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First Thoughts: Six Things to Watch in Texas Tuesday

<p>Primary Day kicks off in the Lone Star State.</p>
The six things you need to know about Tuesday’s primaries in Texas… All polling places close at 9:00 pm ET (though most close at 8:00 pm ET)…. The latest involving the situation in Ukraine… White House to unveil its budget and Obama delivers remarks on it at 11:30 am ET… And are Democrats simply setting expectations in FL-13, or are they really nervous?
Six things you need to know about Tuesday’s primaries in Texas
It’s Primary Day in Texas, and it’s also exactly eight months until Election Day 2014. While none of today’s primaries is expected to be close, we’re still excited to kick things off -- just like we’d be excited to watch Alabama vs. Troy State if that were the first college football game of the season. Here are the six things you need to know about all the contests in the Lone Star State:
1. The marquee national race is Cornyn vs. Stockman (and that plans to be a snoozer): Sen. John Cornyn faces off against Rep. Steve Stockman (plus a handful of other Republicans). What are Stockman’s chances? He has reported no financial activity since filing to run. And get this: He ended the year with just $47,206 cash on hand from his House account and more than $100,000 in debt. The winner for this (and all other races) needs to exceed 50% to avoid a May 27 runoff. The Dem field doesn’t feature a top tier- candidate, but it does have a Lyndon LaRouche activist, Kesha Rogers.
2. Both Greg Abbott and Wendy Davis have only nominal opposition in their respective gubernatorial primaries:But one Republican who’s challenging Abbott is named “ SECEDE Kilgore,” who (perhaps not surprisingly) is running as a secessionist. But watch the Democratic turnout. If Dem groups like Battleground Texas are beginning to register new voters, you would expect to see it even in these non-competitive primaries, right?
3. The most notable congressional primary is Rep. Pete Session’s (R-TX) race against Tea Party activist Katrina Pierson. Does Sessions get more than the 50% needed to avoid a runoff?
4. Perhaps the most competitive GOP primary is for lieutenant governor. And there will be new faces up and down the ballot for Republicans: From Sunday’s New York Times: “With Mr. Perry vacating his seat, the attorney general leaving his post to run for governor, the comptroller retiring and other offices being left up for grabs, this is the first time since 1998 that five of the six top statewide executive positions are open. If Mr. Dewhurst loses his bid for re-election — he will most likely find himself in a May runoff after the votes are counted Tuesday — it will be the first time in more than a century that all six jobs have new occupants, said Mark P. Jones, a political-science professor at Rice University.”
5. What has defined all the GOP races is a contest to see who is MOST conservative: Say what you will about the influence of the Tea Party, but it has definitely had an impact on the Republicans running in Texas. More from that New York Times piece: “[A]fter Mr. Cruz’s successful insurgent Senate campaign in 2012 against Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, the well-financed candidate of the party establishment, the primary races have taken on a no-rules tenor amid a barrage of overheated language, fiery attack ads and accusations against candidates that range from hiring illegal immigrants to supporting a bill to rename a portion of a Dallas Interstate the President Barack Obama Freeway.”
6. George P. Bush (Jeb’s son and W. Bush’s nephew) is facing one GOP primary opponent (David Watts) for Land Commissioner. As we wrote yesterday, George P. Bush is one of several dynastic candidates running for office this year.
A final note: All polling places in Texas are closed at 9:00 pm ET (most of the state, however, will be closed by 8:00 pm ET)
The latest involving the situation in Ukraine
While we’re excited about today’s primaries in Texas, the top story both Washington and the world are watching right now remains the situation in Ukraine. Here are some of the latest developments: Secretary of State John Kerry has arrived in Ukraine; Russia President Vladimir Putin spoke with journalists, calling the removal of Yanukovych an “unconstitutional coup and military grab of power” and also saying that there is no need for full Russian military intervention yet (“There is not need to do that now”); and Treasury Secretary Jack Lew said the Obama administration is working with Congress and the government to provide $1 billion in loan guarantees to the new Ukraine government.
White House to unveil its budget
Also today, the Obama White House officially unveils its FY 2015 budget, and the president delivers remarks about it at 11:30 am ET at an elementary school in Washington, D.C. As the saying goes, presidential budgets are more political documents (a laundry list of spending and goals) than anything else, and this particular budget is even less important politically due to the already agreed-upon budgetary numbers that Senate Democrats and House Republicans hammered out last December.
Are Democrats simply setting expectations in FL-13, or are they really nervous?
That special congressional election in Florida between Democrat Alex Sink and Republican David Jolly is exactly a week away. And on MSNBC’s “Daily Rundown” yesterday, DCCC Chair Steve Israel said this that caught or our attention: “Every district has its own unique dynamics and terrain,” he said. This is a very tough terrain for us.” That’s particularly noteworthy because this is a congressional district -- the Tampa-St. Pete area -- that President Obama won in 2012, 50%-49%. Either Israel and Democrats here are trying to lower expectations (because of the previous reporting that the early absentee vote was looking good for Democrats), or because they’re really nervous. Sink has tried to localize this race, but it’s been nationalized due to all the outside money. Given that, is it a mistake for Democratic candidates -- especially in swing districts with plenty of minority voters -- to localize races and not utilize the president?
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