By James Russell
Special to the TJP
Some Dallas County Democrats just need to win their runoffs on May 22.
Incumbent judges Carl Ginsberg, Martin Hoffman and Ken Tapscott made the case for their re-election to the bench at a forum hosted by North Texas Jewish Democratic Council (NTJDC) on April 23.
While the incumbents were not popular enough with voters to avoid the runoffs, they argued they are more qualified than their runoff opponents, Bridgett Whitmore, Kim Brown and Paula Rosales.
Voters have returned them to the bench multiple times, and Republicans do not field candidates against them. The eventual nominee faces no Republican opposition in the fall.
Other Democrats at the forum are not as lucky to avoid general election opponents.
But they know that. Like Democrats around the country since the election of President Donald Trump in 2016, they are anxious to take on Republicans.
Among those in attendance was gubernatorial candidate Andrew White of Houston, who is seeking the party’s nomination to take on incumbent Gov. Greg Abbott. He faces Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez for the nomination. The race is an uphill climb even to the most optimistic Democrat. But White thinks “common sense” Democrats like him have a chance by steering clear of divisive social issues and instead focusing on the nuts and bolts of government.
Valdez was not in attendance.
Down the ballot, four candidates seeking to take on Republicans running for Congress said they would love the audience’s votes. But they will completely support the eventual victor. Collin Allred and Lillian Salerno are seeking to take on incumbent Congressman Pete Sessions, a longtime Republican from Dallas. Sessions did not face a Democrat in 2016. But the party is bullish that Sessions is vulnerable. Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton narrowly won the district.
Allred and Serano defeated five other candidates in the March 6 primary. Former Congressman Martin Frost, who is Jewish and whom Sessions defeated in 2004, has endorsed Allred. Both are from the district and worked in President Barack Obama’s administration. Both agreed that, whoever wins the runoff, Sessions should not be re-elected.
“Our democracy is at risk,” Salerno said, with Republicans like Sessions and Trump.
Lorie Burch and Sam Johnson are seeking an open congressional seat in Collin County — ironically being vacated by longtime Republican Rep. Sam Johnson. One of them will face Republican Van Taylor, a state senator, in the fall.
“People are hungry for leadership,” said Burch, a lawyer whose wife is Jewish. She has spent months talking to voters and listening to their issues. Voters want a problem solver who sees all perspectives.
“You can protect life and support reproductive rights. You can love God and believe in lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights,” she said.
Johnson, who is Jewish, has been involved in politics for as long as he remembers. Democrats are independent thinkers. Taylor is a conservative partisan, he said.
Both pledged to support the eventual nominee.
Audience questions took on issues most important to Democrats, including expanding access to health care, reforming the redistricting process and perceived Democratic weakness on Israel.
“Democrats are not weak on Israel. That is a Republican fallacy,” Johnson said.
In fact, Allred noted he was at the American Israel Political Action Committee annual Dallas dinner the previous evening.
“Among the photos on the screen were of former Presidents Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter negotiating peace accords,” he said. “They are Democrats.”
But Democrats admitted they cannot rely on their party’s enthusiasm alone in their races. They need Republicans to cross over and vote for them, too.
Rabbi Neil Katz is an independent candidate running against a hard-right state representative in East Texas. He is neither a Democrat nor a Republican. But he spoke to the crowd, too. He is taking on Rep. Matt Schaefer, R-Tyler, and leader of the Texas House Freedom Caucus. Polling shows Schaefer is vulnerable to an independent challenger. But his case is different from the other candidates. Without a Democrat on the ballot, he needs Democrats and Republicans to cross over and vote for him in November.
Common sense candidates need to win in the fall, he said.
They just need Republicans to agree.