Gonna need a scorecard to keep track of all the players.
On Wednesday, two Texas Democrats are launching separate campaigns for Congress in a district that’s served as a Republican stronghold since the congressional days of former President George H.W. Bush. One is Alex Triantaphyllis, director of BakerRipley, a community development non-profit; the other is Dr. Jason Westin, a cancer research doctor at MD Anderson.
They are not alone. Four other Democrats have filed campaign papers with the Federal Election Commission, and one other is expected to soon. That’s in addition to two independent candidates, and one Republican primary challenger: Houston businessman David Balat.
Another potential GOP primary challenger is Maria Espinoza, a conservative activist and high profile Trump campaign booster.
Altogether, there could be a dozen candidates, including Culberson, contending in a Texas congressional election that’s still 18 months away.
“The results of the 2016 election in this district show that the people in this area are concerned about the direction that the president might take us, and I think they will become increasingly concerned that Congressman Culberson has stood with Trump,” said Triantaphyllis.
Westin also sees growing anti-Trump sentiment, particularly around the GOP’s latest Obamacare replacement bill, which Culberson supports. “There are a lot of smart people that don’t buy into some of the circus tricks that Mr. Trump is doing,” he said. “The enthusiasm of the grassroots movement is exciting.”
As you know, I’ve been tracking potential candidates for CD07 for some time now. This story doesn’t add any new names, at least not on the Democratic side. Balat is new (at least to me), while Espinoza ran against Culberson in the 2016 primary along with a third candidate, receiving 17 percent of the vote. I have no idea who the two independent candidates may be, but given that one needs to file a declaration of intent to run as an indy during the regular filing period (which doesn’t begin until November) and also collect 500 valid petition signatures from registered voters in the district who didn’t vote in the primary or primary runoff for either party for that year’s election (i.e., the 2018 primary) in the time period between the primary and 30 days after the runoff in order to qualify for a spot on the ballot, it may be a tad bit premature to care about their identities.
Joshua Butler, another candidate for CD07, recently posted a picture on Facebook of finance report data for several of the contenders in that district. I wouldn’t read too much into that – anyone who still has an active treasury, even if they are not currently a candidate, has to file a report – but it’s another way to keep track of who may be in. The first quarter ended on March 31 and as was the case with Beto O’Rourke’s announcement for the Senate, April and now May are busy times for new candidates to make themselves officially known. The next round of reports in July ought to be quite interesting.
The Chron wasn’t the only media outlet to note this round of activity. Here’s a longer story from the Trib:
Something strange is happening in Texas lately: Ambitious Democrats are coming out of the woodwork to run for Congress in places few in the party paid attention to even just a year ago.
Take the 7th Congressional District currently represented by Houston Republican John Culberson. Four Democrats had already filed for the seat before Wednesday morning, when two more jumped in.
“I’m running for Congress because I think we need to hold the president accountable,” said Alex Triantaphyllis, the director of Immigration and Economic Opportunity at Neighborhood Centers Inc., a Houston nonprofit. He said his young daughter was a motivating force for his run.
“I want her to know that we got results in our efforts, that we didn’t just have good intentions,” he added.
Jason Westin, a cancer researcher, was thinking along similar lines Wednesday morning.
“The politics of late is prompting me to say this is enough, and we need to get new people who aren’t the typical politicians..and get off the sidelines and do something,” Westin said, after his own announcement.
In past cycles, national Democratic groups had a heavy hand in candidate recruitment and telegraphed favored candidates to donors and reporters. This time around, thanks to a burst of anti-Trump enthusiasm and wounds from the 2016 presidential primary fight, party brokers are letting the primary process run its course without playing favorites in many districts around the country – including in Dallas and Houston.
The net result is a crush of candidates lining up to run for office, including three who announced their campaigns on Wednesday.
Triantaphyliss and Westin joined a crowded field vying to run against Culberson that already included Joshua Butler, James Cargas, Debra Kerner and Laura Moser.
ding! New candidate name alert! This is the first mention of Laura Moser as a potential candidate that I have seen. I don’t see any evidence of a campaign website or Facebook page, but Moser has been very actively engaged and has a connection to the Obama administration, so it’s easy to see where that might come from. I do note that Collin Cox, who was in that “very early speculation” post, was not mentioned in either of these stories, which may mean he’s already decided not to run or may mean he just hasn’t made any further steps towards running yet.
I should note that I received press releases from Westin and Triantaphyliss with their announcements, and later in the day I got one from Kerner, who made her own announcement. I’ve put them all beneath the fold. Looks like I may need to get going on creating an Election 2018 page, which means I’ll also need to create an Election 2017 page. It’s crazy.
Back to the Trib story:
Up north in Dallas, former Hillary Clinton staffer Ed Meier also announced he would join former NFL player Colin Allred in running for the Democratic nomination to take on U.S. Rep. Pete Sessions. Four other filed candidates – Awbrey Tyler Hughlett, Stephen Leroy Love, Ronald William Marshall and Darrell Allen Rodriguez – have also filed to run for the seat.
Party officials anticipate even more candidates to run in both districts.
“It is extremely unique – we don’t usually have this volume of conversations by April of the off-year,” said Jeff Rotkoff, of candidate outreach to his organization, the Texas AFL-CIO. “We have more interest in people running for Congress than I’ve ever experienced in my career.”
The DMN also notes Meier’s candidacy in CD32. I’m going to guess that the reason there isn’t an equally big rush towards CD23, which is the bluest of these three Clinton-carried districts, is that its status is in a bit of limbo due to the redistricting litigation. I figure someone will come forward in that district sooner or later anyway.
I said before that I believe there is a limit to how many candidates can and will run in these primaries. There’s only so much money and volunteer energy to go around. We won’t know for sure until the filing season officially opens. But so far at least, it’s looking like I may be wrong about my belief in the natural size of these races.
UPDATE: Naturally, as I had drafted this post based on the early version of that Chron story, the fuller version of that story then came out. I would have written this differently if I had only seen the later version, but them’s the breaks. This version includes more names and covers a lot of the same ground as the Trib story, and it throws a couple of new names into the mix as well:
In addition to the six Democrats who have formally announced or filed federal election papers, Houston trial lawyer Lizzie Pannill Fletcher told the Chronicle on Wednesday that she is “very close to making the decision to step into this race.”
Ronald Kimmons, a former missionary and Reform Party member who works as a writer and translator, rounds out the field.
Like I said, you’re going to need a scorecard to keep up with all the names. I’m going to do my best to try.
From Jason Westin:
Today, Doctor Jason Westin, the leader of a research team at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, filed his papers to challenge long-time incumbent Representative John Culberson in Texas’ 7th Congressional District.
“As a doctor, I know firsthand the risks people here in my district and throughout the country face if Donald Trump and John Culberson have their way. Their plans to kick hard-working people off their health insurance is callous and dangerous. People in our district deserve better.”
“As a physician, I took an oath to first do no harm. For too long, career politicians like Rep. John Culberson keep trying the same failed partisan prescriptions, leaving our community worse off than if they’d done nothing at all. It’s time for a new treatment for what is wrong with Washington and that starts with listening to the people in our district and using facts and evidence to find solutions to the problems we face.”
Dr. Westin has spent the last fifteen years working hard to find new and better treatments for his patients. Currently he is the leader of the diffuse large B-cell lymphoma research team at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center. He lives in Houston with his wife and three children.
From Alex Triantaphyllis:
Alex Triantaphyllis announced today that he is running for Congress in Texas’s 7th Congressional District. The 7th District, represented by incumbent Republican John Culberson, voted in favor of Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election and is widely expected to be a top target of Democratic efforts to retake the U.S. House in 2018.
“We need a Member of Congress who will put aside partisanship and work hard to build opportunities for families and communities in our district,” said Triantaphyllis. “Citizens in our community deserve a representative who listens to, works hard for, and has a record of making progress for the community in a way that benefits everyone. As a native Houstonian rooted in this city and raising my family here, I’ve spent most of the past 10 years working closely with communities on the ground to help local entrepreneurs to start and grow small businesses, improve access to education for refugees, and assist immigrants in making a successful, productive transition to life as Americans. I’m committed to bringing people together around the best ideas that build a strong future for families here, now and for the long term.”
Triantaphyllis is an active member of the community, serving with the Welcoming Houston initiative, the City of Houston’s Equitable Economic Development Committee, and the Plan Downtown Steering Committee. He is currently the Director of Immigration and Economic Opportunity at BakerRipley (formerly Neighborhood Centers), a leading nonprofit community development organization in Houston, where he started a small business development program and oversees an immigrant legal services office. Triantaphyllis is also the founder of PAIR: Partnership for the Advancement & Immersion of Refugees—a nonprofit that provides educational services for refugee youth resettled in the Houston area.
“I believe in the strength and diversity of this country. In Congress, I will draw on my background in the business and civic sectors to create jobs, make families safer and stronger, and listen to local communities so that their goals and the challenges they face are at the core of how I do my job.”
Triantaphyllis was born and raised in the 7th District—the son of a fourth-generation Texan mother and a Greek immigrant father. He holds a B.A. from Rice University in political science and Hispanic studies, and is a graduate of Harvard Law School, where he was an editor of the Harvard Law Review. Triantaphyllis and his wife, Christina Lagos Triantaphyllis, live in Houston with their infant daughter, Mina.
From Debra Kerner:
Debra L. Kerner is running for the 7th Congressional District of Texas seat with a unique combination of moxie, fresh vision and experience in education, health care and entrepreneurship.
Kerner already knows what it’s like to stand toe to toe with the current tenant in the U.S. House seat: Obstructionist attorney John Abney Culberson, who has served in elected office for 30 years without interruption and has failed to hear the impassioned call of his constituents for a new set of priorities.
Kerner questioned the calcified Culberson face to face at his now legendary March 25, 2017 town hall meeting, where a spirited overflow crowd of constituents learned just how complacent and out of the touch the incumbent has become.
Kerner is running in the March 2018 Democratic primary and girding for a long uphill general election battle afterward against the entrenched Tea Party darling on the west side of Houston and Harris County.
But voters kicked open the door to Kerner’s future upset victory when they favored Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election.
“Change is on the rise in the 7th District,” Kerner said. “Unfortunately so is flooding, as well as new concerns about transportation, education and health care.
“We need a fresh voice, a fresh outlook and a fresh approach to the federal government for this educated, sophisticated, diverse district. I fit that role uniquely with my experience, my mindset and my attitude.”
“Ostriches are unwelcome as public servants in our district, and dinosaurs departed long ago,” she continued. “Burying our heads in the sand on the most pressing issues is not a solution. Relying on fossilized approaches to governing is a practice destined for extinction. Stomping around and making noise to cause distractions from the serious work at hand won’t fool the voters anymore.”
Kerner was elected countywide to the board for the Harris County Department of Education with more than a half million votes. She governed for six years and served as board vice president.
Debra L. Kerner is the owner/director of Southwest Speech, a private practice as a speech pathologist. She has worked in public and private schools, offices, hospitals, Head Start programs and adult rehab facilities. She has trained educators, parents and fellow speech pathologists, and taught graduate-level speech pathology courses in the Department of Communication Disorders at the University of Houston.
She earned a Master of Science degree in speech pathology from Columbia University and a Bachelor of Science degree in speech pathology and audiology from Syracuse University.
A resident of Houston for most of her adult live, Kerner lives with her husband, Ron Braunfeld and has a daughter, Michelle Arnold and son-in-law, Frank Arnold.
FOR MORE INFORMATION go to www.debrakerner.com and Debra Kerner For Congress on Facebook.