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The Brief: March 5, 2014

Some questions got answered in Tuesday's primary contests as the conversation now shifts to the May runoff elections and to the November general elections.

Vote signs outside early voting locations in Austin on Feb. 23, 2014.

The Big Conversation

It's just about impossible to encapsulate all that happened in Tuesday's primary contests in a handful of paragraphs. For that, check the articles highlighted below and those collected on TribWire. But here are a few observations from 30,000 feet on how things went and what that portends for the upcoming May runoffs and November general election:

•    One of the big questions was whether the parties' standard bearers — gubernatorial candidates Greg Abbott and Wendy Davis — would help or hurt themselves on a primary day where neither candidate faced a high-profile challenge. Abbott certainly seemed to do himself no harm, collecting more than 1.2 million votes even though the total number of votes cast in the gubernatorial contest trailed turnout in both 2012 and 2010. Davis, on the other hand, didn't break 80 percent against an underfunded candidate. She also could not break 450,000 votes and lost in a series of counties across South Texas, stoking talk of an enthusiasm gap by Republican operatives on social media Tuesday night.

•    In another sore point for Democrats, two thorns in their side — U.S. Senate candidate Kesha Rogers and agriculture commissioner candidate Kinky Friedman — made runoff races, meaning both will be around for at least a few more weeks. It also means they will have the opportunity to say or do something that distracts from the candidates at the top of the Democratic slate.

•    U.S. Sen. John Cornyn didn't quite make it to 60 percent, but he cruised to victory in a race that didn't seem like it would be this easy two months ago. House Rules Chairman Pete Sessions also handily beat back a Tea Party challenge. Overall, there were enough victories on either side of the establishment/movement conservative divide to allow both to claim a good night.

•    There's plenty more work to be done before the summer as roughly two dozen races are going to runoffs, most of them on the Republican side. And spare a thought for Glenn Hegar, who is sitting at 49.99 percent in the Republican race for comptroller with just four precincts still out across the entire state.

•    Voters sent home at least eight incumbents, a figure in line with other election cycles in recent years. The late news that state Sen. John Carona's legislative career was ended by Don Huffines in an unusually expensive and nasty primary fight was huge. Also big was the loss of Fort Worth Democrat Lon Burnam, one of the few remaining white male Democrats in the Texas House, in a district drawn to favor a Hispanic challenger. He barely won two years ago, but his luck ran out Tuesday against Ramon Romero Jr., losing by 111 votes out of nearly 5,100 votes cast.

The Day Ahead

•    Join us for a special live Post-Primary Election TribCast at the Austin Club. We will livestream the event, beginning at 8 a.m.

Today in the Trib

For Tea Party Targets, Enthusiasm No Match for Funds: "In the most closely watched races, strong interest among Tea Party groups turned out to be a first step for campaigns hoping to unseat incumbents. The next step, access to ample funding, proved pivotal to a campaign's success."

A Rundown of the Runoffs on the May 27 Ballot: "Republican primary races for lieutenant governor and attorney general are among several that are headed for runoffs this year in Texas. Check out the list of races that are set for the May 27 runoff ballot."

Voters Dispatch Familiar Figures to the Private Sector: "The list of Tuesday's losers — a feature of every election — includes an unusual number of well-established officeholders, particularly in top state races."

Statewide Races Offer Some Surprises, Runoffs: "The down-ballot statewide races on both the Republican and Democratic sides yielded a number of runoffs and some surprises on Tuesday night."

Two Republican Factions Split House Races: "In Tuesday's House primaries, establishment Republicans and movement conservatives split the trophies, and at least one incumbent — a Democrat — was a hair's breadth from a runoff."

News App: Updated 2014 Election Brackets: "Our brackets offer a guide to the 2014 elections, documenting the step-by-step political journey from the March primaries, to the May runoffs and the general election in November."

Must-Read

Analysis: Tea party movement apparently wasn't over after all, Houston Chronicle

Fikac: Davis, Abbott battle begins anew, San Antonio Express-News

Herman: Was Tuesday Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst’s day of reckoning?, Austin American-Statesman

Huffines narrowly wins nailbiter and ends Carona’s long Legislative career, The Dallas Morning News

Challenger wins GOP chair race, Houston Chronicle

After 32 years in office, Guerra loses race for District Attorney, McAllen Monitor

Texas House District 76: Blanco, Chávez headed to runoff; Gonzalez out, El Paso Times

Win or lose, politics good for Patrick’s radio station, San Antonio Express-News

Quote to Note

"A lot of people thought a lot of Judge Tinley, and they (voted for him) to honor him."

— Kerr County judge candidate Tom Pollard, on the incumbent Pat Tinley. Even though Tinley died on Jan. 7, he received enough votes to force Pollard into a runoff with the third candidate in the race, Bob Waller.

Trib Events for the Calendar

•    A Conversation With Sen. Wendy Davis, 2014 Democratic Candidate for Governor, at Stateside at the Paramount, 3/6

•    A Conversation With Sen. Charles Schwertner and Reps. John Raney and Kyle Kacal at Texas A&M University in College Station, 3/27

•    A Conversation with U.S. Rep. Mike Conaway at Midland College in Midland, 5/13

•    Save the date for the 2014 Texas Tribune Festival: 9/19-9/21

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