Hundreds of Democrats are competing for office this year in Texas, where all 36 congressional seats are up for the taking, leaving many to wonder if a party that’s spent the better part of a decade getting its ass beat by the GOP can make a comeback.
Some of the most compelling races in the country are happening here in Houston, where a Republican is leaving his seat in a district deformed by gerrymandering, a conservative yet anti-Trump district might turn blue, and a district with a predominantly Hispanic constituency might finally get its first Hispanic representative.
As the March 6 primary nears, Democratic voters are already turning out in record numbers for early voting in Houston. But for the left-leaners who are still figuring out where their polling place is located, deciding who to vote for can be daunting. When faced with a litany of primary candidates, some put off voting until the more straightforward general election in November.
But primaries count. Take the 2016 primaries, for example. Almost twice as many registered Republicans voted…and we all know how that turned out. Though nowhere near as climactic as their November counterpart, the primaries present an arguably more in-depth opportunity for civic participation because voters have more choices for representation.
For the Houstonians undecided about which shade of blue is most becoming, here is an irreverent and alphabetical list of congressional candidates running in each of the city’s five districts.
Don’t know what district you’re in or who’s on your ballot? Use this nifty tool to find out, then come back and peruse the list.
DISTRICT 2 Incumbent: Ted Poe-R, not seeking reelection
Campaigning under the slogan “People OVER Politics,” the retired Navy Lieutenant is pushing for educational funding and criminal justice form. He wrote on Facebook, “WHEN I am elected to Congress (claimed) I will put every effort into helping our Government show our kids it loves them more than crime does.”
This millennial scientist has won favor with Bernie or Bust crowd, collecting endorsements from Our Revolution and the Houston Democratic Socialists of America. He stands on a platform built by the Summer for Progress, a leftist activist collective advocating for legislation that would bring about equality measures like universal healthcare and free college tuition.
Perhaps the closest thing to a Washington insider, the lawyer-turned-businessman’s career in politics began in 1988, according to his campaign site, and has since included a stint as a senate delegate for the Obama campaign in 2008 and a member of former mayor Bill White’s Tower Commission (which is a fancy term for a group of people who debate the fate of big buildings).
A 34-year-old Houston native and daughter of immigrants cuts to the chase with her four-sentence “Contract With The People.” If elected, Malik promises to advocate for universal healthcare, environmentalism, immigration reform, protection for Dreamers and “to end pay for play in Congress.”
Parvizian is a D.C.-native and owner of Sit Means Sit franchise, a dog training business that sells patented shock collars as a tool for canine education. “Protecting the environment and our animals” is among the primary causes he’s addressed in his campaign.
DISTRICT 7 Incumbent: John Culberson-R, seeking reelection
The former administrator at the Texas Medical Center is running what his Facebook page describes as “a Barack Obama, Beto O’Rourke inclusive-style of campaigning” driven by door-knocking and lots of hope. He is one of the few politicians offering detailed plans instead of lofty descriptions about his stances on issues like reforming healthcare, addressing debt, stimulating the economy and fixing the clusterfuck of Houston traffic.
Cargas isn’t a quitter. This will be his fourth congressional bid, leaving one to wonder if there’s a sense of entitlement driving this Houston assistant city attorney. He is crusading on the “fiscally conservative and socially liberal” campaign button sported by clueless college freshman everywhere.
Fletcher is a Planned Parenthood board member and one of the top fundraisers in the running. Her campaign rhetoric focuses on developing infrastructure that won’t crumble in historic floods that will probably persist (thanks, Obama) and improving transportation because, let’s face it, getting from one end of this city to another is basically a day trip.
“WTF” was leftist Laura Moser’s reaction when the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee showed her a level of contempt usually reserved for the GOP. Political pundits suspect the DCCC’s disparagement has to do with fears that the writer and activist is too progressive to carry the Democratic vote in a district so rife with privilege. Read more about Moser’s stance on taxes, transit and more in her January interview with FPH.
The 30-year-old activist is the youngest on the docket. He founded a small non-profit, Houston Millennials, which outlines the vague goal of turning young(ish) people into leaders. He has raised the least money of all the Democratic candidates in the 7th District, meaning the odds are against him. But, then again, Donald Trump is President so clearly anything can happen.
Though he does not live in the district he’s running to represent, the Harvard Law School grad promises to “build a stronger and healthier community” by using his magical politician’s wand to “create jobs.”
A political newcomer, this cancer doctor is pushing for a single-payer healthcare system and funding for medical research. Westin plays up his apolitical profession, noting on his campaign site, “I’m not a hyper-partisan person looking for a career as a go along to get along politician. If I get to D.C. and am told to fall in line or risk losing my seat, I’ll be able to stand my ground.”
DISTRICT 9 Incumbent: Al Green-D, seeking drinking buddies
Al Green has a good life right now. The 13-year incumbent faces challenge from neither a Democrat nor a Republican, meaning he gets to spend the campaign season coasting on a cushy salary and evading questions about prior allegations of sexual misconduct.
DISTRICT 18 Incumbent: Sheila Jackson Lee-D, seeking reelection
Johnson is a long-time educator, a retired veteran and president of the Louisiana Prison Chapel Foundation, a religious organization that builds chapels in prisons. His campaign is built on five target issues and he has provided plans of approach for each, with particular emphasis on criminal justice and education reform. He is also endorsed by George Foreman, so there’s that.
Sheila Jackson Lee (Incumbent)
With a resume including tenure as a former Houston judge, city council member and incumbent congresswoman for more than two decades, Jackson Lee is one of the most qualified political candidates in the city. She has served on the Committee on Homeland Security and the Committee on the Judiciary, decried the racist elitism of the status quo and pushed for immigration reform.
DISTRICT 29 Incumbent: Gene Green-D, not seeking re-election
Texas State Senator Silvia Garcia has been endorsed by Congressman Green to succeed him in District 29. Garcia is a career public servant who has dedicated much of her life to the community and to public service. In the past she has worked as a social worker, a legal aid lawyer, and as the Director and Presiding Judge of the Houston Municipal System, a position she held for an unprecedented five terms under two separate mayors. In 1998, Garcia was elected to be the City Controller, which is the second-highest elected office in Houston’s city government. Undoubtedly the most qualified candidate running in District 29, Garcia is a strong advocate for women, the LGBT community, and the immigrant community (She was one of the strongest voices fighting against SB 4). If elected, Garcia would like to fight for governmental transparency and accountability and an equal opportunity economy where quality education and good paying jobs are valued.
The realtor and entrepreneur who lost to incumbent Gene Green back in the 2016 Democratic primary is back. Her political pledges to promote small businesses and child welfare are no more descriptive than most other candidates, though the ambiguity of her stances is particularly striking on her campaign page on “Issues,” which reads only: “Contact us for further information about issues.”
Community involvement is the card Garcia’s campaign plays most, giving examples likes his childhood in the ballfields of Hidalgo Park and his volunteer service at schools. Term limits are among the issues the Ivy League lawyer has raised, a notable departure from his challengers.
Relying heavily on the American dream trope, Javed’s campaign makes sure few miss that he has gone from floor mopper to business executive. The Javed Plan, as it is described, includes Medicare for all, repealing Trump’s tax bill and, for funzies, “Standing Up to Trump.” Javed was endorsed by U.S. Senate Minority Leader and Ranking White Male Democrat Chuck Schumer, and is the sole candidate on this list who is not Hispanic, unlike 77% of the people he intends to represent.
Before he decided to run for Congress, Morales was interning for the Obama administration in D.C. as it developed the Affordable Healthcare Act. Recently he has been working as a high school teacher, though he quit to run on a largely education-based campaign platform that includes dedicating more resources to schools in low-income areas and offering free higher education.
His site sums it best: “Marine. Union Strong. Family Man.” If only more politicians could be as succinct as Reyes. And yet, the absence of any description of any platform whatsoever does leave one wanting for something more than a promise to faithfully represent the interests of the 29th District.
Valencia’s “bottom-up approach” to political reform includes a plan to form a Congressional Community Advisory Council, a vaguely named group that doesn’t seem to exist anywhere else. The Colombian-American immigrant also promises to “expedite deportation of criminals, and provide a path for legalization to undocumented immigrants who have proven to be model citizens.”