Democrats eager to retake the House majority in the midterm elections have turned their eyes to Texas, which will hold the first primaries of 2018 on Tuesday.
The party, buoyed by fervent nationwide enthusiasm, has seen an enormous uptick already in early voting in a number of Texas’ most populous counties. In the state’s 15 largest counties, almost 50,000 more Democrats than Republicans have already cast votes. Compared to the number of Democrats who voted early in the 2014 midterm cycle, their early vote numbers this year are up 105 percent.
While Democrats hope their vote totals come in bunches on Tuesday, they’re specifically keeping a close eye on three House districts which could be key on their path to seeking the majority. In all three, Hillary Clinton won in the 2016 presidential election.
First up is the 7th Congressional District, an area west of Houston proper. The race has been recently consumed by tumult after the Democratic National Campaign Committee raised concern about the viability of Democratic candidate Laura Moser. Moser is one of seven Democrats running against incumbent Republican Rep. John Culberson (R-TX). While the district narrowly backed Clinton in the 2016 presidential election, it has not elected a Democrat to the House since 1967. Among other candidates competing for the Democratic nomination, Jason Westin, a doctor, Lizzie Pannill Fletcher, a Houston attorney, Moser and Alex Triantaphyllis, a nonprofit executive, are viewed as the likely top-tier candidates.
In Texas’ 32nd Congressional District, which is in the Dallas area, there is an equally packed Democratic primary. The winner will face off against incumbent Republican Rep. Pete Sessions (R-TX) who has represented the district since 2002.
Colin Allred, a civil rights attorney and former NFL player, Ed Meier, a former Clinton staffer and Lillian Salerno, a former Obama administration official are the likely top candidates of the bunch.
Texas’ 23rd Congressional District will be key for Democrats as well. Bordering Mexico, it encompasses a broad swath of land west of San Antonio. Republican Rep. Will Hurd has narrowly won two elections in 2014 and 2016. The two Democrats seen as most formidable in this primary are Gina Ortiz Jones, a former US Air Force veteran and an Office of the US Trade Representative official in the Obama administration and Jay Hulings, previously a federal prosecutor.
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) is also on the ballot as is his likely general election opponent Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-TX).
Both are expected to win their respective primaries and face off against each other in November, where O’Rourke - who raised $2.3 million so far this year alone - is likely to give Cruz a run for his money.
Cruz recently warned: "The left is going to show up. They will crawl over broken glass in November to vote.”
Underscoring the whole list of contests is the surprisingly low approval ratings for the president in Texas. In fact, Gallup’s year end average of Trump’s approval ratings nationwide found the president with a 39% approval rating in the Lone Star state.