Rhetta Bowers in one of Texas’ hottest contests for the November midterms
September 11, 2018
18 races in 2018
Dallas is changing, and so is Texas. This year’s midterm elections will show us how much.
While Democrats claim there’s a blue wave coming, Republicans remind them they haven’t won a statewide election in 24 years.
Whether liberals can ride anti-Trump sentiment to steal a few legislative seats, and how staunch conservatives fare in the state’s increasingly diverse suburbs, will sketch the roadmap for Texas politics for decades to come.
With this in mind, The Dallas Morning News has identified 18 key races to watch in 2018, the outcomes of which will show us whether there’s truly a blue wave or just high tide masquerading as a tsunami.
CORRECTION, 1:45 p.m., Sept. 10, 2018: A earlier version of this page included a photo of Phillip Huffines instead of his twin brother, Dallas Sen. Don Huffines.
– Ted Cruz
– Beto O’Rourke
The contest between first-term Sen. Ted Cruz and three-term Rep. Beto O’Rourke has emerged as a marquee Senate race nationwide. Cruz has a high profile as a conservative darling, and he’s closely allied with President Donald Trump despite their rivalry in 2016. O’Rourke caught up with Cruz in fundraising by summer, exciting Democrats nationwide and fueling dreams of ending their drought in Texas and sending Trump a message.
– Greg Abbott
– Lupe Valdez
First-term GOP Gov. Greg Abbott has an overwhelming advantage over his Democratic opponent, former Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez, in name recognition and money. Abbott has been running statewide since 1996. For Valdez, it’s her first race beyond Dallas County.
– Dan Patrick
– Mike Collier
Dan Patrick has emerged as arguably the state’s most astute and powerful politician since he became lieutenant governor in 2014. As head of the Senate, he’s pushed the Legislature to the right and kept in lock-step with national conservative trends as Donald Trump’s campaign chairman in Texas. Democratic opponent Mike Collier, while well-versed on bread-and-butter issues like taxes and school finance, has struggled to raise cash and gain traction after a loss running for state comptroller in 2014.
– Ken Paxton
– Justin Nelson
Despite three felony indictments that’ve hung over his head for three years, Attorney General Ken Paxton remains popular among Texas’ politically powerful conservatives. He was one of the few statewide elected officials who did not attract a challenger in the Republican primary and has a sizeable fundraising lead over his Democratic opponent, Houston attorney Justin Nelson. Nelson points to his successful legal career and experience clerking for a U.S. Supreme Court justice as proof he should replace Paxton.
– John Culberson
– Lizzie Pannill Fletcher
Houston Republican John Culberson hasn’t had a competitive race in 10 years. But after Hillary Clinton narrowly carried the district in 2016, he drew seven Democratic challengers. Lizzie Pannill Fletcher, a Houston attorney, outlasted the contentious primary and won the chance to flip Culberson’s seat in her first run for public office.
Congressional District 23
– Will Hurd
– Gina Ortiz Jones
Known as the “only true swing district in Texas,” Congressional District 23 will be among the most highly targeted by Democrats in 2018. Incumbent Will Hurd wrestled the seat away from Democrat Pete Gallego in 2014, then held onto it in 2016 by one percentage point. This year, Air Force veteran Gina Ortiz Jones will look to take the seat back on the back of high Democratic turnout.
Congressional District 32
– Pete Sessions
– Colin Allred
The demographics of this Dallas district, which was drawn to favor a Republican candidate, have shifted over the years. After 12 years of cruising to re-election, Republican incumbent Pete Sessions faces a ferocious challenge from Dallas lawyer Colin Allred. Hillary Clinton narrowly won the district in 2016, signaling to Democrats that Sessions is vulnerable. The matchup is expected to be one of the most expensive House races, with cash pouring in from both parties at the national level.
– Angela Paxton
– Mark Phariss
Angela Paxton won a bitter Republican primary that was the most expensive Senate race in Texas history. The teacher and longtime McKinney resident now faces Democrat Mark Phariss, a Plano business lawyer. The Collin County district has been dominated by Republicans, including Paxton’s husband, Ken, who used to hold the seat and is now the attorney general. But Phariss, who would be Texas’ first openly gay state senator, isn’t one to shy away from a challenge. In 2013, he sued to overturn the state’s ban on same-sex marriage.
– Konni Burton
– Beverly Powell
This district is one of the few swing spots in the Legislature, leaving the seat vulnerable to any Democratic surge in Tarrant County. Incumbent Sen. Konni Burton, R-Colleyville, was elected four years ago with just 52.8 percent of the vote. Burton replaced Democrat Wendy Davis, who narrowly won the seat in 2008. Now challenger Beverly Powell, who has served on public school and college boards, wants to flip the seat blue again.
– Donald Huffines
– Nathan Johnson
Democrat Nathan Johnson will face an uphill battle to unseat Sen. Don Huffines. With a billionaire family and multi-generational ties to Dallas, Huffines was in the headlines recently for going to Russia with U.S. Sen. Rand Paul. While the family wealth couldn’t install his twin brother, Phillip, in the Senate, it will be a sizeable impediment to Johnson, who’s never run for public office.
– Linda Koop
– Ana-Maria Ramos
Two-term incumbent Republican and former Dallas City Council member Linda Koop faces Ana-Maria Ramos in this North Dallas district. Koop scored 72 percent of the vote in a three-way primary. Ramos stands to benefit from Democrats who turn out to vote for Beto O’Rourke for U.S. Senate, but the district’s Republicans’ primary turnout outpaced Democrats by several percentage points. Koop also has a substantial funding advantage.
– Rodney Anderson
– Terry Meza
In 2016, incumbent Rodney Anderson beat out his Democratic opponent Terry Meza by 64 votes in a district whose demographics are rapidly shifting. Meza hopes strong Democratic turnout will put her over the top this year but Anderson won’t give up his seat without a fight.
– Deanna Maria Metzger
– Victoria Neave
In North Texas, Democrats have one district to defend — the one covering parts of East Dallas, Garland and Mesquite held by Rep. Victoria Neave. She defeated Republican Kenneth Sheets to win the seat in 2016 and as a freshman lawmaker, helped pass a bill to address the state’s backlog in testing rape kits. Her challenger, Deanna Metzger, touts a hard-line conservative stance and has support from a group of powerful Texas Republican fundraisers.
– Morgan Meyer
– Joanna Cattanach
The Park Cities-anchored district has long been represented by a Republican — since 2015, by Rep. Morgan Meyer. But last year, Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton carried the district by more than 6 percentage points. That leaves Democrat Joanna Cattanach hoping she can flip the district for the Texas Democratic Party, which is calling it a key race.
– Jonathan Boos
– Rhetta Andrews Bowers
Republican Jonathan Boos and Democrat Rhetta Bowers are both running for a second time in a House district that covers most of eastern Dallas County. Incumbent Cindy Burkett, R-Sunnyvale, left the seat for an unsuccessful run in a Texas Senate primary. She won the seat from a Democrat in 2010, but when conservative portions of Rowlett and Garland were added to the district in 2013, Republicans turned the seat into a stronghold. Bowers is a Rowlett resident who scored 45 percent of the vote against Burkett in 2016.
– Lisa Luby Ryan
– John Turner
Who wins the race to represent this swath of North Dallas will be a bellwether of the blue wave across Texas. Demographics are shifting, with Dallas’ suburbs becoming less conservative. Still, incumbent Jason Villalba, painted as far-too liberal a Republican, lost his primary election to interior designer turned conservative favorite Lisa Luby Ryan. But Democrats still think they have a chance to flip the seat, and are counting on attorney John Turner — son of former U.S. Rep. Jim Turner of Crockett.
– Matt Rinaldi
– Julie Johnson
Incumbent Matt Rinaldi was almost bumped off in the 2016 elections after an unexpected Democratic turnout for presidential candidate Hillary Clinton in his district. This year, Rinaldi, who opponents have targeted for his support of the sanctuary cities ban in the 2017 legislative session, will be more guarded against a challenge from Julie Johnson, as Democrats look to increase their numbers in the Texas House.
– Faith Johnson
– John Creuzot
Former state district judge John Creuzot won the primary by a razor-thin margin to face incumbent Republican Faith Johnson in November. He said he’ll focus on efforts to end mass incarceration in his quest to beat Johnson, the first black female district attorney in Dallas. She was appointed by Gov. Greg Abbott after Susan Hawk resigned, and she could have a tough time keeping the seat in heavily Democratic Dallas County.