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Stakes high for Northeast Texas Republicans on Super Tuesday

Bryan Slaton, left, defeated incumbent Dan Flynn by a roughly 39-point margin in the July 14 Republican Party primary runoff.
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Bryan Slaton of Royse City, left, is challenging incumbent Dan Flynn of Van for the Republican nomination for the Texas House of Representatives District 2 office.

Early-voting turnout in this year's party primary elections has been high, thanks in part to the presidential race. But among Republicans, some competitive and controversial campaigns for state, regional and local offices have also contributed to voter interest.

Here's a roundup, including links to statewide media reports, of three interesting contests here in Northeast Texas.

1. Texas House of Representatives, District 2

Dan Flynn of Van is in his sixth term representing the district composed of Hopkins, Hunt and Van Zandt counties. Flynn is noteworthy in that his conservative credentials have been strong enough for him to weather the anti-incumbent mood in recent years: Flynn fended off primary challenges in 2006, 2010 and 2012 -- although Flynn did not face a challenger in 2014, a primary which was particularly difficult for Texas Republican incumbents. 

Bryan Slaton of Royse City has been endorsed by some grassroots groups on the right to replace Flynn. The Texas Tribune reports that Slaton has accused Flynn of failing to reflect his constituents' views on issues such as the failed Northeast Gateway toll road, which Slaton opposed as an activist. Flynn disputes this claim and points out that he helped author the bill that closed the loophole allowing private developers eminent-domain authority for such a project. 

The Houston Chronicle reported that State Sen. Bob Hall, who ousted fellow Republican and veteran statesman Bob Deuell in 2014, has endorsed Slaton -- and that Flynn has responded to Hall with swipes at the latter's effectiveness as a legislator. 

2. State Board of Education, District 9

This vast district includes all of Northeast Texas. Thomas Ratliff of Mount Pleasant has represented District 9 on the 15-member board since 2011, but is not seeking re-election. Ratliff currently serves as the board's Vice-Chair. Three Republicans are running to replace Ratliff: Mary Lou Bruner of Mineola, Keven M. Ellis of Lufkin and Hank Hering of Lindale.

The Texas Tribune notes that "Ellis takes issue with being cast as the 'establishment' candidate in the race, although political scientists say the showdown clearly embodies the intra-party power struggle that has gripped the GOP in a whole new way this election cycle."

Bruner and Hering seem to have similar views, although Bruner has attracted more attention, in part due to some bizarre social media posts, including claims that President Obama was a gay prostitute and that the idea of anthropogenic climate change is a hoax devised by Karl Marx.

Democrat Amanda Rudolph of Nacogdoches is running unopposed in her party's primary and will face the GOP winner for the right to represent the heavily Republican district in the November elections.

3. Lamar County Clerk

Incumbent Russ Towers was appointed to county clerk in 2015, after the previous county clerk retired. Towers had served as the county's elections administrator for seven years. Ruth Sisson is challenging Towers for the GOP nomination. 

The Texas Observer reports that the race is a bit more intriguing than a typical county clerk race for a couple of reasons. Sisson has a history of writing bad checks. Towers, if elected, would be the first openly gay Republican office-holder in Texas. 

Some other Northeast Texas races to watch:

U.S. House of Representatives, Republican: Lou Gigliotti, John Ratcliffe (incumbent)

Texas Senate, District 1, Republican: James K. "Red" Brown, Bryan Hughes, Mike Lee, David Simpson.

Texas House, District 1, Republican: George Lavender, Gary VanDeaver (incumbent).

Texas House, District 4, Republican: Lance Gooden, Stuart Spitzer (incumbent).

Texas House, District 5, Republican: Holly Coggins Hayes, Randy Davis, Philip Hayes, Cole Hefner, Jay Misenheimer.

Texas House, District 33, Democratic: Karen Jacobs, Cristin Padgett.

Texas House, District 33, Republican: Justin Holland, John Keating, Lorne Liechty.

Texas House, District 89, Republican: Jodie Laubenberg (incumbent), Dalton Lytle.

Mark Haslett has served at KETR since 2013. Since then, the station's news operation has enjoyed an increase in listener engagement and audience metrics, as well recognition in the Texas AP Broadcasters awards.