Texas gubernatorial primaries drawing nearly twice the early voters as in 2006

Nearly twice as many Texans cast early ballots for the March 2 primary in the first six days of voting as did in the last gubernatorial race in 2006, state election records show.

Turnout was even higher in Tarrant County, with more than 16,024 votes cast, compared with 5,729 in 2006. In both years, Republicans turned in the bulk of the early ballots, election records show.

Analysts attribute the turnout to heated gubernatorial primaries for both Republicans and Democrats.

Republican Gov. Rick Perry faces challenges from U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison and Debra Medina, a Wharton businesswoman and Tea Party activist. Meanwhile, seven Democrats are vying for their party's nomination: former Houston Mayor Bill White, Houston hair-care magnate Farouk Shami, teacher Felix Alvarado, physician Alma Aguado, college professor Clement Glenn, private investigator Bill Dear and rancher Star Locke.

Through Sunday, 176,781 ballots were cast in person in the state's 15 largest counties. That represents 2.2 percent of the state's 8.1 million registered voters. Through the same point in 2006, 91,403 ballots, or 1.21 percent of registered voters, had been cast in person, records show.

In Tarrant County, 13,467 Republican and 2,557 Democrat ballots were cast through Sunday, compared with 4,549 and 1,180, respectively, in 2006.

Tarrant County Elections Administrator Steve Raborn has said that about 8,000 Democrats and about 35,000 Republicans may vote early in Tarrant County. Early voting ends Friday.

ANNA M. TINSLEY, 817-390-7610