Two Texas House incumbents, Dan Flynn and J.D. Sheffield, fall behind early in primary runoff results

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By Cassandra Pollock and Reese Oxner
July 14, 2020

Two Republican Texas House incumbents were considerably behind their primary runoff opponents as election results continued to come in Tuesday.

State Rep. Dan Flynn of Canton trailed Bryan Slaton by over 20 percentage points. Flynn, who is running for a 10th term in the lower chamber, has faced off before against Slaton, who has previously run for the seat twice. State Rep. J.D. Sheffield of Gatesville, meanwhile, was behind Shelby Slawson by over 20 percentage points as well.

On the Democratic side, longtime state Rep. Harold Dutton of Houston was leading his opponent, Houston City Council member Jerry Davis, by nearly 5 percentage points, 52% to 47%, according to early returns.

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Meanwhile, two Democratic incumbents who won special elections in January were split in their races as early returns came in.

State Rep. Lorraine Birabil, a Dallas Democrat, led Jasmine Felicia Crockett by roughly 7 percentage points. And state Rep. Anna Eastman, a Houston Democrat, was trailing Penny Morales Shaw early 67 votes. If either Birabil or Eastman loses Tuesday, her term will end in January when the Legislature convenes for its regular session.

Tuesday’s ballot featured about a dozen other House runoff races, including several contests in battleground districts in November.

Those battleground districts are particularly important this election cycle as Democrats, effectively nine seats away from gaining control of the 150-member lower chamber, look to flip the House for the first time in roughly two decades. With the state’s once-in-a-decade redistricting process coming up, a potential flip looms large as Democrats could have a bigger say in that process.

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In one Houston-area battleground district, Akilah Bacy led Jenifer Rene Pool, who in 2016 became the first transgender Texan to win a primary in the state, by a margin of over 50 percentage points. The winner will face off against Republican Lacey Hull in November after state Rep. Dwayne Bohac, R-Houston, opted against seeking reelection. Bohac, who was first elected in 2002, won by only 47 votes in 2018.

Meanwhile, in North Texas, Tom Adair, an attorney and former congressional aide in Washington, and Lorenzo Sanchez, a Plano real estate agent, are neck and neck with more than two-thirds of the polling locations reporting. The winner will challenge four-term incumbent State Rep. Jeff Leach, R-Plano, who narrowly won reelection in 2018 by 2.2 percentage points.

In the Austin area, Carrie Isaac, executive director of an Austin-based nonprofit and the wife of former state Rep. Jason Isaac, R-Dripping Springs, had a healthy lead over Kent “Bud” Wymore, a former Hays County Republican Party chair, in the GOP nomination for House District 47. The winner will take on state Rep. Erin Zwiener, a Driftwood Democrat who flipped the seat in 2018.

In another Austin-area race, Austin police officer Justin Berry was leading Austin attorney Jennifer Fleck by roughly 10 percentage points. The winner of that contest will challenge state Rep. Vikki Goodwin, D-Austin, who also flipped the seat last election cycle.

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A newcomer will replace Rep. Rick Miller, R-Sugar Land, in House District 26 after he dropped his reelection bid following a backlash when he said two of his Republican opponents were running against him because they are Asian. On the Republican side, Jacey Jetton, a former Fort Bend GOP chairman, led Matt Morgan, a public insurance adjuster, by roughly three percentage points. L. Sarah DeMerchant, a Democrat who ran unsuccessfully in 2016 and 2018, led Suleman Lalani, a Houston-area private practitioner, by roughly six percentage points.

And in the rural House District 60, rancher and veterinarian Glenn Rogers was ahead of Jon Francis, a member of the conservative billionaire Wilks family, by roughly 5 percentage points. The two were vying to replace retiring state Rep. Mike Lang, R-Granbury, in the safe Republican district.

No matter what happens in the general election, House members will have a new speaker for the 2021 legislative session. First-term Speaker Dennis Bonnen, an Angleton Republican, decided to not seek reelection after he became embroiled in a scandal last year involving a secret recording.

In the race to replace Bonnen, Cody Vasut, a former Angleton City Council member, held an early lead over Ro’Vin Garrett, the Brazoria County tax-assessor collector, for the Texas House District 25 seat. The winner will face Democrat Patrick Henry in the general election for the safe Republican seat.

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