For an election cycle with so many contested races, Texas actually has relatively few seriously competitive Republican congressional primaries. However, there are still several districts with primaries that informed political observers (political junkies with no lives) should watch. So you can keep up with the changes in the Lone Star State’s congressional delegation, the Texas Citizen Journal has compiled a short summary of the most noteworthy Republican congressional primaries this year, starting with the most competitive (CD-08), and very loosely descending by competitiveness from there. The Texas Citizen Journal will profile the competitive Democrat primaries in a later article. So without further ado, here are the top congressional primaries you should watch this year, on the Republican side:
Congressional District 8
At the top of the list of congressional primaries to watch is the hotly contested race for the open seat nestled in the suburbs north and west of Houston being vacated by the retirement of longtime Congressman Kevin Brady after 13 terms in office. The crowded field of 11 candidates is likely to result in a runoff between the top two candidates: retired Navy SEAL Morgan Luttrell and former Brady staffer and political operative Christian Collins. Luttrell currently has a sizable lead in fundraising, however, Collins has multiple political action committees (PACs) spending on his behalf. None of the other candidates have raised anywhere near the numbers hauled in by the two front-runners.
The race has become somewhat of a proxy battle between House GOP Leadership and the Congressional Leadership Fund, who are backing Luttrell, and the PAC associated with the House Freedom Caucus, the House Freedom Fund, which is supporting Collins. The race has split top Texas Republicans as well, with former governor and energy secretary Rick Perry, Congressman Dan Crenshaw (R-TX), and Lt. Governor Dan Patrick endorsing Luttrell, while Collins has the support of Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX).
The primary will be a bellwether to test the strength of the GOP’s factions. Collins, who has pledged to join the Freedom Caucus, would take a more populist approach, while Luttrell has said he will not join the Freedom Caucus, feeling it would compromise his ability to be independent and represent the district. Both candidates would likely be more conservative than Brady, who was about as close to the median of the GOP caucus as one could find. The winner of the primary is pretty much guaranteed to be the next congressman in this deep red district.
Congressional District 38
The 38th District is one of two new seats Texas gained from the redistricting process. Retired Army Captain Wesley Hunt, who ran unsuccessfully in the 7th District last cycle, is the clear front-runner to win this year in the newly created (and more Republican) 38th in western Harris County. Hunt is endorsed by both House GOP leadership and Cruz. Although not as competitive as the neighboring 8th District, the 38th District primary could potentially go to a runoff due to the entry of longtime conservative activist Mark Ramsey into the race. Although Hunt has a massive lead over Ramsey in fundraising, Ramsey’s many years of involvement in Republican Party politics, including several years on the State Republican Executive Committee and other party committees, have given him many connections with the party’s grassroots. Ramsey is also endorsed by Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller, Railroad Commissioner Wayne Christian, and several state legislators. Hunt remains the favorite to win (without a runoff more likely than not), but if the race goes to a runoff, it will likely be against Ramsey.
Congressional District 3
This is a primary challenge that only makes sense in the tortured minds inhabiting the populist fever swamp. By any metric, Congressman Van Taylor (R-TX) is one of the most conservative members of Congress, with a lifetime score of 93 with Club for Growth. On every policy issue Taylor is a staunch conservative, and he has the voting record to prove it. While he is far from being a “never-trumper”, he voted to certify the results of the 2020 election and also voted to create the January 6th Committee, anathema to MAGA populists. Sensing opportunity, former Collin County Judge Keith Self announced a primary challenge. Some thought the race could be competitive since Self is a popular former county judge with name ID in the district’s main county. However, if fundraising is any indicator, Self has so far struggled to gain traction. The primary for the 3rd District will be a test of what Republican voters value more: conservative policy accomplishment or towing the MAGA line on the stolen election narrative.
Congressional District 1
The race for the 1st Congressional District is actually not all that competitive, however, it is worth mentioning because it is an open seat. The deep red district, based in Tyler in northeast Texas, is being vacated by Congressman Louie Gohmert (R-TX), who is running for Attorney General. The favorite to win is Smith County Judge Nathaniel Moran. Moran has the support of Texas State Senator Bryan Hughes (R-Mineola), as well as numerous local officials.
Congressional District 15
The 15th Congressional District, a string of counties stretching from San Antonio to the Rio Grande, is the most likely seat in Texas to flip from D to R. How likely is the seat to flip? Well, the incumbent, Congressman Vincente Gonzalez (D-TX), opted to run for re-election in the neighboring district instead, which is a good indicator of what he thought his chances would be in the 15th. Redistricting, combined with the GOP’s growing strength with Hispanics in south Texas and a bad national environment for Democrats make this district a prime pickup opportunity for Republicans. Leading figures in the GOP have mostly rallied around businesswoman Monica De La Cruz as the standard bearer to take the 15th.
Very few of Texas’ 38 congressional districts have competitive primaries. Out of all the members of the state’s GOP delegation, Taylor is the only incumbent with a quasi-credible challenger, and the competitiveness of even that race is debatable. None of the other GOP incumbents have viable challengers, so we did not profile their races. GOP lawmakers in charge of redistricting opted to shore up incumbents instead of maximize potential Republican gains, resulting in only one district, the 15th, that will be seriously competitive in the general election (although the neighboring 28th, also in south Texas, could potentially be won by a Republican if enough factors align just right).
The state’s GOP congressional delegation is unlikely to change much this cycle, except in the case of the 8th District which may trade their current leadership-friendly congressman for a Freedom Caucus member. Most of the excitement in the GOP primary is focused on statewide and state legislative races, which the Texas Citizen Journal will profile in due time. When it comes to competing ideologies, the congressional primaries on the Democratic side are far more interesting, so stay tuned for the sequel to this article where we will take a look at what’s happening on the other side of the aisle.
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