Crowded Races, Strong Democratic Turnout Mark Primary Day 2018

There are plenty of candidates on the ballot today as Texans go to the polls for the first primary election of the 2018 midterm elections, News Radio 1200 WOAI reports.

All eyes are on the Democratic candidates, as the Texas Democratic Party hopes to combine the usual midterm problems faced by the political party in the White House with a base increasingly opposed to Donald Trump, into the first real gains for the party in more than twenty years.

"If Democrats are able to flip a US House seat or two, and cut into  Republican margins in the state Legislature, that will suggest that a 'Blue Wave' remains a possibility in November," Cal Jillson, an SMU political analyst and the 'dean' of Texas political observers, tells News Radio 1200 WOAI.

Democratic turnout in early voting has risen far more than Republican turnout, which has sparked some concern among Republicans.  In some urban counties, Democratic turnout in 2018 is double that in 2014.

In Bexar County, few major races, like the race to fill the seats of retiring Republican Congressman Lamar Smith and retiring Republican House Speaker Joe Straus, will not be decided today due to the sheer number of candidates on the ballot.

18 Republcians, for example, are vying for the nomination for Smith's seat, which means in this, and in several other races around Bexar County, the actual nominee will be selected in a runoff set for late May.

But one race that will be decided today has statewide implications.  Gov. Greg Abbott, who is facing only token primary opposition from a candidate who is listed on the ballot under the name 'SECEDE,' has endorsed several fellow Republicans who he feels have been insufficiently supportive of his conservative agenda, and one of them is long time northwest side State Representative Lyle Larson.

"Governor Abbott saw Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick take the mantle of the leader of the social conservatives in Texas, and he is trying to take that mantle back as governor of the state," Jillson said.

Larson also angered Abbott with a measure introduced in the 2017 session that would have ended the decades-old practice of governors appointing people to influential state positions, like university Boards of Regents, based on the campaign contributions they raise for the governor and his allies.  Abbott responded by vetoing both of the major bills Larson got approved by the Legislature in 2017.

There is also heightened interest in the Democratic nomination for Bexar County District Attorney.

Incumbent Nico LaHood, who ousted Republican DA Susan Reed in 2014, has been a hard hitting prosecutor who has, for example, brought new charges against 'killer nurse,' Genene Jones, but he has faced criticism over his sometimes thin-skinned attitude, once barring an Express-News reporter from a news conference based on the newspaper's reporting.

LaHood is also alleged to have threatened to ruin he career of defense lawyer Joe Gonzalez in a dispute over a criminal trial, prompting Gonzalez to challenge LaHood in today's primary.

Gonzalez has been endorsed and funded by a Political Action Committee backed by controversial billionaire George Soros, which opposes LaHood's opposition to 'Sanctuary Cities.'

The campaign has become particularly nasty, with Gonzalez attackign LaHood as 'bigoted' and 'racist,' and LaHood comparing Gonzalez to Harvey Weinstein and Larry Nasser because he has represented child molesters.

On the statewide level, the key rase to watch is Land Commissioner George P. Bush's Republican primary battle against former Commissioner Jerry Patterson.  Patterson has attacked Bush's handling of the Alamo Plaza renovation project, and each has blasted the other for being insufficiently supportive of President Trump.

A Bush loss would be a surprise, but it would also do much to end the Bush political dynasty, which stretches back to the early 1950s, when George P. Bush's great grandfather, Prescott Bush, was elected to the U.S. Senate.

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