Independent Laura Thompson captured the remainder of former Rep. Ruth Jones McClendon’s (D-San Antonio) unexpired term following a four-point, 50-vote victory over Democrat Lou Miller. Turnout was 1.3% of registered voters. Thompson will be the incumbent in November against a heavily favored Barbara Gervin-Hawkins if Thompson files sufficient signatures to validate her independent candidacy (We have heard reports that she did not, but we will try to confirm this later this week.).
The election was historic in a number of ways:
- Thompson became the first independent to win a House seat since Bodo Holekamp of Boerne and Homer Leonard of McAllen in 1932 (Leonard was re-elected as an independent in 1934 and 1936 before running as a Democrat for his remaining terms. He eventually was elected Speaker.)
- She will be the first legislator not affiliated with a party since 1968, when John Poerner of Hondo was elected as a Republican but changed to unaffiliated when the Legislature convened two months later.
- Thompson received 635 votes, the smallest amount of votes received by the winner of a general, special or special runoff election for a legislative seat in at least 25 years, and probably much longer.
- Just 1,225 people participated in the election, and just 409 people voted in person either on Election Day or during the week of early voting. The total turnout figure is just over half the number of people who voted in last year’s HD124 special runoff election, which was the previous low-water mark since 1996.
Five people, including one voting today in person, cast a blank ballot, which means they did not vote for either candidate. It also appears that no voter took advantage of the remedy for not having a legally required photo identification.
Her victory makes the partisan makeup of the House 99 Republicans, 50 Democrats and 1 independent.
If Thompson is unable to claim a spot on the general election ballot, she would become (barring a special session) the first legislator who would not cast a vote on the House floor since former Rep. Dan Barrett (D-Fort Worth), who won a 2007 special runoff election after the regular session concluded and did not win re-election in 2008. Rep. John Lujan (R-San Antonio) also risks this fate, but he is at least guaranteed a spot on the ballot.