Valdez Survives Primary to Make History, Cunningham-Koch Goes Down to Wire

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(photo courtesy

The primary runoff election returns between Democratic gubernatorial candidates Andrew White and Lupe Valdez were a bit like a ping-pong match for a good portion of the night — until Valdez eventually pulled ahead (about 53 percent to 47 percent) of White to become the first openly gay and the first Latina candidate to win a major party nomination for Texas governor.

After conceding the race to Valdez, White said he was ready to roll up his sleeves and help his former opponent face off against incumbent Gov. Greg Abbot, saying he was “ready to help in any way I can to give Greg Abbott an early retirement party.”

“I am constantly hearing this is going to be such an uphill battle,” Valdez told supporters after she clinched her win. “Please, tell me when I didn’t have an uphill battle.”

The race to watch locally became the Republican runoff for Dallas County Commissioner, Precinct 2, which had Vic Cunningham and J. J. Koch facing off to determine who would be running against Democrat Winifred Cannon in November. Republican Mike Cantrell’s seat became up for grabs when he announced his retirement last year.

Both candidates have had their fair share of controversy. Koch felt the heat after sending an email that many felt blamed undocumented immigrants for problems facing the middle class, and for allegedly offering to pay another candidate to drop out of the primary race.

But that may have paled in comparison to Cunningham’s controversy, which includes allegations of frequent usage of the n-word, and an open admission that he created a trust for his children that hinges on whether they marry someone who is straight, white, and Christian.

It was enough for the Dallas Morning News to rescind its endorsement, and for even the county GOP to release a statement condemning Cunningham’s actions.

When early voting totals came in, it seemed as if Cunningham had it in the bag with 55 percent of the votes to Koch’s 45 percent. The question of the evening became whether or not Cunningham’s luck would hold, or if post-early voting revelations would drive people to the polls to choose his opponent.

The answer was slow to come. Returns came in slowly, period, and around 10:30 p.m. Koch pulled ahead by the slimmest of slim margins – nine votes.  That held for more than an hour before finally, all precincts were in, and Koch’s final victory tally beat Cunningham by 25 votes.

In other GOP primary runoff races, Lance Gooden beat Bunni Pounds (53 percent to 47 percent) for the right to run against Democrat Dan Wood for U.S. Rep. Jeb Hensarling’s District 5 seat. Hensarling is retiring.

(photo courtesy Allen Vaught)

And in perhaps another controversial race, Deanna Metzger beat Joe Ruzicka 56 percent to 44 percent for the District 107 State Representative race against incumbent Democrat Victoria Neave. Bucking a statewide trend toward more centrist candidates, Metzger won, despite allegations that she didn’t actually live in her district, but instead lived in Fort Worth.

In the Democratic race to see who would run against incumbent U.S. Rep. Pete Sessions, Collin Allred beat Lillian Salerno by almost 40 percent of the vote.

In other Democratic primary races, Carl Sherman beat Deshaundra Lockhart Jones to take State Rep. Helen Giddings’s District 109 seat after her retirement. Martin Hoffman retained his 68th Judicial District bench, while Bridgett Whitmore and Paula Rosales beat incumbent challengers to win their 193rd Judicial District and County Court at Law No. 4 seats, respectively. Pamela Luther beat Marilynn Mayse for the County Criminal Court of Appeal, Place 2 spot.




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Bethany Erickson

Bethany Erickson lives in a 1961 Fox and Jacobs home with her husband, a second-grader, and Conrad Bain the dog. If she won the lottery, she'd by an E. Faye Jones home. She's taken home a few awards for her writing, including a Gold award for Best Series at the 2018 National Association of Real Estate Editors journalism awards, a 2018 Hugh Aynesworth Award for Editorial Opinion from the Dallas Press Club, and a 2019 award from NAREE for a piece linking Medicaid expansion with housing insecurity. She is a member of the Online News Association, the Education Writers Association, the International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences, and the Society of Professional Journalists. She doesn't like lima beans or the word moist.

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