Thursday, January 03, 2008

March 4 primary field is set

By JOHN MORITZ - Star-Telegram Staff Writer - Jan. 3, 2008
AUSTIN -- Texas Republicans will head into the March 4 primaries with a field of battle-tested incumbents in nearly all of the statewide races up for contention while the Democrats will hitch their fortunes to a slate of candidates still struggling to gain broad name recognition.

The deadline was Wednesday evening for entering the primaries for selecting the major-party nominees for several statewide offices, including one U.S. senator, one of the three places on the Texas Railroad Commission, three of the nine seats on the state Supreme Court and three of the nine Texas Court of Criminal Appeals seats.

All of those statewide posts carry six-year terms.

It was also the deadline for the presidential candidates in both parties to have their names included on the Texas primary ballot.

Here's a look at the field:

U.S. senator

Incumbent Republican John Cornyn is seeking a second term. He's a former Texas attorney general, state Supreme Court justice and state district judge from San Antonio. Also running is Larry Kilgore of Mansfield, a longtime activist in the anti-abortion movement who two years ago was defeated in the GOP primary for governor and two years before that lost a bid for a state House seat.

On the Democratic side, state Rep. Rick Noriega of Houston, who served in Afghanistan and along the Texas-Mexico border as an Army National Guard officer, has the support of much of the party establishment. Corpus Christi schoolteacher Ray McMurrey will also be on the ballot. Rounding out the field are retired Army officer and perennial candidate Gene Kelly, and Rhett Smith, who two years ago ran for governor as a Republican.

Railroad commissioner

Michael Williams, a Republican who has served on the panel that oversees the energy industry and sets rates for natural gas service, is seeking his second full term. He will be unopposed in the primary.

The Democrats in the race are former San Antonio City Councilman Art Hall; Dale Henry, a former Mills County commissioner who lost a bid for a Railroad Commission seat as a Democrat in 2006 and as a Republican in 2004; and mobility specialist Mark Thompson of Hamilton.

Texas Supreme Court

Republican Wallace Jefferson, who has served on the state's highest civil court since 2001 and as its chief justice since 2004, will seek re-election to the top post without a primary opponent.

State District Judge Jim Jordan of Dallas is the only Democrat in the race for chief justice.

In Place 7, Republican Dale Wainwright will be unopposed in the primary for a second term. Two Democrats -- Houston lawyer Sam Houston and Dallas lawyer Baltasar Cruz -- will face off.

In Place 8, Republican incumbent Phil Johnson, who was appointed in 2005 to fill an unexpired term, will seek his first full term. No one has filed to oppose him in the primary. Democrats Linda Reyna YaƱez, a judge on the 13th Court of Appeals in Hidalgo County, and state district Judge Susan Criss of Galveston are seeking the Democratic nomination.

Texas Court of Criminal Appeals

The incumbent Republicans judges on the state's top criminal court -- Tom Price, Cathy Cochran and Paul Womack -- will also seek re-election. State District Judge Robert Francis of Dallas will challenge Womack in Place 4.

Democrat Susan Strawn of Houston is running unopposed for Place 3 and El Paso lawyer J.R. Molina is running unopposed in Place 4.

Presidential primaries

Rudy Giuliani, Mike Huckabee, Duncan Hunter, Alan Keyes, John McCain, Ron Paul, Mitt Romney, Fred Thompson, and novice candidates Hoa Tran and Hugh Cort will be on the GOP ballot.

On the Democratic side are Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton, Christopher Dodd, John Edwards, Barack Obama and Bill Richardson.

Dennis Kucinich did not qualify for the Democratic primary because he did not check the box on the filing paperwork pledging to support the party's nominee for president, Texas Democratic spokeswoman Amber Moon said. Mike Gravel did not file for the primary.

Of note

At least eight Republicans will compete for the right to challenge U.S. Rep. Nick Lampson for the suburban Houston congressional seat that was vacated in 2006 by former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay.


Read more in the Fort Worth Star Telegram

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