Two Congressional race updates

This story uses the throughline of John Whitmire’s election as Mayor to discuss the SD15 and CD18 primaries, but I’m just going to focus on the latter.

Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee

After losing the mayoral election by nearly 30 percentage points, [Rep. Sheila] Jackson Lee has not left the campaign trail. The incumbent, first elected to Congressional District 18 in 1994, faces a well-funded challenge from a former opponent in the mayor’s race, Amanda Edwards.


Edwards, a Houston native who grew up in the district, previously was a Houston City Council member, a candidate for U.S. Senate and candidate for Houston mayor prior to announcing her bid for Congress.

The 42-year-old lawyer was part of the crowded field vying for Houston mayor last year.

Seven months before the November General Election, Jackson Lee made a late entrance to the race. Seeing no path to victory after Jackson Lee’s announcement, Edwards dropped out in June, endorsed Jackson Lee for mayor, then said she was running for Jackson Lee’s seat.

Congressional District 18 includes much of Houston’s core, then expands north to the Harris County border. The deep blue district is 46 percent Hispanic, 31 percent Black, 23 percent white, and 5 percent Asian.

Since Jackson Lee’s 1994 election, she has been reelected 14 times, often uncontested and never with less than 70 percent of the vote.

If Jackson Lee were elected mayor, Edwards would have been the clear favorite to represent the district in Washington. Instead, Edwards now finds herself squaring off against her old boss. She has not pointed to significant policy differences between herself in Jackson Lee; rather, she’s arguing the district is ready for fresh ideas.

“A lot of that case is being made by the residents themselves,” Edwards said. “They are feeling very shut out from what’s happening in Washington.”

Jackson Lee did not respond to requests for comment.

The 74-year-old congresswoman said during a December news conference that she still is a change agent on Capitol Hill, and her longevity in office is a benefit to her district and the city as a whole.

During the news conference announcing her run for re-election, Jackson Lee cited unfinished business in Congress, including immigration reform, upcoming appropriations from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and a desire to complete the Emancipation Trail that runs from Galveston to Houston.

Amanda Edwards

Edwards said her No. 1 issue if elected would be expanding access to healthcare in the district, noting the loss of her father to an aggressive form of cancer when she was 17.

Edwards has taken advantage of her congressional campaign’s six-month head start.

She raised $269,000 across the last three months of 2023, according to Federal Election Commission Records. Jackson Lee, who was running for mayor for much of that time, only raised about $23,000 for her congressional campaign fund during that period.

Edwards ended 2023 with just under $856,000 cash on hand. Jackson Lee ended the year with $223,000 cash on hand, according to the FEC.

Despite her financial advantage, Edwards faces an uphill battle to unseat Jackson Lee, Sims said.

“(Edwards) has the money to execute a good campaign, but any challenger to a Congressional incumbent in the United States is at a disadvantage, especially one as long as Sheila Jackson Lee,” Sims said.

Jackson Lee does not need much money because she already is so well known within the district, Sims added.

My interview with Amanda Edwards is here; as noted before, I was not able to get one scheduled with Rep. Jackson Lee. I largely agree with Nancy Sims, though with somewhat less certainty. People know Rep. Jackson Lee. She represents the district well, and that seniority she has is not to be discarded lightly. She’s garnered most of the group endorsements – I cannot wait to see what the Chron writes – but Amanda Edwards has done pretty well with endorsements from various officeholders and other local leaders. The million-plus bucks she’s raised is impressive in its own way, and she’s got ads running now. SJL is the favorite until proven otherwise, but she has easily the biggest fight of her career on her hands.

Meanwhile, over in CD07, we have some nasty fake texts going around.

U.S. Rep. Lizzie Fletcher’s campaign on Friday suggested her primary opponent was behind fake text messages sent to voters in Congressional District 7 touting her support from a pro-Israel lobbying group less than two weeks before early voting begins.

A statement from Fletcher’s campaign implied the fake texts, which celebrate Israel’s “right to defend itself against terrorists,” originated with her opponent Pervez Agwan’s campaign or his supporters.

“These text messages misappropriating the Congresswoman’s name and likeness are deceitful, misleading, and an unlawful attempt to confuse and influence voters in the Democratic primary election,” Fletcher campaign Political Director Collin Steele wrote in a statement. “Our campaign is exploring options to address this egregious misconduct. Whether this attempt to disrupt American democracy is coming from the Agwan campaign, his supporters, or somewhere else, it must stop immediately.”

The texts claim to be coming from Fletcher’s campaign and celebrates an endorsement she actually has received: that of the campaign arm of pro-Israel lobbying group the Israel American Public Affairs Committee. Fletcher lists the endorsement on her campaign website.


The fake Fletcher texts were sent weeks after the New Hampshire attorney general’s office said it was investigating robocalls that used artificial intelligence to mimic President Joe Biden’s voice and discourage voters from participating in the state’s primary elections, and concerns about election interference are heightened around the country.

My interview with Rep. Fletcher is here and with Pervez Agwan is here. We will never know the origin of these texts. In theory, if one can get access to the right log files, one might be able to trace it back to a domain or IP address, but that too is likely to be a dead end unless the sender was especially careless. Fake communications of various kinds are a tale as old as the communication technology in question, but the advent of AI and the increased willingness of foreign actors to meddle in various ways really ups the stakes. We need to invest some real money in figuring out better ways to detect and block this sort of thing, and pass laws that allow for real consequences for the miscreants. It’s only going to get worse from here otherwise.

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  1. Pingback: Endorsement watch: Sticking with SJL | Off the Kuff

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