Voting in Texas for 2018 just weeks away thanks to nation's earliest primary

Now it's the Lone Star State's turn to join the 2018 elections mix with the earliest primary elections in the nation — and with a lot at stake.

By Jeremy Wallace
Houston Chronicle

Until now, voters in Virginia, New Jersey and Alabama have had all the fun with big elections that gripped the nation, altered the United States Senate and provided an appetizer for what many expect to be a tumultuous 2018 election cycle nationwide. But now it's the Lone Star State's turn to join the mix with the earliest primary elections in the nation — and with a lot at stake.

On March 6, Texas voters will decide who will carry the Democratic party's mantle into the battle for governor and a slew of other statewide offices in the nation's biggest GOP stronghold, remake the state's Congressional delegation with eight new members likely determined during the primary in heavily gerrymandered districts, and test Sen. Ted Cruz in his first re-election since his stunning victory in 2012.

Early voting begins in just more than six weeks.

What the turnout looks like in the Texas primary will tell a lot about what lies ahead for Republicans and Democrats in 2018, said Cal Jillson, political science professor at Southern Methodist University. If there is big minority voter turnout — traditionally low in gubernatorial cycles in Texas — it could signal that the higher than expected turnout with those voters in Alabama last month in that Senate race is a developing trend nationally that could have lasting impact. . . .

In 30 of the nation's 50 states, primaries are from June to September. Texas is one of only two states that have March primaries. Illinois holds its primaries on March 20.

"It makes it difficult for voters," Jillson said. "You've just come out of the holidays, and you look up and you are just a few months before Election Day." . . . 

Jillson said the early primary benefits incumbents because they are typically better known and have more money. But in crowded fields with mostly unknown candidates the next nine weeks are an exercise in branding and building name recognition through any means possible.

"Somehow you have to embed your name in peoples' minds," Jillson said.


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