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Democratic candidates seek to succeed Eddie Bernice Johnson in Texas's 30th Congressional District

Old Lady Gang.jpg
Stella M. Chávez
/
KERA News
Desoto resident Mary Morris-Boneparte, 59, has lived in Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson's district for 32 years. She's part of a group that calls itself the Old Lady Gang. She says she and the other women educate voters and hold politicians accountable by regularly attending city council and school board meetings.

The Democratic runoff for Congressional District 30 is one of the most closely watched races this election cycle. The candidates are seeking to fill a seat held for three decades by veteran Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson.

It’s afternoon during early voting and supporters of the two Democratic candidates vying for Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson’s seat are busy catching voters before they walk inside a Desoto polling precinct.

One of them, Mary Morris-Boneparte, is with a group dubbed the Old Lady Gang, a name she said came about after attending city and school board meetings promising to hold elected officials accountable.

Morris-Boneparte, 59, has lived in the district 32 years and is a longtime supporter of Johnson. But she says she’s not voting for Johnson’s preferred candidate – state Representative Jasmine Crockett. Instead, she’s voting for Jane Hope Hamilton, a former top aide to Congressman Marc Veasy.

“She has worked in this community and she has for over 20 plus years,” Morris-Boneparte said.

Hamilton supporter.jpg
Stella M. Chávez
/
KERA News
A supporter of Congressional District 30 candidate Jane Hope Hamilton stands outside a polling place in Desoto, Texas on May 19, 2022.

The runoff for Congressional District 30 is one of the most closely-watched races this election cycle. Whoever is elected will take over from veteran Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson, who announced her retirement last November.

The Democratic runoff race pits Crockett, Johnson’s choice, against the candidate backed by longtime Democrat Party titans, including Congressman Royce West, Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price and former Dallas Mayor Ron Kirk.

Morris-Bonaparte’s friend, 73-year-old Anna Williams, said the district has many needs. It’s a geographically large district that includes much of Southern Dallas County.

“We have a food dessert. Our schools are crumbling … We need improvement. We need infrastructure on the street,” Williams said. “We need to have someone that’s gonna be loyal, that when she comes home, she comes home to tell a town hall meeting, 'This is what’s going on.' ”

Williams said she believes Hamilton – not Crockett – will bring a new vision to the district.

In the same parking lot outside Disciple Central Community Church, Crockett’s supporters argue she’s the right one to succeed Johnson. Area resident Al Green said he believes Johnson’s backing will go a long way with voters.

Crockett supporter.jpg
Stella M. Chávez
/
KERA News
A supporter of state Rep. Jasmine Crockett, who's running for Congressional District 30, listens to Mary Morris-Bonerparte talk to a voter about the candidates outside a Desoto polling place on May 19, 2022.

“With all those contacts and all that seniority that she has, [Johnson] could easily help usher a Jasmine Crockett through where she’s able to not only making the right decisions for Congressional 30 but the United States, because that’s what this is about,” Green said.

Political observers say whoever ends up winning at the ballot box will lead a district that has undergone a lot of change. The once predominately Black district now includes more Latinos.

“When you look at just the population, they’re actually equal,” said Valerie Martinez-Ebers, a political science professor and Director of Latino and Mexican American Studies at the University of North Texas in Denton. “They’re both about 42% . Now when you look at eligible voters, then of course, African Americans have the edge.”

Martinez-Ebers said Latino voters are still a critical mass and will most likely vote for Crockett because of Johnson’s endorsement.

“Like other voters, many other voters, except for Evangelical Christians, they vote their pocket book, they don’t vote their religion,” Martinez-Ebers said. “So obviously Eddie Bernice has been very good in her district. She served long enough that she brought home the bacon for a lot of projects.”

Martinez-Ebers said Johnson has a good rapport with Latinos in the community, which is something her successor will need to have as well.

For longtime political observer Ed Gray, the emphasis on which candidate has received which endorsements has overshadowed other topics.

“With gasoline being what is it today, $4.35, and some people project it to be $6.00, how’s that going to affect people in U.S. Congressional District 30? It’s not being addressed,” Gray said. “Inflation. It’s not being addressed. The search for endorsements seems to be what’s being addressed.”

Gray said he hopes candidates in future elections get beyond talking about endorsements and focus more on the issues that matter to voters.

Political analysts have described the 30th District as "Solid Democratic" or "Safe Democratic."

In the Republican runoff, retiree James Frank Harris opposes James Rodgers, a recruiter for a private school network.

Got a tip? Email Stella M. Chávez at schavez@kera.org. You can follow Stella on Twitter @stellamchavez.

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