Election 2022: Texas primary tests GOP right turn | National Policy

By WILL WEISSERT and PAUL J. WEBER – Associated Press

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Texas voters will kick off the midterm campaign season with primaries that will test just how far right the Republican Party will change in a state where many GOP members have already tightened their grip on former President Donald Trump.

Outgoing Republican Governor Greg Abbott seems well placed to secure his party’s nomination for another term after Tuesday’s vote. Starting the campaign with more than $50 million, he built tough stances on guns, immigration and abortion.

GOP primary for attorney general may be more competitive as incumbent Ken Paxton is seeking a third term. He faces several challengers, including the Texas Land Commissioner George P Bush and US Representative Louie Gohmert, who promise to restore order in the office. Paxton fought an unsuccessful lawsuit to overturn the 2020 election and has for years faced securities fraud charges and an FBI investigation into corruption allegations. He has largely denied wrongdoing.

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Democrats face their own challenges after nearly three decades of statewide losses. Former Congressman Beto O’Rourke has little competition for the nomination for party governor, but he faces high odds in the fall. US Representative for nine terms. Henry Cuellar, meanwhile, hopes to avoid becoming the first Democratic congressman to lose a primary this year. He faces a closely guarded challenge from progressive rival Jessica Cisneros and deals with the fallout of a recent FBI raid on his home. Cuellar has denied any wrongdoing.

Yet in America’s largest Republican state, much of the attention will be on the GOP’s rightward shift. The shift is especially pronounced in Texas, where rapid growth — driven by more than 4 million new residents — has pushed once solidly red suburbs away from Republicans. But the GOP countered that with redesigned maps that left fewer competitive congressional districts as well as new restrictions on voting rules.

Already, thousands of mail-in ballot requests — and actual ballots — have been rejected under the state’s new requirements. Most of them were due to voters not including newly mandated identification, which worries local election officials that many will not fix the issues to make their vote count.

“Common sense will tell you that there will be a number of people who won’t heal this ballot,” said Bruce Sherbert, the nonpartisan election administrator for Collin County, located in the northern suburbs of Dallas.

This year’s primary season begins at a pivotal moment in American life.

The United States regularly emerges from the deepest troughs of a pandemic which has been raging for almost two years. But this is tempered by inflation reaching a high level for decades and a nascent war in Europe. And there are lingering questions about the country’s commitment to basic democratic principles after many GOP leaders tied themselves to Trump’s lie that the 2020 election was stolen — a particularly acute phenomenon in Texas.

“There really isn’t a candidate on the Republican side who stands up for the rule of law and supports the fact that the 2020 election was free, fair and accurate,” said Christine Todd Whitman, former Republican Governor of New Jersey. , who criticizes Trump and is the co-chair of the United States United Democracy Center, a nonprofit that works to protect elections. “It’s Texas. What can I say ?

Still, Tuesday’s results could have lasting implications. After Texas, the primaries in the other states will not resume until May. That means the results here could be seen for months as a gauge of the nation’s political mood.

Republicans are betting Tuesday will be the first step toward their easy resumption of Congress in November, pointing to President Joe Biden low approval rates, inflation spike and anger at the chaotic withdrawal of US forces in Afghanistan.

“I don’t know how you can solve the incompetence problem,” Minnesota Rep. Tom Emmer, head of the Republican National Congressional Committee, said in a recent interview. “I don’t think it’s going to go away.”

History is also on the side of the GOP. The party controlling the White House has lost congressional seats in the first midterm race in every election cycle this century except 2002, in the aftermath of the September 11 terrorist attacks under President George W. Bush.

But the fight for the party’s future is much fiercer than it was 20 years ago.

U.S. Representative Van Taylor of North Texas, for example, became a target for some on the right after voting to certify Biden’s election victory and to create an independent commission to investigate last year’s insurgency. on January 6. The Republican now faces four main challengers who largely refused to accept Biden’s victory and tried to play down the attack on the US Capitol.

Businesswoman Suzanne Harp, one of the Republicans aiming to unseat Taylor, said the left is “using the divisive language of ‘domestic terrorism’ to distract from the fraudulent election” and ultimately trying to s assure that “President Trump will never be able to run for political office”. again.”

One of the most legendary dynasties in Republican politics could also come to an end on Tuesday. George P. Bush, whose father was governor of Florida and whose uncle and grandfather were president, is the last of his family in office but may not be able to get enough support to force a runoff against Paxton, which was endorsed by Trump.

National Democrats say Trump’s still outsized influence on the GOP and an economy rebounding from the pandemic could help them counter political precedent. Still, disagreements between the party’s progressive and more moderate wings in Congress have helped doom Build Back Better, a Biden-backed sweeping spending and social program.

Cisneros is one of three Texas progressives who could secure Democratic nominations in fairly blue-for-all House districts but guarantee they make it to Congress.

A 28-year-old immigration attorney who supports fully government-funded health care under Medicare for All, Cisneros nearly unseated Cuellar in the 2020 Texas primary. However, she still has to overcome Cuellar’s high notoriety.

Cisneros was endorsed by progressive Vermont stalwarts Senator Bernie Sanders and New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, who campaigned with her and with Greg Casar, an Austin City Councilman who has championed a minimum wage of $15 citywide and is favored to win the Democratic nomination. for an open house seat representing the capital of Texas.

In Dallas, civil rights lawyer and state legislator Jasmine Crockett has denounced the “puppets” of the Democratic establishment and is running for a seat vacated by longtime Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson, who vacated her. approved.

Maurice Mitchell, national director of the Working Families Party advocacy group, which has joined major national progressive organizations in endorsing Cisneros, Casar and Crockett, said all three are young and championed by grassroots organizers in their deeply diverse communities. . He said they prove that progressive ideas can be popular in a conservative state like Texas and, rather than stoking intraparty squabbles, anything could energize Democratic voters.

“They are both rising stars for the progressive movement and rising stars for the Democratic Party,” Mitchell said. “If you want to fend off these historic headwinds, you have to be able to produce candidates who can enliven your base. And these are three candidates who can do it.

Weissert reported from Washington. Associated Press writer Acacia Coronado in Austin, Texas contributed to this report.

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

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