Five Dallas. Co. Republican state representatives face primary challengers in 2016. Three Republican incumbents were defeated by primary challengers in 2014, but history is actually on the incumbents’ side this year. Just one incumbent Republican state representative from Dallas Co. has lost a primary race in a presidential election year since 1996: former one-term Rep. Thomas Latham (R-Sunnyvale) in 2008.

Dallas Co. Representatives Defeated Since 1996

2014 – Rep. Bennett Ratliff (R-Coppell) by Matt Rinaldi in the primary
2014 – Rep. Stefani Carter (R-Dallas) by Linda Koop in the runoff
2014 – Rep. Linda Harper-Brown (R-Irving) by Rodney Anderson in the primary

2010 – Rep. Robert Miklos (D-Mesquite) by Cindy Burkett in the general
2010 – Rep. Carol Kent (D-Dallas) by Stefani Carter in the general
2010 – Rep. Kirk England (D-Grand Prairie) by Rodney Anderson in the general
2010 – Rep. Allen Vaught (D-Dallas) by Kenneth Sheets in the general
2010 – Rep. Terri Hodge (D-Dallas) by Eric Johnson in the primary

2008 – Rep. Thomas Latham (R-Sunnyvale) by Mike Anderson in the primary
2008 – Rep. Tony Goolsby (R-Dallas) by Carol Kent in the general

2006 – Rep. Elvira Reyna (R-Mesquite) by Thomas Latham in the primary
2006 – Rep. Jesse Jones (D-Dallas) by Barbara Mallory Caraway in the primary
2006 – Rep. Bill Keffer (R-Dallas) by Allen Vaught in the general

2002 – Rep. Domingo Garcia (D-Dallas) by Roberto Alonzo in the primary

1998 – Rep. Carolyn Galloway (R-Dallas) by Kenn George in the primary

1996 – Rep. Roberto Alonzo (D-Dallas) by Domingo Garcia in the runoff

1996 – Rep. Samuel Hudson III (D-Dallas) by Terri Hodge

Boldface indicates Republican primary.

Of course, past performance isn’t always indicative of future results, and sometimes history is at odds with itself. In HD115, the county’s marquee race, freshman Rep. Matt Rinaldi (R-Irving) faces a rematch against former Rep. Bennett Ratliff (R-Coppell), the incumbent he defeated by 92 votes in 2014. Since 2002, former representatives have won five of eight match-ups against the incumbents who defeated them, but all three of those losses came in 2012, the last presidential election year.

Republican incumbents have won nine of 13 rematches of a previous primary race since 2012. Ratliff was one of the incumbents who fell to a repeat challenger in Rinaldi. Their 2016 race is, at least for now, the rubber match.

In 2012, Rinaldi missed making the runoff when he fell 306 votes short of Ratliff, the second-place finisher. Ratliff, a former Coppell ISD trustee, went on to win the runoff, 52%-48%, over optometrist Steve Nguyen. Rinaldi won the first rematch, 51%-49%, in a head-to-head battle. The second rematch is once again head-to-head.

For the first time, Rinaldi has the financial advantage. He entered the campaign’s final month with nearly $50K more on hand and $140K more in total contributions than Ratliff. Rinaldi has already raised more than three times the amount he received prior to the 2014 primary ($317K to $105K). Despite no longer being an incumbent, Ratliff has raised more than $175K, which puts him above more than two dozen incumbents facing primary opponents.

Rep. Matt Rinaldi


Campaign Finance Summary

$119,234 – Cash on Hand

$89,498 – Contributions (1/1-1/21)
$46,036 – Expenditures (1/1-1/21)

$316,750 – Total Contributions (2015-16)
$325,409 – Total Expenditures (2015-16)

$14,408 – Loan Principal

Geographic Sources of Contributions

$189,749 – Austin (60%)
$25,010 – Cisco (8%)
$20,690 – Dallas (7%)
$17,510 – Houston (6%)
$11,020 – Fort Worth (3%)
$10,973 – Midland (3%)

$39,128 – Other Texas cities (12%)
$2,650 – Outside Texas (<1%)

Type of Contributor

$111,076 – Individuals (35%)
$205,653 – PACs and other entities (65%)

$316,691 – Cash (100%)
$39 – In Kind (0%)

District Zip Codes

$17,312 – Donors in district zip codes (5%)
$299,418 – Donors outside district (95%)

101 donors within district giving $1K or less

Top Contributors

$125,000 – Empower Texans PAC

$50,000 – Texans for Education Reform PAC

$25,000 – Farris Wilks

$15,000 – Windi Grimes

$10,000 – Mike Olcott

$5,973 – Constituent Focus PAC

$5,004 – Texans for Lawsuit Reform PAC

$5,000 – Tim Dunn, Highland Park Emergency Center LLC, Stacy Hock, Texas Home School Coalition PAC

$2,500 – Rep. James Frank, Wallace Hall, James Lindemann. Timothy Taft, Texas Land Title Assoc. PAC, Richard Weekley

$2,446 – NE Tarrant Tea Party PAC

$2,350 – Bernard Hewett

$2,000 – Rex Gore

Bennett Ratliff


Campaign Finance Summary

$70,261 – Cash on Hand

$63,120 – Contributions (1/1-1/21)
$29,394 – Expenditures (1/1-1/21)

$177,405 – Total Contributions (2015-16)
$188,786 – Total Expenditures (2015-16)

$80,000 – Loan Principal

Geographic Sources of Contributions

$40,434 – Austin (23%)
$30,769 – Dallas (17%)
$26,817 – Coppell (15%)
$12,900 – Houston (7%)
$12,500 – San Antonio (7%)
$5,950 – Plano (3%)
$4,879 – Carrollton (3%)

$41,861 – Other Texas cities (24%)
$1,295 – Outside Texas (<1%)

Type of Contributor

$110,871 – Individuals (62%)
$66,534 – PACs and other entities (38%)

$176,421 – Cash (99%)
$984 – In Kind (<1%)

District Zip Codes

$33,403 – Donors in district zip codes (19%)
$144,002 – Donors outside district (81%)

152 donors within district giving $1K or less

Top Contributors

$25,000 – Texas Assoc. of Realtors TREPAC

$10,000 – Charles Butt

$5,540 – J.K. Munson

$5,000 – Rick Ford, J.R. Jones

$4,500 – Stanley Graff

$3,000 – Jerry Bratton, Rep. Patricia Harless

$2,500 – Betsy & Nick Cade, John Carona, Consulting Engineers Council PAC, Rob Dixon, Halff Associates State PAC, Stanley Morgan, PAC for Engineers, Sam Pack, Jim Pitts, Beth Royal, Elizabeth Royal, Eric Royal, Tom Shriber, Cam Welch

$2,000 – Texas Society of Anesthesiologists PAC

Ratliff may be behind in overall contributions, but he has flipped the share of contributions from district residents from the incumbent. Ratliff has out-raised Rinaldi, $33K to $17K, from district zip codes, and Ratliff has more district residents giving him $1K or less (152 to 101). In 2014, Rinaldi had the advantage in district zip codes, out-raising Ratliff there $27K to $16K. So far this cycle, Rinaldi has raised $10K less from district zip codes. Ratliff has raised $17K more.

It’s a sign that Ratliff’s campaign is working hard in the district, particularly in his home town of Coppell, where he has raised nearly $27K. In 2014, he raised less than $12K from Coppell.

In fact, Ratliff has raised more from the district this cycle – and from a greater number of donors – than he did during 2012, when he won an open-seat race.

There were fewer votes cast in the 2014 primary (8,242) than in either the 2012 primary (8,793) or runoff (9,172). Ratliff’s home town of Coppell saw the largest drop-off from 2012 to 2014.  Compared with the runoff, 445 fewer people voted at Coppell precincts, comprising half the total drop-off across the district. This was a significant factor in Ratliff’s defeat. He received 60% of the vote in Coppell in 2014 (down 6% from his 2012 runoff performance) and won the city by 600 votes. Had Coppell turnout more closely tracked the runoff, then Ratliff would have been re-elected by around 150 votes.

Aside from Coppell, the rest of the 2014 primary vote tracked closely to the 2012 U.S. Senate primary runoff between Ted Cruz and David Dewhurst.

Carrollton Precincts


Cruz - 2012 Runoff


Rinaldi - 2014 Primary

Coppell Precincts


Cruz - 2012 Runoff


Rinaldi - 2014 Primary

Farmers Branch Precincts


Cruz - 2012 Runoff


Rinaldi - 2014 Primary

Irving Precincts


Cruz - 2012 Runoff


Rinaldi - 2014 Primary

Rinaldi’s best performances were in Carrollton and his home town of Irving. In 2014, Rinaldi beat Ratliff by 383 votes in Carrollton. Rinaldi also finished ahead of Ratliff by 183 votes in Carrollton when he came in second there in the 2012 primary. In Irving, Rinaldi beat Ratliff by 234 votes in 2014. In 2012, he finished ahead of Ratliff by 280 votes there.

The key to the race will be which cities turn out more voters. Irving has the most registered voters, comprising 26% of the HD115 total, but it also has the lowest turnout (6.5% in 2012, 5% in 2014). Coppell has the second-most registered voters but significantly higher turnout (13% in 2012, 12% in 2014). Carrollton has the third-most registered voters and a slightly lower turnout than Coppell (12% in 2012, 9% in 2014).

Both candidates have long lists of local endorsements. Rinaldi has been endorsed by Irving Mayor Beth Van Duyne, at least six city council members, at least four school board members and at least 11 former local officeholders. Ratliff has been endorsed by Coppell Mayor Karen Hunt and Farmers Branch Mayor Bob Phelps, at least 14 city council members, most of the Coppell ISD and Carrollton-Farmers Branch ISD trustees and at least a dozen former local officeholders.

Rinaldi has most of the endorsements from conservative groups and thought leaders, as he did in 2014.

The Tea Party flexed its muscles in Dallas Co. in 2014 when its patriots toppled longtime Sens. John Carona (R-Dallas) and Bob Deuell (R-Greenville). Don Huffines won HD115, which is entirely within SD16, 57%-43%. Carona received 514 fewer votes than Ratliff in HD115, suggesting that support for Tea Party candidates is neither monolithic nor exclusive. In other words, we would have expected Rinaldi’s margin to be higher than it was. Ratliff’s Coppell roots alone cannot explain this result because Huffines won 53% of the vote in Coppell. Evidently, a little over 500 Huffines voters across HD115 found Ratliff to be suitably conservative, despite his low scorecard rankings, to choose him over Rinaldi.

We expect movement conservative groups like Empower Texans and their larger donors to contribute significantly to Rinaldi’s campaign in this final month. In 2012, the Accountability First PAC and Empower Texans PAC spent $39K after 30-day-out reports were filed, comprising 67% of Rinaldi’s contributions for that time period.

It remains to be seen whether Ratliff’s top contributor during that period – San Antonio grocer Charles Butt – will provide the now-challenger a significant boost this year. Butt has given Ratliff $10K so far. In 2012, Butt contributed $177.5K to Ratliff’s campaign, all after February 1.

It also remains to be seen who will benefit from increased primary turnout arising from an unsettled presidential nomination. Conventional wisdom and history suggest that a larger pool of voters will be more moderate, aiding Ratliff. However, much of this larger pool may be casting votes for U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz or Donald Trump, aiding Rinaldi.

Each candidate’s home city is the key, and we note that, historically, a higher percentage of voters turn out in Coppell than in Irving. If Ratliff can remain competitive in Carrollton (the district’s third largest voting bloc), then he has a very good chance to reclaim his old seat.