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Texas GOP Primary a 3-Way Fight to Possible Run-Off

Updated 5:45pm EST

Voters in Tuesday’s Texas GOP primary have three options in the governor’s race: incumbent Gov. Rick Perry faces U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison and Debra Medina, a candidate from the ever-growing Tea Party movement.

If none of the three garners 50 percent of Tuesday’s vote, a run-off will be held April 13.

“Gov. Rick Perry is out there predicting outright victory,” said Texas Public Radio’s Terry Gildea. “I think he probably will come out ahead but because of the presence of Debra Medina in this race, more than likely there will be a run-off between him and Kay Bailey Hutchinson.”

Perry leads a RealClearPolitics poll average 44.8 percent to 28.8 percent for Hutchinson and 17.8 percent for Medina. The three faced off Jan. 14 in a debate sponsored by KERA.

Medina’s campaign has caught attention as an example of the growing national strength of the Tea Party political movement. According to her campaign Web site, her core platform includes eliminating property taxes, protecting gun ownership, securing U.S. borders, and restoring “state soverignty.”

Medina’s presence in the governor’s race has caused Perry to change his tone, writes Shelley Kofler of KERA.

“In the final week of campaigning, Perry has emphasized traditional conservative issues like low taxes, border security and anti-abortion efforts,” Kofler writes. “But increasingly he’s sounding like the Tea Party libertarians who quote the U.S. Constitution, the 10th Amendment and state’s rights.”

When questioned specifically about the Tea Party, Perry told Kofler: “I think they were frustrated and they saw an administration and Congress that scared them. I’m tickled to death Tea Parties got put together and people stood up and said, ‘Hey, Washington! What are you doing?'”

Officials were surprised by the turnout for early voting, which ended on Feb. 26, Texas Public Radio reported. Not all of the interest centers on the gubernatorial primary though.

“There’s a lot at stake in the Republican primary, not only for governor but for a few congressional seats and other statewide offices,” Texas Public Radio’s Terry Gildea said. But for the Democrats, Gildea said there are “not necessarily as many motivations for Democrats to go out and vote in this primary. But it remains to be seen.”

The gubernatorial race is indeed tamer for the Democrats. A mid-February poll put Democrat Bill White, the former mayor of Houston, ahead of challenger Farouk Shami, a businessman, 50 percent to 11 percent. The two debated on Feb. 8.

Polls close at 7 p.m. CT Tuesday. You can listen live to results and analysis from KUT in Austin and follow a map of live returns on their Web site or follow Public Media Texas‘ live blog from Perry’s headquarters.

Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this post referenced the choice Republican voters face in the GOP primary. The Texas primary is open to all registered voters in the state and this version has been corrected.

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