Nearly a year after announcing his run for Texas governor, Democrat Beto O'Rourke will find out today if Texans are ready for a change in leadership or if incumbent Republican Greg Abbott will keep his seat for another four years.
That's right: Election Day is finally here, and the governor's race is just one of several key matchups on Texans' ballots. Also included are contests for the state's lieutenant governor, attorney general, land commissioner and state comptroller, among other important positions.
In the race for governor, one of the most expensive and combative in Texas history, O'Rourke's camp will see if the third time’s a charm for the El Paso Democrat, who lost a close race for U.S. Senate four years ago against Republican Ted Cruz. That was followed by a short-lived run for president in 2020. Despite those setbacks, O'Rourke has proven he's still a popular figure in state politics as he's been able to draw massive crowds during his statewide campaign and has outraised Abbott in recent fundraising cycles.
Abbott's been undaunted by O'Rourke's popularity, however, as he's enjoyed his own fundraising prowess and has kept a steady lead in recent polls. The race has been marked by the Abbott campaign tying O'Rourke to President Biden on key issues like the economy and the border during a time when inflation and the number of unauthorized crossings on the southern border are at near-record levels.
O'Rourke has countered by calling Abbott too extreme for Texas. As governor, the former attorney general championed one of the country's most restrictive abortion policies and loosened gun laws in Texas. The latter came despite Abbott presiding over the state government during some of the country's worst mass shootings, including the racially motivated attack in El Paso in 2019 and the killing of 19 children and two school teachers in Uvalde this year. While the Uvalde shooting has sparked political activism among victims' families, polling shows gun-related issues have fallen lower on Texans' list of top concerns.
In this contentious race, Houston Republican Dan Patrick is seeking his third term as the state's lieutenant governor, a powerful position that controls the agenda in the Texas Senate. Like Abbott, Patrick has enjoyed a steady lead in polling. But Democrat Mike Collier has remained optimistic during this latest challenge. Collier, an accountant, lost to Patrick in the race for the same seat in 2018 but has been endorsed by a handful of Republicans who think Patrick is too extreme.
The race between incumbent Ken Paxton and Democrat Rochelle Garza to be the state's top prosecutor comes as Paxton continues to serve the office under a cloud of controversy. He was indicted on charges of securities fraud in 2015 and was later accused by former employees of misusing his office to help donors. Paxton has also been criticized for being among high-profile Republicans across the country who disputed the results of the 2020 election.
Paxton faces Rochelle Garza, a Brownsville native and attorney who made headlines after she successfully sued the Trump administration while representing an immigrant teenager who sought access to an abortion. Garza has hit Paxton for this support of limiting abortion rights and his creation of an election integrity unit. She's also proposed the creation of a civil rights bureau in the office if elected.
Current land commissioner George P. Bush gave up a chance at reelection to the office to unsuccessfully run against Paxton in the attorney general's office. By bowing out, he leaves an open seat, and Democrat Jay Kleberg is taking on current state Sen. Dawn Buckingham, R-Lakeway.
The office is in charge of the Texas General Land Office, which manages thousands of acres in state land and is in charge of distributing aid for communities recovering from natural disasters. It also provides benefits for Texas veterans and their families through the Texas Veterans Land Board. Kleberg is the scion of King Ranch — one of the country's largest ranches, established in the mid-1800s in Kingsville, Texas.
What else is on the ballot?
Every seat for the Texas House and the U.S. Congress is also on the ballot, as those races are decided every two years. In largely Republican or Democratic districts, however, several incumbents already know their fates as they don't face challengers in the general election.
In some contests, specifically in South Texas, the races for Congress could help determine whether Democrats retain control of the House of Representatives. Among them is the seat for Texas' 34th Congressional district, where Democrat Vicente Gonzalez faces Mayra Flores, a Republican who flipped the seat when she won a special election in June. And in Laredo, Henry Cuellar, a Democrat, faces a tough challenge against Cassy Garcia, a newcomer who, like Flores, is hoping to capitalize on what she says are open-border policies embraced by Democrats.
Texans will also choose one seat on the Railroad Commission of Texas and all 15 members of the State Board of Education, plus many local school board seats. Three judges for the State Court of Criminal Appeals will also be determined, along with countywide positions and a variety of local ballot measures.
To see everything on your ballot, check out this handy tool from the League of Women voters.
How to vote
If you are voting today, a few things to remember: Some counties require voters go to their specific precincts if they vote on Election Day. That's because some counties still use a precinct model. Only about a third of Texas' 254 counties have moved away from that and adopted the vote-center model. You can check your voter registration and precinct on the Texas Secretary of State's website.
What do you need to cast your ballot?
You'll be asked for one of seven acceptable forms of photo identification, including a Texas driver's license, Texas handgun license, U.S. citizenship certificate, passport or passport card. Voters younger than 70 years of age can use IDs that expired within the last four years. For voters over 70, IDs expired for any length of time can still be used.
If you don't have one of the seven acceptable forms of photo ID, you can still cast a regular ballot using a supportive form of identification like a utility bill, bank statement or paycheck, KUT reported last month. A person will have to fill out a form declaring they don't have one of the acceptable forms of photo ID and that they had a reasonable impediment to acquiring one. The list of impediments to choose from includes lack of transportation, lack of certain documents like a birth certificate, lost identifications, work schedule, disability or illness, family responsibilities, or that you applied for one of the photo IDs but had not received it.