Dozens of Republicans and Democrats met Monday’s deadline to file for elected offices in the March 3 primaries, setting up a potential slugfest as the two parties battle for control in a politically divisive environment.
A marquee race for Tarrant County voters pits long-time Republican Congresswoman Kay Granger against former Colleyville City Councilman Chris Putnam for the U.S. District 12 seat.
As the current ranking Republican on the powerful U.S. House Appropriations Committee, Granger is regarded as one of the most powerful members of Congress. She is also the only woman representing Texas at the federal level at a time when women are running for elected offices at a record rate.
Because of her position and clout, Granger has not faced a primary challenger since 2012. She has been able to deliver for her district, bringing development and manufacturing of the F-35 fighter jet to the Lockheed Martin plant in Fort Worth.
But the massive Panther Island project, which she has championed for nearly two decades, is languishing with the delivery of only a small percent of the $526 million in federal funds that have been authorized for it. Local entities have already poured $324 million into the project and some are reluctant to risk extending debt without a guarantee that the federal funds will come.
A conservative activist, Putnam is an ally of President Donald Trump’s agenda on immigration, gun rights, lower taxes and a border wall.
Granger, he asserts, declined to endorse Trump and called for him to drop out of the presidential race in 2021.
The winner of the primary will face the winner among the two Democratic candidates seeking the U.S. District 12 seat: Danny Anderson of Fort Worth, an aircraft assembler; and Lisa Welch, a professor.
Another competitive Tarrant County race edging into high-profile stature is the contest for the State House District 92, which is represented by a conservative firebrand Jonathan Stickland, who announced this past summer that he is not seeking re-election.
Democrats are eyeing the seat because of the slim 2.5-point spread between Stickland and his Democratic opponent Steve Riddell of Bedford in 2018. Riddell, a business manager, is running again, and faces Democrat Jeff Whitfield of Euless, an attorney.
Republicans running for the District 92 seat are: Jeff Cason of Bedford, a sales manager; Taylor Gillig of Arlington, a business owner; and Jim Griffin of Bedford, a retiree and former mayor of Bedford.
“This seat should be an easy Republican win,” said Jim Riddlesperger, a political science professor at Texas Christian University. “It looks like a Republican stronghold but Stickland barely won in 2018.”
Riddlesperger said it is hard to pinpoint the reason that the race was so close but some of the factors could be Stickland’s unpopularity in the State House, his strident conservatism, or pushback against Trump, who Stickland is politically aligned with.
But other influencing factors could be the large turnout of Democrats and particularly suburban women, who were turned off by their distaste for Trump in 2018.
“Everything is very fluid this year so it’s hard to predict what will happen,” Riddlesperger said.
Distinguishing features of this year’s primary field are fewer intraparty contests than there have been in the past few election cycles. None of the incumbent Republican state house representatives in Tarrant County are facing Republican challengers, including Charlie Geren in District 99, who faced challengers from the right the past few years. Bo French who challenged him in 2016 and 2018 did not file again this year.
An overwhelming number of women are challenging incumbent state representatives from Tarrant County. Geren is the only Republican among the group not facing a Democratic opponent.
Fort Worth Republican State Rep. Stephanie Klick of District 91 will face Jeromey Sims of North Richland Hills, a technology consultant.
Arlington Republican State Rep. Matt Krause will face Democrat Lydia Bean, a business director for the District 93 seat.
For District 94, incumbent Republican Tony Tinderholt of Arlington will face Democrat Alisa Simmons.
Republican State Rep. Bill Zelder of Arlington will face Democrat Joe Drago of Crowley; incumbent Craig Goldman, a Fort Worth Republican, will face Democrat Elizabeth Beck, a Fort Worth attorney.
Southlake incumbent State Rep. Giovanni Capriglione will face Democrat Debra Edmondson of Southlake, an attorney.
Among the Democratic incumbents, District 90 incumbent Ramon Romero of Fort Worth will face Republican Elva Camacho of Fort Worth, a substitute teacher.
Incumbent Democrat Nicole Collier of Fort Worth is unopposed for the District 95 seat. Incumbent Democrat Chris Turner of Arlington is also unopposed in District 101.
Riddlesperger said the unusually large number of contest races for the state house seats in Tarrant County as well as across the state are a result of a Democratic push to hold seats they flipped in 2018 and pick up nine more to gain control of the Texas House.
In local Congressional races, Democratic incumbent Mark Veasey of Fort Worth faces a primary challenge from Sean Paul Segura of Dallas. The winner will face Republican Fabian Vasquez of Fort Worth in November.
Democrat Stephen Daniel, an attorney from Maypearl will challenge Republican Ron Wright, who filed for re-election on Monday. Wright, the former Tarrant County Tax-Assessor Collector, won the District 6 seat in 2018, after long-time Republican incumbent announced his retirement after lewd photos of him surfaced on social media.
Wright announced last summer that he was diagnosed with lung cancer. He does not face a Republican opponent in the primary.
Two other crowded Congressional races are for the District 24 seat being vacated by long-time Republican incumbent Kenny Marchant. The district, which spans from northeast Tarrant County to northwest Dallas County has seen shifting demographics, which has made it a target for Democrats. Four Republicans and seven Democrats are running for the seat.
For the District 26 seat, incumbent Michael Burgess of Denton faces three Republican challengers in the primary. Two Democrats are also running for the seat.
“Texas is still a lean Republican state and Republicans still have the advantage,” Riddlesperger said. “The biggest problem Democrats have is that a lot of the new growth in population we’re seeing is Latinos but by and large they are not reliable voters.”