2018 PRIMARY ELECTION GUIDE By Ross Ramsey The Texas Tribune The tempestuous president has been trumped by a tempest: Texas politics and government is all about Hurricane Harvey now, DQG 'RQDOG 7UXPS PLJKW QRW EH the most important outsider in the state’s 2018 elections after all. 'RQDOG7UXPSLVVXSSRVHGWREH the big name in politics next year, even though he’s not going to be on the ballot. That’s how it goes IRU SUHVLGHQWV 9RWHUV YRWH ZLWK their thumbs in off-year elections: Up for popular presidents, down for unpopular ones. The results measure a chief executive like a rain gauge measures a storm. But the tempestuous president has been trumped by a tempest: Texas politics and government is all about Hurricane Harvey now. The terrible storm triggered a di- saster recovery already fraught with politics — these messes are always like that. It’s about money. It’s about who’s doing a good job and who’s not doing a good job, and about who they’re doing a good job for, and who they’re not helping. The first phase of this — the widespread emergency — is over. But the storm left huge problems in its wake for the victims and the state, crowding out lots of petting political concerns and trivia and issues the pollsters discovered deep in their numbers. Harvey put the state’s political class on the spot: It’s time to actu- DOO\GRVWXII9RWHUVVKRXOGKDYHD good idea by this time next year which officeholders are heroes and which ones are goats. If Harvey is still at the top of the civic conversation in 12 months, Trump’s popularity might be the second- or third-most important issue of the 2018 elections. So far, so good. Most of the early reviews in the days since Harvey left Texas have been good for may- ors, county judges, governors and the people who aid and abet them. Those officeholders avoided the snares that caught George W. Bush and his administration when Ka- trina hit the Gulf Coast. The elect- ed class is, on this issue, relatively goat-free. That’s no small thing. But they have a year of chances left as they decide what should get rebuilt or remade, what shouldn’t, and who should pay. Houston is already having public conversa- tions and debates about property tax increases to pay some of the ex- penses. State and local officials are working the federal government for financial aid. Success and failure in those ef- forts will illustrate one of the car- dinal rules of political leadership: The best politics is simply doing your job. Screw that up, and it doesn’t matter that you have a fat campaign account and give rous- ing speeches. Republicans at the top of the ticket in Texas appear insulated; so far, it looks like the state’s top elected leaders will coast through the primaries without major oppo- nents. Most, if the tickets were set today, would coast in November, WRR &DQGLGDWHV KDYH XQWLO 'HF 11 to put their names on the ballot and change the competitive situa- tion. 'RZQ WKH EDOORW LV D GLIIHUHQW matter. Many of the Texans run- ning for Congress and the Legis- lature — incumbent or not — will face tough opponents in the March primaries and/or the November general election. For those in some parts of the state, that’ll mean campaigning in the wake of President Trump. 'HPRFUDWVDUHKRSHIXODERXWWKDW dreaming of disillusioned voters running away from a Republican president. Some Republicans are worried, and for the same reasons. On the other hand, if Trump is more popular by the time voters are making their decisions, it could be a bumper year for Republicans DQGDEXPPHUIRUWKH'HPRFUDWV In the region swept by Hurricane Harvey, the political conversation could be more local, and more tan- gible to voters. The 2018 elections will give those voters a chance to grade the people in charge. Trump might be the guy dominating cable television, but Harvey — espe- cially for people still dealing with its aftermath — will be front and center. Candidates who want to avoid the Trump wave can talk about the storm and about issues related to the storm. Harvey, for them, is a diversion. The candidates who’d rather talk about Trump will have an obstacle in the way, a hurricane that had a more direct effect on voters than an attention-grabbing president. Re-printed with permission from The Texas Tribune Analysis: X-factor in 2018’s Texas elections might be Harvey, not Donald PAGE 4 ‡$OLFH(FKR1HZV-RXUQDO‡6XQGD\)HEUXDU\