This year’s race for Texas governor was pegged by pundits and politicos across the country as a good one to watch. Bill White was said to represent the best chance for the Democrats regaining the governor’s mansion since Ann Richards lost to Dubya in 1994. And while the Perry-Hutchinson showdown doesn’t seem to have panned out with Perry holding a double-digit lead over the senator heading into today’s primaries, the strength of Debra Medina’s campaign could take enough votes from Perry to force a run-off between him and Hutchison.
Texas elections always have about half the turnout of a federal election. However, if early voting is any indication, this election will have one of the highest turnouts in recent memory. Nearly three times as many Texans have voted early as they did in 2006.
It could be the drama that stands to give this election one of the best voter turnouts in years, but a better explanation for the increased voter interest is the extent to which national issues are in play, making the gubernatorial race feel like a presidential one.
Sen. Hutchison admitted the other day that Perry’s constant deriding of her as a Washington insider hurt her campaign. For her part, Hutchison said she was in Washington fighting President Obama’s cap-and-trade and health care bills.
Debra Medina made headlines for supposedly mishandling a question from Glenn Beck about the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, something that happened far from the plains of the Lone Star State and which resulted in much new federal legislation but little state legislation.
Even some of the key issues making Texans concerned… do not concern (just) Texans. The problems of immigration, unemployment and health care are certainly troubles in Texas, but are generally regarded as national issues and ones that the governor of Texas can only do so much about. He can’t, for example, bail out state banks to try to stimulate the Texas economy.
In fact, some have even argued that the lieutenant governor in Texas is more powerful than the governor because he can control the legislation in the Senate. Still, after the 2010 census, redistricting stands to create four new Congressional seats which the governor would have veto power over.
It may be that a year into an unpopular presidency (at least according to Texas voters), Texans en masse are looking to sound off on national issues. And the rest of the country is listening.