The top of the ballot is weird this year. It would've been a big deal if Texas had voted on Super Tuesday — Rick Santorum, who was in the lead in all of the polls at the time, probably dreams about it — and it might remain a big deal in the national race even on May 29.
There's an open Senate race for the first time since 2002. That was the first open race since 1993 — these don't open up very often. That could be a draw for voters. And there are races for Railroad Commission and the courts, which hardly ever penetrate the public consciousness.
The heat might be local this time. Here's our early watch list, which we'll change as new information comes in during the two months between now and Election Day. Caveat: This is an early list and might not include your favorite fight. Call and share. Argue. This is politics. Caveat 2: The parties and the Secretary of State haven't taken the oath on these lists yet, and there are some clear errors. Things could change. Caveat 3: We're looking at primaries here — not the general election.
The state's congressional delegation gets four new seats and two members — Charlie Gonzales of San Antonio and Ron Paul of Lake Jackson — aren't coming back. The starting list has a baker's dozen on it.
CD-6: U.S. Rep. Joe Barton, R-Ennis, drew three primary opponents (and there are three Democrats in the hunt, too).
CD-14: Ten Republicans in the primary for Ron Paul's seat (he's not coming back) and two Democrats, including former U.S. Rep. Nick Lampson. Two libertarians, too, in a district currently held by their party's 1988 presidential candidate.
CD-15: U.S. Rep. Ruben Hinojosa, D-Mercedes, drew a crowd, including four primary opponents and four Republicans who want a crack at the winner.
CD-16: U.S. Rep. Silvestre Reyes, D-El Paso, has a serious primary opponent in Beto O'Rourke.
CD-19: It might not amount to anything, but it's always worth some conversation when an incumbent draws the opposition of the chairman of his own party in his home county. U.S. Rep. Randy Neugebauer of Lubbock will face Chris Winn in the GOP primary.
CD-23: A Democratic primary between Ciro Rodriguez, a former congressman, John Bustamante, the son of another former congressman, and Pete Gallego, a 22-year veteran of the Texas House, in a swing district that promises a close race in November, too, against incumbent Rep. Francisco "Quico" Canseco, R-San Antonio.
CD-25: The Lloyd Doggett district that Doggett won't run in. This now-open seat has a dozen Republicans in it and might cost a fortune to win, with its ends stuck in two expensive media markets of Austin and Fort Worth.
CD-27: Blake Farenthold, like Canseco, might not have won in any year but 2010. Now he's defending himself in a newly drawn district that stretches from his home in Corpus Christi up to Bastrop. Three Republicans are waiting for him and the winner will face one of four Democrats, including the former Bastrop County judge, Ronnie McDonald.
CD-30: Longtime U.S. Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson has two Democratic opponents in her South Dallas district, including Taj Clayton, a newcomer who has raised enough money to make some noise.
CD-33: Another open seat, another rumpus. Eleven Democrats, including current and former officeholders, blacks, Hispanics, people from Tarrant County, people from Dallas County, rich people, poor people. There are 30 ways to make a fight of this. The field includes Rep. Marc Veasey of Fort Worth, former Rep. Domingo Garcia, Steve Salazar of the Dallas City Council, Kathleen Hicks of the Fort Worth City Council, and David Alameel, a wealthy dentist, political financier and would-be horse track owner.
CD-34: An open seat in the Valley. Like the other open seats, this one has a herd of candidates: eight Democrats, three Republicans and a Libertarian. As in CD-33, the numbers favor the Democrats.
CD-35: This would be an open seat had Austin's Doggett not been squeezed out of his home district by the mapmakers. Now it's an Austin vs. San Antonio Battle Royale featuring Doggett on the north and Bexar County Tax Assessor-Collector Sylvia Romo on the South. It was drawn to give minority voters the upper hand, but so was the district where Doggett won after the last round of redistricting.
CD-36: The last open district strongly favors the Republicans, but which one? A dozen signed up, including former U.S. Rep. Steve Stockman and current state Sen. Mike Jackson.
SD-9: In which state Reps. Kelly Hancock of North Richland Hills and Todd Smith of Euless face off in the Republican primary for Chris Harris' seat, with heavy lobby betting on the outcome.
SD-25: Texans for Lawsuit Reform painted a bullseye on Sen. Jeff Wentworth of San Antonio this year, and he faces former Railroad Commissioner and state Rep. Elizabeth Ames Jones, along with Donna Campbell, who ran a feisty race against Doggett two years ago. This will be expensive.
SD-30 and SD-31: Barely on the watch list. Probably nothing. But keep your eyes peeled. The incumbents, Craig Estes and Kel Seliger, both drew primary challenges.
HD-3: Open seat with three Republicans.
HD-4: Freshman Rep. Lance Gooden draws an opponent, Stuart Spitzer.
HD-6: Leo Berman was going to retire and then, after Matt Schaefer jumped in, decided to stay in the race.
HD-7: A Longview rematch. Rep. David Simpson vs. former Rep. Tommy Merritt, who lost the 2010 round.
HD-9: Wayne Christian challenged by Chris Paddie, who has strong lobby support in a district that is largely new to the incumbent.
HD-10: Jim Pitts draws three challengers. That's never encouraging.
HD-11: Chuck Hopson draws two challengers.
HD-12: Open seat with five Republicans.
HD-19: Mike "Tuffy" Hamilton against James White. Incumbent v. incumbent.
HD-24: Open seat with three Republicans.
HD-26: Open seat with four Republicans.
HD-29: Open seat with two Republicans.
HD-33: Open seat with a former pro football player and a former judge on the GOP side.
HD-35: Open seat with two Democrats.
HD-40: Open seat with four Democrats.
HD-41: Open seat with two Republicans.
HD-43: Rep. J.M. Lozano in his first primary as a Republican.
HD-47: Rep. Paul Workman draws a challenge from a House staffer who worked on the redistricting maps.
HD-56: Rep. Charles "Doc" Anderson has two challengers, including local businessman Chris DeCluitt.
HD-57: Freshman Rep. Marva Beck defending a seat against Trent Ashby of Lufkin. One of several races that will test what Republican voters think of the education votes in the last session.
HD-59: Sid Miller drew two challengers while he was talking about running for Congress.
HD-65: Open seat with three Republicans.
HD-67: Open seat with six Republicans.
HD-68: Open seat with four Republicans.
HD-70: Open seat with two Republicans.
HD-74: Open seat with three Democrats.
HD-75: Open seat with three Democrats.
HD-77: Rep. Marisa Marquez, draws a challenge.
HD-83: Another rematch, this one with Rep. Charles Perry and former Rep. Delwin Jones, in Lubbock.
HD-85: Open seat with two Republicans.
HD-88: Rep. Jim Landtroop, draws three challengers, including former Rep. Gary Walker.
HD-91: Open seat with four Republicans.
HD-92: Open seat with two Republicans.
HD-93: Two challengers for Rep. Barbara Nash, including Republican activist Pat Carlson.
HD-95: Open seat with three Democrats.
HD-97: Open seat with three Republicans.
HD-101: Open seat with three Democrats, including former Reps. Paula Hightower Pierson and Chris Turner.
HD-106: Open seat with two Republicans.
HD-110: Open seat with three Democrats.
HD-114: Open seat with three Republicans, including former Rep. Bill Keffer.
HD-115: Open seat with five Republicans, including Bennett Ratliff, son of former Lt. Gov. Bill Ratliff.
HD-117: Open seat with three Democrats.
HD-121: Noisemaker. A challenger for House Speaker Joe Straus.
HD-125: Open seat with two Republicans.
HD-133: Redistricting gets Rep. Jim Murphy two Republican opponents.
HD-137: Open seat with four Democrats.
HD-144: Open seat in a swing district with two Republicans and three Democrats.
HD-146: Hatfield & McCoy, meet Borris Miles and Al Edwards. A rematch of a rematch: Edwards lost to Miles and then beat him and then lost to him.
HD-150: Another test of those education votes. Rep. Debbie Riddle drew a challenge from James Wilson.