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The QueQue: Local races to watch: deal-makers and puppet masters, SA bleeding the "creative class", Violence Against Women Act Rollbacks

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Local races to watch: deal-makers and puppet masters

It took us a while to get here, what with a redistricting snafu that dragged Texas into the halls of the U.S. Supreme Court and all. But political primaries are finally here with early voting, which started this past Monday, running through Friday, May 25. A number of longtime politicos face challenges within their parties, some heated, this go 'round. Here are three races we're watching before the May 29 election day creeps up.

Doggett v. Romo in D35: This gerrymandered district, snaking from Austin to San Antonio, is heavily weighted in the Alamo City, and was widely seen as a ploy to end the tenure of Austin's longtime liberal congressman Lloyd Doggett when it emerged from the GOP drawing room last year. Crafted to favor a San Antonio Hispanic, state Rep. Joaquin Castro initially campaigned hard against Doggett for the Democratic seat before ditching for U.S. Rep. Charlie Gonzalez's soon-to-be-vacated post. The Castro exit gave Doggett's camp some room, but the race is by no means a sure thing. With the bulk of D35 in Bexar County, Sylvia Romo, current Bexar County Tax Assessor-Collector, has got home-court advantage and has tied up support from much of the local political base. She touts regularly that a victory would crown her the first Latina from Texas elected to Congress and attempts to contrast herself against Doggett's rep as the liberal lion of the Texas Congressional delegation by calling herself "a consensus builder, someone who listens and respects the other side." Maria Luisa Alvarado, a little-known Air Force retiree, also appears on the Democratic ballot, though her campaign's largely flown under the radar.

Doggett likely has the Austin end of the vote locked in, so SA's the real battleground here. And there's also his formidable fundraising apparatus, with most recent FEC filings showing a $3.1 million war chest, compared to Romo's $14,000.

Wentworth v. Ames Jones: State Senator Jeff Wentworth's most remarkable 30-second TV spot, unveiled last month, opens with the credit "Houston Lobbyist Theatre Presents: 'String Pullin.'" Out rolls Elizabeth Ames Jones, challenging Wentworth for his state Senate seat in the GOP primary, with the marionette treatment. As the Jones puppet ambles about aimlessly with her briefcase on the state capital grounds, the ad cuts to a maniacal cigar-smoking lobbyist pulling the strings overhead.

Wentworth and Jones, who joined the state Senate race after her short-lived run in the U.S. Senate primary, have seemingly ditched all effort at maintaining mutual Republican civility this time. Wentworth contends Jones is steered by the Houston-based Texans for Lawsuit Reform (which is helping bankroll her campaign), a group that doesn't consider Wentworth conservative enough. Earlier this month, Wentworth filed an ethics complaint with the state against Jones, a former Texas Rail Road Commissioner, and her husband, saying her husband's legal work with water and energy companies made him "the secret fourth commissioner" on the oil and gas regulating body.

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