The Worst Candidates To Survive the Texas Primary

Beth Van Duyne
Beth Van Duyne City of Irving
Many, many good candidates won their primaries last week in Texas. This story is not about those candidates. No, this story is about all the bad candidates — some with bad ideas, some with questionable moral compasses and some who are just washed up — who managed to survive Tuesday, either by winning their election outright or qualifying for a runoff.

In the fevered imaginations of political consultants, Texas might be a purple state, one where contests in its 254 counties have worthwhile candidates on both sides. That couldn't be further from the truth. Texas may be as competitive on the top line or two of the ballot as it's been in decades, but the Lone Star State's rural-urban divide and poor voter turnout mean that some impressively bad candidates get an impressively large amount of votes.

Here are some of the most notable.

Pete Sessions, Republican for U.S. Congress — Dallas voters kicked Pete Sessions out of Congress in 2018. Central Texas voters are doing their best to bring him back. Sessions won 16 elections before Democrat Colin Allred, thanks in large part to his support for the Affordable Care Act, beat him. After his loss, many pundits theorized that Sessions might try to win his old seat back, but the ex-congressman likely saw the writing on the wall.

Instead of trying to win again in North Texas — a place he lamented as having been overrun with outsiders from the coasts — Sessions picked up his carpetbag and headed down I-35 to the friendlier confines of Congressional District 17, which is based in Waco.

Despite being a short-term resident and his role in the Ukraine investigation, Waco voters gave Sessions 32% of the vote, giving him a first-place, first-round finish as he heads into a runoff with Renee Swann to fill the seat vacated by Republican Bill Flores, who's retiring from Congress. 
Henry Cuellar, Democrat for U.S. Congress — Here's the confusing thing about Henry Cuellar, who was renominated by Rio Grande Valley Democrats: He's not a Democrat. At least not in the way anyone thinks of Democrats. Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry appointed Cuellar to serve as secretary of state. He endorsed George W. Bush for president in 2000, raised money for Republican House incumbent John Carter in 2018.

According to FiveThirtyEight, Cuellar votes with President Donald Trump more than all but two of his Democratic colleagues. He frequently votes to curtail abortion rights and supports expansive gun rights. Cuellar survived a strong challenge Tuesday from 26-year-old attorney Jessica Cisneros, but he had to get dragged over the line by the Koch brothers — who made him the first Democrat ever supported by one of their super PACs — and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a longtime ally.

Beth Van Duyne, Republican for U.S. Congress — Former Irving Mayor Beth Van Duyne has her own page on the Southern Poverty Law Center's HateWatch blog, thanks to the obsession with Sharia law that dominated her times as mayor. She served in the Trump administration and coasted to an easy win in the Republican primary to represent Texas' 24th congressional district. The diverse inner-ring suburbs that make up the district deserve better.
Ronny Jackson, Republican for U.S. Congress — Remember the Navy doctor who gushed about President Trump's health after Trump's physical in 2018? He's two steps away from representing Texas in the House of Representatives, despite not getting remotely close to being confirmed after Trump tried to make him head of the Veterans Administration.
Robert Morrow, Republican for State Board of Education — Nobody who knows who Robert Morrow is — not Republicans and certainly not Democrats — wants him in public life, much left public office. 

“Robert Morrow has a history of misogynist and vulgar language,” a resolution against Morrow's candidacy from the Travis County Republican Party said earlier this year. “Robert Morrow has made outrageous and slanderous allegations about President Trump, members of the Bush family, and Governor Rick Perry, among others.”
Morrow is a joke candidate. He can frequently be seen wearing a jester's hat in public and has no real constituency. He's like Kinky Friedman without the likability, good sense or moral compass. Nevertheless, Central Texas voters voted him into a runoff for a seat on Texas' State Board of Education, of all things. Don't vote for him, please.

Joe Biden, Democrat for President; Donald Trump, Republican for President — Seriously, this is the best we can do?
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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