Black VoicesFeaturesLocal NewsNewsOUT FOR CHANGEPolitics

The Runoff for Texas House District 146 Gets Ugly

Lauren Ashley Simmons leads in runoff for Texas House seat amid inflammatory signs popping up in yards.

Lauren Ashley Simmons

In the March 5, 2024, Democratic primary for Texas House of Representatives District 146, Lauren Ashley Simmons—a black, queer union organizer—took a narrow lead over incumbent Shawn Thierry; 49.4 percent to 44.5 percent. That race was about Rep. Thierry’s votes on gender-transitioning care for young people, book bans, and her Republican financial backers. Now the upcoming May 28th runoff is taking an ugly turn.

“I find them (the signs) extremely inflammatory and disappointing,” said Simmons. “It puts a target on the backs of those affected.” But Simmons is taking the high road about Thierry’s involvement.” —Lauren Ashley Simmons

Yard signs on the east side of the south Houston district read, “Stop the Genocide of Black Children.” The signs, which Thierry has denied having anything to do with, sprouted after she made remarks on a podcast that trans health care was like Black genocide. Medical sources, such as the Mayo Clinic, do think that puberty blockers can have long-term effects on fertility and that hormone therapy can limit fertility. But genocide is a pretty strong word.

“I find them [the signs] extremely inflammatory and disappointing,” says Simmons. “It puts a target on the backs of those affected.” But Simmons is taking the high road about Thierry’s involvement.

“She denied having anything to do with the signs,” Simmons says, “so I’m not going to make any speculation. But this was not a discussion we were having in this race. I had never even heard it called Black genocide until she went on that podcast. After that, the signs started popping up.”

Thierry has been in the crosshairs of state Democrats since last year when she voted for Senate Bill 14, the transgender health ban, but she has also supported other Republican bills—a bill aimed at removing sexually explicit books from school libraries, a designation critics feared would be used to target LGBTQ+ literature, and a requirement that transgender college athletes play on teams that align with their sex assigned at birth—further alienating Democrats. She is the only Democrat in the Texas House to be forced into a runoff this year.

Photo taken at Lauren Ashley Simmons Rally and Block Walk, May 11, 2024. (Dalton DeHart)

“As a constituent—not just a candidate, but as a constituent—I just don’t think my Representative is representing me when she is bought and paid for by the Republican Party,” Simmons says. In March, Simmons told OutSmart, “Thierry’s biggest backer is an anti-abortion billionaire who gave more than $1 million to Abbott and $850,000 to former president Donald Trump.” The Texas Tribune reported that the bulk of her funding came from GOP donors, PACs that advocate for charter schools and school vouchers, and the PAC affiliated with Las Vegas Sands, which is aiming to legalize casino gambling in Texas. Simmons funders are listed as the Texas Organizing Project, the Texas Gulf Coast AFL-CIO and the Houston Federation of Teachers.

Simmons has garnered the support of nine of Thierry’s House colleagues and two Democrats in Congress, as well as the Human Rights Campaign, and the LGBTQ+ Victory Fund. Meanwhile, Thierry has the backing of several Black preachers in the district as well as colleague Rep. Harold Dutton, another Democrat who voted for Senate Bill 14. If she succeeds, this will be Thierry’s fifth term in this predominantly Black district.

As the days until the runoff wind down, Simmons is busy. “I’m a full-time worker,” she says of her union job, “but in the evenings I’m doing as much outreach as I can. I just want to talk to as many voters as possible and get our message out there. We need better representation.”

For more on the candidate, see





FB Comments

Marene Gustin

Marene Gustin has written about Texas culture, food, fashion, the arts, and Lone Star politics and crime for television, magazines, the web and newspapers nationwide, and worked in Houston politics for six years. Her freelance work has appeared in the Austin Chronicle, Austin-American Statesman, Houston Chronicle, Houston Press, Texas Monthly, Dance International, Dance Magazine, the Advocate, Prime Living, InTown magazine, OutSmart magazine and web sites CultureMap Houston and Austin, Eater Houston and, among others.
Back to top button