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4 things Texans should watch for this Super Tuesday

A red voting sign that says, "Vote aqui here."
Patricia Lim
Tuesday’s results could determine the future path of conservative politics in Texas.

Super Tuesday is upon us! Today, Texas joins 15 other states where voters will weigh in on who they want representing their political party on the ballot in November.

There are 150 seats in the Texas House of Representatives and 38 Congressional seats on the ballot, as well as several state Senate and judicial races.

That means a lot of party primary races across Texas. And, as with all things Texas politics, it’s by no means a sleepy election.

From Ted Cruz’s challenger to crowded races to voter turnout, here’s what Texans should be watching.

The Democratic primary for U.S. Senate

For many Texas Democrats, 2024 is when they finally hope to unseat U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz.

But first, voters have to decide who will run against the incumbent Republican, who is seeking his third term. Texans who vote in the Democratic primary will see nine names in the U.S. Senate contest.

Right now, the frontrunners are State Sen. Roland Gutierrez, D-San Antonio, and Congressman Colin Allred, D-Dallas. And while the two are favored by Democratic voters, recent polling from the Texas Politics Project shows either candidate would have an uphill battle beating Cruz, who is ahead of both Allred and Gutierrez by 14 points.

Because nine Democrats are running in Texas’ U.S. Senate primary, it’s unlikely either Gutierrez or Allred would get the required 50% plus one to win their party’s nomination outright.

READ MORE: Meet the Democratic frontrunners hoping to unseat Texas Sen. Ted Cruz

A divide in the Texas GOP

A long-simmering civil war among Texas Republicans has boiled over this election year.

The rift has meant particularly nasty attacks from all sides during this year’s GOP primaries. Millions of dollars have flowed into the most competitive races.

Tuesday’s results will prove whose endorsement carries the most weight, and could determine the future path of conservative politics in Texas.

Gov. Greg Abbott is targeting more than a dozen GOP incumbents in the Texas House who voted against his education priorities last year.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton wants to unseat a bunch of Republican lawmakers who supported his impeachment, including the speaker of the Texas House, and also wants to oust three GOP judges from the state’s top criminal court.

Even former President Donald Trump has weighed in. He agrees that the Republican speaker, Dade Phelan, should go, and has endorsed candidates in a handful of other Texas races, too.

We are watching races that serve as a litmus test for the future direction of the Texas GOP.

READ MORE: These two Republicans endorsed in dozens of Texas House races. One put his money where his mouth is.

There will be runoffs

Insulated from Texas’ primary race political drama are those lucky incumbents without opponents on the March 5 ballot.

For them, Super Tuesday will be smooth sailing — running unopposed in their party’s primary means they’ll coast to the general election. But several hotly contested races, like the aforementioned Democratic primary for U.S. Senate, feature a slew of candidates. That increases chances the state’s Republicans and Democrats won’t know all of their nominees just yet.

“In Texas, we do have runoffs for primary elections. And that happens when a candidate fails to get 50% plus one vote, meaning a majority of votes to get the party nomination,” Alicia Pierce, the assistant secretary of state for communications, recently told The Texas Newsroom.

And if no candidate hits the required 50%-plus-one threshold?

“The top two candidates will then go on to the runoff in order to determine who gets the party nomination for the general election in November,” Pierce said. This year’s runoff elections in Texas take place on May 28.

Other closely watched races likely to head to runoffs include a state Senate race in Houston, where a half dozen Democrats are hoping to get the nod to replace former state Sen. John Whitmire, and El Paso’s Democratic primary for House District 77. While HB 77’s primary is not as crowded as other races, three of the four candidates on the ballot are veteran office holders with considerable name recognition. There's also no Republican challenger in that race, so whoever wins that contest — either Tuesday or in May — will head to the Capitol next year.

READ MORE: What triggers a runoff election? Here’s what you need to know

Will people actually vote?

With all of these important races on the ballot, will voters even turn out?

If early voting numbers are any indication, it ain’t looking good.

According to an analysis by The Texas Tribune, more than 200,000 fewer people voted early this year compared with the 2020 primary even though there are more registered voters this year.

Democrats accounted for all of the decline, the Tribune analysis found. Republicans turned out in slightly higher numbers this year, but the decrease was so sharp among Democrats that it brought the entire total down compared with 2020.

The dip may be due to less enthusiasm for this year’s presidential race, as well as the absence of any statewide races on the ballot except for U.S. Senate.

Polls are open across the state March 5. You can look up your polling place here.

READ MORE: Early voting turnout in 2024 Texas primaries slumps compared to 2020

The Texas Newsroom’s Julián Aguilar, Rachel Osier Lindley, Sergio Martínez-Beltrán, and Lauren McGaughy contributed to this report.

Copyright 2024 KERA. To see more, visit KERA.

The Texas Newsroom
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