Like it or not, Rep. Ron Reynolds will be back for another term.
When State Rep. Ron Reynolds learned he would face Democratic primary opposition this year for the first time since he won his seat, he called it “the biggest challenge of my political career.”
Reynolds went on to battle three candidates from the party who sought to serve House District 27, an area Reynolds has represented since 2010. Victory did not come in a landslide: a close finish forced him into a run-off, which he won by a slim but safe margin.
Reynolds, after all, was not entering the primary untarnished. Late last year, a Montgomery County jury convicted him on five counts of misdemeanor barratry, the illegal solicitation of legal clients known as “ambulance chasing.” He represented himself in the trial, fighting allegations that he unlawfully paid someone to solicit clients involved in accidents. He lost and subsequently received a year-long jail sentence, a conclusion he deemed racially-motivated and “a modern-day lynching.” He has appealed the conviction.
The 43-year-old incumbent now faces one last barrier to victory in November: a Republican and fellow lawyer named Ken Bryant.
Reynolds, the House Democratic whip, said he expects to be re-elected. Bryant, who has served as a Fort Bend ISD trustee, declined to comment for this story without knowing who the Houston Chronicle was going to endorse. The Chronicle news division and editorial page are separate divisions and the editorial board ultimately made no endorsement in the November race because Bryant did not meet with them.
A Reynolds loss in November would represent a “huge upset,” said Jay Aiyer, assistant professor of political science at Texas Southern University.
Aiyer attributed this success so far to what he called a “disconnect” in voters’ minds between the criminal allegations Reynolds faces and his ability as a legislator. Reynolds has been well liked and respected by leadership and peers in the House, Aiyer said, opinions that seem to have been strong enough to overcome personal allegations some may find troubling, and on which his Democratic primary contenders had sought to capitalize. “I think voters, by and large, stood by me because of my strong record and my advocacy for them in my three terms in office,” Reynolds said. “I believe that we’ve weathered the storm and we haven’t missed a beat.”
No doubt Reynolds survived his primary and runoff due to his constituents generally liking him, based on his record and personal affability. He’ll survive in November because HD27 is a heavily Democratic district – President Obama received 68.8% of the vote there in 2012. Beyond that, we’ll see. Good will with voters and other elected officials got Reynolds through this cycle, but good will is a finite resource. Reynolds still has a jail sentence and the suspension of his law license hanging over him, and I’ll bet someone challenges his leadership position in the Democratic House caucus. Maybe conditions will be better for him in 2018, and maybe they will be worse. He himself took two tries to win his seat; perhaps it will take two tries for someone else to win it. He’s in a stable position now, but his saga is far from over.