AUSTIN (KXAN) – The first official primaries for the midterms will happen Tuesday in Texas. Several hotly-contested races are drawing voters to the polls statewide. Voter turnout is higher than it was in the 2014 midterm election, with Democrats seeing the largest increases.
In Travis County, more than 83,000 voters cast ballots in the early voting period which ended March 2. That’s nearly double the early voting total from the 2014 primary. Most of the increase comes from voters in the Democratic Party primary. Close to 62,000 Democrats voted early in Travis County, compared to just over 21,000 Republicans.
“I think it’s no surprise that Democrats are turning out so highly,” said Dallas Morning News politics reporter James Barragán on Sunday morning’s State of Texas program. “The president is obviously a sort of a lightning rod for them and they’re sort of identifying any Republican with the President.”
“On the other hand, on the Republican side, I think there might be some hesitance from more moderate Republicans to come out in the primary, kind of along the same lines because of the President and sort of the far deeper right turn the party is taking,” Barragán added.
Several races on the primary ballot appear to be headed for runoff elections. If no candidate secures more than 50 percent of the vote in the primary, the top two candidates will face off in a runoff contest in May.
Democrats have a tight contest in the race for Governor. Two front-runners have emerged from the field of nine candidates. Former Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez and businessman Andrew White, the son of former Governor Mark White, are polling ahead of the field. Both candidates are campaigning to secure enough support to avoid a runoff election.
The winner will likely face incumbent Governor Greg Abbott, who appears certain to win the Republican primary.
The Republican battle to replace retiring Congressman Lamar Smith in U.S. House District 21 also appears likely to lead to a runoff. Eighteen candidates are in the field, including state Rep. Jason Isaac (R-Dripping Springs), former Ted Cruz staffer Chip Roy, former San Marcos Mayor Susan Narvaiz and former Bush administration official Jenifer Sarver.
The runoff adds a level of complexity to the campaigns. “That’s all about turnout, because it’s kind of an off-season date, if you will, in the election cycle,” said Texas Tribune reporter Alana Rocha on State of Texas. “You’re going to get the most loyal supporters out.”