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Around the Texas Capitol: Primary election voting; legislative meetings

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

Primary elections are underway

Early voting is underway through Feb. 28 for the Republican and Democratic primary elections in Texas. If you miss early voting – or want to wait to make a decision – Election Day is March 3 for Texas and 13 other states participating in “Super Tuesday.”

As you contemplate your decisions, here’s a reminder of what the primaries look like for the Texas Legislature and for Texans in the U.S. Congress.

Texas Senate: Currently 19 Republicans and 12 Democrats

Of the 31 members of the Texas Senate, 16 seats are on the ballot (8 Rs, 8 Ds) in 2020. Of these 16, only one is expected to be competitive in the general election: SD 19, held by Sen. Pete Flores (R-Pleasanton). Two incumbent senators – Borris Miles (R-Houston) (SD 13) and Eddie Lucio (D-Brownsville) (SD 27) – have primary opponents. Ten incumbents (7 Rs and 3 Ds) have general election opponents. There is one open seat in the Texas Senate, SD 29 being vacated by Democrat José Rodriguez of El Paso. Current Rep. César Blanco, a Democrat, and one Republican have filed for this seat that will be decided in the November 2020 general election.

Texas House: Currently 83 Republicans and 67 Democrats

The real legislative election action will be in the Texas House, where all 150 seats are on the ballot.

Thirty incumbents have primary election opponents (14 R and 16 D), and 60 incumbents have only general election opponents (40 R and 20 D). Ten open seats are on the 2020 ballot after being vacated by seven Republicans and three Democrats.

U.S. Congress – Currently 23 Republicans and 13 Democrats

All 36 seats in the Texas delegation are on the ballot. Six incumbents, all Republicans, are retiring. Eighteen incumbents have primary opponents (8 Rs and 10 Ds). Thirty incumbents have general election opponents (18 Rs and 12 Ds).

Visit, the one-stop resource for voter information, including what’s on the ballot, how to register to vote, and to locate your polling place.

For three House districts, the primary elections follow on the heels of special election runoffs to fill unexpired terms on Jan. 28. Those winners were:

House District 28 – Gary Gates (Republican) to fill the unexpired term of Rep. John Zerwas, who resigned. Gates is facing fellow Republican Schell Hammell in the March Republican primary to see who will face Democrat Elizabeth Markowitz, who lost the special election to Gates, in November for a full House term starting in January.

House District 100 – Loraine Birabil (Democrat) to fill the unexpired term of Rep. Eric Johnson, who was elected in November as Dallas mayor. Birabil and five additional Democrats will face off again in the Democratic Primary to determine who will win a full term starting in January.

House District 148 – Anna Eastman (Democrat) to fill the unexpired term of Rep. Jessica Farrar, who resigned. Eastman is part of a field of five Democrats in the primary, while one of her special election challengers, Luis La Rotta, is the sole Republican running and will be on the ballot in November for a full term starting in January.

Senate Natural Resources & Economic Development Committee and the Senate Water & Rural Affairs Committee hold joint meeting

The two committees met jointly in Austin on Jan. 22 to take up two interim charges:

The committee received input from representatives of the Railroad Commission of Texas, General Land Office, University of Texas System, Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, Texas Water Development Board, Clean Water Action, Holistic Management International, Sierra Club, Environmental Defense Fund, Water Defense Fund, Texas Landowners Council and Texas Conservative Coalition Research Institute.

The committee had input from Texas Water Development Board, Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, Aquifer Water Defense Fund, League of Independent Voters, Texas Alliance of Groundwater Districts, Environmental Defense Fund, Texas Farm Bureau, Central Texas Aquifers Coalition, Texas Landowners Council, Central Texas Aquifers Coalition, and Texas Conservative Coalition Research Institute.

House State Affairs Committee hears broadband testimony

The House State Affairs Committee met in Austin on Jan. 30 to take up its interim charges on broadband services by electric cooperatives.

Mike Williams of the Texas Electric Cooperative Association testified that seven electric cooperatives provide some degree of internet services. Three of them have deployed broadband services and the others are working with other entities to contract out that service. Not all electric coops will elect to provide broadband services; coops are not-for-profit entities, and for some it does not make economic sense.

A huge gap still exists, but coops are currently serving 30,000 customers with broadband services, Williams said. Because federal E-Rate funds are available for school districts to access broadband services, some coops are exploring partnering with communities receiving those funds to leverage money for broadband deployment.

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