What to Watch in the Texas Primaries

Texas kicks off the 2022 primaries on March 1. Under the cloud of the new restrictions adopted by the state in 2021, and which led high rates of mail-in ballots to be rejected, voters will choose party nominees for a bevy of powerful public officials from their governor to state lawmakers. The elections will also be decisive for voting rights and criminal justice, with major elections for prosecutor, county clerk, and judges.

Here are 40 elections to watch, and why they matter, as prepared by Bolts editor Daniel Nichanian.

Check back on and after Election Night as Bolts will fill in each result. A candidate need to receive 50 percent of the primary vote to win, or else the election heads to a May 24 runoff.

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Statewide Offices

Governor (Dem/GOP)Governor Greg Abbott and Democratic challenger Beto O’Rourke are favored to face each other in the general election, but first face primaries. Abbott has many challengers including the arch-conservative state party chair Allen West and Don Huffines. Abbott (R) vs. O’Rourke (D)
Court of Criminal Appeals #5 (GOP)“Stop the Steal” activists have rallied around challenger Clint Morgan, angered by incumbent Scott Walker’s vote in a ruling that limited the attorney general’s powers. Our preview.Walker
Supreme Court #9 (GOP)It’s a battle of Greg Abbott protegees: Justice Evan Young, an incumbent he appointed, faces David Schenck, the governor’s former lawyer. No other Supreme Court incumbent faces a primary.Young
Attorney general (GOP)Attorney General Ken Paxton is indicted on securities fraud, and faces other scandals, but he has also been a darling of the far-right due to his moves on voting rights or LGBTQ rights. He faces a crowded field that includes far-right congressmember Louie Gohmert, former Justice Eva Guzman, and George P. Bush, presidential nephew and current state land commissioner.Runoff
Attorney general (Dem)A crowded Democratic field to take on Paxton (or whoever emerges out of the GOP primary) may head to the May runoff. Among the candidates: Lee Merritt, a civil rights attorney, Rochelle Garza, a former ACLU lawyer who fought for abortion rights in the state, and Joe Jaworski, the former Galverton mayor.Runoff


TX-03 (GOP)Challengers motivated by the Big Lie jumped in the primary to challenge Rep. Van Taylor after he voted to certify the 2020 presidential election. Our write-up on the result.Self
TX-08 (GOP)Conservative Texas leaders back Morgan Luttrell, but Christian Collins has cast himself as an anti-leadership right-wing warrior to draw the backing of Ted Cruz and Marjorie Taylor Greene. The Texas Tribune previews.Luttrell
TX-15 (Dem.)In an open seat in South Texas, Democrats will decide between Ruben Ramirez, John Villareal Rigney, and Michelle Vallejo, who has taken a more progressive approach. The winner will face a very competitive general election.Runoff
TX-28 (Dem.)Progressive challenger Jessica Cisneros takes on longtime Blue Dog Democrat Henry Cuellar, arguably the highest profile Democratic primary. The rematch, in a new district, plays out in the wake of an FBI raid on Cuellar’s house.Runoff
TX-35 (Dem.)National progressives, like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, recently traveled here, to rally around Greg Casar, running in this open primary for a Dem seat against lawmaker Eddie Rodriguez, who took aim at homeless encampments in the final weeks of the race.Casar


HD-18 (GOP)GOP incumbent Ernest Bailes, who has angered conservatives on a host of issues like Medicaid, faces a challenge from the right.Bailes
HD-19 (GOP)Among the candidates in this GOP primary is Justin Berry, a police officer who was just indicted for excessive force against protesters. Berry is a police union VP with a history of fear mongering.Runoff
HD-79 (Dem)Incumbents Claudia Ordaz Perez and Art Fierro face off in El Paso. Prominent progressive groups back Ordaz Perez; they have criticized Fierro for returning to the capitol when other Democrats were looking to deprive the GOP of a quorum over voting rights in 2021. The Texas Tribune previews.Perez
HD-91 (GOP)A staunchly anti-abortion Republican incumbent, Stephanie Klick, faces a primary challenge from a group that thinks the state should go even further in criminalizing abortion. Read the Dallas Morning News preview.Runoff
HD-142 (Dem)A test over labor: Incumbent Harold Dutton, a supporter of charter schools, faces challenger Candis Houston, who has support from unions and progressive groups such as the Working Families Party. Dutton also helped advance a Republican bill last year that targeted transgender athletes.Dutton
SD-15 (Dem)Democrat John Whitmire chairs the Criminal Justice Committee in the GOP-run state Senate, a position from which he has helped block criminal justice reforms such as “Raise the Age.” He faces a challenge from Molly Cook.Whitmire

County Clerks (& Voting Rights)

Hood County (GOP)While pushing baseless claims about fraud, conservatives targeted Michele Carew, the county’s election administrator. Among them: County Clerk Katie Lang. Carew later resigned, and decided to challenge Lang in the GOP primary. Our write-up.Lang
Travis County
Democrats choose their nominee for the office that administers elections in the state’s bluest county. The candidates want to use the office to bolster voting rights, and will have to deal with GOP preemption.Limon-Mercado


Harris County: Criminal courts (x9, Dem.)Judges who backed a landmark bail reform in Harris County (Houston) are now up. And nine staff prosecutors from the county’s DA office are running for the bench! See our preview.Of the 9: 5 lost, 3 won, 1 runoff. ,
Harris County: Criminal Court (Dem.)One of these nine primaries to highlight: Franklin Bynum has drawn attention after winning as a democratic socialist, and for clashing with other local officials like DA Kim Ogg.Ramirez
Travis County: Justice of the PeaceOffice has authority over housing and truancy. Andrew Hairston is challenging incumbent Yvonne Michelle Williams by promising to use “every ounce of discretion” to fight evictions and was endorsed by the local DSA. Read the Austin Chronicle‘s preview.Williams
See also: The Austin Common’s guide to all judicial elections in Travis County, and Houston Public Media’s guide to Justice of the Peace candidates in Harris County.

District attorneys

Bexar (GOP)The GOP chooses a nominee against Dem DA Joe Gonzales; the brother of the incumbent Gonzales ousted in 2018 is a contender. Our preview.LaHood
Dallas (Dem.)DA John Creuzot faces a rematch against former judge Elizabeth Frizzell, whom he narrowly defeated in 2018. He has faced pushback by Republicans for his reforms, and Frizzell has echoed some of that criticism. Our preview.Creuzot
Hidalgo County (Dem.)In this populous county in South Texas, the Democratic primary is likely to decide the next DA, though criminal justice reform is not at the forefront of the campaign. Our preview.Palacios
Tarrant County (GOP)The retiring DA oversaw the prosecution of Crystal Mason. And yet the GOP primary, featuring a Trump-endorsed candidate and a lawmaker best known for inspiring book bans, could push the office further to the right. Our preview.Runoff
Tarrant County (Dem.)Democrats choose their nominee in a high-stakes race in a county that has trended blue but remains a GOP stronghold in local politics. Our preview.Burks
See also: Our full list of DA and sheriff elections in Texas in 2022.

Other county elections

Harris County: Judge (Dem.)Lina Hidalgo has drawn national attention for progressive policies since she became the Texas equivalent of a county president in 2018, in the nation’s third most populous county. She now faces both a primary challenge of her own while a large Republican field is choosing who she will face in November.Hidalgo
Travis County: Commissioners Court (x2, Dem.)Challengers Bob Libal, a longtime activist, and Susanna Ledesma-Woody have received progressive group endorsements in a bid to shift the Travis County Commissioners Court (i.e. county board) to the left.TBD


Austin (May)On Austin’s May ballot: Whether to decriminalize small amounts of marijuana.Yes
Austin (May)Also on Austin’s May ballot: An initiative on banning no-knock warrants.Yes
See also: The GOP is asking its own primary’s voters, statewide, to weigh in on 10 questions such as whether Texas should end property taxes, as well as a question on critical race theory. (These questions are not binding but help the party set its priorities.)