The filing deadline for the March 4, 2014 Texas primary election has passed, and my prediction that Sarah Davis (R-134), the most liberal Republican in the Texas House during the 83rd session of the legislature, would be challenged in the primary was correct. She has been challenged by Bonnie Parker, a retired school teacher and long-time Republican Party activist.
Who is Bonnie Parker? In a press release announcing her candidacy, Parker is described:
Her campaign Web site emphasizes her pro-life stand on abortion and her conservatism: Traditional values, Conservative solutions. In a video on the home page, Parker asserts that one issue in the abortion debate that is not considered is when a life begins and is worthy of protection as a human being. Her answer is that life begins at conception. At that point, Parker states, we are required to protect that human being. She also states her support for HB 2, which Sarah Davis voted against, because it is about more than abortion. She explains that how we view deformed fetuses plays into how we view people with disabilities.
Parker previously sought the Republican nomination for the Texas House seat in District 134 in 2010, but she was defeated by Sarah Davis, who won with 54.57 Percent of the vote. However, the difference between the candidates was only 736 votes out of 8,038 votes cast. In 2012, Davis faced no competition in the Republican Party primary election, in which 9,796 votes were cast.
House District 134 is an affluent, urban district located west of the intersection of IH10 and IH45 and includes West University Place and Bellaire. Nearly 82 percent of the district’s population are over 18 years of age, and approximately 70 percent earned a bachelor’s degree or higher. The per capita income of district residents is $72,370, which is $46,822 higher than the state average. Nearly 47 percent of the households in the district have an annual income that is $100,000 or higher. In the 2012 general election, 72.6 percent of the registered voters in the district voted, which is 58.3 percent of the voting age population (VAP). In 2010, 53.6 percent of the registered voters voted (43.1 percent of the VAP).
Most pundits agree that this is a contest to watch in 2014, but they disagree on whether Parker poses a real threat to Davis’ re-nomination. Charles Kuffner blogs that Ted Cruz’s performance in the district against David Dewhurst “. . . suggests that Davis could be vulnerable to a challenge from the right, though it’s not clear-cut. On the plus side for her, she’d likely be in better shape in a higher-turnout race, which this would probably be. On the minus side, all of the races that will get any attention will be from candidates that are trying to make Ted Cruz look like a treehugger.
Noah Horowitz, a resident of the district who is currently in Boston, blogs that:
Parker, of course, ran in the primary against Davis in 2010, when the Republicans did not hold the seat. Davis ultimately out-edged her 55-45. And Davis has a track record of bipartisanship and pragmatism on issues other than abortion. In the regular session, she lead [sic] the charge with Democrats to preserve funding for women’s health programs, and even “pledged her full support” for gay rights while headlining an LGBT event. Those two actions earned Rep. Davis a spot on Texpatriate‘s list of best legislators, before she even stood up for Texas women in the summer.
HD 134 is a fiscally conservative district, though, not a socially conservative one. The Republicans in the district, which encompasses Bellaire, West U and other surrounding areas– is the quintessence of nouveau riche country club Republicans, who are mostly non-religious and pro-choice. Therefore, I would imagine that many naive Democrats will recommend that those left-of-centre root for Parker to win the primary, in order for [t]he Democrats to be competitive in the general election.
I have heard this argument too many times to count, and it has never worked out well for the Democrats. Whether this has been the Rick Perry/Kay Bailey Hutchison primary or the Ted Cruz/David Dewhurst primary, the only result has been more and more conservative Republicans.
Sarah Davis is a good Republican –one of the only ones left– and I would regret seeing her ride off into the night, politically speaking.
Paul Burka blogs that “Sarah Davis, the only openly pro-choice Republican woman in the Legislature, will be contested in the Republican primary. She faces a challenge from Bonnie Parker, who describes herself as a conservative, a philanthropist, and a longtime Republican party [sic] volunteer. . . . District 134 has a history of representation by pro-choice women (Democrat Ellen Cohen, for one, who was defeated by Davis in the Republican sweep year 2010 by a mere 701 votes). It[‘]s an inside-the-loop district that includes River Oaks, the most affluent area of Houston. Tea party country it isn't. Davis should have a good shot at holding the seat, despite what some members of her party think.
So, will Sarah prevail? As in all elections, it’s a matter of who shows up to vote. Is there a significant portion of the Republican Party primary electorate in HD 134 who are concerned enough about social issues, especially abortion, that they will cast their vote for Parker? I doubt that there is. The residents of this district, as Burka points out, aren’t the Tea Party type. I expect the vote to be close, but Davis should win the Republican Party’s nomination for HD 134. She also probably wins the general election.