Around the Texas Capitol: Election season kicks off, two special elections and more

By Shayne Woodard, J Pete Laney and Lauren Spreen
TAD Governmental Affairs

Once a legislative session is over, members start to decide and announce whether they plan to run again for another term. Texas House members are up for election every two years – before each legislative session, while Texas senators serve staggered four-year terms.

In 2020, 16 of the Senate’s 31 members are up for re-election. So far, none of these 16 senators have announced a retirement. However, state Sen. Royce West (D-Dallas) – who was not up for re-election – announced he would run in the crowded Democratic primary next year along with several other announced candidates to gain the Democratic nomination to challenge U.S. Sen. John Cornyn. West was elected to the Texas Senate in 1992 and he easily won his re-election in 2018 for a four-year term. He does not have to give up his state Senate seat to run for U.S. Senate.

Of the 150 members of the Texas House, the only incumbent members who have announced retirements are Reps. Jonathan Stickland (R-Bedford), John Wray (R-Waxahachie), Jessica Farrar (D-Houston) and John Zerwas (R-Fulshear). Farrar and Zerwas are actually resigning effective Sept. 30. Zerwas’ resignation is key: he is chair of the powerful House Appropriations Committee. A physician for more than 30 years, Zerwas has announced he will join The University of Texas System as the executive vice chancellor for health affairs.

On the federal level, four Republican congressmen have announced retirements (they also serve two-year terms): Mike Conaway (R-Midland), Will Hurd (R-Helotes), Kenny Marchant (R-Coppell) and Pete Olson (R-Sugar Land).

Special Elections in Two House Districts 

Gov. Greg Abbott announced that Nov. 5 will be the special election date to fill two House seats that are being vacated early. First is the District 100 seat recently vacated by former Rep. Eric Johnson, who was elected Mayor of Dallas on June 8. The second election is for the District 28 seat being vacated by state Rep. John Zerwas (see earlier mention). The filing deadline for both is 5 p.m. Sept. 4.

Demographic Characteristics and Trends in Texas

Dr. Lloyd Potter, the state demographer, unveiled some interesting Texas trends and statistics in a recent presentation:

Rural Broadband

On July 16, U.S. Sen. John Cornyn of Texas announced that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) authorized $76,686,993 in federal funding to expand broadband to 33,901 unserved rural Texas homes and businesses over the next decade. The money is the third wave of funding authorized through FCC’s Connect America Fund Phase II auction. Providers will begin receiving funding this month.