Gov. Greg Abbott

(AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

School Shooting Not Likely To Decide Texas Runoff Races

May 22, 2018 - 2:55 pm

AUSTIN (AP) — A key Texas runoff for a U.S. House seat will test whether the national Democratic Party’s establishment can overcome an insurgent wing more openly hostile to President Donald Trump.

Others will set up November contests where Democrats hope to flip three Republican-held congressional districts, a once unthinkable total in such a conservative state. And the party will choose its nominee for governor, even if Republican Gov. Greg Abbott looks unbeatable.

But one issue not expected to resonate is gun control, even though balloting comes four days after a shooting killed 10 people at Santa Fe High School near Houston.

Abbott has begun convening roundtable discussions with policymakers to discuss better fortifying schools but hasn’t mentioned gun control. Democrats say Texas conservatives don’t dare cross the National Rifle Association by considering tighter firearm limits. Their party’s candidates generally agree on gun control, though, so there isn’t much debate during the runoff races.

Mark Jones, a political science professor at Houston’s Rice University, that many of the runoff’s early votes were cast before the school shooting.

The only statewide runoff features little-known Democratic gubernatorial candidates: Ex-Dallas County sheriff Lupe Valdez against Houston businessman Andrew White. Neither is expected to seriously challenge well-funded Abbott.

Nonetheless, 58-year-old legal secretary Renita Boykin said while voting Tuesday that she was unapologetically liberal.

“I want us to be inclusive because I do think that we’re all Americans but not to the point in the primary where you are catering to the middle, to independent voters, moderate Republicans,” Boykin said.

Jones said some Democrats may be “driven to turn out by anger and frustration” post-Santa Fe and back more-leftist candidates. That could impact a much-watched race pitting Lizzie Pannill Fletcher against fellow Democrat Laura Moser for the chance to face Republican Rep. John Culberson of Houston in November’s general election.

Fletcher, a former Planned Parenthood board member, beat Moser during Texas’ March 6 primary. But Moser still forced a runoff despite the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee criticizing her for writing jokingly in 2014 that she’d rather have teeth pulled than live in small-town Texas.

Moser founded a Trump administration resistance organization. National Democrats worry she’s unelectable against Culberson — who otherwise might be vulnerable since his district narrowly voted for Hillary Clinton over Trump in 2016. That means Tuesday’s result will be seen nationally as whether mainstream Democrats tame the more activist bloc.

Two other Texas districts Democrats hope to flip are Dallas U.S. Rep. Pete Sessions’, which supported Clinton instead of Trump, as did Rep. Will Hurd’s, encompassing 800 miles of Texas-Mexico border from San Antonio to El Paso. Former NFL linebacker Colin Allred is expected to advance Tuesday to face Sessions and Air Force veteran Gina Ortiz Jones is favored to win the right to face Hurd.