Two Texas House Republicans who have served in the lower chamber for years were ousted in Tuesday’s primary runoff by their more hardline conservative challengers.
State Rep. Dan Flynn of Canton, who was running for a 10th term to the lower chamber, was defeated by businessman Bryan Slaton, who has run for the seat twice before. Slaton won by over 20 percentage points. State Rep. J.D. Sheffield of Gatesville, who has served in the House since 2013, lost to attorney Shelby Slawson by over 20 percentage points as well.
On the Democratic side, State Rep. Anna Eastman of Houston conceded to Penny Morales Shaw late Tuesday. Eastman was elected to the House in a special election in January. Another Democrat elected in a January special election, state Rep. Lorraine Birabil of Dallas, was trailing Jasmine Felicia Crockett by 92 votes, according to returns with the Secretary of State. Vote totals aren’t final, as mail-in ballots that were postmarked on election day will be counted if county officials receive them by 5 p.m. Wednesday.
A fifth incumbent, longtime state Rep. Harold Dutton, D-Houston, was leading his opponent, Houston City Council member Jerry Davis, by nearly 5 percentage points, 52% to 47%, according to the secretary of state’s office.
Tuesday's ballot featured about a dozen other House runoff races, including several contests in battleground districts in November.
Those battleground districts are particularly important this election cycle as Democrats, effectively nine seats away from gaining control of the 150-member lower chamber, look to flip the House for the first time in roughly two decades. With the state's once-in-a-decade redistricting process coming up, a potential flip looms large as Democrats could have a bigger say in that process.
In one Houston-area battleground district, Akilah Bacy led Jenifer Rene Pool, who in 2016 became the first transgender Texan to win a primary in the state, by a margin of over 50 percentage points. The winner will face off against Republican Lacey Hull in November after state Rep. Dwayne Bohac, R-Houston, opted against seeking reelection. Bohac, who was first elected in 2002, won by only 47 votes in 2018.
Meanwhile, in North Texas, Lorenzo Sanchez, a Plano real estate agent, held a lead over attorney Tom Adair. The winner will challenge four-term incumbent State Rep. Jeff Leach, R-Plano, who narrowly won reelection in 2018 by 2.2 percentage points.
In the Austin area, Carrie Isaac, executive director of an Austin-based nonprofit and the wife of former state Rep. Jason Isaac, R-Dripping Springs, handily beat Kent "Bud" Wymore, a former Hays County Republican Party chair, in the GOP nomination for House District 47. The winner takes on state Rep. Erin Zwiener, a Driftwood Democrat who flipped the seat in 2018.
In another Austin-area race, police officer Justin Berry was leading attorney Jennifer Fleck by roughly 10 percentage points. The winner of that contest will challenge state Rep. Vikki Goodwin, D-Austin, who also flipped the seat last election cycle.
A newcomer will replace Rep. Rick Miller, R-Sugar Land, in House District 26 after he dropped his reelection bid following a backlash when he said two of his Republican opponents were running against him because they are Asian. On the Republican side, Jacey Jetton, a former Fort Bend GOP chairman, led Matt Morgan, a public insurance adjuster, by roughly five percentage points. L. Sarah DeMerchant, a Democrat who ran unsuccessfully in 2016 and 2018, led Suleman Lalani, a Houston-area private practitioner, by roughly five percentage points as well.
And in the rural House District 60, rancher and veterinarian Glenn Rogers declared victory against Jon Francis, a member of the conservative billionaire Wilks family. The two were vying to replace retiring state Rep. Mike Lang, R-Granbury, in the safe Republican district.
In recent weeks, Gov. Greg Abbott waded into a number of the GOP primary runoffs, throwing considerable resources behind Flynn, Sheffield, Rogers, Berry and Jetton in their respective races as election day neared.
Abbott’s endorsements in some of those races were fueled, at least in part, by a podcast snafu by the hardline conservative group Empower Texans. On a recording, two staffers with the organization made disparaging comments about the governor and his response to the coronavirus, using profane language and at one point joking about Abbott’s wheelchair use. Flynn, Sheffield and Rogers moved aggressively in the aftermath to cast the audio as a liability for their opponents, criticizing their supposed — or, in some cases, real — ties to Empower Texans.
Regardless of what happens in the general election, House members will have a new speaker for the 2021 legislative session. First-term Speaker Dennis Bonnen, an Angleton Republican, decided to not seek reelection after he became embroiled in a scandal last year involving a secret recording.
In the race to replace Bonnen, Cody Vasut, a former Angleton City Council member, led Ro’Vin Garrett, the Brazoria County tax-assessor collector, for the Texas House District 25 seat. The winner will face Democrat Patrick Henry in the general election for the safe Republican seat.
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