Early voting in the March 3 primary wrapped up Friday, with more Republicans casting their ballot then Democrats according to data from the Texas Secretary of State.
A statewide poll shows a neck-and-neck race for Texas in the Democratic Presidential Primary with the election just days away. Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and former Vice President Joe Biden both received 24% support among likely Democratic voters in a poll from Progress Texas.
When the poll removed former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg, who received 17% support, from the list of options, Biden’s support surged to a leading 31%.
“More than anyone else, Bloomberg is siphoning votes away from Biden,” Ed Espinoza, Progress Texas executive director, said.
While Bloomberg currently sits at third, younger voters did not hold him in high regard. Espinoza said it was surprising to see 62% of voters under 45 years old disprove of the candidate.
“Very unusual for someone who has not experienced any negative advertising in this state,” Espinoza said.
Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren polled at 14%. That’s within striking distance of the 15% threshold of votes needed to receive a portion of the 228 delegates at stake.
Healthcare was by far the most important issue to voters in the poll, with 41% selecting it as their top priority. Only 8% of voters selected gun safety as their most important issue despite widespread attention in the current election cycle. Espinoza explained the relatively low percentage does not mean voters are disinterested in the issue.
“I would say maybe gun safety isn’t as important as healthcare is as far as their number one issue goes,” Espinoza said. “But if you were to ask them ‘Do you think gun safety is important? Yes or no?’ That split may actually shoot up to something like 80% (Yes) 20% (No).
KXAN and Nexstar stations across Texas will be releasing a statewide poll on support for each Democratic presidential candidate on Monday.
Republicans out ‘in full force’ in early voting
Texas Republicans turned out in higher numbers to early voting than Democrats, even though the top of the Republican ballot is already decided. President Donald Trump and Senator John Cornyn are on track to easily win their respective Texas primary races on Tuesday.
Stacy Hock, Victory Chair of the Republican Party of Texas, said Trump and Cornyn’s platforms and issues, as well as the Democratic presidential race, energize Republicans to vote in the primary.
“If there was any amount of sleepiness or taking things for granted in 2018, the bear has awoken and people are showing up in full force,” Stacy Hock said.
With six Republican representatives from Texas announcing their retirement ahead the 2020 elections, Democrats are seeing an opportunity to pick up seats in the U.S. House. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee announced plans to put money and resources toward flipping six House seats in Texas currently held by Republicans.
Hock said Texas Republicans will be spending aggressively to match Democrats leading up to elections in November.
“On both sides folks have considered Texas a target state for the first time in a long time, and so we aren’t taking anything for granted,” Hock said. “Investment is happening here in an aggressive way and we’re seeing the response form our voters and are very optimistic for this being a year for Republicans to take back some of the seats we lost and to certainly hold our ground and reelect our president.”
Hock said the Texas GOP will be looking take back some of the 12 Texas House seats Democrats flipped in their favor in 2018 and hold their majority by focusing on issues and contested suburban areas.
“Many of the urban core (districts) tend to be pretty solidly Democrat,” Hock said. “Many of the rural areas tend to be pretty solidly Republican, but as you get into that sort of suburban outreach around Houston, around Austin, Dallas, around San Antonio, that’s where we have a lot of seats that moved from Republicans to Democrat under the Beto-Cruz race last time in kind of a wave of out-turn there that we anticipate coming back our way this cycle.”
“We’re gonna talk about the ideas all day long. We are in an economy where we have historically low unemployment wages and jobs are rising for the bottom decile, as well as everyone,” Hock said. “We are excited to talk about what the past few years Republican leadership has meant not just at the national level.”
False, misleading Information floods social media before elections
During election season political posts and articles are a common sight on social media platforms. Of course, not all of them are true.
Samuel Woolley, assistant professor and director for propaganda research at the Center for Media Engagement at the University of Texas at Austin, is taking a closer look at how false information spreads online and what users can do to stop it.
“With the 2020 Primaries really getting steam, I think disinformation, as we all might expect, is beginning to flow more. When I say disinformation, I mean the purposeful spread of this false stuff,” Woolley said.
Woolley said politically-motivated disinformation or “trolling” on social media is becoming more-and-more prevalent.
“It’s become part of the toolbox for people who work to influence public opinion,” Woolley said. “We should be concerned, but there’s a lot of things we can do to fight back.”
Voters are not the only target of online misinformation campaigns. Politicians can often become targets themselves, to which Woolley said candidates in the upcoming elections need to have a plan to dispel misinformation.
“A big part of combating disinformation and propaganda is having it enter the cultural discussion and enter society,” Woolley said. “If a candidate doesn’t have a plan I think they’re going to run into a lot of trouble sometime during this election.”
One of the most modern powerful tools for misinformation are deepfake videos, where computer software fabricates a convincing video of someone, such as a politician, saying something they had never said in reality. Facebook banned deepfake videos on its site earlier this year.
“We haven’t seen those really come out this election season. I think they probably will rear their head, however, most the fake videos we see right now are what we call ‘cheap-fakes’ which are just doctored using iMovie…If you look closely you can tell (that they are fake).”
Teens send statewide message about vaping concerns
The Texas Parent Teacher Association held a panel discussion at the state Capitol in collaboration with the American Heart Association, where students shared their personal stories about using e-cigarettes with their peers and parents. The discussion was streamed live to PTA groups across the state.
While adults led the conversation, it was the words from the teenagers on the panel that seemed to strike a chord.
“I was in National Honor Society. I was active in sports. I was an overall good kid, so no one would suspect me to be vaping. But I was,” student Anna Carey told the audience. “Don’t count your kid out,” she warned parents.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 68 people have died in 28 states, including four in Texas, that have been tied to health-related issues stemming from e-cigarette or vaping product use-associated lung injuries (EVALI). More than 2,800 people have been hospitalized nationwide. The Texas Department of State Health Services reported 250 people with lung injuries tied to vaping in the state.
The discussion at the Capitol came on the same day Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton announced his office would be leading an investigation into the marketing practices of Juul Labs alongside 38 other states. Federal officials reported more than 5 million middle school and high school students used e-cigarettes last year.