February 24, 2020
Hottest Texas and Senate Round One Fights Feature
Half-Dozen Incumbents on Ropes with Primary Foes
Texas House and Senate Fundraising
By Mike Hailey
A pair of Texas House Republicans who piqued the wrath of the hard right are in danger of premature ends to re-election bids in the two highest ranked legislative fights with incumbents on the defensive on the Capitol Inside Texas Races to Watch list for the primary election one week from now.
A longtime Democratic lawmaker and three freshmen House colleagues also are fighting for survival in the face of serious opposition in contests that are rated among the six hottest primary battles for the Legislature in 2020 in districts where challengers are taking aim at incumbents in round one.
A Democratic showdown for the right to challenge a freshman Senate Republican who'll be running in November as an underdog crowns the list of primary races to watch for opposing party nominations in legislative districts where incumbents will be on the defensive this fall.
All of the other primary fights that are ranked among the top 10 in the potential November challenger category feature candidates who are competing for shots at incumbent state representatives in swing districts in a lower chamber that Democrats could take back with a net gain of at least nine seats this fall. The hottest House battle on this particular list has a Republican candidate who Governor Greg Abbott is backing in a primary duel with a former House Republican who's attempting to bounce back after falling victim to a blue wave at the Texas polls in 2018.
GOP State Reps. Dan Flynn of Van and J.D. Sheffield of Gatesville appear to face uphill climbs in quests for new terms in relatively rural districts where challengers who've been running to the right could have the edge in the stretch before the Super Tuesday primary election in Texas next week. House hopefuls Bryan Slaton of Royse City and Shelby Slawson of Stephenville could force Flynn and Sheffield into runoffs in fields with multiple opponents in round one.
Democratic State Reps. Alex Dominguez of Brownsville and Harold Dutton of Houston also appear to be on thin ice in primary fights that challengers Amber Medina and Jerry Davis have shots to win in the first round. Davis is a Houston City Council member who'd been barred from running again for the local post by a local term limit ordinance. Davis had expected to leave the council when his final term expired in January before the race to replace him stalled on a legal challenge.
Medina is a former Cameron County Democratic chair who's had a boost from a former Democratic lawmaker who Dominguez ousted two years ago working behind the scenes against the first-term incumbent in the battle for the House in the Rio Grande Valley.
A couple of Republican rookies - State Reps. Jared Patterson of Frisco and Briscoe Cain of Deer Park - might be on the ropes in the first round as well in districts where some hard-line conservatives are refusing to forgive the incumbents for sticking by House Speaker Dennis Bonnen in the midst of a targeting scandal last year. Tea party forces that had been at the heart of the original Patterson base have switched their allegiance to challenger James Trombley while Cain has local officials working against him on primary foe Bob Hoskins' behalf.
The prevailing sentiment inside the Austin beltway has Democratic State Senator Eddie Lucio Jr. of Brownsville surviving his first serious test at the polls in more than two dozen years in a district where he's doing battle with two highly-formidable primary foes in State Board of Education member Ruben Cortez and San Benito attorney Sara Stapleton-Barrera. But Lucio's hopes of winning outright in the March 3 election could be in jeopardy based on polling that's shown a potential runoff shaping up with the second spot as a coin flip at this point.
State Rep. Roland Gutierrez of San Antonio is guardedly optimistic about his chances in a comeback bid in a race for the upper chamber in a heavily Democratic district where freshman Republican State Senator Pete Flores of Pleasanton will be running as the underdog this fall. Gutierrez lost to Flores in a special election in 2018 when the Democrats have been bitterly divided and distracted. But Gutierrez has found Democratic primary rival Xochil Peña Rodriguez to be an imposing hurdle as the daughter of a former congressman with organized labor in her camp in round one.
A dozen primary races with candidates competing for shots at incumbent representatives in November are unfolding in swing districts that one party or the other will be targeting this fall. But the hottest House race in this particular column has the GOP establishment split in a district where former Republican legislator Mike Schofield is doing battle with primary rival Angelica Garcia in a bid for a rematch with freshman Democratic State Rep. Gina Calanni of Katy. Calanni knocked Schofield out of the House in one of the biggest upsets in the 2018 general election in Texas.
Garcia has the Republican governor has a marquee supporter with the Associated Republicans of Texas on her side as well. But Schofield has GOP State Senator Paul Bettencourt of Houston and the Texans for Lawsuit Reform PAC in his corner in a primary fight that appears to be a toss up with a week to go before a winner emerges.