Yes, We Have Candidates!

Filing for March primary elections officially began Dec. 3; incumbents, others stake their places on ballot

Brian Ruiz
Brian Ruiz (Photo by John Anderson)

December is the season of good cheer. It's also the season of pancake-breakfast fundraisers and chicken-dinner rabble-rousing, as filing for the March primary elections officially began Dec. 3. After the initial rush of incumbents staking their places on the ballot, both parties expect a lull, while potential challengers continue to reach out to donors and consider early polling numbers, before a flurry of filings near the Jan. 2 primary filing deadline. While several significant seats remain challenger-free, other incumbents are already gearing up for intra-party combat.

In Travis County thus far, there's a notable dearth of Republican candidates. Exceptions are Precinct 3 County Commissioner Gerald Daugherty and Mike Varela, running for Precinct 3 constable against Dem incumbent Richard McCain. But as of Friday, five of the county's six Democratic state reps – Dawn­na Dukes, Donna Howard, Mark Strama, Eddie Rodriguez, and Valinda Bolton – had filed with their party (staff for the holdout Elliott Naish­tat confirmed he will file, they just weren't sure when). Bolton was first through the door and, with husband Andrew Hathcock, seems to be trying to prove that the couple that files together stays together. Hathcock, who currently serves as an associate civil judge, is looking to replace the outgoing W. Jeanne Meurer in the 98th District Court. (Meurer, meanwhile, told the Statesman that should District Attorney Ronnie Earle indeed decide to retire, she's looking to fill that big chair.) And in Precinct 3, environmental activist (and former Republican) Karen Huber has filed as a Democrat to challenge Daugherty; another announced Dem wannabe, Albert Gonzales, has yet to file.

Across the state, at least six Republican incumbents are retiring, and Democrats hope to make gains in some of those seats. In Wil­liam­son Co., there's no GOP heir apparent for outgoing Dist. 52 state Rep. Mike Krusee, although there are now (at least) three possibilities: assistant county attorney Dee Hobbs, engineer John Gordon, and former U.S. Ag Department rural development director Bryan Daniel all filed this week. The Democrats' declared challenger, local school board member Diana Maldonado, thinks any Republican will inherit tough questioning over Krusee's controversial advocacy of toll roads. "There'll be repercussions because of the decisions made," Maldonado said. "There are unhappy families and farmers who have had land for generations that have been uprooted because of them."

In hotly contested District 73, north of San Antonio, where GOP Rep. Nathan Macias narrowly ousted moderate Republican incumbent Carter Casteel last time out with the help of deep-pocketed voucher proponent Dr. James Leininger, former write-in candidate Daniel Boone filed as a Democrat. The retired Air Force officer and experimental psychologist released a statement saying he's running "to protect our children's futures through quality public education and to take our government back from special interests."

The Republicans are not just playing defense. In Houston, Greg Meyers has filed against two-term Rep. Hubert Vo, the Demo­crat who narrowly knocked off GOP powerhouse Talmadge Heflin in 2004. Others are looking to replace retiring Democrats. In the mostly rural District 17, Tim Kleinschmidt hopes to replace outgoing Robby Cook; in 2006, Cook squeaked to victory in a three-way race with Kleinschmidt and Libertarian Rod Gibbs. He is not the only returning failed candidate. After losing to Mike O'Day in January's "red on red," all-Republican run-off special election in Pearland's District 29, air conditioning entrepreneur Randy Weber is hoping to replace the outgoing freshman rep but faces a primary challenge from developer and Pearland Area Chamber of Commerce Chair Gary Bucek.

Statewide, Houston state Rep. Rick Nori­e­ga has formally challenged U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, but both face primaries. Announced Noriega Dem opponent Ray McMurrey has yet to file, but Cornyn already knows his challenger: former gubernatorial candidate Larry Kilgore, a biblical literalist who thinks Texas should secede from the godless USA who has called democracy and terrorism "two faces of the same evil."

Also from the harder right, turncoat GOP U.S. Rep. Ralph Hall (Rockwall) faces an orthodoxy challenge from small-business man Kevin George, running on a Ron Paul-style platform of small government with an anti-immigration twist. Closer to home, Hutto Dem Brian Ruiz filed Tuesday to challenge incumbent Round Rock Republican John Carter for Congressional District 31, which stretches from North Austin up to Stephenville.

In the Texas House, several incumbent Dem state reps are having the tag "Craddick D" used against them by primary challengers. In District 140 (Houston), Armando Walle filed against Kevin Bailey, and Sandra Rodri­guez is expected to do the same in District 36 against Kino Flores (Palmview). While Austin lawyer Brian Thompson, who serves on the city's Human Rights Commission, has yet to file against Dawnna Dukes, he calls her connection to the Republican speaker a serious weakness. He has filed campaign finance papers with the Texas Ethics Commission and says that in the following four days, he raised $4,800 through the ActBlue Demo­crat­ic fundraising website. "Obviously, I'm not the only person in East Austin appalled by the incumbent's endorsement of Tom Craddick's failed Republican ideology," Thompson said. He plans to make a final decision before Christ­mas.

Significant state & local races

Confirmed filings at press time only

* Incumbent

U.S. Senate

Larry Kilgore (R), Rick Noriega (D)

U.S. House

D-3 (Dallas): Sam Johnson*(R), Wayne Avellanet (R)

D-4 (Rockwall): Ralph Hall*(R), Kevin George (R)

Diana Maldonado
Diana Maldonado

D-31 (Central Texas): Brian Ruiz (D)

State Senate

D-30 (Wichita Falls): Craig Estes* (R), Charles Stafford (R)

State House

D-43 (Kingsville): Juan Manuel Escobar*(D), Tara Rios Ybarra (D)

D-73 (Bulverde): Nathan Macias*(R), Doug Miller (R); Daniel Boone (D)

D-81 (Odessa): Buddy West* (R), Randy Rives (R)

D-101 (Mesquite): Thomas Latham*(R), Mike Anderson (R)

D-129 (Clear Lake): John Davis* (R), Sherrie Matula (D)

D-140 (Houston): Kevin Bailey*(D), Armando Walle (D)

Seats vacated by retiring GOP incumbents:

D-29 (Pearland): Randy Weber (R), Gary Bucek (R)

D-52 (Round Rock): Diana Maldonado (D); Dee Hobbs (R), John Gordon (R)

D-55 (Temple): Martha Tyroch (R), Michael Pearce (R), Ralph Sheffield (R), John Alaniz (R); Sam Murphey (D)

Travis County

Commissioner, Precinct 3: Gerald Daugherty*(R), Karen Huber (D)

Tax Assessor-Collector: Nelda Wells Spears* (D), Glen Maxey (D)

Constable, Precinct 3: Richard McCain*(D), Mike Varela (R)

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