March 8, 2020
Best Texas Challenger Campaign
Best Texas Congress Campaign
Best Texas Incumbent Campaign
Texas Legislature Campaign
Self-styled progressive Joanna Cattanach never really quit running in the wake of an excruciating defeat just 15 months ago in a bid to oust Republican State Rep. Morgan Meyer in a wealthy central Dallas district that had been a red stronghold. After losing to Meyer by 220 votes in a battle that culminated in a recount and fruitless legal challenge, Cattanach found catharsis in the comeback that she fortified with a strong early start in fundraising and infrastructure organization in a district where she'd come much closer than anyone expected in a maiden voyage for the Texas House in 2018.
Cattanach the activist came back around the track as an experienced politico who'd be more confident and smarter and better at the game of hardball in a district that's truly must-win territory for the Democrats in their crusade to win a House majority at the polls this fall. House District 108 is home to many of the richest people in Texas with University Park and Highland Park and parts of old Dallas as the anchors. But the old-money enclaves in the state's largest cities have become magnets for incoming white liberals from other states - and the three Republicans who represent them in the House are all in serious danger of having seats pulled out from under them by Democrats like Cattanach who've lost to them before. Cattanach appears to have the best shot on paper in November in the current crew of Democratic challengers in the make-or-break swing races as a challenger on the rebound with revenge on her mind. But Cattanach also seems to realize that she has to run like she's losing from start to finish despite the district's rapid blue conversion with an opponent who's polished and intelligent and armed to the hilt by the party establishment pillars who he's represented at the Capitol for the past five years.
Three women Democrats picked up House seats in Dallas County in the last election cycle when Cattanach and the party's female nominee in a nearby district came close but missed out on rides on the killer blue wave that swept a dozen Dems to wins in GOP districts in the Lone Star State the last time around. The only two remaining red districts in Dallas County are smack dab at the heart of the fight for the right to run the Legislature's lower chamber - and Cattanach has a massive burden on her shoulders as the minority party's warrior in a do-or-die race for the Democrats in the majority quest. But Cattanach had to try to keep the eye on the tiger that's Meyer without losing sight of the more immediate opposition that was stronger than she'd probably envisioned with Shawn Terry and Tom Ervin as first-round foes. Terry set the bar in the clouds with a gang buster donor dollar haul that generated almost a quarter-million dollars for his campaign in the first half of 2019. But Cattanach raised almost $100,000 herself in the same span of time for a campaign that already had the network and grassroots apparatus in place for a race that could have the highest price tag on the intensely critical House battlefield in the Democrats crusade to take the west wing of the Capitol back in 2020.
Cattanach had to exploit the bigger spending rival's most glaring vulnerability in an attempt to mitigate the substantial advantage that Terry would have in campaign funding - and she hit the issue on the nerve when she raised alarms on a foray long ago into Republican politics with an unsuccessful campaign for Congress in the late 1990s. Cattanach implied that Terry simply couldn't be trusted by Democratic voters as an opportunist swimming with the current for the sake of convenience and expediency in a state that's on the verge of going blue. Cattanach flaunted Terry's support more than 20 years ago for school vouchers and constitutional abortion restrictions while touting a stellar rating that he'd received from the NRA in the congressional contest. Terry had won a contested GOP primary for the nomination in a district where he went on to lose to Democrat Martin Frost as the powerful incumbent who Republicans eventually chased out of the U.S. House in a redistricting blitz several years later. Terry fired back with advertising that accused Cattanach of attacking him unfairly for a learning less of a past that he'd left behind. Terry foot the bill for one ad with a daughter who'd survived a college shooting with a passionate defensive and claims that Cattanach had misrepresented her father's positions on gun laws that he wants to strengthen. But the Democrats in HD 108 kept the war of words that the guilt by historical association ploy sparked on a path of relative civility and respect without a gutter turn in a district where they'll have no chance against Meyer without a united front.
Cattanach sought to keep Terry on the ropes nonetheless while Ervin punched from a different direction by warning on the troubling nature of the intramural opposition largess and influence of big money in the most important legislative race in Texas in 2020. But Cattanach ran like she was way behind and born to win the second time around before she emerged from the Super Tuesday election with more than 58 percent of the vote with Terry in a distant second with less than 27 percent. Terry congratulated the victor who'd been the superior candidate and has the weight of the blue world to carry until she meets Meyer again on the ballot less than eight months from now.
The Best of the Election selections for 2020 Texas primary will be unveiled this month in separate installments.