Bud Kennedy

For this candidate, low voter turnout is ‘very good.’ (It’s not so good for Texas.)

Jerry Patterson is a former Texas land commissioner and state senator who authored Texas' conceal carry law.  Photo is from Star-Telegram archives.
Jerry Patterson is a former Texas land commissioner and state senator who authored Texas' conceal carry law. Photo is from Star-Telegram archives. bud@star-telegram.com

From 3 to 6 percent of the voters make all the decisions in Texas.

If you don’t like that, you have one day to do something about it.

I’m not kidding. Texas’ March 6 primary elections are the nation’s earliest. So mostly, they draw the most adamantly partisan voters.

But Monday is the deadline to sign up. This is the election that helps decide the major party nominees, the Legislature and eventually the future of Texas.

If you’re an independent voter who’d like to have a say in that future, we don’t make it easy.

You have to sign up by 6 p.m. Monday.

Then you don’t have to choose a side until you vote. Early voting begins Feb. 20.

If you’re not there, the most extreme voters will take over the nominations and take over Texas, usually with the help of a fistful of PAC money.

For example, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz is obviously much more popular now than when he first won in 2012. But back then, he won with the votes of only 1 out of 20 Texans.

With Cruz, Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick returning atop the Republican ticket, and Democrats thrilled over Senate hopeful Beto O’Rourke but less organized otherwise, this is expected to be a sleepy March primary.

It’s been 40 years since Texas set the record for primary voter turnout: 39 percent.

The 2014 turnout: 14 percent.

But it least that wasn’t as bad as 2006, when returning Gov. Rick Perry and Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst were unchallenged.

That year’s turnout was in single digits: 9 percent. (So a winner needed 5 percent.)

That same year, then-Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson ran unopposed in the primary and took all 550,563 votes statewide.

This year, he’s on the outside challenging the incumbent land commissioner, George P. Bush.

“If it’s a low turnout, that’s very good for me,” Patterson said Saturday at a Republican candidate fair and straw poll at the Hurst Conference Center.

“It’s good for all the challengers. When you’ve got a small turnout, the grassroots voters [party activists] are important.”

I walked up just as he was telling another voter that he hopes to push Bush into a runoff election. That would be May 22.

The busiest local primary campaigns are probably both headed to runoffs that day. That would be both primaries in Congressional District 6, where 11 Republicans and five Democrats are running to succeed U.S. Rep. Joe Barton.

The Hurst event didn’t include federal campaigns. It was billed as a “Tarrant County Candidate Fair” but was put on by two Denton County-based PACs.

Guests were given a “candidate guide” listing endorsements from the $1.7 million Empower Texans PAC, funded primarily by Midland oilman and Christian school co-founder Tim Dunn.

(What did I say about a fistful of PAC money?)

Former Mansfield City Council member Wendy Burgess, one of four candidates for the open office of county tax assessor-collector, said she’s had to explain to voters not only why she’s running, but the basics of the election.

You’d think voters would take more interest in that $180,365-a-year job.

(If current tax assessor Ron Wright wins his run for Congress, he’ll have to take a pay cut.)

“We’re all trying as hard as we can to tell people about the election,” Burgess said as opponents Rick Barnes of Keller and Mike Snyder of Haltom City glad-handed with voters around a well-staffed table for the fourth candidate, Trasa Robertson Cobern of Hurst.

“I’ve had people say they didn’t know there was an election,” she said.

Vote before it’s too late.

Bud Kennedy: 817-390-7538, @BudKennedy.

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