March 6, 2020
Well, the Super Tuesday primary election is over. Most races across the county and within Texas turned out as expected, but there were some surprises along the way.
Headlining the ballot in 14 states was the presidential primary. Of course, President Trump sailed to victory on the Republican ticket, but the real story was the crowded Democratic presidential primary. Long story short, former Vice President Joe Biden and far-left Sen. Bernie Sanders emerged from the night as the only two viable contenders.
Biden narrowly won Texas with Sanders close behind. Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Sen. Elizabeth Warren came in a distant third and fourth, respectively. Oklahoma gave their nod to Biden as well, but by a much larger majority.
Biden or Sanders still have a long way to go to secure the nomination. 19 primary contests are now over, but there are 38 to go. To advance to the general election, the Democratic nominee must secure 1,991 delegates from across the country. So far, Biden has 595 and Sanders 528.
U.S. Senate Primary
The biggest statewide race in Texas was for U.S. Senate. Republican incumbent John Cornyn easily beat four challengers to secure the Republican ticket with 76% of the vote. The 12-candidate Democratic contest was closer. Mary “MJ” Hegar won but will face Texas State Senator Royce West in a runoff.
This a good place to mention that in Texas, any race in which a primary candidate fails to secure at least 50% of the vote will result in a May runoff election where only the top two candidates will be on the ballot.
U.S. House of Representative Primaries
Moving on to the U.S. House of Representative races, many of the 36 Texas Congressional districts played out as expected, but some highlights are below.
In U.S. House District 11, the seat vacated by Rep. Mike Conaway, TSCRA PAC-backed Republican candidate August Pfluger won without a runoff, as did Rep. Kay Granger from U.S. House District 12 in Fort Worth. Both will face Democratic challengers in November but are in solidly Republican districts.
In U.S. House District 13 covering North Texas and the Panhandle, 15 candidates competed for the Republican nomination with TSCRA PAC-backed candidate Josh Winegarner leading the pack, followed by Ronny Jackson. The two will now go to a runoff election.
In Waco’s House District 17, 12 Republican candidates ran to fill the seat of retiring Rep. Bill Flores. Former Congressman Pete Sessions will go to a runoff election with Renee Swann.
In suburban Austin’s U.S. House District 21, Democrat Wendy Davis and Republican incumbent Chip Roy handily won their respective primaries but are expected to have a fierce race between one another for the general election in November. Roy is endorsed by the TSCRA PAC.
U.S. House District 23, which stretches from San Antonio to far West Texas, is one of Texas’ most hotly contested swing districts. Tony Gonzales and Raul Reyes will head to a runoff for the Republican nomination in the race to replace retiring Rep. Will Hurd. On the Democratic side, Gina Ortiz Jones easily won her primary race.
Rep. Henry Cuellar, the Democratic incumbent for U.S. House District 28, fended off a challenge from far-left progressive Jessica Cisneros, narrowly avoiding a runoff. Cuellar is backed by the TSCRA PAC and expected to easily win the general election in his heavily Democratic district that runs from San Antonio to Laredo.
Texas Statewide Primaries
The biggest surprise of the night was the upset defeat of incumbent Railroad Commissioner Ryan Sitton by challenger Jim Wright in the Republican primary. Sitton had a campaign war chest of $2.2 million while Wright had less than $13,000. The Democratic primary heads to a runoff between Chrysta Castañeda and Roberto R. “Beto” Alonzo, one of whom will face Wright in November.
Texas Supreme Court and State Board of Education races turned out largely as expected except in the Austin/Fredericksburg area State Board of Education District 5 race where the far-right and very eccentric Robert Morrow led the primary. He now heads to a runoff with Lani Popp.
Texas State Senate Primaries
Republican incumbent Rep. Pete Flores ran unopposed in Senate District 19 but will face a very tough race in the general election against either Xochil Pena Rodriguez or Roland Gutierrez, who are in a runoff for the Democratic slot. Flores is backed by the TSCRA PAC.
Brownsville Democratic incumbent and TSCRA PAC-endorsed Eddie Lucio, Jr. is now locked in a runoff with Sara Stapleton Barrera for Senate District 27. Barerra ran to the left of Lucio, who is one of the most conservative Democrats in the Senate. She was one of three far-left progressive candidates backed by AOC (Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez) and the only one of the three to see any success in Texas.
Texas State House of Representatives Primaries
In Texas House District 2 East of Dallas, incumbent Republican Rep. Dan Flynn unexpectedly landed in a runoff with challenger Bryan Slaton. Flynn is endorsed by the TSCRA PAC.
Jake Ellzey received the Republican nod for Texas House District 10 in Waxahachie. He’ll run unopposed in November to replace retiring Rep. John Wray.
In Texas House District 25, the seat to be vacated by Speaker Dennis Bonnen of Angleton, will go to a runoff for the Republican primary. Ro’Vin Garrett or Cody Thane Vasut will face Democrat Patrick Henry for the general election, but the district is expected to remain in Republican control.
Texas House District 26 in Sugar Land will go to a runoff for both the Democratic and Republican contests. Republican incumbent Rick Miller isn’t seeking reelection, and the district could go either way in November.
The special election earlier this year for Texas House District 28 in nearby Richmond was a litmus test for Democrats seeking control over the Texas House. Republican Gary Gates won that special election against Democrat Elizabeth Markowitz. He also easily won the Republican primary on Tuesday but will have a tight race for the general election, once again against Markowitz.
In Texas House District 45 outside of Austin, Carrie Isaac and Bud Wymore will head to a Republican runoff election to decide who challenges one-term Democrat Erin Zwiener. This will be a race to watch in November.
Texas House District 47, also near Austin, is in a similar situation with Jennifer Fleck and Don Zimmerman in a Republican runoff to try to unseat one-term Democrat Vikki Goodwin.
If you don’t believe that every vote counts, District 47 was the perfect example. Don Zimmerman beat Justin Berry for second place by only one vote! 4,099 to 4,098. That one vote means Zimmerman gets to advance to the runoff.
Republican incumbent J.D. Sheffield, who was endorsed by the TSCRA PAC, is unexpectedly heading to a runoff against challenger Shelby Slawson, who led the Republican primary by more than 15% for Texas House District 59.
TSCRA PAC-backed Glenn Rogers and Jon Francis will head to a runoff for House District 60. The seat is being vacated by retiring Rep. Mike Lang of Granbury and has no Democratic challenger in November, so voters in the runoff election will make the final decision.
These were just a handful of the hundreds of races from Tuesday. If you don’t see one that you’re interested in, check out the Texas Tribune’s recap here. TSCRA leaders and staff will also continue to engage with candidates ahead of the primary runoff and general elections, so stay tuned for developments.
There were other happenings this week, but I’ll save those for another time since I’ve droned on about the election for so long.
Jeremy Fuchs is Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association’s director of public affairs.