Inside Texas: The hottest races in the hottest place

The slate is set in Texas

Welcome to a very exciting midweek edition of Progressives Everywhere. Twitter’s been hacked and the internet is falling into anarchy, but I’m still here writing newsletters!

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Off to the Races in Texas

Texas held its primary runoff elections on Tuesday, finalizing the lineup of candidates who will appear on the ballot in November. As polling indicated this weekend, Texas is now a legitimate swing state, and thanks to Democratic gains in 2018, the party is just nine seats away from flipping control of the Texas House of Representatives. Given how the GOP has horribly bungled the response to COVID-19 in the state, Democrats will be on the offensive, and if Texas turns blue, American politics will never be the same.

Now that the field is set, here’s a look at the biggest races on both the federal and state level. These are all districts that were decided by five points or less in the last election (other than the Senate election).

Senate: MJ Hegar edged out State Sen. Royce West in the runoff, earning the right to take on Republican John Cornyn by just four points. Like Amy McGrath, she fits the mold of a Chuck Schumer dream candidate: She’s a white Air Force veteran, businesswoman, centrist who nearly pulled off an unlikely win in a red Congressional district in 2018.

Hegar had the support of the DSCC and Emily’s List, which helped her outspend West, the more progressive candidate, by 102-to-1 on TV. Cornyn also spent money on her behalf, running ads calling West “too liberal,” indicating that he’d rather take on Hegar.

House District 10: Progressive candidate Mike Siegel beat Pritesh Gandhi in this suburban district that stretches between Austin and Houston, an emphatic victory given the doubts thrown his way by national Democrats. An attorney based in Austin, Siegel nearly pull off a surprise upset win in 2018 against Republican Rep. Mike McCaul, and this time around, he’s gotten support from progressive leaders like Senators Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders. Gandhi had the backing of Sen. Kamala Harris, who suggested that Siegel couldn’t win the district.

House District 21: Former State Sen. Wendy Davis, who became a liberal hero in 2013 for her 11-hour filibuster of an anti-abortion bill in the Texas legislature, will take on Rep. Chip Roy in a district Democrats lost by less than three points in 2018.

House District 22: This race will be a great test of just how much Texas has changed over the last few years. Attorney Sri Kulkarni came within five points of flipping it for Democrats in 2018, forcing long-time GOP Rep. Pete Olsen into retirement, and now he’s got the name recognition advantage in his second run for the seat. It’s a very diverse district and Kulkarni is fluent in Spanish, Hindi, and Mandarin Chinese, helping him in a campaign that had volunteers speaking in half a dozen languages during phone banking last year.

House District 23: Gina Ortiz Jones came even closer to knocking off her 2018 opponent, holding Rep. Will Hurd to a .5% victory and inspiring him to seek an early retirement. Now Jones is back, facing off against… well, that’s unclear right now. In a proxy battle between really noxious Republicans, Tony Gonzalez, who is backed by President Trump, and Raul Reyes, who has the dubious honor of being Ted Cruz’s boy, are locked in a runoff that is too close to call right now. Seriously, they are separated by just seven votes.

House District 24: In another progressive runoff victory, Candace Valenzuela wallopped Kim Olson, a retired Air Force colonel, by 20 points. Unlike Siegel, Valenzuela had the fundraising advantage in her race, in part because Olson is a war profiteer. Valenzuela will vie to become the first Afro-Latina member of Congress in a race against Republican nominee Beth Van Duyne. The retiring incumbent, GOP Rep. Kenny Marchant, won re-election by just three points last year.

House District 31: Donna Imam, a computer engineer, pulled a come-from-behind victory in yesterday’s runoff, so she will face Rep. John Carter. This is the district Hegar nearly won 2018, making this a great pickup opportunity for Democrats.

State House District 138: Social justice-minded attorney Akilah Bacy, a favorite of this newsletter, won a resounding victory on Tuesday in her runoff election. She will now vie to win a Houston-area district that Democrats lost by just 47 votes in 2018. You can read our interview with Bacy here.

State House District 108: The Democratic nominee for this Dallas seat is Joanna Cattanach, a long-time journalist who said enough’s enough after the 2016 election and ran for legislature in 2018. She came very close that year despite a late start, losing by just 221 votes, and she’s back to finish the job this time around. You can read our interview with Cattanach here.

State House District 66: Hey, whaddya know, another rematch after an agonizingly close 2018 election. Sharon Hirsch is again the Democratic nominee in this Plano-area seat, which she lost by just 391 votes in 2018. She will once again face off against far-right Rep. Matt Shaheen, who loves to tweet #BackTheBlue and rant against “far-left rioters.”

State House District 112: Oh, you thought we were done with rematches? Hardly! Democrat Brandy Chambers came within two points of knocking off long-time State Rep. Angie Chen Button and she’ll look to finish the job in this Garland district.

State House District 67: Newcomer Lorenzo Sanchez nabbed the Democratic nomination in a tight runoff election yesterday, coming from behind against Tom Adair after falling behind in early voting. He’ll go up against GOP Rep. Jeff Leach, who first wrote the infamous bill that would have criminalized abortions (to the point that women could be charged with homicide) in 2017 and then changed his mind on it last year. He’s still super pro-life, just not that hardcore about it. The fact that he won re-election by less than 2.5% likely helped change his mind.

State House District 92: Retired Air Force vet, judicial clerk and attorney Jeff Whitfield handily beat out 2018 nominee Steve Riddell for the right to take on Republican Jeff Cason. Riddell came within 2.8% of ousting retiring Rep. Jonathan Stickland, who is such an awful person and trollish lawmaker that Texas Monthly dubbed him “The Cockroach.”

State House District 96: Here’s another district where the Republican, in this case long-time Rep. Bill Zelder, came within three points of losing in 2018 and decided to retire. Joe Drago — the lawyer, not the character actor — is picking up the baton for Democrats in this suburban Fort Worth-area district, taking on Republican David Cook, who launched the primary against Zelder that forced his hand on retirement.

State House District 26: Another returning candidate, Sarah DeMarchant came within 4.8% of beating Rep. Rick Miller in 2018. Miller didn’t intend to retire, but after he opened his trap and started talking about his primary challengers’ Asian heritage, at which point his local party begged him to shut up and step down. Jacey Jetton, a county GOP chair and avid gun-lover, won the runoff election to replace him as the Republican nominee.

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Trump Is Screwing Florida

On Monday, I wrote about how Donald Trump’s quixotic crusade against voting by mail is already actively hurting both his own prospects for re-election and the campaigns of down-ballot Republicans. Simply put, GOP faithful take Trump’s word as gospel, and so increasingly, they’re swearing off voting by mail, which has at least been just as helpful to Republicans as Democrats in the past.

Voting by mail has been a particular boon to Florida Republicans over the last decade, but they now trail Democrats by over 400,000 in voters who have requested absentee ballots. Stymied by the president’s attacks, the Florida GOP has resorted to drastic measures: Censoring Trump’s tweets to cut out his attacks on the process.

In a mass-solicitation designed to boost flagging interest in registering to vote by mail, the Republican Party of Florida featured a Trump tweet from June 28 that praised absentee ballots but that had his opposition to mail-in voting strategically edited out.

“Absentee Ballots are fine. A person has to go through a process to get and use them,” Trump said in the tweet. The rest of the quote was blurred out: “Mail-In Voting, on the other hand, will lead to the most corrupt Election is USA history. Bad things happen with Mail-Ins. Just look at Special Election in Patterson, N.J. 19% of Ballots a FRAUD.”

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has wrecked the state with his fealty to Trump during the COVID-19 crisis, turning it into the worst hotbed of disease in the United States. The raging pandemic makes voting by mail even more essential, which puts them in even more trouble.


Quibis:

  • The eviction moratorium ends in Michigan on Wednesday night, with a backlog of as many as 75,000 eviction notices built up over the last four months during the pandemic.

  • Affirmative action has been banned in Nebraska since 2008. Now local officials are rethinking that very racist policy, which will require a ballot initiative.

  • Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp is doing his best to keep up with Ron DeSantis — he just banned local mask-wearing mandates, delivering on a threat he made when Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms issued a mask requirement last week. Georgia reported its second-highest day of new cases on Wednesday.

    Even the governor of Alabama mandated masks today. At this point, Kemp and DeSantis are just straight-up mass murderers — they’re working to do everything in their power to ensure that as many people get sick and die as possible.


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