Texas Elections 2018

Breaking Down Houston’s Two Open Congressional Races

Reps. Ted Poe (R, TX-2) and Gene Green (D, TX-29) are both retiring this year. Primary voters picking their likely replacements each have a long list of options

U.S. Capitol’s South side (House of Representatives)

Seven members of Congress from Texas are retiring this year, more than from any other state. Two of those about to leave represent Greater Houston – Republican Rep. Ted Poe of District 2 and Democratic Rep. Gene Green of District 29. Both districts are considered safe for their respective parties. That means whoever wins those primaries in each is all but certain to win in November.

First, let’s look at District 2, where nine Republicans are on the ballot.

“It’s a massive district,” said Republican political consultant Joe Brettell. “Stretches out from essentially North Houston into some of the western suburbs, rings the city all the way out to Kingwood, with issues that face both rural and urban voters, certainly [an] area that was affected by Harvey.”

Running in a district so spread out is expensive. That’s one reason Kathaleen Wall is favored to win. Wall’s a long-time Republican donor and put close to $6 million into her own campaign, more than triple the rest of the GOP field combined, according to the Federal Election Commission.

“Kathaleen has also been very active as a volunteer at the grassroots level for many, many years,” said David Sawyer, the former Houston director for Senator Ted Cruz. “A lot of the hardcore activists know her as a fellow volunteer and a person who’s pounded the pavement, so to speak.”

Wall’s opponents include State Representative Kevin Roberts, businessman Rick Walker, and former Navy SEAL Dan Crenshaw. If Tuesday’s winner gets less than 50 percent of the vote, the primary goes to a runoff.

“The second place candidate could have maybe 20 percent,” said Sawyer, “But then where do those other candidates go? Who do they endorse between the two candidates in a runoff with their 8 percent, 10 percent, 6 percent? That could end up being what makes the difference between someone winning and losing.”

That situation came up our other district, TX-29, which stretches across East Harris County. Back in 1992, Gene Green came in second in a large field, then went on to beat City Council member Ben Reyes in the runoff. That was despite the fact that the 29th was designed to help Latino residents elect one of their own.

“A lot of people asked then and they’re still asking is [why] a district that was created to be held by a Latino is not held by a Latino,” said Maria Gonzalez, a University of Houston English professor and a progressive activist. “Why is that? Well, a big chunk of that is because the Latino population doesn’t vote in the numbers it should.”

Heavy Democratic turnout in early voting suggests this year may be different. And the most likely beneficiary is State Senator Sylvia Garcia who actually came in third in that ’92 primary.

“The difference between Sylvia Garcia and everyone else is that her name really does stand out greatly within the population she’s targeting,” said Gonzalez. Garcia’s state senate district covers much of the same territory as TX-29.

Seven Democrats are running to succeed Gene Green. But Senator Garcia’s main rival is Tahir Javed, a businessman and prolific Democratic fundraiser. Democratic political consultant Marc Campos is skeptical Javed can win. Campos helped draw up the original map of District 29.

“Voters are smart,” said Campos. “You know, they have these discussions in their living rooms. They have them at work. They have them after church. And they say, hey, you know, this guy is from Beaumont and, you know, that’s a factor.”

That outsider label could hurt. But Javed has one major advantage. He has plenty of money to put into his own campaign. He’s outraised Garcia by more than two to one, and he’s pledged to spend as much as it takes to win.


Andrew Schneider

Andrew Schneider

Politics and Government Reporter

Andrew heads Houston Public Media’s coverage of national, state, and local elections. He also reports on major policy issues before the Texas delegations in the U.S. House and Senate, as well as the Texas governorship, the state legislature, and county and city governments. Before taking up his current post, Andrew...

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