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Texas U.S. House Primaries: Incumbents Henry Cuellar, Van Taylor forced into runoffs

Republican U.S. Rep. Dan Crenshaw crushes opponents angry over his criticism of Donald Trump

♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor

TexasAUSTIN (CFP) – Two incumbent Texas U.S. House members, Democrat Henry Cuellar and Republican Van Taylor, have been forced into primary election runoffs after narrowly failing to gain outright majorities in Tuesday’s primary.

cuellar taylor

U.S. Reps. Henry Cuellar and Van Taylor forced into primary runoffs

In District 28 in South Texas, Cuellar has an 800-vote lead over Laredo immigration attorney Jessica Cisneros, in a rematch of their 2020 contest. They will face each other again May 24, after neither cleared 50%.

In District 3 in suburban Dallas, Taylor –- under fire from Donald Trump supporters 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 – came in 48.7% in a race against four challengers.

However, a day after the primary, Taylor withdrew from the race after admitting to an extramarital affair, which will give the nomination to the second place finisher, former Collin County Judge Keith Self.

In other U.S. House races Tuesday, Republican U.S. Rep Dan Crenshaw survived a challenge from primary opponents upset over his criticism of Trump. Crenshaw, a former Navy SEAL seen as one of the party’s rising stars since his election in 2018, took 75% to crush three opponents in District 2 in suburban Houston.

In District 8 in suburban Houston, Morgan Luttrell, a Navy veteran and former adviser in the U.S. Department of Energy who had the backing of Republican leaders in Washington, won 53% in the GOP primary to avoid a runoff.

The contest had been seen as a proxy fight over the future direction of the party between Luttrell and  Christian Collins, a political consultant and podcaster who was backed by far-right voices in the House Freedom Caucus. In the end, Luttrell beat Collins by more than 30 points.

In District 28, which stretches from the suburbs of San Antonio to the U.S.-Mexico border, Cuellar took 48.5% of the vote to 45.6% for Cisneros.

Cisneros is running with strong backing of luminaries on the Democratic left in her bid to unseat the more conservative Cuellar, who opposes gun control and is the last pro-life Democrat left in the House.

While Cisneros swept the more urban parts of the district, Cuellar rolled in rural areas and in Laredo, where he has been a political fixture for decades. He went ahead when results from Starr County were finally reported early Wednesday, where he took 70% of the vote.

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, buoyed by Trump’s strong showing among Hispanic voters in South Texas in 2020, have targeted the district as a pick-up opportunity.

The Republican race is headed to a runoff between Cassy Garcia, a former aide to Texas U.S. Senator Ted Cruz, and Sandra Whitten, who was the party’s nominee for the seat in 2020.

In Dallas, the Democratic race to replace retiring U.S. Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson in District 30 is headed to a runoff between State Rep. Jasmine Crockett, who took 48%, and Jane Hope Hamilton, a former congressional aide who served as state director for the Biden campaign in 2020, who took 17%.

The winner is likely headed to Congress from the heavily Democratic district. Johnson has endorsed Crockett as her successor.

In Austin, in the Democratic primary for the open District 35 seat, Austin City Councilman Greg Casar won the race without a runoff, making him the favorite to win in November in the heavily Democratic district.

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U.S. Supreme Court lets congressional maps stand in Texas, North Carolina

Rulings may leave current maps will be in place until after reapportionment in 2021

♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor

WASHINGTON (CFP) — Republican legislators in Texas and North Carolina have both dodged a bullet after the U.S. Supreme Court refused to invalidate congressional maps in both states that lower courts had struck down as illegally gerrymandered.

In the Texas case, the justices rejected a claim that state legislators impermissibly used race to draw electoral maps. In the North Carolina case, they vacated a lower court decision holding that the state’s map unconstitutionally diluted the voting strength of Democrats and ordered the case to be reconsidered.

The high court’s June 25 decisions mean that neither state is likely to face a court-ordered redraw in this election cycle. And while the North Carolina case could be reconsidered for the 2020 election, the ruling in the Texas case likely means that the current map will be used until after new maps are drawn in 2021, based on the results of the 2020 census.

In their decison in the Texas case, the justices ruled 5-to-4 that a lower court erred in finding back in 2017 that a congressional map and state House maps adopted in 2013 should be struck down because they were impermissibly drawn using racial considerations. The Supreme Court had put that ruling on hold while it considered the state’s appeal.

The two congressional districts involved in the lawsuit were the 27th District, which stretches along the Gulf Coast from Corpus Christi toward Houston, and the 35th District, which covers parts of Austin and San Antonio linked by a narrow strip of land.

The lower court’s objection to the 27th District was the GOP-controlled legislature reduced the Latino population from 70 percent to around 50 percent. The objection to the 35 District was that legislators used race to create a district that is more than 70 percent Latino and African American, reducing minority populations in surrounding districts.

The 27th District, currently vacant, has been held by Republicans since it was redrawn. U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett, a white Democrat from Austin, represents the 35th District.

In his majority opinion, Justice Samuel Alito said the evidence offered by the plaintiffs “is plainly insufficient to prove that the 2013 Legislature acted in bad faith and engaged in intentional discrimination.” The justices did uphold a ruling that a Texas House district in Fort Worth was an impermissible racial gerrymander.

But in her dissent, Justice Sonia Sotomayor said the court’s decision means minority voters in Texas “will continue to be underrepresented in the political process.”

“Those voters must return to the polls in 2018 and 2020 with the knowledge that their ability to exercise meaningfully their right to vote has been burdened by the manipulation of district lines specifically designed to target their communities and minimize their political will,” she wrote.

In the North Carolina case, the justices vacated a 2018 ruling by a three-judge panel that the congressional map adopted by Republican legislators in 2016 was unconstitutional because it diluted the voting strength of Democrats — the first time that a federal court had ever struck down a congressional map on the grounds of political, rather than racial, gerrymandering.

The Supreme Court had also put that ruling on hold while it considered an appeal.

The Tar Heel State’s map had been redrawn in 2016 after a previous map had been struck down for improperly using racial considerations. GOP lawmakers freely admitted that they were drawing lines to maximize the number of Republican-friendly seats, which the lower court found was evidence of unconstitutional partisan taint.

The Supreme Court sent the case back to North Carolina to be reconsidered in light of a ruling earlier this year in case involving a partisan gerrymander in Wisconsin. In that case, the high court sidestepped the question of whether drawing maps that favor one party over another can be found unconstitutional, returning the case to a lower court on narrow jurisdictional grounds.

The court’s order did not indicate how, or if, justices were split on the merits of the case.

While North Carolina is divided fairly evenly in presidential races and has a Democratic governor, Republicans hold a commanding 10-to-3 margin in the U.S. House delegation.

Texas, which leans more Republican, has 24 Republicans and 11 Democrats in its delegation, with one seat vacant.

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