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Texas Primaries See Surging Democratic Turnout & Record Number of Female Candidates

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This year's midterm elections officially began on Tuesday as Democratic and Republican primaries were held in Texas. Democrats are hoping Texas could become a key state in the party's effort to retake control of the Senate and the House. A record 50 women were on the ballot in what many are calling the "year of the women." On Tuesday, Congressmember Beto O'Rourke won the Democratic primary for U.S. Senate. He will take on incumbent Ted Cruz, who easily won the Republican primary. On the House side, Democrats are putting up candidates in every Texas district for the first time in over 25 years.

In one of the most watched Democratic races, progressive Democrat Laura Moser placed second, forcing a runoff against Democrat Lizzie Pannill Fletcher, an attorney who has been criticized for working at a law firm that has targeted unions in Texas. The race is seen as part of a war within the Democratic Party. Moser was endorsed by Our Revolution -- the political organization that grew out of Bernie Sanders's run for the White House. Fletcher was backed by the Democratic Party. In February, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee took the unusual step of directly attacking Moser even though she is a Democrat. Moser and Fletcher will now face each other in a runoff to decide who will face Republican Congress Member John Culberson in November. We speak to Mike Barajas, staff writer for The Texas Observer.

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AMY GOODMAN: This year's midterm elections officially began Tuesday as Democratic and Republican primaries were held throughout Texas. Democrats are hoping Texas could become a key state in the party's effort to retake control of the Senate and the House. A record 50 women were on the ballot in what many are calling "the year of the women." On Tuesday, Congressman Beto O'Rourke won the Democratic primary for U.S. Senate. He'll take on incumbent Ted Cruz, who easily won the Republican primary, though the El Paso congressman, O'Rourke, outraised Cruz in the last months. On the House side, Democrats are putting up candidates in every Texas district for the first time in over a quarter of a century.

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In one of the most watched Democratic races, progressive Democrat Laura Moser placed second, forcing a runoff against Lizzie Pannill Fletcher, an attorney who's been criticized for working at a law firm that's targeted unions in Texas. The race is seen as a war within the Democratic Party. Moser was endorsed by Our Revolution -- the political organization that grew out of Bernie Sanders' run for the White House. Fletcher was backed by the Democratic Party. In February, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee took the unusual step of directly attacking Moser even though she's a Democrat. Moser and Fletcher will now face off in a runoff to decide who will face Republican Congressman John Culberson in November.

In other primary news, Texas appears poised to send its first Latina women to Congress this year -- next year. The election would be later this year. Former El Paso County Judge Veronica Escobar and state Senator Sylvia Garcia won their respective Democratic primaries in heavily Democratic districts.

To talk more about the results in Texas, we go to Austin, where we're joined by Mike Barajas, a staff writer for The Texas Observer.

Mike, you've been following this all very closely. Give us the highlights.

MICHAEL BARAJAS: Yeah, so, as you mentioned, the Democrats do have reason to be enthusiastic after yesterday's primary. Early vote totals showed a pretty big surge in Democrats that were coming out to vote in that party's primary, in the Election Day totals.

AMY GOODMAN: Something like a million Democrats and a million and a half Republicans?

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MICHAEL BARAJAS: Right, yeah. So, Election Day totals were a little bit below what I think Democrats had ultimately hoped for, but still we're seeing record turnout, over 2014, in particular. I think it's something like double, at least, the amount of primary voters in the Democratic Party that we're saying. So, naturally, this is still a red state. This is still Texas, after all. So, we're seeing that growth. By a pure numbers standpoint, you know, there wasn't as much growth on the Republican side, but there are still something like a million and a half Republican primary voters in Texas. So, that tells you what Democrats might need to overcome in the general, but that also sort of is kind of an indicator of, you know, how much enthusiasm Democrats have, going into the general election.

Now, that could be for a number of different reasons. That could be because, you know, Texas is changing. Texas, in the last presidential race, you know, it went, I think, nine points to Trump, but that's a smaller margin, I think, than -- I think they said it's the smallest margin of any Republican presidential candidate in Texas in something like 20 years. So, you mentioned the congressional seats. You know, there are a handful here in Texas that were seen as, not that long ago, deeply entrenched Republican seats, until, you know, last presidential election, they voted, you know, some in a small margin, but for Hillary. So, that includes the seat out in Houston that Moser is running in, now in the runoff, that we clearly know what the DCCC thinks about that race. But --

AMY GOODMAN: Well, let's talk about that, the progressive group Our Revolution endorsing the Democratic congressional hopeful Laura Moser, a week after her own party, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, released an opposition memo on her. I want to turn to a part of one of Moser's campaign ads.

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