Many folks probably already know most of the primary election results from Tuesday, but let’s dive in and add a little analysis. We’ll go roughly in ballot order.
At the top of the ballot, Lloyd Doggett vanquished his upstart challengers in the Congressman’s return to his ancestral district; having served a succession of Districts representing other parts of Austin since Republican redistricting efforts that began almost 20 years ago. Doggett, who clearly did not take the race for granted, pulled 79% against three opponents.
Meanwhile in Doggett’s current, but redrawn District 35 — East of IH 35 roughly around US 290 and then stretching southward all the way to part of San Antonio — Greg Casar swept to victory with 61%. Austin State Representative Eddie Rodriguez and former San Antonio Council Member Rebecca Viagrán both pulled slightly over 15%, with Rodriguez a little ahead of Viagrán. Carla-Joy Sisco got just short of 8%.
According to the Texas Secretary of State returns page Republicans Dan McQueen and Michael Rodriguez will face off in a May 24 runoff to determine who will take on Casar. Just for perspective, there were 13,543 voters in the Republican primary for District 35 as opposed to 41,312 on the Democratic side, with Casar pulling 25,306 of those. That gives an idea of how challenging a race it will be for whatever Republican emerges from the runoff.
As readers doubtlessly recall, I didn’t think electing Casar was a very good idea, based mainly on his record at the City Council. The voters have now spoken, however. Casar clearly ran an energetic and effective campaign and was able to inspire a lot of young people to get involved. In addition to inspiring youthful involvement he appears to have built a coalition of all ages and across all four counties in the District. Now, he will be able to pursue a progressive agenda on the national stage; and having to work with a larger group will hopefully temper his more reckless side.
The Governor’s Race
Now let’s move on to the state primaries. As widely expected Texas Governor Greg Abbott cruised to victory in the Republican primary. His vocal, but hapless top challengers — Allen West and Don Huffines — pulled 12.3% and 12% respectively while Abbott racked up 66%.
In the Democratic primary former El Paso Congressman Beto O’Rourke won 91% of the vote.
In raw numbers Abbott got 1,286,454 votes while O’Rourke polled 966,096 votes. Those numbers help illustrate the steep climb O’Rourke needs to make between now and November if he is actually going to defeat Abbott. It’s even steeper than it might look from the above numbers. That’s because Abbott will likely pull most of the roughly 470,000 votes that went to West and Huffines, while O’Rourke’s 91% doesn’t give him too many Democrats to win over.
November turnout, however, will almost certainly be much higher. For instance in O’Rourke’s 2018 race against Ted Cruz he racked up 4,045,632 or 48.3%. Cruz squeaked out a victory with 4,260,553 votes or 50.89%. (The overall turnout in the Democrat primary that year was just 15,000 short of this week.) So, there are a lot more voters out there — both Democrats and Independents for O’Rourke to try to win over.
There is still another factor working against O’Rourke in contrast to 2018. Although Abbott may have something of an unpleasant personality and some failures on his record — like the freeze related electricity blackout of 2021 — he’s still not Ted Cruz.
O’Rourke is brave to take on this fight. It remains a very uphill climb for him.
The Valley Factor
Adding to O’Rourke’s degree of difficulty is the the Rio Grande Valley where Republicans are cutting into the huge margins Democrats have traditionally racked up there. The Republican percentage of the vote there increased in the 2020 presidential election and some polls have shown that that continues to be a trend. Two Congressional races featuring Hispanic Republican women facing off against Democrats may also help drive up the Republican percentage in the Valley and South Texas. The narrow 15th District, which stretches from Hidalgo County north to Guadalupe County was described like this by Texas Monthly: “the Fifteenth— already mockingly known as ‘the fajita strip’ for its farcically long shape — got sharpened down like a pencil (in recent redistricting), as Republicans shaved out counties that favored Democrats, turning a district that favored Biden by 2 points into one that would have favored Trump by 3.”
In the recent Republican primary second time candidate Monica De La Cruz polled 56% and beat eight opponents without a runoff. This is an open seat currently held by Democrat Vicente Gonzalez who decided to run in a different heavily Democratic district (the 34th) after Republicans got through carving up the 15th. Democrats Ruben Ramirez and Michelle Vallejo face each other in a runoff to determine who will challenge De La Cruz in the fall.
In District 34 Gonzalez is challenged by rising national Republican star Mayra Flores. Flores won her primary with 60%, but she faces an uphill fight against Gonzalez in a District packed with Democrats.
The core electoral challenge presented to O’Rourke from these races is that whether De La Cruz and Flores win or not, their candidacies will help produce more Republican votes. If those voters also vote Republican in the Governor’s race then that hurts O’Rourke. Democrats, who haven’t won a statewide race in Texas since 1994, cannot afford any slippage in the margins they have traditionally drawn and have come to expect from the Valley.
Other Statewide Races
In other statewide races Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick coasted to renomination and Agricultural Commissioner Sid Miller hung on with 58%.
The biggest news out of the Republican primary was that long indicted incumbent Attorney General Ken Paxton was forced into a runoff with Land Commissioner George P. Bush — son of Jeb and nephew of W.
Finishing third was former State Supreme Court Justice Eva Guzman who ran close to Bush in early returns, but ended up barely coming in ahead of soon to be former Congressman Louie Gohmert. Paxton got 43% (rounding up slightly). Bush pulled 23% with Guzman and Gohmert both at 17%. Semi-poignantly, Gohmert won several counties in his East Texas homeland, but sputtered everywhere else. P. Bush will likely try to win the support of Guzman and Gohmert in the runoff. That task might be particularly difficult in Guzman’s case due to the attack ads Bush ran against her in the final weeks. This runoff will likely be entertaining, but with these two candidates it’s really hard for an outsider/Democrat to pick a horse.
A little further down the ballot, Sarah Stogner finished a distant second in her quest for a seat on the Texas Railroad Commission. Her 245,581 votes/15%, however, were enough to propel her into a runoff against incumbent Wayne Christian. Stogner is the candidate who, out of frustration with lack of media coverage, posted a five second video of herself, “scantily clad,” as she described it, while riding an oilfield pump jack. As we reported earlier Stogner told Texas Monthly,‘“Please tell me how I am supposed to get the media’s attention so I can discuss these important issues. I’ve been trying. For years. And guess what finally worked? Five seconds of me scantily clad on top of a pump jack.’”
Stogner finished ahead of three other candidates, including Dawayne Tipton who was endorsed by the San Antonio Express News when they rescinded their endorsement of Stogner after the oil pump incident. Tipton finished last with 11%. It will be interesting to see what strategies the reform candidate Stogner comes up with for her runoff campaign. One can always hope that in the runoff Stogner will get some coverage of the issues she originally raised with the Express News editorial board. In their summary those included, ‘“the health and environmental impacts of the oil and gas industry. . . flaring and venting, water contamination and the potential for earthquakes,” along with a ‘“call for ethical reform of the Railroad Commission of Texas.”’
Texas House Races
There is also an entertaining race in Austin adjacent Texas House District 19. One candidate is Justin Berry, an Austin Police officer who is under indictment for employing excessive force at the Austin protests after the George Floyd murder in Minneapolis. His opponent is former Austin City Council Member Ellen Troxclair. Troxclair leads 38% to 35% going into the runoff. Among other things, Troxclair this week touted her experience “fighting in the belly of the beast.” By that she meant, the Austin City Council and Austin City Hall. Those comments came in a CBS Austin interview.
Troxclair is either being clever and ironic in her use of this term or is using it unaware of its origin. The term “belly of the beast” was used by Cuban patriot Jose Martí as a metaphor for US imperialism. Martí, who lived in exile in New York City for many years is reputed to have said, “I’ve lived inside the belly of the beast and I know it well.”
Martí helped inspire Fidel Castro and Che Guevara and the Cuban Revolution. Many revolutionaries since have used the belly of the beast phrase including Guevara who in the 1960s told Jerry Rubin and other US radicals visiting Cuba, “You know, I envy you North Americans. You live in the belly of the beast.”
While Troxclair’s use of the Martí and Che quote is creative, it might give the Austin City Council a bit too much credit. Given how many of the Council’s initiatives that the State has overturned lately perhaps a better analogy would be an animal that runs around ceaselessly on a treadmill. So how about, in the belly of the hamster?
There was also a contested State Representative race to replace Eddie Rodriguez in East Austin and Southeast Austin and Travis County. There, Lulu Flores won with 60%. Cynthia Valadez-Mata finished a distant second with 11%, but she won praise from several groups and media outlets that endorsed Flores. This could bode well in any future race for Valadez-Mata.
Travis County Contests
Then there were the Travis County races. In the Commissioners Court Precinct 2 race incumbent Brigid Shea trounced challenger Bob Libal, winning 76% of the vote — more than a three to one margin. Libal campaigned against Shea’s support for a new County jail for women and her vote for an incentives package for Tesla.
The other Commissioners race was much closer. There seven term incumbent Margaret Gomez trailed second time challenger Susanna Ledesma-Woody until the last boxes came in. Gomez ultimately prevailed by 219 votes. Ledesma-Woody has asked for a recount.
Also at the county, Dyana Limon-Mercado won by a wide margin over Kurt Lockhart in the race to replace retired County Clerk Clerk Dana DeBeauvoir. Limon Mercado polled 81%. It was encouraging to see Limon Mercado taking the viewpoint of the citizen, or customer, when asked by the American-Statesman about the delay in electronic reporting of the vote in this election. She declined to criticize the Clerks’ Office over the delay, but pivoted to talk about how the website itself could provide more information and be made more user friendly.
DeBeauvoir did a great job as Clerk, and in her final year stood up to a bogus attempt by Texas Attorney General Paxton to indict her. There is always room for improvement and further advances, however. One place Limon-Mercado could help citizens to better understand elections — and help the media provide citizens a better understanding of elections — would be by vastly improving mapping capability on the Clerk’s election results pages. Local political consultant Mark Littlefield also mentioned this in the Statesman article. An improvement in mapping capability and user friendliness would also be helpful to aspiring candidates — especially candidates without the funds to hire consultants to do that kind of work for them.
Well, this is the last Independent article for a few months. As noted earlier in the week, we’re taking a three to six month break, after reaching two years of publication. Thank you to all the readers and see you soon.
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