Amid few top statewide races, Texas focuses on Trump-Clinton

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — There are no major statewide offices on the Texas ballot, and Republican Donald Trump is expected to win a fiercely conservative state that hasn’t backed a Democrat since Jimmy Carter in 1976.

But could Hillary Clinton keep it competitive?

Might she be buoyed by Texas Hispanics spurred to vote after Trump’s repeated insults of Latinos, his promises to build a towering wall along the entire 2,000-mile U.S.-Mexico border and his harsh immigration rhetoric?

Doing so would require a dramatic turnaround in Hispanic turnout. Texas exceeded 15.1 million registered voters for the first time and early voting returns suggest overall turnout will be strong.

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Texas’ 10.2 million Hispanics represent 39 percent of the state’s population, but only about 5 million are eligible to vote as U.S. citizens 18 or older. In 2014, according to U.S. Census Bureau surveys, about 46 percent of Texas Hispanics said they were registered and 22 percent reported voting compared to nearly 42 percent of eligible Texas whites and 35 percent of eligible blacks statewide.

John Fraser, a Houston pediatrician and loyal Republican, doesn’t see Clinton having a real shot in Texas. But he also believes the state’s shifting demographics will catch up with the GOP eventually.

“If they don’t do the correct outreach it’s going to be a permanent minority party,” said Fraser, 62. “Nothing lasts forever.”

Uneasiness with Trump may also bring down Republican Rep. Will Hurd, whose West Texas district sprawls from San Antonio to the outskirts of El Paso and encompasses 800-plus miles of Texas-Mexico borderlands. It has flipped between parties three straight election cycles.

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Hurd edged former Democratic Rep. Pete Gallego in 2014, and their rematch should be Texas’ only competitive congressional race — despite all 36 House seats being on the ballot. Hurd is one of the few top Texas Republicans who urged Trump to abandon the GOP presidential nomination after the 2005 recording surfaced in which the New York businessman bragged about groping and kissing women without permission.

All Texas House seats and 16 state Senate seats are also up for election. But no matter the outcome in those races, both chambers should remain solidly Republican-controlled when the Legislature reconvenes in January.

On the Court of Criminal Appeals, Texas’ highest criminal court, Lawrence Meyers is the senior justice and was first elected as a Republican in 1992. But he switched parties in 2013 and is now seeking re-election as a Democrat.

If he loses to Harris County District Judge Mary Lou Keel, the Republicans will go back to controlling all 23 of Texas’ statewide offices and ensure that the Democrats haven’t won a statewide election in Texas since 1994, the nation’s longest such political losing streak.