Primary election results did not change Texas’ political dynamics

The results of the Texas primaries did not alter the political trajectory that has Republicans and Democrats maintaining most of their state and local strongholds.

Nothing has changed.

The only drama is in South Texas, where Republicans hope to make inroads with Hispanic voters. Otherwise, there are few swing districts in Texas at any level.

More disturbing, the paltry participation in the primaries and runoffs assure that general election voters will have to choose among candidates that aren’t exactly ideal in a broader arena.

But that’s Texas politics.

“If you’re coming off the sidelines looking to find a candidate you can sort of understand and respect, you may not find it,” said SMU political scientist Cal Jillson. “It’s got to be very discouraging to people who are not immersed in politics, who are just looking for someone who’s making sense and talking about key issues in their lives… and they find candidates swinging from the chandeliers on either fringe of the party spectrum.”

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The course of November’s general election was actually determined last year during Texas’ redistricting process. The special session to redraw the state’s legislative and congressional boundaries featured Republican lawmaker fortifying GOP districts that were turning into swing areas. And as a tradeoff of sorts, they protected most Democratic incumbents.

Dallas County residents wait in line to vote on Tuesday, May 24, 2022 at Oak Cliff...
Dallas County residents wait in line to vote on Tuesday, May 24, 2022 at Oak Cliff Government Center in Dallas, Texas. Texans across the state voted in the Texas Primary Runoffs.(Rebecca Slezak / Staff Photographer)

In North Texas there will be new faces in the Legislature because of open seats and retirements of some veteran incumbents. But the political dynamic in most of the districts remain unchanged. During redistricting the battleground areas in Dallas, Tarrant and Collin counties were made into safer districts.

That includes the districts represented by House Republicans Morgan Meyer of University Park and Angie Chen Button of Garland. The Collin County districts represented by Republicans Jeff Leach and Matt Shaheen, both from Plano, were fierce political battlegrounds, but are now safer for the incumbents.

Texas House Democrats formerly in swing districts are also favored for reelection, including Rhetta Bowers of Rowlett, Victoria Neave of Dallas and Terry Mesa of Irving.

The lack of competition is also evident on the congressional level.

Rep. Beth Van Duyne speaks alongside former Dallas Cowboys player Chad Hennings during a...
Rep. Beth Van Duyne speaks alongside former Dallas Cowboys player Chad Hennings during a panel at the Conservative Political Action Conference on Sunday, July 11, 2021, in Dallas. (Elias Valverde II/The Dallas Morning News)(Elias Valverde II / Staff Photographer)

Unlike 2018 and 2020, North Texas now lacks congressional swing districts, which means winning the primary is tantamount to being elected. District 24, which is represented by Irving Republican Beth Van Duyne, was redrawn last year to protect her. Incumbent Colin Allred, D-Dallas, is running in a former swing district that is now much easier for a Democrat.

“Things are pretty stable here in North Texas, and any movement that we’re likely to see is going to be in South Texas,” Jillson said.

Statewide, Republicans are heavily favored to retain their clout. Gov. Greg Abbott is seeking a third term against former El Paso Congressman Beto O’Rourke in what will be an interesting race, especially after the challenger publicly confronted the incumbent over the Uvalde school massacre. Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick has a rematch against Democrat Mike Collier.

The best chance for intrigue, perhaps, is the attorney general’s race between embattled incumbent Ken Paxton and former ACLU lawyer Rochelle Garza.

Paxton, a Republican backed by Donald Trump, beat Land Commissioner George P. Bush in Tuesday’s runoff despite his legal woes, which includes an FBI investigation into whistleblower allegations of bribery and corruption.

Garza, making her first attempt at statewide office, could bring a fresh perspective to the race in a general election arena.

But more Texas general election voters identify as Republican, so Garza has an uphill climb.

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