Tomorrow is Primary Election Day, the earliest mid-term primary election in the Nation. Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. CST in every county except El Paso and Hudspeth Cos., which are located in the Mountain Time Zone. We will begin our live coverage of election results and analysis at https://txelects.wpengine.com/live beginning at 7 p.m. CST, when counties begin releasing early voting results.
Record Turnout, or Not: At this point in 2014, a record-setting early voting pace suggested the Republican Party would set a new record for primary participation, and it looked almost certain that Democratic turnout would rise for the first time since 2008. Neither happened when turnout fizzled on Election Day, the only time in state history when fewer voters cast their ballots on Election Day than during early voting and by mail.
This year, both parties have seen the highest early voting turnout for a gubernatorial election year and second-highest for any year. Republican strategist Derek Ryan’s analysis of voter history (PDF) determined that the vast majority of primary voters have voted in recent primaries, suggesting most of the growth is simply people voting earlier. New primary voters represent a larger share of Democratic primary voters, but they remain dwarfed by “regulars.” Young Texans are also decidedly absent. Less than 10% of Democratic primary voters and 3% of Republican primary voters are under 30 years old.
Fallen Incumbents: In the last three election cycles, 17 Republican and two Democratic incumbent legislators have lost their primary. Since 2002, at least four legislative incumbents’ re-election bids have ended in primary night defeats. On average, two more have been forced into runoffs, where they have not fared well.
The Republican slate features more than a dozen hotly contested races matching allies of outgoing Speaker Joe Straus (R-San Antonio) against challengers backed by movement conservative groups and their biggest donors. In three of those races, Gov. Greg Abbott (R) has thrown his support to the challengers, adding a new dynamic to these volatile contests. On the Democratic side, embattled Rep. Dawnna Dukes (D-Austin) faces several better-funded challengers who have been on the campaign trail for more than a year, and freshman Rep. Diana Arévalo (D-San Antonio) faces her predecessor, former Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer (D-San Antonio), who wants back in the game.
Return Engagements: Martinez Fischer is one of six former House members on the comeback trail, joining former Reps. Ted Kamel (R-Tyler), John Lujan (R-San Antonio), Gilbert Peña (R-Pasadena), Stuart Spitzer (R-Kaufman) and Steve Toth (R-The Woodlands). Since 2000, just under half of former representatives seeking to return to the House have been successful. In 2016, four of eight were successful, and one of two was successful in 2014. Kamel and Martinez Fischer are challenging incumbents in the primary election. Spitzer and Toth are running for Republican-held open seats. Lujan, who is unopposed in the primary, and Peña are challenging incumbents in the general election.
Grudge Matches: Eight primary races pit an incumbent against a challenger they beat in the last primary election. Since 2002, the winner of the most recent primary has won 22 of 35 rematches, including six out of seven in 2016 and five out of eight in 2014. The marquee rematches are in SD31 (Seliger vs. Canon), HD2 (Flynn vs. Slaton) and HD99 (Geren vs. French).
Money Talks: Since 2006, 77% of the candidates in open-seat races who raised the most money either won outright (23%) or advanced to a runoff (54%). Those percentages dropped with candidates’ rankings. In two-person races for open seats, 85% of candidates who raised more money won. While we expect these numbers will hold in most races, a few high-profile contests may provide exceptions to these rules. In CD2, Republican Kathaleen Wall has given her campaign nearly $6M as she tries to clear a field of eight rivals. In CD32, Democrat Ed Meier has raised almost as much as his six rivals combined. In SD8, Republican Angela Paxton has been out-raised by about $400K and outspent 2-to-1 by Phillip Huffines.
First _____ in Congress: Texas has never elected a Latina to Congress. Voters in two heavily Democratic districts could make history by nominating Latinas who would be heavily favored to win in November
- In open CD16, former El Paso County Judge Veronica Escobar and former Rep. Norma Chavez (D-El Paso) are running to succeed U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-El Paso).
- In open CD29, Sen. Sylvia Garcia (D-Houston) is vying to succeed U.S. Rep. Gene Green (D-Houston). Garcia has been outspent by physician Tahir Javed, who is trying to become the first Asian-American elected to Congress from Texas and the first-ever Pakistani-American to be elected to Congress.
Other Latina and Asian-American candidates are running in other districts, but their paths to Congress are more challenging. In CD23, Gina Ortiz Jones is vying to become the first openly LGBTQ+ person elected to Congress from Texas. In addition to other Democrats, Jones has an incumbent in her path, assuming U.S. Rep. Will Hurd (R-San Antonio) wins his primary.
Eighteen is Enough: Republican primary voters in open CD21 have 18 choices for their next member of Congress, the largest primary field in the modern era. Only two of them will advance to a runoff. Since 1992, the lowest percentage a candidate has received and still advanced to a runoff is 18%, set by Debra Lehrmann in the six-way primary for a Supreme Court seat in 2010. Given the unusually high number of open seats and high number of Democratic challengers, expect voters to force a modern record number of congressional runoffs. The previous high is 13 in 2012 (six Republicans, seven Democrats).
Statewide Runoffs: Democratic primary voters may force the first runoff for governor since 1990, while incumbent Land Comm. George P. Bush (R) and Agriculture Comm. Sid Miller (R) are seeking to avoid runoffs. An open Court of Criminal Appeals seat could also go to a runoff. There has been at least one Republican statewide runoff in the last four election cycles, and Democrats have held a statewide runoff in three straight election cycles.
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