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Analysis And Endorsements: Will Democrats Flip The Texas House In 2022? (Part 4)

Analysis And Endorsements: Will Democrats Flip The Texas House In 2022? (Part 4)

Part Four: Austin and Some of Central Texas.

If you’ve been following along with the previous parts of this series, first, we’re going over each House race that has both Democrats and Republicans running for the seats. Then, the seats which have only Democrats or only Republicans duking it out, we’ll go over in a later part of the series.

At the bottom of the page, you’ll see the total balance of power by district and on a graph.

For each race, we’re looking at the candidates, their experience, their online presence, how active their campaign has been, their positions, the demographic breakdown of the district, and the district’s previous elections to predict who might win the primary and the general election. We’re also considering the “Beto effect.” Let’s dig in.

Travis County – HD46, HD47, HD49, HD50, and HD51.

HD46.

This seat is likely Democrat, as the incumbent Sheryl Cole (D) has been in this district for a while and maintained a high approval rate. She ran unopposed in 2020 but did have a Republican challenger in 2018, who she beat by 68 points.

Despite Cole being a shoo-in for re-election, she has a Republican challenger, Sam Strasser, who isn’t running a serious campaign from what we can tell. We’re not even sure he’s a real person based on our research. Regardless, we predict Cole will win in November.

HD47.

For a while, back in 2020, I followed the Harris County Republicans because they were all characters who amused me, and I don’t mean that in a good way. They were hot messes. I haven’t followed the Travis County Republicans, but I wonder if they have similar wackos to the ones in Harris County. It doesn’t matter because HD47 is a probably Democrat seat. I predict incumbent Vikki Goodwin (D) will win re-election in November.

Her Republican challenger, Rob McCarthy, calls himself a “successful businessman” and is running on a platform of saving Travis County from liberal overreach. Like most Republicans, he promises to lower taxes, even though Republican polices raise taxes.

Republicans have been vying for this seat for years, last election cycle only losing by 1 point. However, with the boost this district will get this year from the Beto effect, Republicans will lose again.

HD49.

HD49 is Gina Hinojosa’s (D) district. Hinojosa is a progressive who is passionate about the environment and wants to bring more clean energy jobs to Texas. In addition, she has a proven track record of fighting for public education, healthcare, and voting rights, which is why Living Blue in Texas is endorsingGina Hinojosa for HD49.

This is a likely Democrat seat, as Hinojosa beat the Republican challenger in 2020 by 61 points and 66 points in 2018. I predict Hinojosa will win re-election, but she does have a Republican challenger. Katherine Griffin (R) doesn’t appear to have a website, a social media presence, or has been pictured in any local Republican clubs. Like many Travis County Republicans, we’re not sure she’s a real person.

HD50.

HD50 was Celia Israel’s (D) district however, she’s running for the mayor of Austin, leaving two Democrats and one Republican to duke it out. In 2020, Israel won this seat against a Republican by 37 points. This is a likely Democrat seat. Running to replace her is James Talarico (D) and David Alcorta (D).

Talarico is running for HD50 after Republicans drew him out of HD52 during redistricting. They did that because Talarico was an effective progressive in the 87th Legislature. He stood strong for education and women’s rights, and even starred in his own viral moment when he nearly got Steve Toth (R) to admit to being a white supremacist on the House floor. However, when Democrats broke quorum, Talarico was one of the first Democrats to return, forcing other Democrats to come home to put up a fight. Naturally, this infuriated the progressive base.

Talarico later wrote an op-ed in the Texas Signal, explaining his decision and why he returned early. It will be interesting to see the turnout in the Democratic primary in HD50. Talarico’s Democratic opponent, David Alcorta (D), appears to be a decent candidate with a strong progressive platform. However, Talarico jumped out of the gate with dozens of endorsements, connections, and friends he’s made while in the Texas House, and has been pulling in big campaign dollars.

I predict that Talarico will win the primary and the general election in November. However, a lower than average turnout in this district could be an indicator that there are still a lot of would-be voters who do not forgive him for the early return on the quorum break.

Talarico needs to redeem himself in the 88th Legislature.

Anything less than Talarico shouting every single day, “I love Black people,” the same way Jerry McGuire did, won’t be enough.

He hurt Texas Democrats a lot by returning home early from the quorum, regardless of his reasons. He needs to be a warrior for progressive causes in the 88th, to re-win the hearts of many progressive Texans. We have no doubt he can do it, but he will have an uphill battle trying to become Texas’ progressive darling once again.

The Republican challenger in HD50, Victor Johnson, is a proud conservative who calls Democratic policies, like access to healthcare, dangerous. This is a blue district and he really doesn’t have a snowballs’ chance in hell.

HD51.

Incumbent Eddie Rodriguez (D) is running for the 35th Congressional District, leaving his House seat open. There are seven Democrats and one Republican running to replace him. This is a likely Democrat seat, and like the rest of the House seats in Travis County, it’s a real long shot for Republicans. The Republican running for HD51, Robert Reynolds, doesn’t appear to have a website but does have a Facebook page with more selfies than most men his age have taken in the last ten years. He won’t win in November.

The Democrats running for this seat are Cody Arn, Beno Cadenas, Mike Hendrix, Lulu Flores, Clair Campos-O’Neil, Matt Worthington, and Cynthia Valdez-Mata.

I can’t reasonably predict who might win this Democrat primary because these candidates are all great. Arn is a young progressive, Cadenas has been busting his butt in the district for community involvement, Hendrix is an advocate and voice for the LGBTQ community, Flores is a longtime champion of equality and social justice, Campos-O’Neil is a mom who’s serious about education, Worthington is a former special education teacher who has been bringing in some big endorsements, and Valdez-Mata is the former chair of Austin Tejano Democrats and has a long record of community activism.

Like I said, all great candidates. This race will go to a run off, because there are so many fantastic candidates, I predict none of them will get over 50% of the vote in the primary.

It will be an interesting race to watch.

Central Texas – Part 1 – HD17, HD20, HD44, HD45, HD52, HD54, HD73, HD85, and HD136.

HD17.

Incumbent John Cyrier (R) abruptly retired at the end of this last legislative session, leaving his seat open. This race is going to be probably Republican. Republicans had such a big advantage in this district they drew it a little bluer in redistricting, but not much. There are five Republicans and one Democrat running for this seat.

The five Republicans are Tom Glass, Jen Bezner, Paul Pape, Stan Gerdes, and Trey Rutledge.

Glass is a South Texas Republican activist who has been active within the various county parties. Although he used to think he was from the Houston area, it’s possible he doesn’t live in this district or hasn’t lived in this district long. Glass received an award from the Texas Scorecard, the slimiest of groups, for being a Conservative leader.

Bezner has made her profile picture on all of her social media pages a 20-year old headshot that looks nothing like she looks today. Which only highlights the Republican’s rejection of feminism and self-love. Other than that, her social media feeds are littered with bigotry and hate, and her ideology is far-right.

Now, Pape, let me tell you about Pape.

He was the County Judge of Bastrop County and voted to remove the Confederate statue on their courthouse lawn. He made a big speech about it when he spoke about how he researched when the statue was placed and discovered that the United Daughters of the Confederacy were liars and white supremacists. He did it because it was the right thing to do, and it was the truth. Republicans like Pape don’t exist anymore. While I don’t agree with many of his positions, I do not doubt that he would stand for truth. Unfortunately, the modern-day Republican voter won’t see it that way.

Gerdes has been licking Trump’s boots so long his mouth is orange. I watched a couple of his speeches. He has the personality of drying paint, repeats lies about so-called Critical Race Theory and the border, and by judging the modern-day Republican voters, I predict he’ll at least make the runoff of this race.

Rutledge is a 26-year old who dresses the same as 80-year old Pape. It’s funny, considering they’re running for the same seat. If you look through both of their Facebook feeds, it’s almost like they coordinate their outfits for their campaign stops. Young Republicans always give me the heebie-geebies. Like, how does someone so young have so much hate in their heart? Regardless, considering the amount of GOP heavy hitters in this race, he doesn’t have much chance.

The lone Democrat running for this seat is Madeline Eden. Eden ran against Cyrier in 2020 and lost by 27 points. Even with the redistricting and a 10 point boost from the Beto effect, it’s unlikely that this seat will flip.

HD20.

Incumbent Terry Wilson (R) is similar to furniture in the Texas House. He’s been around for several years and doesn’t get a lot of thought. However, Wilson was challenged by a Democrat in 2020 and won by almost 40 points. He also beat a Democrat in 2018 by nearly 50 points. This is a likely Republican seat and Wilson will likely win re-election in November.

The Democratic challenger, Raul Camacho, is someone we interviewed before redistricting last year. We like Camacho a lot, and he has some good positions and is passionate about wanting to help his community. But unfortunately, this gerrymandered district was drawn so red that Democrats have a huge uphill battle to climb if they’re going to win.

HD44.

Although HD44 is several counties away from HD20, I would say the race has some of the same dynamics. Incumbent John Kuempel (R) is a piece of furniture with few legitimate accomplishments, but the district is drawn red enough that Democrats don’t have a fair shot. That’s why this seat is likely Republican.

The Democrat challenger in HD44 is Robert Bohmfalk, a former minister, active locally in Democratic politics. He has until November to have a phenomenal race. We haven’t met him yet but will interview him for our Meet the Candidate series soon.

HD45.

Incumbent Erin Zwiener (D) is one of the good ones. While in the Texas House, she fought for the rights of all Texans. This seat is probably Democrat, as Zwiener has been challenged by Republicans for the last two election cycles, both times only losing by a few points. However, with the boost this district will get from the Beto effect, I expect it will remain blue.

There are two Democrats Zwiener will face in the primary, Jessica “Sirena” Mejía and Angela “Tía Angie” Villescaz. Because Zwiener has been such a positive force in the Texas House, it’s unclear why these two challengers think they can do a better job, as neither appears to have a website. We like Zwiener, and her voting record speaks for itself, which is why Living Blue in Texas is endorsingErin Zwiener for HD45.

The Republican challenger in this district is Michelle Lopez, who I couldn’t find a website or social media pages for, either. She doesn’t have a good shot as it appears she is running an invisible campaign.

HD52.

This was James Talarico’s (D) old district, which Republicans drew him out of, there is one Democrat and four Republicans vying to be the new HD52 Rep. It’s a travesty that Republicans did this because Williamson County is a blue county, which Beto will win in November, but because of their gerrymandered efforts, most Williamson County will be stuck with Republicans they don’t want. This seat is now probably Republican. The Republicans are Nelson Jarrin, Caroline Harris, Patrick McGuinness, and Jonathan Schober.

Jarrin is the past Legislative Director and General Counsel for State Senator Charles Schwertner, Harris is a religious fanatic who looks like the girl next door, McGuinness is a wealthy businessman who’s ran for political office multiple times before, and Schober is an extremist who has been palling around with some of the worst groups, like True Texas.

All four Republicans running in this race are Qnuts who will likely fight to take away women’s rights, people of color, and the LGBTQ community if elected.

The Democrat running in HD52 is Luis Echegaray, a veteran and an educator. Echegaray has until November to have a rock star campaign, if he does, and Republican voters are willing to reject Trumpism by November, he might have a fair shot. We will be reaching out to him to interview for our Meet the Candidate series soon.

HD73.

By far, the best thing about the HD73 race is that insurrectionist and traitor Kyle Biedermann (R) isn’t running again. The second best thing about this race is the Democrat running is Justin Calhoun. Last year, we met Calhoun for our Meet the Candidate series and believed him a stellar candidate for the Texas House. He’s a veteran from rural Texas with progressive values who wants to work hard for his community. This is why Living Blue in Texas is endorsingJustin Calhoun for HD73.

While this seat is still probably Republican, we think with the rapidly changing demographics of this area, how the residents are fed up with extremists like the Trump Train, and a hard-fought campaign, Calhoun may be able to pull off a miracle and flip this seat. It will be an exciting race to watch.

The Republicans running for this seat are Barron Casteel, George Green, and Carrie Isaac.

Casteel was the mayor of New Braunfels while the Trump Train terrorized his community and did nothing about it; that’s going to work against him. Green is a Black Republican undoubtedly he’ll work hard for racist Conservative values. And Isaac is the Conservative darling who will likely win the primary. Considering Isaac has an LGBTQ kid, it’ll be interesting to see the rhetoric she uses as her campaign progresses.

However, like most Republican women, she’s a parrot of talking points, and when she and Calhoun finally debate, he will tear her apart. It’ll be fun to watch this race.

HD136.

HD136 is in Williamson County, even though I accidentally cut it out of the picture above. This is a likely Democrat seat held by incumbent John Bucy (D). We love John Bucy. He isn’t afraid to stand up to the extremists in the House and carries himself with integrity and principle. That is why Living Blue in Texas is endorsingJohn Bucy for HD136.

This is a likely Democrat seat, and I predict it will remain blue in November.

His Republican challengers are Michelle Evans and Amin Salahuddin. Evans is a fitness coach from Central Texas who recently made national news saying local school children who identified as furries were forced to eat off the cafeteria floor. Salahuddin is a Texas Muslim who has a history of voting for Democrats and donating to Democratic campaigns. I know you’re thinking, “I have so many questions.” As do I.

Looking at Salahuddin’s website, there aren’t any family photos with AR15s, bald eagles, or rhetoric about the border and Critical Race Theory. It’s kind of weird. Perhaps he considered himself a moderate Democrat and now considers himself a moderate Republican. But he hasn’t been paying to Texas politics very long because if he had, he would remember the Republican war against Muslims in 2014/2015 and never have switched his party. But, after all, they are the party of stupid. Regardless, neither Republican running for this district has a shot against Bucy, who will sweep the floor with either of them.

Will Democrats win the Texas House?

There are still 15 more contested races that I will analyze and predict in the coming days. Early voting starts in 4 days, I aim to have it done by then.

If you’re following along with my predicted balance of the House in the 88th Legislature, here is where we are: 41 safe (R) seats, 26 safe (D) seats.

My predictions in Part 1: Likely Republican: 06, 09, 97, 98. Probably Republican: 13. Tossup Race: 108, 112. Probably Democrat: 93, 105. Likely Democrat: 92, 95, 102, 111, 114, 115.

My predictions for the Harris County House races were: Likely Republican: 129. Probably Republican: 133, 149. Tossup Race: 128, 132, 138. Likely Democrat: 131, 134, 135, 142, 145, 147, 148, 149.

In Part 2, with Collin and Denton County, here were my predictions: Probably Republican: 33, 61, 66, 67, 63, 65. Likely Democrat: 70.

In Part 3, with San Antonio and South Texas: Probably Republican: 121, 122. Tossup Race: 31. Probably Democrat: 118. Likely Democrat: 34, 35, 37, 39, 41, 42, 117, 120, 123, 124, 125.

Now, for Travis County and Some of Central Texas: Likely Republican: 20, 44. Probably Republican: 17, 52, 73. Probably Democrat: 45, 47. Likely Democrat: 46, 49, 50, 51, 136.

Here’s a visual representation:

Part 5 of this series will feature the rest of the Central Texas races; check back soon.

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