Since 2016, Republicans have lost three Houston area Texas House seats to Democrats.
Sarah Davis, the state representative for West University Place, is one of a small handful of GOP state House lawmakers in the region that has managed, so far, to weather the storm of Democratic takeovers in Houston’s suburban districts.
On Thursday, Democratic candidates vying to replace Davis gathered at a Bellaire forum hosted by the Harris County Democratic Party to pitch their ideas and make their case as to why they were the right challenger to unseat Davis, who has served the district for almost a decade and was recently endorsed by Gov. Greg Abbott.
In 2018, Davis held her seat by a margin of six percentage points– the lowest in her four-term career as a state legislator and a performance that has now listed her among the most vulnerable Texas House Republicans in the Houston area.
Nothing about the race for District 134 stands out more than the well-qualified and intelligent group of candidates assembled to try and take on Davis: Ann Johnson, the former chief human trafficking prosecutor at the Harris County DA’s Office; Lanny Bose, an entrepreneur and educator; and immigrant rights attorney Ruby Powers.
Unlike the clashes seen in primaries at a national level, the Thursday forum was a mild-mannered event with candidates agreeably speaking to gun violence, health care, and the environment.
A common question for candidates attending was how they planned to actually beat Davis, who has escaped the fate of some of her ousted Republican colleagues.
“Now, I don’t want to make presumptions about her mindset, but it seems to me she was trying to avoid accountability on some of the tough issues facing Houston,” Bose said, knocking Davis for her absences in the legislature.
Last year, Davis took second place in the Texas legislature for the number of excused absences and failed to show up for 625 votes, according to Reform Austin.
Bose said Davis was absent during a vote against the “Born Alive” act this past session, a new law that penalizes doctors who fail to treat infants born alive after an abortion. “Even on issues where she is supposedly good, she’s not showing up,” Bose said.
Johnson, who ran against Davis in 2012, discussed her previous experience on the campaign trail against her now two-time opponent. “I’ve been here before,” Johnson said. “I did something that no one else has been able to do, which is take votes away from Sarah Davis because I talked about the issues that I know are our common core values.”
Davis’ has voted in favor of a law allowing guns on college campuses and received endorsements from the National Rifle Association. Her most recent NRA rating in 2018 is a B+.
“She’s just overall really out of touch with our community,” Powers said, criticizing Davis’ voting record on guns. “The priority should be background checks on every gun sale because we have so many loopholes and we have ways for people to get guns that don’t have to get background checks. And we also need to make sure we have red flag laws. Every state that has enacted red flag laws has seen a reduction in gun deaths.”
House District 134 is one of nine Texas House seats needed by Democrats in order to flip the lower chamber.
If Democrats take the Texas House, it would be the first time in 17 years Democrats break the trifecta of Republican power in Texas government– a particularly important feat considering the legislature will convene in 2021 to redraw state and district lines.
Early voting for the Texas primaries begins next month, on Feb. 18.
Photo: Fernando Ramirez