Two Houston Democrats drop key challenges to U.S. Rep Lizzie Fletcher

In less than 24 hours, U.S. Representative Lizzie Fletcher went from competitive primary elections in March to a free pass to the November general election for Houston’s 7th Congressional District.

On Monday morning, Centrell Reed, a Democrat from Houston, qualified to participate in the March 1 primary vote against Fletcher. And later that day, wealthy businessman Muhammad Tahir Javed asked to join the race just before the deadline to qualify.

But at the end of Tuesday, both challengers gave up under pressure from key members of Congress.

Reed retired at the end of Monday and moved on to another congressional run. And on Tuesday, Javed admitted that he had been asked to withdraw from the race, but said he was determined to stay. Several hours later, Javed said he had withdrawn as well, without further explanation.

Although the 7th Congressional District has been heavily redesigned to include new areas for Fletcher, a two-term holder who is one of the best fundraisers in Texas, she would still have been favored to win the primary based on its past successful campaigns.

Javed presented a potentially significant challenge. In 2018, Javed spent over a million dollars of her own money in an unsuccessful attempt to defeat current U.S. Representative Sylvia Garcia.

And Javed has been a Democratic donor for a decade, which has put him in the company of President Joe Biden and 2016 Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. In 2016, he hosted Clinton for a fundraiser at his Beaumont home. Since July, he has been vice-president of national finances of the Democratic National Committee.

Javed said one of the main reasons he wanted to run for Congress was the way the district had been redesigned to include nearly 200,000 new people from various counties in Fort Bend. The result is that the 7th arrondissement now has the highest percentage of Asian voters in the state. About 70 percent of the voting age population is now non-Anglo and 21 percent of the voting age population is of Asian descent, according to US census records.

Javed, who emigrated from Pakistan almost 20 years ago, said he felt the neighborhood was perfectly designed for him.

“This is home,” he said. “Our communities need to be represented.

Javed, 55, has more than two dozen businesses, including hospitals, distribution networks and real estate companies. One of those companies is Riceland Healthcare in Beaumont, where former Congressman Nick Lampson, who once represented areas of Fort Bend County, is the director of operations.

The minute he entered the race, Javed said his phone started to light up with people trying to get him to reconsider.

Reed, who indicates his trade is in the media, filed his papers to run in the newly established 38th Congressional District, which includes parts such as the Energy Corridor that was in the 7th Congressional District. In that March 1 Democratic primary, Reed will face Diana Martinez Alexander, who ran for Harris County Commissioners Court in 2020, and Duncan F. Klussmann, the former superintendent of the Spring Branch Independent School District.

On the Republican side, 10 candidates ran, including US Army veteran Wesley Hunt and Harris County Republican Party activist Mark Ramsey.

While the primary elections are scheduled for March 1, early in-person voting begins on February 15. The absentee vote begins on January 15.

Fletcher, a lawyer, won an overcrowded primary in 2018 and knocked out longtime Republican U.S. Rep. John Culberson, R-Houston, in the general election. In 2020, Fletcher had no primary opposition and narrowly beat Hunt in the general election to win a second two-year term in Congress.

Fletcher may have a clear path to the Democratic nomination, but she’ll face a Republican in the November general election. Four Republicans have qualified to take part in the GOP primary, which will also take place on March 1. Mediator Rudy A. Atencio, business owner Tina Blum Cohen, community relations professional Tim Stroud and breeder Johnny Teague are participating in this competition.

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