Today is Super Tuesday, when voters in Texas, 13 other states, and one territory go to the polls to choose their party’s nominees in races ranging from president to constable.
It also means your mailboxes—and my apartment complex’s parking lot—will soon be less cluttered by colorful, joyful, and strange mailers from campaigns and political action committees.
By Wednesday, the onslaught of campaign ads for former Mayor Michael Bloomberg broadcast on everything from television to Shopkick should disappear, at least for a while. Don’t worry, Democrats: you’ll see another round come from two runoffs, one for the U.S. Senate and perhaps for state House District 108, where three Democrats are vying to defeat state Rep. Morgan Meyer, R-Highland Park, in the fall.
If the state’s numerous barriers to voting haven’t stopped you from voting, get in line by 7 p.m. and bring one of the approved permitted forms of identification. This year, you’ll be voting electronically but will receive a printed sheet with a barcode and your selections. You’ll submit that paper, creating a trail. On Twitter, there are reports of equipment problems from Mansfield to East Dallas. We’re calling election judges to figure out what’s going on.
According to numbers guru Derek Ryan, 1,085,065 Texan Republicans already voted compared to Democrats’ 1,000,231. Statewide more people voted Republican in 219 counties compared to Democrats’ 35. Collin and Denton are among the 219 while Dallas and Tarrant counties are among the 35.
Primary numbers don’t translate into general election voters, however, much like yard signs don’t vote. But the turnout shows both sides are energized going into the fall.
Statewide, voters will choose races for, most notably, the presidency. Former Vice President Joe Biden has backing of elected officials from Congressman Marc Veasey to state Sen. Nathan Johnson. Biden’s Texas state director is Dallas consultant Jane Hamilton.
Yesterday, former South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, who both dropped out of the presidential race after Biden’s decisive win in South Carolina, came to Dallas and endorsed Biden. They were joined by Beto O’Rourke, a failed presidential candidate himself. The goal is to coalesce around a winnable Amtrak candidate like Biden, as opposed to the high-speed trains of Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts or Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders. Sanders holds a slim lead over Biden in some polls, and a wider lead in others.
Democrats worry Sanders will hurt their gains in states like Texas; Republicans are pissed they didn’t do what Buttigeg and Klobuchar did in 2016, when they chose not to rally behind a more moderate Republican and Donald Trump emerged as the unscathed victor.
But it’s not November yet, and other campaigns are underway too.
They include the sleepy but important race for Senate, which on the Democratic side includes Dallas state Sen. Royce West, and, on the Republican side, Dallas businessman Mark Yancey, who is challenging Sen. John Cornyn.
West is eyeing a spot in an inevitable run off in the race to take on Cornyn. Most voters have no clue who the hell they’re voting for, much less who the hell is running. The Senate Democratic Campaign Committee backs veteran M.J. Hegar of Round Rock, who nearly toppled Republican Rep. John Carter in 2018. West is endorsed by most of his Senate colleagues and the majority of the North Texas Democratic delegation. Other candidates include Houston City Councilwoman Amanda Edwards, former Congressman Chris Bell, and labor organizer Cristina Tzintzun Ramirez.
Beto’s running again. Well, a Beto. That is, former Rep. Roberto Alonzo, who is running for Railroad Commissioner as “Roberto R. ‘Beto’ Alonzo.” He faces three other opponents in the race to take on Commissioner Ryan Sitton, whose agency does not regulate railroads but oil and gas.
Now, to the must watch, and most curious races, in the region.
Congressman Collin Allred is a top Republican target after the Democrat defeated the powerful former Rules Committee Chairman Pete Sessions in 2018. Now Sessions is running again but this time for an open congressional seat that spreads from Waco to College Station. Rep. Pete Flores is retiring after a decade representing the district. As chairman of the party’s campaign arm in 2010, Sessions recruited Flores to defeat a Democrat.
But Flores isn’t supporting him, calling him a carpetbagger. (Sessions grew up in the region but only recently moved back.)
Meanwhile Republicans Genevieve Collins, Jon Hollis, Floyd McClendon, Mark Sackett, and Jeff Tokar are looking to take on Allred, who faces no opposition in his primary. Collins is seen as the frontrunner and has picked up endorsements from groups ranging from the Dallas Police Association to former Rep. Dan Branch to the national Maggie’s PAC, which works to elect conservative women. But McClendon has been slinging mud at Collins in the final days, putting her on defense on red meat issues.
Congressmen Lance Gooden, a Republican, and Marc Veasey, a Democrat, occupy seats safe for their party. Gooden’s stretches from East Dallas to East Texas. Veasey’s seat, which spans Dallas to Fort Worth, is the typical gerrymandered seat, looking like a puppy with a broken, elongated neck. He faces activist Sean Paul Segura. Gooden faces Don Hill in the primary—Don Hill, the attorney in Dallas. Congresswoman Eddie Berniece Johnson again faces three primary challengers, including the perennial former state Rep. Barbara Mallory Caraway, the wife of former Dallas City Councilman Dwaine Caraway, who’s currently serving a prison sentence for accepting bribes.
But the most watched congressional race is for a Fort Worth-area district. Republican Kay Granger has not faced a serious primary challenge since she was elected in 1990s. Now she faces former Colleyville Mayor Pro Team Chris Putnam, who has a run serious campaign, even if it’s because she’s not had to seriously campaign for the safe Republican seat.
He is backed by the libertarian Club for Growth and Tarrant County Sheriff Bill Waybourn. The issues at play are Granger’s support for the Panther Island project, the economic development and flood control plan that would create an 800-acre island in the center of Fort Worth. Cost overruns, “bridges to nowhere” and the fact her son J.D. was the project’s executive director until recently.
Given it’s a Republican primary, abortion, Obamacare, loyalty to President Trump and making America more like Texas have become major themes of the campaign. As par for the course in primaries, substantive policy issues have not been discussed.
Incumbents from both parties largely dodged primaries this cycle in statehouse races, a sign that both Democrats and Republicans are gunning for pickups and defeats. North Texas is ground zero for Democrats looking to retake the House, which has been under Republican control since 2001. Democrats flipped 12 seats in 2018, including in Dallas. The two Republicans who survived, Meyer and state Rep. Angie Chen Button of Garland, are among the most endangered incumbents in Texas.
She faces Brandy Chambers, her 2018 opponent. Democrats are also eyeing fast changing Collin County, where Reps. Jeff Leach and Matt Shaheen barely held onto their seats in 2018.
In news you thought you’d never hear: the hottest primary is the Democratic one for a Highland Park-anchored seat. Seeking to take on Meyer are journalism professor Joanna Cattanach, investor Shawn Terry, and businessman Tom Erwin. They each argue that they can knock off Meyer. Cattanach almost did in 2018, losing to Meyer by only 200 votes.
She announced her intent to run again almost immediately and has sustained a ground game she believes will carry her to victory tonight and in November. But Terry, who ran for office 20 years ago as a Republican, argues he has crossover appeal; he’s also raised more than either candidate. The primary has gotten nasty, with Cattannach and Terry on defense and Erwin watching. The race could go any which way: one candidate prevailing, a runoff, or a run from behind by Erwin.
Rep. Michelle Beckley faces a primary challenge from Paige Dixon, a veteran who alleged Beckley undermined candidates of color in her 2018 race. The nominee will face either Carrollton-Farmers Branch ISD School Board President Nancy Cline or Lewisville ISD trustee Kronda Thimesch, who is backed by Simmons and Abbott.
In January, Democrats released a list of 22 flippable seats, with six of the top 10 being in North Texas. They’re using 2018 data based on the “Beto effect,” the theory former Congressman Beto O’Rourke’s challenge to Sen. Ted Cruz helped flip these seats. It’s a fair case to make. (O’Rourke appeared alongside Buttigieg, and Klobuchar in Dallas on Monday night and publicly endorsed Biden.)
Cruz preceded Trump in making politics about outrageous soundbites, and Trump may be the peak of outrage politics. But some of these districts were changing, and in some cases, Republicans crossed over, switching back and forth between O’Rourke, Gov. Greg Abbott, Mike Collier—the Democrat who nearly defeated Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick–back and forth down ballot.
(See: Beckley’s win against former Rep. Ron Simmons last cycle. She received crossover votes, anecdotally attributed to his support for school vouchers and the bathroom bill.)
Betomentum played a part in these wins, as much as voter preferences, changing demographics, outrage politics, and Wall Street, the same folks who have largely benefitted from the Trump administration.
But today’s the chance for you to cast your ballot.