Politics

What Happened in Last Night’s Texas Primaries

A brief guide to some of the more notable races.

AUSTIN, TX - MARCH 06: A line of early voters wait outside the Gardner Betts Annex on March 6, 2018 in Austin, Texas. Democrats are seeing a large increase in voter turnourt compared to last year. (Photo by Drew Anthony Smith/Getty Images)
A line of early voters wait outside a polling place in Austin, Texas.
Drew Anthony Smith/Getty Images

The big story out of Tuesday’s Texas primary is that the brewing civil war taking place in a Houston-area congressional district where Democrats appear destined to relitigate the 2016 primary will go on for at least the next two months, as the two candidates settle things in a runoff. Several of the states’ most competitive races are headed to runoffs, including the Democratic primary for governor and a handful of House races.

A few things did get settled on Tuesday night: Beto O’Rourke won the right to take on Sen. Ted Cruz in the fall, and George P. Bush, the last prince of that Republican royal family, held on with a little help from Donald Trump.

Here’s where things stand in a few of the other Texas races of note, based on the projected results from the Houston Chronicle and the Texas Tribune.

Governor

On Tuesday, nine Democrats were competing for the chance to lose to Republican Gov. Greg Abbott this November. On Wednesday, only two will remain: Lupe Valdez and Andrew White. Both candidates easily outpaced the rest of the primary field, but neither was projected to have secured the majority needed to avoid a runoff. Democrats will now need to decide which of the two they want on the top of the ballot this fall: White, a Houston businessman and the son of a former governor who has deep pockets but stands accused of being wobbly on reproductive rights, or Valdez, a progressive former Dallas County sheriff who also happens to be gay and Latina.

Senate

No surprises here: Republican Sen. Ted Cruz easily won his party’s nomination and so, too, did Democratic Rep. Beto O’Rourke. The two will now face off in a race that nonpartisan handicappers believe represents a possible pickup opportunity for Democrats in their uphill battle to take control of the Senate next year. O’Rourke is well liked but largely unknown, and he appeared to underperform expectations against two unknown challengers. Cruz is, well, Cruz—which is both a reason the general election is expected to be competitive and why he will still enter it as the clear favorite.

State Land Commissioner

George P. Bush is projected to have won the GOP primary outright for Texas land commissioner, which makes him more or less a lock for a second term in that office. (He’s unlikely to get much competition from projected Democratic nominee Miguel Suazo in a state that hasn’t elected a Democrat in a statewide race since 1994.) Four more years overseeing state-owned lands and mineral rights isn’t exactly the dream job for someone related to two U.S. presidents, but a defeat would have been particularly painful for a man who was once considered to be on a path to the governor’s mansion or maybe one day even the White House. The victory did not come without a price, though. Despite Donald Trump humiliating his father Jeb during the Republican primary, George broke with his dad and publicly backed Trump in the 2016 general and has continued to stand by him since. That loyalty earned Bush a Trump endorsement of his own, something he made central to his pitch to Republican voters.

State Agriculture Commissioner

Bush had the benefit of a Trump endorsement in his race; Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller had to rely on his Trump-like buffoonery. Miller, one of the few politicians who can rival the president for offensive comments and ethical transgressions, was likewise projected to clear the 50-percent threshold in his primary. Miller, whose Twitter account once called Hillary Clinton a “cunt” and whose first official act as agriculture commissioner was to declare “amnesty” for cupcakes, was facing a strong challenge from Austin attorney Trey Blocker. As I put it before the votes started to come in, this race was a test of whether the kind of norm-breaking behavior that has failed to sink Trump might have consequences further down the ballot. In this case, it did not.