The dash to the March 2 Texas primary election is under way.
Leading the lineup for the eight intense weeks of campaigning are the two major Republican contenders for governor, Gov. Rick Perry and U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison. Both made their candidacies official early in the monthlong filing period, which ended Monday. And both already have hit the television airwaves with ads.
In the Democratic race for governor, former Houston Mayor Bill White is running against wealthy Houston businessman Farouk Shami and several lesser-known candidates.
Just before Monday's deadline, more candidates for other statewide offices presented their political paperwork.
Linda Chavez-Thompson, a former national AFL-CIO official who dropped out of school as a girl to help her family work in Texas cotton fields, decided to run for lieutenant governor in the Democratic primary, joining former Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle and Austin deli owner Marc Katz in that race.
Chavez-Thompson refused to criticize her Democratic opponents Monday, instead making references to Republican Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst's re-election bid. She characterized herself as an underdog against Dewhurst, a "comfortable millionaire," and said supporters talked her into running to help bring out the Democratic voter base.
"They said I was the candidate that could do it, and they finally convinced me that I could," said Chavez-Thompson, who lives in San Antonio and remains a prominent labor union figure. She was a superdelegate to the Democratic National Convention in 2008. She has never held elected office.
Another Democratic statewide filing Monday was by former state Sen. Hector Uribe, who opted to run for land commissioner. Republican Jerry Patterson is the incumbent in that office seeking re-election.
Democratic Party spokeswoman Kirsten Gray said her party is fielding well-qualified candidates who will provide strong competition to Republicans in the November general election.
"We're prepared, united and ready to throw our full support behind our Democratic candidates after our voters cast their ballots in the primary," she said.
Meanwhile, Texas Republican Party spokesman Bryan Preston showed enthusiasm of his own.
"We feel that we're going to come out like gangbusters this year," Preston said. "So we're fired up."
A notable filing for the GOP ballot the final day was by Leon County Republican Chairman Marva Beck, who filed to run for the state representative seat held by Democrat Jim Dunnam of Waco, the outspoken leader of his party's caucus in the Texas House.
Texas Democrats have been trying to work their way back into statewide political contention for a decade. Republicans have held all statewide offices since 1999 and both chambers of the Legislature since 2003.
Entrenched Republican incumbents have filed for re-election for several lower-level statewide posts. For instance, in addition to Patterson for land commissioner, Attorney General Greg Abbott, Comptroller Susan Combs and Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples are all running again in 2010. A number of Texas incumbents in Congress from both parties also filed for re-election.
Dewhurst and Abbott had been considered potential candidates for higher offices, but Hutchison's decision to stay in the U.S. Senate until after the primary meant the anticipated political scramble never happened.