Why The Race to Replace Eddie Bernice Johnson Has Gotten So Bitter

by | May 20, 2022 | 2022 Elections, Democratic Party

With the retirement of longtime Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson, the landscape for Democratic politics in North Texas is poised to dramatically change. Johnson’s retirement itself was a political earthquake, but the race to replace her has turned scorched earth.

The undeniable front-runner is current State Rep. Jasmine Crockett. A civil rights attorney, Crockett became a fixture on the national stage as Texas Republicans launched an all-out offensive against voting rights.

A first-term member of the legislature, Crockett had no plans to seek a higher office. That changed when Johnson sought her out to run in her newly vacated seat. According to Johnson, she was not happy with the current crop of candidates vying for her seat. That was likely a stinging rebuke to Jane Hope Hamilton, who had announced an exploratory committee for the seat months earlier.

Hamilton herself has been a longtime presence in Democratic politics in nNorth Texas. She was the former chief of staff to Congressman Marc Veasey. She was also Joe Biden’s state campaign director ahead of the 2020 democratic primary.

In the March primary election, Crockett very nearly avoided a runoff. She captured 48.5 percent of the vote in a race that involved nine candidates, including a former Dallas city council member and the former chief of staff to Rep. Rafael Anchia.

Hamilton came in second with 17 percent of the vote, enough to reach the run-off. Her camp’s take on the situation is that Crockett should have run outright. Speaking of Anchia, he is now backing Hamilton, and even took a swipe at Crockett. “I know voters will choose Jane’s proven results over her opponent’s rhetoric,” he said in an endorsement. Chris Turner supported Hamilton even before the March primary.

Crockett seems unfazed by the lack of support from her colleagues that also represent North Texas. And Crockett does have her own squad of progressive state reps., including Jessica Gonzalez, Ana-Mario Ramos, and Terry Meza.

But by far the biggest, and most important endorsement belongs to Crockett: Eddie Bernice Johnson. According to the retiring congresswoman, she was not satisfied with the candidates that were running in her district and she sought out Crockett to run.

There are several reasons why the “establishment” wing of Dallas Democrats doesn’t want to see Crockett as a member of Congress. Some of those simply boil down to the divisions that have lasted nearly fifty years between Eddie Bernice Johnson and former Congressman Martin Frost. It’s not a surprise why Lone Star Project, which is headed by a former campaign aide to Frost, has gone so heavily for Hamilton.

Crockett has already beaten a Lone Star-backed candidate once. In 2020, she was a progressive insurgent who knocked out current Rep. Lorraine Birabil, who had won the seat in a special election.

Crockett’s critics also accuse her of being a “showboat,” and not being a team player during the quorum break. It’s hard not to see some of those emotions as boiled-over frustration over Crockett’s star-making turn on a national stage after the walkout.Whatever happens on Tuesday, and Crockett is certainly the front-runner, at least the bitter campaign will finally be over.

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