While the Texas Legislature remains paralyzed and unable to conduct legislative business due to a continued lack of quorum in the Texas House of Representatives, the list of challengers to sitting Democrat and Republican lawmakers is beginning to grow.
With the tenuous process of redistricting on the horizon and the likely delay of candidate filing periods and primary elections, it is likely that the ongoing election cycle will only continue to bleed into the day-to-day actions of current lawmakers.
Republicans Challenging Democrats
Several of the districts that have been competitive in the last few election cycles have already seen general election challengers spike up.
First elected in 2018, State Rep. James Talarico (D–Round Rock) currently represents Texas House District 52. He flipped the district from a Republican-held seat after the former moderate Republican, State Rep. Larry Gonzales, chose not to seek re-election, defeating then-Republican challenger Cynthia Flores by almost four points, or fewer than 2,400 votes. Talarico won re-election in 2020 by defeating Republican challenger Lucio Valdez by three points, or a little more than 2,900 votes.
Thus far, Talarico has two announced Republican challengers in Caroline Harris, who currently serves as a legislative staffer for State Sen. Bryan Hughes (R–Mineola), and Nelson Jarrin, a former legislative staffer for State Sen. Charles Schwertner (R–Georgetown).
Talarico is partially responsible for the weakened version of the supposed ban on critical race theory that passed during the regular legislative session.
Similarly, State Rep. Erin Zwiener (D–Driftwood), first elected in 2018, currently represents Texas House District 45. She flipped the district from being a Republican-held seat after the former State Rep. Jason Isaac chose not to seek re-election, defeating Ken Strange by a little more than three points, or more than 2,600 votes. She won re-election in 2020 by defeating Carrie Isaac, wife of Jason Isaac by only one point, or 1,200 votes.
Carrie Isaac has already announced she will rechallenge Zwiener.
State Rep. Vikki Goodwin (D–Austin), first elected in 2018, currently represents Texas House District 45. She defeated the incumbent moderate Republican Paul Workman by almost five points, or nearly 5,000 votes. In 2020, she was challenged by Republican Justin Berry, ultimately defeating him by one point, or by a little more than 1,300 votes.
Berry has already announced he will rechallenge Goodwin.
Talarico, Zwiener, and Goodwin were all among Democrat lawmakers who broke quorum both during the regular legislative session and during the first called special legislative session. Talarico has since returned, though the House remains paralyzed.
Republicans Challenging Republicans
Primary elections are also already starting to heat up for lawmakers in both the state Senate and House of Representatives.
State Sen. Kel Seliger (R–Amarillo) currently represents State Senate District 31 after first being elected in 2004, previously serving as the mayor of Amarillo. He has thus far drawn two primary challengers in businesswoman and Coahoma ISD board member Stormy Bradley and Midland businessman Kevin Sparks.
In 2018, Seliger was unsuccessfully challenged in the Republican primary election by former Midland Mayor Mike Canon and Muleshoe Mayor Victor Leal, winning the primary outright by attaining 50.4 percent of the vote.
Seliger has historically been on the opposing side of his own caucus and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick several times. Most recently, he voted against a ban on taxpayer-funded lobbying during the regular legislative session.
Seliger has not indicated whether he intends to run for re-election.
Serving since 2016, State Rep. Cole Hefner (R–Mt. Pleasant) currently represents Texas House District 5 after previously serving as an Upshur County commissioner.
Hefner, having previously not drawn a primary challenger since first being elected, now sees himself potentially having to thwart off a challenge from his own base in Dewey Collier, a retired army lieutenant colonel and nurse.
State Rep. Scott Sanford (R–McKinney) currently represents Texas House District 70 and has done so since 2013. He has not seen a primary challenger since first being elected until this cycle. Jim Herblin has launched a challenge and is a certified public accountant and small-business owner.
State Rep. Stephanie Klick (R–Ft. Worth) currently represents Texas House District 91 after first being elected in 2012. She has not had a primary challenge since first being elected. Thus far, she has drawn two challengers in David Lowe, an Army veteran and former north regional director of the Texas GOP, and David Silvey, former AmeriCorps volunteer and current supervisor at the Texas Rangers Youth Ballpark.
Over the past legislative session, Klick has faced increased pressure from conservative activists for her role in stalling legislation that would outlaw child mutilation procedures.
Greater Houston Area
State Rep. Dan Huberty (R–Humble) currently represents House District 127 after first being elected in 2011. He handily defeated primary challengers in 2020, 2018, and 2016 primary elections.
Amid the most recent legislative session in April, Huberty was involved in an incident where he was arrested for driving while intoxicated. He was also one of a few Republicans that signed on to support a Medicaid expansion bill. Shortly after his DWI incident, he drew a primary election challenger in Anthony Dolcefino, who previously ran for an at-large position on the Houston City Council.
Huberty has long been an opponent of school choice, having previously served as the House Public Education Committee chairman. In 2015, Huberty was caught on video having been obviously intoxicated just minutes after coming off of the House floor.
State Rep. Cecil Bell Jr. (R–Magnolia) currently represents Texas House District 3 after first being elected in 2013. He has not had a primary election challenger since first being elected. Magnolia real estate agent and Magnolia ISD Trustee Kelly McDonald filed campaign treasurer paperwork on Tuesday.
Redistricting, Delayed Primaries, and Legislative Chaos
All of this is happening under a shroud of uncertainty, as the postponed redistricting process looms. It is not yet clear what the final disposition of legislative districts will look like, let alone the actual deadlines by which candidates for office must file or when the actual primary election will be held.
The ongoing paralysis in the Texas House of Representatives due to a lack of quorum has again brought the Legislature to a grinding halt, even as the second called special session is more than one-third of the way complete. This leaves a lot of uncertainty around the future legislative prospects for things like redistricting, which is supposed to take place in a yet-to-be announced October special session and will have statewide political implications for the next decade.