Texas voters are making the first round of decisions this year about who they want to lead their state in 2015 and beyond. Democrats and Republicans are choosing their nominees for public office from the Governor's Mansion to Congress and the Texas Legislature.
Follow our liveblog below for up-to-the-minute news from our reporters across the state as they cover the candidates, their campaigns and the results from the polls. You can also see election night returns in near real time on our election scoreboard.
In Dallas County, early voting totals show Dan Branch and Ken Paxton in a virtual tie for attorney general. Glenn Hegar is running ahead of his opponents in the comptroller's race after early voting in Dallas County.
In SD-16, Don Huffines and John Carona are separated by just about 150 votes in Dallas County after early voting.
Tarrant County has released early voting numbers, and Rep. Jonathan Stickland — the Tea Party favorite — is off to a commanding lead in HD-92. He leads former high school principal Andy Cargile, with more than 63 percent of the vote.
However it all comes out, there is this: Kinky Friedman campaign manager Rania Batrice, in an open letter blasting Texas Democratic Party Chairman Gilberto Hinojosa, who put out a press release urging Democrats to vote against Friedman. She wrote:
"State Parties do not and should not endorse ANY candidates during the Primary, and you know that. I know that you are aware of the line you crossed because you had one of your spokesmen try to tap dance around the fact that you are taking part in behavior unbecoming of a party chairman. I will not stand by quietly as the party that I know and love is appropriated by people who have forgotten what Democrats stand for.
"Whether or not you like him, I chose to manage Kinky Friedman’s campaign for Agriculture Commissioner because he is not a “more of the same” candidate, and the people of Texas deserve the chance to make that decision for themselves. Even if you had endorsed Kinky, your actions would still be 100% wrong. Your job is NOT to endorse candidates during the Primary, and whoever advised you that anything to the contrary could be passed off as appropriate should be relieved of his or her duties immediately."
In SBOE District 7, longtime incumbent and businessman David Bradley and challenger Rita Ashley are nearly tied in early results, with Bradley ahead 51 percent to 48 percent. That's about 20 votes apart.
In early votes totals from Bexar County, Sen. Donna Campbell, R-New Braunfels, has a lead over her two challengers for SD-25. Campbell has 47 percent of the early votes in Bexar, while Elisa Chan, a former San Antonio city councilwoman, has 28 percent and Mike Novak, a former Bexar County commissioner, has 24 percent. SD-25 stretches from San Antonio to Austin, and includes six counties.
Early vote results suggest U.S. Sen. John Cornyn will survive a crowded primary without a runoff. Cornyn was leading his seven challengers with 65 percent of the vote, followed by U.S. Rep. Steve Stockman at 18 percent and Dwayne Stovall at 8 percent, according to results from the Texas Secretary of State.
On the Democratic side, David Alameel is leading with 53 percent, followed by Kesha Rogers at 18 percent and Maxey Scherr at 15 percent.
In the race to replace state Sen. Wendy Davis, Tarrant County early voting results show Libby Willis running ahead of Mike Martinez by about 9 points in the Democratic primary. On the Republican side, Konni Burton leads the race with 45 percent of the vote, followed by former state Rep. Mark Shelton with 35 percent.
Another early SBOE result in District 11: Patricia Hardy, the incumbent, is leading her two opponents Lady Theresa Thombs and Eric Mahroum.
All incumbent Texas Supreme Court candidates — Nathan Hecht, Jeff Brown, Phil Johnson — have double-digit early leads over their challengers.
Some tentative early vote totals in the lieutenant governor's race from major population centers: looks like Dan Patrick wins Dallas, Collin, Bexar, Harris, Tarrant and Montgomery counties. Biggest margins for Patrick so far look to be in Collin, where he is at 56 percent to incumbent David Dewhurst's 17 percent, in Harris, where he's at 60 percent to Dewhurst's 18, and in Montgomery, where he has received 61 percent to Dewhurst's 14 percent.
In one of the most closely watched congressional primary races, U.S. Rep. Pete Sessions, R-Dallas, is trailing challenger Katrina Pierson by 19 votes, according to early vote totals from the Secretary of State.
If early results are any indication, Wayne Christian and Ryan Sitton could be headed for a runoff in the four-person Republican race for Barry Smitherman's open Texas Railroad Commission seat. Christian, the former state representative, is leading with about 43 percent of the vote, while Sitton, an oil and gas engineer, has about 31 percent. About 17 percent of those voters supported the underfunded Becky Berger. Meanwhile, well-funded oil and gas investor Malachi Boyuls has less than 9 percent of those votes.
With early vote counts still coming in, Sen. Donna Campbell has a majority lead over her opponents, with 54 percent of the early votes cast in five of six counties in SD-25. Travis County has not released early vote counts. Elisa Chan, a former San Antonio city councilwoman, has 25 percent, while Mike Novak, a former Bexar County commissioner, has 21 percent.
In the Democratic race for railroad commissioner, Steve Brown leads Dale Henry, with close to 64 percent of the early votes. Henry, a retired petroleum engineer, might be a familiar name to Texas Democrats; this is his fourth run for a commission seat he has yet to nab. Brown, the former chairman of the Fort Bend County Democratic Party, however, has been far more visible in this race than Henry, who does not use email. The Railroad Commission has not had a Democratic member in two decades.
In the early votes in SBOE District 13, an open seat this year since current board member Mavis Knight is not seeking a fifth term, Erika Beltran is taking the lead. Both educator Andrea Hilburn and high school administrator Denise Russell are more than 1,000 votes behind.
U.S. Rep. Pete Sessions appears far ahead of challenger Katrina Pierson, according to early vote totals in Dallas County, which makes up most of the congressional district. In the smaller portion of the district that is in Collin County, Pierson is leading.
The Associated Press has called the race for Sessions.
House Speaker Joe Straus claims victory in HD-121; here's his statement:
"I want to thank the voters in our district who made it to the polls today and over the last couple of weeks, as well as the many volunteers who helped our campaign. I am extremely grateful for the opportunity to keep serving this community. I will continue working to provide responsible leadership for San Antonio and our entire state."
In the Republican primary for land commissioner, George P. Bush has a strong lead over David Watts, with 76 percent of the vote. Watts has 24 percent.
While U.S. Rep. Steve Stockman is trailing a distant second in his bid to unseat U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, the Republican primary race to replace Stockman in the House appears headed for a runoff.
Former Woodville Mayor Ben Bagin and Houston mortgage banker Ben Streusand are leading 10 other challengers for the Houston-area congressional seat, based on early vote totals.
Very early results indicate that former Republican congressman Francisco “Quico” Canseco could be in a runoff against San Antonio native and former CIA agent Will Hurd in the CD-23 race. Canseco leads with about 42 percent of the vote, slightly above Hurd’s 39.5 percent.
Canseco represented the district for one term until being unseated by incumbent Pete Gallego, D-Alpine, in 2012. Gallego is unopposed in the Democratic primary. The district spans from El Paso to Bexar counties and includes the largest swath of the Texas-Mexico border.
SBOE incumbents David Bradley, in District 7, and Patricia Hardy, in District 11, are currently in the lead in SBOE early voting. In open District 13, Erika Beltran takes the early lead.
U.S. Rep. Steve Stockman has conceded in his bid to unseat U.S. Sen. John Cornyn.
"We wish Senator Cornyn best of luck in November and urge everyone to vote for, volunteer for and support the whole Texas GOP ticket. #" Stockman tweeted.
The Associated Press has called the race for Cornyn.
In the Republican primary for agriculture commissioner, former state Rep. Sid Miller of Stephenville leads with 39 percent of the vote. Former state Rep. Tommy Merritt of Longview is in second, with 21 percent of the vote. So far, these are all pretty much coming from early voting returns. 471,863 people voted early in the Republican primary for this office.
Uvalde Mayor J Allen Carnes, who won the support of the Texas Farm Bureau and baseball star Nolan Ryan, is making a disappointing showing so far, with just 11 percent of the vote. That's less than his opponent Joe Cotten, who raised far less money during his campaign. For the first three weeks in January, Cotten spent no money in the race; in the eight days before early voting, he spent a total of $3,083.53.
Early results from El Paso County show incumbent state Rep. Naomi González, D-El Paso, in last place in the HD-76 Democratic primary. Challenger Cesar Blanco, a former chief of staff to U.S. Rep. Pete Gallego, leads the field of three with about 41 percent of the votes counted so far. Former state Rep. Norma Chavez has less than a 1 percent lead over Gonzalez, who sits at about 29 percent.
Democratic Party Chairman Gilberto Hinojosa on Wendy Davis' nomination:
“We are so proud that Senator Wendy Davis is our Democratic nominee to be the next Governor of Texas. Her leadership has sparked a movement across the state that is firmly focused on the future. Wendy Davis is a proven fighter, and she is ready to lead for our schools, a better economy, and more jobs. With Senators Davis and Van de Putte at the top of the ticket, Democrats know that Texas’ best days are in front of us.
"This November, Democrats offer Texans a diverse roster of strong candidates. Senator Davis and Texas Democrats are focused on keeping Texas strong and investing in the next generation. Meanwhile, Greg Abbott and Texas Republicans continue to spew toxic rhetoric. They are stuck on the fringe, supporting arcane issues, and embracing Ted Nugent, a known racist and misogynist. That is not the Texas that I know.”
Jim Hogan, a little-known farmer from Cleburne, is currently leading in the early voting totals in the Democratic primary for agriculture commissioner. Kinky Friedman is close behind, and Hugh Asa Fitzsimons III is trailing in the three-way race.
In December, I spoke with Hogan about the competition. He predicted that he would win in large part because his name had a nice ring to it. Here's what he said at the time:
"Most people don't know who anyone is. When they go in there, they look at three names. They either don’t vote at all — now, this is the primary — or they say 'eenie, meenie, miney, mo,' or they look at a name. They see Kinky Friedman and think, 'That looks familiar…Naw. Asa? Naw. Jim Hogan? I’ve heard of Hogan! Yeah, I think I’ll vote for him! He sounds like a nice guy!'"
We have called the Democratic race for Texas railroad commission for Steve Brown. With about 5 percent of precincts reporting, Brown leads Dale Henry with 63 percent of the vote. On the Republican side, Wayne Christian (41 percent) and Ryan Sitton (33 percent) still hold large leads over Becky Berger and Malachi Boyuls.
Wendy Davis takes stage to thank supporters:
"When I look at you, I know in my heart that we are going to do this," Davis said.
She also came out swinging against her Republican opponent, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, criticizing him for defending steep cuts made by the Legislature to public education in 2011 in court in response to a lawsuit filed by a coalition of school districts who say the state's education system is flawed and doesn't appropriately fund schools.
“And there’s Greg Abbott ... he’s defending those cuts,” Davis said. “Cuts that laid-off teachers and forced our kids into overcrowded classrooms.”
She also made mention of the ongoing abortion debate in the state — the issue that pushed her into the spotlight last summer when she filibustered a restrictive abortion law. Davis bashed Abbott for his anti-abortion stance, saying that Abbott wants to “dictate for all women, including victims of rape and incest.”
“I will be the governor who fights for the future of Texas,” she said, adding that “Greg Abbott is a defender of the status quo.”
"I want you to know this: I am ready to fight for you and to fight for every hardworking Texan across this state. Now is the time to fight for our future. This is not a time to stand still."
Jim Hogan, the dairy farmer and insurance agent who is running as a Democrat for agriculture commissioner, has been the big story so far in the race. Hogan spent almost nothing during his campaign and doesn't even have a campaign website.
He's watching the election returns from his home, and it was his daughter who first informed him that he is leading in the early returns with 41 percent of the vote. (Richard "Kinky" Friedman has about 38 percent of the vote, while Hugh Fitzsimons has 21 percent. That's out of 192,311 votes that have been reported so far, in 6.7 percent of the precincts.)
"It is exciting to start off and lead, but I've got no uncontrollable joy, you know what I mean?" Hogan said. "I know people are looking at that and saying, 'Who in the world is Jim Hogan?'"
Hogan said he did not spend money during the campaign because "it'd be silly to raise money. I went on the phone and the internet." He added that there was no need for a campaign website, which he doesn't have, because "somebody's going to Google you anyway."
Early results from El Paso County also show incumbent state Rep. Marisa Marquez, D-El Paso, comfortably ahead in her Democratic primary against challenger Lyda Ness-Garcia, a local attorney. Marquez holds about 66 percent of the vote in the HD-77 race. There is no Republican running for the seat, which includes portions of El Paso’s west side and downtown areas.
In the Republican primary for attorney general, Ken Paxton is currently leading the three-way race with nearly 44 percent of the early votes. Dan Branch is in second with about 31 percent. If the current results hold, those two would be in a runoff. But with 25 percent of the early vote, Barry Smitherman is closer to catching up to Branch than Branch is to Paxton.
We have called all four contests for Texas Supreme Court seats in favor of the incumbents. With about 6 percent of precincts reporting early numbers, incumbents Nathan Hecht, Jeff Brown and Phil Johnson lead their opponents with 15 percent of the vote or more. Jeffrey Boyd ran unopposed.
With about 29 percent of precincts reporting early numbers, U.S. Rep. Ralph Hall, R-Rockwall, leads with 46 percent over challenger John Ratcliffe's 29 percent. The Associated Press has called a runoff for the race.
Rep. Jonathan Stickland, R-Bedford, still holds a commanding lead over Andy Cargile in HD-92. With about 22 percent of precincts reporting, the Tea Party-backed incumbant has 64 percent of the vote.
With 17 percent of the precincts reporting in the Republican race for agriculture commissioner, Sid Miller leads with 36.6 percent of the vote. Tommy Merritt is in second place, with 21.5 percent. On the Democratic side, Jim Hogan has 40.1 percent of the vote, while Kinky Friedman has won 37.4 percent of the vote, with 21 percent of precincts reporting.
We've called the Republican primary for land commissioner in favor of George P. Bush, who gathered with friends and family at a Mexican restaurant in Fort Worth to celebrate his victory and thank supporters. With 17 percent of precincts reporting, Bush holds on to a 50-point lead ahead of his opponent David Watts.
"We have a long fight ahead of us. Our opponents will offer a politics of desperation and they will try to strike fear in the hearts of voters this general election," Bush said to supporters Tuesday night. "We will offer a politics of aspiration, and we will inspire voters in the state of Texas based upon our faith and our hope for a better tomorrow."
Bush will face off against Democrat John Cook, former mayor of El Paso, in the general election.
"I want to be a fighter for you in Austin as your land commissioner and continue fighting for these principles that we hold dearly."
State Sen. Kel Seliger, R-Amarillo, is up by only 2,100 votes, and there is still a huge chunk of Midland votes uncounted. Ector County — that's Odessa — is all in, and went for Mike Canon. Randall County is counted, and went for Seliger. And a chunk of Amarillo votes in Potter County, where Seliger ought to win, remains uncounted. Mark this as a very close race, and an incumbent who might be reaching for the Maalox.
All signs still point to a runoff in the Republican race for railroad commissioner. With 28 percent of precincts reporting, Wayne Christian (42 percent) and Ryan Sitton (32 percent) still sit comfortably atop Becky Berger (17 percent) and Malachi Boyuls (10 percent).
With 17 of 45 precincts reporting, incumbent state Rep. Naomi Gonzalez, D-El Paso, trails former state Rep. Norma Chavez by 10 votes, keeping Gonzalez out of a runoff with newcomer Cesar Blanco in the HD-76 primary. Blanco has about 41.7 percent of the votes; Chavez and Gonzalez are each at 29 percent.
With about half of precincts reporting in Tarrant County, Rep. Jonathan Stickland, R-Bedford, appears poised to keep his HD-92 seat. He leads Andy Cargile with 64 percent of the vote.
State Rep. Ralph Sheffield loses by almost 700 votes (all the votes counted, according to Bell County's election website). Molly White is the apparent winner, with no opposition in the general election ahead.
With 35 percent of the precincts reporting in the Republican primary for agriculture commissioner, Uvalde Mayor and farmer J Allen Carnes is in last place. That's a huge disappointment for the Texas Farm Bureau, one of the state's most powerful agricultural lobby groups, which endorsed him and donated tens of thousands of dollars to his campaign. Carnes also won the endorsement of several other agriculture groups across the state and even appeared in television ads around Texas with baseball star Nolan Ryan.
"If these results hold, it will of course be disappointing," said Gene Hall, spokesman for the Texas Farm Bureau. "In many ways it demonstrates how urban our state has become. It was apparent to us that social issues played a big role in an agriculture commissioner's race, and that is unprecedented. It was hard to get the attention of Republican primary voters on those issues that concern farmers and ranchers. But they are still important and we intend to keep talking about them."
Tommy Merritt trails Miller by about 120,000 votes, with 21 percent. Eric Opiela is next, with 15.6 percent of the vote, followed closely by Joe Cotten. Carnes is far behind, with just 12.5 percent of the vote or 100,931 votes.
State Rep. Matt Schaefer holds a comfortable 22-point lead over challenger Skip Ogle in HD-6 with nearly half the precincts reporting, according to the Smith County election website. Schaefer is one of that group of Tea Party freshmen whose bid for re-election was seen as a bellwether for that group's staying power in the House.
In the Republican race for railroad commissioner, we're calling a runoff between Wayne Christian and Ryan Sitton. With 42 percent of precincts reporting, Christian had tallied 42 percent of the votes, to Sitton's 31 percent. "On to the runoff! Thank you for your support, I look forward to the chance to serve as you!" Sitton tweeted.
Sen. Donna Campbell maintains a strong lead in SD-25. With 41 percent of precincts reporting, Campbell has 54 percent of the vote. Elisa Chan, is in second place with 25 percent, followed by Mike Novak.
Barry Smitherman has conceded in the Republican primary for attorney general, which appears bound for a runoff between Ken Paxton and Dan Branch.
“I want to congratulate Dan Branch and Ken Paxton for running clever campaigns," Smitherman said in a statement. "Even though my campaign was not successful, I hope my ideas and plans for the Office of the Attorney General will be considered by those still in the race."
He went on to say that those ideas and plans included standing up to Washington and prioritizing prosecution of crime along the border.
With 82 percent of precincts reporting, SD-10 is likely to see a runoff between Republicans Konni Burton and former state Rep. Mark Shelton. Updated results out of Tarrant County show Burton holding onto 44 percent of the vote followed by Shelton with 36 percent.
On the Democratic side, with 85 percent of precincts counted, Libby Willis is increasing her lead over Mike Martinez, holding onto 56 percent of the vote. Martinez has 44 percent of the vote.
State Rep. Lon Burnam is down 111 votes to Ramon Romero Jr. in HD-90, according to the Tarrant County's election website. The county has just 102 of 694 precincts left to report.
We're calling a victory for Rep. Jonathan Stickland, R-Bedford, in HD-92. With 82 percent of precincts reporting, he nabbed 65 percent of the vote over Andy Cargile. Stickland will face Tina Penney in the general election. The Democrat ran unopposed in her primary.
With 38 of 45 precincts reporting, incumbent state Rep. Naomi Gonzalez, D-El Paso, now trails former state Rep. Norma Chavez by 74 votes, keeping Gonzalez out of a runoff with newcomer Cesar Blanco. Blanco has about 43 percent of the votes; Chavez is at 29 while Gonzalez is at 28 percent.
In El Paso’s HD-77, Marisa Marquez, D-El Paso is headed toward a fourth term after beating Lyda Ness-Garcia, an attorney who has tried to tie Marquez to GOP donors and special interests.
With only two precincts left to report, Marquez led with 64 percent of the vote to Ness-Garcia’s 34 percent. There is no Republican challenger.
All precincts are counted in HD-90. State Rep. Lon Burnam has lost to Ramon Romero Jr. by 111 votes.
With 88 percent of precincts reporting, HD-53, the seat vacated by Harvey Hilderbran, appears to be headed to a runoff between Andrew Murr, who is at 41 percent, and Rob Henneke, at 28 percent.
With 56 percent of the precincts reporting, it looks like there will be a runoff between former state Reps. Sid Miller, of Stephenville, and Tommy Merritt, of Longview, in the Republican race for agriculture commissioner. Miller has 35.5 percent of the votes, leading Merritt, who has 21 percent, by nearly 150,000 votes.
With 99 percent of precincts reporting, HD-53 is, in fact, headed for a runoff between former Kimble County Attorney Andrew Murr, who has 41 percent. Kerr County Attorney Rob Henneke has 29 percent.
We're calling a victory for Democrat Libby Willis in SD-10. With 95 percent of precincts reporting, she leads with 56 percent of the vote ahead of Mike Martinez's 44 percent.
On the Republican side, Tea Party activist Konni Burton and former state Rep. Mark Shelton are, in fact, headed into a runoff. With 89 percent of precincts counted, Burton nabbed 43 percent of the vote to Shelton's 35 percent.
Rep. Diane Patrick, R-Arlington, concedes to challenger Tony Tinderholt, via Twitter: "Congratulations Tony Tinderholt I hope you will continue to fight for Arlington as I have for the past 22 years!"
We've called SD-25 for incumbent Sen. Donna Campbell. Her response:
"We ran a strong campaign with a strong conservative message. We focused on the issues important to Texas families, and tonight’s victory is an affirmation of the success I had fighting for our conservative values in the Legislature. I thank God for this victory and I will never stop fighting to keep Texas strong and our families free and prosperous. Why? Because folks, we don’t have another Texas to move to!”
With 83 percent of the precincts now reporting, Sid Miller still leads in the Republican primary by a wide margin of 14 percent over Tommy Merritt. That amounts to about 156,000 votes. When the two former state House colleagues campaign in the runoff, expect both of them to continue running to the right.
Merritt says he'll tout his credentials as a "conservative businessman" and label Miller as nothing but a "registered lobbyist." Miller, on the other hand, says that he is an "extreme conservative" while Merritt is nothing but an "extreme moderate."
With 243 of 270 precincts counted, the margin between Huffines and Carona in SD-16 has widened slightly — Huffines now up by about 900 votes.
Matt Rinaldi has defeated HD-115 incumbent Bennett Ratliff by 92 votes out of 8,230 votes cast, according to the Dallas County elections website.