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Your guide to the wild and crazy Texas primaries

What to expect in the Texas primary
What to expect in the Texas primary 06:25

What's all this about Texas primaries?

Texas will hold it's Republican and Democratic primaries for the 2018 elections Tuesday, March 6. And they're more exiting than you might think.

Why? Isn't Texas a Republican state, so it doesn't really matter who wins these things?

Yes and no. While it's true that Texas is dominated by the GOP and has voted for the Republican presidential nominee since 1980, Democrats hope that the state's rising Hispanic population will eventually put it in play. It's already a "minority-majority" state, meaning that non-Hispanic whites are less than 50 percent of the population. And since demographic changes helped turn reliably Republican California into one of the most liberal states in the nation, Democrats sometimes think it's just a matter of time before Republicans' grip on the state begins to weaken.

Every few years, national Democrats also tend to find themselves falling in love with some charismatic Texan politician. In the 1990s, it was Ann Richards, the witty one-term governor who famously mocked then-President George H.W. Bush at the 1988 Democratic convention. ("He was born with a silver foot in his mouth," she said at one point.) Richards wound up losing her 1994 re-election bid to George W. Bush, but became something of a liberal legend regardless.

In more recent years, national Democrats have swooned over Wendy Davis, the party's unsuccessful 2014 nominee, and Julian Castro, who was Mayor of San Antonio before becoming President Obama's Secretary of Housing and Urban Development. And in 2018, Democrats have a couple of youthful politicians they might soon fall in love with.

Ann Richards at DNC 02:13

Who are they?

One is Rep. Beto O'Rourke, who's giving up his House seat to challenge Republican Sen. Ted Cruz in November. Defeating Cruz will be no easy thing in Texas, but there's a chance O'Rourke, who's done well at fundraising and hit the ground running, could pull it off. O'Rourke has attracted quite a bit of media attention and is expected to easily win the Democratic Senate primary on Tuesday.

Who is Beto O'Rourke? 01:16

And then there's Laura Moser, a progressive activist who's apparently been raking in money lately. She's running for Congress in Texas 7th District, which is currently represented by nine-term Republican Rep. John Culberson but voted for Hillary Clinton over President Trump in 2016. She's the kind of liberal maverick Texan that national Democrats tend to fall hard for. There's just one problem ...

What's that?

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) really does not like her. In fact, they dislike her so much that last week they made public their opposition research on her, which is a highly unusual move. In follow-up comments to Vox, a liberal news website, a DCCC spokesperson even went so far as to call Moser "a truly disqualified general election candidate that would eliminate our ability to flip a district blue."

Yikes -- what's the problem with Moser?

Again, it's highly unusual for a Democratic Party organ to try and nuke a Democratic candidate from orbit like this. But it's not totally clear why DCCC is so keen on openly blasting Moser, particularly given the highly-foreseeable backlash it has already provoked. 

Moser has committed a few sins in the eyes of the DCCC, the most serious of which is probably her disparagement of Paris, Texas in a 2014 article for Washingtonian.

"On my pathetic writer's salary, I could live large in Paris, Texas, where my grandparents' plantation-style house recently sold for $129,000," Moser wrote in the article, which humorously argues what Washington, D.C.-dwellers should stop complaining about their high cost of living. "Oh, but wait -- my income would be a fraction of what it is here and I'd have very few opportunities to increase it. (Plus I'd sooner have my teeth pulled out without anesthesia, but that's a story for another day.)"

How bad is that?

Well, it's probably less than ideal, sure. But Texas' 7th Congressional District is centered around Houston, which is hundreds of miles south of Paris. Moser herself has noted this, saying nobody in the district "wants to live on the Oklahoma border, either."

That may be true, but either way, the national Democratic Party seems to have its heart set on nominating one of Moser's rivals, such as Lizzie Pannill Fletcher, a local attorney who's been endorsed by EMILY's List.

On Tuesday, they might get their wish. Or their scorched-earth tactics against Moser could backfire, leaving them stuck with her. Either way, Texas 7th Congressional District easily reelected Culberson in 2016 even as it went for Clinton, and is considered a strongly conservative district, so Democrats will have their work cut out for them no matter who gets the nod.

Is that the only exciting race?

Nope! There's also a primary for Texas Land Commissioner, a powerful statewide office whose existence alone is just one of those strange Lone Star quirks.

This doesn't sound exciting?

Well, it is, and here's why: George P. Bush, son of Jeb Bush and scion of the GOP's foremost political dynasty, currently has the job. Long touted as a rising star in Republican politics, Bush was elected to the position in 2014 after the incumbent, Jerry Patterson, left it to run for lieutenant governor. Now Patterson wants his old job back, and is challenging Bush in the GOP primary -- in part, he says, because Bush has done wrong by the Alamo.

The Alamo?

Yes, the Alamo -- the one where Davy Crockett died. It's a building and a symbol of tremendous importance to Texans. The General Land Office (GLO), which is the agency run by the Land Commissioner, had a plan to fix and revamp the site, which had seen better days by the time Bush took over.

In 2014, singer Phil Collins, of "Genesis" fame, donated his extensive collection of Alamo memorabilia to Texas under the condition that it would build a suitable shrine for it. So Bush's GLO unveiled a plan in 2017 for a new Alamo monument and museum. But unfortunately for Bush, the design, which updated and in some ways modernized the site, didn't go over so well with a lot of Texans.

As luck would have it, next week's primary will be held on the 182nd anniversary of the Battle of the Alamo, so the current scuffle over the site is getting quite a bit of attention. But Patterson also objects to Bush's management of the agency, particularly when it came to the GLO's slow response to last year's Hurricane Harvey. Bush also has the sizable baggage he's inherited from his family, who aren't exactly beloved by grassroots conservatives anymore. However, President Trump, who is quite popular among grassroots conservatives, threw his support behind Bush on Tuesday:

Patterson isn't the only person running against Bush; there are also a couple of marginal candidates who have focused somewhat on the Alamo issue. Should Bush get less than 50 percent of the vote on Tuesday, he'll be forced into a runoff, presumably with Patterson, which could upend both his career and one of the most formidable dynasties in American politics.

Any other big races on Tuesday?

Kind of! A number of Democrats, including Iraq vet Gina Ortiz Jones, are running for their party's nomination for Texas 23rd Congressional District, which is represented by the high-profile and possibly vulnerable Rep. Will Hurd. In the 32nd Congressional District, Democrats vying for a shot at unseating Rep. Pete Sessions include NFL player turned lawyer Colin Allred.

As for the Republican primaries, there are currently 18 GOP candidates to succeed retiring Rep. Lamar Smith in the 21st Congressional District. They include Chip Roy, who used to work for Ted Cruz, and Jenifer Sarver, a former Bush administration official who voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016.

There are also a bunch of other races happening, so stay tuned to CBSN for updates.

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