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Voters in Texas go to the polls today to pick candidates in the Democratic and Republican primaries; under Texas law, if no one clears 50 percent in a particular race, the top two vote-getters proceed to a July 31 runoff. Our guide to the key races is below, most of which don't look like they'll get settled tonight. A special hat tip is due to Darth Jeff, whose own super comprehensive guide to the Texas primaries was an invaluable resources in drafting this pocket-sized roundup.

TX-Sen (R): Though there are four "name" candidates running in the GOP primary to succeed Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, the race has long been a fight between the establishment frontrunner, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, and the movement conservative insurgent, former state Solicitor General Ted Cruz. Monster levels of outside cash have flooded the zone in this super-expensive state over the last month, much of it on behalf of Dewhurst. At this point, Cruz is just hoping to keep Dewhurst from hitting 50 percent and thus forcing a runoff, but a late poll from PPP which put Dewhurst up 46-29 makes Cruz's hopes look slim.

To help guide you through our writeup of Texas's House races, below you'll find zoomable interactive maps of the state's new congressional districts. Due to file size (indeed, things really are bigger in Texas), we've had to split the map into two portions. The first is the northern part of the state; the southern half is below the fold:

TX-04 (R): An unexpected late play by the Campaign for Primary Accountability has made us wonder whether Ralph Hall, the oldest member of the House at age 89, is in for a surprise. Hall was by far the most conservative Democrat in the caucus when he notoriously switched parties at the filing deadline in 2004, so he never had any trouble fitting into the GOP. But he only took 57 percent in a primary last cycle against former AT&T exec Steve Clark, who's back for more. So is auto racing parts company owner Lou Gigliotti, though both have run seriously under-powered campaigns. Forcing a runoff with the help of the CPA would be a major coup.

TX-06 (R): Veteran Rep. Joe Barton faces a couple of primary challengers who have both loaned their campaigns in the low six figures: former Addison mayor Joe Chow and businessman Itamar Gelbman. But Barton's spent well over a million bucks to protect himself and a runoff seems unlikely.

TX-14 (R): In this gazillion-way race to succeed Rep. Ron Paul, four candidates appear to fall into the "reasonably credible" category: state Rep. Randy Weber, attorney Jay Old, Pearland city councilor Felicia Harris and Texas State University Regent Michael Truncale. Weber appears to be the front-runner; among other things, he was endorsed by Gov. Rick Perry. Old, however, was the money leader and the only candidate to advertise on TV. But with a field this crowded (nine total candidates are running), a runoff is all but guaranteed—and it's possible a no-name tea partier could sneak through. The eventual nominee will face Democrat ex-Rep. Nick Lampson in the fall.

TX-16 (D): Veteran Rep. Silvestre Reyes faces a stiff primary challenge from former El Paso City Councilor Beto O'Rourke, who, in keeping with his earlier political career, has cast himself as the progressive outsider. O'Rourke, 39 years old to Reyes's 67, has shown some pep in his fundraising, but the incumbent, relying on connections forged in his eight terms in office, has out-spent him by a considerable margin. However, O'Rourke's had outside help via the Campaign for Primary Accountability, who've spent some $200K in an effort to topple Reyes. There hasn't been any recent polling of the contest, but the presence of some minor candidates on the ballot means a runoff is possible if the race is close. In this dark blue seat, the Democratic primary is the only game in town.

TX-23 (D): Ex-Rep. Ciro Rodriguez is making his third comeback bid for Congress, but local Democrats don't seem to want him back: The establishment has largely rallied around state Rep. Pete Gallego, and the League of Conservation Voters has also thrown down six figures on his behalf. Rodriguez, a notoriously weak campaigner and fundraiser, still has one thing going for him, which is name recognition. Because attorney John Bustamante, son of ex-Rep. Albert Bustamante, is also running, there's a good chance no one clears 50 percent. Gallego's goal here is to force a runoff and then deliver the final blow in the second round. The winner will square off against GOP freshman Quico Canseco, the guy who beat Ciro in 2010.

TX-25 (R): This is another massive GOP pileup, where the primary winner will be all but guaranteed of victory in November as well. (Veteran Democrat Rep. Lloyd Doggett is seeking reelection in the 35th, making the 25th one of Texas's four "new" districts.) The two most prominent candidates are Senate race rejects: former SoS Roger Williams and former Railroad Commissioner Michael Williams, about whom it's always necessary to say "no relation." Roger Williams has crushed on the money front, spending a massive $800K since April 1. The only other contender with comparable resources is former Halliburton exec Dave Garrison, though it's not clear whether he actually spent the big pile of cash he loaned himself. In any event, either Garrison or Michael Williams is the most likely to get into a runoff with Roger, though again, with 11 candidates in the field, I'd be reluctant to place any bets on who will finish second.

TX-30 (D): The age gap between attorney Taj Clayton and Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson is even wider than in the Reyes-O'Rourke race: Clayton is just 35 and Johnson, who's never faced a competitive primary since first winning office, is 76. Johnson's had a pretty somnolent career and Clayton hasn't been too far off the pace in fundraising, taking in $402K to her $562K—pretty good numbers for a challenger and pretty weak numbers for an incumbent. To shore up Johnson, a former staffer created super PAC that sent mailers trying to smear Clayton as some kind of Republican plant. Clayton's task is made more difficult by the presence of state Rep. Barbara Mallory Caraway, who has run a pretty desultory campaign but whose presence on the ballot makes it more likely that the anti-Johnson vote will get split. If Clayton can force a runoff, that would be considered an upset in its own right.

TX-33 (D): Even since this brand new 69 percent Obama district sprang into being, state Rep. Marc Veasey, who has that "up-and-comer" look about him, has appeared to be the frontrunner. His chief rival for the nomination is ex-state Rep. Domingo Garcia, who of late has turned the race very nasty, calling Veasey an "errand boy" for "big corporations and Wall Street." That was a very racially loaded insult, since Veasey is African American (Garcia is Hispanic), and it prompted an angry response from Veasey's supporters. The primary itself may come down to an ethnic divide: Though the district's overall population is majority Latino, only 39 percent of those who are citizens of voting age are Hispanic; 25 percent are black, a group which traditionally has a higher turnout rate. There are several other candidates in the primary, most notably wealthy dentist David Alameel, who has spent an amazing $2 million of his own money on the race but doesn't seem to have much in the way of political chops. As with pretty much all of these races, a runoff is likely, and Veasey is strongly assured a spot in the second round.

TX-34 (D): The 34th is another new, Democratic district (albeit, at 60 percent Obama, not as blue as the 33rd), and the primary here has been nearly invisible on the national radar compared to many others in the state. Fundraising has been incredibly light all around, with even the most prominent candidates barely breaking into the six figures. And in a bizarre development, one of them, Cameron County District Attorney Armando Villalobos, was indicted earlier this month on federal bribery charges—but refused to drop out. That probably leaves well-connected local attorney Filemon Vela, who loaned his campaign $150K, as the frontrunner, though several others are still in the mix for that second runoff slot. It feels like most observers have just been waiting for this race to shake out to its final two competitors; I can't say we're not part of that contingent.

TX-36 (R): The primary here, in the last of Texas's four new seats won in reapportionment this decade, is for all the marbles, given the safely red nature of the district. Like in the 34th, the entire field has demonstrated soft fundraising, though the race seems to have a clearer shape, with state Sen. Michael Jackson long considered the front-runner. A runoff could be in the cards, though, just given how little Jackson has spent; financial advisor Stephen Takach (who's spent the most, some $300K) could be the man to force it. One-term ex-Rep. Steve Stockman, a class of `94 member who was too crazy even for Texas Republicans, is also attempting a comeback, but I think he has more recognition among political commentators who enjoy a good laugh whenever they hear his name than among citizens of the 36th Congressional District.

Other races to watch include TX-22 (D), TX-24 (R), and TX-35 (D). See Darth Jeff's piece for more.

Originally posted to Daily Kos Elections on Tue May 29, 2012 at 07:00 AM PDT.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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