At least three Republicans have already declared their intention to challenge a Democratic stronghold in Texas, District 52 which contains Round Rock, Hutto, and Taylor.
The move likely comes from what is perceived to be a moment of vulnerability. The district is currently being represented by Democrat James Talarico, one of the House members who has fled the capital to deny Governor Greg Abbott the chance to pass massive restrictions on voter rights and access. As we’ve pointed out before, most of the representatives who have left the state are actually in pretty safe districts where they have little to worry about. Most of them won election or re-election by massive deficits or by running completely unopposed.
Talarico is something of an exception. Since 2018, he has consistently won his elections by about three points, which is solid but not exactly immune to challenge. The election in 2022 is likely to be a bloodbath all-around, and Talarico has especially risen to fight the oncoming culture war. In addition to joining the Democratic exodus to fight bad legislation based on the lie of massive voter fraud, he’s made national news targeting the Big Lie and the alt-right.
He appeared on Fox News to spar with dedicated Trump-backer Pete Hegseth, and Talarico pulled no punches in the interview, and this clip went viral.
“You have made a lot of money personally and you’ve enriched a lot of corporations with advertising by getting on here and spewing lies and conspiracy theories to folks who trust you,” Talarico told Hegseth. “Tell your voters right now that Donald Trump lost the election.”
So, it appears that Talarico has chosen to fight, and it looks like Republicans would like to bet that the backlash will cost him his seat.
The three conservative challengers are a mixed bunch. Caroline Harris is a policy advisor to State Sen. Bryan Hughes (R-Tyler) who appears to be making most of her candidacy about the Big Lie of voter fraud. She generally stays on target, preferring to sell the fact that many Texans support having to show an ID to vote rather than kooky conspiracy theories. She’s also a white woman and electing white women to office has been very good for the Republican Party in the last several cycles.
Also running is Nelson Jarrin, a former staffer to Sen. Schwertner and the Vice President and Counsel for the Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute. The institute has a good track record and recently won a $10 million grant to help them reach out to mentally ill Texans of little means. So far, his entire campaign is based on claiming that Talarico abandoned his post, a tact that Harris is already using as well.
Last on the list is Tjitse Miller, a Round Rock software engineer. Little is known about him other than that he is a big fan of Texas GOP Chair and gubernatorial candidate Allen West. Like Harris and Jarrin, he is making the specter of election fraud a centerpiece of his candidacy.
The overall Republican strategy to turn District 52 red seems very clear. Candidates are going to claim that Talarico abandoned his post because he wants to enable voter fraud. Maybe this will play well, but the odds are still against the challengers. Polls consistently show that most Texans don’t think that voter fraud is actually a problem, and the Big Lie has not flown as a concept as well in Texas where former President Donald Trump won. Republicans may smell blood in the water, but if they’re actually going to pull this off they will need a bigger boat.