Two Openly Non-Religious Candidates Lost Their Congressional Primaries in TX

In the Texas primaries yesterday, a lot of the national attention was on the U.S. Senate race (Can Democrat Beto O’Rourke beat Republican Ted Cruz in November?) and a few select races that pitted establishment Democrats against more liberal ones.

But there were two openly non-theistic candidates running for the Democratic nomination in their respective districts and those stories got very little coverage. Both candidates were endorsed by the Freethought Equality Fund and both, unfortunately, lost their races.

Kent Lester (above, left) was an agnostic running for the nomination in District 31. The FEF noted that he was a West Point graduate, 20-year veteran of the Army, and retired high school teacher. Lester took fourth in a field of four.

Justin Snider was a humanist running for the seat in District 6. He’s a business owner and community organizer. He was also a Bernie Sanders delegate at the 2016 Democratic National Convention. He wanted to flip the seat held by the ultra-conservative Joe Barton, but that plan went awry in November after Barton announced that he would retire after details about an extra-marital affair came to light. Still, it’s a solidly red area so the edge goes to whoever has the “R” after his or her name. Snider took fourth in a field of five.

I asked both candidates if they had any regrets about their open non-theism, if they had any plans to run again, and if they had any advice for other non-religious people who might be considering running for office. At the time of this writing, neither candidate has responded.

Still, as far as I can tell, their non-religiosity played no role at all in why they didn’t win their primaries. They were first-time candidates running against other solid Democrats, and I’d be thrilled if any Democrat won those races.

They should be proud of their campaigns even if they didn’t have the ending they’d hoped for. By putting themselves out there, they helped shatter the stigma against non-religious people.

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