Democrats hope biggest Texas midterm primary turnout in 15 years starts national wave

WASHINGTON — Democrats hoping for a blue wave in November were buoyed, if not jubilant, Tuesday as Texas voters cast the first ballots in this year's midterms in closely-watched primaries for Senate, House, and governor.

While final numbers were nowhere near as good as suggested by the early vote — based on the state's largest, and therefore most Democratic counties — Democrats still rushed to the polls while Republicans turned out in more typical numbers.

"We are seeing some extraordinary turnout in the democratic primary in Texas that has us feeling very hopeful about what the general election might look like," Wendy Davis, the former Texas Democratic gubernatorial candidate, told MSNBC. President Donald Trump, she added, has Democrats "champing at the bit" to get to the polls.

When Davis ran in 2014, more than five Republicans voted in the gubernatorial primary for every two Democrats. This year, Democrats appear to have shrunk that gap significantly, with returns showing two Democrats voting for every three Republicans in gubernatorial primaries early Wednesday.

Republicans have been sounding the alarm for months, warning their voters not to take things for granted, even in Texas.

"We are going to see historic turnout from the extreme left in November, which means if conservatives stay home, we could lose both houses of Congress," Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, said on Hugh Hewitt's radio show Tuesday. "In Texas, if conservatives stay home, if we rest on our laurels, we could see Texas turn blue."

That's long been the dream of Democrats, who are hoping Rep. Beto O'Rourke, D-Texas, will take big leap in that direction in November by unseating Cruz.

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Both Cruz and O'Rourke easily won their party's nomination in the Senate race Tuesday, though O'Rourke underperformed some rosier expectations, showing he still has plenty of room to grow outside liberal areas like Austin.

Still, Democrats were finding plenty to cheer as results trickled in slowly across the state.

Meanwhile, George P. Bush, the nephew of former President George W. Bush, beat back a primary challenge for his reelection as Texas State Land Commissioner.

"I continue to be a partner of President Trump. We need his help in Texas," Bush said at his victory party, where he was joined by his father, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.

Texas, home to one of the largest Hispanic populations in the country, is now almost guaranteed to get not just its first Latina in Congress, but its second.

Veronica Escobar cleared a crowded primary field in O'Rourke's old seat in El Paso and is on her way to an easy race in the deep blue district in November. Sylvia Garcia is on a similar path in Houston.

Meanwhile, the Democratic family feud in the Houston suburbs will go into round two after Laura Moser made it into the May 22 runoff election against Lizzie Pannill Fletcher. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee tried to push Moser out of the race, but some analysts think it backfired and actually helped push Moser into the runoff.

"I guess the DCCC can't rig a primary as well as their counterparts at the DNC," quipped Matt Gorman, the communications director for the Republican National Campaign Committee, referring to his Democratic counterparts and the allegations the party rigged the 2016 presidential primary.

At the center of the controversy were op-eds Moser wrote expressing negative opinions about Texas and other issues. "I have recently been made aware of some hurtful language and satire that more than missed its mark. It caused real offense, and I am sorry, full stop," Moser wrote on Facebook this week.

Progressive allies of Moser wasted no time preparing to take on Fletcher. The Working Families Party, which spent $20,000 on digital ads hitting Fletcher for a case she was involved in as a lawyer that they say enriched her while hurting immigrant women, said Tuesday night that more was on the way. "We need candidates who fight for working families, not fight against them," said WFP spokesperson Joe Dinkin.

But Democratic turnout will likely overshadow internal issues.

"They have run off elections there, so you'll probably end up with the strongest Democrat in the field in most of those races," Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla. told reporters in the Capitol Tuesday. "Look, anybody who's not getting ready for a real election that is a Republican is kidding themselves."

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