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.
Democrat Brent Wickliffe of Covington will seek the Precinct 1 justice of the peace position, which is now held by Republican Martis Ward, who will seek another term in office. "We had always hoped the liberal wave would never hit Texas, but these early voting returns aren't encouraging so far". Even Attorney General Ken Paxton, who has been indicted on felony securities fraud charges, remains favored for re-election.
Also, on the ballot but drawing no opposition on the Republican ticket is the position of State Representative, District 83, a seat now held by Dustin Burrows, who is in line to keep that seat. But none of those open seats are expected to flip.
Texas voters may be turning out in record numbers for the March primaries, but shortcomings in the state's voting systems could compromise the count, according to a new analysis that gives the state a near-failing election-security grade.
On the Democratic side, the big question is whether the party can sort out the avalanche of candidates in various races. Will Hurd's expansive border district that runs from San Antonio to El Paso, all voted for Hillary Clinton over Trump in 2016.
He added that many Texas political observers are reminding themselves that they saw the rise of another long-shot Senate candidate six years ago. 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.
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It's not just an uptick in Democratic voters happening in Texas, but an increase in candidates putting their names on the ballot, too. The deputy director of Texas Democrats, Manny Garcia, expressed his excitement to The Washington Post: "If Texas votes like it looks, then Democrats win", he said. Strategists will be watching if she advances to a runoff despite attacks from fellow Democrats. If you haven't voted already, please check out our Texas Voter Guide to see where the candidates appearing on your ballot stand on cannabis reform. The candidates are also reflecting the shift in demographics in Texas.
Republican political consultant Derek Ryan noted that only about 3 percent of those casting ballots early in the Democratic primary were first-time voters, meaning most Texans participating "were probably voting Democrat in general elections in previous cycles".
"You're robbing people of the ability of being able to vote in these races, which is effectively muting their political voice", said Brandon Rottinghaus, a political science professor at the University of Houston.
Republicans say they are simply trying to ensure Democrats follow the letter of the law. In central Texas' 21st Congressional District, for example, 18 Republicans and four Democrats are vying for the seat vacated by Republican Representative Lamar Smith. Neither White nor Valdez may win a majority of Tuesday's votes, though. Democrats need to pick up a net of 24 seats to take back the House. That includes state Rep. Sarah Davis, a suburban Houston Republican who supports abortion rights.
The rain's coming in sheets as folks file into the Douglas Community Center in Pittsburg, Texas, population 4,707.