If you’re wondering what happened on Tuesday in Texas in the state’s much-anticipated primary, here is what you need to know.
1. Tu madre, Donald Trump! Although President Trump appeared nowhere on any ballot, he directly spurred voter turnout in a notoriously pre-occupied state famous for its political indifference. The Associated Press quoted Democratic congressional candidate Veronica Escobar who argued that it was all about Trump. “I’ve spoken to innumerable senior citizens, retirees, parents of disabled children, people who understand what this administration means to their families. And they’re afraid.” Whether fearful or angry, over one million Democrats voted on Tuesday, versus 1.5 million Republicans who gave incumbent Senator Ted Cruz a resounding primary win. But the November elections will provide some epic confrontations for Cruz and other Republicans. No fewer than 50 women are — like Escobar — suddenly contesting congressional races in what had long been considered safe GOP seats.
What is fueling their optimism is the long-simmering cultural resentment that Donald Trump seemingly heightens with every tweet. While the Latino vote is not easily categorized in Texas or anywhere else, what happens when an entire ethnic group feels uniformly disrespected by our 44th president? Winning a majority in the House might mean that newly elected Democrats would get the first shot at considering articles of impeachment against Donald Trump.
2. Money still talks. The other headline-grabber on Tuesday night was the upset win in the Democratic primary by newcomer Joe Gonzales over Bexar County District Attorney Nico LaHood. Democrats clearly sensed that Trump’s frequent disparaging of Mexicans could help them transform Texas from red to blue. An important first battle: inflicting a stinging defeat on Nico LaHood, sending a strong national signal as well as rallying their base. For one thing, Nico was always more popular with Republicans than Democrats. For another, he talked more like a preacher than a politician, an outspoken evangelical Christian as likely to be seen addressing Bible classes as political gatherings. In addition to such obviously unsettling beliefs, Democrats also remembered something else. In 2014 Nico had ousted a 16-year Republican incumbent largely because of six-figure donations provided by Thomas J. Henry, a wealthy personal injury lawyer. Well, maybe two could play at that game! As Daily Caller readers will recall, George Soros saw a chance to make the Bexar County district attorney race into a referendum on “sanctuary cities,” pumping in donations that, according to some estimates, may ultimately total a million dollars. The advertising blitz painted Nico as “bigoted and Islamophobic” while the Gonzales footage featured him speaking of the need for “respect” — particularly toward “immigrants.” The 60-40 percent win by Gonzales proved the effectiveness of the Democrats’ tactical assessment. But it also validates a likely component of their national strategy: Hardcore “progressive” themes wielded by well-financed candidates will mobilize the base and win elections.
3. Republicans fiercely oppose abortion but insist on eating their young. Representative Lyle Larson is a member of the Texas State Legislature, an odd assemblage of bubbas and good-ole-boys that meets for a couple of months every other year. In such a setting, it helps enormously that Larson is a conservative small businessman who has served in elective positions at the city and county levels as well as in Austin. That three-decade record of service makes him in the eyes of some a Republican in Name Only. It doesn’t help either that Larson is an acknowledged expert on water resources — vital in drought-plagued Texas — or that he is comfortable talking across the aisle with his Democratic colleagues. In the mind of Texas Governor Greg Abbott, all of that made Larson an enemy. Even as the Democratic hordes gathered for the charge, Governor Abbott inexplicably endorsed Larson’s primary opponent, a political neophyte, and may even have spent a quarter-million dollars to defeat “Liberal Lyle.” Nevertheless, Larson’s constituency knew him well to give him a 60-40 percent win. His victory statement tactfully pointed out that Governor Abbott hadn’t done “himself any good by coming after me in Bexar County.”
But among the questions left hanging: What on earth was Governor Abbott thinking? Why isn’t the top Republican in the Lone Star State trying to advance a broadly-based coalition of rising young leaders rather than tearing them down, seemingly on a whim? With Democrats on the march, how does the Governor plan on reinforcing the GOP’s chronically weak grassroots organizations? Unlike the preferred country clubs of the party faithful, voting is not “by invitation only.”
So stay tuned, folks, because it’s going to be a hard ride until November.
Colonel Kenneth Allard is a former Army intelligence officer, West Point professor and military analyst for NBC News.
The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.