A Closer Look: The ins and outs of a few important races

For more than a year now gubernatorial candidates Wendy Davis and Greg Abbott have dominated airwaves and secured way more newspaper column inches than any other race in Texas. And rightly so.

The race for lieutenant governor, between Leticia Van de Putte and Dan Patrick, has also received a ton of well-deserved press.

However, there are nearly 100 races and ballot initiatives November 4 in which some or all of Bexar County’s registered voters are eligible to cast ballots.

Here’s a breakdown of seven races we think you should know about and here’s a link to a generic sample ballot.

United States Senator

Each state is represented in Washington D.C. by two senators and Texas’ senior senator, John Cornyn, is up for reelection this fall.

Cornyn, a Republican who is expected to win his third term, is facing off against Democrat David M. Alameel, as well as third-party candidates

Rebecca Paddock, a Libertarian, and Emily “Spicybrown” Sanchez, a Green Party candidate.

Nearly every poll gives Cornyn a double-digit lead.

Cornyn is a classic conservative and can be expected to vote in line with the Republican Party’s platform. So don’t expect any support from Cornyn on women’s reproductive health or LGBT issues. Cornyn has repeatedly endorsed strict anti-abortion measures and consistently expressed disapproval of gay marriage, even voting to ban same-sex marriage. The Human Rights Commission gave Cornyn a 0 rating this year.

Alameel is a traditional Democrat who can be expected to fall in line with his party’s platform, which includes immigration reform, pro-choice rights, increasing the minimum wage and women’s reproductive health rights.

Alameel hasn’t said too much about LGBT issues other than he supports the LGBT community.

United States Representative District 23

If you live outside Loop 410 on the south, west or northwest sides of town, this is your district.

One-term incumbent Pete Gallego is fighting a challenge from Republican Will Hurd and Libertarian Ruben Corvalan. District 23 stretches all the way to El Paso and this race is considered one of the most competitive in Texas. Gallego defeated Republican Congressman Quico Canseco by a five-percent margin in the last election. Canseco had won the seat just two years earlier from longtime South Side Democratic fixture Ciro Rodriguez. If there’s an election where every vote counts, this is it.

If you believe in equality for people of all sexual orientations or are supportive of immigration reform or President Obama’s Affordable Health Care Act, Hurd is not your friend. This ex-CIA officer (yes, former CIA) takes his playbook straight from the Tea Party Expressscrew same-sex marriage, deregulate everything and send those kiddos back to Central America, but lock ’em up for awhile first.

While Gallego is a classic Democrat who supports pro-choice legislation and immigration reform, it should be noted that he voted to arm Syrian rebels, along with voting no against a prohibition on providing weapons in Syria.

Additionally, Gallego voted no against the prohibition of military action in Iraq, and he also voted no against a resolution prohibiting the use of funds from the 2002 Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution. That’s right—the resolution based on false claims of Nigerian uranium in Iraq that started the decade-long (and horribly brutal) war in Iraq, in which thousands of Americans and exponentially more Iraqis died.

Those efforts to prohibit the transfer of weapons to Syrian rebels and to prohibit the use of force in Iraq and the funding for it were all rejected by Congress.

So, when it comes to war mongering, perhaps Gallego has more in common with some of his pro-bomb-the-world colleagues than meets the eye.

Attorney General

The attorney general is the highest-ranking law-enforcement officer in the state. The office represents Texas in the courts, enforces child support and is in charge of consumer protection, among other duties. Greg Abbott held the post for 12 years until outgoing Governor Rick Perry cleared the way for Abbott’s long-anticipated gubernatorial run. Abbott has pursued Medicaid fraud and online fraud against consumers, as well as online child sex trafficking and child pornography crimes, and has a strong record of rounding up dead-beat dads who don’t pay child support.

Republican Ken Paxton, Democrat Sam Houston, Libertarian Jamie Balagia and Green Party candidate Jamar Osborne are all vying for the coveted spot.

Tea Party darling Paxton is facing a criminal complaint in the Travis County District Attorney’s Public Integrity Office, but no action will be taken until after the election. He’s accused of violating state securities laws and has admitted breaking those laws in 2004, 2005 and 2012.

If Paxton is elected, expect a continuation of Abbott’s habit of suing the federal government and “protecting” the border from immigrant women and children escaping violence in Central America and Mexico.

Houston has never held office and only entered the race after finding out that Paxton had no Democratic challenger. Houston’s platform includes reforming school finance, continuing to round up dads who don’t pay child support and doesn’t include a whole lot of let’s-sue-Obama rhetoric.

And for the record, Balagia wants to legalize marijuana.

Railroad Commissioner

In one of the least sexiest races in Texas, four candidates want to be railroad commissioner. This innocuous-sounding position comes with great power: the ability to regulate the exploration of oil and natural gas (think Eagle Ford Shale business boom). The Texas Railroad Commission also works to prevent waste of those resources, to protect water—both above and below ground—and has nothing to do with railroads.

Republican Ryan Sitton, Democrat Steven Brown, Libertarian Mark A. Miller and Green Party candidate Martina Salinas are on the ballot.

Brown’s platform includes enforcing environmental regulations to protect water and land resources, as well as establishing an Office of Public Advocacy that would serve as a watchdog. He also wants more funding for the office.

As for Sitton, he wants to be elected to stand up to “Obama’s War on Energy,” according to his platform, which includes high-noon shootouts with the Environmental Protection Agency and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. If you miss those great 19th-century days when powerful land barons made all the decisions regardless of human or environmental safety, Sitton’s your man.

Texas Supreme Court

This is a powerful group of people.

The Texas Supreme Court is made up of a chief justice and eight justices.Incumbent Chief Justice Nathan Hecht, who has served on the court since 1988, faces Democrat William Moody and Libertarian Tom Oxford.

In addition to the chief justice spot, three other seats are up for grabs this year (the judges serve six-year terms).

Republican Jeff Brown, Democrat Lawrence Edward Meyers and Libertarian Mark Ash are running for Place 6; Republican Jeff Boyd, Democrat Gina Benavides, Libertarian Don Fulton and Green Party candidate Charles E. Waterbury are running for Place 7; and Republican Phil Johnson, Libertarian RS Roberto Koelsch and Green Party candidate Jim Chisolm are running for Place 8.

These races are incredibly important because the Texas Supreme Court is the last resort for civil matters in the Lone Star State. This court also has administrative control of the State Bar of Texas, it has authority for licensing attorneys and it also appoints members to the Board of Law Examiners, the entity that administers the bar exam.

State Board of Education District 3

If the debate over Advanced Placement U.S. History courses being taught in Texas schools drives you nuts, you should pay attention to this race. The State Board of Education will vote on whether to teach the curriculum to Lone Star State students, despite the fact that students will be tested on the course by the College Board, which administers AP tests nationwide.

Republican candidate Dave Mundy thinks the AP U.S. History course is liberal hogwash that shouldn’t be taught. Incumbent board member Marisa B. Perez, a Democrat, will most likely vote against abolishing the course from Texas’ educational framework. Libertarian Josh Morales is also running for the position.

District Judge, 45th Judicial District

Bexar County 45th District Court Judge Barbara Nellermoe is retiring and will be replaced by either Republican Stephanie Walsh or Democrat John Bustamante.

Walsh has practiced law for 25 years and filed more than 1,000 cases in Bexar County, along with several filings in 13 other Texas counties. She is also a certified expert in family law, which this court often handles.

Bustamante graduated from law school in 2003 and practices intellectual property law, patent litigation, and criminal defense and represents clients in children’s court. In a judicial questionnaire, he said he would increase efficiency and communication in the court.

According to a profile on Bustamante in Out in SA, Nellermore is known for being a friend to the LGBT community, “especially in cases of child custody, adoption and transgender name changes.” And while the San Antonio Express-News endorsed Walsh because of her experience, the editorial board failed to mention that the State Bar of Texas has reprimanded Walsh twice.

And Bustamante, well, he’s earned the endorsement of the pro-LGBT Stonewall Democrats.

Editorial intern Abby Mangel contributed to this report.

Correction: October 26, 2014, 9:23 a.m.

A previous version of this story misidentified David Dewhurst as the Republican candidate for lieutenant governor. While Dewhurst is currently the lieutenant governor of Texas, he was beaten by State Senator Dan Patrick in a May runoff election for this year's Republican nomination.

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