AUSTIN, Texas (AP) The time has come for Texas politicos to either put up or shut up for the 2014 elections.
Republicans who think an incumbent is too liberal, or Democrats pondering a race where no one is seeking the party's nomination, have until the close of business Monday to file their paperwork. So far there are a lot of the former and not many of the latter.
Of the 15 statewide offices up for election, 36 Republicans and 15 Democrats have filed candidate paperwork with the Texas secretary of state's office. No Democrat was on the agency's list for any of the four Texas Supreme Court and three Court of Criminal Appeals races.
The primary election is set for March 4. No Democrat has won statewide office since 1994.
The most crowded race is for U.S. Sen. John Cornyn's job, with five candidates from each party in the race. The well-financed Cornyn is unlikely to face a serious challenge in the Republican primary, but there is no front-runner yet among the five Democrats who hail from all across the state.
Some candidates are more competitive than others, and many routinely put their names on the ballot with little chances for success. Larry SECEDE Kilgore first ran for governor in 2006 and is back on the Republican ticket this year, hoping the theme of his campaign which is now his official middle name will give him a fighting chance against front-runner Greg Abbott and the three others in the race.
Wendy Davis, the Fort Worth Democrat running for governor, has one competitor, Ray Madrigal, another frequent candidate for office who is a magistrate judge in Sea Drift, near Corpus Christi.
Perhaps what the candidate filings reveal most is the relative strength and depth of the political parties in Texas. Four top Republicans are in a fierce battle for lieutenant governor, three for attorney general and five for agriculture commissioner.
Three Republicans are in the race for the Railroad Commission, an entry-level statewide office that gives the winner routine access to the state's biggest campaign donors as well as the governor and attorney general. The only competition in the judicial races is for open seats vacated by Republican incumbents.
If a party can be judged by the number of people who want to lead it, Republicans certainly remain popular and thriving. Most of their statewide candidates have decades of experience winning elections.
Democrats have yet to field a complete slate of statewide candidates and have just one candidate each for lieutenant governor, attorney general, comptroller and land commissioner. The only potentially competitive race pits failed gubernatorial candidate Kinky Friedman against Jim Hogan for agriculture commissioner.
San Antonio Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, the only Democrat running for lieutenant governor, was first elected to the Texas House in 1990 and to the Senate in 1999. She has the most campaign experience among Democratic candidates followed by Davis, who won her Senate seat in 2008. Freidman and attorney general candidate Sam Houston have run statewide offices before, but have never won.
That lack of experience and the shortage of candidates reveal the shallowness of the Democratic bench after 20 years out of power. There are young Democrats who have statewide potential, such as San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro and his twin brother U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro, but they've decided like some others to sit out the 2014 race, likely to let others test the waters before they take the plunge themselves.
While there could be a flurry of candidate forms filed in the closing hours Monday, and perhaps a few surprise candidates, the races appear set. The Republican slate is flush with candidates eager to tout their low tax, low regulation records, and Democrats have a thin and inexperienced list touting the party's core platform of greater spending on education and social justice.
Campaign consultants argue over whether these are strengths or weaknesses.
After the primary, Texans will see if the crowded field leaves Republican victors wounded by the fray, or if the cakewalk to the nomination for Democrats kept their powder dry for the general election.
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