A Texas-Sized Primary

This will be my last piece before the March primary and I want to analyze the primary races in the area and statewide. First is the Republican primary for Texas Governor. With all due respect to other gubernatorial Republican primary candidates and their supporters, this is essentially Governor Abbott’s to lose. He has an estimated $63 million war chest while his most notable challengers, former State Senator Don Huffines and former Texas Republican Chair Allen West, pale in comparison to those fundraising numbers. Neither Huffines nor West made a significant monetary challenge as reported in each of their recent campaign finance reports and their levels of name recognition outside of the Dallas — Fort Worth area are low when compared to Governor Abbott’s. Barring a miracle, the governor will win the primary outright, meaning a runoff will be unnecessary. The question, then becomes “by how much will he win?” If Governor Abbott wins with less than 60% of the vote, that would be a stunner. After all, Abbott’s popularity within his own Party is high and he faces challengers most Republican voters do not know. If the governor walked out of the primary with a 55% majority victory, he might be vulnerable in November. His vulnerability rests with either choosing between shoring up his base to get them out to vote in the November general election or chasing the swing-voting independents to assure him victory in the fall; or trying to do both. Then again, he may not have to face that dilemma. Political stunners do not come around often and Governor Abbott is a skilled Texas politician on cruise control to the Republican Convention.

Texas Postcard

The second race to examine is the Republican primary for Attorney General. The current AG is Ken Paxton and he, well, faces a lot of legal troubles. His recent issues came when key staff from his office resigned, citing bribery allegations to an Austin real estate investor and GOP campaign contributor Nate Paul, not to mention his 2015 indictments of securities fraud and failure to register as a financial advisor. The magnitude of his political baggage was heavy enough to cause three other Republicans to launch primary challenges against him. The current Lands Commissioner George P. Bush, former Texas Supreme Court Justice Eva Guzman, and East Texas Congressman Louie Gohmert are all in to encourage Republican voters that AG Paxton is unfit for office. A University of Houston poll released in late January showed this could lead to a runoff between Paxton and Bush. A primary election that leads to a runoff is generally not good for incumbents. Do Republicans really want their AG nominee to be someone whose political controversies are equal to former Governor Bill Clements?

To the point on political controversy, political scientist Brandon Rottinghaus wrote last April scandals are not the career killers they used to be. He cited scholarship from Brian T. Hamel and Michael G. Miller that “while scandal-tainted politicians generally receive fewer votes and raise less money…voters are less punitive and donors are even more supportive of scandal-ridden politicians.” Apply that to AG Paxton’s re-elect and he could very well walk away from the primary as the Republican nominee.

In this final section, two local races need analyzed; the County Judge rematch and the open seat for Texas House District 84. For County Judge, there is incumbent Curtis Parrish and challenger Gary Boren. Both of these candidates ran in 2018 when it was an open seat race but now since Parrish won and is the incumbent, the race is about his record as Judge and his case for another term. Boren, on the other hand, is out to prove the voters should fire Parrish and hire him. Both have pros and cons as candidates but with Judge Parrish, his key sore spot is the Expo Center. He made several attempts to explain the stalling but voter frustration looms. There are those who liken the county bond for the Expo Center to the 2004 bond for the city auditorium. And what happened with that funding is still fresh in voters’ minds. While he has been transparent in his explanation concerning the Expo Center over the past months, he has yet to explain it in everyday language.

Lubbock County Judge Curtis Parrish Logo (from his campaign website)

Yet the cloud covering Mr. Boren is the same one that covered him in the last election; his sudden resignation from the Lubbock City Council. Yes, time and circumstances help make people forget past actions and it is possible Mr. Boren felt enough time elapsed for the campaigns, but a mere Google search resurfaces the issue. A full and clear explanation is necessary instead of rumor and innuendo.

Gary Boren Campaign Logo (from his campaign website)

Clearly, there is no love lost between the candidates. What brought it to a new height was the recent report that city and state officials donated to Judge Parrish’s re-elect and in turn, a current County Commissioner endorsed Mr. Boren, along with some other groups. Tempers are high and this will be a close race with both sides strongly pushing for their candidate.

Finally, the race for the open seat for Texas House District 84 has shaped up to be incredibly interesting. The smart money bet is this four-candidate race will come down to a runoff. Pay particular attention to who finishes second in the primary. As we saw in recent open seat, multi-candidate primary elections, the one who finished second became the winner in the runoff.

List of Texas House District 84 Candidates (Texas Secretary of State website)

You may read this and wonder why I only chose the Republican side. Have you noticed the letter next to the names of nearly all of the candidates running for office in Lubbock County? Until things change, Lubbock County is a Republican dominated area but Lubbock County holds the keys to Texas’ future. More on that later.

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Drew Landry

Drew Landry

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Government Prof; Baseball fan; Political junkie; @drewllandry on Twitter