The 2020 election races have officially begun.
Comal and Guadalupe county candidates on Saturday began filing the necessary paperwork with Republican and Democratic chairs to seek party nominations in the March 3, 2020 primary elections.
Dozens of candidates for statewide offices declared their intent to run long before the month-long filing period opened Saturday. All offices up for election in both counties are held by Republicans, so there’s little reason to get a jump on the competition.
“Some of them will drag it out for a while because they don’t have the money for filing fees or the necessary signatures to get on the ballot,” said Ruth Pharis, Comal County Republican Party chair. “But I expect they all will file during the next month.”
The filing period ends at 6 p.m. Dec. 9. Voters in both counties will elect commissioners; district court justices; sheriffs; tax assessor-collectors and four precinct constables. But in 2020, Comal County’s political landscape will change with the arrival of new party chairs.
Bob Rogers, the county’s Democratic chair, stepped down last month. Pharis confirmed she will leave her post as GOP chair later this month.
“I’ve had some heart problems and the doctor said it’s time for me to get rid of the stress,” she said. “An election for my replacement will be held during the county’s next executive committee meeting on Nov. 21.”
Pharis said Sue Piner has filed to run for county chair. Gloria Meehan, who ran for county clerk in 2018, was named as interim Democratic chair to succeed Rogers, who was unavailable for comment on Saturday. Meehan will also seek the permanent job March 3.
On Friday, Meehan and J.C. Dufresne, Guadalupe County liberal activist and current member of the state Democratic Executive Committee representing Senate District 25, had no idea who would step up to challenge local Republicans.
“We’ve reached out to some folks, but we’ll just see what happens,” Meehan said. “We know there are some open positions, But at this point, I haven’t heard of anyone thinking of running for county office – but they could just be holding their cards pretty close to the vest.”
Added Dufresne: “I suspect we will have a few run for office – I feel from the way people have been talking, some people will.”
There hasn’t been a Democrat elected to Comal County office since the 1990s. In 2018, Meehan, Dorothy Carroll (Precinct 4 commissioner), and Stephanie Phillips (District 73 Texas House), were the party’s only candidates for local offices.
Meehan said the local focus is on registering voters to defeat entrenched Republicans in statewide positions.
“It’s a pretty big commitment to run for office,” she said. “Democrats are gearing up for a pretty big (state and national) election this year. We’re likely going to put our eggs into that basket.”
Nine Democrats have announced to face U.S. Sen. John Cornyn next November; two have announced for railroad commissioner. Three have announced for Supreme Court chief justice, and several are challenging for spots on the Supreme Court and Criminal Court of Appeals.
“There are a lot of folks that are pretty excited about running for office this year on the state and national level,” Meehan said, alluding to party opportunities of winning the presidency and wresting control of the U.S. Senate.
Chip Roy, who defeated Joseph Kopser to succeed outgoing District 21 U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith two years ago, has at least two Democratic opponents – Wendy Davis, former Fort Worth city council member, state senator and 2014 party nominee for governor; and Jennie Lou Leeder, former Llano County party chair who lost a 2018 bid for the U.S. House.
On Oct. 8, Cathy Talcott, the county’s GOP tax assessor-collector, announced she would not seek a fourth term in office. The same day, New Braunfels City Secretary Patrick Aten and businesswoman Kristen H. Hoyt said they would seek the party nomination.
Pharis said she believes some Democrats will eventually choose to run for local office.
“For the longest time, they didn’t bother,” she said. “But they have created enough of a wave in Comal County and the state in trying to take over some seats. I wouldn’t be surprised if they had candidates running against everyone we have on the ballot.”
The last day to register to vote is Monday, Feb. 3; the early voting period is Tuesday, Feb. 18 through Friday, Feb. 28. For election information and updated lists candidate filings, visit the elections link at the Texas Secretary of State’s website, www.sos.state.tx.us.