WILL WEISSERT, Associated Press
AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Every major statewide office will get a new occupant after Election Day, the biggest shake-up of Texas politics in decades. But since Republicans look likely to continue a longest-in-the-nation statewide election winning streak that stretches back 20 years, not much should change in terms of policy. Some highlights from Tuesday’s ballot:
TOP OF THE TICKET
In office since his predecessor George W. Bush left for Washington in December 2000, Gov. Rick Perry is leaving Austin for the first time since winning a Texas House seat as a Democrat in 1988. Republican Greg Abbott, state attorney general since 2002, is heavily favored to succeed his friend Perry. Abbott’s opponent, Democratic state Sen. Wendy Davis, became a national sensation last summer with her 12-plus hour, abortion-rights filibuster in the Legislature, but she struggled to carry that momentum into her campaign.
In the lieutenant governor’s race, ousting the three-term incumbent David Dewhurst in the GOP primary runoff was the hard part for state Sen. Dan Patrick. Now the tea party darling from Houston is expected to easily top Democratic Sen. Leticia Van de Putte of San Antonio. Patrick’s hard-line immigration stance has angered even some fellow Republicans. He promises to secure the Texas-Mexico border at all costs from a post that presides over the Legislature’s upper chamber.
A NEW BUSH FOR TEXAS
Texans are getting another Bush on their ballots. George P. Bush, the son of potential 2016 presidential candidate Jeb Bush and George W.’s nephew, is expected to win the land commissioner’s office in a landslide, becoming the first member of his famous political family to win his first election.
In other statewide races, fellow Republicans Ken Paxton (attorney general), Glenn Hegar (comptroller) and Sid Miller (agriculture commissioner) are also heavily favored against little-known and underfunded Democrats.
CORNYN EXPECTED TO CRUISE
U.S. Sen. John Cornyn easily fought off a longshot primary challenge from U.S. Rep. Steve Stockman, but he’ll likely have an even easier time against Democrat David Alameel. Seeking his third term, Cornyn is the No. 2 Republican in the Senate and would become majority whip if the GOP retakes the chamber Tuesday. Some conservative activists say Cornyn is too moderate, but that didn’t hurt him against Alameel, a millionaire Dallas dentist and former donor to top Texas Republicans — including Cornyn.
IN CONGRESS, JUST ONE COMPETITIVE RACE
Texas has 36 congressional seats, but the only one that actually appears competitive is the sprawling 23rd district stretching from San Antonio to El Paso. The seat has switched from Democrat to Republican in each of the last three elections. Incumbent Democrat Pete Gallego is now trying to fend off Republican Will Hurd.
MORE MONEY FOR ROADS?
Voters are being asked to approve a constitutional amendment that would use half the funds flowing annually into Texas’ Rainy Day fund to improve roads and highways. The measure would mean up to $1.7 billion for transportation infrastructure the first year, though its value thereafter depends on future state oil and gas revenue. Still, transportation officials say a booming Texas population means that at least $4 billion in spending per year is actually needed just to maintain current traffic levels on jammed roads.
Early voting rates were essentially flat this cycle compared to 2010, when Texas last elected a governor, with about 1.7 million ballots cast. The number of early voters is higher than four years ago, but the overall percentage of registered voters participating fell because a record 14 million Texans are now registered. Democrats and Republicans offered differing opinions on which side that benefits. What’s certain, though, is the U.S. Supreme Court has allowed enforcement of the state’s strict voter ID law, meaning voters had to show one of seven approved kinds of photo identification to cast a ballot.