Longtime Texas Court of Criminal Appeals Judge Lawrence “Larry” Meyers announced Monday — on the last day of filing for next year’s election — that he is leaving the Republican Party to run as a Democrat for the Texas Supreme Court.
In one of the most surprising moves Monday, Meyers, of Fort Worth, filed to seek Place 6 on the Supreme Court, pitting him against incumbent Republican Jeff Brown in next year’s general election.
The move not only puts him on the ballot for the first time as a Democrat, but it also makes him the first statewide Democratic officeholder in Texas since the late 1990s.
“I am thrilled to welcome Judge Meyers to the Texas Democratic Party,” Texas Democratic Party Chairman Gilberto Hinojosa said. “I am even more excited to know that Judge Meyers doesn’t stand alone. Every day, I hear from real voters that our party represents the strongest path forward for our state.
“Texas is changing and voters will continue to reject a Republican Party more focused on ideology than ideas.”
Meyers, who did not return telephone calls from the Star-Telegram seeking comment Monday, was elected to the Court of Criminal Appeals in 1992. He will continue to serve on the state’s top criminal court while he runs for the Supreme Court.
Republican officials said they were surprised to learn about Meyers’ switch Monday.
“We think that brings the grand total of party switchers to the Democratic Party to two or three this year,” said Beth Cubriel, executive director of the Republican Party of Texas. “And we’ve had 76 Democrats who have switched to the Republican party this year.”
“We don‘t know if maybe he was trying to avoid a primary and thought the Democratic Party was the place to avoid a nomination,” she said. “Maybe he was just trying to guarantee a spot on the general election ballot.”
Some political observers say too much shouldn’t be read into Meyers’ move.
“You can read into it as much or as little as you want,” said Bill Miller, an Austin-based political consultant. “In the political world, it will be spun for better and for worse.”
Political observers have long kept an eye on Tarrant County, one of the nation’s most Republican areas, saying that if Democrats could win here, they can contend in other GOP areas statewide.
In this election, local Democrats did put up candidates in most congressional and many legislative races. And Fort Worth Democrat Wendy Davis, the party’s shining star, will be listed high up on the ballot, in her underdog campaign to be the state’s next governor.
“This shows Democrats want to run,” Tarrant County Democratic Party Chair Deborah Peoples said. “I know Republicans like to say they have a lock on this county and they don’t.”
“Democrats are invigorated and I am very pleased with the caliber of the candidates we have running and the energy we have in the party,” she said. “2014 sets us up really well for 2016.”
Even so, dozens of local judicial posts — from district courts to probate courts — went unchallenged by the Democrats.
“It’s hard to turn Tarrant blue if they haven’t run candidates in a lot of the races,” said Jen Hall, who heads the Tarrant County Republican Party, as she was waiting for the final list of candidates.
Political observers say Democrats may make some gains this year.
“Perhaps Democrats are a bit more competitive in Tarrant County given Sen. Wendy Davis’ candidacy,” said Allan Saxe, an associate political science professor at the University of Texas in Arlington. “If she was not running for governor, the Republicans here would really take every office with no contests.”
Overall, he said, 2014 will be “a bit more competitive, but no real changes locally. Perhaps in the next election cycle, but not now.”
Davis used Monday’s filing deadline as a fundraising tool, sending out an email Monday, asking Texans to help her raise another $25,000 before midnight. “When we set an ambitious goal like (Monday’s) $25,000 grassroots goal, we’re making a big statement about the kind of campaign we plan to run and how hard we’re willing to fight to give Texans a Governor who will work for them again,” her email said.
Monday was the last day for candidates to file at Republican and Democratic party offices across the state to be on the March 4 primary ballot.
Here’s a look at the candidates who filed by late Monday to be on the March 4 ballot, according to candidate lists that may not be complete, but were posted on the websites of the Texas Secretary of State and state and local Republican and Democratic parties.
U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, Texas’ senior senator and the majority whip, drew a slew of challengers, none more surprising than fellow Republican U.S. Rep. Steve Stockman.
Stockman, who has Tea Party support and represents the 36th congressional district, filed shortly before Monday’s deadline. Best known for saying the government executed members of the Branch Davidian cult, he was elected to a new House district last year and previously represented Texas in Congress.
Other challengers in the race include Republicans Curt Cleaver, Ken Cope, Chris Mapp, Reid Reasor, Dwayne Stovall and Linda Vega and Democrats David Alameel, Michael “Fjet” Fjetland, Harry Kim, Kesha Rogers and Maxey Marie Scherr.
Several local members of Congress drew opponents as well.
There had been much speculation about whether former state Rep. Domingo Garcia, D-Dallas, would challenge Veasey for the 33rd Congressional District, setting up a rematch of last year’s hotly contested primary race. But Garcia put out a statement late Monday that he would not enter the race.
“I am truly humbled by the encouragement and support I have received to run for congress this year but after careful consideration I have decided against a run for congress in 2014,” he said. “I look forward to helping turning Texas blue and will continue to work to register and turn out more voters. I look forward to continuing to serve the community in one capacity or another.”
Democratic officials said Monday that little is known about Veasey’s challenger, Sanchez of Colleyville, other than that he is an attorney.
The game of musical chairs predicted for the top statewide posts played out as expected, as Republicans decided to move up the political ladder since Gov. Rick Perry announced he wouldn’t seek re-election.
Several local legislators drew opponents, but no battle is expected to be hotter than the one for state Senate District 10.
Eight candidates have thrown in for what’s expected to be one of the most watched and most expensive races in the state — the battle for Senate District 10, which state Sen. Wendy Davis, a Fort Worth Democrat now running for governor, has represented for five years.
This post is vital to both parties. If Democrats lose it and all other Senate seats stay the same, Republicans inch closer to clinching a super majority in the chamber.
Those in the race include Democrats George Boll, an attorney and former member of Colleyville City Council, Mike Martinez, a local energy executive, and Libby Willis, longtime neighborhood leader, and Republicans Konni Burton of Colleyville, Arlington school Trustee Tony Pompa, Colleyville chiropractor Jon Schweitzer, former state Rep. Mark Shelton of Fort Worth and Mark Skinner of Colleyville.
In state Senate District 9, Republican state Sen. Kelly Hancock picked up a Democratic challenger, Gregory R. Perry.
Other local contested races include House District 90, where longtime Democratic state Rep. Lon Burnan drew a primary foe, Ramon Romero Jr.; House District 91, where Republican state Rep. Stephanie Klick picked up Democratic challenger David L. Ragan; and House District 92, where GOP state Rep. Jonathan Stickland is being challenged both by Republican Andy Cargile and Democrat Tina Penney.
Other challenges were filed in House District 94, where Republican state Rep. Diane Patrick picked up a GOP challenge from Tony Tinderholt and a Democratic challenge from Cole Ballweg; and House District 95, where Democratic state Rep. Nicole Collier drew a Republican challenger, Albert McDaniel.
Local House members who did not draw challenges include Republican state Reps. Matt Krause, District 93, Bill Zedler, District 96, Craig Goldman, District 97, Giovanni Capriglione, District 98, and Charlie Geren, District 99. Democrat state Rep. Chris Turner, District 101, also did not draw a challenger.