Trump endorses Texas House primary candidates, deviating from the political norm

Early voting in the Texas primaries kicked off on Tuesday.

By Sarah AschFebruary 21, 2024 2:51 pm,

As Texans go to the polls this week in early primary voting, a relative few remember a time before primaries were a thing.

But in the summer of 1968 – one of the most turbulent years of the 20th century – only a handful of states held primaries.

That year, delegates to the Democratic convention in Chicago nominated establishment politician Hubert Humphrey for president. Many young progressives felt excluded from the backrooms of the political process, with riots in the streets, mass arrests and shoving matches on the convention floor. The Chicago Convention of ’68 and the subsequent general election were so disastrous for Democrats that it would mark a turning point, ushering in the modern era of political primaries as we know them today.

Today, almost every state in the nation has one – many, like Texas, on what’s called Super Tuesday, which this year is March 5.

As traditions have developed around primaries over the past five decades or so, it hasn’t been common practice for potential presidential nominees to weigh in on intra-party rivalries at the local level. But on Tuesday, former president – and current presidential candidate – Donald Trump took to social media with endorsements for four Texas Republicans: Helen Kerwin, Alan Schoolcraft, Mike Olcott and Liz Case.

Some believe this move could have profound implications for Texas politics.

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Edward McKinley, who reports on state government and politics for the Houston Chronicle and the San Antonio Express-News, said this move is in some ways in line with other unorthodox decisions Trump has made in the political sphere.

“He certainly pushed the envelope throughout his time in office in terms of trying to kind of exercise political power at every level that he can,” McKinley said. “It’s no secret that Ken Paxton and Greg Abbott, but particularly Ken Paxton, are close allies of his and have been for a long time. In that context, given the fact that Abbott and Paxton have been trying to get these incumbent House members tossed out of office for their own political reasons, this is a beneficial thing for Trump to do, because it continues to cement his alliance  with those two men.”

McKinley said that while Trump’s specific endorsements might not sway voters, they contribute to a narrative that Republican leaders are building.

“I don’t think we need to imagine a voter who’s going to go vote for this person because Trump told them to, but rather there’s this kind of stew brewing that they’ve been working on, where they’re trying to get these people tossed out of office,” he said. “They’ve been portraying them as false Republicans. Ken Paxton is saying they betrayed him by voting to impeach him. Abbott is saying that they didn’t vote for school choice.

“A lot of these outside groups are spending a lot of money saying that they’re weak on the border, or they blocked school funding — which is not true, but that’s been said a lot. So now the Trump endorsement is another kind of strong ingredient in that stew where voters’ minds might pick up on this idea that, hey, maybe this this guy is not is not as conservative as I want them to be.”

Trump did not reference the conflicts within the Republican Party that are playing out this election cycle when he endorsed candidates. Rather, he focused on supporting people who stood by Paxton, support school choice, and want to lower taxes.

McKinley said the impact of these endorsements remains to be seen.

“I was just speaking with a political scientist yesterday for a story I’ve been working on and he made an interesting point, which is just that this is an unusually heated primary,” McKinley said. “It’ll be curious to see how much any one thing makes an effect, given how much noise there’s been. I mean, there’s another guy I spoke with who said that he’d gotten 15 mailers in the last week or two in one of the key voucher districts in San Antonio. So I think that just speaks to the deluge that voters are getting.

“So very curious to kind of see what effect that all has, if any, considering that incumbents usually get reelected, especially in primaries like these. And in terms of the long-term effect, I mean, I think it just continues to show the tight grip that Trump wants to exercise over the Republican Party. And you know, how successful he is will only serve to make him more powerful.”

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