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Heat rises around Houston Democrat Shawn Thierry ahead of bitter runoff

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With two weeks left until the primary runoff, state Rep. Shawn Thierry’s fight for political survival is intensifying, as more of his current and former legislative colleagues have lined up behind his opponent and turned increasingly increasingly explicit in their criticism of the Houston Democrat.

Last weekend, U.S. Rep. Jasmine Crockett, a Dallas Democrat who previously served in the Texas House of Representatives with Thierry, spoke at a campaign event where she condemned her former colleague and reiterated her support for Lauren Ashley Simmons in the contest of May 28.

“I don’t show up to (just) anyone. “Shawn Thierry is that bad,” Crockett said. “She has to go.”

Thierry, a 54-year-old Houston lawyer, has been in her own party’s crosshairs since last spring, when she voted for a measure banning gender transition child care, and then gave an emotional speech from the House of Representatives explaining why he broke with his party. Thierry’s vote and her viral comments prompted a vigorous, well-funded challenge from Simmons, a 36-year-old union organizer who finished ahead of Thierry in a three-way primary in March.

The two now face off in a runoff that will effectively decide who will represent the solidly blue south Houston district next year, while also testing the staying power of Democrats who vote for the Party’s bills. Republican opposed by the LGBTQ+ community. Thierry, the only Democrat in the Texas House to be pushed to a runoff, has responded with her own list of endorsements from black church leaders and six of her Democratic colleagues.

Meanwhile, Simmons has garnered support from eight Democrats who currently serve with Thierry in the Texas House and two others (Crockett and former lawmaker Garnet Coleman) who previously served with her in the House. Several of them, including Crockett, appeared with Simmons over the weekend at a rally and a round of block walks.

“She’s never supported them all,” Crockett saying, after recounting a story in which Thierry allegedly asked House Speaker Dade Phelan, R-Beaumont, whether Democrats would be allowed to keep their committee seats if they went ahead with a plan to flee the state to thwart a Republican election bill. “They were targeting their constituents. And do you know what mattered to him? His damn position on a committee.

Thierry ended up joining more than 50 House Democrats who flew to Washington, D.C., to temporarily deny Republicans the quorum needed to pass their bill overhauling state elections. He denied the details of Crockett’s account, calling it a “made-up scenario” designed to boost Simmons’ campaign.

“I conclude that it is disappointing and more than strange that these deputies ever believed that holding a hyperbolic press conference solely to attack a fellow Democrat in a Democratic runoff was a good idea,” Thierry said. wrote in X.

Thierry added that she “never raised her hand in any meeting to ask (Phelan) such a dumb question,” and suggested that some of Simmons’ legislative supporters should be blamed for helping Republicans restore the quorum they used to approve the electoral bill.

Thierry, for her part, is touting support from a coalition of church leaders that she says is “the largest collective of African-American Baptist ministers ever assembled in a Democratic primary runoff.” She framed it as a “major political shift” in the primaries, noting “the critical role the Black church plays in shaping African American civic engagement and mobilizing communities against social injustices.”

“I would like this to be a sign to all legislators, and to those who seek to be legislators, that you too can enjoy this kind of support when you stand up for justice,” said MD Morrison Sr., pastor of New Faith Baptist of Houston. Church Northeast, he said while flanked by Thierry and other ministers at a recent campaign event. “You too can enjoy this kind of solidarity from the religious community when you simply stand up for what is right.”

Thierry is seeking his fifth term representing House District 146, a predominantly Democratic seat that covers parts of south and southwest Houston. Three-quarters of the district is nonwhite and anchored in Sunnyside, a low-income, majority-Black neighborhood that was once a thriving economic center that is trying to revitalize itself.

Thierry hopes the support from the Black faith community will be enough to overcome growing support for Simmons from Democratic politicians and local political groups. Since the runoff, Simmons has added endorsements from U.S. Rep. Lizzie Fletcher and Houston state Reps. Alma Allen, Ann Johnson and Christina Morales.

Five of Thierry’s House colleagues had already endorsed Simmons in the first round, including Houston-area Reps. Jon Rosenthal and Gene Wu. Simmons has also received the endorsement of former Senate candidate and governor Beto O’Rourke.

When asked about his fellow Democrats who had lined up behind Simmons’ campaign, Thierry said that in “a political climate like what we’re seeing on both sides, it’s understandable that some people have made decisions to support candidates based on very loaded issues.”

“Ultimately, it will be the voters of District 146 who will decide,” he added.

Thierry has added recent endorsements from state Reps. Richard Raymond, D-Laredo, and Sergio Muñoz Jr., D-Palmview. He also has the endorsement of Democratic state Reps. Nicole Collier of Fort Worth, Harold Dutton of Houston, Barbara Gervin-Hawkins of San Antonio and Eddie Morales Jr. of Eagle Pass.

The animosity toward Thierry within her own party comes after she broke ranks on three major GOP bills that became law: a ban on care for gender-transitioning minors; a bill aimed at removing sexually explicit books from school libraries, a designation that critics feared would be used to attack LGBTQ+ literature; and the requirement that transgender college athletes play on teams that align with the sex assigned at birth.

Critics of Thierry’s comments on the gender transition bill noted that she ignored the fact that decisions about the treatment of minors could only be made by parents or legal guardians. A consensus of major medical groups has also argued that gender transition care should be available for children and adolescents under the care of doctors.

Several Republicans praised Thierry’s comments, calling them a brave rebuke to what they see as a radical stance. He has received most of his campaign funds from a combination of Republican donors, PACs that advocate for charter schools and school vouchers, and the Las Vegas-affiliated PAC Sands, which aims to legalize casino gambling in Texas. Also among Thierry’s top donors is Adam Loewy, an Austin personal injury attorney who donates primarily to Democrats.

Thierry was not the only Democrat to support Republican legislation (11 others voted for the book ban bill, including Collier, Dutton, Morales, Muñoz and Raymond), but she was by far the most outspoken. In another speech, she said the book bill would set up barriers against explicit materials that have “infiltrated” schools, highlighting one that she says teaches children how to access dating websites.

Crockett said he decided to intervene in the race after the Houston Chronicle editorial board quoted Thierry apparently dismissing Simmons supporters in the Texas House as “the gays.” Thierry said the quote was “completely taken out of context of a broader discussion,” but in any case, Simmons’ campaign told the Chronicle they received a significant boost in fundraising after Thierry’s comments were published. .

Simmons’ top donors are the Texas Organizing Project, the Texas Gulf Coast AFL-CIO and the Houston Federation of Teachers.

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