From Candidacy to Congress pt. 3

The following candidates have won congressional primaries this year in districts where their party is largely in control. These party nominees almost certainly will win election in November and become House Members in the 116th Congress, which will convene in January 2019. Additional names will be added to the list following primaries in other states, which will extend until September. These bios are an initial version of the profiles that will appear in the 2020 Almanac of American Politics, which will be published by Columbia Books.


Dan Crenshaw, a political newcomer, won the May 22 Republican runoff for the suburban Houston district of retiring Republican Rep. Ted Poe, with an unexpectedly strong 70 percent of the vote. Crenshaw, a retired Navy lieutenant commander who served as a Navy Seal for 10 years, lost his right eye to an explosive blast that nearly killed him while deployed in Afghanistan in 2012; he wears a distinctive eye patch. He defeated Kevin Roberts, a one-term state representative who was endorsed by the Texas Association of Business.

In his campaign, Crenshaw ran as an outsider who emphasized the importance of “service before self.” He appealed to young voters, including the need for long-term steps to preserve Social Security. Crenshaw received a late campaign boost from former Texas Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, who criticized a negative campaign mailing from the Roberts camp. Following his victory in the runoff, the Houston Chronicle wrote that Crenshaw “became a potential star on the national stage because of his war-hero story and a charisma that is drawing younger voters.”

Crenshaw, 34, is a native of Houston, where his father worked in the oil business and traveled around the world. He graduated from Tufts University, where he joined the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps, and received a Master’s in Public Administration from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government following his military retirement. In the first round of voting in March, he finished second by a scant 155 votes ahead of Republican donor Kathleen Wall, who spent $6 million of her own funds.*



Lance Gooden won the Republican run-off with 53 percent of the vote on May 22 in the district that covers Mesquite and other suburbs east of Dallas. He started as the underdog to Bunni Pounds, a GOP political consultant who had been the campaign manager for Rep. Jeb Hensarling, the chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, who is retiring after serving eight terms in this district. With support from the Club for Growth and other national conservative groups, Pounds had the early fundraising lead in the campaign.

Gooden, who was endorsed by many local officials from the rural parts of the district, emphasized his support for “traditional values” of those rural communities. He contrasted the “establishment” support for his opponent from insiders, including Vice President Mike Pence, with “no connection to our district.”

The 35-year-old Gooden got Bachelor’s degrees in government and business administration from the University of Texas, and has worked as an insurance broker and consultant for energy companies. Gooden, who has served three terms in the Texas state House, was endorsed in the runoff by the Dallas News, which cited his “strong legislative experience,” in contrast to the lack of legislative background by the “doctrinaire” Pounds. The editorial cited Gooden’s passage of a bill that stopped municipalities from annexing rural land into their city limits without an election. He has been an ally of Texas Speaker Joe Straus, whose emphasis on coalition-building has led to internal Republican conflicts.*



Ron Wright won the Republican nomination in the May 22 run-off for the Arlington-based district that retiring Rep. Joe Barton has represented for 17 terms. As a long-time top aide to Barton, Wright was his “heir apparent,” though Barton did not endorse in the contest after a nude photo of him appeared on social media and led to his decision not to seek reelection. With only 52 percent of the vote, Wright struggled against Jake Ellzey, a former Navy fighter pilot who became an aide to President George W. Bush and lost a 2014 bid for the Texas House.

Wright is a native of Tarrant County and graduated from the University of Texas in Arlington. Following a lengthy career in the private sector, he spent more than a decade as district director and then chief of staff to Barton. As a member of the Arlington City Council, he served as mayor pro tempore. He was appointed as Tarrant County tax assessor-collector and later was elected to two terms in that position.

Wright ran on his conservative credentials, including support from the Club for Growth. Although he did not disavow Barton, he emphasized his own experience in local office and distanced himself from Barton by voicing hardline opposition to rights for illegal immigrants. The district’s population is more than 40 percent African-American and Hispanic. In the March 6 primary, he led Ellzey, 45%-22%. In an editorial, the Dallas News recommended Ellzay and criticized Wright’s plan to join the conservative House Freedom Caucus if he is elected.*



Chip Roy, a veteran congressional aide and political insider who was supported by leading local Republicans plus national conservative groups, took an unexpectedly narrow 53%-47% victory in the May 22 run-off for the district that ranges from the suburbs of Austin to the suburbs of San Antonio. He will succeed retiring Rep. Lamar Smith, who has chaired four House committees during his 32-year House career. Roy defeated Matt McCall, a local businessman who ran a low-profile contest and had taken about one-third of the vote against Smith in the two most recent GOP primaries in the district.

“For years, Roy has operated behind the scenes on behalf of top Texas GOP officeholders,” according to the Austin American-Statesman. “Now he’s trying to make a name for himself as a politician in his own right.” Roy, 45, who has served as a top aide to Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and former Gov. Rick Perry among others, got his Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees from the University of Virginia and a law degree from the University of Texas. He served as a federal prosecutor with then-U.S. Attorney John Cornyn, became a senior aide when Cornyn became a Senator and later was a top official for the Texas Attorney General. In the private sector, Roy has been an investment banking analyst and top officer of the conservative Texas Public Policy Foundation.

In the GOP campaign, the Texas Tribune reported, McCall criticized Roy “as an outsider in the district who is leaning hard on his political connections to get him across the finish line.” Roy emphasized his experience in fighting for conservative principles.*



Michael Cloud, a local Republican activist who has not previously held public office, won the May 22 runoff with 61 percent of the vote in the district that sprawls from Corpus Christi to Victoria and the outskirts of Austin. The seat was vacated in April by Republican Rep. Blake Farenthold, who was the target of ethics violations by an aide. Cloud will have an opportunity to get an early start in Congress with a special election that has been scheduled for June 30 to fill the remainder of Farenthold’s term; if no candidate receives a majority of that total vote, a runoff likely will be held in September.

Cloud, 42, graduated from Oral Roberts University and owns the Bright Idea Media business. He has been the communications director of the Faith Family Church in Victoria and served seven years as chairman of the Victoria County Republican Party. Cloud ran as an outsider against “career politicians.” He said “Congress is broken” and fails to serve the public’s interests.

He won the May 22 runoff against Bech Bruun, who has held several senior positions in Texas government, including chairman of the Water Development Board. Cloud had trailed Bruun, 36%-34%, the early frontrunner among the six GOP candidates in the March primary. Cloud benefited from the support of the conservative Club for Growth and House Freedom Caucus, plus former Rep. Ron Paul, who served many years in an earlier version of the district; Bruun was endorsed by the Texas Association of Business.*


*These profiles were prepared with the assistance of biographical and campaign information from the Ballotpedia website.

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