Texas Voters Prove Once Again They Don't Always Know Who They're Voting For

Throwing darts at the ballot

Texas Governor candidate Beto O'Rourke speaks during a press conference on January 21, 2022 (Photo by John Anderson)

Tuesday night's primary election confirmed that Gov. Greg Abbott will face Beto O'Rourke in the November general election. No surprise there: The incumbent garnered a healthy 66% of votes in spite of criticism from the ultra-right about his pandemic response and the abysmal conditions for National Guard troops he deployed to "secure" the U.S.-Mexico border. But another facet of the same race told a classic story about the state of civic engagement in Texas' primary elections: More than 60,000 Texans voted for Rick Perry 2.0, an employee at a staffing agency that serves Lockheed Martin, who shares a name with the former governor of Texas.

That same story played a part in the biggest surprise of the night. San Antonio therapist Sandragrace Martinez took the largest share of the votes in the race for land commissioner, besting both seasoned conservationist Jay Kleberg and political organizer Jinny Suh. Kleberg and Suh had both waged high-profile campaigns and toured the state to spread the word on why the position is important: The land com­mis­sioner manages all of Texas' public lands and the revenue they generate from leases to energy companies.

It doesn't appear those efforts worked. Martinez, whose campaign presence and qualifications for the job appear minimal, is heading to a run-off with Kleberg in May, giving the candidates one more opportunity to educate voters. The Republican whom the winner will face in November will also be decided in May – state Sen. Dawn Buck­ingham, R-Lakeway, is heading to a run-off against San Antonio pastor and educator Tim Westley.

To the delight of the Texas GOP political establishment, Attorney General Ken Pax­ton, who remains under indictment and (separately) under investigation by the FBI, will endure a run-off in May against the current land commissioner, George P. Bush. The political dynast held off both former Texas Supreme Court Justice Eva Guzman and U.S. Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Tyler. On the other side, former ACLU Texas attorney Rochelle Garza will be the clear front-runner, facing (as of press time) former Galveston Mayor Joe Jaworski in the run-off.

The GOP establishment was also unsuccessful in picking off former rodeo champion and current Agriculture Com­mis­sioner Sid Miller, who avoided a run-off against state Rep. James White, R-Hillister, and will face Austin attorney Susan Hays in November.

In Central Texas, incumbent Rebecca Bell-Metereau is poised to keep her seat on the State Board of Education. She'll face off against libertarian Mark Loewe, who defeated conspiracist and former Travis County Republican Party Chair Robert Morrow in the GOP primary. Morrow kept election night entertaining with plenty of updates about how LBJ killed JFK.

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