A San Antonian's Guide to 2018 Primary Elections

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If you've noticed a lot of national news stories this morning about Republican candidates in Texas doing the best Trump impressions, that's because the Lone Star State on Tuesday holds the first primary elections in the country.

Since we're inching toward the halfway point in President Donald Trump's reign, these are a particularly important round of elections, cleverly called midterms. Midterm elections usually result in the president's party losing seats in Congress (remember the great Tea Party uprising two years after Obama's 2008 election?) This shift is expected to be significant on both the national and local levels, since Trump's presidency shook many complacent Democrats into action.

This will be the first time in 25 years that Democrats are running in every single one of Texas's 36 congressional districts.

In the primary elections, voters will only be winnowing down party candidates to chose who will go to bat to represent their party in the November general election. So, for now, we're not commenting on races that don't have a primary challenger — or have one who's very unlikely to win (except for the Senator race) — even if the race in November will be one to watch.

Some races, like the one to fill Congressman Lamar Smith's District 21 seat, have far too many candidates to unpack. We'll be focusing on the top contenders for each race.

U.S. Senator

R: Texas' junior Senator Ted Cruz is expected to easily win the primary race in his reelection run. Most of his competitors, like former La Marque Mayor Geraldine Sam, are blaming Cruz for largely ignoring Texans during his two failed campaigns for presidency.

D: U.S. Congressman Beto O'Rourke, an El Paso native, has made serious fundraising gains on his November opponent Cruz over the past few months. Relying on zero political action committee dollars, O'Rourke's extensive campaigning has also made him the expended victor in the primary.

U.S. House District 21

R: There are 18 conservatives running to replace longtime Congressman Lamar Smith, your neighborhood climate change denier, in Capitol Hill. EIGHTEEN. Some of the headliners: Chip Roy, former chief of staff to Sen. Cruz, Robert Stovall, the former Bexar County GOP Chairman whose campaign's been bankrolled by San Antonio Trump campaign staffer Brad Parscale, former U.S. Rep. Francisco "Quico" Canseco of San Antonio, and state Representative Jason Isaac of Dripping Springs (whose motto is "Make America Like Texas").

D: The Dem's ticket is a little less packed. While it'll be a stretch for a liberal to win the staunchly Republican district seat, a few are giving it a shot, like Elliot McFadden, director of Austin's B-cycle program and veteran Joseph Kopser.

U.S. House District 23

R: Will Hurd, a relatively moderate Republican, is aiming to keep his current job representing Texas' largest district — sweeping from San Antonio's West Side all the way to El Paso County. With only one little-known opponent, Alma Arredondo-Lynch, it's likely he'll be on the ballot in November.

D: The Democrats have been revving their engines to get Hurd out of office for some time. Their top candidates? Rick Trevino — you may recognize his name from the May ballot, when the Berniecrat ran for City Council's District 6 seat. He's running against former San Antonio federal prosecutor Jay Hulings and former Air Force intelligence officer Gina Ortiz Jones.


It's safe to say Governor Greg Abbott, who has no less than $43 million in his campaign war chest, will sweep this primary race. Even though someone who changed their first name to SECEDE (in all caps) is running against him, the sitting Gov has the state's Republican party under his thumb.

D: No progressive candidates can compete with Abbott's financing, but a few significant Texans have jumped into the race, like "conservative Democrat" Andrew White (son of former Governor Mark White), former Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez, former mayor of Balch Springs Cedric Davis, and Dallas gay nightclub owner Jeffery Payne. The nine Democrats recently faced off in a San Antonio debate.

Lieutenant Governor

R: Current Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick is vying to keep his spot at the helm of the state Senate. He's being challenged by one man. Scott Milder, a former Rockwall City Council member who seems to live up to his name: he's a "rational Republican" compared to Patrick, who he calls an "extremist" and a "jackass." But Texas isn't a big fan of mild. Patrick is expected to win this race.

D: Former Texas Democratic Party finance chair Mike Collier announced his campaign to dethrone Patrick in June — in the midst of the legislature's fight over Patrick's prized "bathroom bill." He's facing lesser-known education reform advocate Michael Cooper.

Public Lands Commissioner

R: I know what you're thinking: What the hell's the public land commissioner and why should I care? Right now, incumbent Commissioner George P. Bush (son of Jeb), has been making headlines for his role in the major Alamo redesign project, of which he holds the reins. Conservative Texans have a lot of feelings about this issues in particular, and don't think Bush is doing such a stellar job. That's why former Commissioner Jerry Patterson has left retirement to try and win back his former job. By now, this is more a vote on the future of the Alamo than it is a person.

D: Democrats have joined the Alamo tug-of-war, too. The primary ballot will see computer programmer and former VIA board member Tex Morgan face energy attorney and former U.S. Senate staffer Miguel Suazo.

State Senator District 25

R: This race will reveal District 25's colors as a conservative mainstay as they chose between socially conservative Republican incumbent Senator Donna Campbell and a more moderate, education-focused opponent Shannon McClendon.

D: Self-proclaimed "centrist" and former city planner Jack Guerra will take on the more progressive IT consultant Steven King on the Dem ticket.

State Representative District 116

D: This is a race to watch. Incumbent Diana Arévalo is competing with the man who had the seat before her, Trey Martinez Fischer. Fischer, a former lawyer for MALDEF, left District 166 in 2015 in a failed run against Jose Menéndez for Leticia Van de Putte's open Senate seat. Arévalo was the former secretary for Bexar County Democratic Party until stepping in to fill Fischer's spot in 2016.

R: The Dem victor will eventually face off against Fernando Padron, a little-know but unchallenged Republican on the primary ticket.

State Representative District 117

D: HD 117, dubbed “the most competitive House district in Texas” by Texas Tribune editor Ross Ramsey, is currently held by state Representative Philip Cortez. Cortez previously represented the district from 2013 to 2015, but lost the seat in the 2014 election to Republican Rick Galindo. Cortez found his way back to the pink dome after winning the election in 2016. This time, he’s facing little-known Democratic challenger Terisha DeDeaux in the primary.

R: There are two Republicans running for this seat: Mike Berlanga, a CPA and real estate broker with deep San Antonio roots, and Carlos Antonio Raymond, a U.S. Army veteran-turned-radiology technologist-turned realtor who was a Bexar County Precinct Chair in 2016. Berlanga has previously unsuccessfully challenged Senator Carlos Uresti and Bexar County Tax Assessor-Collector Albert Uresti.

State Representative District 121

R: There are six Republicans running to fill former House Speaker Joe Straus’ seat: 5th-generation Texan Charlotte Williamson, attorney Adrian Spears, business owner Matt Beebe (who’s unsuccessfully challenged Straus twice before), attorney Marc K. Whyte, Vice Chairman of VIA’s board and former Alamo Heights School Board member Steve Allison, and former San Antonio firebrand and councilman Carlton Soules.

D: The democratic challenger, former Texas Public Radio reporter Celina Montoya, is running unopposed in the primary.

State Representative District 122

R: The HD 122 seat is currently occupied by state Rep. Lyle Larson, who is seeking reelection. His only challenger, Chris Fails, was endorsed by Governor Greg Abbott in February, marking the third time the governor has endorsed a primary challenger over a sitting representative in a House race. Larson, who’s been referred to as “arguably Abbott’s most outspoken critic among Republicans in the lower chamber” in the Texas Tribune, has represented the district since 2010.

D: Claire Barnett, an educator, is the sole Democrat running in the race for HD 122.

State Representative District 124

D: Incumbent Ina Minjarez is facing a political novice in the primaries: Sergio Contreras, a man few known too much about (aside from the fact he dislikes Minjarez). Some allege Bexar County Democratic Party Chair Manuel Medina, who Minjarez has disagreed with in the past, recruited Contreras to run against her.

R: The sole Republican contender is Johnny Arrendondo, a former college basketball referee who ran for the City Council District 4 seat in 2017.

Bexar County District Attorney

D: If you have a mailbox, you've probably been drowning in the attack fliers from both incumbent DA Nico LaHood and fellow attorney Joe Gonzales. LaHood's compared Gonzales to Harvey Weinstein, Gonzales has compared LaHood to Donald Trump. Yes, it's that kind of race. Gonzales decided to run against LaHood after the hot-tempered DA allegedly threatened to shut down Gonzales' firm after butting heads in the courtroom. Get your popcorn, folks.

R: The Dems' GOP opponent is Tylden Shaeffer, a criminal defense lawyer and former assistant criminal district attorney in the DA's office (pre-LaHood). He is running unopposed.

County Commissioner Precinct 2

D: This race for a spot on the county's equivalent to a city council has often centered on age. Incumbent Paul Elizondo turned 82 last year, and has held the commission seat since the 1980s. But the story doesn't end there. Environmental Defense Fund's Mario Bravo, 41, is campaigning as the progressive candidate in this race for committing to tackle climate change and protect undocumented immigrants (he's also a fan of term limits, something that Elizondo's office is unfamiliar with). Fellow candidate Queta Rodriguez, 47, is a County Veterans Service officer and former marine who's campaigned to bring stronger leadership to the county office.

R: The lone GOP opponent is Ismael Garcia, who ran against Elizondo in 2014.

Bexar County Democratic Party Chair

This race is also a considerably fiery one. Incumbent Manuel Medina, former candidate for San Antonio mayor, either has very passionate fans (for his occasional leftie ideas) or very passionate haters (for his flip-flopping LGBT ally platform and suspicious money moves). His opponent, Monica Alcantara, has no background in politics, but has the backing of Reps. Diego Bernal and Ina Minjarez, perhaps only because she's not Medina.

Bexar County Republican Chair

There are a few familiar names in the race to fill outgoing chair Robert Stovall's seat. Before leaving, Stovall endorsed Dwight Parscale — a man mostly know for his son, Brad Parscale, a San Antonian who headed the Trump campaign's digital arm. Then there's Cynthia Brehm, a social conservative (read: has made anti-refugee comments) who unsuccessfully ran for the City Council District 8 seat in May. The other two contenders:  JoAnn Ponce-Gonzalez, a former U.S. Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms agent, and Andres Holliday, a younger UTSA grad running on the "Drain the Swamp" platform.

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