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Closing Time Comes Early

Who's voting? What's that new PAC spending money on Michael Williams' behalf? What did the parties put in the red meat portion of their ballots?

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Some of the early voting numbers are high, but it's impossible to know until after the election exactly what's going on. Early voting is sometimes a sign of the interest in an election and indicates a bigger overall turnout. Early voting is sometimes a sign that campaigns are really well organized at getting their folks out before Election Day. Sometimes, it means voters have thought about whether they want to wait — in this year's case, until after a three-day weekend — to go to the polls. We won't know until the votes are counted just how many people voted, and how many of those voted early. 

You have to wait for the autopsy.

More anecdotal information: Polling in selected House races by a loose coalition of lobsters and political wonks seems to show incumbents bouncing back after early worries. More than one person related this, but nobody was willing to show their numbers, so put it in the speculation folder. And the acid test, if this is a low turnout year, will be whether the pollsters in these and other polls made correct assumptions about who will actually vote. 

If everybody was voting, it would be easy.

Here's a new one: CATPAC, short of Conservatives Acting Together Political Action Committee, has pumped $113,646 into ads benefiting Michael Williams, the former Texas Railroad Commission now seeking a congressional seat in CD-25. The group turned up in Federal Election Commission reports in mid-April filed by treasurer Jill Mellinger of Dallas. A later report shows some early donors, all from the Dallas area: Richard Collins, Kyle Stallings, and Gary Griffith.

Rep. Rick Hardcastle, R-Vernon, endorsed Trent McKnight to replace him in the Texas House. Hardcastle isn't seeking another term; McKnight is one of four Republicans wanting to represent that 22-county district.

Gov. Rick Perry endorsed (and visited for public events) Reps. Ralph Sheffield, R-Temple, and Rob Eissler, R-The Woodlands. The governor endorsed Don Willett, who is seeking reelection to the Texas Supreme Court. And Perry's making a visit next week to Marshall, where he'll be endorsing Rep. Wayne Christian, R-Center, over the local challenger, Chris Paddie.

Former U.S. Rep. Martin Frost, D-Dallas, endorsed Chris Turner, who is trying to win his way back into the Texas House. Turner and one of his opponents, Paula Hightower Pierson, lost their seats in the 2010 Republican landslide. Now they're vying against each other (and Vickie Barnett) for an open seat in Tarrant County.

Rep. Lance Gooden, R-Terrell, had Forney Mayor Darren Rozell listed as a supporter, but the mayor will be voting for challenger Stuart Spitzer.

Rep. Todd Smith, in a political cage match with Rep. Kelly Hancock for an open Senate seat, got an endorsement from Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price. Hancock countered with an endorsement from former Texas GOP Chairman Tom Pauken and with support from 40 local Republican precinct chairs. The winner of that primary will likely replace Chris Harris in the state Senate.

Rep. David Simpson, R-Longview, pulled out a similar list in his rematch against former Rep. Tommy Merritt, R-Longview. Simpson has "over 40" Republican officials from the district on his endorsement roster.

File for later: Republican voters are looking at five ballot questions that are non-binding but will likely show up in some form or fashion as the party does its new platform. They're all yes/no propositions: government should be prohibited from restricting content of public prayer; government spending growth should be limited to the combination of population growth and inflation, subject to voter approval; the Legislature should redraw political lines "in order to remedy inequities"; the state should fund education by giving the money to the school chosen by the students' parents; and congress should repeal the federal health care law.

Democrats have three yes/no referenda on their ballot: any Texas high school grads with three years residency should be eligible for in-state tuition and should be able to earn legal citizenship status through college work or military service; the Legislature should fund colleges and universities in a way that makes tuition and fees affordable; and the Legislature should allow Texans to vote on casino gaming with the proceeds going to education.

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