UPDATE 10:08 With more precincts reporting it looks like Republican incumbents have massively held their ground against challengers claiming Tea Party roots.
UPDATE 9:17 District 20: With 17 percent of votes in challenger candidate Schwertner is in the lead with 56 percent. Rister -supposedly the Capitol insider of the race- is trailing at 23 percent.
Yes, the governor’s race has flash and glitz – but the state lege has substance. In 2006 the Democrats won six state house seats and two congressional seats in Washington, and in 2008 they chalked up six more state house seats (minus one taken back by the Republicans). Today’s primary winners will be the central players in the November showdown over the soul of the state legislature -and with only a one-seat majority, now is a particularly vital time for Republicans to bring their best candidates to rally the troops and stoke the fires of populist sentiment over perceived missteps in Washington and Austin.
But the high number of primary challengers may present more challenges than opportunities for primary returnees. Tea Party groups across the state have been boiling over with anti-incumbent rage, and for many who are too milquetoast to endorse full-blown secession, replacing the local Republicans with representatives further still to the right has proven the popular choice. Today’s primary will give some indication of just how the first legislative election since the Tea Party’s messy beginnings might play out.
In short, we’ll get a better picture of the answer to the Tea Party question: loud, influential, or both?
Republican – House District 66
Mabrie Jackson vs. Wayne Richard vs. Van Taylor.
This GOP primary has plenty of seething unrest to go around: all three candidates have laid claim to the local Tea Party throne.Time will tell if official support by the local groups, such as Collin County Tea Party’s endorsement of Richard, will prove a boon or bust for those in the movement who view such actions as too mainstream.
Republican – House District 20
Milton Rister vs. Stephen Thomas vs. Charles Schwertner vs. Patsy Williams
Incumbent Dan Gattis’s impending retirement was like blood in the water for area Republicans, drawing four, count them, four newcomers to fight over this district north of Austin that includes Georgetown and Cedar Park. As pointed out by the Austin Chronicle the race highlights the possibility for overcrowded races across the state to stretch into money-squandering runoffs – especially in Tea Party-prone GOP primaries.
Democrat – District 146
Al Edwards vs. Borris Miles
Edwards, 71, has been the South Houston district’s representative since 1979 – except for 2006-2008, when challenger Miles broke the nearly 30-year streak. Edwards, a real estate broker, is known for successfully establishing Juneteenth as a paid holiday and for his 2005 bill to forcibly tone down the suggestive gyrations of high school cheerleaders. Miles, a district resident and owner of a multi-million dollar insurance company, is better known for his actions outside the capitol building – in February he urinated on live radio in what can only be described as the most transparent drug test ever broadcast this side of indecent exposure laws (it came back negative). The Chronicle endorsed Miles last month, and this back-and-forth battle could yet prove an upset for the poverty-stricken district.
Democrat – District 76
Norma Chavez vs. Naomi Gonzalez vs. Tony San Roman
University of Texas at Austin government professor Sherri Greenberg characterized the District 79 race as a perennial “battle of the titans” of campaign funding groups – proponents for limiting tort rights versus trial lawyers. According to the El Paso Times, challenger Gonzalez received more than $24,000 in contributions, most of it from Texans for Lawsuit Reform, a group aiming to limit the ability to sue. The Times noted that while the group also contributed nearly $20,000 to Chavez, the incumbent had received a $10,000 donation from the Houston-based law firm of Steve Mostyn, also president elect of the Texas Trial Lawyers Association. San Roman, who has a degree in criminal justice from UT El Paso, said he would spend $6,000 to $7,000 of his own money according to the Times, whose editorial board endorsed Gonzales late last month.
Democrat – District 36
Sergio Munoz vs. Sandra Rodriguez
Incumbent Ismael “Kino” Flores’s announcement in September that he would not seek re-election came just a few scant months after a Travis County grand jury indicted him on 16 counts of tampering with government records and three counts of perjury for failing to disclose more than $847,000 in personal assets. Now two locals are scrapping to become the first freshman representative from the Southern border district in 14 years: Munoz, an attorney and Palmview municipal judge; and Rodriguez, a former juvenile probation officer and teacher who lost to Flores in the 2008 Democratic primary. According to the McAllen-based Monitor there’s been a whole lot of Freudian mudslinging going on in the district, where only 54 percent have graduated from high school and per capita income is barely more than $9,000.