Who’s Running for What in Texas So Far

Yellow Dog 2020: Local Dem primary dance card filling up

Wendy Davis
Wendy Davis (photos by Jana Birchum)

Although it might seem like it, not every Democrat is running for president. With the 2020 primaries a bit less than a year away (Tuesday, March 3; filing begins in November), some Travis County Dems have already begun declaring for slightly less glamorous positions.

The most recent headline announcement was that of MJ Hegar (www.mjfortexas.com), the veteran and author who put a scare last year into Congressional District 31 GOP incumbent Rep. John Carter, losing by just 4 percentage points in a district that has traditionally leaned Republican. This year, Hegar has decided to challenge U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, another uphill fight, although Hegar enhanced her state and national profile last cycle with tenacity and a savvy video campaign. (She's already released another video, declaring, "Texans don't give up that easily.") There remained speculation that U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-San Antonio, would file against Cornyn, and Hegar promised to wage a "civil" primary contest if so. On Wednesday (May 1), however, Castro – whose brother Julián is running for president, with Joaquin as his campaign chair – announced he'd pass on the contest, telling Hearst Newspapers, "If and when I run for another office, it is likely to be something that takes me back home to Texas." Other declared contenders include Houston-based Sema Hernandez, former co-chair of the Texas Poor People's Campaign, who ran in the 2018 U.S. Senate primary to take on Ted Cruz, losing to Beto O'Rourke. This round, she has turned her attention to Cornyn – her website now reads "Sema for Texas 2020," although not every page on the site has been updated (www.semafortexas.com). Other potential Democratic candidates include Houston City Council Member Amanda Edwards and Dallas state Sen. Royce West.

Hegar's decision presumably clears the field for primary care physician Dr. Christine Eady Mann, who trailed Hegar in the 2018 primary and then endorsed Hegar against Carter. Eady Mann told us this week that she is likely to declare another congressional run by mid to late May. In CD 31 (Williamson and Bell Counties), Eady Mann would have a leg up on name recognition. Already filed for the Dem nomination is Omar Kadir (www.omar31.com), an accountant who lost a 2018 run for Williamson County treasurer.

Chip Roy
Chip Roy

Among the five congressional districts that cross Travis County (CD 31 is partly within Austin city limits), only Rep. Lloyd Doggett's CD 35 (anchored in San Antonio) is not currently held by a Republican. In CD 10 (Austin to Houston) in 2018, city of Austin Assistant Attorney Mike Siegel challenged longtime GOP incumbent Michael McCaul (losing by 4%). Siegel, who has since resigned his city position, resumed his campaign in January under the slogan "Finish the Job" (www.siegelfortexas.org). The 2018 primary briefly fielded seven candidates; thus far, Siegel has been joined for 2020 by Austin Dr. Pritesh Gandhi (www.gandhifortexas.com), associate chief medical officer and director of adult health for the People's Community Clinic and an assistant professor at Dell Medical School.

In 2018, Rick Kennedy was a long shot against CD 17 (Austin to Bryan to Waco) GOP incumbent Bill Flores, losing in the end by 16 points. Undeterred, he's announced that he's running again (www.rickkennedyforcongress.com). So is Julie Oliver, who ran an indefatigable campaign in CD 25 (Austin to Fort Worth) against GOP incumbent Roger Williams – she kicked off another run last week (www.julieoliver.org).

A much-awaited running-shoe-to-fall is that of Wendy Davis, who considered taking on Cornyn but now says she is evaluating CD 21, the Austin-Hill Country-San Antonio seat that Joseph Kopser narrowly lost (48% against 50%) to GOP journeyman Chip Roy. Kopser decided against a rematch; Davis is expected to announce her decision in the next few days.

Closer to home, the Travis County Commissioners Court Precinct 3 seat currently held by Republican Gerald Daugherty is already being contested by three Democrats – Valinda Bolton, Ann Howard, and Sheri Soltes – with a couple of others reportedly considering. (Bolton holds her formal kickoff Saturday at the Mean Eyed Cat.) See more about that in "Commissioners Court Candidates Get an Early Start," March 29.

In the shadows of the recent defeat of the proposed merger between the Travis County District Attorney's and County Attorney's offices was an unspoken political calculation: the would-be Democratic candidates for C.A., where incumbent David Escamilla has announced his retirement after this term. The most prominent names mentioned thus far are County Court at Law Judges Elisabeth Earle and Mike Denton, and as the weeks pass, more names are likely to surface. No one has yet appeared to challenge incumbent D.A. Margaret Moore (formally kicking off her re-election campaign in late May), but it's unlikely that an office institutionally bristling with hot buttons will go unchallenged.

Beyond these already moving parts, more congressional candidates will likely be filing over the next couple of months, and the Travis County courthouse is brimming with lawyers who see prospective judges in the mirror. Watch this space.

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