Sheriff Lupe Valdez

Needless to say, there are plenty of critical elections for the LGBT community across the country tonight, from the presidential race to marriage votes in four states to Wisconsin Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin’s bid to become the openly LGBT U.S. senator. But here in North Texas, there are also several down-ballot races we’ll be watching closely. Stay tuned to Instant Tea for updates on both the national races and these local and state contests:

• Houston attorney Ann Johnson is vying to become one of two openly LGBT state legislators who’ll take office in January. Johnson, a Democrat endorsed by the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund, faces Republican incumbent Sarah Davis in House District 134. If she wins, Johnson would join El Paso Democrat Mary Gonzalez, who has no Republican opponent in District 75. Texas has not had an openly LGBT state legislator since 2003, and has never had an openly LGBT female legislator.

• Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez is vying for a third four-year term as the county’s top law enforcement officer. Valdez, an openly gay Democrat, faces Republican Kirk Launius, a former Dallas police officer who owns a security company. Democrats have swept Dallas County-wide races for three consecutive election cycles, and that seems unlikely to change this year with Obama at the top of the ticket.

• State Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, a staunch LGBT ally, is in a hard-fought battle to hang onto her District 10 seat against Republican state Rep. Mark Shelton, who has an anti-gay voting record. With 19 Republicans and 12 Democrats currently in the Senate, a Shelton victory would give Republicans a two-thirds majority and allow them to push through legislation without any Democratic support.

• Longtime LGBT ally Theresa Daniel is vying to give Democrats a 4-1 supermajority on the Dallas County Commissioners Court. Daniel faces Republican Larry Miller in the District 1 race to replace Commissioner Maurine Dickey, a Republican who is retiring. Miller sent out a mailer in May attacking his primary opponent for supporting domestic partner benefits.

• Along with Johnson’s in Houston, several state House races in North Texas are among those considered to be in play tonight. Democrats hope to pick up at least three House seats statewide, causing Republicans to lose their 102-48 supermajority. In District 102 in North Dallas, first-term incumbent Republican Stefani Carter faces Democrat Rich Hancock. In District 107 in East Dallas and Garland, incumbent Republican Kenneth Sheets faces Democrat Robert Miklos. In Irving’s District 105, Republican incumbent Linda Harper-Brown faces Democratic challenger Rosemary Robbins. In District 114 including the Lake Highlands area, Jason Villalba, who has been backed by gay Republican groups, faces former Democratic Rep. Carol Kent.

• In Texas’ only swing congressional district, tea party freshman Rep. Francisco “Quico” Canseco faces Democratic state Rep. Pete Gallego. Canseco, who received a zero on the Human Rights Campaign’s Congressional Scorecard, recently sent out an attack mailer accusing Gallego of saying “no to God” and wanting “marriage to be between man & man.” Gallego voted against Texas’ constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage and has been a supporter of the LGBT community during his time in the House.