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The Texas primary really does matter

In this Elections 2012 analysis, Center for Politics and Governance Director Sherri Greenberg discusses the important races on the Texas primary ballot.

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Sherri Greenberg is lecturer and director of the Center for Politics and Governance at the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs. She served for 10 years as a member of the Texas House of Representatives, completing her final term in January 2001. Her expertise includes state and national campaign politics, electronic government, and public finance and budgeting.

News flash There is a Texas primary on May 29, and it really does matter!

OK. We know that Mitt Romney will be the Republican presidential nominee, and that Ron Paul simply is trolling for influence at the Republican national convention this summer. Despite the fact that the Republican presidential primary no longer is in play, there are other important races on the Texas primary ballot.

Let’s start with the Republican U.S. Senate race to replace retiring Texas Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison. With four candidates in the Republican U.S. Senate race, there are two frontrunners, David Dewhurst and Ted Cruz. Clearly the best strategy and hope for Ted Cruz, former Texas solicitor general, is to force David Dewhurst, the current Texas Lt. Governor, into a runoff election.

Given the number of candidates in the congressional race, a runoff certainly is possible, and even likely, but not an absolute. Most polls have shown Cruz narrowing the margin between himself and Dewhurst, with the exception of one recent poll showing Dewhurst pulling ahead. Obviously the Republican primary for U.S. Senate really matters. However, other hotly contested primary races exist on both the Republican and Democratic sides of the aisle in Texas.

Due to the substantial increase in the state of Texas’ population with the 2010 census, Texas has gained four additional seats in the U.S. House of Representatives: CD-33, 34, 35 and 36.


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Two of the four new seats, are assumed to be likely minority voting districts. In CD-33, in the Dallas area, 10 Democrats are vying for their party’s nomination. District 34, representing a part of Texas from Corpus Christi to the Mexico border, has eight Democrats and three Republicans running for their respective nominations.

In the aptly named CD-35 (because it traverses the I-35 corridor between Austin and San Antonio), long-time Congressman, Lloyd Doggett, has drawn two challengers in the Democratic primary.

The most heated primary in the Texas Senate belongs to the Republicans in Senate District 25, encompassing North San Antonio up to South Austin. The incumbent in the race, Sen. Jeff Wentworth, faces an expensive, vigorous challenge by former Railroad Commissioner Elizabeth Ames Jones.

Tarrant County has the distinction of four seats with open primaries for the Texas House of Representatives, as those members all are seeking higher office.

In total, 16 candidates have announced for the four open State House seats. Three of the four open seats are held by Republicans, and most likely will remain in Republican hands.

In El Paso County, the two candidates in the Democratic primary for HD-75 are involved in a negative, volatile race to replace retiring Rep. “Chente” Quintanilla. No Republican filed for the primary in that seat.

The 2012 Republican primary for HD-7, representing Longview, is a sequel to the 2010 primary. In 2010, David Simpson, who went on to win the general election, defeated then-incumbent Rep. Tommy Merritt, in the Republican primary. This year, Rep. David Simpson is facing a Republican primary challenge from former Rep. Tommy Merritt. Many observers see this race as a litmus test for the strength of the Tea Party in Texas.

Go forth and vote in the Texas primary. Your vote really does matter.

The races discussed above simply are a sample of those on the ballot. Early voting begins Monday, May 14 and ends Friday, May 25. Election day is May 29.

What to read and watch next:

More from Sherri Greenberg:

Watch more videos from the LBJ School.