Day 2: The Importance of the Primary Election and Who Is Running for Office in Your Area

Welcome to the Texas Retired Teachers Association (TRTA) series on “Good Voter Health” Day 2! Yesterday, TRTA focused on the importance of being registered to vote and provided valuable, informative links for our members to check their registration status. As a reminder, if you are not sure of your voter registration status, please check the Secretary of State website TODAY: https://team1.sos.state.tx.us/voterws/viw/faces/SearchSelectionVoter.jsp.

Yesterday, TRTA briefly mentioned the importance of the primary elections. Our members need to know that the vast majority of elections in Texas are determined in the primaries. In legislative races, the November general election does not matter that much! Your power as a voter is amplified in primary elections simply because so many other people choose not to vote.

Many of you may consider not voting in a primary because the person most likely to win in the general election is not from the political party you most closely identify with. If you are in this situation but you do not want another influential interest group to take away your power in the November general election, consider voting in the OPPOSITE party primary and choosing a candidate you believe may be friendlier to TRTA issues.

TRTA is not suggesting that you disregard your political ideals or that you vote for someone you do not support; however, the primary process offers a choice of candidates, some of whom may support the TRTA legislative agenda. If you think your vote may be better used in this way, this may be a winning strategy for gaining support for TRTA issues during legislative session.

Some TRTA members may agree with the likely victorious political party in their area. This does not mean, however, that the person winning the primary is the person you want representing you on vital TRTA legislative issues.

It is easy to take for granted that the candidate we would vote for willbe elected, but we must remember that when a candidate faces a challenger in the primary, the vote could go either way! If TRTA does not exercise its resources –the voices of 80,000 retirees—our allies in the Texas Legislature or candidates asking for a chance to serve and protect your TRS benefits may be defeated.

You may know someone who served in the Legislature previously that is no longer serving due to the results of a primary election. Because so few people cast a vote in the primary elections, these races can be determined by just a handful of votes! This means YOUR VOTE IN THE PRIMARY MATTERS.

Every vote cast in a primary election makes a difference!

TRTA does not endorse candidates for political office, but has a reputation for working across party lines to establish strong relationships with legislators for the good of TRS and its 300,000+ retirees. But we also know that many groups are still beating the drum to do away with our defined benefit retirement plan. We know that some challengers to elected officials in primary elections are being supported by groups that want to do away with our retirement system.

It is up to us to do our due diligence and ask candidates the tough questions about TRS!

Because your retirement benefits affect your livelihood, you owe it to yourself to find out the answers to the following questions from ALL candidates in your area:

  • Do you support a defined benefit plan for all current and future TRS retirees?
  • Do you support providing reasonable, affordable healthcare for TRS retirees?
  • What will you do as my legislator to ensure that the TRS pension fund and TRS–Care health insurance program are preserved and improved?

Please feel free to report back to TRTA with any responses you receive, both positive and negative. Send an email to info@trta.orgwith the subject line “Elections.” It is also worthwhile to share the feedback you receive from candidates with other education retirees.

Remember this too: regardless of who you vote for, there will be many new legislators joining the Texas Legislature in 2015. Several Senators and Representatives retired or chose to run for other offices, including the head of the Pensions Committee Representative Bill Callegari. There were also 50 new legislators in 2013. This means that nearly half of the entire legislative body in Texas will have less than two years of experience once the 84th Legislative Session begins!

Who is Running for Office in My Area?

As former educators, let us educate ourselves and all candidates running for office in Texas! Make a commitment to contact the candidates in your area and ask them the questions listed above.

Use the Texas Tribune Elections Bracket feature to determine who is running for office in your area: http://www.texastribune.org/2014/elections/brackets/. The easiest way to find races that affect you is to use the search by zip code feature near the top right-hand side of the page.

Remember, early voting for the primary elections begins February 18, 2014 and continues through February 28, 2014. Primary election day is March 4. We encourage members to vote early if possible, and to begin researching their candidates NOW!

Tomorrow, stay tuned for information about how you can get more involved in the political process by reading our “Good Voter Health” Day 3 article!

Thank you for being a member of TRTA! If you are not a member and are interested in joining, please contact our Membership Department at 1.800.880.1650.