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Texas Democrats Slow to Follow Davis Onto the Ballot

Jack Plunkett/Erika Rich, Texas Tribune
At separate events, Republican Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott and state Sen. Wendy Davis filed for governor in Austin on Saturday, Nov. 9, 2013.

It’s filing time for Texas candidates running in the March party primaries. The gubernatorial frontrunners – Republican Attorney General Greg Abbott and Democratic state Sen. Wendy Davis – have already filled out their paperwork.

But there’s a big difference between the two candidates in terms of what’s below each of them on the ballot.

Attorney General Abbott leads a very crowded ballot in several statewide race  – including a four-way race for the GOP Lieutenant Governor nomination. And there could be equally contentious fights among Republicans up and down the ballot. There are currently 36 Republicans expected to run in 14 statewide races. 

On the Democratic side, there are just eight announced candidates. There’s zero Democratic opposition for Republicans running in seven judicial races, and so far, nobody waiting to battle whomever emerges from the GOP fight for Lite Guv.

That’s certainly bad news for a party trying to make a comeback in Texas, right? No, according to Texas Democratic Party executive director William Hailer. He says the party has received commitments from candidates to run in every statewide race.

“We know they’re going to file,” Hailer says. “And they’re just figuring out, what does their plan look like in terms of announcing their intentions to run, and that type of thing.”

The goal during the filing period is to slowly announce each candidate – to give each one a chance to be in the spotlight. Tuesday’s spotlight fell on the party’s single candidate for Comptroller.

Mike Collier came to the Democratic state party headquarters in Austin to sign everything making it official. He says he’ll need to raise between $3 and $5 million to run a competitive campaign.

But even with that money, as with any downballot race, he knows he’ll need help from the top of the ticket.

“Wendy Davis is very important to what I’m trying to accomplish," Collier says.

But it’s Davis and a line of unknown, untested – and so far unannounced – candidates.

Hailer downplays the situation. He says GOP candidates had to announce early because each race was going to have a competitive primary. And, Hailer adds, starting late doesn’t equal starting behind.

“In terms of the infrastructure that our candidates are going to need in order to win in November 2014, I think we’re far ahead of where the Republican Party is at,” he says. Hailer points to larger statewide party staff and help from Battleground Texas, which has a goal of turning Texas blue.

Texas Republicans, of course, can counter by pointing to the last 20 years of statewide election history, which shows voters are more likely to pick a candidate –  any candidate – with a letter R beside their name.

Ben Philpott is the Managing Editor for KUT. Got a tip? Email him at Follow him on Twitter @BenPhilpottKUT.
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