TWO VIEWS: Texas primaries were an eye-opener, but not a game-changer

Tuesday’s Texas primary elections had several headlines.

The U.S. Senate race is now underway, with incumbent U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz and challenger U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke winning their primaries.

The Democrats have a contested primary runoff for governor between former Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez and Houston businessman Andrew White.

Two Republican statewide incumbents, Land Commissioner George P. Bush and Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller avoided risky primary runoffs. Another Republican incumbent, Railroad Commission Chairman Christi Craddick, won her primary easily.

TWO VIEWS: Democrats shook up the Texas primaries. Now finish the job.

Of the eight open congressional seats, only one ended without a primary runoff, with District 3 state Sen. Van Taylor (R-Plano) succeeding U.S. Rep. Sam Johnson. Primary runoffs now move forward, with special attention to be paid to Congressional Districts 7, 23 and 32, which will have competitive general elections.

Despite active primaries for Texas House and Senate seats around the state, only seven incumbents lost re-election: Republican State Sen. Craig Estes (R-Wichita Falls), as well as six Texas House members: Republicans Jason Villalba (R-Dallas) and Wayne Faircloth (R-Galveston) and Democrats Dawnna Dukes (D-Austin), Tomas Uresti (D-San Antonio), Diana Arevalo (D-San Antonio) and Robert Alonzo (D-Dallas).

There is one state Senate Democratic primary runoff, and there are eight Republican Texas House primary runoffs and seven Democratic Texas House primary runoffs.

Perhaps the most significant headline is one that was overreported: Early voting statistics appeared to show a massive Democratic wave. But it was not to be.

Those statistics included only the top 15 counties in Texas, which are largely urban and Democratic counties. Additionally, GOP primary voters turned out in larger numbers on primary day. At the end of the counting, about 1.5 million Republicans voted in their primary, compared to about 1 million on the Democratic side.

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The Democratic total doubles their turnout from the last statewide midterm primary, which is a significant increase.

This is likely due to a mix of factors: Increased Democratic enthusiasm is part of it, but the Democrats also had an active Democratic primary for governor, as well as active candidates in all 36 congressional districts for the first time.

The national political environment will surely contribute to the results this fall. Democrats appear to have a tailwind at present, although the Republican generic ballot disadvantage has been narrowing in recent weeks.

Democrats will make a lot of noise about O’Rourke, but he has a massive hill to climb in Texas.

To be competitive, he would need at least $20 million, which must be raised with a $2,700 maximum individual contribution limit. O’Rourke would need significant national help to raise $20 million, and I predict this help will not come as he is running in the 13th most-competitive U.S. Senate race of the 2018 cycle — and Texas is a very expensive state. Cruz begins with significant name identification and organizational advantages.

Democrats do not appear to offer any significant challenge for statewide races.

They will likely focus their efforts on three Republican congressional districts, with incumbents U.S. Reps. Will Hurd, Pete Sessions and John Culberson, as well as on state Senate District 10, with incumbent Konni Burton (R-Colleyville).

Five to 10 Texas House districts will also be in play this fall.

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The biggest question facing the midterm election is whether Trump will energize Democrats only, or whether Republicans will also be energized. Much will depend on what happens the rest of this year, on issues like immigration, trade, infrastructure and the economy.

In the end, the primaries didn’t change much in Texas politics.

But the numbers should be a wake-up call for Texas Republicans.

Mackowiak is the Travis County GOP chairman and president of Potomac Strategy Group.

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