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Tuesday, June 18, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Turnout Up for Texas Democrats, but GOP Dominates in Primaries

Democratic turnout in Tuesday’s Texas primaries broke a 16-year slump but Republicans continued to dominate, particularly in the wide open spaces.

AUSTIN, Texas (CN) — Democratic turnout in Tuesday’s Texas primaries broke a 16-year slump but Republicans continued to dominate, particularly in the wide open spaces.

Just over 1 million Democrats voted in the statewide primaries, to Republicans’ 1.5 million votes.

Texas has 36 seats in the House of Representatives; runoffs will be held in the congressional races in which no candidate secured a simple majority.

Fourteen Democrats won their races outright, including 11-term U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, in central Houston’s 18th District.

Shirley McKellar, an Army nurse who was wounded in Iraq, won in the 1st District northeast of Houston, but her 9,181 votes were swamped by six-term Republican incumbent Louis Gohmert’s 64,001.

In the closely watched 7th District in northwest Houston, Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee-backed Lizzie Pannill Fletcher outpolled second-place Laura Moser, by 9,731 votes (29.3 percent) to 8,077 (24.3 percent).

That seven-person primary stirred interest because the DCCC attacked Moser, the more liberal candidate, angering Democrats who saw it as a continuation of the national party’s estrangement from progressives such as Bernie Sanders in 2016.

Eight-term Republican incumbent Culberson romped in the 7th District, taking 28,944 votes, or 76.1 percent — more than the top three Democrats combined 24,172 votes.

Democratic runoffs will be held in 11 congressional districts. Eleven Democrats ran unopposed, including incumbent Joaquin Castro in San Antonio’s 20th District and two-termer Lloyd Doggett in District 35, which includes San Antonio to southeast Austin.

Incumbent Republican Governor Greg Abbott won renomination handily with 90.4 percent of his party’s vote: 1,390,236.

He will face the winner of a runoff between Democrats Lupe Valdez, who took 436,337 votes, or 42.9 percent, to Andrew White’s 278,616 or 27.4 percent.

But again, Abbott won far more votes than the top three Democrats combined, who took 798,836. In fact, Abbott garnered 373,979 more votes than all the Democratic gubernatorial candidates combined.

The numbers were just as grim for Democrats in the lieutenant governor’s races. The lieutenant governor in Texas essentially runs the Legislature and is often considered to effectively have more power than the governor.

Incumbent Republican Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick took 1,164,881 votes, or 75.9 percent of the Republican ballots — more than 200,000 ahead of the combined totals of Democratic winner Mike Collier (591,457) and runner-up Michael Cooper’s 455,988.

In the races for U.S. Senate, incumbent Republican Ted Cruz blew away second-place Mary Miller, 1,316,002 votes to 94,320.

Again, the numbers look bad for Democrats. Though Beto O’Rourke won outright, with 641,167 votes, or 61.8 percent, all three Democrats combined took only 1,037,199 votes, with 99 percent of the precincts reporting — 278,801 fewer votes than Cruz alone.

Cruz on Tuesday blasted O’Rourke as a “left-wing liberal Democrat” in the Bernie Sanders mold.

The numbers do look intimidating for O’Rourke, which prompted MSNBC reporter Chris Hayes to ask him, “Why will it be different this time?”

O’Rourke responded with an anecdote about a rally in Archer city, a town of fewer than 2,000 on the plains near the Oklahoma line. He said a resident showed him a photograph of Lyndon B. Johnson campaigning there in 1948.

“This guy says, ‘That is the last time, 70 years ago, that we saw a Senate candidate from either party campaigning here,’” O’Rourke said.

He continued: “If you don't show up, and you don’t listen, and you’re not fighting for those people, then why in the world should they ever vote for you? That's why I'm showing up to every single part of Texas.”

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