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Voters have their role: Study issues, vote wisely


When it comes to politicking, there’s little that beats name recognition.

The Texas Tribune’s Ross Ramsey suggested as much in an analysis published in these pages, and he’s right.

It’s especially true in down-ballot, less-publicized political races when the devil you know can get a big jump on the opposition if he or she is lesser known or not known at all.

That’s why this newspaper, which is focused largely on local news, will seek to add some Texas political coverage as the Texas campaigns wear on. The political parties have selected their standard-bearers and the informal kickoffs to the campaigns usually come around Labor Day.

Texas, of course, because of its sheer size, makes campaigning that much tougher. Austin is five hours away; the major metropolitan areas attract most of the political attention and TV, for its reach, gets lots of attention.

Port Arthur ranks No. 63 in Texas as a population center. When it comes to the swelling masses, we’re no Pflugerville, which ranks No. 62.

Jefferson County, with 256,299 people, ranks 20th in population among Texas counties, which makes us a little more attractive to major candidates, but we trail the Top 10 counties by a mile. Fort Bend County, with 764,828 people, ranks No. 10.

That doesn’t mean votes in Jefferson County, Port Arthur, Nederland, Port Neches and Groves don’t count. It means that we should not expect to find Greg Abbott pressing the flesh at Edith’s, or Beto O’Rourke jawing in Spanish along the Seawall.

Still, Texas voters — that’s us — owe it to ourselves to be prepared for voting. That means we need not only to know who is on the ballot, but what their positions on major issues entail. What’s important to you? Come Nov. 6, your vote in statewide races will have all the impact of a vote cast in Houston or Dallas or San Antonio. So there.

Major offices hang in the balance. Gov. Greg Abbott is seeking re-election, with a challenge from Democrat Lupe Valdez, former sheriff of Dallas County, who faces an uphill climb.

Incumbent U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, faces a spirited challenge from U.S. Rep. Robert “Beto” O’Rourke, D-El Paso, although he has maintained a small but steady lead since the outset.

There are other offices, too, that are important to this state: lieutenant governor, attorney general and all of the U.S. representatives.

But political races are not about the odds — those can flip, fast enough in a long campaign — but about experience, qualifications, ideas and leadership capabilities. Leading candidates in major races on the ballot have some starkly different ideas about government and this state’s direction. Voters must comb through those ideas and make up their own minds well before they enter a voting booth.