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Jackson Lee Holds Narrow Lead in 18th Congressional District Race

Latest Hobby School Survey Looks at Area Congressional, State Legislative Races

Just months after a bruising campaign for mayor of Houston, U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee is leading her top challenger in the 18th Congressional District by five points, suggesting the closest race for the position in decades.

A survey of likely Democratic primary election voters by the Hobby School of Public Affairs at the University of Houston found 43% plan to vote for Jackson Lee, while 38% support former Houston City Council member Amanda Edwards. Another 16% said they are unsure who they will support.


In the Democratic primary, eyes are on the narrow lead Sheila Jackson Lee (left) has over challenger Amanda Edwards in the 18th U.S. Congressional District. A new Hobby School of Public Affairs survey shows the opposite story unfolding for Lizzie Fletcher, who commands 78% of voter support in the 7th U.S. Congressional District. Early voting is underway. Election day is March 5.

“Congresswoman Jackson Lee has near universal name recognition, having represented the district since 1995, coupled with her run for mayor just a few months ago,” said Renée Cross, senior executive director of the Hobby School and one of the researchers for the project. “That name ID, along with strong support from women, Black and older voters, has given her a boost, although the race is still very competitive.”

A third candidate, Robert Slater, drew 3% of the vote.

Jackson Lee is the choice of 52% of Black voters, compared to 36% for Edwards; women voters, 47% to 33%; and older voters, 52% to 33%. Edwards is strongest with Latino voters, at 43%, compared to 29% for Jackson Lee; Independent voters, 45% to 31%; voters aged 45-64, 44% to 35%; and men, 46% to 39%.

Survey respondents generally support the incumbent in other high-profile congressional and state legislative races, although a large number of voters say they remain unsure who they will support. Several races without an incumbent on the ballot appear wide open.

Mark P. Jones, political science fellow at Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy and senior research fellow at the Hobby School, said even relatively well-funded candidates have struggled to gain traction in some open seats, including state Senate District 15, left vacant after longtime incumbent John Whitmire was elected Houston mayor in December.

“Among the front runners, Jarvis Johnson has served in the Texas House of Representatives since 2016 and previously on Houston City Council, and both of the other top contenders are Democratic Party activists who have previously run for public office,” Jones said. “But all three are relatively close – Johnson and Molly Cook each drew support from 18% of likely voters, while 14% said they will vote for Todd Litton. With 37% saying they are unsure who to support, the race will very likely end in a May runoff.”

None of the other three candidates in the race has support from more than 6% of voters.

For House District 146, incumbent Shawn Thierry is leading with 40% of the primary vote, while challenger Lauren Ashley Simmons has 16% and Ashton Woods has 4%. Another 40% of voters say they are unsure who they will support. Thierry enjoys an overwhelming lead over Simmons among Black voters, 51% to 13%, while Simmons has a narrow 25% to 23% lead among white voters.

“Thierry has been under fire from members of her own party after breaking with Democrats to support legislation banning gender transition care for children and teens due primarily to the support for that legislation among a majority of her African American constituents,” said Jones. “But it’s clear that at least so far, even a well-funded challenger like Lauren Ashley Simmons has been unable to draw wide support in the district, which has sent Thierry to Austin for four terms.”

In other survey findings:

  • In the 7th Congressional District, incumbent Lizzie Fletcher is leading with 78% of the primary vote. Challenger Pervez Agwan drew support from 11% of likely voters, while another 11% said they are unsure.
  • In House District 139, vacated by Johnson’s run for state Senate, Rosalind Caesar has 12% of the vote, followed by Angie Thibodeaux, 10%; Charlene Ward Johnson, 8%; and Mo Jenkins and Jerry Ford, each with 4%. 62% said they are unsure.
  • In House District 142, incumbent Harold Dutton, who has held the office for nearly 40 years, is leading with 38% of the vote, followed by Danyahel (Danny) Norris, 7%; and Joyce Marie Chatman and Clint Dan Horn, each with 6%. 43% are unsure.

The full report is available on the Hobby School website. A future report will examine Harris County Democratic primary voter evaluations of leading Houston-area Democratic political figures. A previous report looked at key county-wide Democratic primary races.

The complete survey asked 1,400 likely Harris County Democratic primary election voters about their preferences regarding candidates in the upcoming primary election. It was conducted between Feb. 7 and 15, 2024, in English and Spanish. The margin of error for the county-wide survey is +/- 2.5%, while those for the legislative district surveys vary.

story by Jeannie Kever

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