Overlapping timelines and different slates of candidates in HD120 have confused many people, including the voters of the district. On the eve of the third election to affect HD120 this year, we will try to explain how we got here and where this is all headed.
Former Rep. Ruth Jones McClendon’s (D-San Antonio) decision not to seek re-election created an open-seat race. Among the candidates who filed were Barbara Gervin-Hawkins and Mario Salas. They are in tomorrow’s Democratic primary runoff after receiving 26% and 23% of the vote, respectively. The winner goes on to the general election as the Democratic nominee. No Republican filed for the office, and there are no minor party candidates, but there is an independent.
McClendon’s decision to resign triggered a special election, which by law had to be held on the uniform election day in May, making it fall between the primary and primary runoff. Neither Gervin-Hawkins nor Salas would have been eligible to serve if they won the special election because of state residency requirements, so they skipped the special election. Several other candidates filed. The special election resulted in a runoff, set for August 2, between Laura Thompson (33%) and Lou Miller (28%).
Miller ran in the Democratic primary but finished in last place with 8% of the vote. Laura Thompson did not run in the primary because she filed paperwork for an independent candidacy instead, making her the only filed opponent to the winner of the Democratic primary runoff.
If Thompson wins the special runoff election, she will serve out the remainder of McClendon’s term and, assuming she successfully files her petition with enough signatures, will be on the ballot in November as an independent, seeking re-election. She would face the winner of the Democratic primary runoff between Gervin-Hawkins and Salas.
Incidentally, an independent has not been elected to the Texas House since 1932.
If Miller wins the special election runoff, he will serve out the remainder of McClendon’s term and would not be able to serve in the upcoming legislative session unless he mounted a successful write-in candidacy. To do that, Miller must file a petition to become a write-in candidate between July 23 and August 22, and he would face the winner of the Democratic primary runoff and Thompson.
Incidentally, the last write-in candidate to be elected to the House of Representatives appears to have been Homer Leonard of McAllen in 1930. The publisher of the McAllen Monitor, he ran as part of a “Good Government Party” ticket of candidates who were opposed to the Democratic Party’s slate of candidates.
Whoever wins the special runoff election faces a decidedly uphill climb in November because of straight-ticket voting. Nearly 70% of all votes cast in the 2012 general election were straight-ticket, with straight Democratic votes outnumbering straight Republican votes better than 2-to-1. Thus, the primary runoff winner (either Gervin-Hawkins or Salas) is favored to win the seat in November, even over a prospective incumbent (Thompson, as an independent, or Miller, as a write-in).