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Republican Attorney General Ken Paxton and Democratic U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar trying to hang on amid FBI investigations
♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor
AUSTIN (CFP) — Voters in Texas kick off the 2022 midterm elections with the nation’s first party primary Tuesday, featuring a pitched battle among Republicans for attorney general, the last pro-life Democratic in the U.S. House trying to hang on to his South Texas seat, and two House Republicans facing primary challenges for not being sufficiently pro-Trump.
Voters will pick party nominees for statewide offices, including governor and lieutenant governor, as well as races for 38 U.S. House seats and the state legislature, which are being fought under newly drawn maps.
No U.S. Senate seat is up this year in the Lone Star State.
Polls for in-person voting open at 7 a.m. and close at 7 p.m., in both the Central and Mountain time zones.
Republican Governor Greg Abbott is expected to easily dispatch seven primary challengers, on his way to a November match-up with Democratic former U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke, a prohibitive favorite in the Democratic primary.
Seven Republicans holding statewide executive offices are running for re-election, with two facing fierce primary challenges to keep their posts.
Attorney General Ken Paxton – who is being investigated by the FBI and sued by former staffers in his office while facing a criminal trial for securities fraud – is facing three primary challengers, including Land Commissioner George P. Bush, the third generation of his famous family involved in Texas politics; U.S. Rep. Louie Gohmert, who gave up his House seat to take a last-minute plunge into the race; and Eva Guzman, who left the state Supreme Court to run against Paxton.
Pre-election polls indicated that Paxton, who has been endorsed by Donald Trump, will likely face a runoff against Bush, setting up a MAGA-vs.-Establishment free-for-all in the May 24 contest.
Five Democrats are waiting in the wings for the Republican primary winner, with hopes of winning the party’s first statewide race in 28 years, particularly if Paxton prevails.
Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller is also facing a tight battle with two Republican challengers, amid ongoing battles with state legislators and the indictment of a campaign consultant on bribery charges related to hemp licenses overseen by his office.
State Rep. James White from Hillister, the only black Republican in the Texas House, has scooped up endorsements from 20 fellow lawmakers in his bid to unseat Miller. Also in the race is Carey Counsil, a rancher and real estate developer from Brenham.
In U.S. House District 28 in South Texas, moderate Democratic U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar from Laredo – the last pro-life Democrat left in the House – is facing Jessica Cisneros, a Laredo immigration lawyer who has the backing of key figures in the Democratic left, including Vermont U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders and New York U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
Cisneros came within 3,000 votes of unseating Cuellar in 2020. The district has since been redrawn, and Cuellar is also running under the shadow of a January FBI raid on his home and office, related to an investigation of donations connected to Azerbaijan. He has denied any wrongdoing.
Republicans in the Texas legislature made the majority-Hispanic district more Republican, and it will be a top GOP target in the fall. Joe Biden would have carried it by just four points.
In U.S. House District 3 in suburban Dallas, U.S. Rep. Van Taylor is facing four Republican challengers who are hitting him for voting to certify President Joe Biden’s Electoral College win and supporting a congressional investigation into the January 6th riot at the U.S. Capitol.
In U.S. House District 2 in suburban Houston, U.S. Rep. Dan Crenshaw, a former Navy SEAL who has been seen as a rising Republican star since his election in 2018, is also facing three primary challengers after criticizing Trump for his actions on January 6th and opposing efforts to thwart Biden’s victory.
Two other open U.S. House seats have triggered primary battles, one in each party, for seats where the primary will likely decide the November winner.
In heavily Republican District 8 in suburban Houston, where U.S. Rep. Kevin Brady is retiring, the primary race has turned into a proxy battle between the Republican establishment and hard-right MAGA luminaries in the House Freedom Caucus.
Morgan Luttrell, a Navy veteran and former adviser in the U.S. Department of Energy, is running with the backing of Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, former governor Rick Perry, and U.S. Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, one of Trump’s most vocal critics.
Luttrell served with Kinzinger in the military and has said he considers him a friend and “not a traitor to his country.” But pressed by his opponents over their relationship, Luttrell said he returned a campaign donation from Kinzinger and doesn’t “agree with anything Adam says politically anymore.”
On the other side, conservative political consultant and podcaster Christian Collins is backed by U.S. Senator Ted Cruz, U.S. Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene and Madison Cawthorn and My Pillow CEO Mike Lindell.
In District 30 in Dallas, where veteran Democratic U.S. Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson is retiring, nine Democrats are competing for the nomination to represent the majority-minority district. Johnson endorsed State Rep. Jasmine Crockett as her successor.
The newly configured district, which stretches from San Antonio to the Rio Grande Valley, is expected to be a battleground between the two parties in the fall. Biden would have carried it by less than two points in 2020.
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