The Trib asks whether there’s a race worth watching in CD29 or not.
Months ago, [Sen. Sylvia] Garcia appeared poised to easily win this race, but something happened along the way to the nomination: Out of nowhere, health care executive Tahir Javed, declared his candidacy for the seat and has, so far, raised $1.2 million, most of that his own money.
Garcia is widely expected to take first place here on Tuesday, but the operative question is will she win by enough to avoid a runoff?
“We’re still confident we can get out of this without a runoff,” she said. “It’s a crowded field but we’ve worked it really hard.”
Beyond Javed and Garcia, several other candidates are running: businesswoman Dominique Garcia, attorney Roel Garcia, educator Hector Adrian Morales, veteran Augustine Reyes and small business owner Pedro Valencia. All have raised under $60,000, but they could collectively keep the majority of the vote out of Sylvia Garcia’s grasp.
The race, oddly, has drawn the attention of two well-known New Yorkers.
Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer of New York endorsed Javed just as early voting began. It was widely perceived as a nod to the extensive fundraising Javed has done over the years for the party – but it nonetheless enraged many Texas Democrats, including Green.
Green used to serve with Schumer when the New Yorker was in the U.S. House.
“Chuck ought to stay out of our business,” Green said. “I cannot imagine Chuck Schumer influencing one vote in our district.”
But Schumer’s fellow Democratic New York senator, Kirsten Gillibrand, also got in the game and donated to Garcia’s campaign.
“I’ve made my choice,” said Gillibrand when recently asked by the Texas Tribune about the split with her senior senator.
The other reason this race matters beyond the district is that Garcia could become the first first Latina elected to Congress from Texas. She could also be, this year, among a class of the first Texas females elected to a full term in Congress since 1996.
I’ve dealt with that last point so many times I feel like the writers of these stories are just trolling me now. Sylvia Garcia could be the first Latina elected to Congress from Texas. So could Veronica Escobar in CD16. I suppose if one wins in March and the other in May, we can declare that one the official “first Latina”. If not, if they both win in March or they both win in May, they get to share that designation. Why it’s so hard to acknowledge that there’s more than one contender with a legitimate shot at this is utterly baffling to me.
As far as this race goes, let me say this. I have lunch once a month or so with a group of political types. We got together this past Friday, and the CD29 race was one of the things we discussed. We were split on whether Garcia would win in March or not, but the person most of us thought might push her into a runoff was not Tahir Javed but Augustine Reyes, son of former City Council member Ben Reyes. That’s a name a lot of people recognize, with ties at least as deep to the district. I’ll confess that I hadn’t thought much about Reyes before then, but it makes sense to me. We’ll know soon enough.
Meanwhile, in CD02:
There’s an etiquette to campaigning against a primary opponent in the same polling station parking lot.
On this windy Tuesday afternoon in a conservative stronghold in Texas’ 2nd Congressional District, State Rep. Kevin Roberts and environmental consultant Rick Walker each worked the Kingwood Community Center parking lot hard while still allowing his rival to also speak to voters uninterrupted.
“At the end of the day, we want to elect the most qualified person that’s going to represent us, because whoever wins is going to represent us,” said Roberts, a Houston Republican.
But also, the two men had a common feeling about their race to replace retiring U.S. Rep. Ted Poe of Humble, whether it was overt or implied: intense frustration at another of their competitors, Republican donor and technology consultant Kathaleen Wall, who has dominated the field by spending nearly $6 million of her own money.
Walker went so far to suggest that if Wall was unable to draw the majority of the vote needed to avoid a runoff, the rest of the field would coalesce behind whomever is the opposing Republican candidate.
“We all want to win, but we understand we’ve got to live with each other in the long run,” said Walker. “And with a nine-person race, there’s going to be a runoff, and so the runoff is probably going to be against the one person trying to buy the race.”
“And so we’ve got to keep the personalities out of it,” he added. “So we may take digs on each other once in awhile, but in the long run we know we’re going to have to be working together.”
There are, to be sure, a host of other candidates running for this seat beyond those three. Health care executive David Balat, retired Navy SEAL Dan Crenshaw and veteran Jonny Havens make up the second tier of candidates when it comes to fundraising, pulling somewhere in the ballpark of $150,000 in each of their campaigns.
Three others – investment banker Justin Lurie, doctor and lawyer Jon Spiers and lawyer Malcolm Edwin Whittaker – are also running for the Republican nomination.
Besides Wall’s self-funding, the top issues in this district are immigration and the post-Hurricane Harvey recovery effort. From that voting station parking lot, Walker pointed to an HEB across the way that flooded in late August amid the hurricane.
All the while, some national Republicans and Democrats have begun cautiously wondering whether this race is one to watch in November.
Poe easily held the seat for years and Republican Donald Trump carried the district by about nine points in 2016. That should be a healthy enough margin to protect it from Democratic control.
Even so, spikes in early voting turnout among Democrats in urban areas like Harris County have spurred questions as to whether this could shape up to be a sleeper race.
Democrats have five candidates running, including one named Todd Litton who has raised over $400,000 and is running a polished campaign. That is not the largest sum in the country, but it is a substantive amount, particularly given the partisan history of the district.
I feel like I have PTSD from constant exposure to Wall’s TV ads, which have been a constant and unwelcome presence through the Olympics and on basketball games, both college and the Rockets. I keep the TiVo remote by my side so I can hit pause as soon as I recognize one of her awful spots, then fast forward past it. I of course don’t live in CD02, so either Comcast needs to tighten up its distribution maps or Wall has been getting fleeced by her ad-buying consultants (if the latter, I can’t say I’m sorry for her). In any event, I’m hoping to be spared for the runoff, but I’m not expecting it.
The same folks I had lunch with on Friday all mentioned Crenshaw as a dark horse candidate in this one. We’re not Republicans – I know, you’re shocked – so take that for what it’s worth. And brace yourself for more Wall ads.