TEXAS (CN) — Unusually for such a heavily Republican state, early-voting Democrats outpolled Republicans by 25,000 of the record 602,000 ballots cast before the Tuesday primaries, with the spotlight on Democratic Congressman Beto O’Rourke’s declared aim of defeating GOP Senator Ted Cruz in November.
The 602,000 early ballots does not include votes from Thursday and Friday, the last days of early voting before the Tuesday primary, according to The Hill.
O’Rourke, 45, a two-term congressman from El Paso, announced his run at first-termer Cruz 11 months ago. O’Rourke’s campaign raised $4.9 million last year and another $2.3 million since Jan. 1.
Cruz had $6 million in the bank on Feb. 23, having raised $803,000 in the first 45 days of 2018.
After the latest fundraising numbers were released, Cruz pooh-poohed O’Rourke’s role in his own campaign, citing Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer’s trip from New York to Houston for a January fund raiser.
“Chuck Schumer did a great job. He came to Texas early in the year and got national liberals really excited about the chance to elect a pro-amnesty, anti-gun, pro-big-government liberal to represent Texas,” Cruz spokeswoman Catherine Frazier told the Texas Tribune.
Between the two frontrunners in the Senate primaries, funding demographics varied greatly. Since 2013 Cruz has raised more than $647,000 from political action committees and nearly $5 million from large individual contributors.
O’Rourke also has raised more than $5 million from large individual donors since last year, but only $21,680 from PACs: 0.25 percent of his total.
Both candidates raised millions in small contributions of $200 or less, with Cruz having the edge, but O’Rourke’s small contributions made up a larger percentage of treasure chest: 39 percent versus Cruz’s 25 percent.
Both candidates are expected to win their primaries handily, Cruz with the benefits of incumbency and backing from his party. And O’Rourke has been drawing large crowds in heavily conservative counties, such as Tarrant, a Dallas-Fort Worth suburb.
Another much-watched and competitive race is the Democratic primary for Texas’ 7th Congressional District, which includes parts of west Houston and its northwest suburbs.
There, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has been taking shots at one of its own, candidate Laura Moser. Moser is one of seven Democrats seeking the nomination there, and viewed as the most progressive.
The DCCC attacks on her have reopened wounds of the 2016 presidential primaries, where progressive Democrats accused the party of unfairly snubbing Bernie Sanders in favor of Hillary Clinton. On the DCCC website this month, the committee called Moser a “Washington insider, who begrudgingly moved to Houston to run for Congress.”
It also criticized a $50,000 payment to her husband’s Washington, D.C. consulting firm.
Many Houston Democrats called the DCCC criticism unfair, including “those in the heat of Houston Democratic politics who agree with the DCCC” on the issues, according to the Texas Tribune.
Moser said the DCCC’s opposition research on her will make it difficult to tie her to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., who is a major fund raiser for the committee.
“No one will call me Nancy Pelosi’s patsy now,” Moser told the Tribune.
The winner of the Democratic primary in the 7th District will take on eight-term incumbent John Culberson.
In response to the DCCC attacks, Moser released a new video ad Friday, titled “Our Turn.” In it, Moser says that mending the political process “starts by rejecting the system where Washington party bosses tell us who to choose.”
“We tried that before, and look where it got us,” she says — which some have interpreted as rebuking the party for its treatment of Bernie Sanders in 2016.
Other Democrats running in the 7th District include Dr. Jason Westin, an oncologist, and Alex Triantaphyllis, who cited opposition to President Trump as the main reason he decided to run.
Triantaphyllis called the DCCC’s attacks on Moser “unsettling,” and said: “Outside people should let Texas 7 voters decide who the nominee should be.”
If the primary ends in a plurality rather than a majority, the runoff is expected to become “even nastier,” according to the Tribune.
If Moser makes it to a runoff, the DCCC could continue its opposition campaign against her, inflicting harm upon itself at the national level.
In total, Texans will have 827 primaries in which to vote, including one U.S. Senate seat, all 36 congressional seats, governor, lieutenant governor and local court justices. Texas elects its judges.