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Sheila Jackson Lee

Jackson Lee faces serious challenger in upcoming primary

For the first time in three decades, Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) is facing a serious primary challenger who could topple one of the longest-serving House incumbents.

Jackson Lee will take on former Houston City Council member Amanda Edwards in the March 5 Democratic primary. You’ll remember, Jackson Lee spent the majority of last year running for Houston mayor before losing in a landslide to former state Sen. John Whitmire.

Until now, Jackson Lee has cruised to reelection since first coming to Congress in 1995, handily defeating the few primary challengers she’s faced. But Jackson Lee’s focus on the mayoral race until late last year has been a boon for Edwards.

“What has resulted from [Jackson Lee] saying that she wanted to come home has been people having an openness to want something different and new, whereas they otherwise might not,” Edwards told us in an interview. “It’s been 30 years since we’ve had new leadership.”

Edwards has been able to build momentum in her campaign — and, most importantly, a sizable financial advantage — due to Jackson Lee’s late shift back to the House race.

Edwards ended 2023 with $856,000 cash on hand, raising about $272,000 in the fourth quarter. Jackson Lee brought in $23,000 in Q4, ending the year with about $223,000 cash on hand.

Edwards previously ran for Senate in 2020 in a bid against GOP Sen. John Cornyn but lost in the primary. She’s a municipal finance attorney and has a law degree from Harvard.

The challenger criticized Jackson Lee for not doing enough to pass more legislation while holding office.

“One of the big distinguishing elements between Congresswoman Jackson Lee and me will be my emphasis on offering and passing policy in Congress,” Edwards said. “She has not passed a lot of legislation and when you’re looking at transformative change, a lot of that comes through legislation.”

Jackson Lee’s response?

“I’m enthusiastic,” Jackson Lee told us about the primary challenge. “We are diverse in our support and my record is very evident that I’m the person who delivers and that’s what our community needs — a member that delivers. We’re excited about things.”

Delegation Democrats weigh in:

Neighboring Houston-area Rep. Sylvia Garcia (D-Texas): “[Jackson Lee] just got out of another campaign, so didn’t have enough time to fundraise,” Garcia told us. “She barely won the majority of votes from that particular district in the mayor’s race… so people were saying those are indicators that she may have a real race on her hands.”

Rep. Greg Casar (D-Texas): “I’m all for new, young and progressive voices and that’s something I encourage in all cases,” Casar told us. “But Ms. Jackson Lee has been one of the legendary progressive voices in this building for a long time and I’m going to continue to support her.”

Mica Soellner

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Editorial photos provided by Getty Images. Political ads courtesy of AdImpact.