|Texas Primary Turnout 2016 & 2020
March 8, 2020
Texas Democrats Take Super Tuesday Crown
with Voter Surge in Red Suburban Strongholds
Best Texas Legislature Campaign
Best Texas Challenger Campaign
By Mike Hailey
Capitol Inside Editor
The Democrats were the clear winners in the Texas primary election that gave Joe Biden a rocket ship launch while Republicans were losing the turnout battle in five of the six major counties that were solid red before President Donald Trump seized control of the GOP just four years ago.
The Democrats emerged from the Super Tuesday Texas vote with massive momentum and the party rapidly uniting behind the former vice-president who'll be cast as the moderate establishment choice in a general election that he has a much better chance of winning as a result of his dramatic comeback here last week.
Texas Republicans in the meantime are staggering in the primary vote's wake in the midst of unprecedented uncertainty and potential chaos with a wildly unpredictable president whose re-election bid could be on the verge of unraveling as a consequence of a national health crisis that he dismissed as a Democrat-fueled media hoax a few weeks ago.
Anything can happen between now and November. But the Texas primary election left the impression that it simply doesn't appear to be a very good time to be a Republican in the Lone Star State. That's especially true for Republicans on the hard right who arguably had their worst showing in a first-round election in Texas since the tea party's inception 10 years ago.
But the relatively minimal amount of infighting among the ruling Republicans will be quickly forgotten in the aftermath of a Texas primary election that left the distinct impression that the GOP is losing its grip on suburban outposts that have been its lifeblood in Texas. This potential trend was most evident in Tarrant, Collin, Denton, Fort Bend and Williamson counties where Democratic voters accounted for almost 55 percent of the combined turnout for the Super Tuesday vote just four years after more than 69 percent of had been cast in the GOP primary in those locations in the last presidential election in 2016.
That's a monumental turnabout in a state where the Democrats' quest to take the state House back could be decided in more than a dozen swing districts in the five suburban counties that had been the most dependable GOP voting blocs here outside of rural Texas.
The Democratic turnout advantage in Denton and Collin counties came as the biggest round one surprise in Texas as rapidly-growing suburban meccas on the northern edge of the Dallas-Fort Worth area where more than 74 percent of the first-round votes had been cast four years ago in the Republican primary election. Democratic primary participants cast 55 percent of the votes that Collin County officials fielded were 50.2 percent of the first-round voters in Denton were Democrats. Fifty-five percent of the Super Tuesday vote in both Tarrant and Fort Bend counties also was attributed to Democrats.
Collin and Denton have been ranked among the top 10 counties in the nation in recent years in sheer population growth - a phenomenon due primarily to incoming residents from other states. It came as no surprise when GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney garnered 65 percent of the 2012 general election vote in both Denton and Collin counties. Romney scored in the mid-to-high 50s in Tarrant, Fort Bend and Williamson counties before Trump beat Hillary Clinton in both places by almost 9 points. Fort Bend County in the western outskirts of the Houston area got a head start on the suburban blue conversion when Clinton won there with more than 51 percent of the 2016 general election vote. Romney had carried Fort Bend with 53 percent. Democrat Beto O'Rourke defeated Republican U.S. Senator Ted Cruz in Tarrant, Williamson and Fort Bend counties in 2018.
The more optimistic Republicans can point to the Democrats' records-shattering primary turnout in Texas in 2008 and how John McCain still carried the top of the ticket here for the GOP with almost 55 percent of the vote in the battle with Democrat Barack Obama for the White House. The Democrats had a historic battle between Clinton and Obama as a drawing card for the Texas primary in 2008 while McCain had the GOP nomination already locked up.
The hotly-contested nature of the current Democratic presidential race is having an inflating effect on the primary count that both sides will take into account. But the primary elections in 2008 and 2020 could be apples and oranges in terms of baseline analysis with a seismic shift in the playing field under way here with four million more people having moved to Texas in the past five years. The other fundamental fact that complicates comparisons is that Trump and McCain are polar opposites as far as nominees go.
Establishment forces prevailed in the biennial battle with grassroots conservatives who fielded fewer candidates for the Legislature and Congress than they have in an entire decade. Most of the congressional and legislative hopefuls who had hardline conservatives in their corners for round one are former candidates now. Two or three more who ran hard to the right here will be done after runoff elections in May.
There were a couple of notable exceptions like Jeff Cason of Bedford and Kronda Thimesch of Carrollton and Jeff Cason of Bedford - a pair of Republicans who had impressive individual showings with strong support among conservatives en route to primary victories in Texas House races in districts that will be critical battlegrounds this fall in the Democrats' crusade for a west wing majority in Austin.
Katy Republican Mike Schofield turned in a stellar performance in the opening half of a comeback bid with a mixture of conservative and establishment support in a district where he beat a rival who Governor Greg Abbott had been backing by almost 6 percentage points. Schofield will be getting a shot at payback as the challenger now in a fall fight with a Democrat who unseated him in a major upset in 2018. House hopeful Lacey Hull of Houston proved to be one of the GOP's strongest candidates in swing races for the lower chamber as well when she scored 59 percent of the primary vote in a fight with a current House Republican's son and a self-proclaimed Apostle who anti-abortion and other conservatives rallied behind.
But all of the aforementioned Republicans are taking a back seat to Dallas Democrat Joanna Cattanach in the Capitol Inside Best of the Texas Primary Elections competition for the best campaign for the Legislature in the Super Tuesday sweepstakes. You can see the reasoning for such a call here.
The Best of the Primary Elections in Texas will be rolled out in individual installments this week.