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Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller, who was probably second on most lists of the most politically vulnerable officeholders in Texas, will face a Republican primary opponent in 2018.
Attorney General Ken Paxton, at the top of most lists — what with those security fraud indictments and a running legal fight with prosecutors — won’t. His challenges won’t come from his fellow Republicans, but from opponents in the November general election.
The months leading up to the candidate filing deadline were full of talk about who might challenge whom, a drawn-out round of punditry often centered on Miller and Paxton on the Republican side, and on whether Texas Democrats would cough up a full statewide slate (yes) that would include brand-name personalities (not if you’re looking for celebrities and well-established politicos).
Political cycles seem to start and start, with candidates grabbing every possible hook to win public attention. But the filing deadline for an election — for this one, it came with Monday’s close of business — is official: These are the people who will actually be on your ballots in 2018.
The speculation — about famous political people, rich people who want to be political people, regular people who’d like a chance to serve — is over.
The biggest surprise was the resurfacing of former Texas Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson, who had the job for 12 years before an unsuccessful run for lieutenant governor in 2014. He’s running against George P. Bush, whose name made him the scariest rookie in Texas politics in that year’s elections. Patterson, after saying some nice things about George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush on Monday, suggested that in GOP primaries, the bloom is off the family rose: “The Bush name is not an asset — it’s a liability.”
Patterson is the biggest-name statewide challenger in the Republican primary, but he’s not alone. Many of the top statewide incumbents — the governor, the lieutenant governor, the land commissioner — will have primary challenges. None, at the outset, rank as serious threats, but surprise is what makes an upset an upset.
Time is short. Early voting for the March 6 primaries starts on Feb. 20 — just 10 weeks from today. And the three weeks remaining in December will largely be lost, for political purposes, to the holidays.
Money could make a difference, but candidates without money — like Patterson — are making light of it. He told reporters on Monday that “there’s not enough time” for Bush to spend the $2.5 million in his campaign account. Campaigns have spent far more far faster, but Patterson is hoping his five previous statewide races have already established his name with voters. And he looks strong, compared to other Republican challengers who’ve never tried this before.
The Republican nominees — incumbent or not — will all face Democrats in November. Libertarians and other third parties are putting their tickets together, too; those candidates had to file Monday, but several of the minor parties choose their nominees in conventions.
Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez and Houston accountant Mike Collier are the best known of the Democratic candidates; her because of three countywide runs for her current post, and him because of his unsuccessful run against Comptroller Glenn Hegar four years ago. Collier changed races this cycle to challenge Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick.
The close fighting will take place down the ballot, where seven members of Congress are leaving open seats and others face primary and general election challenges. Three Texas senators — Craig Estes of Wichita Falls, Bob Hall of Edgewood and Kel Seliger of Amarillo — are being challenged by Republican primary candidates with potentially formidable backers.
In the Texas House, a number of races might serve as proxy fights between Gov. Greg Abbott, who has promised to take on legislators who didn’t support his programs this year, and House Speaker Joe Straus, who will be trying to protect some of those same members. The governor endorsed Susanna Dokupil, a former assistant attorney general to Abbott, who’s challenging state Rep. Sarah Davis of Houston, in the first of those. He hasn’t named others — yet — for what could be some of the most interesting skirmishes of the state’s 2018 primaries.
Disclosure: Jerry Patterson and the Texas General Land Office have been financial supporters of The Texas Tribune. A complete list of Tribune donors and sponsors can be viewed here.