March 2, 2020

Seven Texas Dems Seek Revenge in Target Races
on House Battlefield with Unprecedented Recycling

By Mike Hailey
Capitol Inside Editor

The Super Tuesday primary ballot in Texas features a record number of recycled state House candidates including a half-dozen Democrats who came close to winning in 2018 in districts that are high-level targets in the battle for control of the west wing this year.

The first-round competition in the Texas Republican primary also includes a pair of former House Republicans who were ousted by Democrats in the last election cycle in districts that the GOP will be trying to reclaim this fall.

A total of 26 House hopefuls - 18 Democrats and eight Republicans - are waging comeback bids for the Legislature's lower chamber in 2020 after losing races in the past. Twenty of those were the nominees for their respective parties in the general election 16 months ago.

But the bounce-back contenders to watch in round one are those seeking nominations again in House districts that will determine which party has the majority when state lawmakers tackle redistricting in the regular session in 2021. Democrats would take the House back with a net gain of nine seats or more in November.

Five Democrats - Joanna Cattanach of Dallas, Brandy Chambers of Garland, Sharon Hirsch of Plano, Natali Hurtado of Houston and Celia Montoya of San Antonio - are competing for second shots at incumbent Republicans who beat them in 2018 in districts that appear to be in the Democrats' reach this time around with President Donald Trump as a proven down-ballot drain for the GOP.

Democrats Laquitta DeMerchant of Sugar Land and Steve Riddell of Bedford are vying in highly-competitive primary fields in open House races in targeted districts where they fell short in the last cycle in close fights with incumbent Republicans who aren't running for re-election this year.

Democrat Ann Johnson has her eye on a belated rematch with GOP State Rep. Sarah Davis - a Houston Republican who won their initial encounter by almost 10 points eight years ago in a district that's been solid blue in races on the ballot above and below in the last two elections in Texas.

Republicans Linda Koop of Dallas and Mike Schofield of Katy are fighting first-round rivals in bids for payback this fall in districts where Democratic State Reps. Ana-Maria Ramos and Gina Calanni unseated them in 2018. Koop is a prohibitive primary favorite while Schofield has been locked in a fierce duel with Angelica Garcia - a Katy Republican who's had Governor Greg Abbott in her corner in her debut as a candidate this year.

Chambers is the Democrats' only repeat nominee who's guaranteed a spot on the general election ballot in a suburban Dallas County district where she and Republican State Rep. Angie Chen Button of Garland are unopposed in round one. Button survived a blue wave at the Texas polls in 2018 when she defeated Chambers by 2 points with 51 percent of the general election vote. Button is one of the most vulnerable House Republicans on paper in 2020.

Cattanach, Hirsch and Montoya are battling in the face of formidable primary opposition for tickets to fall rematches with GOP State Reps. Morgan Meyer of Dallas, Matt Shaheen of Plano and Steve Allison of San Antonio. Meyer and Shaheen dodged lightning in 2018 when they edged Cattanach and Hirsch out with 50.1 percent and 50.3 percent of the general election vote respectively.

The districts where Shaheen and Meyer are on the defensive again are must-wins for the Democrats in their quest to reclaim the majority in the House for the first time since the GOP took over in 2003. The Alamo City district where Allison beat Montoya by less than 9 points in 2018 is critical to the Democratic Party's majority hopes as well.

Hurtado lost to freshman Republican State Rep. Sam Harless of Houston by 10 points in 2018 in a suburban district where the Democrat appears poised to score a win on Tuesday in a first-round fight with a primary foe. Harless can expect to be running as the favorite this fall in a district that's a second-tier target for the Democrats.

Riddell has been dueling primary rival Jeff Whitfield of Euless in a race for the seat in the Dallas-Fort Worth suburbs that GOP State Rep. Jonathan Stickland of Bedford is giving up without a re-election race. Stickland beat Riddell by 2 points in 2018 with less than 50 percent of the vote in a race that included a Libertarian candidate.

DeMerchant might have the lowest odds on Tuesday in the pack of 2018 nominees for the Democrats in an open race in a district where the initial competition has been intense. Outgoing GOP State Rep. Rick Miller of Sugar Land defeated DeMerchant by 5 points in the last cycle with 52 percent of the vote.

Hirsch and Cattanach are no locks for nominations as well. Hirsch has been dueling a well-armed primary rival in Aimee Lopez while Cattanach does battle with Shawn Terry and Tom Ervin in her bid for another shot at Meyer this fall.

Three Republicans and two Democrats who've run for the House before will be attempting to advance to a general election for the first time in 2020 in House districts where a couple appear to have decent shots to do so.

Republican challenger Bryan Slaton of Royse City is hoping that the third time will be the charm in a primary battle with veteran State Rep. Dan Flynn of Van after narrow loses in 2016 and 2018. Midlothian Republican Jake Ellzey has garnered substantial support in his second House bid in six years in a district where he's doing battle in an open race with Ryan Pitts - the son of a former lawmaker who'd been the lower chamber's chief budget writer.


House Comeback Campaigns 2020 - Ranked on Odds for Fall Win

HD 10 - Republican Jake Ellzey

HD 108 - Democrat Joanna Cattanach

HD 66 - Democrat Sharon Hirsch

HD 112 - Democrat Brandy Chambers

HD 121 - Democrat Celina Montoya

HD 134 - Democrat Ann Johnson

HD 132 - Republican Mike Schofield

HD 92 - Democrat Steve Riddell

HD 2 - Republican Bryan Slaton

HD 126 - Democrat Natali Hurtado

HD 102 - Republican Linda Koop

HD 26 - Democrat Laquitta DeMerchant

HD 122 - Democrat Claire Barnett

HD 89 - Democrat Sugar Ray Ash

HD 91 - Democrat Jeromey Sims

HD 78 - Republican Jeffrey Lane

HD 56 - Democrat Katherine Turner Pearson

HD 57 - Democrat Jason Rogers

HD 71 - Democrat Sam Hatton

HD 73 - Democrat Stephanie Phillips

HD 103 - Republican Jerry Fortenberry

HD 36 - Democrat Abraham Padron

HD 45 - Republican Austin Talley

HD 100 - Democrat Sandra Crenshaw

HD 120 - Republican Ronald Payne

HD 44 - Democrat Robert Bohmfalk


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