissioner Michael Williams is well-known in local GOP circles, but his fundraising has been pitiful. A super PAC spent about $164,000 boosting him, but even his supporters doubt that will be enough to get him into the runoff.
Retired insurance executive David Garrison has invested more than $800,000 out of his own pocket in the race. But he had only used a fraction of it — about $225,000 — as of early May.
In the dramatically redrawn 14 district, GOP Rep. Ron Paul’s retirement created a wide-open race — and a potentially competitive seat.
Republicans say it’s anyone’s guess as to which pair of candidates in a field of 12 will make the runoff. Informed sources speculated any two of the following four might make the cut: Jay Old and Michael Truncale, both Beaumont attorneys, state Rep. Randy Webber and Pearland City Councilwoman Felicia Harris.
Former Rep. Nick Lampson (D) filed to run here, and he’s all but certain to get the nomination. But this coastal district is difficult for any Democrat, no matter who emerges from the runoff.
Finally, there’s a GOP primary in the new 36th district, a solid Republican seat northeast of Houston. Republicans initially believed state Sen. Mike Jackson would be the frontrunner, but his fundraising has not been as strong as expected. He might be forced into a runoff with one of his lesser-known competitors, such as former Rep. Steve Stockman or financial adviser Stephen Takach, The GOP field includes more than 10 candidates in yet another example of a Texas-sized primary today.