Democrats, women candidates score big in Texas primaries

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Women running for Congress surged to big wins and Democrats smashed recent turnout levels in Texas’ first-in-the-nation 2018 primary elections, giving Republicans a potential glimpse of what’s ahead in the first midterms under President Donald Trump.

Energized and angry Democrats in Texas, where the GOP has dominated for decades, came out in force to surpass 1 million voters Tuesday — the first time the party has eclipsed that benchmark in a midterm primary since 2002, just months after the Sept. 11 attacks.

Equally striking was the showing by women on the ballot: Of the nearly 50 women running for Congress in Texas, more than half won their primaries outright or advanced to runoffs. What’s more, at least three of those runoffs in May will feature women going head-to-head, including a key race for Democrats in their bid to take control of the U.S. House this fall.

“It’s Trump. It’s Trump,” said Veronica Escobar, who won her Democratic primary and is now poised to become one of the first Hispanic women to represent Texas in Congress.

“I’ve spoken to innumerable senior citizens, retirees, parents of disabled children, people who understand what this administration means to their families. And they’re afraid.”

Not all women fared so well. Kathaleen Wall, a Republican megadonor in Houston who pumped $6 million of her own money into her race for Congress, failed to survive a crowded nine-person field despite outspending all other candidates and having the backing of Republican Gov. Greg Abbott.

Wall’s failure was also a potential warning sign of the limits of Republicans going all-in on Trump this election year.

She partly staked her candidacy on TV ads that told voters there was little daylight between her and the president, who remains popular among GOP voters despite his rough edges and low approval ratings nationwide.

For all the talk of renewed Democratic energy heading into the 2018 midterms, Texas Republicans also set a new benchmark for turnout in a midterm election.