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Will Sarah Davis’ Odd-Duck District Keep the Legislature’s Most Moderate Republican?


The Republican Party of Texas was born in places like House District 134, which covers Houston’s Bellaire and West University Place — educated, wealthy, professional. This is part of the district that George H.W. Bush was elected to represent in Congress in 1966. Sarah Davis, who beat a Democrat to take this seat in the 2010 tea party wave, fits in that political tradition. She’s the most moderate Republican in the Texas House, an outspoken critic of the party’s right wing. She is pro-choice.

Davis is so out of step with the GOP that Governor Greg Abbott launched an aggressive and well-funded campaign to knock her out in the GOP primary earlier this year in favor of Susanna Dokupil, a bland but more right-wing candidate. (He lost.) Davis and Abbott sniped at each other during and after the primary, and if she makes it back to Legislature, she’ll be someone to watch.

She’s a real odd duck, in other words, and so is her district. While Democrats across Texas often spend their whole campaigns begging Republicans to cross party lines and vote for them, Davis is one of the few Republicans in the state who needs the opposite. The district voted for Romney by 15 percentage points in 2012. In 2016, Clinton won the district by 15. That’s an enormous swing, yet Davis performed almost as well as Clinton did.

Illustration/Sunny Sone

After years of failed plots to flip the district, Democrats might just have a chance this year in businesswoman Allison Sawyer. Conventional wisdom and the loyalty that voters have shown Davis in the past suggest Sawyer will have a tough time. Another hurdle: The district already has one of the highest voter participation rates in Texas — more than 70 percent in 2016 — so there may not be many new voters to find.