In the national spotlight, attention is already turning to the showdown between President Donald J. Trump and presumptive Democratic nominee former Vice President Joe Biden. But Democrats in the Dallas area still have to weigh in on their lineup in some races before moving on to challenge GOP nominees in November.
There will be a special runoff election held on July 14, with early voting beginning on July 6. There are five races to be voted on in Dallas County, and residents in Collin County have a U.S. Representative seat to decide on the Democrat side as well.
Texas 24th Congressional District
Kim Olson and Candace Valenzuela are squaring off to face Republican Beth Van Duyne, the former Mayor of Irving for the U.S. Representative seat in Texas’ 24th Congressional District. This district covers parts of northern Dallas and Tarrant Counties along with part of Denton County.
Olson is a military veteran, and one of the first females to fly and instruct in fighter aircraft. She has 28 years of military service under her belt, and reached the rank of Colonel. She also fought the military over opening opportunities for women and the handling of sexual assault cases and oher women’s issues. In addition to her military experience, she was also CEO of Grace Under Fire, a non-profit dedicated to assisting female veterans reentering civilian life. She has also served as a school board trustee and managed a billion dollar budget at the Pentagon.
Olson led in the initial round of voting, garnering 40.9 percent of the vote to Valenzuela’s 30.4 percent. According to her website, she led the field in both Dallas and Tarrant Counties. Olson ran for Texas Agriculture Commissioner in 2018 and received 3.8 million votes. The race is also pivotal as Democratic turnout exceeded Republican voting in the primary, signaling a strong potential of winning the currently-GOP district.
Valenzuela comes to the race with a background in education. Beginning as a special needs teacher and tutor, Valenzuela most recently served on the Carrollton-Farmers Branch ISD Board of Trustees beginning in 2017. With the prospect of flipping the district Blue, Democratic interest in the district on the national level has resulted in Valenzuela receiving endorsements from high-level Democrats like U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris and U.S. Rep. Katie Porter. Last week the Congressional Black Caucus PAC also weighed in. This week, legendary civil rights activist and U.S. Rep. John Lewis also threw his support behind Valenzuela.
“Candace has faced and overcome personal hardship during her life and has channeled those struggles to uplift and serve her community as an educator and school board member,” Lewis said. “In this time of national hardship and tumult, Candace has continued to work tirelessly on behalf of her community. Issues of racial and economic justice are front and center in America right now; Candace brings a unique perspective to these issues and will be integral in driving our national conversation forward.”
Texas 3rd Congressional District
Voters in Collin County still must make a final decision for the Democratic nominee in Texas 3rd Congressional District. The winner of a runoff will go up against Van Taylor in the general election, along with Libertarian Christopher Claytor.
Lulu Seikaly received the highest number of votes in the first round of the primary, at 44.5 percent.She is a first-generation American, with parents in the medical profession who fled the civil war in Lebanon. She is an employment attorney, with experience in discrimination and harassment matters. Her priority issues range from, “fixing our broken health care system, to addressing the skyrocketing cost of living across the area, and the student debt crisis preventing many from buying a home or starting a business.”
Sean McCaffity is also an attorney (and two-time national debate champion in his school days). He says he has dedicated his law career to standing up for the “little guy” in cases against large corporations. Racial justice, including an end to “qualified immunity” for the police, is at the top of his agenda list. He is also among politicians seeking to overturn Citizens United and increase transparency as part of government reform. Healthcare rounds out the top three issues on his slate, as he is an advocate for universal healthcare.
State Representative District 100
In the race for Texas representative, two candidates remain from an original field of six.
Jasmine Felicia Crockett is an attorney who has worked in private practice and as a public defender. She says the laws are not written with common Texans in mind, and has felt like she had to defend people with her “hands tied behind her back.” In an era of social justice reform, Crockett says she is seeking to infiltrate the system to effect change from within.
Lorraine Birabil is the incumbent in the race, and the highest vote-getter in the first round of voting. The assumed office in 2020 to fill the unexpired term of Eric Johnson (who became Mayor of Dallas) and is running for reelection. She has worked with numerous political figures and also labor unions. Her top priorities include public schools, healthcare and safe communities.
Criminal District Judge, Court No. 3
There is still a judicial race to be decided on the Democratic side. Audra Ladawn Riley and Teresa Jan Hawthorne are in a runoff after an initial three-way race.
Riley is an attorney with more than three years experience. She began her career in the Dallas County District Attorney’s office. She also worked as a prison guard during her time in law school, and says her experience dealing with people on both sides of the equation is an advantage for the position.
Hawthorne has 20 years of experience as an attorney, and has twice been elected to the 203rd Judicial District Court. She is also a former teacher and girls high school coach. Hawthorne has been reprimanded by the Texas Commission on Judicial Conduct for “shaming” jurors in a rape case and inerfering in a case involving her nephew. On her website, Hawthorne states, “I believe that all of the judicial duties that I have successfully fulfilled as your elected Judge of the 203rd Judicial District Court hopefully have not been outweighed by what a few people do sincerely deem as inappropriate.”
In statewide races, two democrats are still vying for the chance to face John Cornyn in the general election for the U.S. Senate. Texas Sen. Royce West and M.J. Hegar made it into the runoff besting a field of several candidates.
West is a well-known and popular state senator in Dallas who has held his current position since 1993. He has the benefit of major endorsements by sitting congressional representatives, major newspapers, labor unions, state and national Democratic associations, and his former opponents in the primary before the first vote.
West did, however, trail in second place in the initial election to Hegar. Hegar is a military veteran and Purple Heart and Distinguished Flying Cross recipient who served in Afghanistan. While she trails West in political endorsements, she has garnered the support of some Democratic heavy-hitters like Sen. Elizabeth Warren and former presidential candidate Mayor Pete Buttigieg. She also has the support of numerous special interest organizations.
Texas Railroad Commissioner
The runoff race for Texas Railroad Commissioner includes Roberto Alonzo and Chrysta Castaneda in the Democratic primary. The winner will face Republican James Wright in November. As candidates have pointed out in earlier primary debates, the railroad commissioner deals with the oil and gas industry, so the moniker can sometimes be misleading. This will be an important position in the near future as the Texas oil and gas industry has faced numerous headwinds.
Alonzo is well-known in the Dallas area, having served as a Texas Representative for House District 104 for two decades until 2019. As a candidate for this statewide position, Alonzo sees regulating pipelines and balancing business interests with protection of natural resources as his highest priorities. He is also concerned about the venting of natural gas in the Permian Basin without effective monitoring.
Castaneda has earned both an engineering and law degree, a combination she believes is advantageous for someone to hold this position. She led the field in the initial round of voting, and has experience running for the U.S. House in 2012. In addition to clean air and water, Castaneda has called attention to “flaring,” which is the lighting on fire of natural gas at the wellhead, calling it both a wasted resource and contributor to air quality issues.