There’s only one way forward after this primary

The worst people you know had a very good week last week. It’s likely to get better for them after the runoffs. These headlines capture the essence of it:

‘Disastrous’: A shaken Texas House prepares for rightward shift after record GOP primary upsets

Amid white supremacist scandal, far-right billionaire powerbrokers see historic election gains in Texas

A House Defeated? Abbott, Paxton, Patrick Bag Rebellious State Legislators

The Far Right in Texas Crashed Through Its Last Guardrail

Read ’em if you want, but you get the idea just from the headlines. The next legislative session is going to be worse than you can imagine, and that’s after the multiple disasters we’ve already lived through. It’s going to be so, so bad.

There is one thing we can do to mitigate this, at least a little. That’s to flip a few State House seats, to reduce the Republican advantage and to maybe send a message that there is such a thing as going too far to the right. I have no illusions about this being easy. We face a lot of obstacles, starting with the gerrymandered map, and we don’t have anything like the political machine the Republicans and their theocrat enablers have built. What we have is a mission, and more than a little desperation to fuel it. At least there will be a well-funded Senate campaign hopefully pushing things in a good direction.

There are also some legitimate targets. That gerrymandered map drew a lot of Republican-friendly districts, but a fair amount of them are more of a red-tinged purple than actually red. That includes some districts in which quasi-normie legislators were ousted in favor of true wackos. I’ve reviewed what the legislative pickup opportunities are before, and now I’m going to go back to that list and point them out for this context. The rest is up to us. Note that while I’ve included one from the Houston area, these are all outside Harris County. Our best opportunity here is HD138, and while Jared Woodfill losing in the primary is good news from the perspective of humanity and decency, it’s bad news from an electoral perspective.

Be that as it may, here are the main districts of interest. Do with them what you will.

HD14 53.8-43.5 for Trump in 2020. Open seat following the retirement of Rep. John Raney. Fred Medina is the Democrat. I found this interview he did if you want to learn more.

HD26 54.8-43.7 for Trump in 2020. Incumbent Rep. Jacey Jetton was ousted in the primary for the sin of voting to impeach Ken Paxton. This is in Fort Bend, and Daniel Lee is back for another run at it.

HD37 50.6-48.4 for Biden in 2020, flipped to the Republicans in 2022 after the Dem incumbent left for a run at Eddie Lucio’s Senate seat. The Republican incumbent is Janie Lopez. There’s a Dem runoff for the primary so we don’t know who the opponent will be just yet.

HD52 51.0-46.7 for Trump in 2020. Incumbent Caroline Harris Davila flipped the seat in 2022 after it was redrawn to be redder; this is Rep. James Talarico’s former district. Jennie Birkholz is the Dem challenger.

HD54 52.4-45.5 for Trump in 2020. Incumbent Brad Buckley was the House Public Ed Chair in 2023, and tried to thread a needle on vouchers, with no success. I suspect the next Speaker will install a voucher minion in 2025, and who knows, maybe Buckley will revert back to being a voucher opponent as a result. Whatever the case, HD54 has been a fringe Dem pickup opportunity since at least 2016, even post-redistricting, though Dems have never seriously contested it. Dawn Richardson is this year’s candidate.

HD55 53.8-43.9 for Trump in 2020. Incumbent Rep. Hugh Shine has been a wingnut target in the past though they left him alone in 2022, but this time they got him. That makes this seat, located in Central Texas, perhaps more flippable than it would be otherwise. We’ll see what Jennifer Lee can do with it.

HD61 53.0-45.8 for Trump in 2020. One-term incumbent Rep. Frederick Frazier is in the runoff after finishing second with 32% of the vote. He’s had some legal issues, so perhaps a loss here will make this seat safer for Republicans than if he wins. I’m including it anyway, as it’s still reasonably tight and it’s in Collin County, where a lot of these opportunities are and where the trends have been pretty blue in recent years. Here’s hoping they give Tony Adams a boost.

HD63 52.0-46.4 for Trump in 2020. The incumbent is Ben Bumgarner, and I only learned that in doing this post. I got nothing about him other than he’s a first-termer, but the Dem opposing him is a familiar name, former Rep. Michelle Beckley, back for another shot at the Lege after running for Lite Guv in 2022. She was a surprise (to me, at least) winner in the 2018 sweep and I do not underestimate her, though I know she’s not necessarily the most popular person among Dems after 2022. Still, this ought to be a race to watch.

HD65 53.4-45.1 for Trump in 2020. Incumbent Rep. Kronda Thimesch was elected in 2018 after Drew Springer moved up to the Senate. She was ousted by the forces of evil this year, and so this one becomes another advanced opportunity. It’s also in Denton, which like Collin now has some purplish-to-purple seats. Detrick DeBurr is the challenger.

HD66 53.1-45.2 for Trump in 2020. Incumbent Rep. Matt Shaheen is likely to overperform the partisan index, so this one is maybe not as high on the list, but it’s close enough to not ignore it. David Carstens, the Dem candidate, didn’t have any web presence that I could find when I drafted this, so that’s probably another indicator of where this one stands.

HD67 53.5-44.6 for Trump in 2020. Incumbent Jeff Leach not only survived the revenge attempt against him for his impeachment vote, he forced me to re-evaluate him after being so frankly outspoken about Paxton’s perfidy. He used that outspokenness in a mostly jerky way for his time in the Lege before this, but he has reminded me that even bad legislators can have some good qualities. I still want to see him lose, and Makala Washington is the one who’s going to try to make that happen.

HD94 53.8-44.4 for Trump in 2020. Incumbent Rep. Tony Tinderholt is one of the biggest misogynist assholes in the Lege, and as I’m sure you know, that’s saying something. He’s had some close calls before, and his seat is now a little redder after the redraw, which he needs. Still, there’s plenty of material here to work with if we want to make a difference. He’s in Tarrant County, where I hope there’s a significant overall effort to move the needle. Denise Wilkerson is his opponent.

HD97 53.9-44.4 for Trump in 2020. Open following Rep. Craig Goldman’s run for CD12. There are runoffs in both parties, so we’ll get back to this one later. Also in Tarrant County.

HD108 49.7-48.9 for Trump in 20020. Incumbent Morgan Meyer is one of two Republican legislators left in Dallas County, and he barely survived his primary in a district that’s not at all drawn to be won by a wingnut. This is Dallas County’s answer to HD134 – we’ll return to that theme in a minute – and maybe this is the year it tips over. Elizabeth Wilkerson would have had an easier path against Meyer’s opponent, but here we are.

HD112 49.4-48.9 for Trump in 2020. Incumbent Angie Chen Button is the other last-standing Dallas County Republican legislator, and like Rep. Meyer she has been several points above the spread in years past. But as Democrats who remember 2010 can attest, the wave will get you sooner or later. And she has a stellar opponent in Averie Bishop, about whom I’ve written before. I’m going to reach out to her for an interview later in the year.

HD118 50.6-47.9 for Biden in 2020. Incumbent John Lujan flipped this seat in a special election following the retirement of then-Rep. Leo Pacheco and an ugly fight between Democratic factions in that race. He held on to the seat in that November, but he has a much tougher task this cycle. Kristian Carranza won her primary by a large margin and should be a top-tier candidate.

HD121 50.4-48.1 for Trump in 2020. Incumbent Rep. Steve Allison was the Sarah Davis of San Antonio, and unlike Davis was finally ousted by his increasingly unhinged party in the primary. I have to believe this makes this an easier pickup opportunity – hell, this result was the impetus for this whole post – in what was once Joe Straus’ district. Here’s hoping Laurel Jordan Swift is the right person to do it.

Hope that helps. There are other possibilities, and as noted rape- and life-of-the-mother-exception opponent Sen. Angela Paxton is also up for election this cycle, so feel free to give Rachel Mello some love as well. This should get you started.

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4 Responses to There’s only one way forward after this primary

  1. J says:

    More today from The Guardian about a secretive fraternal order of Christian Nationalists called the Society for American Civic Renewal (SACR) that has the goal of establishing a religious autocracy in America to replace our current system of government. These men are behind all the anti-DEI activity, among other unconstitutional and anti-democratic initiatives.

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  3. Scott says:

    Another one to watch is HD-80.

    With Tracy King retiring, this narrow Trump seat might flip red. Democrats seem poised to nominate Rosie Cuellar (sister of Congressman Henry Cuellar) in the runoff. The GOP has nominated Don McLaughlin, former Uvalde Mayor, who made news for cursing out Beto O’Rourke at that Uvalde press conference.

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