Endorsement watch: Three big ones

The Chron races to finish up their primary endorsements before the start of Early Voting. Three more for your consideration:

They endorse Rep. Lizzie Fletcher in CD07.

Rep. Lizzie Fletcher

Ever since Democratic voters picked her to take on and eventually defeat a nine-term Republican incumbent in 2018, U.S. Rep. Lizzie Fletcher hasn’t had a primary challenger.

That changed this year, in part because the 7th Congressional District was redrawn, shifting west and south of downtown Houston, and looping in Alief and parts of Sugar Land. The district is also one of the most diverse in Texas: 30% Hispanic or Latino, 21% Black and 22% Asian, according to census data.

Pervez Agwan, an engineer and renewable energy developer who was born to immigrant parents from India, is making the case that because the district is now solidly blue — Fletcher carried it by 27 points in the 2022 general election — its interests have shifted to the left.

Agwan, 32, is running on an unabashedly progressive platform that includes supporting a single-payer universal health care system, doing away with dark money and corporate influence in our political system, and pushing for a cease-fire between Israel and Palestine. But he couldn’t articulate how he’d be effective in getting legislation passed in Washington.

Agwan has also been hit with a lawsuit in which he was accused of sexual harassment by a former campaign staffer who says he tried to kiss her in his office and kept her from leaving after she rejected him. Agwan told the editorial board that he vehemently denied the woman’s claim and referred to the lawsuit as a “circus” centered on a “small workplace dispute.” Even if the allegations aren’t true, his response was dismissive, lacking the seriousness the lawsuit deserves. While Agwan raised more than $1 million in 2023, he has burned through it quickly and ended the year with less than $100,000 on hand, according to campaign finance data.

Fletcher, 49, is a well-liked three-term incumbent who works as hard as any member of the Texas delegation. She stays engaged with her constituents, holding quarterly public meetings and dozens of public events, and says she’s brought $643 million in federal taxpayer dollars back to her district. She has proven she can work across the aisle in an extremely polarized and narrowly divided House of Representatives. She’s introduced a range of legislation with bipartisan support such as bills to improve mental health care for seniors on Medicare and create funding streams for clean energy and resiliency projects in coastal communities.

Yet Fletcher also hasn’t lost sight of core issues important to the Democratic base. Her bill incentivizing states to expand Medicaid was included in President Joe Biden’s American Rescue Plan Act. After the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, Fletcher authored a bill that would protect abortion patients who need to travel out of state to receive care and help them pay for it, which passed the House but failed to get a vote in the Senate.

My interview with Rep. Fletcher is here and with Pervez Agwan is here. I encourage you to listen to them. The subjects of the lawsuit and how Agwan would approach passing his legislative agenda were discussed, so this is an opportunity for you to hear how he responded.

They endorse Rep. Jarvis Johnson for SD15.

Rep. Jarvis Johnson

In the fight to fill the state Senate seat vacated by Houston Mayor John Whitmire, voters will have to consider not just policy priorities, but also the strategy to get anything accomplished. As it is, even Republican senators can’t get much done without the personal blessing of Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick. Democrats hardly stand a chance.

We think Jarvis Johnson will be able to squeak through a few wins.

With experience as a Houston council member and a state representative since 2016, Johnson has a pragmatic view of how to get things done.

In his first term in the House, he championed a vocational education bill that became law.

“I was successful in working with my colleagues to help understand that industry across the state of Texas need skilled laborers,” he said. “But that was in 2017. We know things changed dramatically over the years.”

For Johnson that means not taking what he describes as Republican “bait and switch” moves. Instead of reacting to culture war provocations, he said he wants to be proactive about pursuing his policy goals: defending and funding public education, passing criminal justice reform, protecting Texans from environmental degradation and more. In the House, he’s pursued restrictions on concrete batch plants, created a sickle cell registry that Gov. Greg Abbott later spitefully vetoed, part of his vengeance against opponents of school vouchers. Johnson also rallied around legislation to raise the age to buy assault rifles.

As an experienced politician, Johnson, 52, brings a certain blunt sensibility about the lawmaking process.

“Anybody who makes a donation to my campaign, that means they have access,” said Johnson, “Doesn’t mean that they get a yes.”

Some might find his frankness off-putting. We don’t, but several of his challengers represent a far more idealistic version of politics.

At the crowded table, Molly Cook, 32, stood out the most as a possible foil to Johnson’s battle-tested insider pragmatism. The ER nurse, who has been running for Whitmire’s seat since before he left it, is strategic in her own way to get things done.

“I bear witness on a daily basis to the kind of suffering that our policy causes,” she said.

First, as a reminder again, I interviewed all six of these candidates:

Karthik Soora
Michelle Bonton
Molly Cook
Rep. Jarvis Johnson
Todd Litton
Beto Cardenas

You should listen to those interviews and decide who you like best. What Rep. Johnson brought to the Chron editorial board he also brought to our conversation, minus the bit about his campaign donors and what they do or don’t get from him. That’s a tale as old as Texas, and I think it’s fair to say that Views Differ about its merits. There are six qualified and engaged candidates in this race, I can make a case for just about any combination of them to make it to the runoff. As I recently advised someone, you should have at least a top three in mind so you’ll be prepared for the overtime period.

They endorse Lauren Ashley Simmons in HD146.

Lauren Ashley Simmons

We saw an unexpected glimpse of Thierry’s short temper and poor conduct when we met with the four-time incumbent and one of her challengers, Lauren Ashley Simmons. (Ashton Woods did not meet with us.) After a combative and petty performance that was beyond the debating showmanship we typically see, Thierry again interrupted Simmons during what was supposed to be her closing statement. Simmons, 36, was noting that she had earned the support of three of Thierry’s colleagues.

“The gay ones,” Thierry interjected sharply.

It was a frustrating end to a difficult screening in which neither candidate was able to share a full accounting of her experience and goals.


In between the interjections in our screening, Simmons managed to share some of her life story and pitch herself as a grounded candidate with deep experience representing vulnerable communities.

Raised in Third Ward, Simmons became pregnant at 19 and her safety net evaporated. She was rejected for food stamps multiple times. When she was arrested for shoplifting baby clothing and food, she told us, a compassionate judge dismissed the charges, allowing her to continue her education. Since then, she’s worked as a union representative with the Houston Federation of Teachers and is working to organize a group for parents in the Yates High School feeder pattern, hopefully expanding to Worthing and Sterling High Schools as well in Houston ISD, to amplify parent voices amid the takeover. That was the experience she drew on when she confronted state-appointed Superintendent Mike Miles in a video that garnered online attention for her pointed concerns about the loss of voter representation and parental accountability in the district where her own children are currently students.

“I’m not a politician,” she said, “I’m a community advocate.”

She’s also organized to raise the minimum wage that’s been stubbornly stuck at $7.25 for years here in Texas, helping people get to Austin to testify and meet with legislators.

“I work directly with the people who are most vulnerable to our systems and decisions that come out of Austin,” she said.

My interview with Lauren Ashley Simmons is here and my interview with Ashton Woods is here. There’s quite a bit more in this endorsement piece on Rep. Thierry than there is on Simmons, including some of the good things she has done in the Lege and a lot of bad, but I wanted to focus on Simmons, so go read the piece yourself for the rest. Though honestly that “the gay ones” quote really tells you all you need to know.

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