Texas kicks off first primary of 2014 midterms
March 4th, 2014
10:55 AM ET
9 years ago

Texas kicks off first primary of 2014 midterms

(CNN) - The midterm election season officially gets underway Tuesday, as Texas holds the first primary contests of 2014.

The voting in the Lone Star State comes eight months to the day before Election Day in November. Here are some things to watch:

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Tea Party vs. Establishment

A top House Republican faces a tea party challenge in Tuesday's primary. Grassroots conservative activist Katrina Pierson is taking on Rep. Pete Sessions, a nine-term congressman and chairman of the powerful House Rules Committee.

Pierson won the backing of top national groups such as the Tea Party Express, the Tea Party Patriots and FreedomWorks, as well as influential figures on the right such as former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and conservative firebrand Rafael Cruz, the father of Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas.

Despite her impressive list of endorsements, Pierson's fundraising lags far behind that of Sessions, the odds on favorite in the race. Sessions, who represents the Dallas area 32nd Congressional District, is one of eight GOP House leaders or committee chairs nationwide who face primary challenges this year.

Challenges from the right

Sen. John Cornyn faces a number of conservative primary challengers. The most well-known of the candidates is Rep. Steve Stockman. But Cornyn, the No. 2 ranking Republican in the Senate, doesn't appear to face much of a threat Tuesday.

But Cornyn has had to alter tactics since the 2012 election of Ted Cruz, who's become a hero to grassroots conservatives. Cruz has put Cornyn and other members of the Senate GOP leadership on the defensive a number of times over some key issues.

While most pundits expect Cornyn to top the 50% threshold needed to avoid a runoff, look for his margin of victory to gauge anti-incumbent sentiment.

Cornyn is one of 12 Republican senators running for re-election this year, and half, including Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, face conservative primary challenges. While neither McConnell nor Cornyn expect to face difficult primaries, some other senators, such as Thad Cochran of Mississippi and Pat Roberts of Kansas, might face bigger challenges.

Preview for big gubernatorial showdown

Turnout in the gubernatorial race could be an indicator of what's to come in the showdown between Republican Attorney General Greg Abbott and Democratic state Sen. Wendy Davis, the two likely nominees in the governor's race.

Battleground Texas, a group aiming to turn the Lone Star State blue, has been working on get-out-the-vote efforts for Davis, hoping to make Republicans sweat as the state moves closer to the general election.

The race is already one of, if not the, most expensive gubernatorial contest in the country. Abbott's campaign reported having nearly $30 million cash on hand last week, while Davis' team reported having $11.3 million. Davis, however, raised slightly more than Abbott in the reporting period from January 24 to February 22.

The next generation Bush

Other statewide races worth watching include the primary for Texas land commissioner, a job George P. Bush has been gunning for this past year. Bush is the son of former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, nephew of former President George W. Bush and grandson of former President George H.W. Bush.

Coming from a strong political family, however, doesn't protect one from opposition. Bush, who's considered the favorite, will face off against conservative David Watts.

Nonetheless, the primary marks Bush's first big contest as he launches what many political observers expect to be a must-watch career in politics.

Another tough contest for Dewhurst

Perhaps the most vulnerable incumbent Tuesday is Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, who's in a tight race with state Sen. Dan Patrick. If neither candidate exceeds 50%, they enter a run-off set for May 27.

Dewhurst, who lost the 2012 run-off for the U.S. Senate against Cruz, may find himself again in an extended primary race.

Age in the spotlight

At the age of 90, Republican Rep. Ralph Hall is the oldest member of the U.S. House. He faces a difficult road to re-nomination, with five challengers taking him on in the primary. And most of them are arguing that after Hall's more than three decades in the seat, it's time for new representation in the state's 4th Congressional District.

Filed under: 2014 • Greg Abbott • John Cornyn • Texas • Wendy Davis
soundoff (33 Responses)
  1. PB

    Looks like Texas is preparing to send another one of those Bushes to DC...Grrr

    March 4, 2014 02:26 pm at 2:26 pm |
  2. rs


    Texas, one of the few last good states with common sense.
    And exploding manure processing plants!

    March 4, 2014 02:27 pm at 2:27 pm |
  3. Ol' Yeller

    Should just let them secede. They can have President perry and VP cruz. Then we can allow them back into the Union, but only as a quasi state (after they beg to be Americans again)... they will not be allowed to send representives or Senators to congress until they can provide the US with a clean UA and psych eval showing they are actually healthy enough mentally to become a state.
    Make them show us their papers.
    Allow Austin back in as it's own independent state immediately, but giev the rest of the state a 25 year probationary period. .
    Do a cavity search on them in front of everyone (like they did those two women on the side of the highway -because the cop 'smelled' marijuana).
    Giving TX back to Mexico would be no great loss....

    March 4, 2014 02:32 pm at 2:32 pm |
  4. t

    ............the BLUE.......is coming to Texas real SOON.....................

    March 4, 2014 02:37 pm at 2:37 pm |

    This will be a serious test for the T baggers. If they don't do well in this reddest of the red states they have no chance in November.

    March 4, 2014 02:39 pm at 2:39 pm |
  6. sly

    Republicans fighting the TeaKKKlan to be the party of 15%. And that's in Texas. Nationally, the GOP is cooked – likely not to reach double figures in approval for many many years.

    March 4, 2014 02:47 pm at 2:47 pm |
  7. just saying

    texas isn't going to vote for that lying con artist wendy davis. her lies and deceit rival obama's. american voters have had enough of it. you lie, good bye.

    March 4, 2014 02:47 pm at 2:47 pm |
  8. Silence DoGood

    I read about all these heavily pro-Christian (as opposed to freedom of religion) folks hiding behind code phrases like "traditional" and "family values". Why don't they just come out and say "we are pro-Christian and want a Christian country" then people could decide whether they want a theocracy or not. I think they know what would happen.

    March 4, 2014 02:48 pm at 2:48 pm |
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