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March Primaries Hold Few Surprises for Texas Legislature Races

Several incumbents will not face any challengers, but a race in Texas Senate District 16 will pit incumbent Nathan Johnson against state Rep. Victoria Neave Criado in the Democratic primary.
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State Rep. Victoria Neave Criado announced Monday that she would run against incumbent Nathan Johnson for the Texas Senate District 16 seat in the March Democratic primary. Jay Janner/American-Statesman / USA TODAY NETWORK

This story was corrected on 12/13 to correct Sen. Nathan Johnson’s voting record on Senate Bill 4.

The filing deadline to run for the November election has passed, which means that Texas House and Senate candidates will begin campaigning in earnest. But first, they’ll have to make it past the March primary.

This primary season may have a lot of familiar faces. Still, incumbents will have a difficult task: They will need to campaign, but they will also need to prepare for the likelihood that Gov. Greg Abbott will call them back for a fifth special session to address school finance, teacher raises, and school safety funding. In the fourth special session, a bipartisan coalition of lawmakers in the House excised Abbott’s priority legislation for education savings accounts, or vouchers, from a bill that would increase per-pupil funding for public schools. That action effectively stalled the bill’s progress.

Abbott vowed to back challengers to GOP lawmakers who opposed vouchers. Attorney General Ken Paxton also supports candidates running against GOP House incumbents who voted to impeach him this summer.

With that backdrop, a busy March primary field has emerged, but one with few real surprises. The biggest surprise may be in Dallas’ Senate District 16, where incumbent Nathan Johnson will face state Rep. Victoria Neave Criado (D-Dallas) in March. 

Neave Criado told the Dallas Morning News that she felt compelled to run partly because of bills like the controversial Senate Bill 4, which will allow law enforcement officers to arrest people illegally crossing the Mexican border. Opponents of the bill say it will lead to racial profiling. 

“I voted against it three times. I spoke against the bill on the floor multiple times,” Johnson said.

There is some confusion because Johnson, along with all but two Senate Democrats, voted for an unrelated Senate Bill 4 from a different special session that increased penalties for the already existing law against human trafficking. Senate Democrats were able to successfully amend that bill to lower penalties in specific cases involving family members.

“We’ve got the governor pushing racial profiling bill that the incumbent voted for, and that’s not acceptable,” Neave Criado told the Dallas Morning News. “This is not the time to be quiet. This is not the time to support Gov. Abbott’s agenda, which is contrary to the interests of the community.”

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Courtesy photo

Johnson says he stands by his record.

“I’ve been unwavering and outspoken in my opposition to the right-wing agenda, while delivering major policy wins that improve people’s lives. That’s what being a good legislator is about,” he said.

Two Democrats have filed to run for Neave Criado’s HD 107 seat—journalist Linda Garcia and consultant Christine Roman. However, according to the Secretary of State’s website, Roman’s application to run was rejected.

Some local incumbents may have no challengers, so they’ll sail through March and November without campaigning. Dallas’ state Sen. Royce West (D-SD 23) will be unopposed, as will Dallas state representatives Rafael Anchia (D-HD 103), Jessica Gonzalez (D-HD 104), Toni Rose (D-HD 110), and Yvonne Davis (D-HD 111). State representatives Nicole Collier (D-HD 95), David Cook (R-HD 96), and Ana-Maria Ramos (D-HD 102) are also running unopposed, representing parts of Fort Worth, Mansfield, and Richardson, respectively.

Through Tuesday afternoon, current State Board of Education member Aicha Davis, a Democrat, appeared to be the only candidate for the HD 109 seat vacated by Carl Sherman (D-DeSoto), who is running for the U.S. Senate seat held by Republican Ted Cruz. However, Democratic attorney Victoria Walton, who ran for the seat in 2018 but did not make the runoff, filed at the last minute.

Depending on what may show up as the state candidate information site maintained by the Secretary of State is updated, here is how local races are shaping up:

Dallas

In HD 70, Democrat incumbent Mihaela Plesa drew three Republican challengers: Joe Collins, Steven Kinard, and Jack Ryan Gallagher.  Incumbent Venton Jones, a Democrat representing HD100, will face former state Rep. Barbara Mallory Caraway and Justice McFarlane in the March Democratic primary.

Morgan Meyer, first elected to represent the Park Cities and East Dallas after dominating the race for HD 108 in 2014, drew a primary challenger in Barry Wernick. (He lost a bid for Dallas City Council in 2021, dropping to Jaynie Schultz in a runoff 54-46.) Democrats Elizabeth Ginsberg and Yasmin Simon will vie to be the Democratic candidate in the general election. Ginsberg ran in 2022, losing to Meyer 56-44.

After an accolade-filled return to the state house this session, John Bryant will face a Republican challenger in Aimee Ramsee for HD 114.

Noteworthy North Texas Races

After watching her husband’s impeachment trial, Angela Paxton will remain the Republican candidate for McKinney’s SD 8. She’ll face Rachel Mello, a Democrat, in the general election in November. 

In HD 33, Rockwall incumbent Justin Holland will face two challengers from his party—Dennis London and former Trump spokeswoman Katrina Pierson

Incumbent Frederick Frazier, who represents McKinney-based HD 61, will face two challengers in the March Republican primary—Keresa Richardson and Chuck Branch. The winner will face Tony Adams in the general election. Frazier, accused of impersonating a code enforcement officer to remove another candidate’s campaign signs last year, recently pleaded guilty to two misdemeanors and resigned from the Dallas Police Department.

State Rep. Jeff Leach, who voted to impeach Paxton and also served on the impeachment board of managers during the trial, will face fellow Republican Daren Meis for HD 67 in March. The winner will be on the ballot opposite Democrat Jefferson Nunn in November.

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Texas Rep. Morgan Meyer listens to questions on Senate Bill 2 in the House Chamber at the Texas Capitol on Thursday, July 13, 2023. Aaron E. Martinez / American-Statesman / USA TODAY NETWORK
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State Rep. John Bryant, testifying against a bill that would provide property tax relief by incentivizing school districts to drop their tax rates. Kara Hawley / American-Statesman / USA TODAY NETWORK
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Rep. Kronda Thimesch, R-Lewisville, holds the gavel while on the floor of the House of Representatives at the Texas Capitol Thursday, Oct. 19, 2023. Mikala Compton / American-Statesman / USA TODAY NETWORK
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Rep. Jessica González, D-Dallas, speaks in opposition to Senate Bill 14 in the Texas House of Representatives Friday, May 12, 2023. Mikala Compton/Austin American-Statesman / USA TODAY NETWORK

State Rep. Craig Goldman announced he would run for U.S. Rep. Kay Granger’s seat, which prompted a bumper crop of interest for his HD 97 seat. Republicans Leslie Robnett, Cheryl Bean, and John McQueeney will face a March primary to appear on the November ballot against Democrat Carlos Walker and Independent Christopher Rector.

Angie Chen Button, who represents Richardson’s HD 112, will face Chad Carnahan in the Republican primary. Former Miss Texas Averie Bishop is running for the seat as a Democrat. 

In HD 115, where current state Rep. Julie Johnson is now running to fill the congressional seat currently held by U.S. Rep. Colin Allred, three Democrats have filed to run—Cassandra Hernandez, Kate Rumsey, and Scarlett Cornwallis. Republican John Jun will face one of them in November.

Early voting for the March primaries will begin on February 20 and run through March 1. Primaries for both parties will be held on March 5. The last day to register to vote before the primaries is February 5.

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Bethany Erickson

Bethany Erickson

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Bethany Erickson is the senior digital editor for D Magazine. She's written about real estate, education policy, the stock market, and crime throughout her career, and sometimes all at the same time. She hates lima beans and 5 a.m. and takes SAT practice tests for fun.

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