Two Texas House incumbents, Dan Flynn and J.D. Sheffield, fall behind early in primary runoff results

A view of the house floor during the second day of the 86th legislative session. Jan. 9, 2019. Miguel Gutierrez Jr. / The Texas Tribune.

Two Republican Texas House incumbents were considerably behind their primary runoff opponents as early election results came in Tuesday.

State Rep. Dan Flynn of Canton trailed Bryan Slaton 37% to 62%. Flynn, who is running for a 10th term in the lower chamber, has faced off before against Slaton, who has previously run for the seat twice. State Rep. J.D. Sheffield of Gatesville, meanwhile, was behind Shelby Slawson by roughly 20 percentage points, 40% to nearly 60%.

On the Democratic side, longtime state Rep. Harold Dutton of Houston was leading his opponent, Houston City Council member Jerry Davis, by nearly five percentage points, 52% to 47%, according to early returns.

Meanwhile, two Democratic incumbents who won special elections in January were split in their races as early returns came in.

State Rep. Lorraine Birabil, a Dallas Democrat, led Jasmine Felicia Crockett by roughly 11 percentage points, 55% to 44%. And state Rep. Anna Eastman, a Houston Democrat, was trailing Penny Morales Shaw early by a razor-thin six votes. If either Birabil or Eastman loses Tuesday, their term will end in January when the Legislature convenes for its regular session.

Tuesday’s ballot featured about a dozen other House runoff races, including several contests in battleground districts in November.

Those battleground districts are particularly important this election cycle as Democrats, effectively nine seats away from gaining control of the 150-member lower chamber, look to flip the House for the first time in roughly two decades. With the state’s once-in-a-decade redistricting process coming up, a potential flip looms large as Democrats could have a bigger say in that process.

In one Houston-area battleground district, Akilah Bacy led Jenifer Rene Pool, who in 2016 became the first transgender Texan to win a primary in the state, by a margin of over 50 percentage points. The winner will face off against Republican Lacey Hull in November after state Rep. Dwayne Bohac, R-Houston, opted against seeking reelection. Bohac, who was first elected in 2002, won by only 47 votes in 2018.

Meanwhile, in North Texas, Tom Adair, an attorney and former congressional aide in Washington, was leading Lorenzo Sanchez, a Plano real estate agent, by roughly six percentage points. The winner will challenge four-term incumbent State Rep. Jeff Leach, R-Plano, who narrowly won reelection in 2018 by 2.2 percentage points.

No matter what happens in the general election, House members will have a new speaker for the 2021 legislative session. First-term Speaker Dennis Bonnen, an Angleton Republican, decided to not seek reelection after he became embroiled in a scandal last year involving a secret recording.

In the race to replace Bonnen, Cody Vasut, a former Angleton City Council member, held an early lead over Ro'Vin Garrett, the Brazoria County tax-assessor collector, for the Texas House District 25 seat. The winner will face Democrat Patrick Henry in the general election for the safe-Republican seat.