By Meghan Holihan, Manager, State Issues
More Texans turned out in the first primary of the 2018 cycle yesterday than in the previous two non-presidential primary cycles. The most dramatic increase in participation was seen in the Democratic Party primary and many Texans took notice well before the polls opened in the early morning hours Tuesday.
Governor Greg Abbott (R) sent out an email warning GOP supporters about the surge in Democratic early voter turnout compared to the 2014 cycle, before the early voting period ended. At the end of the early voting period, Democratic primary voters more than doubled their 2014 early vote turnout and outperformed Republicans’ early vote totals in the 15 counties with the highest number of registered voters.
When polls finally closed across the state last night, 2,558,236 votes were cast in the gubernatorial primary with 1,017,940 voters casting a ballot in the Democratic gubernatorial primary, representing a 84% increase in statewide turnout in the Democratic primary from 2014. While that number is newsworthy, and will be used by operatives to promote historic enthusiasm, Democrats in the Lone Star state still have a long march to November. Over 1.5 million Republicans came to the polls for their primary and Texas has not elected a Democrat to the offices of Governor, Lt. Governor, or Attorney General since 1994.
Republican Governor Greg Abbott is still the most popular state official, currently holds a colossal campaign war chest, and handily won the Republican gubernatorial primary with 90.4% of the vote. Lt. Governor Dan Patrick (R) also won his primary. Attorney General Ken Paxton (R) did not have a challenger.
Nine (9) Democratic candidates filed to run in their party’s gubernatorial primary, essentially guaranteeing a runoff election. (In Texas, if no candidate gets a majority of the vote, the top two candidates move on to a runoff.) For months, former Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez (D) and Houston businessman Andrew White (D) had been considered the frontrunners. They will now continue their campaigns until the runoff scheduled for May 22.
Mike Collier, the Democratic nominee for State Comptroller four years ago, was victorious in the Democratic lieutenant gubernatorial primary. Only one candidate, Justin Nelson, filed to run in the Democratic primary for attorney general.
Governor Abbott violated the so-called Eleventh Commandment and campaigned hard against three incumbent Republican House members that fought against his agenda last session – Representative Lyle Larson (R) from San Antonio, Representative Sarah Davis (R) from Bellaire, and Representative Wayne Faircloth (R) of Galveston. Davis and Larson won their primaries; Faircloth lost.
The remaining 45 of 151 incumbents in the House and Senate that had opponents were mostly successful. Six (6) House incumbents have lost their seats. Only one (1) Senate incumbent lost his seat. Representative Phil King (R) and Representative John Zerwas (R) are the only members to have declared candidacy for Speakership – neither had opponents in their respective primaries.