Primary Election Recap: March 7, 2018

March 7, 2018

We are interrupting our regular schedule of updates to fill you in on this week’s election results, with a focus on prosecutor elections. (We’re not going to bother with the big races, you can get those results from your local fish wrap.) If you have any additions or corrections to our list, please send those updates to Rob.

Prosecutor primaries

As a general rule, criminal district attorneys (CDAs) run in this cycle and county attorneys (CAs) and district attorneys (DAs) are not up until 2020, but there are exceptions to this rule. With that in mind, here are the results (that we know of) for contested primary elections in prosecutor races throughout the state (listed alphabetically by county). A “W” by a race indicates a conclusive result due to no opponent in November.

Bexar County CDA
Democratic (D) primary: Joe Gonzales defeated Nico LaHood (incumbent).
Republican (R) primary: Tylden Shaeffer defeated Todd McCray and Joseph Hoelscher.

Collin CDA
W – (R): Greg Willis (incumbent) defeated Casey Davis.

Comal CDA
W – (R): Jennifer Tharp (incumbent) defeated Joseph Soane, Deborah Linnartz Wigington, and Steven deLamos.

Dallas CDA
(D): Former district judge John Creuzot defeated Elizabeth Frizell (although she has not conceded and may seek a recount); will face incumbent Faith Johnson (R) in November.

Denton CDA
W – (R): Paul Johnson (incumbent) defeated Brent Bowen.

Fort Bend DA (incumbent John Healey (R) retiring)
(R): Cliff Vacek defeated Shawn McDonald; will face Brian Middleton (D) in November.

Galveston CDA
W – (R): Jack Roady (incumbent) defeated Tom Dickens.

Gregg County CDA
W – (R): Tom Watson defeated Carl Dorrough (incumbent)

Grimes County DA (for unexpired term)
W – (R) Andria Bender (incumbent appointee)

Harrison County CDA
W – (R): Gregg Co. Asst. DA Reid McCain defeated Coke Solomon (incumbent).

Hidalgo County CDA
W – (D): Ricardo Rodriguez (incumbent) defeated former CDA Rene Guerra.

Jasper County CDA (Steve Hollis retiring)
W – (R): Tyler Co. Asst. CDA Anne Pickle defeated Keith Stanley.

Kendall County CDA
W – (R): Nicole Bishop (incumbent) defeated Dave Parent and Nick Socias.

Lubbock County CDA (Matt Powell retiring)
W – (R): First Asst. CDA Sunshine Stanek ran unopposed.

McLennan CDA
(R): Barry Johnson defeated Abel Reyna (incumbent); will face Seth Sutton (D) and Daniel Hare (I) in November.

Smith CDA (Matt Bingham retiring)
W – (R): Asst. CDA Jacob Putman defeated Alicia Barkley.

Tyler County CDA (Lou Ann Cloy retiring)
W – (R): Lucas Babin defeated Jim Spencer and Amy Bythewood.

Victoria County CDA
W – (R): Constance Filley Johnson defeated Steve Tyler (incumbent).

Walker County CDA (David Weeks retiring)
W – (R): Will Durham defeated First Asst. CDA Stephanie Stroud.

Wichita CDA
W – (R): Former First Asst. CDA John Gillespie defeated Maureen Shelton (incumbent).

Again, if you have corrections or updates to this list of contested primaries, please email them to Rob.

Statewide judicial primaries

Place 1 (Presiding Judge)

(R): Sharon Keller (incumbent) defeated David Bridges; will face Terri Jackson (D) and William Bryan Strange III (L) in November.

Place 8 (Judge Alcala retiring)

(R): Galveston district judge Michelle Slaughter defeated Jay Brandon and Dib Waldrip; will face Mark Ash (L) in November.

Legislative races

The big news on the legislative front is that seven House or Senate incumbents were defeated in their primaries. In state senate races of note:

  • Sen. Craig Estes (R-Wichita Falls) lost to State Rep. Pat Fallon (R-Frisco);
  • Sen. Bob Hall (R-Canton) narrowly fended off a challenge from State Rep. Cindy Burkett (R-Sunnyvale);
  • Angela Paxton (R-McKinney), wife of the sitting attorney general, defeated Phillip Huffines, brother of sitting state senator Don Huffines (R-Dallas), in the most expensive state senate Republican primary race in history; and
  • Sens. Joan Huffman (R-Houston) and Kel Seliger (R-Amarillo) won contested primaries.

In the state house, there was too much action for us to cover in depth, but some of the more interesting results included:

  • Rep. Diana Arevalo (D-San Antonio) lost to her predecessor, former State Rep. Trey Martinez-Fischer;
  • Rep. Dawnna Dukes (D-Austin) failed to make the run-off in her district (on the heels of a public integrity prosecution and other self-inflicted wounds);
  • Rep. Ron Reynolds (D-Missouri City) will return to Austin despite his recent conviction for barratry-related offenses (which are still under appeal);
  • Rep. Tomas Uresti (D-San Antonio) lost, perhaps due to name association with his brother, State Sen. Carlos Uresti, who was recently convicted of securities and wire fraud in federal court; and
  • Rep. Wayne Faircloth (R-Galveston), who was beaten by Mayes Middleton, was the only GOP incumbent of three targeted for defeat by Gov. Abbott who actually lost.

Quotes from the primary election

“We’re just recognizing how powerful district attorneys are in shaping criminal justice policies, both at the local level, but also at the statehouse. The lobbying power of prosecutors is really a substantial force almost everywhere we want to see change made in the criminal justice system.”

Taylor Pendergrass, senior campaign strategist for the ACLU’s Campaign for Smart Justice, explaining why that organization has decided to spend some of the $50 million it received from George Soros’ Open Society Foundation to help elect local prosecutors who support their laundry list of criminal justice reforms.

“People need to wake up and realize when their representatives have most of their campaign contributions coming from outside their particular districts that ought to be a signal that maybe they’re not going to represent us.”

Tarrant County Judge Glen Whitley (R), quoted in an article about the current fight for control of the state GOP and who is funding some of the combatants.

“It’s a natural evolution of having direct election for judges. If the post exercises power, then it makes perfect sense for people who want to influence the direction of power to give money there.”

Mark Jones, political scientist at Rice University, on why some judicial candidates’ campaign fundraising and materials may eventually become indistinguishable from those of candidates in the other two branches.

“A lot of people ask me what will happen after I leave the Texas House. … I tell them not to worry about me, but worry about the Texas economy—and here’s what I mean by that: Think about all the lost income for political consultants who won’t have me around to make their living off of anymore.”

Joe Straus (R-San Antonio), retiring House Speaker, joking during a speech.

“The wave was not blue but pink. All things being equal, you wanted to be a woman on the ballot.”

Evan Smith, CEO of the Texas Tribune, on last night’s primary election results.

 “Every election is determined by the people who show up.”

Larry Sabato, author and professor of politics at the University of Virginia.