Texas shapes Super Tuesday, while state races have drama too


AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Without Texas, Tuesday wouldn’t be so super.

The state is the largest of 12 holding “Super Tuesday” presidential primary elections in one or both parties, and its 155 Republican and 252 Democratic delegates could reshape both parties’ nomination battles. It takes 1,237 Republican National Convention delegates to win the GOP’s nomination and 2,382 delegates to secure the Democratic one.

All 36 of Texas’ U.S. House seats also are up, but only a few races appear competitive in the primary. And GOP control of both the Texas Senate and House won’t change, but some establishment Republicans could be tested by tea party-backed challengers, while other tea party legislators may be put to the test themselves.

Here are some key questions that could be answered:

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Ted Cruz is Texas’ junior senator, claims 27,000 volunteers statewide and was endorsed by Gov. Greg Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, former Gov. Rick Perry and many top state Republicans in Congress and the Legislature.

Amid expectations he’ll lock up his home state, however, Cruz still appears to face a dogfight with New York billionaire Donald Trump and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio. That means Cruz supporters could face a scary proposition should their candidate lose in his must-win home state.

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Even the Texas winner may not take all, though. Garnering 50-plus percent of the statewide vote guarantees just 47 Republican delegates, while taking the remaining 108 will require capturing a majority of the votes cast in each congressional district.

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, meanwhile, is not from Texas but has decades-long ties to its Democratic base and is favored over Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.

The Texas Democratic primary winner statewide locks up 77 delegates, while 145 will be allocated based on the results in each of the 31 state Senate districts. The final 30 are super delegates who can back any candidate in July, at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia.


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Powerful House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady is among 13 Texas Republican congressional incumbents facing primary opponents. Brady has challengers from the right in a four-way primary, and may be forced into a runoff May 24 if no one wins a majority Tuesday. That’s when things could get really dangerous for him.

On the Democratic side, 12-term U.S. Rep. Gene Green has drawn his first serious primary challenger in years from former Harris County Sherriff Adrian Garcia. The Houston-centric district is about 60 percent Hispanic.

Fellow Democratic U.S. Rep. Ruben Hinojosa is retiring. Among six Democrats vying for the party nomination for his South Texas seat is Dolly Elizondo, who is trying to become the first Hispanic woman to represent Texas in Congress. A runoff may be necessary.

That’s also the case in the West Texas district where U.S. Rep. Randy Neugebauer is retiring and hasn’t endorsed any of the nine Republicans running to replace him.



In the Texas House, some conservative insurgents are aiming to topple establishment Republicans — even as other tea party-backed legislators could find themselves ousted by more-moderate challengers.

House Speaker Joe Straus is facing a pair of challengers from the right in his San Antonio district, while tea party-backed candidates are hoping to upset Straus lieutenants Rep. Byron Cook of Corsicana and Fort Worth Rep. Charlie Geren.

Meanwhile, Reps. Jonathan Stickland of Bedford and Molly White of Belton, leading tea party voices in the chamber, are facing primary challenges. Irving Rep. Matt Rinaldi is competing with former state lawmaker Bennett Ratliff, who lost to Rinaldi by fewer than 100 votes during 2014’s Republican primary.



During the governor’s race two years ago, 53 percent of Texas voters cast ballots before Election Day, and early voting topped 63 percent of all ballots cast during the November 2012 presidential election. That means Texas’ primary could be decided long before the polls even open Tuesday.

More than 1.7 million votes — representing 12 percent of registered statewide voters — were cast through the end of early voting on Friday. Of those, about 450,000 were in the Democratic primary and nearly 660,000 in the Republican one. It won’t be clear until after Tuesday, though, what percentage of the overall number of votes cast those tallies represent.



During the 2012 presidential race, Texas held its primary in May, after the Republican nomination had been locked up by Mitt Romney, and with no one challenging the sitting Democratic president for his party’s nomination. This cycle, Texas deliberately moved up to Super Tuesday, seeking outsized influence on still-competitive nomination races.

Turnout this time could be closer to March 2008, when the much-watched race between Clinton and Barack Obama saw more than 2.8 million Texans, or nearly 23 percent of statewide registered voters, participate in the Democratic primary. More than 1.3 million Republicans, or nearly 11 percent of the state’s registered voters, cast ballots in that year’s Republican primary, featuring John McCain and Mike Huckabee.