Around the Texas Capitol: Primary elections to determine many legislative seats

Around the Texas Capitol: Primary elections to determine many legislative seats

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Note: Content below was posted and current as of Feb. 15, 2024

Around the Texas Capitol:
Primary elections to determine many legislative seats

By Lauren Fairbanks and J Pete Laney
TAD Governmental Affairs

Election Day is right around the corner, with early voting running Feb. 20 through March 1 ahead of the March 5 primary election.

With 18 retirements announced by Texas legislators (two Senate, 16 House), several very crowded races that will likely go to a runoff, while incumbents up and down the ballot are working hard to get reelected. Most representation in Texas’ legislative districts will be determined in the primary election, which has made recent months very busy in Austin and around the state.

Below are several races that will be significant to the state and the Texas dairy industry, in addition to the ones highlighted in the January newsletter.

Texas House District 2

In a Jan. 30 special election runoff, voters in Hopkins, Hunt and Van Zandt counties elected Jill Dutton (R) to serve for the remainder of the term in the vacated HD 2 seat. She was sworn into office on Feb. 14. Dutton defeated Brent Money (R) in this special election runoff by 107 votes. Both candidates are back on the ballot in the March primary election to fill the seat for a full two-year term, so the two haven’t missed a beat on the campaign trail. Dutton was raised in East Dallas and earned a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Texas at Tyler. She has 22 years of entrepreneurial business experience at the family’s commercial construction consulting firm in Dallas as director of administration. She is married to David Dutton, and they have three adult children and three grandchildren.

The winner of the Dutton/Money match will compete in November against Kristen Washington, who is unopposed in the HD 2 Democratic primary.

Texas House District 87

Rep. Four Price (R-Amarillo) announced he would not seek reelection this cycle to the seat he has held since 2011. Candidates on the ballot hoping to fill his spot include:

  • Jesse Quackenbush (R), practicing attorney specializing in civil trial law as well as constitutional law focused on criminal defense. Notably, he raises chickens and goats and hopes to someday operate a small dairy farm and cheese plant.
  • Cindi Bulla (R), Realtor in Amarillo.
  • Caroline Fairly (R) works for an Amarillo-based healthcare solutions company.
  • Richard Beyea (R), owner of an oil and gas exploration company and chairman of the Panhandle Producers and Royalty Owners Association.

The winner will go up against Timothy W. Gassaway, the sole candidate in the HD 87 Democratic primary, in the November general election.

Texas Senate District 15

Former Sen. John Whitmire (D-Houston) won his election to become the mayor of Houston and vacated his Senate seat, triggering a special election on May 4 to serve the remainder of his term. Candidates for the special election must file by March 4. In addition to the special election, candidates are already running for election in the now-open seat for a full term. A crowded primary race could result in a runoff. These candidates could see as many as four elections in the coming months: the March 5 primary, the May 4 special election, the May 24 primary runoff, and a yet undetermined special election runoff after the May 4 results are in. Candidates on the ballot for the March 5 primary to serve a full term in the SD 15 seat include:

  • Jarvis Johnson (D), state representative and small business owner. He was elected to the Texas House in 2016.
  • Molly Cook (D), emergency room nurse and a community organizer. She was on the ballot for SD 15 in the last election cycle.
  • Karthik Soora (D), chemistry teacher and renewable energy developer.
  • Todd Litton (D), attorney-mediator with his own mediation practice.
  • Michelle Anderson Bonton (D), executive director for Houston’s Anderson Center for the Arts.
  • Alberto “Beto” Cardenas Jr. (D), practicing attorney focused on renewable energy, grid enhancement and battery energy storage systems.

In the November general election, the Democratic primary winner will face Joseph L. Trahan, who does not have an opponent in the SD 15 Republican primary.

Abbott appoints new TCEQ commissioner

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott on Feb. 8 appointed Catarina Gonzales as commissioner for the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ). Gonzales joins Chairman Jon Niermann and Commissioner Bobby Janecka as the appointed leaders of the TCEQ. Gonzales most recently was a budget and policy advisor for the Office of the Governor, a position she had held since 2018. She was formerly in private practice at law firms in Austin and Houston. She is a member of the State Bar of Texas and on the executive committee of its Environmental and Natural Resources Law Section and the General Land Office Pooling Committee. Gonzales earned a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from Trinity College, a law degree from St. John’s University School of Law, and a Master of Laws in Energy and Environmental Law from the University of Houston School of Law.

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