By Gromers Jeffers Jr.
State Rep. Jasmine Crockett on Tuesday defeated Jane Hope Hamilton in the Democratic Party runoff to replace the retiring Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson in Congress.
Crockett will meet the winner of the Republican runoff for Texas’ 30th Congressional District. In that contest, James Rodgers defeated James Harris, according to unofficial results early Wednesday. The Dallas district is heavily Democratic, so Crockett is considered a cinch to win the November general election.
“This was never about me,” Crockett told supporters gathered at the Statler hotel in downtown Dallas. “It was always about us.”
Crockett said she understood the cries of the district’s residents who have been struggling with rising prices for gas and food. She said she was ready to get to work.
“At the end of the day it was about who was going to do the hard work and care,” Crockett said during her victory speech. “We’ve got to start moving this country forward and that’s what I’m committed to do.”
A criminal defense and civil rights lawyer, Crockett staged a meteoric rise in local politics. She stormed on the political scene in 2020 by winning the District 100 statehouse seat once held by Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson. And as a freshman, she was one of the more visible Democrats in the Legislature. She followed those feats with easy victories in the March primary and Tuesday’s runoff for Congress, setting herself up to replace Johnson, the only representative District 30 has known.
The state lawmaker was boosted by the endorsement of Johnson, who joined her at the victory party. Crockett was also helped by two super PACs controlled by cryptocurrency financiers that spent a combined $3 million on her behalf.
But Crockett had strengths of her own. She parlayed her freshman year in the Legislature into numerous television and speaking opportunities, becoming one of the major faces in last year’s House Democratic walkout to stall a controversial elections bill. She was Johnson’s point person in the Legislature for the special session on redistricting, which helped ingratiate her with the congresswoman.
Not immediately mentioned as a contender to replace Johnson, Crockett gained momentum in the days before the longtime congresswoman’s announcement that she was retiring. And by the end of the primary process, her name recognition rivaled that of Johnson, some internal polls by Democrats showed.
“I thought I was being punked. I was waiting for the cameras,” Crockett joked Tuesday about the moment Johnson asked her to run for Congress.
Then Crockett praised Johnson and her trailblazing achievements.
“I really can’t imagine the challenges she went through,” Crockett said. “She created the pathway for me.”
With Johnson’s backing Crockett racked up 48% of the vote in March in a nine person field, while Hamilton, 44, slipped into the runoff with 17%. Texas law requires nominees to advance to the general election with over 50%, so a second round of voting was necessary.
The runoff, which was contentious at times, featured a split in the local Democratic Party establishment. While Johnson and numerous others backed Crockett, Hamilton received endorsements from former U.S. Trade representative and former Dallas Mayor Ron Kirk, state Sen. Royce West and Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price.
As with the first round, Johnson’s endorsement proved invaluable, and Crockett’s better name recognition was critical.
Crockett and Hamilton had different paths to the moment. Crockett is an elected official and had roots in the social justice movement. She leans progressive, as evident by her support from U.S. Sens. Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts. Hamilton, a former aide to U.S. Rep. Martin Frost, has a long career as a campaign manager and political operative. She managed the successful campaigns of Rep. Marc Veasey, D-Fort Worth, and Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins. She served as Veasey’s first chief of staff.
Though they have similar views on major issues, the candidates clashed on style and Democratic Party strategy.
Hamilton criticized Crockett for not voting against the elections bill that later became law. But Crockett countered that she vowed not to participate in the process and that, if some Democrats had not returned to Austin, Republicans wouldn’t have had the quorum needed to pass the bill.
Crockett, who said her congressional campaign was the hardest race she’s run, stayed away from Hamilton for the runoff, opting not to debate her publicly.
But during the early voting period, her supporters, including Johnson, lashed out at Hamilton for what they described as Donald Trump-like tactics.
Crockett said that, after the election, she would start making the transition from the Texas Legislature to Congress. And she has been wrapping up trials related to her criminal defense practice.