GOP Divided in Texas Primary

Texas remains a solid red state, with no Democrat winning a statewide race in over 20 years.  But this year's primaries coming up on March 6 will likely determine what shade of red Texas ends up in the fall.  That's because there are several competitive races among Republicans, in many cases pitting conservatives against moderates.  In one race, Gov. Greg Abbott has already endorsed a conservative challenger to Houston State Rep. Sarah Davis.  Meantime, Texas House Speaker Joe Straus (R-San Antonio) is retiring from office after battling with Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick over the bathroom bill and property taxes during last year's legislature.

The state party is not taking sides in any primary race, but is closely watching them.  "We love it, because what we're seeing is competition, we're seeing candidates being able to debate each other and the voters decide who they really like as a candidate," says Jamie Bennett, spokesman for the Republican Party of Texas.  "This is a great time for us to evaluate the party, refresh the party, and get some new leadership in, as we have a lot of people resigning or stepping out of office."

All of the 2018 elections are taking place against the backdrop of President Trump, who remains a polarizing and controversial figure nationwide and within the Republican Party.  But Bennett does not expect the President to be a big factor in these primary races.  "What I think these primary voters are focused on is what's happening in their area," he says.  "Because these are state, judicial and county races, so that's what (voters) are concerned about, and I don't see the President affecting that too much."

Overall, the Texas GOP welcomes the intramural battle in the party.  "We enjoy that debate," says Bennett.  "We think it refines us, it makes our policy platform better, and it makes our representatives better, because they're representing truly what the voters want."

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