With six candidates vying to replace retiring State Representative Dwayne Bohac (R-Houston), the contest for House District 138 will be a crucial battleground for control of the Texas House in the 2020 general election.
Having represented the district in western Harris County for 17 years, Bohac announced his retirement last September. He narrowly won re-election in 2018 with a minuscule 47-vote margin, and Rice University fellow Mark P. Jones now rates HD 138 as “leans Democrat.”
The Republican Primary features three candidates:
- Josh Flynn, former president of the Harris County Department of Education (HCDE) Board of Trustees.
- Lacey Hull, a conservative activist and co-founder of We the Parents, a group that advocates for Texas families.
- Claver Kamau-Imani, an activist and host of the radio show Raging Elephants.
Three candidates have also filed in the Democrat Primary:
- Akilah Bacy, a former Harris County Assistant District Attorney, now a pro-bono immigration attorney for children seeking asylum.
- Jennifer Rene Pool, an activist and the first transgender candidate to win a primary election in Texas (2016).
- Josh Wallenstein, an attorney who unsuccessfully ran for HCDE Trustee in 2018.
The Republican primary has been roiled with controversy over the eligibility of Josh Flynn, endorsements, and public comments made by Kamau-Imani.
Last November, Wallenstein, one of the Democrat candidates, told the HCDE Board of Trustees that since Flynn received a $6 per meeting stipend for serving on that board, Flynn was ineligible to run for the Texas Legislature under the state Constitution.
In December, Harris County Republican Party Chair Paul Simpson announced that after the party’s legal counsel had conferred with the Texas Secretary of State and reviewed Texas Election Code, he had determined that Flynn was “not eligible” to run for the state legislature.
Flynn responded with a lawsuit, but after a mediation settlement, he remains on the ballot, and the issue of his eligibility has been abated until after tomorrow’s primary election.
In addition to the eligibility issue, Kamau-Imani sparked controversy over his public response to Governor Greg Abbott’s endorsement of Lacey Hull. In Twitter posts, Kamau-Imani said the governor had “the spine of overcooked linguine” for previously endorsing Rep. Sarah Davis (R-West University Place), a pro-choice Republican representing House District 134.
Kamau-Imani has also condemned Hull for accepting campaign contributions from Texans for Lawsuit Reform (TLR) which he decries as “baby-killing blood money” since the group also donates to pro-choice candidates.
Texas Right to Life endorsed Kamau-Imani early in the race, but has not rescinded that endorsement despite widespread condemnation of his comments from Texas Republicans.
Although Flynn has garnered endorsements from Texas Alliance for Life and some conservative organizations, Hull leads in the sheer number of notable endorsements and fundraising.
In addition to Governor Abbott, Hull has been endorsed by a slew of Houston-area state representatives and both conservative and business groups, including the Kingwood Tea Party, Houston Realty Business Coalition, Texas Home School Coalition, and BizPac.
Hull, who also campaigns as pro-life, has significantly outraised all other candidates with $116,272, and has nearly $50,000 cash on hand.
Among Democrats, Wallenstein has raised the most money at $16,518, but has spent nearly $65,000 and touts endorsements from the Texas AFL-CIO and the Houston Federation of Teachers union.
Bacy raised less than $8,000, but has more cash on hand and garnered the endorsement of the Houston Chronicle last month.
Pool has not filed finance reports, has no campaign website, and did not attend a Democrat candidate forum hosted by NARAL Pro-Choice Texas last weekend, where both Bacy and Wallenstein expressed strong support for abortion and tax-payer funded abortion services.
Additionally, both Bacy and Wallenstein called for the state to end support for and possibly close Crisis Pregnancy Centers.
With Republicans controlling the Texas House by just nine seats, Democrats are targeting HD 138 as one they need to flip in 2020 if they hope to move into the majority. The Texas Democratic Party has confidently stated that the party “will flip House District 138.”
Rallying with Hull in Houston last week, Governor Abbott pushed back on Democrats’ ambitions for the seat.
Although he acknowledged that HD 138 may be vulnerable, Abbott spoke about the strength of the Texas economy and called out Democrats for advocating socialist policies that he believes would destroy the state.
Abbott said that with Hull as the HD 138 candidate, “Not only are we going to keep Texas red, and the Texas House of Representatives red, we’re going to keep this house district red.”
For more information on this race and other key federal and state races in Texas, check out The Texan’s War Room.
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Holly Hansen is a freelance writer living in Harris County. Her former column, “All In Perspective” ran in The Georgetown Advocate, Jarrell Star Ledger, and The Hill Country News, and she has contributed to a variety of Texas digital media outlets. She graduated summa cum laude from the University of Central Florida with a degree in History, and in addition to writing about politics and policy, also writes about faith and culture.