Politics

The Harris County Democratic race to challenge Jack Cagle will go to a runoff, while Hidalgo and Garcia easily advance

Lesley Briones and Ben Chou will compete in the Democratic primary runoff for the seat now held by Republican County Commissioner Jack Cagle.

Commissioner Jack Cagle, left, did not have a challenger in the Republican primary but will face a tough election in November. Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo, center, and Adrian Garcia easily defeated their primary challengers.

The Democratic primary to challenge Harris County Commissioner for Precinct 4 Jack Cagle is heading to a runoff.

Former judge Lesley Briones, the first-place finisher, won just over 33% of the vote, while runner-up Ben Chou, a former elections official, polled just short of 25%.

Briones benefited from the endorsements of both sitting Democratic commissioners, Rodney Ellis and Adrian Garcia. But that wasn't enough to put her over the top against Chou, whose endorsements included those of former Maryland governor and one-time Democratic presidential candidate Martin O'Malley and Houston congressional candidate Diana Martinez Alexander.

Seven Democrats competed for the nomination to run against the incumbent Cagle in the fall. Cagle ran unopposed for the Republican nomination.

Still, the fall matchup in Precinct 4 is expected to be a hard-fought contest. That's because the Democratic majority on Harris County Commissioners Court dramatically redrew the boundaries of the precinct last year, shifting its geographic territory from Harris County's northern tier to its western quarter, most of which had previously made up Precinct 3 represented by Republican Commissioner Tom Ramsey. Democratic commissioners also redrew Precinct 4 to include more territory within the 610 Loop and less within northwest Harris County.

Demographically, the new Precinct 4 is majority-minority, with a combined nonwhite population of 70%.

At the time the map was adopted, Cagle accused the Democratic majority on the commissioners' court of trying to punish him for his past efforts to block Democratic tax increases.

“You’re inclined to vote for the (new map) because you view that vote as a referendum to the public, in essence, on taxes," Cagle said to Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo, a Democrat. "You feel because of our disagreement on taxes that you need to move me into a precinct that I have not served, to let me face the public on that referendum of the tax issue.”

Hidalgo was unmoved, saying the maps corrected past injustices that resulted from maps Republicans designed in 2011 and earlier.

Cagle, along with fellow Republican Commissioner Tom Ramsey, challenged the new map in court, arguing it amounted to an unconstitutional gerrymander. The state Supreme Court ultimately rejected the challenge.

Hidalgo and County Commissioner for Precinct 2 Adrian Garcia managed to fend off multiple challengers from within the Democratic Party to easily gain their respective nominations for second terms on commissioners court.

Hidalgo fended off a field of five Democratic opponents, winning over 70% of the vote — more than enough to avoid a runoff. Her intraparty rivals included Erica Davis, chief of staff to Constable Alan Rosen, and former Houston City Council candidate Georgia D. Provost.

The Republican contest to determine who will challenge Hidalgo in the general election remains undecided. None of the nine Republican contenders garnered more than 50% of the vote. Alexandra del Moral Mealer came in first place with close to 30%, while Vidal Martinez came in second place with just less than 26%. They'll now move on to the runoff election, which is scheduled for May 24.

Adrian Garcia won an even more lopsided victory, polling more than 75%. Garcia had only two Democratic challengers: longtime Justice of the Peace George Risner and retired police officer Gary Harrison. Most analysts rated Risner the more formidable contender, as he had won repeated elections in what is now Harris County's Commissioner Precinct 2. He received just over 13% of the vote.

In one of the bigger surprises of the night, former Commissioner Jack Morman was forced into a runoff for the GOP nomination to challenge Garcia. He led the Republican field with more than 40% of the vote. He'll face the runner-up — Deer Park Mayor Jerry Mouton, who garnered close to 22% of the vote — in the May primary runoff election.

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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 Legislature and county and city governments across Greater Houston. Before taking up his current post, Andrew spent five years as Houston Public Media's business reporter, covering the oil...

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