Ready or not, here they come.
The 2018 midterms officially kick off Tuesday with primary elections in Texas for 36 House seats, Ted Cruz’s Senate seat, a governorship, and control of a state legislature all up for grabs this November.
Democrats in and out of Washington have been impatiently counting down the days to the midterms since Donald Trump won the presidency and Republicans maintained majorities in both chambers of Congress in 2016. The out-of-power party has targeted several Republican-held House seats in Texas in their quest to retake the majority in the House and depose Speaker Paul Ryan by winning 24 more seats.
Tuesday night is the first step in what will be a long road, paved with infighting and money, to November.
The primaries in Texas in many ways mirror what’s going on in races around the country with Republican incumbents retiring, perhaps too many Democrats running, and lots of female candidates. The results in Texas could be an early predictor for how races across the country play out this year.
Here’s what you need to know:
A lot of Democrats are running.
For the first time in 25 years, Democrats are running in all 36 House districts, according to the Wall Street Journal. In years past, Democrats wouldn’t bother challenging some Republicans who appeared unbeatable. Fired up by the Trump presidency, however, 111 Democrats have filed to run for Congress in Texas leading to energetic and, at times chaotic, campaigns.
That chaos peaked two weeks ago when the national Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee waded into a key swing district and attacked Houston-area candidate Laura Moser, who the committee believes is a weaker general election candidate than her opponents. But the move may have backfired; Moser used the attack to rally her progressive base. The results of Tuesday’s primary could affect how the national party operates for the rest of the cycle.
And a lot of women are running.
Right now, Texas has 36 representatives in the House, but only three of them are women. That’s likely to change this year because at least 50 female challengers are running in the primaries on Tuesday — 36 Democrats and 14 Republicans. Since some women are running against other women, that number will go down after the primaries, but voters will decide on Tuesday just how many women candidates will be on the ballot in November.
Democrats are energized and voting early.
The number of Democrats choosing to vote early in the state’s ten counties with the most registered voters has more than doubled compared to this point during the 2014 midterms. Republican early vote turnout, meanwhile, was only up at 15 percent, according to the Texas Tribune. So far, 370,219 Democrats have voted, compared to 282,928 Republicans.
While it’s unclear if the final vote numbers will match the early vote numbers with increased turnout, it’s certainly an indicator that Democrats are not only marching but also voting. Even in conservative Texas, Democratic energy in the Trump era could be enough to win several congressional seats, and maybe more, this November.
Democrats are trying to take down Ted Cruz.
Beyond the House of Representatives, Democrats are daydreaming about beating Sen. Ted Cruz this November. In Washington, they think have a shot of winning with a handsome, articulate, and tireless candidate in Rep. Beto O’Rourke. A three-term congressman and former punk-rocker from El Paso, O’Rourke has proven himself an able fundraiser while criss-crossing the state and stumping in every small town he can find.
Republican Party leaders, however, don’t think O’Rourke has a prayer. Dream on, they say.
The primaries likely won’t end on Tuesday.
To win a primary in Texas, a candidate needs to earn 50 percent of the vote. But some of these races have so many candidates — multiple seats have seven Democrats running and one has drawn 18 Republican candidates — that it will be difficult for any one candidate to reach the 50 percent threshold. The top two candidates will then go on to a May 22 runoff.
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Cover image: Jim Mathis looks to place a campaign sign near a polling site as early voting begins, Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2018, in San Antonio. Early voting in Texas ended March 2, 2018. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)