As Democrats fight to flip the Texas House this November and gain control of next year’s pivotal redistricting process, Dallas-area Republicans are working to regain seats lost during the last “blue wave” election and keep the ones they still hold.
In 2018, Democrats flipped five Republican House districts in Dallas County, unseating three GOP incumbents in the process, including State Rep. Linda Koop of Dallas.
This year, Koop is seeking to reclaim her seat, and four political newcomers—Gerson Hernandez, Will Douglas, Luisa Del Rosal, and Karyn Brownlee—are looking to flip their newly blue districts back to Republicans.
At the same time, the two remaining Republicans in Dallas County’s legislative delegation—State Reps. Morgan Meyer (Dallas) and Angie Chen Button (Garland)—face rematches against the heavily funded Democrat challengers they narrowly defeated in 2018.
Democrats would need to flip a net total of nine Republican districts statewide to gain a majority of the 150 Texas House seats in the 2021 legislative session.
Candidates in both parties have raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for campaigns to keep or flip their House districts.
Five Dallas County matchups are rated as competitive Texas House races by political scientist Mark Jones of Rice University’s Baker Institute: Ramos-Koop, Bowers-Douglas, Turner-Del Rosal, Meyer-Cattanach, and Button-Chambers.
House District 102
Linda Koop served three terms representing House District 102—which includes parts of far north Dallas, Addison, Richardson, and Garland—before getting swept out of office along with most other Dallas-area Republicans in the last general election.
Koop’s opponent then and now, State Rep. Ana-Maria Ramos of Richardson, said she was inspired to run against Koop in 2018 to protect immigrant, Muslim, and LGBTQ communities.
While Koop earned a failing 47 on the Fiscal Responsibility Index in 2017, Ramos scored an abysmal 20 in her first term in 2019.
Koop has received $488,000 for her rematch with Ramos, including over $100,000 each from Texans for Lawsuit Reform PAC and Associated Republicans of Texas Campaign Fund, according to the latest campaign finance data reported by Transparency USA.
Ramos, meanwhile, has raised $270,000 for her re-election from donors like the National Democratic Redistricting PAC, House Democratic Campaign Committee, and Texas Trial Lawyers Association PAC.
House District 113
First-time Republican candidate Will Douglas, a local pharmacist and small-business owner, is challenging Democrat State Rep. Rhetta Bowers of Rowlett to represent House District 113 on the eastern edge of Dallas County.
Bowers won the open seat formerly held by Cindy Burkett with 53 percent of the vote in 2018. She earned a failing 22 on the Index in her freshman year.
Douglas’ campaign has raised $795,000 (including $100,000 from Associated Republicans of Texas Campaign Fund) to unseat Bowers, who has received $329,000 this election cycle, much of the money from the same Democrat groups backing Ramos.
While Jones rates Koop’s race “likely” Democrat, Douglas’ matchup rates a “lean” Democrat.
House District 114
The race for House District 114 in north central Dallas is rated a “toss-up” between Republican challenger Luisa Del Rosal, a naturalized American from Mexico who heads two public policy centers at SMU in Dallas, and Democrat State Rep. John Turner, a Dallas lawyer who won the seat formerly held by Jason Villalba with 56 percent of the vote.
Touted by some as a moderate, Turner earned a 21 on the 2019 Index and ranked with fellow Dallas-area Democrats among the most liberal House members on Jones’ 2019 liberal-conservative ranking.
Other “Blue Wave” Districts
Former Coppell ISD teacher and principal Karyn Brownlee is running to take back House District 115 in the northwest corner of Dallas County against heavily funded Democrat State Rep. Julie Johnson (Carrollton). Johnson, an attorney and founding member of the House LGBTQ Caucus, earned a 24 on the 2019 Index. Johnson’s campaign has received $507,000 this election cycle, compared to Brownlee’s $74,000.
In House District 105, which includes parts of Irving and Grand Prairie, pastor and nonprofit founder Gerson Hernandez is challenging Democrat State Rep. Terry Meza of Irving, a lawyer and former teacher who earned a 23 on the Fiscal Responsibility Index in her freshman year. Meza won the seat formerly held by Rodney Anderson with 55 percent of the vote in 2018. Libertarian Bret Bolton is also on the ballot.
Besides the five seats flipped blue in 2018, Republicans are also challenging more entrenched Democrat incumbents.
In House District 107—covering parts of east Dallas, Mesquite, and Garland—Republican newcomer Samuel Smith, a West Point graduate and small-business man from Mesquite, is running against two-term Democrat State Rep. Victoria Neave, a lawyer from Mesquite. Despite a drunk driving arrest, Neave won re-election in 2018 with 57 percent of the vote and went on to earn a 20 on the 2019 Index. Neave’s campaign has raised $178,000 this election cycle, compared to Smith’s $53,000.
While GOP challengers fight to regain House seats, incumbent Republicans Morgan Meyer and Angie Button are once again defending their districts against heavily funded Democrats.
Meyer, a corporate lawyer, is running for a fourth term representing House District 108, which extends from downtown Dallas north to Preston Hollow and includes the Park Cities. His Democrat opponent is community college journalism teacher Joanna Cattanach, who he beat in 2018 by just 220 votes. Libertarian Ed Rankin is also on the ballot.
Cattanach has taken in $817,000 this election cycle, including five-figure donations from the House Democratic Campaign Committee, Flippable Texas Victory Fund, Lone Star Project, and other Democrat PACs. Meyer has received $1.2 million to defend against the Democrat.
Button, a CPA and former international marketing manager from Garland, has served in the Texas House since 2009. Her House District 112 in northeast Dallas County includes parts of Garland, Richardson, Rowlett, Sache, and Wylie.
Button has raised $895,000 this election cycle to again defend her seat against Dallas attorney Brandy Chambers, who she beat in 2018 by 1,100 votes. Chambers has received $819,000 in donations—over $300,000 from many of the same Democrat groups backing Cattanach.
Meyer and Button have earned career “F” ratings on the Fiscal Responsibility Index, but their most recent ratings in the 40s are above the dismal 20s earned by Dallas-area Democrats in the last legislative session.
No More Straight-Party Voting
In 2018, Dallas Democrats’ “blue wave” was boosted by voters casting straight-ticket ballots for failed Senate candidate Beto O’Rourke, but straight-party voting is no longer an option, starting this year.
Four Dallas-area Democrats are running unopposed for their House seats. Democrat-dominated Dallas County is home to 14 Texas House districts.
Early voting in the November 3 presidential election is underway now through October 30. In addition to federal and state races, local elections rescheduled from May due to concerns about the Chinese coronavirus will also be on the November ballot.
Information on voting in Dallas County can be found online at dallascountyvotes.org.