Central Texas primaries: Cliffhangers, runoffs, upsets and a few glitches

Published: Mar. 2, 2020 at 7:11 PM CST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

Some races were cliffhangers, others are headed to runoffs and still others led to upsets as Central Texas residents voted in Republican and Democratic primary elections Tuesday.

Results remained to be counted in two Central Texas counties, however.

Both San Saba and Hamilton County experienced technical problems with the vote count Tuesday night.

Federal Races


Texas Republicans cast nearly 1.9 million votes for President Donald Trump Tuesday.

None of the challengers gathered more than 13,000 votes.

More than 58,000 Republicans selected “uncommitted”

The surviving Democratic presidential candidates headed to Texas in search of a trove of delegates Tuesday and Joe Biden found them, claiming wins as well in Alabama, Arkansas, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Virginia.

Bernie Sanders won the primary in delegate-rich California and also claimed primary victories in Colorado, Utah and his home state of Vermont.

Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who spent tens of millions of dollars of his own fortune on advertising and campaign efforts in Super Tuesday states, ended his bid Wednesday and endorsed Biden.

Almost 2.1 million Texans voted in the state’s Democratic presidential primary.

U.S. Senate

Incumbent Republican Sen. John Cornyn easily defeated four primary challengers Tuesday with 77% of the vote.

MJ Hegar garnered 23% of the vote in a field of 12 Democrats vying for the right to challenge him in November.

She appears headed for a runoff with Christina Ramirez, although Royce West of Dallas trailed Ramirez by only about 5,000 votes late Wednesday morning.

“I have proven I can take on and win tough fights. In order to achieve progress on health care, climate change, immigration, or gun violence, we need to defeat Senator Cornyn and get more regular people like me representing us in Washington,” Hegar said.

U.S. House District 8

In U.S. House District 8, which includes Leon County, incumbent Republican U.S. Rep. Kevin Brady was easily defeating challengers Melissa Esparza-Mathis and Kirk Osborn

Elizabeth Hernandez defeated Laura Jones to win the Democratic nomination.

U.S. House District 11

Ten Republicans filed to succeed retiring Republican U.S. Rep. Mike Conaway in U.S. House District 11, which includes Mills and San Saba counties.

August Pfluger of San Angelo, a USAF reservist and rancher had a substantial lead in the race late Tuesday night and early Wednesday claimed the nomination outright.

His closest challenger was Brandon Batch, a business developer.

John Mark Hogg was the lone Democrat to file for the seat.

U.S. House District 17

The announcement of incumbent Republican U.S. Rep. Bill Flores that he would not seek another term triggered an avalanche of Republican filings.

Flores’ district includes Falls, Freestone, Leon, Limestone, McLennan, Milam and Robertson counties.

The race is headed to a runoff on May 26 between Pete Sessions, a Waco native and former Dallas congressman and Renee Swan Waco, Brazos Eye Surgery of Texas co-owner.

Sessions received 32% of the Republican votes Tuesday, Swann 19% and George Hindman 18%, trailing Swann by fewer than 700 votes.

"People in District 17 want a conservative back in that position who wants to build the wall, is pro-life and who will work on cutting the nation’s budget deficit,” Sessions said late Tuesday night.

"It doesn't really matter who I am in a runoff with on May 26,” he said.

“The people of this district want someone who is experienced and knows how things work."

Flores publicly threw his support behind Swann in early February, saying her desire to work with President Trump and her stances on immigration and social issues deserved his endorsement.

"We've done our best to run a clean campaign and be people of integrity and truth," Swann said during a press conference before 10 p.m. Tuesday.

"I believe we will see the rewards of our labor as we move forward in labor to serve our friends and neighbors."

"This journey has been amazing on so many levels," said Swann.

"This district is such a strong district of people and that has given me hope, that has encouraged me to continue to move forward in every way that I can."

Three candidates were vying for the Democratic nomination

Richard Kennedy of Pflugerville, a project manager, finished with just less than 50% of the vote and will face David Anthony Jaramillo of Waco, a former veteran source representative in a runoff on May 26.

“We were hoping to get through tonight with 50-plus one vote,” Kennedy said.

U.S. House District 25

Republican U.S. Rep. Roger Williams of Austin, whose district includes part of Bell County as well as Bosque, Coryell, Hamilton, Hill and Lampasas counties defeated primary challenger Keith Neuendorff of West Lake Hills with 88% of the vote.

Julie Oliver, an Austin attorney defeated Heidi Sloan an Austin farmer, in the race for the Democratic nomination.

U.S. House District 31

Incumbent Republican U.S. Rep. John Carter, who survived a strong challenge in November 2018 from Democrat MJ Hegar, who’s now a U.S. Senate candidate, won the nomination for another term Tuesday with 82% of the vote in a four-way race.

“I’m honored to be the Republican nominee for Texas’ 31st Congressional District, and continue the fight for our shared values. I’m always humbled that my neighbors trust me to be their voice in Washington,” he said.

Christine Eady Mann, a Liberty Hill physician, and Donna Imam an Austin computer engineer are headed for a May 26 runoff for the Democratic nomination for the seat.

Statewide races
Railroad Commission

Incumbent Texas Railroad Commissioner Ryan Sitton lost to Republican primary challenger James “Jim Wright late Tuesday night.

Four Democrats, Roberto “Beto” Alonzo, Chrysta Castañeda, Kelly Stone and Mark Watson, were seeking the nomination as well.

Castaneda and Alonzo will face off again in a runoff on May 26.

Chief Justice, Texas Supreme Court

Two Democrats, Amy Clark Meachum and Gerald Zimmerer, were competing for the right to challenge Republican incumbent Nathan Hecht in November.

Meachum finished the night with 80% of the vote.

Texas Supreme Court Justice Pl. 6

Two Democrats, Kathy Cheng and Larry Praeger, were competing for the right to challenge Republican incumbent Jane Bland in November.

Cheng won the race with 75% of the vote.

Texas Supreme Court Justice Pl. 7

Two Democrats, Brandy Voss and Staci Williams, were competing for the right to challenge Republican incumbent Jeff Boyd in November.

Williams won with 64% of the vote.

Texas Supreme Court Justice Pl. 8

Democrats Peter Kelly and Gisela D. Triana were competing for the right to challenge Republican incumbent Brett Busby in November.

Triana finished with 72% of the vote.

Court of Criminal Appeals Judge Pl. 3

Republican Incumbent Bert Richardson survived a primary challenge from Gina Parker, finished with just less than 52% of the vote.

Three Democrats were also competing for the nomination, William Pieratt Demond, Elizabeth Davis Frizell and Dan Wood.

Frizell finished with 69% of the vote.

Court of Criminal Appeals Judge Pl. 4

Democrats Tina Clinton and Steven Miears were competing for the right to challenge Republican incumbent David Newell in November.

Clinton finished with 80% of the vote.

Party Propositions

Voters in both parties weighed in Tuesday on a series of nonbinding propositions that will inform state party platforms.

All of the propositions on both the Republican and Democratic ballots were passing by wide margins.

Republican Prop. 1

Texas should not restrict or prohibit prayer in public schools

Republican Prop. 2

Texans should reject restrictions on the right to keep and bear arms.

Republican Prop. 3

Texas should ban the practice of taxpayer-funded lobbying, which allows your tax dollars to be spent on lobbyists who work against the taxpayer

Republican Prop. 4

Texas should support the construction of a physical barrier and use existing defense-grade surveillance equipment along the entire southern border of Texas.

Republican Prop. 5

Texas parents of legal guardians of public school age children should be the sole decision makers for all their children’s healthcare decisions, including, but not limited to, psychological assessment and treatment, contraception and sex education.

Republican Prop. 6

Texas should ban chemical castration, puberty blockers, cross-sex hormones, and genital mutilation surgery on all minor children for transition purposes, given that Texas children as young as three (3) are being transitioned from their biological sex to the opposite sex.

Republican Prop. 7

Texans should protect and preserve all historical monuments, artifacts, and buildings, such as the Alamo Cenotaph and our beloved Alamo, and should oppose any reimagining of the Alamo site.

Republican Prop. 8

Texas election officials should heed the directives of the Office of the Governor to purge illegal voters from the voter rolls and verify that each new registered voter is a U.S. Citizen.

Republican Prop. 9

Bail in Texas should be based only on a person’s danger to society and risk of flight, not that person’s ability to pay.

Republican Prop. 10

Texas should limit our state legislators’ terms to 12 years.

Democratic Prop. 1

Should everyone in Texas have a right to quality healthcare, protected by a universally accessible Medicare-style system that saves rural hospitals, reduces the cost of prescription drugs, and guarantees access to reproductive healthcare?

Democratic Prop. 2

Should everyone in Texas have the right to high-quality public education from pre-k to 12th grade, and affordable college and career training without the burden of crushing student loan debt?

Democratic Prop. 3

Should everyone in Texas have the right to clean air, safe water, affordable and sustainable alternative energy sources, and a responsible climate policy that recognizes and addresses the climate crisis as a real and serious threat that impacts every aspect of life on this planet?

Democratic Prop. 4

Should everyone in Texas have the right to economic security, where all workers have earned paid family and sick leave, training to prepare for future economies, and a living wage that respects their hard work?

Democratic Prop. 5

Should everyone in Texas have the right to a life of dignity and respect, free from discrimination and harassment anywhere, including businesses and public facilities, no matter how they identify, the color of their skin, whom they love, socioeconomic status, disability status, housing status, or from where they come?

Democratic Prop. 6

Should everyone in Texas have the right to live a life free from violence—gun violence, racial hatred, terrorism, domestic violence, bullying, harassment or sexual assault—so Texans can grow in a safe environment?

Democratic Prop. 7

Should everyone in Texas have the right to affordable and accessible housing and modern utilities (electricity, water, gas, and high-speed internet) free from any form of discrimination?

Democratic Prop. 8

Should every eligible Texan have the right to vote, made easier by automatic voter registration, the option to vote-by-mail, guaranteed early and mobile voting stations, and a state election holiday — free from corporate campaign influence, foreign and domestic interference, and gerrymandering?

Democratic Prop. 9

Should everyone in Texas have the right to a fair criminal justice system that treats people equally, uses proven methods for de-escalating situations instead of excessive force, and puts an end to the mass and disproportionate incarceration of people of color for minor offenses?

Democratic Prop. 10

Should there be a just and fair comprehensive immigration reform solution that includes an earned path to citizenship for law-abiding immigrants and their children, keeps families together, protects DREAMers, and provides workforce solutions for businesses?

Democratic Prop. 11

Should Texas establish equitable taxation for people at all income levels and for businesses and corporations, large and small, so our state government can fund our educational, social, infrastructure, business, and all government services to improve programs necessary for all Texans to thrive?

Regional races

Incumbent Republican State Rep. J.D. Sheffield, a Gatesville physician, drew two primary challengers in what proved to be a bitter race, conservative activist Shelby Slawson and businessman Cody Johnson.

The district includes Comanche, Coryell, Erath, Hamilton, McCulloch, Mills, San Saba and, Somervell counties.

Slawson finished with 46% of the vote and will face Sheffield in a runoff on May 26.

Three Republicans were vying for the Dist. 5 position on the State Board of Education, Inga Cotton, Robert Morrow and Lani Popp.

Morrow and Popp will face each other in a runoff on May 26.

Two Democrats were also competing, Rebecca Bell-Metereau and Letti Bresnahan.

Bell-Metereau won with 69% of the vote.

Republican District 10 State Board of Education member Tom Maynard was unopposed, but two Democrats were hoping to challenge him in the fall, Marsha Burnett-Webster and Stephen Wyman.

Burnet-Webster finished with 85% of the vote.

Two Democrats were competing to challenge incumbent Republican 3rd Court of Appeals Chief Justice Jeff Rose, Darlene Byrne and Keith S. Hampton.

Byrne won with 73% of the vote.

County races
Bell County

Three Republicans were vying to succeed 426th State District Judge Fancy Jezek, who isn’t seek re-election.

Steve Duskie and Jeff Parker will face off again in a runoff on May 26.

Republican Sheriff Eddy Lange easily defeated challenger Fred Harris.

Three Republicans including Michael Keefe, Hal Butchart and Chet Southworth and two Democrats, Daryl Peters and Gregory Johnson, were seeking their party’s nomination in the race for Justice of the Peace Pct. 4, Pl. 1.

Keefe and Johnson will face each other in November.

Republicans AJ Torres and Michael Copeland were running for the Pct. 4 Constable position.

Copeland won with 64% of the vote.

Democrats Martha Dominguez, Calvin Brow and Louie Minor were vying for the nomination to the position, as well.

Dominguez won with 66% of the vote.

Bosque County

Three Republicans, Clint Pullin, Trace Hendricks and Larry Betik, were running for the sheriff’s job in Bosque County.

Pullin and Hendricks will face off again in a runoff on May 26.

Incumbent Republican Pct. 1 County Commissioner Marvin Wickman was defeated by challenger Billy Hall.

Coryell County

Incumbent Republican Coryell County Sheriff Scott Williams turned back a challenge from Roger Hammack Tuesday.

Six Republicans including Ryan Basham, Jaydie Dixon, Jerry Casey, Paul Hopson, Justin Veazey and Dewey Jones were running for Pct. 3 County Commissioner.

Basham and Veazey will face off again in a runoff on May 26.

Incumbent Republican Pct. 2 County Constable Shaw Camp defeated challenger from Chuck Wilson.

Jimmy R. Daniel defeated Kirby Ruiz faced in the Republican primary race for Pct. 3 County Constable.

William Abel lost to Jack Barcroft in the race for County Republican Chairman.

Falls County

Falls County voters decided a contested Republican primary race for Pct. 4 County Constable between Shen Thornton and Jerry Wood.

Wood won the race.

Freestone County

Three Republicans including Ronnie French, Lloyd Lynn Lane and Sonoma Adkins, were running for Pct. 3 County Commissioner in Freestone County.

Lane and French will face off again in a runoff on May 26.

Incumbent Republican Pct. 3 County Constable Pamela Brackens Barnes drew two primary challengers, Richard Lee McGowan and L.J. McAdams.

Republican Ken Sessions defeated Michael Fred Carter in the race for Pct. 4 County Constable.

Hamilton County

Republican Hamilton County Sheriff Justin Caraway was challenged by Billy Hollingsworth Tuesday.

The county’s election office reported problems with vote counting equipment Tuesday night, but the returns, released Wednesday morning, showed that Caraway defeated Hollingsworth.

Hill County

Republican Hill County Sheriff Rodney B. Watson drew three primary challengers, Armando Castro, David Niederhaus and Coy E. West, Jr.

Watson won with 60% of the vote.

Republican Pct. 1 Commissioner Andrew Montgomery defeated Ted O’Neil,

John C. Miller defeated Scott Starosta in the Republican race for Pct. 1 County Constable.

Lampasas County

Incumbent Lampasas County Pct. 2 & 3 Constable John W. Harris lost to primary challenger Misty Maldonado.

Leon County

Leon County voters decided a contested Republican primary race for district attorney.

James Caleb Henson defeated Whitney Thompson Smith.

Republican Pct. 1 County Commissioner Joey Sullivan turned back a challenge from Don Rose and incumbent Pct. 3 County Commissioner W. Dean Stanford lost to challenger Kyle Workman.

Incumbent Pct. 1 County Constable Christ Johnson lost to challenger Glenn Hightower.

Limestone County

Republican Murray Agnew defeated Chris Henson in the race the sheriff’s job in Limestone County.

Incumbent Republican Pct. 1 County Commissioner John McCarver lost to challenger Bill David Sadler and incumbent Republican Pct. 3 Commissioner Jerry R. Allen lost to challenger Stephen Friday.

Incumbent Republican Pct. 1 County Constable Scott T. Smith turned back a challenge from Allan Stewart and Republican Mark Roark defeated Bobby Coslin in the race for Pct. 4 County Constable.

McLennan County

The looming retirement of longtime 19th State District Court Judge Ralph Strother opens up a position on the bench for which four Republicans, Susan Kelly, Kristi DeCluitt, Thomas West and Michael Flynn, filed for the seat.

DeCluitt and West will face off again in a runoff on May 26.

And the decision of Pct. 1 County Commissioner Kelly Snell not to seek another term opens up a seat for which four Republicans filed, Roger Salinas, Chrissy Brault, James A. “Jim” Smith and Robert Cervenka.

Smith and Brault will face off again in a runoff on May 26.

Alice Rodriquez easily defeated Miriam Laeky in the Democratic primary race for the seat.

Incumbent Republican Pct. 3 County Commissioner Will Jones narrowly survived a challenge from George A. Brinegar and W. Leslie Long.

Milam County

Incumbent Republican Milam County Attorney Bill Torrey turned back a challenge from Lonnie E. Gosch.

Incumbent Republican Sheriff Chris White defeated two challengers, Craig Wise and H.L. “Herbie” Vaughan.

Incumbent Republican Pct. 1 County Commissioner Richard “Opey” Watkins faced two primary challengers, Henry “Hub” Hubnik and Ricky McCall.

Watkins and Hubnike will face each other again in a runoff on May 26.

Three Republicans, Charles E. Truitt, Frank Summers, Jr., and Arthur Neal, were running for Pct. 3 County Commissioner.

Neal won the race with nearly 60% of the vote.

Two Republicans, Pat Guffey and James Pratt, were running for Pct. 1 County Constable.

Pratt was the winner.

Mills County

Incumbent Republican Mills County Tax Assessor-Collector Lori King turned back a challenge from Phyllis Davis Stolle.

Incumbent Republican Pct. 3 County Commissioner Robert Hall drew two primary challengers, George King and Dale Partin.

King and Partin will face each other again in a runoff on May 26.

San Saba County

Technical issues delayed the vote count and results were still pending Wednesday morning, but once the ballots were tallied the results showed that incumbent Republican San Saba County Sheriff David L. Jenkins defeated challenger John Benner.

Incumbent Republican Pct. 1 County Commissioner Otis Judkins,however, lost his re-election bid to challenger, James B. Lebow.

(Rissa Shaw, Brandon Hamilton and John Carroll contributed to this story)

WASHINGTON (AP)--Voters in Texas’ Democratic primary ranked health care as the most important issue facing the country, well above climate change, the economy, race relations, foreign policy and many other social issues, according to a wide-ranging AP VoteCast survey of the Democratic primary electorate in Texas.

VoteCast also found somewhat more voters in Texas said they wanted a candidate who would bring fundamental change to Washington, rather than one who would restore the political system to how it was before Donald Trump was elected in 2016.

But about 6 in 10 said they preferred a candidate who will pursue practical, centrist policies to one pursuing bold liberal policies.

The AP called Texas for Joe Biden.