The Lone Star State kicked off the 2022 primary season on Tuesday, offering little excitement though some surprises. Here’s what happened:
GOVERNOR: A relatively few Republicans bought the argument that Gov. Greg Abbott (R) was insufficiently conservative, as the incumbent took more than 66% of the vote. Allen West, the
former Texas GOP chair and before that a Florida congressman, could do no better than 12%. Abbott is a clear favorite in November against Beto O’Rourke, a wunderkind when he ran well against Sen. Ted Cruz in 2018 but whose star was tarnished by a weak showing in his 2020 bid for president. You know Republicans will be replaying O’Rourke’s famous “Hell, yes, we’re going to take your AR-15” soundbyte for the next eight months. No Democrat has won the governorship here since Ann Richards in 1990.
ATTORNEY GENERAL: This was the big primary, with all eyes on incumbent Ken Paxton (R), whose ethics are under question. He has the endorsement of Donald Trump but also has the stigma of an indictment for securities fraud hanging over his head. With three major challengers, the story was always about who would take him to a May 24 runoff. As it turned out, it was Land Commissioner George P. Bush, son of Jeb, who finished with 23% of the vote to Paxton’s 43%. Also running were Eva Guzman (17.5%), a former state Supreme Court justice, and Rep. Louie Gohmert (17%), from East Texas. It will be interesting to see who endorses whom for the runoff.
HOUSE RACES OF INTEREST: The Republican controlled legislature redrew the congressional map for Texas, which because of population increases gets two additional House seats. Many of the seats that had close elections in 2020 are no longer expected to be close in November.
1st CD: Rep. Louie Gohmert (R) gave up the seat to run for governor. Nathaniel Moran, a local county judge, easily won the GOP primary in this Republican district.
2nd CD: Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R), whose conservative bona fides were under question because he declared that Joe Biden rightfully was elected president, nonetheless won a landslide 74%.
3rd CD: A wild story here. Rep. Van Taylor (R), a conservative, was already taking hits from his GOP opponents for voting to establish a Jan. 6th commission to look into the assault on the Capitol. But he was still favored to be renominated. As it turned out, Taylor got 49% of the primary vote, just missing out from winning the nomination outright. But the day after the primary, he stunned his constituents by announcing he was pulling out of the race after it was revealed that the married Taylor had an affair with a former jihadist, the wife of a slain member of ISIS. The nomination now goes to Keith Self, a former county judge who finished second in the primary with 27%.
8th CD: Rep. Kevin Brady (R) is retiring. Morgan Luttrell, a businessman and retired Navy Seal, won the Republican nomination without a runoff.
15th CD: The majority Republicans in the state legislature redrew the congressional map, and this seat’s new lines may be the most significant. Rep. Vicente Gonzalez (D), who barely won re-election in 2020, decided to move to the new 34th CD, drawn to his liking. This new seat, and its GOP lean, may favor Monica De La Cruz (R), who came close to winning two years ago. The Democratic nominee will be determined in the May 24 runoff between Ruben Ramirez, an Army vet who served in Afghanistan and who is backed by Gonzalez, and businesswoman Michelle Vallejo. This seat may be the only one to watch in November.
28th CD: Rep. Henry Cuellar, an abortion rights opponent who is considered one of the more conservative Democrats in the House, was forced into a runoff in his rematch with Jessica Cisneros, backed by progressives.
30th CD: Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D) is retiring. Jasmine Crockett, a state rep backed by Johnson and much of the Dem establishment, received 48.5% in the primary — not enough to escape a runoff. She’ll face Jane Hope Hamilton, who finished second with 17%.
35th CD: Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D) announced he would be seeking re-election in the new 37th CD. The Democratic nominee is Austin Councilmember Greg Casar, a socialist.
38th CD: Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R) switched to the 2nd CD, where most of his constituents live. The GOP nominee in this new district is Wesley Hunt, an Army vet and an African American.
Leaving Sooner Than Later. Sen. Jim Inhofe, an Oklahoma Republican who was elected to his fifth full term in 2020, announced last month he will resign his seat at the end of the year. He is 87 years old and has apparently a mild case of Covid. He immediately endorsed his chief of staff, Luke Holland, to succeed him. But other Republicans for the November special election are
already lining up, including Rep. Markwayne Mullin, who also officially announced his candidacy. Other possibles include Rep. Kevin Hern, Lt. Gov. Matt Pinnell, former state House Speaker T.W. Shannon, and Tulsa pastor Jackson Lahmeyer, who is running a right wing challenge to the state’s other senator, James Lankford, in this year’s regularly scheduled Senate primary. Gov. Kevin Stitt (R) has said he is committed to seeking re-election. No Democrat has won a Senate race here since David Boren’s re-election in 1990.
Back to work. Sen. Ben Ray Lujan, the New Mexico Democrat who suffered a stroke in late January, is back at work. A health matter involving any lawmaker in a 50-50 Senate is going to be of wide concern, and that’s especially true as the confirmation of a Supreme Court justice is thought to be just months away. Lujan returned to work on Thursday and was greeted by a bipartisan standing ovation from members of the Senate Commerce Cmte.
The Putin Caucus? A nonbinding resolution in the House supporting Ukraine’s “sovereignty and territorial integrity” overwhelmingly passed in the House on Wednesday by a 426-3 vote. The three who voted no, all Republicans: Thomas Massie (KY), Paul Gosar (AZ) and Matt Rosendale (MT).
No Sense of Yuma? Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey (R) announced on Friday that he — as he has said before — will not run for the Senate seat held by Mark Kelly (D). Mitch McConnell and national Republicans were pleading with Ducey to run, arguing he would be the strongest candidate in a seat that is clearly up for grabs. Whether or not this was a factor, Donald Trump made it clear he would never accept Ducey as the Senate candidate, still furious that the governor recognized Joe Biden’s victory in the state and dismissed the lies that Trump had really won the election. Already running for the GOP are state Attorney General Mark Brnovich, finance executive Blake Masters, and energy executive Jim Lamon, whose recent ad portrays him as a sheriff in a Western town who shoots the guns out of the hands of actors portraying Joe Biden, Kelly and Nancy Pelosi. Not sure if guns are the right props in a race where Kelly’s wife, former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D), was shot in the head in an incident where six others were killed by a gunman in 2011. Ducey is the latest GOP governor to turn down pleadings to run for the Senate, following that of Chris Sununu (NH), Larry Hogan (MD) and Phil Scott (VT).
ON THE CALENDAR:
March 21 — First day of confirmation hearings for Supreme Court justice nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson.
April 5 — Special primary to replace Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA), who resigned.
May 3 — Indiana and Ohio primaries.
May 10 — Nebraska and West Virginia primaries.
May 17 — Kentucky, North Carolina, Oregon and Pennsylvania primaries.
May 19 — Idaho primary.
May 24 — Alabama, Arkansas and Georgia primaries. Texas primary runoffs.
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This Day In Political History: Two days after a dismal seventh-place showing in the Massachusetts primary, Indiana Sen. Birch Bayh ends his bid for the Democratic presidential nomination. Bayh had finished second in Iowa and third in New Hampshire, but had run out of money and felt he could no longer be competitive in New York, where he had a big investment (March 4, 1976).
Got a question? Ask Ken Rudin: [email protected]