Texas 2018 Primary Shows Democrats Have Momentum, Republicans Still Dominate
Progressive Democrats made some inroads in Texas on Tuesday’s Election Day, with a few winning U.S. House primaries or moving to runoffs that will be held later this spring.
But while there were some successes down the political ladder, from first-time candidates running for state legislature and judgeships, the blue voter turnout seen in 2018’s first primaries demonstrated that it will be years before red-run Texas becomes politically purple, despite its diversifying demographics.
“So far, Dems are seeing big turnout gains vs. '14/'10 in major metro TX, but not nearly as dramatic elsewhere. Bodes well for them in #TX07 & #TX32, not as well for them in other contests,” tweeted Dave Wasserman, the Cook Political Report’s U.S. House expert, based on still-incomplete precinct results after midnight local time.
Statewide, with 88 percent of nearly 7,700 precincts reporting, 976,000 Texans voted in Democratic Party primaries, compared to 1,476,000 voters in GOP’s primaries.
Texas has 36 House seats. Three national progressive groups—Justice Democrats, Our Revolution and Progressive Democrats of America—endorsed nine House candidates, in some cases overlapping. Of those, Vanessa Adia (TX-12), a mother and teacher, ran unopposed and thus won her primary. Adrienne Bell (TX-14), an educator and longtime Democratic campaigner, and Linsey Fagan (TX-26), a single mother and entrepreneur, both won with more than 50 percent and face no run-off.
Chris Peri (TX-25), a criminal defense attorney, came in first but faces a runoff. Laura Moser (TX-7), a journalist who was actively opposed by Washington-based party officials, came in second and faces a run-off later this spring.
As the New York Times' live election night coverage noted, both the Democratic and Republican parties were exhibiting the same internal partisan divides that plagued both parties in 2016. Democrats were split between Berniecrats and centrists, while Republicans were split between moderates and the far right.
“Texans voted on Tuesday in primary elections marked by widespread infighting,” the Times reported. “Democrats have been clamoring to flip three congressional seats in districts that Hillary Clinton won in 2016. But in recent weeks, establishment Democrats have had to grapple with progressive candidates [namely, Moser], and far-right Republicans have set their sights and advertising dollars on moderate Republicans.”
Among Republicans, the top-spending candidate was Kathaleen Wall, a rancher married to a technology executive. She compared herself to President Donald Trump, did no media interviews and spent $6 million of her own money to get 12,000 votes, enough to move toward a runoff later this spring.
On a more local level—seeking state legislative seats, judgeships, county clerk or the state board of education—the progressive group Run for Something reported that its candidates fared well in down-ballot races in some of the state’s bluer epicenters.
“Fourteen Run for Something candidates competed in Tuesday’s Texas primaries and as of midnight, at least nine of those amazing folks will be moving on to the runoffs or the general election in November,” an e-mail reported. “Their hard work and aggressive voter contact drove Democratic voters across the state to turn out in unprecedented numbers.”
“It’s worth noting: Run for Something worked closely with the Texas Democratic Party to recruit candidates this cycle, helping find candidates to contest 133 out of 150 state legislative seats—a nearly 50 percent increase over 2016 and the highest figure since at least the early ‘90s. Fielding candidates all across the state will allow Democrats to capitalize on the wave election this fall, and will hopefully yield some surprising wins!”