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Texas This Week: Previewing the March primary with Ross Ramsey of The Texas Tribune

Texans are less than one month away from the start of early voting in the March primary. Ross Ramsey joined Ashley Goudeau to discuss the races to watch.

AUSTIN, Texas — In this week's edition of Texas This Week, Ross Ramsey, cofounder and executive editor of The Texas Tribune, joined KVUE Managing Editor of Political Content Ashley Goudeau to discuss the upcoming primary election.

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Ross Ramsey of The Texas Tribune talks 2022 primary election

The 2022 election season is ramping up. Texans have just two weeks left to register to vote, and early voting starts in just about a month. Both Democratic and Republican voters in Texas have a lot of candidates to sort through, so Co-founder and Executive Editor of The Texas Tribune Ross Ramsey joined KVUE to talk about some of the big races.

Ashley Goudeau: Let's talk a bit about this upcoming primary election that will be here before we know it. The list of candidates on both the Democratic and Republican tickets are quite long. Are we just seeing more people actively involved in politics?

Ross Ramsey: "I don't know. I think, you know, oftentimes in primary elections, you get a lot of names. What makes the names so confusing, or potentially confusing this year, is some of them sound like former officials; some of them are in races where even the best-known candidate is not particularly well known, so you're just looking at a field of names. You know, some of these ballots have eight to 10 names on them, and unless you know exactly who it is you're going to vote for, this could be really confusing and you could get some really funny bounces if voters aren't really tuned in."

Goudeau: I think the more interesting races, which you may disagree with, I feel most of the interesting races are actually on that Republican ticket.

Ramsey: "I think that's right. I think, you know, the trend in Texas for a long time has been Republicans winning statewide elections, and that's going to be true until it's not. The Democrats haven't won a statewide race since 1994. And so you look to the Republican side really, you know, given recent history, to see what's going to happen over there. Gov. Abbott has a couple of well-financed or well-known candidates to his right, which seems unusual with a conservative governor. That's going to be interesting. The lieutenant governor looks pretty safe in his primary and then the attorney general's race on the Republican side in particular is really interesting."

Goudeau: I want to dive in a little bit more about a couple of these races, first and foremost, the governor's race. Gov. Abbott, while it is going to be tough, he is expected, I think, to win. But one of the things that's interesting is there is a candidate named Rick Perry on the ballot. 

Ramsey: "Yeah, there is somebody that doesn't like Gov. Abbott very much, got a Rick Perry from Springtown, and this is not the former governor and not the former energy secretary, not the Rick Perry we've seen so much of. But people are going to see that name, and this is exactly what I'm talking about. If they go into the booth and they're in the slightest bit irritated with Greg Abbott, for whatever reason, they might look up and down that ballot and say, 'Well, Rick Perry's back, I could do that.' So I think part of the challenge for Greg Abbott and the other candidates is going to be to tell voters, 'Hey, that's not, that's not your father's or your mother's Rick Perry.'"

Goudeau: Let's move down to the attorney general's race. We're going to go back to the Republican ballot here. This is, I think, a very interesting race, given the fact that now Congressman Louie Gohmert (R-Tyler) has thrown his name in and he's trying to defeat Ken Paxton. 

Ramsey: "Everybody on this race has been in a ballot before, or all the big names in this have been on a ballot before. George P. Bush, the land commissioner, is running against the incumbent Ken Paxton, who is the attorney general, against a former Supreme Court justice, Eva Guzman, who quit the court to make this race. And then, as you say, Louie Gohmert is in here. So one of the interesting things when these votes come in is going to be to look at a map of Texas and see where the pockets of support were. How strong is the Bush name in the Republican Party? How strong is the incumbent who is under indictment on one set of charges that's going on seven years old, and under investigation on another set that we haven't seen the results of yet? And then, you know, I just think this is going to be a very interesting race with a lot of money in it and in some ways more interesting to watch on Election Day than the governor or the lieutenant governor's race."

Goudeau: One of the races that I think is really interesting because it seemed like the gloves are really just starting to come off here is the race for ag commissioner between … Sid Miller, the incumbent, and state representative, who is resigning to run, James White. I mean, this is a race that's turning quite nasty.

Ramsey: "Well, we haven't had an A.G. race that was this interesting in a way and this competitive in a way since Jim Hightower and Rick Perry way back there in 1990. This race, as you say, is, has become really argumentative. One of Sid Miller's aides has been accused of using the office to profit off of selling licenses and permits and things. James White is banging Sid Miller over the head with that. And Sid Miller is far enough down the ballot that some voters know who he is. He's been on the ballot before, but it's relatively easy down the ballot to knock somebody off. James White has a good ballot name. He's a good campaigner. He's never run statewide. It's another case of a legislator trying to get known statewide. But I think with some of the troubles that Sid Miller has and some of these allegations, James White might get some traction here. It's going to be a really interesting race to watch."

Goudeau: What do you think this primary is going to say about the parties, though, and what we're going to see in November?  

Ramsey: "You know, one of are the arguments about November in Texas is that the Democrats haven't been as competitive as the Republicans. And they've got a couple of uphill fights this time. The party that's in the White House tends to not do well in midterm elections. Donald Trump midterm, Republicans had a hard time. Obama's first midterm was the Tea Party years. It's just a hard time for a president, so that counts against the Democrats. The last Legislature redrew the political maps in redistricting and drew them to the favor of Republicans, so that counts against the Democrats. So I think a lot of people are looking at, and I would count myself among these, looking at the primaries as in some cases, the final election. It's not the final election at the top of the ballot. Anything could happen in a race with a Beto O'Rourke and a Greg Abbott. It's probably Greg Abbott's race, but that'll be competitive. But as you get further down, I think you'll find that most of the people who win in the Republican primary and most of the people who win in the Democratic primary are in noncompetitive districts in November. And so what you see in March is going to be what you see when they're sworn in a year from now."


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