The 2022 election season is nearly upon us.
On March 1st, Texas will hold the first state primaries of the year. In anticipation of our first slate of contests, I’m previewing the major primary races to watch. First, a reminder that any of these races may require a May 24th run-off if no candidate wins a majority of the vote. Also, make sure to visit Decision Desk HQ on Tuesday night as we track races throughout the Lone Star State.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott is the quintessential Republican in that, throughout his political career, he’s precariously balanced himself between the establishment and outsider wings of his party. For instance, Abbott faces several primary challengers but none of them appear to pose any threat to take the nomination from him.
On the other ballot, Beto O’Rourke faces his own token opposition. The 2018 Senate nominee and 2020 presidential candidate could really use an impressive showing to reverse the perception that he is in a downward spiral after losing those two races. Beto will hope to post an impressive vote total to convince observers that he really could actually defeat Abbott in November.
Lt. Governor: Democratic Primary
2018 nominee Mike Collier is seeking a rematch with Lt. Gov Dan Patrick (not that Dan Patrick) after falling five points short four years ago. Although Collier secured a bundle of endorsements, State Rep. Michelle Beckley and Party Vice Chair Carla Brailey are both making a run for it. Since Collier hasn’t hit a majority in any of the polls so far, this is a prime contender to go to a May 24th run-off.
Incumbent AG Ken Paxton is seeking his third term in office amongst tumultuous circumstances, given that he’s facing three criminal charges as well as an entirely separate FBI investigation. As you might expect, several Republican contenders see him as vulnerable to a challenge.
First off, there’s Land Commissioner George P. Bush, leader of the fourth generation of the family’s political dynasty. Bush has literally been in the spotlight for decades, going back to when he spoke at the 1992 Republican National Convention as a 16 years old. Despite Bush’s efforts to overcome the family’s feud with Donald Trump, the former President threw his support behind Paxton.
Nevertheless, Paxton is being held under 50% by Bush and two other candidates: former State Supreme Court Justice Eva Guzman and Congressman Louie Gohmert. Polling indicates a likely run-off between Paxton and Bush.
Over on the Democratic side, surveys suggest that ACLU attorney Rochelle Garza and former Galveston Mayor Joe Jaworski will advance to the May 24th run-off.
TX-1: Republican Primary
Speaking of Louie Gohmert, the polarizing Congressman is leaving his seat in Congress to make that AG run, leaving an enticing R+50 district wide open. A quartet of hopefuls are seeking this valuable nomination. Among them are: Aditya Atholi, a Marine and oil rig worker who interned in Gohmert’s office; Smith County Court Judge Nathaniel Moran; businessman Joe McDaniel; and physician’s assistant John Porro.
Texas’ new 1st district is in the northeast corner of the state, right on the border with Louisiana.
TX-8: Republican Primary
Open thanks to the retirement of Rep. Kevin Brady, this R+26 district is another bright opportunity for Republican hopefuls. As a result, it’s become a bit of a proxy war between Senator Ted Cruz and former Governor Rick Perry. Cruz is backing his old aide Christian Collins while Perry is supporting ex-Navy Seal Morgan Luttrell. A run-off between the two candidates appears likely.
The 8th district is in the eastern portion of the state, just north of Houston.
TX-15: Democratic and Republican Primaries
One of the major surprises of Election Night 2020 (well, Election Week 2020) was the strong Republican shift in highly Hispanic South Texas. The 15th Congressional District is in the heart of that area, as it starts in the suburbs of San Antonio and runs down to the Mexican border. With an even partisan lean, and an incumbent drawn into another district, the 15th is expected to be one of the most competitive districts in the country and features two large primary fields.
On the Republican side, 2020 nominee Monica De La Cruz is seeking to finish the job. Her main opponents are fellow 2020 candidates Mauro Garza and Ryan Krause. Over on the Democratic side, the main contenders are former Congressional aide Eliza Alvarado, 2016 candidate Ruben Ramirez, attorney John Rigney and businesswoman Michelle Vallejo. Both primaries are prime candidates for a run-off.
TX-28: Democratic Primary
Just one district over is the 28th, which also runs from the San Antonio suburbs down to the border. Yet this seat is rated D+7 and incumbent Rep. Henry Cuellar is staying put. Progressive Democrats, however, wish he would leave. They’re trying to replace one of the caucus’ most moderate members with 2020 candidate Jessica Cisneros. Two years ago, Cisneros lost by just four points and that was before the FBI raided Cuellar’s home and campaign office. This race will likely drive the narrative for the night, especially if progressives fail to unseat such a vulnerable incumbent.
TX-30: Democratic Primary
Yet another retirement, presenting yet another golden opportunity. With Eddie Bernice Johnson stepping aside, this D+51 South Dallas seat could be a launching pad for the next Democratic nominee. Johnson is supporting State Rep. Jasmine Crockett as her successor, while a curious coalition of the local DSA and VoteVets are backing Navy vet Jessica Mason. We’ll be watching to see if Crockett can avoid a run-off.
TX-34: Democratic Primary
The third South Texas seat on this list, the 34th is on the other side of the 15th. The 15th’s incumbent Vincente Gonzalez is running in this D+17 district instead. Got all that? Gonzalez is running against six other Democrats as he attempts to hit a majority threshold and avoid a run-off.
TX-35: Democratic Primary
Incumbent Lloyd Doggett elected to run in the neighboring 37th district, leaving the 35th open. This D+38 district represents the eastern half of Austin, and is being eagerly fought over by City Councilman Greg Casar and State Rep. Eddie Rodriguez. Casar is being backed by most progressive groups while Rodriguez is the candidate of the centrist New Democrats. Former San Antonio Councilwoman Rebecca Viagran’s candidacy may ensure there’s a May 24th run-off.
TX-38: Republican Primary
The latest round of redistricting produced the brand new 38th Congressional District. This R+27 seat, which consists of exurbs west of Houston, attracted ten Republican candidates. Veteran and 2020 nominee Wesley Hunt has the support of the Congressional Leadership Fund, the House Republicans’ Super PAC. The question in this race will likely be whether or not Hunt reaches the majority threshold to avoid a run-off.