Last night saw the nomination of the first female candidate for Governor since Ann Richards in 1994, and the first ever nomination of two women for the top two positions in the state with Wendy Davis and Leticia Van de Putte. Despite this, and the retention of a few moderate Republicans in the face of Tea Party challengers, last night's primary was a mixed bag for the future of women in Texas – candidates and voters alike.
More on the primary results and women in Texas below the jump.While the Democratic ticket boasts two women in the top positions, the race for to be the GOP candidate for Lieutenant Governor is headed to a runoff between incumbent David Dewhurst and State Senator Dan Patrick. In a primary already criticized for its hard stance on reproductive rights, this runoff is poised to go even further to the right as Dewhurst tries to avoid repeating his 2012 loss to Ted Cruz. Dan Branch, whose commercials already lean heavily on his conservative Christian values, and Ken Paxton will face off for Attorney General, in a race that will most likely mirror the hard swing to the right in the race for Lieutenant Governor. Sid Miller, proud author of the 2011 sonogram bill, is back and is engaged in a runoff for Agriculture commissioner. Glenn Hegar, author of House Bill 2, was left in primary limbo in a race for comptroller that was too close to call.
In other house races, moderate Republicans managed to hang on to their seats against Tea Party challengers. Representative Sarah Davis of Houston, who poke out against the unconstitutionality of House Bill 2 and passed a bill to create a pilot program for medical “homes” for pregnant women on Medicaid in Harris County, managed to keep her seat. Though Davis does have a conservative voting history – voting, for example, to slash funds for education – on issues of women's health the representative has stood as a lone moderate voice in a sea of right-wing rhetoric.
Despite the loss of a long-serving progressive voice in the Texas Legislature with Lon Burnam in Fort Worth, last night did see many victories for Democrats returning to the state legislature, including Mary Gonzalez, Alma Allen, Toni Rose, Helen Giddings, and Carol Alvarado.
In Travis County, Sarah Eckhardt held on to her lead for Travis County Judge from the moment early voting results were released. Eckhardt is poised to become the first woman ever elected to the position. The race for District Attorney in Harris County is shaping up to be an interesting match up between two women with strong backgrounds on either side of the aisle. After besting Lloyd Oliver, who suggested victims of domestic violence should be given boxing gloves, Kim Ogg is headed into the general against Republican Devon Anderson. Anderson took on the position after the death of her late husband, Mike Anderson, to cancer.
The 2014 election cycle is shaping up to be important for women as candidates, voters, and citizens. The intensely conservative rhetoric of statewide candidates on the Republican ticket – and in runoffs to earn a place on the ballot – only reinforces the importance of electing leaders like Wendy Davis and Leticia Van de Putte to office in November. In races across the state, women candidates are facing off against each other. This should at least bode well for women's representation in a legislature where only 21% of elected officials are women.