There’s little doubt Texas Republicans are eyeing the seat of retiring Rep. John Turner, a two-term statehouse Democrat from the Dallas suburbs, as a potential 2022 midterm pickup.
Turner flipped the seat in 2018, comfortably defeating his Republican opponent by 11 percentage points in the longtime GOP-held district.
In 2020, Turner defended the seat with a slimmer margin of seven points. Republican Luisa del Rosal, his opponent that year, recently announced she would run again.
At the top of the ballot, Biden won the district by 18 points, a major improvement to Clinton’s 9-point margin of victory in 2016.
Precinct-level data shows Trump’s biggest support came from wealthy neighborhoods such as University Park and Highland Park. While District 114 is below the state average when it comes to median household income, those neighborhoods also make it home to one of the largest shares of wealthy Texans in the state — and some of the last areas within the Dallas loop that still vote Republican.
That will probably be taken into consideration as Republicans begin to ponder new congressional and district lines for the state in the upcoming special session of redistricting. The district’s income, as well as its fifty-fifty demographic split between white and non-white Texans, could look significantly different after redistricting.
Kristy Noble, the new chair of the Dallas County Democratic Party, said redistricting was the biggest outlier for defending the seat.
“We will figure out from redistricting the right direction to go,” Noble said, adding that she felt confident either way with the growth of the party in the county.
“I know for a fact that we’ll have a strong Democratic candidate who is willing to step up and take on that district, and that we’ll be able to make gains in 2022,” Noble said.
Noble pointed to the 2018 elections of Rep. Colin Allred and state Sen. Nathan Johnson, who also flipped Republican-held seats and whose districts overlap with 114, as proof that the North Dallas region is largely changing in favor of Democrats.
Allred flipped the district in 2018 with a 6.5 percentage point lead, a margin of victory that would decrease by only half a percent during the high-turnout 2020 election.
“It’s not just that area, there has been a huge increase in the Democratic voter turnout, we’ve activated people in that area, and I don’t believe that is going to change,” Noble said.
Newly appointed Chair of the Texas House Democratic Campaign Committee Rep. Toni Rose, D-Dallas, said the retirement of Turner came as a surprise and hopes a strong candidate will fill his shoes.
“It’s a tremendous loss, he’s a great statesman, just a great person,” Rose said of Turner.
“We’re going to do all we can to maintain the seat,” Rose said.
Rose said the HDCC is largely an incumbent protection fund but does provide support to new candidates when the opportunity arises.
Rose said a strong candidate that engages with the community in District 114 will be needed since most of the heavy lifting and fundraising will come from the candidate and their campaign.
“My dad was a politician, one thing he always taught me was, don’t let them outwork you,” Rose said, explaining that money doesn’t always determine an election.
In Turner’s case, that adage proved true. Campaign finance filings show Turner held the seat despite spending and raising less money; Turner spent $90,505 on the race that cycle while Rosal spent a little more, $98,209.
(Turner ended the race with a bigger cash-on-hand war chest of $125,856. It will be interesting to see where the retiring incumbent redirects that money.)
When asked if she believed the region was vulnerable to Republican attacks on police funding, Rose pointed to legislation passed by Republicans that was unpopular with voters in North Dallas.
“It’s a district that has a lot of engaged voters, so hopefully they have been paying attention to the 87th legislative session,” Rose said. “I don’t believe that most of the legislation that was passed, as it relates to critical race theory, defunding the police, voter suppression — I don’t think its something that district supports.”
Fernando covers Texas politics and government at the Texas Signal. Before joining the Signal, Fernando spent two years at the Houston Chronicle and previously interned at Houston’s NPR station News 88.7. He is a graduate of the University of Houston, Jack J. Valenti School of Communication, and enjoys reading, highlighting things, and arguing on social media. You can follow him on Twitter at @fernramirez93 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org