Fort Bend Poised To Elect First Muslim State Lawmaker In Texas GOP Rep. Stephenson Defeated
On May 14, 2022, in Austin, Texas, a picture was taken of the Texas Capitol. (Getty Images photo by Montinique Monroe)
Suleman Lalani, a Democratic doctor, beat Vanesia Johnson in a runoff Tuesday in a newly drawn state House district in Fort Bend County. He is now set to become the first Muslim state lawmaker in Texas history.
Parts of Sugar Land, Mission Bend, and unincorporated Fort Bend County are in the new district, which was made during the redistricting process last year. Nearly half of the new residents came from another House district where Lalani ran for the Democratic nomination last time. This gives him an advantage over his opponents in the Democratic primary.
Mark Jones, a professor of political science at Rice University, says that if Lalani were elected, he would be the first Muslim to serve in the Texas Legislature. The House District 76 seat leans heavily Democratic, which makes it very likely that the nominee will win in November’s general election. (Democrat Salman Bhojani, a former city councilman in the North Texas suburb of Euless and a Muslim, is also expected to win a state House seat in Tarrant County in November.)
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Nearby, state Rep. Phil Stephenson, R-Wharton, lost his re-election bid to former Waller County Commissioner Stan Kitzman, who got 58 percent of the vote in a mostly rural district west of Houston where only a small number of votes had not yet been counted.
Stephenson was one of the more moderate Republicans in the Texas House. He was also seen as one of the most vulnerable members of his party this election cycle since his colleagues broke up his district last year when they re-drew the maps. Stephenson’s House District 85 was changed so that it included parts of four new counties, including Kitzman’s home county of Waller. However, a large part of Fort Bend County was taken out of the district.
In a rare move, Gov. Greg Abbott recently backed Kitzman over a sitting state representative, which is bad news for Stephenson.
Diyala-Barineau Still Tight
In Harris County, Republican attorneys Mano DeAyala and Shelley Barineau were in a close runoff race for a Texas House seat in Houston’s wealthy and changing western suburbs. Early voting and a small portion of Election Day results showed that less than 150 votes separated the two candidates.
The Primary Runoffs In Texas
After coming in second to Barineau in the March 1 primary, DeAyala was just ahead in the runoff, but it wasn’t clear how many votes still needed to be counted. Officials in Harris County have said that the final results won’t be out until “well into Wednesday.”
This means that the race almost certainly won’t be decided on Tuesday night.
In November, the winner is likely to replace state Rep. Jim Murphy, who is a moderate Republican but isn’t running again because the district leans red.
Jalonda Jones Is Almost Sure To Win.
In the only Texas House Democratic runoff in Harris County, Jolanda Jones, a former member of the Houston City Council and trustee of the Houston Independent School District, was ahead of real estate agent Danielle Keys Bess by nine percentage points with more than half of voting centers in the county reporting.
Jones beat Bess in a special election earlier this month. He will finish the rest of former Democratic state Rep. Garnet Coleman’s term, which ends at the end of the year. The winner of Tuesday’s runoff will be on the ballot for the general election in November. Then, voters will choose who will serve the next two-year term, which will start in January.
The two Democrats want to represent one of the most diverse state House districts in Texas, which includes Midtown, Third Ward, most of Montrose, and other parts of Houston’s urban core. It also includes the University of Houston and a large part of southeast Houston along Interstate 45.
In the runoff to replace state Rep. Mayes Middleton as the Republican nominee in House District 23, GOP activist Terri Leo Wilson beat trial lawyer Patrick Gurski. This was a big win for the most conservative part of the Republican Party. Middleton, who ran successfully for an open seat in the state Senate instead of running for re-election, backed Wilson to replace him in the lower chamber. Middleton is the leader of the hard-line House Freedom Caucus.
The city of Galveston, Chambers County, and parts of Galveston County are all in the district, which leans to the right.
Wilson, a retired teacher and former member of the State Board of Education, had the support of a number of Freedom Caucus members and was seen as the more conservative of the two candidates in the runoff. Abbott and a number of law enforcement groups stood up for Gurski.
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Elections for Congress
Voters also decided who will run for Congress in Harris County in November. Houston pastor Johnny Teague was chosen by the Republicans to run against U.S. Rep. Lizzie Fletcher, D-Houston, in her heavily Democratic seat.
Robert Schafranek, a longtime Republican candidate running in a very blue district, will face U.S. Rep. Sylvia Garcia in November after beating Julio Garza in the Republican runoff.
And in the newly drawn 38th Congressional District, Republican candidate Wesley Hunt will face Democrat Duncan F. Klussmann, a retired Spring Branch ISD superintendent who easily beat Diana Martinez Alexander in the runoff Tuesday.
Republicans have a big advantage in the west Houston district because of how it was drawn.
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