Texas primary may have some nail-biters, preview November fisticuffs

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Several high-profile primary elections are set to take place in Texas on Tuesday night including races for governor, attorney general, and several district primaries and down ballot races with significant effects on state politics.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott faces a crowded field of Republican challengers in his primary election but is widely expected to receive more than 50% of the vote and avoid a runoff. Abbott, who has been governor since 2015 and earned the endorsement of former President Donald Trump, is being challenged by seven candidates in a list that includes businessman Don Huffines, retired U.S. Army lieutenant colonel Allen West, political commentator Chad Prather, and criminal defense attorney Paul Belew.

FILE - In this March 16, 2020, file photo, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott speaks during a news conference in San Antonio. 

FILE – In this March 16, 2020, file photo, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott speaks during a news conference in San Antonio. 
(AP Photo/Eric Gay, File)

TRUMP’S NOT ON THE BALLOT BUT IN THE SPOTLIGHT AS TEXAS KICKS OFF PRIMARY SEASON

No incumbent governor in Texas has lost in a primary election since 1978.

On the Democratic side of the Texas gubernatorial primary, former congressman and presidential candidate Robert Francis “Beto” O’Rourke is expected to breeze past his four opponents to face Abbott in November. 

O’Rourke reportedly outraised Abbott in the first 20 days of January but Abbott sits on a war chest totaling $62.6 million compared to O’Rourke’s $6 million, according to the Texas Tribune.

But in a sign of what November may look like, Gov. Abbott, in his campaign finance report, thanked O’Rourke for an in-kind donation according to a Texas Republican activist.

In a race that is believed to be much tighter than the race for governor, Texas’s Republican Attorney General Ken Paxton faces a challenge from big names and big reputations in Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush, former Texas Supreme Court Justice Eva Guzman, and Rep. Louie Gohmert. Bush is the last scion in office of a political dynasty, after his cousin failed to make a congressional primary in 2020.  Gohmert is well known for his colorful speeches in Congress. Guzman broke the record for most votes ever earned in a Texas general election multiple times during her tenure on the state’s highest court.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton speaks at a news conference outside the Statehouse marking the passage six months ago of a state law that bans most abortions, in Austin, Texas on Feb. 28, 2022

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton speaks at a news conference outside the Statehouse marking the passage six months ago of a state law that bans most abortions, in Austin, Texas on Feb. 28, 2022
(Fox News )

Multiple prominent Texas politicians have used the office of attorney general as a stepping stone to higher office including Gov. Greg Abbott and Sen. John Cornyn.

Texas Lt. Governor Dan Patrick, endorsed by Trump, is also facing a primary election on Tuesday night that he is expected to win but three Democrats are vying for the job to face him in November with some believing his seat could be vulnerable in a general election.

Those Democratic candidates include accountant and auditor Dan Collier who came within five points of beating Patrick four years ago and businesswoman Michelle Beckley.

TEXAS PRIMARY: ATTORNEY GENERAL PAXTON FACING MULTIPLE REPUBLICAN CHALLENGERS

Patrick significantly outraised both Collier and Beckley bringing in $2.9 million the last six months of 2021 compared to roughly $860,000 by Collier and Beckley combined.

Rep. Henry Cuellar, a Democrat representing Texas’s 28th House District who was recently tied up in an FBI investigation into dealings between U.S. businessmen and the country of Azerbaijan, faces a primary challenge from Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez-backed immigration attorney Jessica Cisneros. 

Cisneros also challenged Cuellar in 2020 and lost by less than four points.

Eight Republicans are facing off in a primary race to replace George P. Bush, who is running for attorney general, as the next land commissioner in Texas. That list of candidates includes healthcare management professional Ben Armenta and former ICE agent Victor Avila. 

Sid Miller, the current Republican head of the Texas Department of Agriculture which oversees 248,416 ranches that cover 127 million acres in the state, faces a primary challenge from businessman Carey Counsil and Texas House Rep. James White.

WASHINGTON, DC - JULY 30: U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-TX) speaks on southern border security and illegal immigration (Photo by Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON, DC – JULY 30: U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-TX) speaks on southern border security and illegal immigration (Photo by Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)

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Polls are open from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m. on Tuesday, with early voting figures released by the Texas Secretary of State’s office showing that over a million Republicans had voted early, compared with around 627,000 Democrats. Jointly that’s less than 10% of registered voters, a sharp drop from the 2020 elections, which saw 57% turnout in early voting. Experts interpret early voting as a sign of enthusiasm from voters.

Texas politics has often been called a contact sport, and, well, there was a late hit from a state activist concerning the office Bush is leaving in his pursuit of a higher one. 

Reuters contributed to this report

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