Historical percentage of the top fundraising candidate to win or advance to a runoff in a significant open-seat primary race.

Since 2006, there have been 145 races that met these criteria:

  • Primary for statewide, legislative or congressional office
  • No incumbent in the race
  • At least three candidates on the ballot, and
  • They are seeking the incumbent party’s nomination, or we judged it to be a potentially competitive race* for the other party’s nominee.

Exactly 100 of these races went to runoffs (69%) while the other 45 were won outright (31%).

We ranked the candidates’ total contributions over the election cycle as of the last campaign finance report filed before the primary election: pre-primary reports for federal candidates and 8-day-out reports for state candidates. We then looked at how those candidates fared in their respective races.

Click here to view the interactive chart.

Unsurprisingly, candidates who raised more money tended to fare better than their rivals, but their record is not perfect. Just over three out of every four top fundraisers either won outright (26%) or advanced to a runoff (51%). Nearly as many failed to advance (34 candidates) as won outright (37 candidates). Top fundraisers claimed 82% of the outright wins.

Among second-place fundraisers, just eight won outright (5.5%) and 72 advanced to a runoff (49.7%). The first- and second-place fundraisers combined claimed 73% of all runoff spots. Just over half of all runoffs were between the first- and second-place fundraisers, including all but four runoffs arising from three-candidate fields.

No candidate ranked third or lower in total contributions has won one of these primaries outright. Candidates’ success rates of making runoffs drops from 23% of third-place contribution totals to 12% for fourth place, and 7% for fifth place. Just 9 candidates ranked fifth or lower in total contributions have advanced to a runoff.

Federal candidates have already filed their pre-primary reports, so we know the rankings of the candidates in the eight races meeting the criteria for this analysis. State candidates’ 8-day-out reports are due tomorrow (Tuesday) and will become available online Wednesday, at which time we can see how those 30 races’ candidates rank.

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Click here to view the interactive table.

Wesley Hunt (R), Morgan Luttrell (R) and Monica De la Cruz-Hernandez (R) are orders of magnitude ahead of their nearest rivals in CD38 open (Safe R), CD8 open (Safe R) and CD15 open (Toss Up), respectively. Of those three, Luttrell appears most likely to head to a runoff against the second-place fundraiser, Christian Collins, who has the backing of several scorecard conservative groups.

The other races’ fields are significantly closer. Collectively, there is no obvious top fundraiser in danger of missing a runoff, though the dynamics of CD30 open (Safe D), CD15 open (Toss Up) on the Democratic side and CD28 (Lean D) on the Republican side seem to be the most likely possibilities.

This analysis excludes independent expenditures, which could tilt the field in CD30 and CD15 (R) toward the top fundraisers.

As for the dark horse candidates who could make the runoff from a fundraising disadvantage, there are again no clear-cut possibilities. Sandra Whitten in CD28 (R) has previously been a general election candidate and is only $61K behind the second-place fundraiser, Willie Vasquez Ng. The large field of CD38 could produce a dark horse runoff candidate if Hunt fails to win a majority outright.

We’ll run a similar analysis of the House, Senate and statewide seats after the 8-day-out reports are filed.

* An example of the latter type of race was the Democratic primary for CD7 in 2018. That primary winner went on to win the general election, defeating a Republican incumbent.

©2022 Texas Election Source LLC