Everything’s Bigger in Texas

AUSTIN, TX - JULY 01: Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst in the Senate at the Texas State capitol on July 1, 2013 in Austin, Texas. This is first day of a second legislative special session called by Texas Gov. Rick Perry to pass an restrictive abortion law through the Texas legislature. The first attempt was defeated after opponents of the law were able to stall the vote until after first special session had ended.
National Journal
Steven Shepard
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Steven Shepard
Feb. 4, 2014, 6:50 a.m.

It’s Feb­ru­ary 4, which means we’re just one month (or four weeks) away from 2014’s first primar­ies. There are a num­ber of GOP races we’ll be watch­ing over the next month in the Lone Star State — and, no, Sen. John Cornyn‘s GOP primary con­test against Rep. Steve Stock­man isn’t one of them.

House in­cum­bents: Two long-time Re­pub­lic­an mem­bers of Con­gress are fa­cing po­ten­tially-cred­ible primary chal­lenges. Sev­en­teen-term Rep. Ral­ph Hall, who turns 91 this spring, will be at a severe fin­an­cial dis­ad­vant­age in TX-04 against self-fund­ing former U.S. At­tor­ney John Ratcliffe. At the end of the year, Ratcliffe had more than $430,000 in the bank, nearly four times as much as Hall did. Hall has beaten back primary chal­lengers be­fore, win­ning 58% of the vote in 2012 and 57% in 2010. Mean­while, Rep. Pete Ses­sions, a mem­ber of GOP lead­er­ship and former NR­CC chair, has drawn a tea-party-aligned chal­lenger in TX-32, Kat­rina Pier­son. Pier­son cam­paigned for now-Sen. Ted Cruz (R) in 2012, and she has the sup­port of Cruz’s out­spoken fath­er, Ra­fael. But she has so far failed to gain trac­tion, par­tic­u­larly with fun­drais­ing.

Battle­ground House seat: Des­pite its 36 House seats, Texas isn’t home to a large num­ber of battle­ground dis­tricts. Just two seats are mar­gin­ally com­pet­it­ive: TX-15 (D+5) and TX-23 (R+3). TX-23, won by Pete Gal­lego (D) in 2012, should be an op­por­tun­ity for a GOP pickup this year. Gal­lego knocked off then-Rep. Quico Can­seco (R) by 4 points, des­pite the fact that Mitt Rom­ney won 51% in the dis­trict. Re­pub­lic­ans face a com­pet­it­ive primary for their nom­in­a­tion in the 71% His­pan­ic dis­trict: Can­seco is back for an­oth­er go, as are Will Hurd (R) and Robert Lowry (R), both of whom ran against Can­seco in 2010. Can­seco isn’t a pro­hib­it­ive fa­vor­ite. Hurd fin­ished first in the 2010 primary be­fore los­ing the run­off, and he star­ted 2014 with slightly more in the bank ($204,000) than Can­seco ($183,000). The NR­CC con­tin­ued re­cruit­ing here be­fore the fil­ing dead­line, sug­gest­ing they aren’t sat­is­fied with a 2010 re­run.

Lieu­ten­ant gov­ernor: Hav­ing failed in the 2012 Sen­ate primary run­off, Lt. Gov. Dav­id Dewhurst (R) is run­ning for reelec­tion. But just as Cruz did in 2012, Dewhurst’s rivals have ganged up on him and forced him to run to the right. Like in 2012, the race seems destined for a run­off. Wheth­er the second can­did­ate to qual­i­fy is state Sen. Dan Patrick, state Ag­ri­cul­ture Com­mis­sion­er Todd Staples or Land Com­mis­sion­er Jerry Pat­ter­son could im­pact Dewhurst’s chances at re­nom­in­a­tion. It’s pos­sible that 2014 could mark the be­gin­ning of Dewhurst’s re­cov­ery, or the de­noue­ment of what began two years ago in the Sen­ate race.

March 4 won’t be the fi­nal word on many of these primar­ies, but they will provide the first 2014 front in the battle between es­tab­lish­ment Re­pub­lic­ans like Ses­sions and Dewhurst, and the up­start con­ser­vat­ives look­ing to sup­plant them.

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