“Curiouser and curiouser” was how Lewis Carroll’s “Alice in Wonderland” described her experiences when she fell down that rabbit hole but she could have been describing the May 29 primary elections in Texas. A campaign season where down was up, up was down and long-time conservatives were branded “liberal” in ways that seemed to rob both terms of their meaning produced some curious results.
After they reconfigured Congressman Ron Paul’s District 14 to include Jefferson County and he decided not to seek re-election to the House, it appeared to open the door to Beaumont Republicans like never before – and two local attorneys leapt at the challenge.
Michael Truncale and Jay Old assembled respectable campaign war chests but could not overcome the geographic split in a district that also included GOP strongholds in Brazoria and Galveston counties. The pair recorded nearly identical vote totals – Truncale with 6,197 and Old with 6,136 – each good for 14 percent of the vote.
But two candidates from Pearland scored big in the western part of the new district – state Rep. Randy Weber and attorney Felicia Harris, a Pearland City Council member. Although Pearland is not in District 14, Weber soon moved a couple miles across the boundary; Harris called the residence issue “a technicality” but later reportedly said she would move in if she is elected.
Weber and Harris will meet in a runoff July 31, a full two months after the primary. Weber repeatedly cites his rating as the most conservative member of the Texas House; Harris takes a back seat to none in her disdain for President Obama and his “socialist policies.”
Nick Lampson overwhelmed Linda Dailey for the Democratic nomination. University of Houston political scientist Dr. Richard Murray observed when the district was redrawn that “a strong Democrat from Jefferson County would have a chance” in a district that trends 56 percent Republican.
The other Congressional race in this area was the newly created District 36, a horseshoe-shaped area that includes a small portion of southeast Harris County and extends east through Chambers, Liberty, Polk, Tyler, Hardin, Jasper, Newton and Orange counties in Southeast Texas. State Sen. Mike Jackson was considered a prohibitive favorite in this race, having served more than 20 years in the House and Senate before making the race for Congress. By any measure, Jackson had a solid conservative record during his time in office, but that all went out the window when Steve Stockman unleashed a torrent of exaggerations and outright lies on the front-runner that left Jackson reeling as he was falsely branded as a liberal. He finished third behind Stockman and first-place finisher Steven Takach, an Edward Jones financial advisor and fiscal conservative, who will meet in a runoff. The man who still calls himself “Congressman Steve Stockman” after serving one term in the mid-1990s is the wildest of wild cards, so this race will bear watching. After investing more than $300,000 of his own money in the campaign, it might be Mr. Takach goes to Washington, an eventuality few saw coming.
In a closely watched race for state House District 19, Rep. Mike “Tuffy” Hamilton was defeated by Rep. James White, a Tea Party freshman who was backed by Gov. Rick Perry and his patrons, homebuilders Bob Perry, David Weekley and Texans for Lawsuit Reform. They unleashed a blistering attack on Tuffy who had a solid conservative record in 10 years in the House but was branded a liberal and worse. By the time Hamilton could mount a counterattack, early voting was halfway over and White coasted to a 55 percent victory.
The Congressional district runoffs July 31 will also feature runoffs in both GOP and Democratic contests for U.S. Senator and other races for Texas Railroad Commissioner and Supreme Court. Getting their voters back to the polls on a sleepy summer Tuesday will be a challenge for all involved.