Rep. Doug Miller (R-New Braunfels) did not win a three-way primary outright and faces Fredericksburg hardware store owner Kyle Biedermann in the Republican runoff. Since 1996, just four of the 22 legislative incumbents forced into runoffs have prevailed, and all but one of them finished at least 17% ahead of their rival in the primary. Miller was 3.6% ahead of his runoff opponent.

Miller finished first in the primary, receiving 43% of the vote. Biedermann finished a close second with 40%. A third candidate, Boerne attorney and anti-Sharia Law activist Chris Byrd, received the remaining 17%.

Gillespie Co. was key to Miller’s 17-vote victory over freshman incumbent Nathan Macias in 2008, and it may very well be the key for Biedermann, who is from there, to oust the incumbent in 2016. Biedermann won Gillespie Co. outright with 52% of the vote, netting a little over 1,000 votes over Miller (39%). In 2008, Miller carried only Gillespie Co., winning it 60%-40% (1,113-vote margin), while Macias won the district’s three other counties, 52%-48% combined (1,096-vote margin). At the time, Bandera Co. was part of HD73. It is not today.

Rep. Doug Miller's Republican Primary History

2008 – defeated Rep. Nathan Macias (R-Bulverde), 50.03%-49.97%

Bandera Co.: 49.7% (-28 votes)
Comal Co.: 47% (-820 votes)
Gillespie Co.: 60% (+1,113 votes)
Kendall Co.: 48% (-248 votes)

2010 – unopposed

2012 – defeated Tea Party activist Rob Smith, 75%-25%

Comal Co.: 73% (+5,814 votes)
Gillespie Co.: 80% (+2,514 votes)
Kendall Co.: 77% (+3,033 votes)

Note: Texans for Fiscal Responsibility/Empower Texans did not endorse in this race. Texas Right to Life PAC endorsed Miller.

2014 – unopposed

2016 – in runoff against Kyle Biedermann, 43%-40%

Comal Co.: 47% (+2,839 votes)
Gillespie Co.: 39% (-1,026 votes)
Kendall Co.: 37% (-264 votes)

Miller received a 47% plurality in Comal Co., his home county and the largest in the district. Biedermann was second with 36%, 2,839 votes behind Miller. The incumbent’s margin there provided enough cushion to keep him ahead of Biedermann. Had Miller won Comal Co. outright, there probably would have been no runoff.

Biedermann received a narrow plurality in Kendall Co., 40%-37%, over Miller. Byrd came in third in his home county with 23% of the vote, his best performance.

Miller held significant campaign finance advantages headed into the primary. He out-raised Biedermann, $677K to $99K, and out-spent the challenger, $852K to $142K. Miller raised more than two and a half times the amount Biedermann raised from district zip codes, but Biedermann had virtually the same number of district residents contributing $1K or less (156 to Miller’s 158).

Rep. Doug Miller

Rep. Doug Miller

Campaign Finance Summary

$120,463 – Cash on Hand

$279,682 – Contributions (1/22-2/20)
$544,845 – Expenditures (1/22-2/20)

$675,679 – Total Contributions (2015-16)
$851,579 – Total Expenditures (2015-16)

$0 – Loan Principal

Note: Total Contributions and Total Expenditures are net of transfers between Miller’s SPAC and COH accounts totaling $111K.

Geographic Sources of Contributions

$298,372 – Austin (44%)
$55,525 – Fredericksburg (8%)
$54,889 – Houston (8%)
$52,675 – San Antonio (8%)
$50,710 – New Braunfels (8%)
$35,650 – Boerne (5%)
$29,140 – Dallas (4%)

$66,868 – Rest of Texas (10%)

$31,850 – Outside Texas (5%)

District Zip Codes

$149,785 – District Zip Codes (22%)
$876 – Average Contribution from District
158 donors in district zip codes giving $1K or less

$525,894 – Outside District (78%)

Top Contributors

$50,000 – Michael Porter

$49,904 – Texans for Lawsuit Reform PAC

$40,000 – Texas House Leadership Fund

$36,121 – Associated Republicans of Texas

$30,000 – John Weisman

$25,000 – Allan Bloxsom III, Charles Butt

$22,500 – Texas Assoc. of Realtors TREPAC

$17,769 – Texas Alliance for Life PAC

$15,000 – Texans for Education Reform PAC

$10,539 – Allen Boone Humphries Robinson LLP

$10,000 – Independent Insurance Agents of Texas PAC

$8,000 – A-1 South Texas Sign Erectors LP

$7,286 – Kirk Wilson

$5,020 – Texas Farm Bureau AGFUND

$5,000 – AT&T Texas PAC, Darwin Mandell, Parin Shah, Texas Automobile Dealers Assoc. PAC, Richard Weekley

Kyle Biedermann

Kyle Biedermann

Campaign Finance Summary

$2,089 – Cash on Hand

$60,535 – Contributions (1/22-2/20)
$83,713 – Expenditures (1/22-2/20)

$99,050 – Total Contributions (2015-16)
$142,043 – Total Expenditures (2015-16)

$25,600 – Loan Principal

Geographic Sources of Contributions

$55,580 – Fredericksburg (56%)
$25,050 – Austin (25%)
$7,350 – Comfort (7%)
$2,775 – Harper (3%)
$1,800 – San Antonio (2%)

$6,120 – Rest of Texas (6%)

$375 – Outside Texas (<1%)

District Zip Codes

$69,505 – District Zip Codes (70%)
$372 – Average Contribution from District
156 donors in district zip codes giving $1K or less

$29,545 – Outside District (30%)

Top Contributors

$25,000 – Empower Texans

$7,000 – Jason Underwood

$5,000 – Mickey Dunn, Celia Johnson, Jim McCray

$3,500 – Angela Smith

$3,000 – Roger Winter

$2,500 – David Gasmire

Movement conservative groups have been slow to back Biedermann. Some of them. Including Texas Values Action and Texas Eagle Forum’s Cathie Adams, backed Byrd in the primary. As such, many of these groups’ PACs and larger donors did not contribute to Biedermann prior to the primary election. Empower Texans PAC is Biedermann’s largest donor, but all of their contributions came in the final five weeks of the campaign. Young Conservatives of Texas also endorsed him prior to the primary. Texas Values Action endorsed Biedermann on April 1.

HD73 Republican runoff voters have been friendly to movement conservative-backed candidates in recent election cycles:

  • In 2014, HD73 voters preferred Dan Patrick more than 2-to-1 over the incumbent Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, 68%-32%.
  • In 2012, voters in Comal and Kendall Cos. preferred Donna Campbell nearly 3-to-1 over the incumbent Sen. Jeff Wentworth, 71%-29% (Gillespie Co. is in SD24.). Ted Cruz carried the district in his runoff against Dewhurst, 57%-43%, losing only Gillespie Co.
  • In 2010, HD73 voters were evenly divided between Rick Green and “establishment”-backed Debra Lehrmann for an open Supreme Court seat. Lehrmann carried the district by 28 votes.

It is likely that movement conservative groups will unite behind Biedermann, and that increases his odds of winning the runoff.

Republican runoffs could boost Biedermann relative to the primary. In addition to the SD24 runoff between Rep. Susan King (R-Abilene) and Dawn Buckingham, Gillespie Co. also has runoffs for tax assessor-collector and county commissioner (P1). Kendall Co. has a runoff for county commissioner (P4). Biedermann received 3% more, and Miller received 3% less, in that commissioner precinct than in the county as a whole.

Comal Co. has a runoff for sheriff, which could benefit Miller. However, Brent Paullus enters the runoff after finishing 21 points behind Mark Reynolds, 42%-21%, despite having the endorsement of the 20-year incumbent sheriff. If the contest remains one-sided, the benefit to Miller will be negligible. It could end up benefitting Biedermann, as Reynolds is running as the more conservative candidate.

There is a wildcard in play. At the end of March, a photo appeared of Biedermann dressing as the “Gay Hitler” character at a Saturday Night Live-themed charity event several years ago. In the photo, Biedermann is wearing a pink scarf and swastika. It was on Biedermann’s Facebook page until he deleted it shortly before launching his campaign. Biedermann feared that political opponents would “take it out of context.” Thus far, most of the criticism arising from the photo has come from LGBT groups and civil rights activists, so the photo may have no impact on Republican runoff voters in the Hill Country.

In recent runoff cycles, the overarching narrative of this race has not played out well for legislative incumbents. Miller should continue to have a significant campaign finance advantage, but we expect conservative groups to erode some of that advantage now that they have a single candidate left in the race. Miller’s inability to win his home county outright forced him into a runoff. He lost his home county in 2008, but Gillespie Co. voters sealed his victory. This year, Gillespie Co. is likely to be against him, and the district may elect its fourth different Republican representative since 2002.