In Texas, the Republican primaries are almost always the de facto elections. The difference with Tuesday’s elections is a number of statewide races feature Republican primaries that offer both an establishment Republican candidate and an outside tea party favored candidate. That adds an extra wrinkle to a usually predictable affair.
On the Democratic side, all eyes are on state Sen. Wendy Davis whose win in the Democratic gubernatorial primary will be seen as an indicator of her chances of beating a strong Republican challenger.
“I would say the only interesting action is on the Republican side because the Democrats are long shots for all statewide offices and the only one who’s attracted much attention is Wendy Davis and she has no meaningful opposition in the primary,” Southern Methodist University political science professor Matthew Wilson told TPM on Monday.
Below are six points to keep in mind as election results come in.
1. How Does Wendy Davis Do?
The question in the Texas gubernatorial race isn’t whether state Sen. Wendy Davis (D) will get the Democratic nomination, it’s how cleanly she will. Since she announced her candidacy, the biggest question surrounding Davis’s campaign has been how good of a chance does she have of actually winning the general election race. A recent University of Texas/Texas Tribune poll found the state senator trailing Attorney General Greg Abbott, the extremely likely Republican gubernatorial nominee, by 11 points. The poll found 47 percent of voters support Abbott while 36 percent support Davis. Still, the race is far from over and Davis has proven herself to be a strong fundraiser.
“How many people show up in an essentially boring primary just to vote for Wendy Davis. That would be some gauge of the level of enthusiasm for her,” Wilson said. “I mean she’s going to win big but the question is with what level of enthusiasm for her. Because my sense is enthusiasm for her candidacy now is somewhat less than it was a few months ago because of her missteps but she’s got some time to recapture that before the general election.”
2. Will John Cornyn finally be rid of Steve Stockman?
Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) has always been the heavy favorite to keep his Senate seat, despite a primary challenge from Rep. Steve Stockman (R-TX). Stockman’s campaign has struggled to get any endorsements, gotten significant attention for the absence of the candidate on the campaign trail, and failed to gain any ground in polls against Cornyn. As of Tuesday, his campaign website also appeared to be down. Now, the question is really when Stockman will drop out. If no candidate can get 50 percent of the vote there’s a runoff between the top two candidates. Conceivably, Stockman could sap enough support away from Cornyn to trigger a runoff but that seems unlikely.
3. Will The Other Big Name Tea Party Primary Candidate Survive?
Among House races, Dallas tea party leader Katrina Pierson has caught some national in her bid to replace Rep. Pete Sessions (R-TX). There hasn’t been much polling on the race and Pierson is considered the underdog, which even supporters admit. Still, Pierson has managed to get some big endorsements in Republican circles from Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio and former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin. She’s also earned kind words from Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX). The question is whether she will advance to a runoff election.
4. Will The Establishment Lt. Gov. Lose Yet Another Statewide Republican Primary?
Social conservatives could come out of 2014 marking the Texas lt. governor’s race as a victory. There Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, lost to Cruz in the 2012 Senate race, faces a handful of tea party challengers. It’s a four-way race between Dewhurst, state Sen. Dan Patrick, Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson, and Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples. Patrick, a social conservative favorite, looks well positioned to move into a runoff against Dewhurst and even possibly defeat him entirely. TPM recently highlighted this race by noting that Patrick accidentally endorsed gay marriage over twitter. Observers expect this race to go to a runoff.
5. Tea Party Vs. Establishment In The Attorney General Race
Tea partiers, meanwhile, might notch a win in the attorney general race if their favored candidate, state Sen. Ken Paxton, beats establishment Republican candidate state Rep. Dan Branch and Railroad Commissioner Barry Smitherman in the attorney general race. Though the tea party seems unlikely to secure wins for federal office, they could secure a win in this race.
6. Will The Oldest Sitting Member of Congress Be Forced To Retired?
Rep. Ralph Hall (R), who at the age of 90 is the oldest sitting member of Congress, faces a tough primary challenge from former U.S. attorney John Ratcliffe and four other contenders in the GOP field. Hall could possibly lose the primary or be forced into a runoff. Ratcliffe’s self funding has also helped make him a significant challenger to Hall. The Dallas Morning News endorsed Ratcliffe, but Hall has been resilient. Even after switching parties in 2004, he still won re-election with solid majority support. In 2012 Hall retained his seat with 58 percent of the vote.