The key races critical to the makeup of the 87th Texas Legislature are underway. The new Legislature is scheduled to convene on Tuesday, January 12, 2021. In an ongoing effort to reduce the spread of COVID-19, the Texas State Capitol, Capitol Grounds and Visitors Center are currently fully closed to the public.
In the Texas Senate, Sen. Eddie Lucio handily defeated Sara Stapleton-Barrera. This was one of the most competitive primary elections where Stapleton-Barrera attacked the conservative Democrat from the left by repeatedly highlighting his position on abortion and votes cast with other Republicans. Lucio ranks 3rd in seniority in the Texas Senate and has served in that chamber for almost 30 years.
Texas State Rep. Roland Gutierrez won the Democratic Primary run-off against Xochil Pena Rodriguez to challenge Republican Sen. Pete Flores in the November 3, General Election. Flores is a freshman senator who won a 2018 special election after former Senator Carlos Uresti resigned after being found guilty for felony crimes related to fraud and money laundering. The district is historically Democratic and will draw considerable attention in the General Election.
In the special election to replace former Senator Kirk Watson, former Travis County Judge Sarah Eckhardt led against Rep. Eddie Rodriguez and was just shy of the 50% threshold needed to avoid a run-off. However, Rep. Eddie Rodriguez officially dropped his run-off bid, which ensured Eckhardt’s victory. Eckhardt will be sworn in and will serve the remainder of Watson’s term, ending in 2022. Eckhardt becomes the 10th woman currently serving in the state senate, a first in Texas history.
The Texas House lost four incumbents, two of which had served in the House for a number of years. Republican Reps. Dan Flynn, R-Canton, and J.D. Sheffield, R-Gatesville, lost their bids for re-election to more conservative challengers, while Democrats Anna Eastman, D-Houston, and Lorraine Birabil, D-Dallas, lost their run-offs after holding office for a few short months after their respective special election wins. Both will join a short list of elected legislators who never served while the House was in session and never cast a vote in the Texas House.
Another closely watched race was that of Rep. Harold Dutton, D-Houston. Dutton was first elected in 1984 and ranks third in seniority in the Texas House. Dutton faced a competitive primary challenge and subsequent run-off challenge from Houston City Council member and Vice Mayor Pro Tempore, Jerry Davis. Dutton won the nomination 52% to Davis’ 47%.