Aside from football, there is no better contact sport in America than electoral politics in Texas, and just in time to cure your post-Super Bowl blues come the March 4 Texas primaries (don’t forget, in-person early voting begins February 19; see page 9 for more info). Tammany Hall and the Chicago Machines ain’t got nothin’ on the Lone Star State. From candidates with criminal records to 10 people trying their damndest to cloak themselves in the conservative mantel to claim indicted former U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay’s seat, you won’t find a better spectator pastime. Best of all, you can play, too! No need to don pads and helmets, though. All you need to play the game of Texas politics is a strong stomach and ... what we’ll just call “testicular fortitude.” We here at the Current have taken a look across the 150 House Districts, 32 Congressional Districts, and 254 counties to bring you this slate of races to watch.
SUGAR LAND — A massive field of 10 Republicans is vying for the opportunity to take on District 22 Congressman Nick Lampson in November. So far, Shelley Sekula-Gibbs (R-Houston) holds the fundraising lead. Gibbs, you’ll recall, was the “six-week Congressman” who won the special election to replace Tom DeLay in 2006. However, the road won’t be an easy one for Gibbs, as she faces such names as State Representative Robert Talton (R-Pasadena), and former District Judge Jim Squire (R-Houston). A runoff is all but inevitable.
TYLER — Smith County Sheriff J.B. Smith will face a second challenge from Andy Dunklin. Normally, countywide races in Tyler, the largest city between Dallas and Shreveport, Louisiana, wouldn’t matter, but in the county that spawned the book Smith County Justice, J.B. Smith is the longtime law-enforcement king. Known nationwide and widely popular in Smith County in spite of numerous scandals that have embroiled his department in the last two decades, Smith is a likely favorite to win the GOP Primary.
BASTROP — The race in House District 17 to replace Democrat Robby Cook, who announced he wouldn’t seek another term in the Texas House, is quite interesting. Latreese Cooke of Bastrop faces Donnie Dippel of LaGrange in the Democratic Primary. The key thing to note in this race is that Cooke has, as exposed by Democratic blog Burnt Orange Report, a criminal record and spent time in jail.
ROSENBERG — State Representative Dora Olivo (D-Rosenberg) faces a challenge from the left in the form of attorney Ron Reynolds of Missouri City in the Democratic Primary. Olivo, who is no friend of stem-cell research and abortion due to her Catholic faith, has lost endorsements from key progressive leaders in the region. However, Reynolds has some baggage of his own, including two sanctions from the State Bar of Texas.
HOUSTON — Ethically challenged, $1,200-a-pair-boot-wearing State Representative John Davis (R-Houston) faces a tough primary challenge from Jon Keeny of Taylor Lake Village. With this primary getting nasty and the eventual winner likely to head into November oozing blood from many wounds, it gives a great opening to Democrat Sherrie Matula to take the seat in November.
DALLAS — Sheriff Lupe Valdez, a Democrat first elected in 2004, faces challenges from three contenders. Valdez, an openly gay officeholder, is favored to win the contest, but a runoff is likely against either Pete Schulte, Roy Williams, Jr., or Sam Allen. •
Tax races take center stage
If it weren’t for the aged poll tax resurrected in the specter of voter-ID laws, races for Tax Assessor-Collector would boil down to vehicle registration (and sometimes property taxes) in every county across Texas. But some TA/C offices still bear the responsibility for voter registration. This puts TA/C races in Travis County and Harris County center stage this cycle. In Harris, two Democrats, Dr. Diane Trautman and John Webb, are vying to take on voter-ID shill Paul Bettencourt, a Republican, in November. In Travis County, former legislator Glen Maxey faces incumbent Nelda Wells Spears. Both Trautman and Maxey are making voter registration key hallmarks of their campaigns.
First and foremost is the Travis County DA race, where four candidates are looking to replace longtime DA and DeLay-slayer Ronnie Earle, who is retiring. Leading candidates are Rosemary Lehmberg, Earle’s top deputy, and Mindy Montford, daughter of AT&T Executive and former State Senator (and rumored SA mayoral candidate) John T. Montford. No Republican filed, so this one will be decided in the Democratic Primary.
In far West Texas, the race for DA of the 143rd Judicial District will be the only one in the state where voters can actually issue a ‘mandate’ to public officials concerning their roles in the Texas Youth Commission scandal. DA Randy Reynolds, who ignored the graphic Texas Ranger’s report concerning sexual abuse in TYC facilities, faces Ward County Attorney Kevin Acker (both are Democrats).