The Big Conversation:
With fanfare in tow or not, the big day has finally arrived.
The 2012 Texas primary is here. The degree to which Texans have tuned in to this year's races, though, remains unclear.
Redistricting-induced court drama pushed the state's primaries from March to May, draining the drama from the top of the ballot, where Mitt Romney looks likely to continue his march to the Republican nomination. (Romney could, in fact, clinch the nomination in Texas tonight — no small feat.)
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Turnout, though, remains a question mark. Early-voting totals for the Republican primary have hit record highs in some parts of the state, likely thanks to a competitive U.S. Senate contest. But observers say the confusion caused by the election delays, as well as election day falling one day after a holiday, will likely dampen turnout today, causing totals to level off.
As for the real drama, the U.S. Senate race on the Republican side, in which Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst hopes to avoid a runoff against Ted Cruz or Tom Leppert, has drawn most of the attention. Democrats, too, could be headed for a runoff, likely between Paul Sadler and Sean Hubbard.
Nearly every major city — Austin, Dallas, El Paso, Houston, San Antonio — also claims at least one competitive congressional race. Competitive state House, state Senate and State Board of Education races also litter the map. Find the races to watch here.
As for the the bigger picture, the results should also offer a look into the current political climate and a forecast of the state's politics over the next two years. Which voters will show up? Which faction of the Republican Party will claim victory? How does Gov. Rick Perry play into all of this? Ross Ramsey has his best educated guesses here.
- Didn't vote early? Use our election brackets to help you find out whom you're voting for today and, after the results are in, to see which candidates have advanced to the July 31 runoffs and the November general election. And find your polling place here.
- David Dewhurst and Ted Cruz, the leading candidates in the U.S. Senate race, entered election day amid a cloud of controversy created late last week by a Dewhurst radio ad suggesting that Cruz, by way of his ties to two Hispanic groups, supports amnesty for illegal immigrants. Cruz slammed the ad, calling it "the act of a desperate man clinging to power." The ad also drew the attention of George P. Bush, who said in a statement: "When I first heard this false attack ad, I was offended not only as a Hispanic but as a Republican. We are a party of inclusion that welcomes the fastest growing demographic in our state that largely shares our conservative values of limited government, strengthening the family and supporting small business."
- According to the Houston Chronicle, Texans this election cycle have donated more to Super PACs than voters in any other state. California and New York still lead in terms of donations to campaigns and parties, on which spending is limited, but Texas leads California by more than 50 percent in donations to the top 20 Super PACs.
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- HCC Helps Qatar Fill Community College Gap, The Texas Tribune
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