Stories about Texas

Voters to decide special election on May 1 for Texas’ 6th Congressional District

A special election to fill the vacancy in Texas’ 6th Congressional District will be held May 1. Twenty-three candidates are running to represent this district in the Fort Worth suburbs. If no candidate receives more than 50% of the vote, the top two vote-getters will compete in a runoff election. The previous incumbent, Ronald Wright (R), died from COVID-19 related complications on February 7, 2021.

Media attention has focused on eight candidates in the race: Lydia Bean (D), Shawn Lassiter (D), Jana Lynne Sanchez (D), Jake Ellzey (R), Brian Harrison (R), Sery Kim (R), Michael Wood (R), and Susan Wright (R).

Former President Donald Trump (R) endorsed Wright this week. Harrison received endorsements from several Trump administration officials, including former Cabinet members Alex Azar, Betsy DeVos, and Linda McMahon. U.S. Rep Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.), who voted to impeach Trump, endorsed Wood. 

Ellzey was endorsed by former Gov. Rick Perry (R), the Texas Farm Bureau, and three Ellis County Commissioners. He has faced opposition from the Club for Growth and U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R).

Kim, a Korean-American, was endorsed by the two Korean-American members of Congress, but those endorsements were later rescinded following comments she made about Chinese immigrants.

Among the Democratic candidates, Bean received endorsements from several unions, including the Texas AFL-CIO, the local Teamsters, and the local United Food and Commercial Workers Union. Lassiter received endorsements from local school board officials, a former state board of education member, the 314 Action Fund, and the Voter Protection Project. Sanchez was endorsed by a pair of Arlington City Council members and the campaign arm of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.

The district has become more competitive in both presidential and congressional elections since 2012. In 2020, Trump won the district 51-48, running behind Wright, who won 53-44. In 2016, Trump won the district 54-42, while Wright won 58-39. In 2012, Mitt Romney (R) won the district 58-41 while then-Rep. Joe Barton (R) won re-election 58-39. Midterm elections in the district have followed the same trend. In 2018, Wright won re-election 53-45, while Barton won 61-36 in 2014.

New apportionment data released – six states gain congressional seats, seven states lose seats

On April 26, 2021, the U.S. Census Bureau released it post-2020 census apportionment counts. Six states—Texas (two seats), Colorado, Florida, Montana, North Carolina, and Oregon—gained seats. Seven states—California, Illinois, Michigan, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia—each lost a seat.

Of the six states that gained congressional seats, three are Republican trifectas (Texas, Florida, and Montana), meaning Republicans control the governorship and majorities in both state legislative chambers in each. Two (Colorado and Oregon) are Democratic trifectas, and one (North Carolina) is a divided government.

Of the seven states that lost congressional seats, three (California, Illinois, and New York) are Democratic trifectas, two (Ohio and West Virginia) are Republican trifectas, and two (Michigan and Pennsylvania) are divided governments.

What is apportionment, and how does it work? Every ten years, the nation conducts the census, a complete count of the U.S. population. The data gleaned from the census determines congressional apportionment. Apportionment is the process by which the 435 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives are allotted to the states on the basis of population, as required under Article I, Section 2, of the U.S. Constitution. A state can gain seats in the House if its population grows – or lose seats if its population decreases – relative to populations in other states.

After the first census (1790), the 105 members of U.S. House represented about 34,000 residents each. Now, the 435 members of the House will represent an average of 761,169 residents each.

The 2020 census: According to the 2020 census, the resident population of the United States, as of April 1, 2020, was 331,449,281, representing a 7.4 percent increase over the 2010 population. California remained the most populous state with 39,538,223 residents. The population of Texas, the only state to gain multiple congressional seats from apportionment, grew by nearly 4 million residents between 2010 and 2020, reaching 29,145,505. Utah was the fastest-growing state: its population increased by 18.4 percent between 2010 and 2020, reaching 3,271,616.

The census is a complex undertaking. First, the Census Bureau collects data. This involves making a list of every residence (including houses, apartments, dorms, etc.) in the 50 states, the District of Columbia, and the five U.S. territories; asking members of each household in the country to complete the census survey; and following up with those households that did not submit surveys. The Census Bureau then must process the data. This involves making a final list of residential addresses, cross-checking for duplicate responses, and processing write-in responses. The Census Bureau also uses imputation, a statistical method applied “in rare instances” that enables the Census Bureau “to fill in missing information using what we already know about an address and its nearest, similar neighbor.” Typically, upon final processing of the data, the Census Bureau delivers state population and apportionment counts by December 31 in the year of the census. Detailed redistricting data follows by April 1 of the next year.

On November 19, 2020, Census Bureau Director Steve Dillingham announced that, “during post-collection processing, certain processing anomalies [had] been discovered.” Dillingham said that he had directed the bureau “to utilize all resources available to resolve this as expeditiously as possible.” On January 27, 2021, Kathleen Styles, a Census Bureau official, announced that the final apportionment report would be delivered by April 30, 2021.

What comes next: The Census Bureau has not yet delivered redistricting data to the states. Upon announcing the 2020 apportionment counts, Acting Census Bureau Director Ron Jarmin said, “Our work doesn’t stop here. Now that the apportionment counts are delivered, we will begin the additional activities needed to create and deliver the redistricting data that were previously delayed due to COVID-19.” The Census Bureau expects to deliver the raw data to the states by August 16. The “full redistricting data with toolkits for ease of us” will be delivered by September 30.

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Early voting begins in special Congressional election in Texas

On April 19, early voting began in a special election to fill the seat representing Texas’ 6th Congressional District in the U.S. House. The special election will fill the vacancy left by Ronald Wright (R), who died from complications related to COVID-19. The election will take place on May 1, with a runoff taking place later in the month if no candidate receives more than 50% of the vote.

With 23 candidates running in the special election, the Texas Tribune said the race was likely to head to a mid-summer runoff between the top two vote-getters. The Tribune identified seven prominent candidates in the race—three Democrats and four Republicans. Those candidates are: Jana Lynne Sanchez (D), Lydia Bean (D), Shawn Lassiter (D), Susan Wright (R), Jake Ellzey (R), Brian Harrison (R), Sery Kim (R).

Each of the Republican candidates has campaigned on the issues of firearm policy, immigration and the U.S.-Mexico border, business growth through deregulation, and abortion. They can be distinguished by the endorsements they have received.

Susan Wright, the widow of Ronald Wright, was endorsed by five members of Congress, the state party executive committee, and the mayor of Forth Worth.

Kim, a former official with the Small Business Association, received the endorsement of two Korean-American Republican members of Congress, and is Korean-American herself. Those were rescinded in early April following comments she made about immigration from China, however.

Harrison, the chief of staff to former Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar, has touted endorsements from more than 100 members of the Trump administration, including Azar, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, and Administrator of the Small Business Administration Linda McMahon. Ellzey, a 20-year Navy veteran, received endorsements from former Gov. Rick Perry, the Texas Farm Bureau, and the War Veterans Fund.

Each of the three Democrats has emphasized what they call working class economic issues, education, and expanding affordable medical care as key parts of their platform.

Bean, a former teacher, received endorsements from the county and state AFL-CIO and the local branch of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union. Lassiter, also a teacher, was endorsed by two local school board members, a former state board of education member, the 314 Action Fund, and the Voter Protection Project. Sanchez, a communications consultant, was endorsed by state Rep. Michelle Beckley, two Arlington City Council members, and the campaign arm of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.

In the 2020 general election, Wright defeated Stephen Daniel (D) 53-44, while Trump carried the district 51-48. Wright won re-election in 2018 with 53 percent of the vote and in 2016 with 58 percent of the vote.

Austin voters will decide eight ballot measures on May 1, including ranked-choice voting and police oversight

On May 1, Austin, Texas voters will decide eight ballot measures. All but one, Proposition C, were put on the ballot through initiative signature petition drives.

Proposition A was sponsored by the Austin Firefighters Association, Local 975. The measure would amend the city’s charter to require the city and firefighters association to participate in binding arbitration when an agreement cannot be reached through collective bargaining regarding working conditions. The union is set to begin the negotiation process with the city for a new contract in the spring of 2022.

Proposition B was sponsored by Save Austin Now, a bi-partisan PAC founded by Cleo Petricek (D) and Matt Mackowiak, chairman of the Travis County GOP. The measure would make it a criminal offense for anyone to sit, lie down, or camp in public areas and prohibit the solicitation of money or other things of value at specific hours and locations. The measure is in response to a 2019 unanimous vote by the Austin City Council to repeal an ordinance that prohibited sitting, lying, or panhandling in the downtown area. The city council also voted 9-2 to prohibit camping in public areas under certain circumstances.

Save Austin Now campaign said on their website, “Incompetent policy has encouraged aggressive public camping and panhandling that creates unsafe living conditions on the streets and unsafe streets for everyone else.” The measure is opposed by Homes Not Handcuffs. The  Homes Not Handcuffs campaign said, “These laws also make the underlying problems that cause homelessness worse. People wrack up fines and fees that they cannot pay. They are saddled with criminal records, making it more difficult to get housing and employment.”

Proposition C was referred to the ballot in a 10-1 vote of the Austin City Council with Councilmember Mackenzie Kelly opposing the measure. Proposition C would amend the city’s charter to authorize the city council to determine how the director of the Office of Police Oversight is appointed or removed through a city ordinance. Currently, the director of the Office of Police Oversight is appointed by the city manager. Council Member Gregorio Casar, a sponsor of the amendment, said, “If we want police accountability, then we need our police oversight office to be as independent as possible. In other cities, the Office of Police Oversight is independently appointed or is overseen by a civilian board, but right now our options as a city are limited. By making this proposed charter change in May, the community and city council have the opportunity to create more transparency and accountability of our police department in the future.”

Austinites for Progressive Reform sponsored five initiatives related to elections and local governance: 

  • Proposition D would align mayoral elections with presidential election years instead of gubernatorial elections years beginning in 2024.
  • Proposition E would enact ranked-choice voting provided state law allows it.
  • Proposition F would change city governance from a council-manager system to a mayor-council system.
  • Proposition G would add an additional city council district, thereby increasing the total number of city council members from 10 to 11.
  • Proposition H would adopt a public campaign finance program that provides $25 vouchers to registered voters to contribute to campaigns of qualifying candidates.

Austinites for Progressive Reform said, “Our goal is to amend Austin’s city charter to enact proven campaign finance reforms, election reforms, and governance reforms. By doing so, we will increase political participation, increase voter turnout, and make sure our city works for everybody.” 

The last day to register to vote in the election is April 1. Early voting begins on April 19 and runs through April 27. On election day, the polls will be open from 7:00 am to 7:00 pm.

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Mississippi lifts mask restrictions; Texas, Alabama announce dates for ending requirements

Thirty-nine states issued statewide mask requirements during the COVID-19 pandemic. This week, the governors of Alabama and Texas announced dates for lifting statewide mask requirements, and the governor of Mississippi lifted the state’s regional mask requirement. As a result, six of the original thirty-nine states with statewide mask requirements have now lifted or announced dates to lift them.

Mississippi had a statewide mask requirement from Aug. 5-Sept. 30, 2020, followed by a regional mask requirement that applied in 75 of 82 counties. Gov. Tate Reeves (R) lifted the regional mask requirement on March 3, though the state still requires masks in K-12 school buildings.

Reeves’ order also lifted gathering restrictions for individuals. Large indoor venues like arenas with ticketed seating are limited to 50% seating capacity. Previously, only 10 people could gather indoors and 50 could gather outdoors.

On March 2, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) issued an order, effective March 10, ending the statewide mask mandate and allowing all businesses to open at 100% capacity. If COVID-19 hospitalizations get above 15% of hospital bed capacity in any of the state’s 22 hospital regions for seven consecutive days, then a county judge may impose some restrictions. Those restrictions cannot include capacity limits below 50%, however. The order also prohibits jurisdictions from penalizing people for not wearing face coverings. Texas’ mask order was first implemented July 3.

On March 4, Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey (R) extended the state’s coronavirus emergency order, including the mask requirement, until 5:00 p.m. on April 9. Ivey said she will let the mask order expire on April 9. Ivey first issued the statewide mask requirement on July 16.

Thirty-five states currently have statewide mask orders, including all 23 states with Democratic governors and 12 out of the 27 states with Republican governors.

Candidate filing deadline passes in Texas’ 6th Congressional District

Candidates interested in running in the special election for Texas’ 6th Congressional District had until March 3, 2021, to file. The general election is scheduled for May 1.

The special election was called after Ronald Wright (R) passed away due to complications from COVID-19 on February 7, 2021. Wright served from 2019 to 2021.

As of March 2021, three special elections have been scheduled to complete a term in the U.S. House. From the 113th Congress to the 116th Congress, 50 special elections were held.

Texas’ U.S. House delegation includes 22 Republicans and 13 Democrats and one vacancy.

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Three candidates file for city council special election in Garland, Texas

The city of Garland, Texas, will hold a nonpartisan special election for District 1 on the Garland City Council on May 1, 2021. The filing deadline for the special election was March 1.

Jeff Bass, John Grimley, and Angie Whitney will face off in the special election. The seat is currently held by Ricky McNeal. He was appointed to the seat in December 2020 to replace David Gibbons. He will hold the seat until the May 1 election.

Ballotpedia will also be covering the Garland mayoral race and four other city council seats on the May 1 ballot. The filing deadline for those races was February 12. Garland is the 87th largest city by population in the United States.

Thirty-one mayoral elections are being held in the 100 largest U.S. cities in 2021. As of March 2021, the partisan breakdown of the mayors of the 100 largest U.S. cities was 64 Democrats, 25 Republicans, four independents, and seven nonpartisans.

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Governor sets special election in Texas’ 6th Congressional District for May 1

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) called a special election for Texas’ 6th Congressional District in the U.S. House. The special election will fill the vacancy left by Ronald Wright (R), who died from complications related to COVID-19 on February 7, 2021. The general election will be held May 1, 2021. The filing deadline is March 3, 2021.

Two other special elections have been scheduled for vacant seats in the 117th United States Congress, both U.S. House seats in Louisiana. Louisiana’s 2nd Congressional District became vacant after Rep. Cedric Richmond (D) joined the Biden administration as senior adviser to the president and director of the White House Office of Public Engagement. Louisiana’s 5th Congressional District became vacant when Rep.-elect Luke Letlow (R) died on December 29, 2020, from complications related to COVID-19 before he was sworn into office.

Fifty special elections to the United States Congress were held during the 113th through 116th Congresses. During that time, special elections were called for 16 seats vacated by Democrats and 34 vacated by Republicans.

As of February 23, Texas’ U.S. House delegation has 13 Democrats, 22 Republicans, and one vacancy. The U.S. House has 221 Democrats, 211 Republicans, and three vacancies. A majority in the chamber requires 218 seats.

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Voters in Texas House district to decide special election runoff on Feb. 23

A special general runoff election is being held on February 23 for District 68 of the Texas House of Representatives. Craig Carter (R) is facing David Spiller (R) in the runoff. Carter and Spiller advanced from the general election on January 23, earning 18% of the vote and 44% of the vote, respectively. Governor Greg Abbott issued a proclamation on February 4 to schedule the runoff.

The seat became vacant after Drew Springer (R) won a special election for Texas State Senate District 30 on December 19, 2020. Springer was elected to the state House in 2012. He won re-election in November 2020 with 85.5% of the vote.

Heading into the special election, Republicans have an 82-67 majority in the Texas House. Texas has a Republican state government trifecta. A trifecta exists when one political party simultaneously holds the governor’s office and majorities in both state legislative chambers.

As of February, 26 state legislative special elections have been scheduled for 2021 in 16 states. Between 2011 and 2020, an average of 75 special elections took place each year.

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23 candidates file to run for mayor, city council in Arlington, Texas

The filing deadline for candidates interested in running for mayor and city council member in Arlington, Texas, was February 12, 2021. The nonpartisan general election is scheduled for May 1.

Eight candidates—Doni Anthony, Kelly Burke, former city councilmember Michael Glaspie, Cirilo Ocampo Jr., Jim Ross, District 3 city councilmember Marvin Sutton, Jerry Warden, and Dewayne Washington—filed to replace Jeff Williams as mayor. Williams was elected as mayor of Arlington in 2015 and is unable to run for re-election in 2021 due to term limits.

In total, 15 candidates filed to run for four seats on the Arlington City Council.

District 3

Tamiko Brown, Nikkie Hunter, Alixis Lupien, Diana Saleh, and Dora Tovar filed to run for this open seat. Incumbent Marvin Sutton was elected to the seat in 2019. He filed to run for mayor instead of running for re-election.

District 4

Incumbent Andrew Piel will face Hunter Crow, Billy McClendon Jr., Nehal Mehta, Anne Nwaefulu, and Cheyenne Zokaie in the general election. Piel was elected to this seat in 2019.

District 5

Rebecca Boxall and Kennedy Jones filed to run for this open seat. Incumbent Ignacio Nunez was elected to this seat in 2019. He did not file for re-election.

District 8

Incumbent Barbara Odom-Wesley will face Chris Dobson in the general election. Odom-Wesley was elected to the seat in 2019.

Arlington is the 50th largest city by population in the United States. Thirty-one mayoral elections are being held in the 100 largest U.S. cities in 2021. As of February 2021, the partisan breakdown of the mayors of the 100 largest U.S. cities was 64 Democrats, 25 Republicans, four independents, and seven nonpartisans.

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