Pictured: Out Texas House candidates Venton Jones (left) and Jolanda Jones (right) advanced to runoffs, while Sara Martinez (center) won her primary for Dallas County justice of the peace.
There’s more to Texas than anti-LGBTQ+ extremism, as evidenced by a spate of victories by out candidates in Tuesday’s primary election.
A record 27 LGBTQ+ candidates won their primaries Tuesday, and five are moving to runoffs, according to the LGBTQ Victory Fund. The previous record was 18, set in 2020. Most are Democrats, while some offices, such as judicial ones, are nonpartisan.
Ten of the primary winners are running for the Texas legislature, which has just six out members now. There are also two potentially history-making legislative candidates who advanced to runoffs, which are held when no candidate wins a majority of the vote.
Venton Jones, a gay Black man who is living with HIV, will be in the May 24 runoff against Sandra Crenshaw for an open Texas House seat representing the Dallas-area District 100. He would be Texas’s first Black male legislator from the LGBTQ+ community as well as the first state lawmaker in the nation who is Black, gay, and HIV-positive.
Jolanda Jones, a Black lesbian, advanced to a runoff for an open seat from Texas House District 147, in the Houston area. She would be the first Black woman from the LGBTQ+ community in the legislature. Both she and Venton Jones are Democrats in heavily Democratic districts.
LGBTQ+ Texas House candidates who prevailed in their primaries were incumbents Jessica Gonzales, Mary Gonzales, Ann Johnson, Julie Johnson, and Erin Zwiener, and newcomers Nelvin Adriatico, Justin Calhoun, Madeline Eden, and Shannon Elkins. Josh Tutt, a nonincumbent, won his primary for Texas Senate. Christian Manuel Hayes advanced to a runoff for an open seat from House District 22 in Beaumont.
Other primary winners included Tonya Parker, Dallas County 116th Judicial District Court; Sara Martinez, Dallas County Justice of the Peace; Jim Kovach, Harris County Civil Court at Law, Shannon Baldwin, Harris County Criminal Court, Jason Cox, Harris County Probate Court; Jerry Simoneaux, Harris County Probate Court; Denise Hernández, Travis County Court at Law; Stacy Hackenberg, Williamson County Justice of the Peace; Cedric Kanyinda, Tarrant County Commission; Jose Orta, Williamson County Commission; Louie Minor, Bell County Commission; Karl-Thomas Musselman, Williamson County Justice of the Peace; Rosie Speedlin Gonzalez, Bexar County Court; Adam Swartz, Dallas County Justice of the Peace; Mary Woods, U.S. House of Representatives; and Laurie Eiserloh, Travis County District Court.
Also advancing to runoffs were Benjamin Chou for Harris County Commission and Steve Duble for Harris County Justice of the Peace.
“Texans’ voices rang loud and clear: we demand change,” Victory Fund President and CEO Annise Parker, a former mayor of Houston, said in a press release. “Not because the policies coming out of Austin are merely short-sighted, but because they are dangerous for our community. From attacks on voting rights to anti-trans legislation to brazen homophobia, we need advocates at the table willing to get in the ring and fight for our fundamental freedoms. Time and time again, we witness how unequitable representation creates a ripple effect of hate and harmful policies that impact all our lives. Enough is enough. Yesterday, we made history. Today, we continue the fight with rekindled enthusiasm.”
Texas has made news lately for declaring that parents who allow their transgender children to access gender-affirming care are child abusers and directing state authorities to investigate them. One employee of the state agency charged with doing the investigation, the Department of Family and Protective Services, says she has already been the subject of a probe, and she, her husband, and their trans child have sued to overturn the policy. A ruling on a temporary block is expected Wednesday. They are represented by Lambda Legal and the American Civil Liberties Union.
Gov. Greg Abbott, who issued the directive, won the Republican primary Tuesday, facing some challengers who are even farther to the right, such as former Congressman Allen West. In the November general election, Abbott will be up against Democrat Beto O’Rourke, a former congressman who ran for U.S. Senate in 2018, nearly defeating Republican Ted Cruz, and sought the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination.
Attorney General Ken Paxton, who wrote the nonbinding legal opinion that led to Abbott’s order, will be in a runoff against George P. Bush for the Republican nomination. Bush is the son of former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and the nephew and grandson of former presidents. During a primary debate, he said he agreed with Paxton’s opinion that gender-affirming care is child abuse. The other Republican attorney general candidates were former Texas Supreme Court Justice Eva Guzman and U.S. Rep. Louie Gohmert, one of the most anti-LGBTQ+ members of Congress, and they both agreed with Paxton as well. There will likely be a runoff for the Democratic nomination, as former ACLU lawyer Rochelle Garza was leading in the vote but failed to win a majority.
Also in the realm of the far right, state Sen. Angela Paxton, Ken Paxton’s wife, won her primary. She attended the January 6, 2021, insurrection at the U.S. Capitol that sought to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election, and she is the author of a so-called trigger bill that will outlaw abortion in Texas if Roe v. Wade is overturned.