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Texas U.S. House Primaries: Challenged incumbents survive, as does Donald Trump’s former doctor

But the latest Bush to try politics, Pierce Bush, falls short in suburban Houston

♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor

AUSTIN (CFP) — Two veteran members of the Texas U.S. House delegation, Republican Kay Granger and Democrat Henry Cuellar, have turned back challenges from within their own party, as a wide-open primary night in the Lone Star State shaped the field for May runoffs and the November contests that will follow.

President Donald Trump’s controversial former White House doctor, Ronny Jackson, has advanced to a runoff in his House primary in the Panhandle, while Pete Sessions, a veteran Republican congressman who lost his metro Dallas seat in 2018, found more luck in Waco, where he too made a runoff.

However, the latest Bush family member to try to launch a political career, Pierce Bush, came up short in suburban Houston.

The primary competition in Texas House races was particularly intense Tuesday, as large fields of candidates entered open races triggered by the departures of five sitting Republicans, along with contests for seats that both parties are targeting in the fall.

Runoffs will be held in at least 13 of the state’s 36 congressional districts, including some of the seats expected to be most competitive between the two parties in November, which means the full state of the fall race won’t be known until after the runoffs on May 26.

However, Republicans did settle on opponents for the two Democrats who flipped seats in 2018. In the 7th District in Houston, Iraq War veteran Wesley Hunt will face Democratic incumbent Lizzie Fletcher, while in the 32d District, in Dallas, business executive Genevieve Collins was selected to challenge Democrat Collin Allred.

One candidate who also won without a runoff was former Democratic State Senator Wendy Davis, who garnered national attention in a bid for governor in 2014. She moved from Fort Worth to Austin to run the 21st District and easily won the Democratic nomination to face freshman Republican U.S. Rep. Chip Roy.

Kay Granger and Henry Cuellar survive primaries

In the 12th District, which includes Fort Worth, Kay Granger — the House’s senor woman Republican and ranking member of the Appropriations Committee — easily beat back a challenge from Chris Putnam, a former Colleyville city councilman who called Granger “a creature of the swamp” and criticized her for calling on Trump to get out of the 2016 race after the infamous “Access Hollywood” tape surfaced.

Granger, however, countered Putnam’s criticism with the most powerful tool in modern Republican politics — an endorsement from Trump himself.

In the 28th District in South Texas, Democrat Henry Cuellar had a closer call, getting a 4-point win over Jessica Cisneros, an immigration attorney from Laredo who had gotten endorsements from a who’s who of the party’s left flank, including presidential candidates Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren and U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez from New York.

The win is a blow for the Justice Democrats, a group affiliated with Ocasio-Cortez that targeted Cuellar and six other incumbent House Democrats they viewed as too conservative.

In the 13th District in the Panhandle, Jackson — who drew national notoriety after Trump nominated him to run the Veterans Administration and then withdrew the nomination in the face of Senate opposition and questions about his conduct — finished in second place and will face Josh Winegarner, a former congressional aide, in the runoff.

In the 22nd District in suburban Houston, Pierce Bush missed the runoff, placing third. He is the son of Neil Bush, the grandson of President George H.W. Bush, and the nephew of President George W. Bush.

Sessions, who lost his metro Dallas seat in 2018, is trying to make a comeback in the Waco-centered 17th District, where he grew up but hasn’t lived in decades. He came in first place and in the runoff and will face Renee Swann, a medical office manager who got the endorsement of U.S. Rep Bill Flores, the man who now holds the seat and served with Sessions in the Texas delegation.

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Super Tuesday: Democratic White House chase and down ballot races to be decided in 7 Southern states

Biden, Bloomberg and Sanders scramble for Southern support; Jeff Sessions mounts a comeback in Alabama; another Bush tries to launch

♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPoitics.com

(CFP) — Southern voters from the shores of Virginia to the deserts of West Texas will go to the polls to vote in primary elections Tuesday, with the Democratic presidential race as the day’s marquee event.

In what’s come to be known as Super Tuesday, 621 delegates are up for grabs in presidential primaries in Virginia, North Carolina, Alabama, Tennessee, Arkansas, Texas and Oklahoma, with polling showing a three-way tussle in those states between former Vice President Joe Biden, Vermont U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders and former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg, who is making his campaign debut.

In North Carolina, Alabama, Arkansas and Texas, voters will also decide down ballot races in addition to the White House contest.

North Carolinians will pick nominees for governor, and there are contested U.S. Senate primaries among Democrats in Texas and North Carolina and among Republicans in Alabama, where Jeff Sessions is trying to reclaim the seat he gave up to serve as President Donald Trump’s attorney general.

A wave of Republican U.S. House retirements in Texas has also triggered a string of wide-open primaries there, including one in which Pierce Bush, grandson of President George H.W. Bush, is trying to launch a political career with an establishment pedigree in the age of Trump.

Two veteran members of the Lone Star delegation, Republican Kay Granger and Democrat Henry Cuellar, are also trying to fend off primary challenges — she from the Trump right, and he from the “progressive” left — while former U.S. Rep. Pete Sessions, who lost his metro Dallas seat in the Democratic sweep of 2018, is trying to mount a comeback from a different district in Waco.

Presidential Race

Heading into Super Tuesday, the state of Democratic presidential contests in Alabama, Tennessee, Arkansas and Oklahoma are a big unknown, given a paucity of public polling in any of those states. The polling that has been done in Texas, North Carolina and Virginia shows Biden, Sanders and Bloomberg bunched at the top, with the other candidates trailing behind.

However, those polls don’t take into account the possible effect from Biden’s big win in South Carolina on Saturday, which was the first Southern stop on the primary calendar, and the subsequent departures from the race of Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar, both of whom endorsed Biden.

In the Super Tuesday states, Biden must also cope with Bloomberg’s lavish campaign spending and Sanders’s formidable ground operation.

One of the biggest factors in who can carry these Southern states will be performance among African American voters, who make up a majority of the Democratic electorate in Alabama and more than a quarter in Arkansas, Tennessee, North Carolina and Virginia.

While Biden ran away with the black vote in South Carolina, he will face new competition Tuesday from Bloomberg, who has been organizing across the region and getting endorsements from African American elected officials.

Down Ballot Races

North Carolina Republicans are also deciding who to pick to try to unseat Democratic Governor Roy Cooper in November, with Lieutenant Governor Dan Forest facing State Rep. Holly Grange.

To win without a runoff in North Carolina, a candidate needs to win 30 percent of the vote, as opposed to the majority requirement in most Southern states.

In Texas and North Carolina, Democrats will be selecting nominees to face incumbent Republican U.S. Senators John Cornyn and Thom Tillis; in Alabama, Republicans will pick a challenger for Democratic U.S. Senator Doug Jones.

The Alabama GOP primary pits Sessions against U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne, a Mobile Republican, and Tommy Tuberville, the former head football coach at Auburn University making his political debut. Polls point to a likely runoff.

In North Carolina, the Democratic establishment’s pick, Cal Cunningham, a Raleigh attorney and former state senator, is facing State Senator Erika Smith from Gaston and Mecklenberg County Commissioner Trevor Fuller. Cunningham will need to win 30 percent to avoid a runoff.

In Texas, a field of 12 Democrats includes MJ Hegar, a retired Air Force combat pilot; State Senator Royce West from Dallas; Cristina Tzintzún Ramirez, a labor organizer from Austin; former U.S. Rep. Chris Bell from Houston; and Houston City Councilwoman Amanda Edwards. Given the fractured field, a runoff is likely.

Texas U.S. House

The primary competition for U.S. House races in Texas will be particularly intense on Tuesday, thanks to the departures of five sitting Republicans in the Texas delegation and a number of other seats that both parties are targeting in the fall.

At least 13 seats that are open or potentially competitive are likely headed to runoffs in one and possibly both parties, which means the state of play for the fall won’t be apparent until after runoffs on May 26.

Among the notable candidates trying to get to Congress are former Democratic State Senator Wendy Davis, who garnered national attention in a bid for governor in 2014, who is running in the 21st District near Austin for the chance to oppose Republican U.S. Rep. Chip Roy; Ronny Jackson, Trump’s former physician and unsuccessful nominee for veterans secretary, running for the GOP nomination in the 13th District in the Panhandle with Trump’s support; and Pierce Bush in the 22nd District in suburban Houston.

Bush is the son of Neil Bush, the grandson of President George H.W. Bush, and the nephew of President George W. Bush. If elected, he would be the second of his generation of the Bush family to hold elective office in Texas, joining State Land Commissioner George P. Bush.

In the 12th District, which includes Fort Worth, Granger, — the House’s senor woman Republican and ranking member of the Appropriations Committee — is trying to hold off a challenge from Chris Putnam, a former Colleyville city councilman who calls Granger “a creature of the swamp” and criticizes her for calling on Trump to get out of the 2016 race after the infamous “Access Hollywood” tape surfaced.

He has also hit Granger for changing her position on legal abortion, which she now opposes but supported earlier in her career.

Granger, however, has countered Putnam’s criticism with the most powerful tool in modern Republican politics — an endorsement from Trump himself.

In South Texas, Cuellar, one of more conservative Democrats in the House, is being challenged by Jessica Cisneros, an immigration attorney from Laredo who has gotten endorsements from a who’s who of the party’s left flank, including presidential candidates Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren and U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez from New York.

Culler is also one of seven Democratic House incumbents who are being targeted for defeat by Justice Democrats, a group affiliated with Ocasio-Cortez.

Cisneros has hit Cuellar for being too willing to support Trump, opposing federal funding for abortion, and being too cozy with the National Rifle Association. But Cuellar has countered by stressing his constituent service over more than a decade in Congress and arguing that voters in his majority Latino 28th District, which stretches from San Antonio to Laredo and down through the Rio Grade Valley, don’t share Cisneros’s more liberal policy positions.

Sessions, who lost his metro Dallas seat in 2018, is trying to make a comeback in the Waco-centered 17th District, where he grew up but hasn’t lived in decades. The man who now holds the seat, U.S. Rep Bill Flores, has pointedly endorsed one of Sessions’s 10 Republican rivals, Renee Swann, saying “our next congressperson needs to be one of us.”

However, of all of the candidates in the race, Sessions has the highest political profile, which could be enough for him to get into what is likely to be a runoff for the nomination.

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8 Southerners named to panel to hash out deal on border security

Conference committee will have until February 15 to reach agreement to avoid another shutdown

♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor

WASHINGTON (CFP) — Congressional leaders have named eight Southerners to a 17-member conference committee that will try to come up with a border security compromise to avoid another government shutdown on February 15.

Six Republicans and two Democrats from the South were named to the joint House-Senate panel, which was set up to hash out an agreement after legislation to reopen the government passed on January 26.

U.S. Senator Richard Shelby

The list of Senate conferees includes Richard Shelby of Alabama and Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, both Republicans. None of the four Southern Democrats who serve in the Senate were selected.

On the House side, all four of the GOP conferees are from the South — Kay Granger of Texas, Chuck Fleischmann of Tennessee, Tom Graves of Georgia, and Steve Palazzo of Mississippi.

Two Southern Democrats are among the six Democrats picked for the panel by House Speaker Nancy PelosiDavid Price of North Carolina and Henry Cuellar of Texas.

The conference committee has seven members from the Senate (four Republicans and three Democrats) and 10 members from the House (six Democrats and four Republicans.)

All of the Southern members on the conference committee serve on either the House or Senate appropriations committee, which controls federal spending.

Shelby is chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, and Granger is the ranking Republican on the House Appropriations Committee, which is controlled by Democrats.

President Donald Trump and congressional leaders agreed to reopen the government until February 15 in order to come up with a compromise on funding for border security.

Trump has asked for $5.7 billion to build a physical barrier along the U.S.-Mexico border, an idea which Democratic leaders oppose.

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