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Why voter turnout for the Texas primary election matters

Everybody wants to talk about politics, but nobody is talking much about these down-ballot primary Texas races. That's not a good sign.

New healthcare proposals

A Texas congresswoman just introduced bills to change who you can insure under your policy, increase how much you can put away in a Health Savings Account and expand what all you spend it on.

If passed, this could create significant changes.

Congresswoman Beth Van Duyne, a Republican who represents northern parts of Dallas and Tarrant counties, is behind these bills. She spoke with Inside Texas Politics about the proposals, saying there's no better time to talk about health insurance.

“Between this pandemic and lack of insurance, people right now are crunching the dollars and how they’re going to be able to spend them," Van Duyne explained. "Everybody wants to be healthy."

Read more about the proposals here.

Race for Texas attorney general

One of the biggest races in the March primary is the Republicans running for Texas Attorney General. Four candidates are in the race, and incumbent Ken Paxton was ahead considerably.

But, he just went negative, launching ads on TV and Facebook against challenger, Congressman Louie Gohmert.

What should we read into that? Candidates usually do not go negative unless they must. Does this suggest the race is tightening up? The Texas Tribune's Ross Ramsey said it does.

"It suggests that the incumbent (Paxton) doesn't want to get into a runoff," Ramsey said. "He's got three stout opponents ... but Gohmert is the one who probably takes the most votes away from Paxton's base."

"Now, the attorney general is swinging at him. I think that's clearly seeing a threat and trying to take it out," Ramsey added.

Ballot application rules

The state's new voting law says public officials cannot send out applications for mail-in ballots. But it doesn't prohibit candidates from doing so – even if they are public officials. Does this sound kind of shady?

"There's a loophole here," Ramsey said. "(Lawmakers) were angry at Harris County for sending out ballot applications to every registered voter. They said you can't do that anymore. But they allow campaigns to do it, and an elected official in a campaign season is a candidate instead of an elected official."

Race for Dallas County district attorney

The focus is now on Dallas County and the race for district attorney. The March primary will be a rematch of the same race four years ago: John Creuzot versus Elizabeth Frizell.

Creuzot won the first time but is now running on his record. 

Inside Texas Politics spoke to both candidates. His name comes first alphabetically, making him our first interview.

John Creuzot

Incumbent Dallas County district attorney recently made a decision that’s playing a large role in the campaign leading up to the March 1 primary.

Democrat John Creuzot says prosecutors will no longer make any indictment recommendations to a grand jury in any criminal case. Before this, there were no recommendations only in cases involving police officers suspected of a crime. He defended that decision on Inside Texas Politics.

RELATED: Dallas County district attorney defends office as his reforms become campaign issues

Elizabeth Frizell

Frizell, a Democrat, is a former judge who lost by less than 600 votes last election. She was blunt in her assessment of some of the decisions made by incumbent Dallas County DA John Creuzot.

RELATED: Candidate for Dallas County DA calls some of incumbent's reforms 'dangerous'

Texas’ new district maps

Retiring state Sen. Kel Seliger (R-Amarillo), who was the former redistricting chairman for the state, said in court documents that he thinks the new political maps violated the federal Voting Rights Act, specifically in its redesign of Beverly Powell's Tarrant County district.

Seliger essentially said that when officials can draw a district for what's historically a minority population, they have to do so, and they didn't do so in this case.

"It's been a swing district for 20 years," explained the Fort Worth Star-Telegram's Bud Kennedy. "The Republican party tried to do something about that. We'll see if it holds up in court."

Down-ballot voting

Everybody wants to talk about politics, but nobody is talking much about these down-ballot primary Texas races – or giving candidates much money, either – unless they're running for governor.

Is the primary campaign off to a slow start? Does that help or hurt anyone in particular? Kennedy said it all depends on turnout. 

"Remember that the primary races in Texas, a lot of times Texas officials are elected by the meanest or maddest voters in both parties," he said. "You want to have a big primary turnout. You want to have a lot of people voting and a good big middle of both parties participating. If we don't get that, we have extreme candidates."

Watch the full episode of the latest Inside Texas Politics.

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