North Texas primary races to watch, plus Beto O’Rourke launches his ‘Keeping the Lights On’ campaign

The Democratic gubernatorial candidate takes a jab at incumbent Gov. Greg Abbott for last winter’s power grid failures. Early voting starts in two weeks.

By Jill AmentFebruary 1, 2022 7:40 am, , ,

Early voting for the March primaries begins in two weeks. Gromer Jeffers, political writer for The Dallas Morning News, spoke with Texas Standard about some races he’s watching in North Texas that could signal larger political trends in the state.

  1. Texas Republican Van Taylor is up for reelection in Texas’ 3rd Congressional District. He’s in a primary race that could test how much influence former President Donald Trump has on reelection campaigns.
  2. Texas’ 30th Congressional District seat is up for grabs now that longtime member of Congress, Democrat Eddie Bernice Johnson, has retired. There’s a possibility it could be filled by a more liberal Democrat.
  3. Democratic candidate for governor, Beto O’Rourke embarks this week on a “Keeping the Lights On-” themed portion of his campaign. It’s a jab at incumbent Republican Gov. Greg Abbott who was in charge when Texas’ electric grid was on the brink of failure during last winter’s storm. Another winter storm is expected this week.

For more, listen to the full interview with Jeffers in the audio player above or read the transcript below.

This interview has been edited lightly for clarity.

Texas Standard: You’ve highlighted some North Texas races that you’re keeping an eye on, including the reelection campaign for Collin County Republican Congressman Van Taylor. Why are you focusing on that race?

Gromer Jeffers: I think it will test whether a candidate, and a significant candidate – the former Collin County Judge Keith Self – can make a charge at a well-known conservative incumbent in Van Taylor, by using Trump grievances or a message of, Hey, you wronged the former president here, and I’m going to come after you, because that’s what’s happening.

Van Taylor was one of two Texas Republicans to vote for an independent commission on the events of Jan. 6. That’s not to be confused with Nancy Pelosi’s House Committee. But this was an independent commission that failed in the Senate. But it irritated some Trump supporters up here in Collin County, and they recruited Keith Self, the former Collin County judge, to run. And we’ll see what happens because a primary is always a shaky situation if you get crossways or sideways with Trump.

On the Democratic side, fascinating stuff happening in the race to replace Democratic Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson. This was one that a couple of weeks back, you talked about a big race to watch in 2022. What will you be looking for?

I’ll be looking to see, one: how strong Jasmine Crockett, the state representative – the freshman state representative – a Democrat who became one of the faces of the Democratic Party walkout to stall an elections bill that Republicans managed to eventually pass, [will be]. But if you remember, they went to Washington, D.C., to stall that bill and camped out there. She, as a freshman, though, became one of the faces and was a voice of that.

Well, Eddie Bernice Johnson, the longtime congresswoman from District 30, the only congresswoman District 30 has ever known, is retiring after the end of her term. She has endorsed Crockett. Will that be enough for Crockett to maybe even win outright? It probably gets to the runoff. But this is a test of Crockett, who is considered a progressive, leans more to the left in many people’s eyes, replacing and being endorsed by a real moderate in Eddie Bernice Johnson. So we’ll see if she can take it all the way to the finish line, or if other candidates like Mark Beasley; the congressman’s former chief of staff, Jane Hamilton; or others will be able to put up a fight.

The Marquee race of this cycle is the race for governor. While incumbent Gov. Greg Abbott faces two Republican challengers – Allen West and Don Huffines – you expect Abbott to use this time to establish his position against his likely Democratic challenger Beto O’Rourke. What is your thinking there?

If you look at at his campaign materials, his emails, his correspondence with voters, it’s all been directed at Beto O’Rourke ever since Abbott has officially launched his reelection campaign. It feels like he’s comfortable with the fact that he’s going to beat West and Huffines rather easily. Polls do show that; polls bear that out.

You think Abbott’s concerned about O’Rourke launching this new “Keeping the Lights On” tour – obviously a riff on what happened last year with the major blackouts across the state?

I think there’s some of that probably there. But he’s more concerned, I would think, about what will happen in February, and even this week when the weather turns – whether the grid will hold up; he says it will. But I think that’s his major concern because if there’s a problem, another problem with what blackouts and people have to having to spend time in the cold like they did nearly a year ago, he will have to answer for that.

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