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Plot Lines From The Texas Primaries: 'The Blue Wave Versus The Red Sea Wall'

Gabriel C. Pérez/KUT News
Election Day voting lines at UT-Austin's Flawn Academic Center on March 6, 2018.

Tuesday's primary election sparked a surge of voters, which is unusual in a non-presidential election year.

Three lawmakers from North Texas lost their primary and about 30 races statewide are now heading to a runoff May 22. (Here are more results from the night.)

Ross Ramsey, executive editor of the Texas Tribune, joined the Friday Conversation to make sense of this wild week in Texas politics.

Interview Highlights: Ross Ramsey

On election turnout:

"There's a red sea wall in Texas. It's been a Republican state for a long time. The Republicans for the last several cycles have outvoted Democrats. During early voting this year, Democratic voting was up a lot so that's where the 'blue wave' conversation began, but they were still only 40 percent of the size of the Republican primary. It's been a long time since the Democrats won a statewide election in Texas, so they're looking to signs and wanting to show signs of some kind of strength or resurgence.

They have some excitement around their Senate candidate, Beto O'Rourke. They don't have a lot of excitement about other people on the statewide ticket, which is part of the reason turnout wasn't up more and part of the problem Democrats are going to have going into November."

On the power of Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick endorsing certain candidates:

"He won all of the races he was obviously playing in. He won in an endorsement against incumbent state Sen. Craig Estes, R-Wichita Falls. He was instrumental in getting Sen. Bob Hall, R-Edgewood, out of a very tough primary with Rep. Cindy Burkett, R-Sunnyvale.

Rep. Jason Villalba, R-Dallas, is in one of those districts where the Democrats have a reasonable chance of beating a Republican and that tends to get a moderate Republican elected. When that kind of Republican comes to Austin, they run into arch conservatives who don't think they're Republican enough. If you're Villalba or Rep. Sarah Davis, R-Houston, with trouble in your own primary where more conservative Republicans run against you, [you end up with] more trouble in November when the Democrats run against you in a district that could swing either way."

On the runoff races to watch:

"The big race at the top is the governor's race on the Democratic side. Lupe Valdez and Andrew White represent different faces of the Democratic Party. Those are really two different races: Gov. Greg Abbott against Lupe Valdez is a particular kind of race. Abbott and White is another kind of race.

As you go down the ballot, we had eight open seats in our Ccngressional delegation and a lot of those went to runoffs. [May's runoff] is where we lock in what November looks like."

Former KERA staffer Krystina Martinez was an assistant producer. She produced local content for Morning Edition and She also produced The Friday Conversation, a weekly series of conversations with North Texas newsmakers. Krystina was also the backup newscaster for the Texas Standard.
Rick Holter was KERA's vice president of news. He oversaw news coverage on all of KERA's platforms – radio, digital and television. Under his leadership, KERA News earned more than 200 local, regional and national awards, including the station's first two national Edward R. Murrow Awards. He and the KERA News staff were also part of NPR's Ebola-coverage team that won a George Foster Peabody Award, broadcasting's highest honor.