Texans head back to the polls for today’s runoff election
The May 24 runoff features several high-profile contests for statewide offices, including Republican and Democratic runoffs for attorney general and the state’s land commissioner.
The overtime session for the 2022 Texas primary election is almost over as voters head to the polls again Tuesday to finalize the ballots for November’s midterm contests.
Tuesday’s election features a handful of statewide and Congressional contests as well as several races for local government seats. The runoff contests are between the top two vote getters in their respective primaries who didn’t earn enough votes in March – at least 50 % plus one – to advance to the general election outright.
Texas Attorney General
Republican incumbent Ken Paxton heads into his contest against Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush with the endorsement of former President Donald Trump, who labeled Paxton “the most effective attorney general” Houston Public Media reported. Paxton leads Bush by about six percentage points, according to recent polling.
Bush has made his campaign, in large part, about Paxton’s current legal troubles. The incumbent has served nearly his entire tenure under the cloud of an indictment on charges of securities fraud handed down in 2015. Paxton was also later accused by former employees of misusing his office to help a donor.
Paxton declined nearly a dozen invitations to a debate, according to an interview Bush posted on his campaign site.
“It’s really a shame that he has no record of accomplishment to campaign on. As a former attorney myself, I can tell you I bet his white-collar defense attorney is advising him not to engage the media, or the public, because anything he puts out there can be used in a court of law,” Bush told KXXV.
Paxton and Bush respectively earned about 43% and 23% of the votes during the March 1 primary election.
The winner of the Republican runoff will face either Rochelle Garza of Joe Jaworski, who face off on the Democratic side. Garza is a Brownsville native and attorney who made headlines after she successfully sued the Trump administration while representing an immigrant teenager who sought access to an abortion.
“The decision has had a lasting impact. Teens in immigration custody are now given the ‘Garza Notice,’ informing them of their right to access abortion free of obstruction and retaliation,” it states on her campaign website. She also includes health care, civil rights, legalizing cannabis and border and immigration on her list of priorities.
Jaworski is a former mayor of Galveston and a third-generation attorney whose grandfather was a special prosecutor during the Watergate scandal, according to his website. His priorities include dismantling some of the policies championed by the state’s current Republican leadership, including reestablishing local control for cities, counties, and school boards. He adds that he will support the Affordable Care Act, create a civil rights division and push for legalize cannabis for “adult-use recreational” purposes.
Garza and Jaworski respectively earned about 43% and 20% of the votes during the March 1 primary election.
Texas Land Commissioner
Four candidates are still in the running to replace Commissioner Bush. On the Republican side that includes state Sen. Dawn Buckingham (R-Lakeway) and Tim Westley, an educator and former pastor.
Buckingham also received Trump’s endorsement and made several campaign appearances with Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick where the pair blasted Biden over his handling of border and immigration issues, The Texas Newsroom reported.
“The Land Office is literally the tip of the spear to defend our border with the state lands that are on the border, our history, and oil and gas against what the liberal left is trying to do,” Buckingham told the Texas Standard earlier this year. (The Texas Newsroom reached out to Buckingham’s campaign several times but she was never made available for an interview.)
Westley told The Texas Newsroom that, while he is pro-life, the issues of abortion and border security are more for the Texas Legislature to tackle.
“I address those issues but … there's not a direct impact that the land commissioner’s office has on those,” Westley said. “Am I pro-life? Absolutely I’m pro-life. With that being said, those issues are going to be more on the legislative side. This is an executive position.”
On the Democratic side, Jay Kleberg will face off against Sandragrace Martinez. Martinez is a former parole officer and a professional counselor who has made her family history a hallmark of her campaign.
“My parents came into the states at a very young age, my dad was 17, my mom was 14,” Martinez told The Texas Newsroom. “I can’t imagine being 14 and crossing the bridge.”
Her campaign website adds that if elected, “voters will electing a Hispanic woman who understands how The System works. You will be voting for a highly educated woman who will endorse practical solutions.”
Kleberg hails from the family who owns the King Ranch in South Texas, one of the largest in the country whose founding dates back to the 19th century. He’s also the former associate director of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation and says his background in conservation makes him qualified for the position.
““[I’ve spent] 20 years in land management, natural resource conservation work. I’ve dealt with natural disaster funds that came out of Deepwater Horizon in criminal and civil settlement dollars that came into the state,” Kleberg told The Texas Newsroom. “I’ve actually managed tens of thousands of acres of land.”
In the March primary election, Martinez and Kleberg received 32% and 26% of the vote, respectively.
Texas Railroad Commissioner
The contests for a seat on the railroad commission don’t usually garner an outstanding amount of attention. But as KUT reported last week, this isn’t a typical race.
“The Republican primary contest between incumbent Wayne Christian and challenger Sarah Stogner has been characterized by twists and turns, accusations of corruption and some light nudity,” the station reported.
Despite its name, the commission has nothing to do with railroad management and is instead a three-member agency that oversees the Texas oil and gas industry.
Stogner is an oil-and-gas attorney from the Permian Basin who told KUT the Texas Railroad Commission is a “captive agency of the industry”. She said that realization came after the commission teamed up with Chevron to deny responsibility for abandoned wells on Texas land, including several on land owned by Stogner’s friend and hunting partner.
In the lead up to the primary election in March, Stogner turned head when she released a brief post on social media that showed her wearing star-shaped pasties on top of a pump jack.
“They said I needed money. I have other assets,” she posted alongside a laughing emoji.
Christian is the current chair of the Texas Railroad Commission who previously served in the Texas House for more than a dozen years. While in the lower chamber he often aligned with the more conservative wing of the party and has embraced similar philosophies during his reelection bid.
“Through this role, Christian has been a national leader on the forefront of fighting against Biden Administration efforts like the Green New Deal, CLEAN Future Act, and the Paris Climate Agreement,” his campaign website states. “Christian understands that big government increases costs for consumers and kills high paying jobs, while harming our economy and national security.”
In the March primary election, Christian received 47% of the vote to Stogner’s 15%.
Texas’ 28th Congressional District
In a race that’s made national headlines, U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar is facing a former intern and immigration attorney, Jessica Cisneros, for the Democratic nomination for the 28th Congressional district. Cuellar, D-Laredo, was recently a part of an FBI investigation into U.S. businessmen and their connections to Azerbaijan. His home and office were raided but his attorney said he is cooperating and is not the target of the FBI’s inquiry. Cuellar also has the backing of U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other veteran and establishment Democrats.
Cisneros, who nearly pushed Cuellar into a runoff two years ago, has the backing of progressive leadership that includes U.S. Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, as well as New York Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
Abortion has become a focus of the race since the leaked draft opinion from the United States Supreme Court on that issue was made public. Cuellar said afterward that he cannot support abortion as a Catholic but he believes there should be some exceptions, Texas Public Radio reported.
“I don't believe in abortion, but at the same time, I don't believe that it should be banned completely… At the same time, I don't think we should be allowing partial birth or late term abortions,” he told TPR.
Cisneros immediately jumped on Cuellar’s conservative stance to label him out of touch with his district.
“We are seeing the most direct attack on abortion care and reproductive freedom in this country and, in a district that is reliably blue like ours, we need someone that's actually going to champion the rights of constituents here in this district,” she said. “And Henry Cuellar has failed to do that.”
The contest was one of the closest during the March 1 primary, with Cuellar earning 48.6% of the vote to Cisneros’ 46.6%.
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