What You Missed When You Were Watching Biden and Sanders

An early voting station on the Southern Methodist University campus.
An early voting station on the Southern Methodist University campus. Meredith Lawrence
At the very top of the ticket, Texas' primary felt a lot like the other primaries that were held Tuesday. Former Vice President Joe Biden, thanks to a lot of help, caught Sen. Bernie Sanders as Sanders headed down the homestretch, trying to turn the Democratic Party on its head.

Down ballot, things were a lot less predictable. Here's some of what you missed if you stuck to cable news last night.

One of Dallas' most competitive Texas House races is going to a runoff. One isn't. — Lorraine Birabil won the runoff to replace Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson in Texas House District 100 on Jan. 29. Less than two months later, she's slated for another runoff, as she attempts to win the seat for a full term in November.

Birabil, who is backed by Democratic heavyweights including former U.S. Rep. Beto O'Rourke, finished first in the first round of Democratic primary voting but failed to secure a majority. She'll face second-place finisher Jasmine Felicia Crockett, an attorney, in the runoff on May 26.

Unlike Birabil, Joanna Cattanach can spend her spring focusing on her general election opponent, Texas House District 108 incumbent Republican Morgan Meyer. With significant help from Dallas' progressive activists, Cattanach, who nearly picked off Meyer in 2018, fended off a challenge from former congressional candidate Shawn Terry.

Stickland lives, sort of, in Northeast Tarrant County. — The Observer was a bit chagrined last year when it found out that DFW's very own large, legislative son, Jonathan Stickland, was calling it quits from the Texas House. Turns out, Northeast Tarrant County voters didn't want to leave us twisting in the wind.

While they could've thrown their support between Jim Griffin or Taylor Gillig, both of whom are, by Texas standards, normal Republicans, they instead decided to nominate Jeff Cason, a man after Stickland's very own heart.

Cason's got the support of Texas Right to Life — the farthest right of Texas far-right anti-choice advocacy groups — and Michael Quinn Sullivan's Empower Texans, the people who brought you Bonnenghazi last year.

The lines. Oh, the lines. As polls closed in Dallas County at 7 p.m., lines at the Oak Lawn Library were, reportedly, two hours long. Across the state, voters waited, and waited, to cast ballots with polls staying open until midnight or later to accommodate voters who were in line when they officially closed. 
Beth Van Duyne rolls in Irving. — Former Trump administration official and Irving Mayor Beth Van Duyne made her bones fighting against the invented scourge of Sharia law. Now she's a Republican candidate for Congress, fighting to represent one of North Texas' most diverse communities, after having won her primary without a runoff.

"I am going to fight, you all know that, right?" Van Duyne said. "People want a fighter. They want somebody with backbone, they want somebody with spirit. They want someone with a loud, articulate voice that is going to be able to represent our values."

The word "our" is doing some heavy lifting in that sentence.

Dallas County's got a big, Trumpian proxy fight on its hands. — Throughout her primary campaign, Dallas business executive Genevieve Collins has sounded a lot more like Trumpist die-hard than someone fighting to bring a decidedly purple district back into Republican hands.

She's repeatedly painted Rep. Colin Allred, a moderate Democrat who's endorsed Joe Biden, as a leftist usurper, and used President Donald Trump's impeachment as an excuse to raise money, rather than cause for reflection.

Barring a shift in vote totals as Dallas County precincts report, Collins appears to have bested a five-candidate field without needing a runoff.

Expect fireworks this summer and fall.

MJ Hegar leads, West's fate uncertain. — Former Air Force helicopter pilot and congressional candidate MJ Hegar, the leader in every poll that's come out prior to the primary, took care of business in the Democratic skirmish to see who's going to take on incumbent Republican Sen. John Cornyn in November.

With 76% of the statewide vote in early Wednesday morning, Hegar led the 12-candidate field, having racked up just more than 23% of the vote. The race for the second spot in May's runoff was down to activist Cristina Tzintzun Ramirez and Dallas state Sen. Royce West, with Ramirez holding a 13,000-vote lead.

West left his watch party Tuesday night with a promise to speak Wednesday, when all the results are in.

“The reality is that the second-place finisher has not been finalized yet because there are votes that are going back and forth right now,” West said. “We feel comfortable that at the end of the day we’ll be in second place. Once we finalize it, what I’ll do is I’ll sit down with my staff and organize for the runoff.”

Whichever candidate makes it to the final round with Hegar will be a decided underdog, according to Rice University political scientist Mark Jones. West has already maxed out his potential vote, Jones said, pointing to the senator's big lead among Dallas County voters. Tzintzun Ramirez, he said, is more progressive than the Texas Democratic party as a whole.
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Stephen Young has written about Dallas news for the Observer since 2014. He's a Dallas native and a graduate of the University of North Texas.
Contact: Stephen Young