The Big Conversation

Texas voters turned out en masse on Tuesday, lifting Ted Cruz and Hillary Clinton to victories in the Republican and Democratic presidential primaries.

Both party contests had generated a high level of interest. Cruz desperately needed a win to bolster his argument that Republicans should rally around him as the best alternative to Donald Trump. Clinton, meanwhile, wanted to leverage her longtime ties to Texas Democrats to solidify her advantage over Bernie Sanders for the Democratic nomination.

Texas voters came through for both candidates in a big way. On the Republican side, participation had surged past 2.5 million with more than 80 percent of precincts counted. Cruz had won 1.1 million votes. Clinton, meanwhile, had taken close to 900,000 votes out of almost 1.4 million votes cast.

But for all the talk of high turnout spurred by newcomers to the process, down ballot incumbents fared well for the most part. House Speaker Joe Straus won his re-election contest handily. Two close allies, state Reps. Charlie Geren, R-Fort Worth, and Byron Cook, R-Corsicana, also won. Cook's win, though, was dramatic as he trailed the challenger Thomas McNutt for most of the evening before posting a final winning margin of 222 votes.

The Texas Tribune thanks its sponsors. Become one.

Anti-Straus incumbents also did well with state Reps. Jonathan Stickland, R-Bedford, and Tony Tinderholt, R-Arlington, both winning easily despite drawing organized opposition from establishment elements in the party.

The House incumbents who lost Tuesday night were split more or less evenly between Straus allies — Marsha Farney, R-Georgetown, and Debbie Riddle, R-Tomball — and anti-Straus members — Molly White, R-Belton, and Stuart Spitzer, R-Kaufman.

And despite speculation that some incumbent Supreme Court justices and GOP congressmen might get caught up in an anti-incumbent tsunami, they all held on to their seats with varying degrees of ease.

For fuller details, check out the coverage by Tribune staffers in the Must Reads section below.

Trib Must Reads

Supreme Court To Hear Arguments on Texas Abortion Law, by Alexa Ura — After a long legal journey, a challenge to Texas' 2013 abortion law reaches the U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday with oral arguments set over the constitutionality of restrictions collectively known as House Bill 2. Here's a primer.

Republican Presidential Race Boosts Primary Turnout, by Terri Langford — Voting turnout in Texas surged on Tuesday with the highest number of Republican voters making it to the polls for the party's primary in more than a decade, thanks largely to a volatile presidential party contest.

The Texas Tribune thanks its sponsors. Become one.

In Texas Congressional Races, Incumbents Stay Safe, by Morgan Smith and Abby Livingston — Despite some handwringing over primary challengers — and the unpredictability wrought by a presidential primary election’s high voter turnout — members of the Texas congressional delegation managed to hold on to their seats Tuesday.

Outspoken Education Board Candidate Appears Headed to Runoff, by Kiah Collier — An East Texas Republican who once claimed President Obama used to be a gay prostitute appears headed for a May 24 primary runoff in the race to represent District 9 on the State Board of Education.

Despite Support, Former Lawmaker Ousted From Statewide Race, by Jim Malewitz — Former Texas Rep. Lon Burnam went into Tuesday’s Democratic primary for a spot on the Texas Railroad Commission with a litany of high-profile endorsements. But the longtime Fort Worth lawmaker will exit the race empty-handed.

Gary Gates, Wayne Christian Advance to Railroad Commission Runoff, by Jim Malewitz — The Republican race for Texas Railroad Commission is chugging toward a runoff between Rosenberg rancher and real estate mogul Gary Gates and former state Rep. Wayne Christian. 

Hillary Clinton Projected to Defeat Bernie Sanders in Texas, by Abby Livingston and Jamie Lovegrove — The Texas Tribune projects that Hillary Clinton has easily won a majority of the statewide vote in the Texas Democratic primary, dominating her rival for the party's nomination, U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont.

Cruz Claims Texas, Oklahoma Wins, by Patrick Svitek — Ted Cruz on Tuesday added two more wins in the Republican presidential primaries, claiming victory at home and in Oklahoma in an otherwise disappointing night for a campaign that had hoped to be closer than ever to the nomination by now.

Incumbents Holding Supreme Court Seats, Criminal Court Runoffs Likely, by Jordan Rudner — Lawyers arguing in front of the Texas Supreme Court next year likely won’t need to memorize any new faces. All three Republican incumbents running for reelection are winning their primary races. 

Veteran Lawmakers Dominate in Texas Senate Races, by Edgar Walters — Veteran Texas legislators were the biggest winners in four high-profile races for Texas Senate seats.

The Texas Tribune thanks its sponsors. Become one.

Straus, and Most of His Allies, Survive Challenges From Right, by Matthew Watkins — House Speaker Joe Straus sailed to victory in his re-election bid and he avoided a significant net loss in fights between hard right conservatives and his lieutenants elsewhere in the state.

UH Task Force: Ban Guns in All But One Residence Hall, by Matthew Watkins — A task force at the University of Houston has recommended in a draft campus carry policy that guns be banned in all residence halls on campus, except one.

Cruz: After Super Tuesday, Some Need to Consider Dropping Out, by Patrick Svitek — Hours before polls closed in Super Tuesday states, Ted Cruz began making the argument that the results of the day's nominating contests should cause some his presidential rivals to consider dropping out of the race.

The Day Ahead

•     The Tribune's Evan Smith, Abby Livingston, Patrick Svitek and the Texas Politics Project's Jim Henson are joining Ross Ramsey for a special live post-primary edition of TribCast. The conversation starts at 8 a.m. at the Austin Club, and will be live streamed for those who can't attend in person.

Elsewhere

Reports: Lawsuit Challenging Ted Cruz's Eligibility Thrown Out, The Washington Post

Cruz: I’m not interested in replacing Scalia on the Supreme Court, The Dallas Morning News

This year, ‘I voted’ stickers in Dallas County include which party you voted for, The Dallas Morning News

Attorney review stalled amid Public Integrity Unit funding struggles, Austin American-Statesman

Hurd, Gallego headed for rematch, San Antonio Express-News

South Texas’s only abortion clinic is battleground for major Supreme Court case, The Washington Post

Super Tuesday 2016: Lindsey Graham: 'We may have to rally around' Ted Cruz, Politico

In Texas, Alternative Voter Cards More 'Illusion' than 'Remedy’, Texas Observer

Sen. John Cornyn calls Trump an ‘albatross’ to the Republican Party, The Dallas Morning News

Texas Ag Commish Sid Miller's Office Lives High on the Hog, Texas Observer 

Quote to Note

“If Joe’s a liberal then Ronald Reagan was a communist.”

Joe Straus Jr., House Speaker Joe Straus' father, saying he was confident about his son's chances in yesterday's primary

News From Home

Presidential candidates from both parties descended on Texas in recent weeks hoping to woo voters here ahead of Super Tuesday. Here’s a selection of our favorite photos from the Texas campaign trail.

Trib Events for the Calendar

•    Protecting Houston Before the Next Big Storm on March 3 at San Jacinto College Maritime Technology and Training Center in La Porte.

•    A Conversation with Sid Miller, Texas Agriculture Commissioner on March 10 at the Austin Club

•    How High is the Water? A Data Visualization Party on March 13 at Umbel Corp

•    A Conversation with Reps. Craig Goldman, Stephanie Klick and Ramon Romero Jr. on March 29 at Texas Christian University in Fort Worth.

•    A Conversation with Sen. Carlos Uresti and Rep. Poncho Nevárez on April 13 at Sul Ross State University in Alpine

•    A Symposium on the Texas Economy on April 29 at the University of Houston