April 23rd, 2024

Texas congressional challengers target GOP’s Tony Gonzales, Democrat Sheila Jackson Lee

By Acacia Coronado, The Associated Press on March 5, 2024.

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) – Democrat U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee was trying to keep her seat in Congress on Tuesday, months after losing a bid to become Houston’s mayor.

The campaign was among a few competitive House races in Texas for Tuesday’s primaries, including for Republican Rep. Kay Granger’s open seat.

Along the Texas-Mexico border, U.S. Rep. Tony Gonzales faced his first election since being sanctioned by his party. U.S. Rep Monica De La Cruz won the Republican nomination and will fight to keep her highly competitive district.

Here are some congressional races to watch in Texas’ primaries:

AN INCUMBENT FACES A TOUGH CHALLENGE FROM WITHIN HER PARTY

Jackson Lee did not announce that she would seek reelection to her Houston district until December, after losing the mayor’s race. John Whitmire, a veteran Democratic state lawmaker, defeated her in an upset to become mayor of the nation’s fourth-largest city after Jackson Lee faced backlash over an unverified audio recording in which she purportedly berated staff members with a barrage of expletives.

She faces a challenge from former Houston City Councilwoman Amanda Edwards, who had dropped out of the mayor’s race and decided to seek Jackson’ Lee’s seat when the longtime congresswoman announced her mayoral candidacy.

Jackson Lee has faced challengers only a handful of times in her nearly three-decade House career and defeated each definitively. Edwards has fundraised competitively.

The winner will move on to the November election in a district that is heavily Democratic.

AN OPEN RACE IN A GOP STRONGHOLD

The Fort Worth-area 12th Congressional District is open for the first time in nearly 30 years after Granger announced in November that she would not seek reelection.

Texas state Rep. Craig Goldman faces John O’Shea, a conservative former banker turned real estate developer and construction business owner, in the Republican primary.

O’Shea has received support from GOP Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton because Goldman was among Republicans who voted to impeach Paxton last year. Paxton narrowly survived allegations of corruption and abuse of office.

WILL A GOP SANCTION HURT REP. GONZALES’ REELECTION CHANCES?

This is Republican U.S. Rep. Tony Gonzales’ first campaign since the state party sanctioned him over his votes to protect same-sex marriage and in support of new gun safety laws following the 2022 Uvalde school shooting in his district that left 21 people dead.

Gonzales, who is from San Antonio, was first elected in 2020.

Republicans challenging Gonzales include Julie Clark, the former chair of the Medina County Republican Party, where the sanction against him originated. Others are Brandon Herrera, who produces YouTube videos about guns; Victor Avila, a retired U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent; and Frank Lopez, a retired Border Patrol agent.

Immigration is a key issue in the district, which covers a long portion of the U.S.-Mexico border from El Paso to San Antonio. The district encompasses Eagle Pass, which has been thrust into a turf war between Republican Gov. Greg Abbott and President Joe Biden’s administration over immigration enforcement.

DEMOCRATS HOPE TO PICK UP A SOUTH TEXAS SEAT

In Texas’ Rio Grande Valley, Republican U.S. Rep. Monica de la Cruz won the Republican nomination in her bid to defend her competitive South Texas district.

Democrats are hoping to pick up the South Texas seat in November. Democrats vying to run against de la Cruz are business owner Michelle Vallejo and attorney John Villarreal Rigney.

Immigration is also a central issue for the district, which stretches from the U.S.-Mexico border to a county east of San Antonio.

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