The 2022 primary cycle kicks off Tuesday in Texas, which will be the first state to conduct elections using a new congressional map. We have quite a lot in store, including a key Democratic primary rematch in the Rio Grande Valley between conservative Rep. Henry Cuellar and progressive opponent Jessica Cisneros, a race that took a sudden turn in January after the FBI raided the congressman’s home and campaign office. There's also the heated Republican battle for attorney general, where scandal-ridden incumbent Ken Paxton has Trump’s endorsement against several well-known foes, including a member of the Bush dynasty—and plenty more.
Below you'll find our guide to the key primaries to watch across the state, beginning with contests for statewide office. Texas requires candidates to win a majority of the vote in order to avoid a runoff, so some of these contests almost certainly won’t be resolved until a second round can take place on May 24. When it’s available, we'll tell you about any polling that exists for each race, but if we don't mention any numbers, it means no recent surveys have been made public.
Our live coverage will begin at Daily Kos Elections at 8 PM ET / 7 PM CT when polls close in most of Texas (the small portion in the Mountain Time Zone closes an hour later). You can also follow us on Twitter for blow-by-blow updates. And you’ll want to bookmark our primary calendar, which includes the dates for primaries in all 50 states.
● TX-Gov (R) (52-46 Trump): Republican incumbent Greg Abbott has long been one of the most conservative governors in America, but he faces two notable intra-party foes who don't think he's sufficiently far to the right: former state party chair Allen West, a one-time tea party star who was elected to the U.S. House from Florida in 2010 only to lose two years later, and former state Sen. Don Huffines, who lost re-election in 2018. Their arguments don’t seem to be gaining traction, however, as every independent poll shows Abbott taking a majority of the vote while his opponents lag far behind. The winner will take on former Rep. Beto O'Rourke, the 2018 Democratic Senate nominee who doesn’t have any serious intra-party opposition of his own.
● TX-AG (R & D) (52-46 Trump): Republican incumbent Ken Paxton is squaring off against three primary foes, all of whom are trying to use his myriad of scandals against him. Perhaps the most prominent challenger is Land Commissioner George P. Bush, who is the son of Jeb Bush, but he has his own weaknesses with the party's nativist base. Also running are former state Supreme Court Justice Eva Guzman and Rep. Louie Gohmert, whom then-Speaker of the House John Boehner once described as "insane," adding, "There's not a functional brain in there."
Paxton has been under indictment since 2015 for securities fraud (the case is still awaiting trial) and is reportedly also under FBI investigation over unrelated allegations that he used his office to aid a wealthy ally in exchange for favors. He's also facing a whistleblower lawsuit from four former senior aides who say they were fired after they reported Paxton's actions to law enforcement—a story that returned to the news in the last week of the campaign after the quartet publicly accused Paxton of lying about their case. Donald Trump, unsurprisingly, cares far more that the attorney general spearheaded an unsuccessful lawsuit aimed at overturning Joe Biden’s victory, so naturally, he’s supporting Paxton.
Paxton has spent much of the campaign running ads aimed at weakening Gohmert, though he began attacking Guzman late in the race. Bush has also used the final days to focus on Guzman, and the few polls we’ve seen indicate that she’s his main obstacle towards reaching a potential runoff. A mid-February YouGov survey for the University of Texas showed Paxton at 47%, close to the majority he’d need to win outright, while Bush outpaced Guzman 21-16 as Gohmert took 15%. More recent numbers from UT Tyler for the Dallas Morning News, though, had the incumbent taking 39% of the vote, while Bush led Guzman 25-13 for second, while Gohmert languished at just 7%.
The Democratic contest has attracted considerably less attention. Team Blue’s field includes former ACLU attorney Rochelle Garza, who has the backing of EMILY's List; former Galveston Mayor Joe Jaworski; and civil rights attorney Lee Merritt.
● TX-01 (R) (72-26 Trump): Nine-term Rep. Louie Gohmert is leaving behind this dark-red seat in northeast Texas in order to run for attorney general, and four fellow Republicans are competing to succeed him. Smith County Judge Nathaniel Moran, who leads a county that’s home to 30% of the district’s population (in Texas, county judges function as the equivalent of a county executive rather than as judicial officers), has looked like the frontrunner from the start, and he remains so going into election day.
Moran spent $272,000 during the pre-primary period, which spanned Jan. 1 to Feb. 9. Former Gohmert staffer Aditya Atholi and John Porro—who lives far from the 1st District in Dallas—each deployed less than $30,000 during this time, while businessman Joe McDaniel hasn’t recorded any spending. Outside groups also haven’t gotten involved here.
● TX-03 (R) (56-42 Trump): Republican Rep. Van Taylor has four intra-party foes as he seeks to hold the once-competitive Plano-area seat his party gerrymandered to be safely red, and his main threat seems to be from former Collin County Judge Keith Self. Self, who retired in 2018 as the leader of a suburban community that includes 90% of the district’s residents, has gone after the incumbent for voting to accept Joe Biden's Electoral College victory in the hours after the attack on the Capitol, as well as for supporting the creation of the Jan. 6 commission.
It’s not clear if Self’s message is breaking through, however, as Taylor massively outspent the challenger $495,000 to $56,000 during the pre-primary period and has been airing his own spots stressing his allegiance to Trump. An anti-Taylor super PAC called Defeating Communism PAC dropped $436,000 here in early February, but the congressman’s own outside group allies have spent over $800,000 to aid him, including the Congressional Leadership Fund, which is the main super PAC of the House GOP leadership, and Elect Principled Veterans Fund (Taylor served in the Marines).
● TX-08 (R) (63-36 Trump): While 11 Republicans are competing to succeed retiring Rep. Kevin Brady in a safely red constituency that includes the northern Houston area and nearby rural counties, the primary has turned into a very expensive bout focused on just two of them: retired Navy SEAL Morgan Luttrell and political operative Christian Collins, who is a former Brady campaign manager. The frontrunners, who both are stressing their conservative credentials and loyalty to Trump, disagree on little, but they’re supported by very different factions within the party.
Luttrell has in his corner House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and the Congressional Leadership Fund, which has aired ads for him, as well as former Gov. Rick Perry and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick. Collins, meanwhile, has the support of Sen. Ted Cruz and his allies in the nihilistic House Freedom Caucus, while a Cruz buddy, banker Robert Marling, has financed several super PACs that have spent heavily here.
Collins has tried to use his opponent’s connections against him, including a $5,000 donation the SEAL veteran solicited from the PAC of Illinois Rep. Adam Kinzinger, who voted to impeach Trump. Luttrell’s campaign outspent Collins $1.1 million to $272,000 in the pre-primary period, but Collins’ outside allies have helped him narrow the gap, as they’ve spent $1.4 million compared to $1 million for Luttrell’s side.
● TX-15 (D & R) (51-48 Trump): Democratic Rep. Vicente Gonzalez decided to run for the considerably safer 34th District (where fellow Democrat Filemon Vela is retiring) not long after the Republican-run legislature passed a new map that shifted the 15th from a 50-49 Biden seat into a 51-48 Trump constituency, and both parties have crowded primaries for this seat in the Rio Grande Valley.
Gonzalez himself is supporting Army veteran Ruben Ramirez, who ran against him in the 2016 primary but took just 6% of the vote, over five other Democrats. Ramirez himself has been outspent by two of his intra-party foes in what’s been a pretty low-key race so far: attorney John Villarreal Rigney outspent businesswoman Michelle Vallejo $75,000 to $53,000, while Ramirez and nonprofit official Eliza Alvarado deployed $43,000 and $37,000, respectively.
The state of play is clearer in the nine-way Republican primary, where 2020 nominee Monica De La Cruz, who held Gonzalez to a shockingly slim 51-48 victory last time despite raising very little money, is running again with endorsements from Donald Trump and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy. De La Cruz, however, attracted unwanted headlines in November after her estranged husband accused her of physically and verbally abusing her 14-year-old stepdaughter, but the story has yet to derail her campaign. During the pre-primary period, De La Cruz outspent Mauro Garza, a self-funder who last year lost to Democratic Rep. Joaquin Castro in the safely blue 20th District, $491,000 to $396,000.
● TX-28 (D & R) (53-46 Biden): Rep. Henry Cuellar, who has long been one of the most conservative members of the Democratic caucus, faces a rematch against attorney Jessica Cisneros, who held him to a 52-48 victory in 2020. Their second encounter in this Laredo-based district took a truly unexpected turn in January, however, when the FBI raided the congressman’s home and campaign headquarters as part of what the media reported was an investigation into his ties to Azerbaijan.
Cuellar still enjoys a financial edge over Cisneros, whom he outspent $1.2 million to $787,000 in the pre-primary period, but the scandal prompted some of the Cuellar's deep-pocketed allies to back off. As a result, outside spending has favored the challenger $1 million to $405,000.
Cuellar, as he did two years ago, has been running the kind of ads you'd normally expect to find in a Republican commercial by declaring that Cisneros' agenda would result in "open borders that would make us less safe." Cisneros’ side in turn has argued that the incumbent is too close to special interests, though they’ve also highlighted the FBI probe. A third candidate, educator Tannya Benavides, is also in, and while she hasn't attracted much outside support, her presence could be enough to throw this race to a runoff this time.
Republicans are hoping for an opening in the fall, and seven of them are competing in a race with no obvious frontrunner. Businessman Ed Cabrera outspent former San Antonio police officer Willie Vasquez Ng, who lost the 2020 primary for Bexar County sheriff, $59,000 to $51,000, but a group called Protect and Serve PAC launched a $200,000 buy in support of Ng. Former Ted Cruz staffer Cassy Garcia spent little in the pre-primary period, but she has her old boss’ support.
● TX-30 (D) (78-21 Biden): Democratic Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson is retiring after representing the Dallas area in Congress for 30 years, and she’s backing state Rep. Jasmine Crockett over eight other candidates. Two groups affiliated with the cryptocurrency industry have also together expended a massive $2.15 million to boost Crockett, while no one else has benefited from outside funding.
The field also includes veteran party operative Jane Hope Hamilton, who has endorsements from neighboring Rep. Marc Veasey and former Dallas Mayor Ron Kirk, and former legislative staffer Abel Mulugheta. Crockett narrowly outspent Hamilton $148,000 to $144,000 during the pre-primary period, while Mulugheta deployed $126,000.
● TX-35 (D) (72-26 Biden): Democratic Rep. Lloyd Doggett decided to run for re-election in the brand-new Austin-based 37th District rather than his old 35th District, and four Democrats are running to succeed him in a seat the GOP once again gerrymandered to connect the Austin area with San Antonio by means of a pencil-thin corridor along Interstate 35.
Former Austin City Council member Greg Casar enjoys the support of Mayor Steve Adler as well as a number of prominent national progressive organizations. State Rep. Eddie Rodriguez also hails from Austin, while former San Antonio City Councilwoman Rebecca Viagran has the backing of several politicians from her corner of the district. The fourth candidate, Austin-based consultant Carla Joy Sisco, has generated very little attention.
Casar outspent Rodriguez $463,000 to $354,000 during the pre-primary period, compared to just $14,000 for Viagran, while his allies have spent another $283,000 for him. A recent pro-Casar survey from Public Policy Polling showed him far ahead of the rest of the field with 42% of the vote, which is still a bit below the majority he'd need to win outright, while Rodriguez led Viagran 13-9 for second.
● TX-37 (D) (75-23 Biden): Democratic Rep. Lloyd Doggett opted to seek another term in the brand-new 37th District, a deliberate Democratic vote-sink centered on Austin, rather than run again in the 35th, which he's represented for the last 10 years. Though a much-respected figure in the area, the longtime incumbent has drawn three intra-party foes. His most prominent opponent is Donna Imam, who lost to Republican Rep. John Carter in 2020 in the old 31st District.
Doggett's existing constituency makes up just over 10% of this new Austin-based district, but it would be a huge surprise if the veteran congressman, who has represented Texas' capital city since 1995 under various maps, had any trouble in a primary, especially since he has the support of numerous local elected officials. The congressman appears to be taking the race seriously, though, as he outspent Imam $544,000 to $65,000 in the pre-primary period.
● TX-38 (R) (58-40 Trump): Army veteran Wesley Hunt impressed Republican leaders last cycle with his unsuccessful campaign to unseat Democratic Rep. Lizzie Fletcher in the 7th District, making him the heavy favorite this time to claim the brand-new 38th District in the Houston suburbs. Hunt has enjoyed a lopsided fundraising edge over his nine foes, including former State Republican Executive Committee member Mark Ramsey, and he’s also benefited from heavy spending from Opportunity Matters Fund, a well-funded super PAC run by allies of South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott. Hunt in late January released an internal poll that showed him winning 54%, while no one else took more than 3%.
Other Texas races to watch: Tarrant County District Attorney (R & D)
Tuesday will be an exciting night, so we hope you’ll join us for our liveblog at Daily Kos Elections!