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To Texans of a political bent, Saturday was the first day of 2020 — the day candidates started paying their fees, turning in their signatures and declaring their official intention to run for office next year.
This one-month chirp-or-get-off-the-perch exercise separates people who were just testing the waters from those who are actually going to jump in and run.
As the filing period rolls from now to the Dec. 9 deadline, it will reveal which incumbents are seeking reelection, who’s had enough of this public service thing and which ones are drawing serious opposition.
Some of the sentimental favorites who’ve fallen out of other races — you can guess their names — will decide whether to listen to the followers who wanted them to run for something else the whole time.
You know, before that presidential thing didn’t work out.
The election might seem far away, but the candidate filing marks a quickening of the pace of things. Candidates have a month to file. There’s an interruption in their fundraising and politicking during the year-end holidays (but here’s betting they’ll still fill your email box in that last week before the new year). On the other side, there will be just nine weeks until the March 3 primaries. And early voting starts well before then, on Feb. 18.
Nothing really happens until the election sprint, and that sprint started last Saturday, when candidates began putting their money where their hopes are.
Incumbents who’ve enjoyed all they can stand started saying so months ago. That group includes the six Republican congressional incumbents who won’t seek reelection — the members of the so-called Texodus: Mike Conaway of Midland, Bill Flores of Bryan, Will Hurd of Helotes, Kenny Marchant of Coppell, Pete Olson of Sugar Land and Mac Thornberry of Clarendon.
It includes, so far, only a single member of the Texas Senate: José Rodríguez, D-El Paso.
And it includes some House members — notably, Speaker Dennis Bonnen — who say they won’t be back in 2021. Another 10 state representatives who were in office during the 86th legislative session this year won’t be back. Some, like Democrats César Blanco of El Paso, Roland Gutierrez of San Antonio and Eric Johnson of Dallas, are seeking (or already won, in now-Dallas Mayor Johnson’s case) other offices. One, John Zerwas, R-Richmond, left for a job with the University of Texas System. Five more are leaving for other reasons, including Republican Dwayne Bohac and Democrat Jessica Farrar of Houston, Democrat Poncho Nevárez of Eagle Pass, and Republicans Jonathan Stickland of Bedford and John Wray of Waxahachie.
That’s a relatively short list, as these things go. Don’t be surprised if others announce, either by saying it out loud or just by not filing, that they won’t be back.
And, of course, some incumbents will lose to challengers in the primary and general elections ahead.
The race at the top looked set, until new candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination started popping up over the last week or so. It’s a national race, but those campaigns have to file in Texas along with the more heralded early primary states. They’ve got four weeks to ante up.
Between the marquee race and the congressional contests is Republican John Cornyn’s race for a fourth term in the U.S. Senate — where he’ll face someone in a not yet fully formed pack of opponents. So far, two Republicans, two Libertarians, an independent and 10 Democrats have said they’ll be running. Republicans Dwayne Stovall and Mark Yancey were the first of that small mob to actually file for candidacy.
The rest probably aren’t far behind. From now to the March primaries, the political wheel will spin very quickly.