5 Things That Went Down In the March 1st Texas Primary
1. Incumbent Greg Abbott (R) dispatched his challengers in the Republican Texas Governor Primary
Greg Abbott (Inc): 66.5%
Allen West: 12.3%
Don Huffines: 11.9%
Texas Governor Greg Abbott faced two serious challengers supported by right-wing Republicans, but cruised to the Republican nomination, easily avoiding a runoff. Abbott won all of Texas’ 254 counties and nearly two-thirds of the vote. Although Abbott did receive an endorsement from Donald Trump, some in Trump’s inner circle reportedly pressured the president to withdraw his endorsement as Abbott was not conservative enough. This result was a strong rebuff to online conservatives, who at least hoped that the primary would be semi-competitive. In the current right-leaning political environment, Abbott will be a heavy favorite to win reelection this November.
2. Embattled Representative Henry Cuellar (D) lived to fight another day and will face progressive challenger Jessica Cisneros in a May 24th runoff in TX-28
Henry Cuellar (Inc): 48.5%
Jessica Cisneros: 46.8%
A minor spoiler candidate, Tanya Benavides, has forced the Democratic primary in TX-28 to be decided in a runoff on May 24th. Cuellar dominated the Rio Grande Valley, while Cisneros ran up the margins in Bexar County (San Antonio). Democratic voters turned out in South Texas at over twice the rate of the turnout in Bexar, partially because Cuellar likely received many crossover votes from Clinton/Trump voters in 2016/2020. Since TX-28 will be the most competitive district in Texas in 2022, Democrats have also focused on which candidate is more electable in the general election. While Cuellar has proved to be an electoral juggernaut and Cisneros is much farther left than the district, FBI investigations against Cuellar have made some national Democrats consider whether he is really the best option to win the general election. Biden won the new TX-28 by 7 points in 2020, meaning the district is about 3 points left of the nation and is trending hard to the right. The district is over 70% Hispanic and voted for Hillary Clinton by 19 points in 2016. Cisneros challenged Cuellar in 2020 but came up barely short, losing by just 3 points. She will hope that her third shot at Cuellar is the charm, as the FBI’s Azerbaijan investigation of Cuellar now has 12 more weeks to unfold.
3. Indicted Attorney General Ken Paxton (R) was forced into a runoff by George P Bush
Ken Paxton (Inc): 42.7%
George P Bush: 22.8%
Eva Guzman: 17.5%
Louie Gohmert: 17.0%
With criminal investigations against Paxton in the background, the incumbent Attorney General still managed to win a strong plurality of the vote over his three primary challengers. Paxton is dealing with multiple issues regarding alleged wrongdoing—securities fraud violations and using the Office of the Attorney General to benefit a political donor. Paxton challengers all said that Paxton is unfit to serve in office because of active charges and investigations related to criminal misconduct. However, Paxton still earned President Trump’s endorsement, which likely helped carry him to a strong first-round showing. George P Bush, son of Governor and Presidential hopeful Jeb Bush, qualified for the May 24th runoff against Bush behind his strength with Hispanic voters in Southern Texas. He ended up defeating Texas Supreme Court Justice Eva Guzman and TX-01 Representative Louie Gohmert by comfortable margins, but still only has an outside chance to defeat Paxton in May. He will need to aggressively court Guzman and Gohmert’s supporters, hoping that the voters of Texas agree that Paxton's alleged crimes disqualify him from maintaining the office of the Attorney General.
4. Establishment backed Morgan Luttrell (R) dominated multiple farther right challengers who were backed by Senate Ted Cruz and members of the Freedom Caucus in the open TX-08 primary
Current Results (92% Reporting):
Morgan Luttrell: 52.6%
Christian Collins: 22.0%
Jonathan Hullihan: 12.7%
While many experts certainly expected Morgan Luttrell to eventually become the nominee in his exurban Houston district, most thought it would take a runoff for Luttrell to dispatch the other challengers. Luttrell, a former Navy SEAL, held endorsements from important Republicans in the new establishment of the party, including Kevin McCarthy and Dan Crenshaw. Collins, a former aide to Senator Ted Cruz, ran to Luttrell’s right and was endorsed by popular farther right national politicians such as Cruz, Wendy Rogers, and Marjorie Taylor Green. Collins attacked Luttrell for embracing an endorsement from Congressman Adam Kinzinger (R-IL), calling Kinzinger a traitor to America. Luttrell pushed back on Collins’ accusation that Kinzinger was a traitor to America, noting that he only betrayed Trump. Exurban Houston is one of America’s last bastions of white and educated conservatism, and the district showed national Republicans that they greatly preferred a more moderate brand of Trumpism over more radical candidates.
5. Republican Congressman Van Taylor (who voted to certify the 2020 Presidential Election) was forced into a runoff by Keith Self in TX-03—then Taylor suspended his campaign after allegations of a bizarre sex scandal
Current Results (92% Reporting):
Van Taylor (Inc): 48.7%
Keith Self: 26.5%
Suzanne Harp: 20.8%
Of the five Texas House Republicans who either voted to certify the 2020 Presidential Election or to establish a January 6th commission, four cruised to easy primary victories (Dan Crenshaw in TX-02, Michael McCaul in TX-10, Chip Roy in TX-21, and Tony Gonzales in TX-23). Van Taylor, however, faced multiple serious and well-funded challengers from the right and was not able to clear 50% of the vote. Taylor is a moderate Republican who is a member of the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus. Although candidates who win 48.7% of the first-round vote rarely lose a runoff, a bizarre sex scandal that broke in the final hours of election day caused Taylor to end his campaign. Many pundits immediately deemed the scandal false, but Harp sent out a presser claiming that Taylor paid a woman $5,000 to keep quiet about an affair. Taylor also sent numerous sexually graphic messages to the woman, which were subsequently released online. Surprisingly to some, Taylor admitted the allegations were true a day after the primary election and announced he was suspending his campaign. Self will win the Republican nomination and is a lock to win the general election this November. Since Taylor was the only Republican who voted for certification of the 2020 Election who struggled in his primary, it is fair to assume there are other reasons that he performed so poorly (some have accused Taylor of “lazy” campaigning throughout the primary season).