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While Texas Primaries Attract Lots Of Democratic Voters, GOP Turnout Is Still ‘Notoriously Low’

Julie Gilberg assists in voter registration on the south steps of the Capitol.
Andrea Garcia for KUT News
Julie Gilberg assists in voter registration on the south steps of the Capitol.

From Texas Standard.

There are a lot of stereotypes about Texas but the one about being the reddest of the red states may be about to become less accurate. Karen Tumulty is a veteran reporter – now political columnist – for the Washington Post. In her latest column she writes Texas could turn a little bit bluer in 2018.

We’ve heard that sort of talk before, but she insists – and lots of people are nodding their heads right now – there’s a reason to believe it.

“Democratic enthusiasm is by any measure as high as we’ve seen it in a very, very long time,” Tumulty says. “President Trump is no more popular statewide in Texas than he is in the rest of the country. But I think there’s something else going on here. It’s the other side of the coin, which is that turnout in the Republican primaries in Texas is notoriously low. In fact, we’ve now seen the business community in Texas launch a campaign to just try to get people to vote in these primaries.”

That’s important because, Tumulty says, in a lot of places, the Republican primary is essentially the general election.

“What happens in November is kind of a formality,” she says. “If you only have a tiny, highly motivated sliver of the electorate voting, what you end up getting are a lot of extreme candidates who may not be the exact right fit for a year like this one.”

Tumulty says there are 18 Republican candidates vying to fill Rep. Lamar Smith’s open seat now that he’s retiring.

“I went to a candidate forum last week, and 12 of those candidates showed up,” she says. “And I counted fewer than 30 people in the audience.”

Gov. Greg Abbott has appealed to conservative voters, telling them that they should be concerned about the early voting turnout so far, Tumulty says.

“Even President Trump has been tweeting out endorsements pretty far down the Texas ballot,” she says. “You don’t really normally see a president of the United States caring about down ballot races in a Republican primary.”

Tumulty isn’t predicting a large “blue wave” like some other political observers are.

“I am a Texan,” she says. “I’ve covered enough of these things to know.”

Instead, she predicts there will be opportunities for Democrats, possibly even in some of the open congressional races – which is why eyes across the country will continue to follow what happens in the Texas primaries.

Written by Jen Rice.

Copyright 2020 KUT 90.5. To see more, visit KUT 90.5.

Rhonda is the newest member of the KUT News team, joining in late 2013 as producer for KUT's new daily news program, The Texas Standard. Rhonda will forever be known as the answer to the trivia question, “Who was the first full-time hire for The Texas Standard?” She’s an Iowa native who got her start in public radio at WFSU in Tallahassee, while getting her Master's Degree in Library Science at Florida State University. Prior to joining KUT and The Texas Standard, Rhonda was a producer for Wisconsin Public Radio.