Texas kicks off primary season ahead of the 2018 midterm election, with implications for Democrats and Republicans alike in an election year that could alter the direction of Congress and statehouses around the country for the final two years of President Donald Trump’s term.
Things worth keeping an eye on Tuesday as Texans cast ballots:
Democrats remain underdogs to knock off Republican Sen. Ted Cruz and Republican Gov. Greg Abbott, but there’s been a surge among Democratic candidates and voters that reflects nationwide momentum for the left since Trump’s election.
There is at least one Democratic candidate in every congressional district — 36 of them — for the first time since 1992, the year of a national Republican wave. Democrats have 25 contested congressional primaries, and leading Senate candidate Beto O’Rourke raised $2.4 million in the final three months of 2017, more than Cruz’s $1.9 million haul.
Registered Democrats also outnumbered Republicans in early voting in the most populous counties tracked by the state. Democrats cast more than 406,000 ballots compared to Republicans’ 353,000. In the 2014 midterm primaries, Republicans posted a 3-2 advantage in early voting.
“We have candidates everywhere, and that means we are reaching voters who haven’t heard from Democrats in a long time,” says Texas Democratic Chairman Gilberto Hinojosa. “That’s a good thing for November.”
The president won Texas during the 2016 nominating process and in the November election. Now he’s a central figure in midterm primaries.
George P. Bush, nephew of fellow Texan and former President George W. Bush, touts endorsement from Trump and his son Donald Trump Jr. as the younger Bush seeks re-election as land commissioner. Congressional candidates across the state pledge fealty to the president and blast his critics.
It’s most obvious in crowded Republican primaries for safe GOP seats opened by incumbents retiring. Kathaleen Wall, who is running a southeast Texas seat now held by Rep. Ted Poe, is an example. One of her 30-second ads alternates between images of Trump and Wall, while a voiceover offers attributes of the two: “Successful businessman man. Successful businesswoman. … Talks tough (Trump). Aims tough (Wall, wielding a rifle). Loudly strong (Trump). Quietly strong (Wall). Great hair (Trump). Greater hair (Wall).”
There are 21 contested GOP House primaries.
NATIONAL DEMOCRATS VS. LIBERAL GROUPS
It’s not uncommon for the Democrats’ House campaign arm to have favorites in a primary, but they stepped beyond that recently, openly criticizing a Democratic hopeful in a Houston-area seat held by Republican John Culberson.
able in the 7th Congressional District, but their intervention