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Texas: What to Watch in the First Primaries of 2014

(By Scott J. Ferrell/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
(By Scott J. Ferrell/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The nation’s first primary election of the 2014 cycle arrives today, and Lone Star State campaigns have braced themselves for low turnout thanks to unusually frigid weather.  

Or as they say in some parts of Texas, it’s colder than a tin toilet in the Yukon.  

Few places are prepared to handle ice and 30-degree temperatures, which could keep voters at home. As a result, many campaigns predict early voting and early media buys will have an outsized influence on the primaries.  

A candidate must receive a majority of the vote to win Tuesday’s primary outright. Otherwise, the top two candidates will advance to a May 27 runoff.  

Polls close at 8 p.m. EST. Here are six things to watch as results come in: 1. Does John Cornyn break 60 percent?
Hardly anyone in Texas politics says Senate Minority Whip John Cornyn faces true electoral trouble. Rep. Steve Stockman launched a disorganized , eleventh-hour challenge against him — and few in the GOP take the congressman’s attempt seriously.  

“It’ll still be a stomping,” said a Texas Republican consultant.  

Most savvy Republicans doubt Cornyn will have to even deal with a runoff. Instead, they’re watching to see if he can beat 60 percent.  

2. Is Ralph Hall forced to a runoff? Republican Rep. Ralph M. Hall’s bid for an 18th term is widely considered the most interesting federal race on Tuesday’s ballot. Attorney John Ratcliffe put $400,000 of his own money into his primary challenge in Texas’ 4th District.  

“My theory is if Ralph has to go to a runoff, he’s already lost,” a Texas GOP operative said. “If a majority of the electorate votes against him, that’s a serious problem for Ralph Hall.”  

But not everyone is so pessimistic about the oldest member of Congress, who has said this re-election campaign will be his last.  

“It will probably be the closest primary of his career, but I think at the end of the day, Ralph pulls it out,” a more optimistic consultant countered. “He’s still wildly popular.”  

3. Will Democrat Marc Veasey come back to Congress?
Tech attorney Tom Sanchez has mounted a well-funded effort against freshman Rep. Marc Veasey in the 33rd District. Many local Democrats say Veasey will carry the day .  

But there is some doubt, given Sanchez’s million dollar investment in his campaign. President Barack Obama got involved, giving Veasey a last-minute endorsement .  

It is unlikely there will be a runoff.  

4. Will ex-Rep. Quico Canseco have a runoff? Republicans bet former Rep. Francisco “Quico” Canseco’s residual name identification from his single term in Congress will help him crack 50 percent — or at least the high forties. But his primary rival, former CIA Agent Will Hurd, is running hard for the GOP nod in Texas’ 23rd District.  

Incidentally, Canseco faced Hurd in 2010. In that crowded primary, the two advanced to a runoff that Canseco won.  

5. Which two candidates make the runoff to succeed Stockman? Twelve Republicans are running in the open-seat race to succeed Stockman in the 36th District in East Texas.  

The result is chaos, and the crowded field has left Texas Republican operatives unsure which candidates will make the runoff. A candidate could reach the runoff with just 20 percent of the vote.  

Texas Republicans point to former Woodville Mayor Brian Babin, former Pasadena Mayor Johnny Manlove or businessman Ben Streusand as the most likely candidates to face off in late May.  

6. What is Pete Sessions’ margin over his primary challenger? Tea party candidate Katrina Pierson has the backing of FreedomWorks and former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, but that probably won’t count for much at the polls.  

It is nearly impossible to find a Texas Republican operative who predicts Republican Rep. Pete Sessions will lose his 32nd District in the primary, let alone face a runoff.

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