Texas Primaries Offer Voters an Opportunity to Put LGBTQ Equality On The Ballot

By Mary Emily O’Hara, Rapid Response Manager GLAAD.org | February 28, 2022

On Tuesday, March 1st, Texas voters will cast their ballots in a primary election that arrives amid an urgent period of anti-LGBTQ policy attacks. Among the candidates running for reelection in the primary are Gov. Greg Abbott and Attorney General Ken Paxton, the two officials behind February’s cruel and inaccurate claims about transgender children and calls to investigate their supportive parents for false claims of “child abuse.” There are also 54 out LGBTQ candidates running, each of whom would add one more seat at the table for a community that is being targeted by extremists in the state legislature like never before.

Texas is an open primary state, meaning that voters are not restricted by the party with which they are registered; anyone can go to the polls and choose to vote in either the Republican or the Democratic primary. Several candidates in both parties are running against both Abbott and Paxton, and the unprecedented number of out LGBTQ candidates are running for positions that range from seats in the Texas House of Representatives to benches on district and county courts.

Texas voters can confirm registration status here, look up information about out LGBTQ candidates via Equality Texas’ directory here, check the Texas Secretary of State’s registry of qualified candidates here, and can search their poll location status here. Due to a sweeping voting law passed in 2021, there are several important changes to the voting process to be aware of, including ID requirements for voting by mail—those are detailed here. If you missed the January deadline to register for the primary, be sure to register for the general election here, at least 30 days before the election.

Find out more about select Texas primary races and the LGBTQ records of candidates below. (Note: GLAAD does not endorse candidates or political parties.)

Governor

Why it matters: Gov. Greg Abbott signed Texas’ ban on transgender children participating in sports in 2021. He has opposed marriage equality, supported so-called “bathroom bills” that deny transgender people access to restrooms aligned with their gender, and in 2017 signed legislation allowing some adoption agencies to refuse services to LGBTQ families. On February 23rd, Abbott sent a letter to the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services ordering it to investigate reports of parents allowing their transgender children access to affirming medical care,  falsely labeling it as “abuse.” Abbott’s letter does not change or create Texas law. District Attorneys from the state’s largest cities quickly refused to comply with his recommendation, but fear and misinformation spread widely in response to his letter.

Who’s running: Abbott’s re-election is being challenged by several Democrats including Beto O’Rourke, a former congressman who ran for president in the crowded 2020 race. But Abbott will also face down a handful of Republicans, including two who announced they’ll seek a special session of the legislature to attempt to prohibit trans youth from accessing healthcare, Don Huffines and Allen West.

Attorney General

Why it matters: Currently-serving Attorney General Ken Paxton’s memo inaccurately stating that gender-affirming healthcare is “abuse,” conflicts with every major medical association’s support for such care and widespread medical and scientific consensus on its safety and lifesaving effectiveness. Paxton was first elected in 2014, and indicted in 2015 on felony charges of illegally soliciting investors during his time as a private lawyer, a case that has never gone to trial.  Paxton’s February memo to DFPS was instigated by a request by his one-time challenger, Fort Worth Rep. Matt Krause, who createda list of 850 mostly LGBTQ books that he demanded be removed from school libraries.

Who’s running: On the Democrat side, immigration attorney Rochelle Garza is leading so far. Paxton faces a challenge on the Republican side from current Land Commissioner George P. Bush.

Tarrant County District Attorney

Why it matters: Rep. Matt Krause was widely expected to run against Paxton for Texas DA, but then decided late last year to run for Tarrant County (Fort Worth area) District Attorney instead. Krause’s record includes being named the state’s most homophobic legislator in 2013; sponsoring numerous bills restricting access to healthcare and school sports for transgender children, issuing an infamous list of 850 mostly LGBTQ books to remove from schools, and sponsoring legislation that allows sweeping anti-LGBTQ discrimination under the guise of religious beliefs.

Who’s running: Krause faces a number of opponents including three Democrats: prosecutor Tiffany Burks (who spent 21 years in the Tarrant County DA’s office), prosecutor Albert John Roberts (who served under the Dallas DA), and former Fort Worth judge Lawrence “Larry” Meyers. In contrast to these career legal officials, Krause has never served as a prosecutor or worked in a District Attorney’s office; he was briefly an attorney with Liberty Counsel (a Southern Poverty Law Center-designated hate group) after graduating from Liberty University’s law school.

U.S. Congress

Why it matters:​​Rep. Henry Cuellar, a moderate-to-conservative Democrat, has a mixed record on LGBTQ rights that includes voting in favor of the Defense of Marriage Act that would have halted marriage equality for same-sex couples in 2011.

Who’s running: Cuellar is being challenged by Jessica Cisneros, a well-funded and connected progressive whose platform states support for transgender healthcare coverage, the Equality Act, LGBTQ-informed medical treatment at the border, and opposes religious exemptions to nondiscrimination protections.

Texas House District 100

Why it matters: U.S. Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson is retiring after 20 years in her congressional seat (plus three terms in the Texas senate and a stint in the Texas state House, where she was the first Black woman ever to win a seat from Dallas). Texas state legislature incumbent Jasmine Crockett is running for Johnson’s seat in the U.S. House, opening Crockett’s state seat up to ambitious newcomers.

Who’s running: Democrat Venton Jones, Founder and CEO of the Southern Black Policy and Advocacy Network, Chairman of the Dallas County HIV Task Force, and a CDC appointee on the agency’s HIV advisory council, is running for the seat Crockett is leaving and would be the first out LGBTQ Black man elected to the Texas legislature. In February, Jones received the endorsement of the Dallas Morning News, who cited his support among the community and the district’s political leadership. The newspaper also pointed to other Democratic candidates: “Marquis Hawkins, a government affairs adviser for Southwest Airlines and a former teacher… small business owner Daniel Davis Clayton, and genealogist and frequent political candidate Sandra Crenshaw.”

Texas House District 147

Why it matters: Democrat Garnet Coleman is retiring from the Houston seat after 30 years, making room for a crop of progressive newcomers to vie for his seat.

Who’s running: Jolanda Jones, currently an at-large city council member and former trustee of the Houston Independent School District, would join Venton Jones as one of the first out Black LGBTQ members of the Texas legislature. Also in the race are real estate agent Danielle Keys Bess, educator Reagan Flowers, and several others—but Jones has led fundraising so far.

Resources

GLAAD recommends that media covering the Texas primary include the voices of local LGBTQ advocates, such as those from Equality TexasTransgender Education Network of Texas, and Organización Latina de Trans en Texas. To place Texas LGBTQ issues in a national context, consult GLAAD’s 2022 media guide to covering anti-LGBTQ state legislation. All media covering healthcare for transgender youth should make sure to include statements from leading national and international medical associations, such as the American Medical Association, which show that the medical community overwhelmingly recommends gender-affirming care for transgender youth and can be found here.

If you are a parent or family member of a transgender minor in Texas and are concerned about the recent Abbott directive, you have several resources available. File a complaint with the ACLU of Texas here, and reach out to the attorneys at Lambda Legal here. To report a violation of the federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) or the Protection of Pupil Rights Amendment (PPRA), which protects young people’s private medical information, go here. You can also file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights here. Do not panic: remember that Gov. Abbott’s recommendation to DFPS is not legally binding and that there are already robust protections in place to protect you and your child.

To urge the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services not to enforce Gov. Abbott’s directive, contact them using the Equality Texas form letter here.