2018 Texas House Races More Competitive Than Usual By Luke Perry
The Utica College Center of Public Affairs and Election Research is monitoring House incumbents up for reelection in districts Hillary Clinton won. In May we first examined three of these districts in Texas. (TX-7, TX-23, TX-32)
Even though Clinton won these districts, the Cook Political Report categorizes all three as “leaning Republican.” Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball has TX-7 and TX-32 as “likely Republican,” and TX-23 as a “toss up.” Such variance points to the difficulty of understanding local dynamics, which in these cases should benefit Republican incumbents, and national trends, which given the unpopularity of President Trump, should benefit Democrats.
Our contention remains that John Culberson (TX-7) and Pete Sessions (TX-32) are better positioned to retain their seats than Will Hurd (TX-23) because of historic GOP dominance of their respective seats, their larger margins of victory in 2016, and their demonstrated ability to prevail during the last Democratic wave election.
Culberson (TX-7), who “saw his district turn blue for Clinton and Democrats won every countywide seat,” is facing a primary challenger, while several candidates have joined the Democratic primary, including Alex Triantaphyllis, director of immigration and economic opportunity at a non-profit community development organization, and Jason Westin, a medical doctor active in cancer research.
Hurd (TX-23) is not facing a primary challenger, though several prominent Democrats are competing in their primary, including Jay Hulings, a former federal prosecutor who is supported by the Castro brothers, Rick Trevino, who has been supported by the pro-Bernie Sanders group Our Revolution, and Gina Ortiz Jones, a former Air Force intelligence officer. Pete Gallego, the former Congressman from the TX-23 that Hurd defeated, decided not to attempt a second bid to reclaim his seat.
Pete Sessions (TX-32) did not face a Democratic challenger in 2016. Several are competing in the primary this cycle, including two former members of the Obama administration, Ed Meier, who served as a Senior Advisor under the Obama Administration and the Director of Policy Outreach for Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, and Lillian Salerno, who served as Deputy Undersecretary for Rural Development at the USDA.
“Texas bucked the trend nationwide, with Trump winning the state with a smaller margin — 9 points — than any GOP nominee in decades. On the surface, that seems to be good news for Texas Democrats. But given the peculiarities of Trump’s candidacy, it’s not so clear-cut.” Still, “something strange is happening in Texas: 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.” This reflects what some believe is “the most favorable environment Texas Democrats have had in a midterm election in well over a decade.”
Luke Perry (@PolSciLukePerry) is Chair and Professor of Government at Utica College.