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What GOP & Democratic insiders say Texas primary results reveal about how voters are feeling

Illustration by Laura Rice

Democrats are pointing to momentum while Republicans say results show GOP voters are happy with current leadership.

From Texas Standard:

Texas Republicans are cheering turnout numbers in the GOP primaries and celebrating that Gov. Greg Abbott handily defeated challengers, as did Republican state legislative incumbents.

“I think when you look at the results from the Republican primary, there was a huge stamp of approval for the work that Gov. Abbott and other legislative leaders have done over the last several years. And I think Texas voters want to continue the positive momentum that we've seen under that conservative leadership,” Texas Republican Initiative Chairman Mark McCaig told Texas Standard.

On the Democratic side, party officials see momentum in the number of votes gubernatorial candidate and former Congressman Beto O’Rourke received in the primary for his U.S. Senate race back in 2018, compared to this primary. Democrats also see opportunity in what they consider policies that don't reflect the values of many Texans.

“One of the things that's important to note is that in our state right now ... we have real dangerous leadership, and that [Gov.] Greg Abbott has definitely failed Texans," Texas Democratic Party Co-Executive Director Jamarr Brown told the Standard. "And we noticed that he had to really go to the right to be able to get out of his primary, where [the] Republican Party in Texas was very divided. And so we're going to be talking every single day to Texans. We're going to be advertising every day to Texans to talk about the issues that matter.”

Reactions to the first test of Senate Bill 1

The 2022 primary election was the first real test of Senate Bill 1, the bill the Republican-led Texas Legislature passed last year to alter voting laws. During the 87th Legislative Session, and subsequent special sessions, Republicans pushed the measures as efforts to improve “voter integrity.” But Democrats widely labeled them as restrictions that amounted to “voter suppression.”

Today, party officials largely hold those some opinions. On the Democratic side, Brown says he and fellow Democrats saw everything they were concerned would show up when they campaigned against that legislation.

“We saw significant challenges and roadblocks across the state where there were polling locations that were not open, people were confused about the precincts where they were supposed to go, we were not receiving vote counts in certain areas, we saw an unprecedented amount of vote-by-mail-application rejections and ballot rejections,” Brown said.

But from the Republican perspective, McCaig sees it differently.

“I think the voter legislation has been working incredibly well,” McCaig said. “The purpose of that legislation was to make it easy to vote but hard to cheat. And I think that the safeguards that have been implemented and that legislation are proving to be effective. But ultimately, only time will tell.”

Plans to reach out to voters ahead of November

Both of the Republican and Democratic Party officials say they are moving quickly to reach out to voters in the wake of the primary elections. Both are targeting specific regions. For Republicans, McCaig says the focus will be the Rio Grande Valley.

“I think you're going to see a tremendous investment in the Republican Party, the Republican candidates down here. And I expect that that will bear fruit and surprise a lot of people,” he said.

Democrats want to make up ground in areas where they have underperformed.

“In rural communities and East Texas and South Texas, where we have had some challenges before, we want to make sure that as Democrats in the state, that we're campaigning to voters in every corner of the state,” Brown said.

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Copyright 2022 KUT 90.5. To see more, visit KUT 90.5.

Laura first joined the KUT team in April 2012. She now works for the statewide program Texas Standard as a reporter and producer. Laura came to KUT from the world of television news. She has worn many different hats as an anchor, reporter and producer at TV stations in Austin, Amarillo and Toledo, OH. Laura is a proud graduate of the University of Missouri-Columbia, a triathlete and enjoys travel, film and a good beer. She enjoys spending time with her husband and pets.