As a courtesy to those who may not have access to local election results throughout the state, we are sending out this special update focusing on prosecutor elections. We’ll also throw in our two cents on the broader election results as well.
Texas prosecutor races
Here are the results for the seven contested criminal district attorney seats decided yesterday:
Bexar County: Incumbent Joe Gonzales (D) defeated Marc LaHood (R).
Dallas County: Incumbent John Creuzot (D) defeated former CDA Faith Johnson (R).
Galveston County: Incumbent Jack Roady (R) defeated Rachel Dragony (R).
Hays County: Kelly Higgins (D) defeated David Puryear (R) and will replace Wes Mau (R), who is retiring.
Hidalgo County: Toribio “Terry” Palacios (D) defeated Juan Tijerina (R) and will replace Ricardo Rodriguez, Jr. (D), who is retiring.
McLennan County: Josh Tetens (R) defeated Aubrey Robertson (D) and will replace Barry Johnson (R), who Tetens defeated in the primary.
Tarrant County: Phil Sorrells (R) defeated Tiffany Burks (D) and will replace Sharen Wilson (R), who is retiring.
For a full list of the candidates in those races, as well as the other uncontested prosecutor seats on the ballot this fall, please click HERE. All newly-elected prosecutors will be invited to our Elected Prosecutor Conference, which is being held November 30–December 2, 2022, at the Horseshoe Bay Resort west of Austin, so be sure to come meet and congratulate them in person! For more details on that course, click here.
Statewide officeholder recap
There were no surprises at the statewide level. All Republican candidates handily defeated their Democratic challengers, and on the state’s two high courts, Republican incumbents held serve across the board. It’s now been 28 years since a Democrat last won a statewide election in Texas (1994), continuing the country’s longest streak of statewide political futility.
There was little overall change to the partisan make-up of the Texas Legislature. Chalk that up as a victory for the incumbents who spent the last session consolidating each party’s strongholds and ensuring that the overwhelming majority of statehouse seats were non-competitive.
The upper chamber will continue to be led by Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick (R-Houston) after his comfortable victory last night, and he will preside over a body with five new members:
- Senate District 10 (SD-10): Former State Rep. Phil King (R-Weatherford), replacing Beverly Powell (D-Fort Worth)
- SD-12: Former State Rep. Tan Parker (R-Flower Mound), replacing State Sen. Jane Nelson (R-Flower Mound)
- SD-24: Former State Sen. Pete Flores (R-Pleasanton), replacing State Sen. Dawn Buckingham (R-Lakeway)
- SD-27: Morgan LaMantia (D-Brownsville), replacing State Sen. Eddie Lucio, Jr. (D-Brownsville) (*results pending, may be subject to a recount)
- SD-31: Kevin Sparks (R-Midland), replacing State Sen. Kel Seliger (R-Amarillo)
Republicans picked up one net seat through redistricting and now have a 19–12 advantage over their Democratic colleagues. That healthy margin will allow the GOP senators to continue to pass their preferred legislation under the “three-fifths rule” they use to determine what legislation can be brought to the floor.
In the lower chamber, there will be 19 new Republican members and eight new Democratic members, but—like everything having to do with the House—the details are much messier due to redistricted seats, early resignations, special elections for open seats, and the like. Therefore, we won’t list all the newbies here. The upshot of all this confusion is that Republicans picked up one net seat after flipping three formerly “blue” districts but losing two formerly “red” districts. That gives the Republicans an 86–64 majority, which is a substantial advantage. However, the lack of significant partisan change from two years ago bodes well for the chances that Speaker Dade Phelan (R-Beaumont) will keep his comfy center chair on the House dais thanks to the bipartisan support he enjoyed last session. That said, there could still be substantial changes in which House members sit on (and chair) various House committees, but we won’t know those details for at least another two months.
One final observation: In both chambers, Republicans were unable to achieve the super-majority necessary to unilaterally pass joint resolutions amending the state constitution (which requires approval from two-thirds of each chamber before being put to voters on a November ballot). This will be relevant to upcoming policy debates surrounding prosecutors’ authority and discretion because it could limit the legislature’s options for changing the constitutional provisions that establish (and protect) that authority absent bi-partisan support for a change.
Now that the election dust is settling, returning legislators can start pre-filing bills for next session as of this Monday, November 14, 2022. If history is a good guide, there should be 300–500 bills filed between Monday and the Thanksgiving holiday. As always, we will review and track relevant bills for you, some of which you will be able to view using the Bill Track links on our Legislative webpage starting next week. But don’t get worried if it takes several days for us to review and upload relevant bills; nothing can happen to any of those bills for at least the next two months, so there’s no rush. Remember, the session is a marathon, not a sprint—until the last three weeks, that is, when the session becomes a sprinting marathon and we all go crazy. But hey, all in good time, right?
Notice of TDCAA’s Annual Business Meeting
TDCAA will conduct its 2022 Annual Business Meeting on November 30, 2022, at 5 p.m. at the Horseshoe Bay Resort in Marble Falls in conjunction with our Elected Prosecutor Conference. The agenda includes the election of officers and directors for 2023 and the consideration of awarding a life membership. For more details, see the official online notice.
“What Every Prosecutor Should Know About Mental Illness”
Part One of TDCAA’s Mental Health Video Series is now available through TDCAA’s online training platform. This 3.5-hour course is designed to provide prosecutors and other criminal justice practitioners with an understanding of how mental illness can impact a criminal case, as well as some of the essential tools available to prosecutors handling cases where a defendant’s mental health is an issue. It is available free of charge here. Thanks to the Court of Criminal Appeals for funding this special training!
Quotes of Election Week
“The reports of my demise have been greatly exaggerated.”
—Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton (R-McKinney), in his victory speech last night.
“There are two trends worth observing. First, we’ve seen what you might call a nationalization of local prosecutor elections. People are paying attention to races that don’t directly involve them. Those offices have become more visible, more salient, more open for political point-scoring. The second trend, in response, is state officials pushing back against them in really open ways.”
—Carissa Byrne Hessick, law professor at UNC, in a Slate article discussing the increased prominence of prosecution as a new front in the on-going battle over local control between GOP-controlled statehouses and Democratic-controlled cities.
“These local DAs … nullify laws passed by elected representatives of our state and of our country. That’s unconstitutional. That’s wrong. They have an obligation to enforce the laws that are in play. And they’ll say, ‘This is prosecutorial discretion’ …. When you nullify a whole broad swath of laws, which they are doing—from shoplifting to abortion to drugs—they’re making up their own laws. They’re almost like little individual dictators or ruling governments that operate outside the law. That’s a breakdown of the rule of law.”
—Attorney General Paxton, in an interview on Fox News last month in which he criticized prosecutors around the country who have categorically refused to enforce anti-abortion laws in various states.
“We wanted to use workers, wages, and weed to engage new voters.”
—Mike Siegal, political director for Ground Game Texas, a progressive political action committee that successfully passed city ordinance ballot measures to decriminalize low-level marijuana possession in Denton, Elgin, Harker Heights, Killeen, and San Marcos.
“We’d be pissing off half the country no matter what.”
—An anonymous congressional staffer, as noted in a Washington Post article exploring the political and policy reasons for congressional inaction on changing the current system of standard and daylight savings times.