It’s an election year, and you’ll likely be hearing a whole lot more about it, especially when it comes to the presidential contest at the top of the ballot. In Texas, plenty of seats in Congress are up for grabs, including Ted Cruz’s seat in the Senate. Among the Democratic hopefuls looking to take on Cruz is Dallas-area U.S. Rep. Colin Allred.
While Allred’s decision to run for Senate has politics watchers eyeing the Democratic primary closely, Dallas Morning News political columnist Gromer Jeffers says there are other downballot races worth your attention. Jeffers joined the Standard to tell us more.
This transcript has been lightly edited for clarity:
Texas Standard: A lot of political prognosticators are obviously eager to see how Colin Allred does in this Democratic primary. But you say that there are three other races with the potential to profoundly shape the political direction of your city, Dallas.
Let’s begin with this fight for Republican state House District 108. The incumbent is Morgan Meyer, right?
Gromer Jeffers: Right. The incumbent, Morgan Meyer, has a challenge from Republican Barry Wernick, who ran for Dallas City Council most recently. He lost that race, and he’s a hard right conservative in a district that includes the Park cities — for anybody who knows about Dallas, that’s Highland Park and University Park. It’s more of a moderate district, though it’s been changing over the past few cycles. Meyer himself has not had an easy time winning against Democratic challenges, although he has won.
The district has been redrawn to be more solid Republican, but it’s one of those seats – that seat and Angie Chen Button’s, the representative from Garland, are the last two remaining Republicans from Dallas County in the Texas Legislature.
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Moving a few miles to the south, you write that the Democratic primary in state House District 100 is another race to watch, right? There’s a freshman incumbent there, Venton Jones.
Yes, Venton Jones, who is a freshman seeking reelection. He’s got a challenge against former state Rep. and former Dallas Council Member Barbara Mallory Caraway.
Sandra Crenshaw, a former Dallas council member, is also in that race. She took Venton Jones to a runoff last time, so that race is an interesting one to watch to see if Jones can hold that seat. Of course, if you’re a challenger in politics, you try to get the incumbent before the ground underneath him is cemented.
The last race that you note in your column is the contest for Dallas County Republican Party chair, where the incumbent is Jennifer Stoddard Hajdu. She has a well-known but rather polarizing challenger, right?
Yes, Allen West, the former congressman from Florida, and most recently former Texas Republican Party chair. He ran for governor against Greg Abbott in the primary. West would bring a lot of attention to that post, which doesn’t get a lot of attention.
But the question is, would his brand of conservatism and pushing the party hard right work in an urban area, where Democrats are dominant and Republicans are trying to climb back into power?
Do you think it’s fair to call these bellwether contests, to see how far to the right Dallas-area voters are willing to go?
Yes, I think they are bellwether contests in this respect. Two of the three will show the clout that Republicans have or can potentially have in urban areas, and how they will set up in the future to deal with maneuvering in a blue county – Dallas County, though the county of George W. Bush, is a blue county. It wasn’t always like that, but it is now.
In the other race, we’ll see if Democrats can protect their incumbent or if in this case Venton Jones will fall victim to challengers. That district hasn’t had a lot of stability. It’s had three or four representatives in the last few years, and it’s a stability question there.