Number of incumbent statewide officials, legislators and members of the Texas congressional delegation facing two or more primary opponents in 2018, the highest number for any election year since at least 1996. An additional 19 open seats — 1 statewide, 10 House and 8 congressional – could see a runoff for the nomination of the party currently holding the seat.
Having multiple primary opponents creates the possibility of a primary runoff election, and runoffs have historically been dangerous propositions for legislative and congressional incumbents.
Incumbents Facing Multiple Primary Opponents in 2018
Gov. Greg Abbott (R)
Land Comm. George P. Bush (R)
Agriculture Comm. Sid Miller (R)
Sen. Craig Estes (R-Wichita Falls)
Sen. Kel Seliger (R-Amarillo)
Sen. John Whitmire (D-Houston)
Rep. Scott Cosper (R-Killeen)
Rep. Dawnna Dukes (D-Austin)
Rep. Ken King (R-Canadian)
Rep. Linda Koop (R-Dallas)
Rep. Mike Lang (R-Granbury)
Rep. Rene Oliveira (D-Brownsville)
Rep. John Raney (R-College Station)
Rep. Hugh Shine (R-Temple)
Rep. Shawn Thierry (D-Houston)
Rep. Paul Workman (R-Austin)
U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R)
U.S. Rep. Louis Gohmert (R-Tyler)
U.S. Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Dallas)
U.S. Rep. Pete Olson (R-Sugar Land)
U.S. Rep. Randy Weber (R-Pearland)
Since 1996, 110 incumbents seeking re-election to statewide office, the Texas Legislature and the Texas Congressional delegation have faced two or more primary opponents. The experiences of those incumbents vary significantly between state and federal offices.
Of the 46 incumbent members of Congress facing multiple primary opponents, 42 have won outright (91%). Of the 64 incumbent statewide elected officials and legislators facing multiple primary opponents, just 28 have won outright (44%).
In 2016, six incumbent legislators had two or more primary opponents. Speaker Joe Straus (R-San Antonio) and Rep. Kyle Kacal (R-College Station) won their primaries outright, but three others – Rep. Ron Reynolds (D-Missouri City) and former Reps. Doug Miller (R-New Braunfels) and Wayne Smith (R-Baytown) – were forced into runoffs and challenger Valoree Swanson defeated former Rep. Debbie Riddle (R-Spring) without a runoff in the other race. Meanwhile, all 12 incumbent members of Congress facing multiple primary opponents prevailed without a runoff, receiving between 53% and 82% of the vote.
Since 1996, just 20% of incumbent Texas representatives and senators prevailed in their runoff elections, and no incumbent legislator has won a runoff after finishing second in the primary election since Sen. John Whitmire (D-Houston) in 1992. Neither incumbent member of Congress forced into a runoff – Ralph Hall in 2014 and Greg Laughlin in 1996 – prevailed.
Just two of nine statewide elected officials facing two or more primary opponents has won outright since 1996, but they have fared better in runoff elections. Six of the seven forced into runoffs prevailed. The exception was former Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst (R), who lost the 2014 Republican runoff to then-Sen. Dan Patrick (R-Houston), 65%-35%.
Since 1996, five incumbent legislators and two incumbent members of Congress have either failed to make a runoff or had a challenger win without a runoff.
Incumbents Losing Outright or Missing Runoffs Since 1996
Former Rep. Debbie Riddle (R-Spring) in 2016, lost outright
Former Rep. Naomi Gonzalez (D-El Paso) in 2014, missed runoff
Former U.S. Rep. Silvestre Reyes (D-El Paso) in 2012, lost outright
Former Rep. Jaime Capelo (D-Corpus Christi) in 2004, missed runoff
Former U.S. Rep. Chris Bell (D-Houston) in 2004, lost outright
Former Rep. Ignacio Salinas (D-San Diego) in 2002, missed runoff
Former Rep. Samuel Hudson (D-Dallas) in 1996, lost outright
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