The Texas Lineup

Dec. 17, 2015 — Candidate filing closed in Texas last week and at least a partial list of those running for the US House has been published. Since the state parties administer the candidate filing process, it will be a few days before the entire docket is made official for both Republicans and Democrats.

There is no US Senate race in this election cycle, but all 36 House seats will be on the ballot. Few districts are seriously contested, but the two open seats and one serious general election challenge will attract some political attention.

In the sprawling 23rd District that stretches from San Antonio to El Paso, freshman Rep. Will Hurd (R-San Antonio) will face a re-match with the man he unseated 50-48 percent in 2014, former Rep. Pete Gallego (D-Alpine). Two years earlier, Gallego defeated then-Rep. Quico Canseco (R) 50-45 percent. With the presidential turnout likely favoring Gallego here, expect another very close campaign in this swing CD.

All but retiring representatives Ruben Hinojosa (D-TX-15) and Randy Neugebauer (R-TX-19) are seeking re-election. Thirteen Republicans and five Democrats have drawn primary opposition, but most of the challenges are not serious, nor have the potential of becoming so.

The two open seats will remain in each party’s hands but the primary election, held on March 1 concurrently with the presidential nomination vote, will feature multiple candidates. Run-offs in both districts are highly likely.

In the 15th District, that begins in the rural area south of Austin and travels all the way to the Mexican border and its population anchor in Hidalgo County, five Democrats are attempting to succeed 20-year congressional veteran Hinojosa. Only two former office holders entered the field of candidates. Former Hidalgo County commissioner and Mercedes mayor, Joel Quintanilla, and Edinburg School Board member Juan Palacios Jr. are the pair with electoral experience. The third candidate with a political background is former Hidalgo County Democratic Party chair Dolly Elizondo. Republicans filed three candidates, including former Rio Grande City Mayor Randy Villarreal, but this race is the Democrats’ to lose.

In the Lubbock-anchored West Texas 19th District, nine Republicans filed virtually guaranteeing a run-off election. The only office holder in this large group is Lubbock Mayor Glen Robertson who briefly considered challenging Rep. Neugebauer. At this writing, it appears no Democrat even filed to run.

Several primaries are worth noting, some of which appear stronger on paper than in reality. Such is the case for Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX-30) who again faces former state Rep. and Dallas City Councilwoman Barbara Mallory Caraway. This will be the latter’s third attempt to unseat the incumbent. In 2012, Caraway managed only 18 percent against Rep. Johnson. Last election, she rose to 30 percent, but still far from making this a serious contest. Other Democrats who face weak primary opponents are: representatives Beto O’Rourke (D-TX-16), Henry Cuellar (D-TX-28), and Marc Veasey (D-TX-33).

The most contested Democratic nomination campaign will likely come against 12-term Houston Rep. Gene Green (D-TX-29). He will face former Harris County Sheriff and Houston City Councilman Adrian Garcia. With the district’s Hispanic population reaching 77 percent, Green has always theoretically been vulnerable to a strong challenge from a Hispanic candidate, but never receives one. This race may prove to be his ultimate test.

In notable Republican primary challenges, new House Ways & Means Committee chairman Kevin Brady (R-TX-8) drew three opponents, the most prominent being former state Rep. Stephen Toth. Rep. Bill Flores (R-TX-17) finds himself challenged by the Republican Party chairman from his district’s largest county. Science & Technology chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX-21) again sees businessman Matt McCall (34 percent in 2014) and two others opposing him. Rules Committee chairman Pete Sessions (R-TX-32) has four Republican opponents. All of these incumbents should have little trouble winning re-nomination.

One race that could develop, however, is retired US Marine officer Gregg Deeb’s challenge to Rep. Blake Farenthold in the 27th District. It is unclear whether Deeb can accumulate the financial resources necessary to give Farenthold a true run, but the race merits watching.

Representatives Jeb Hensarling (R-TX-5), Mike Conaway (R-TX-11), Joaquin Castro (D-TX-20), and Brian Babin (R-TX-36) appear to have no primary or general election competition.

Representatives John Ratcliffe (R-TX-4), Mac Thornberry (R-TX-13), and Sessions apparently face no Democratic candidate. Rep. O’Rourke looks to have no Republican general election opponent.

The remarkably stable Texas delegation again looks to remain that way.

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