The midterm election officially gets underway today as Texas hosts the first primaries in the country. The primary races in the Lone Star state will offer an initial glimpse at some of the key trends in the 2014 primaries, including the establishment vs. Tea Party fight and the newcomers who're trying to oust aging incumbents. The contests will also shed light on how the ascension of Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, has influenced politics in Texas. Here's a look at six things to watch for in the Lone Star state's primaries today.
THE IMPACT OF CRUZ CONTROL: Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, is trying to hold onto his seat as he faces Tea Party challenges from Rep. Steve Stockman, who sold "Obama barf bags" as a campaign ploy, and Dwayne Stovall, who recently filmed this website video comparing Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell to a turtle. Cornyn, who is seeking his third term in the Senate, was forced to adapt his campaign playbook after Ted Cruz entered the Senate last year. Cruz is highly popular in his home state of Texas and his willingness to buck the establishment put Cornyn, the second highest ranking Republican in the Senate, in a politically tight spot. Cornyn is expected to win his primary decisively despite Tea Party hopes for a candidate who could push him out of office, but watch for the margin of victory to gauge anti-incumbent sentiment.
ESTABLISHMENT VS. TEA PARTY: Rep. Pete Session's primary in the 32nd Congressional District against Tea Party-favorite Katrina Pierson is a prime example of the establishment vs. Tea Party fight brewing in Republican primaries across the country this year. Republicans who have tired of establishment figures like Sessions, a former chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, are looking for candidates with Tea Party credentials as their best chance to oust incumbents. A new ABC News-Washington Post poll shows that 41 percent of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents say it's a good thing for Tea Party candidates to challenge Republican incumbents, while 47 percent call it a bad thing.
AGE DIVIDE: At Age 90, Rep. Ralph Hall, R-Texas, is the oldest member of Congress, representing Texas' 4th Congressional District since 1981. But some Texas Republicans have tired of waiting for him to bow out of the political spotlight, spurring five Republicans to challenge him in the primary: John Ratcliffe, the former mayor of Heath, Texas, and a former U.S. attorney; Tony Arterburn Jr.; Brent Lawson; John Stacy, and Lou Gigliotti, who unsuccessfully ran in the past two contests. This primary highlights a generational fight that could resonate throughout 2014.
DEMOCRATIC TURNOUT: The primaries won't tell us much about the governor's race, but keep an eye on Democratic turnout in the state's primaries. Battleground Texas, a Democratic group led by alumni of President Obama's campaign, has made it their goal to get more Democrats to the polls. The push comes at a time when the state's demographics are changing, giving Democrats hope the state could someday turn at least purple, if not blue.
RUNOFF BLUES: Texas Lt. Governor David Dewhurst felt the runoff blues two years ago when he lost to newcomer Ted Cruz in the Senate runoff, and it could happen again. Dewhurst, who once famously called a police station asking for the release of a relative who had been arrested, is running for re-election in a crowded primary against state Sen. Dan Patrick, Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples and Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson. The four candidates could split the vote, forcing the primary - and likely Dewhurst - into a runoff.
BUSH IS BACK: The Bush dynasty is making its way back to political office as George P. Bush is on the ballot in the Texas Land Commissioner Republican primary. George P. Bush follows in the steps of his father, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, uncle, President George W. Bush, and grandfather, President George H.W. Bush, in seeking political office. George P. Bush is expected to easily win his primary and general election, but the land commissioner post is just a launching pad for answering the next big question: what does he run for next?