Voters will finally get their chance Tuesday to weigh in on Texas' long, rough gubernatorial primary.
Both Republican Gov. Rick Perry and rival Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison planned a last round of public appearances in Dallas, with Hutchison stopping at a polling place and Perry, in his official role as governor, participating in a military-related Texas Independence Day celebration.
The two are vying for the GOP gubernatorial nomination along with party activist Debra Medina. Medina is a favorite of many tea party voters and could pull in enough support to force a runoff.
If no one wins a majority of Tuesday's vote, the top two finishers will face off April 13.
The Republican winner will go up against the Democratic nominee in November. Ex-Houston Mayor Bill White is favored among the Democrats over Houston hair-care magnate Farouk Shami and five others.
Perry, the state's longest-serving governor, wants an unprecedented third full four-year term. Hutchison argues he's trying to stay too long and has grown arrogant in office. Medina calls herself the best alternative to establishment candidates.
Perry has pushed an anti-Washington message and talked up Texas as having one of the nation's best economies, something he says he helped bring about.
"People understand that over the last seven or eight years this state has had the type of proven executive leadership that has taken Texas to a very unique position in all the 50 states," Perry told supporters in Houston on Monday.
Hutchison says she'll do things differently from Perry, including lower business taxes and tackle ethics reforms and an education system plagued by a 30-percent dropout rate. She characterizes Perry's contention that she is a Washington insider as "ridiculous."
"It's clear I've fought for Texas my whole life," she said Monday, rattling off a list of stances that included fighting a "takeover of our health system" and President Barack Obama's stimulus package.
White, meanwhile, brushes aside suggestions that backlash against Obama and the Democratic-led Congress will destroy his chances of winning the governorship in the Republican-leaning state.
"What you find is more and more Texans call themselves independents," White said Monday in San Antonio. "That's the heart of my strategy."
The Texas Secretary of State's Office said 62 percent of early ballots cast in the state's 15 most populated counties were in the Republican primary.
Associated Press writers Juan Lozano and Ramit Plushnick-Masti in Houston and Michelle Roberts in San Antonio contributed to this report.
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