Texas Primary Election: What to Know - The New York Times

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The first election night of the 2022 midterms has some famous names and crowded primary races. Here’s a rundown.
Leah Askarinam and
Follow our live updates on the Texas primary election and election results.
The midterms officially begin on Tuesday with the primary election in Texas. There are a few key themes to keep an eye on:
What will Democratic turnout be like in the first midterm of Biden’s presidency?
Hispanic voter turnout: Republicans exceeded expectations in garnering their support in 2020. Will that trend continue?
How well will Republican candidates endorsed by Donald Trump fare against equally Trumpy competitors?
In Texas, candidates only win the party nomination if they surpass 50 percent of the primary vote. If nobody reaches 50 percent on Tuesday, the top two vote getters will advance to a runoff on May 24.
The more candidates in an individual race, the more splintered the vote gets — and the more likely a runoff becomes. To the chagrin of incumbents on both sides of the aisle, Texas’ primaries are crowded.
In open-seat races, where the incumbent is either not running for re-election or an entirely new seat was drawn in redistricting, crowded primaries are expected and pretty uneventful. We’re watching those to see who qualifies for the higher-stakes runoff.
But for incumbents and high-profile candidates, the question on Tuesday will be who avoids a runoff and by how much. For instance, in the governor’s race, how well Gov. Greg Abbott fares in his Republican primary will be a barometer of his strength before the general election. (For Beto O’Rourke, on the Democratic side, there’s little doubt he’ll sail to the nomination on Tuesday.)
The most famous names might be found in the major statewide races, yet the most consequential results could come from House races. To be sure, Texas isn’t the political hot spot for House races that it was in 2020 — redistricting left the state with only one truly competitive district in the general election. But with Democrats’ majority relying on just a handful of seats, there’s no room for error.
Here’s what we’ll be watching, with one warning: always be prepared for surprises.
Republicans who have declared themselves Trump’s most loyal supporters have been lining up to take on Abbott — though Abbott hasn’t allowed them much room. He’s spent the last year trying to prove his pro-Trump bona fides. His efforts earned him Trump’s endorsement, though his challengers haven’t walked away quietly.
Public polling is limited, but it seems pretty clear all the same that Abbott is the favorite, even if he isn’t guaranteed to avoid a runoff. He hit the 60 percent mark in two recent polls, with his Republican opponents — Don Huffines, a former state senator, and Allen West, a former state party chairman — floundering in the teens or single digits.
Abbott’s margin of victory, or whether he avoids a runoff and gets to start the general election early, could signal the strength of his incumbency before he faces his likely Democratic opponent, O’Rourke.
O’Rourke, the former congressman, is likely to win the Democratic nomination outright. He won’t be the only name on the ballot, but he’s the only candidate who is a household name. The latest batch of polling shows him leading by more than 60 percentage points.
As the general election begins, the question will be what O’Rourke has learned since his last campaign. He lost a statewide race in Texas in 2018, when Democrats enjoyed a favorable national environment. That environment will likely be tougher this time around, and he may have jeopardized some of his above-the-party-fray credentials by running for president in 2020. However, he’s now an experienced candidate who has the benefit of having built a campaign organization behind him, something he didn’t have in 2018.
Some of the most prominent Republican names are all clustered in a single race. As J. David Goodman explained over the weekend, Attorney General Ken Paxton is facing a challenge from Republicans including Representative Louie Gohmert; Eva Guzman, a former Texas Supreme Court justice; and George P. Bush, the grandson of George H.W. Bush.
Like Abbott, Paxton has Trump’s endorsement. Unlike Abbott, Paxton isn’t polling far above and beyond his Republican challengers. This race is likely to go to a runoff.
Jessica Cisneros’ primary challenge to Representative Henry Cuellar might be the most consequential race of the night. We’re just not sure what the consequences will be.
Cisneros, who is backed by progressives like Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, is waging a rematch against Cuellar, a Democrat who has opposed abortion rights, after she fell narrowly short in the 2020 primary runoff. But, as Edgar Sandoval reported, conservative Democrats might have more luck in some parts of South Texas.
When the F.B.I. raided Cuellar’s home and campaign office earlier this year, however, the political calculus shifted. The target of the F.B.I. investigation remains unclear, and national Republican groups are watching to see whether there’s a window for whoever emerges from the G.O.P. primary.
That doesn’t necessarily mean that Cisneros would be more likely to hold the seat for Democrats than Cuellar. If national abortion rights organizations get involved in the race, they could provoke Republicans to play more aggressively in the district.
“It doesn’t help in trying to actually change the political dynamic in Texas, when you have national organizations come in, brand themselves as liberal, wave blue flags, and say we’re going to turn stuff blue and flip it,” said Matt Angle, the founder of the Lone Star Project, which provides opposition research and other support to Democratic candidates in Texas.
There’s a third Democrat on the ballot for the race, so it’s possible that neither Cuellar nor Cisneros clears Tuesday’s primary. If the race goes to a primary runoff, it would leave another few months for the Cisneros-Cuellar primary to unfold — and more time to see what happens with the F.B.I. investigation.
There’s only one district that’s built to be truly competitive in 2022. But we probably won’t know who’s running in it until the May runoff.
The incumbent in the 15th Congressional District in South Texas would have been Representative Vicente Gonzalez, a Democrat. However, he instead chose to run in a seat that was drawn to be slightly safer for Democrats after redistricting, leaving his current seat open.
Trump narrowly carried the newly drawn 15th District in 2020. Republicans expect Monica De La Cruz to be their nominee, even if she doesn’t win outright on Tuesday. The Democratic race is more scattered, with multiple credible candidates, and will likely go to a runoff.
There is one other House race that could be competitive come November: the 28th District, another South Texas seat. But while the 15th District was drawn to be competitive, the 28th was drawn to favor Democrats. However, if Democrats put forth a nominee who’s either plagued by scandal or ideologically out of step with the district, Republicans, boosted by a favorable national environment, might be able to seize the opportunity.
Jennifer Medina reports from Brownsville, Texas, where the politics of immigration is driving many Hispanic voters into the Republican Party.
Redistricting is altering national politics in profound ways, as Shane Goldmacher describes in a look at Representative Dan Crenshaw, a Republican whose suburban Houston district grew less competitive after the Legislature drew new maps.
The last two weeks have been a monumental time in Biden’s presidency. Our colleagues on the White House team reconstructed a chaotic past few days within an administration preparing for a State of the Union address while handling the crisis in Ukraine.

briefing book
Fighting is still raging in Ukraine, despite diplomatic efforts to arrange a cease-fire. Here are the latest developments:
The U.S. Treasury Department froze assets of the Russian central bank and imposed sanctions on a sovereign wealth fund that is run by a close ally of Russia’s president, Vladimir V. Putin. The value of Russia’s currency fell by as much as 25 percent within hours.
Belarus hosted face-to-face talks between Russian and Ukrainian officials, but they proved inconclusive, as did a phone call between Emmanuel Macron, the president of France, and Putin.
Satellite photos showed a column of Russian forces bearing down on Kyiv, the Ukrainian capital. In Kharkiv, a city in the northeast of the country, videos showed the results of indiscriminate shelling of Ukrainian civilians.
Thanks for reading. We’ll see you tomorrow.
— Blake & Leah
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Is there anything you think we’re missing? Anything you want to see more of? We’d love to hear from you. Email us at onpolitics@nytimes.com.
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