The ongoing response to contain the severity of the spread of COVID-19 has impacted most aspects of a normal, daily life in the state’s largest counties. First of all, I hope each of you, your families and loved ones are safe, healthy and secure. As a small business, I thank you for your continued support even as the primary thing I deliver to you – election news and analysis – has slowed greatly.

Gov. Greg Abbott (R) last week postponed the May 26 runoff elections until July 14, the date he ordered for the SD14 special election, which normally would have in conjunction with the May 2 general election. Unable to postpone those elections on his own, Abbott  suspended portions of the Election Code and other codes to enable local governments to hold those elections in November. No local government has done so yet, as far as we can tell, but San Benito’s city council will discuss delaying its election at its meeting tomorrow (Tuesday).

According to the Valley Morning Star’s Fernando Del Valle, the city manager said, “At a time that county, state, and federal officials are requesting social distancing, it appears that this option may be necessary to protect lives.” Del Valle reported that the candidates with whom he spoke were in favor of the postponement.

Campaigns are hamstrung by social distancing, limits on the size of gatherings and the economic pressures so many Texans are facing. Candidates are simply unable to campaign. Door-to-door blockwalking efforts have largely ended. Rallies can’t be held because of social distancing guidelines and prohibitions of events above a certain attendance. “Retail politics” is largely impossible.

They are also unable to raise money. I expect the July semiannual and quarterly reports will show a significant downturn in contributions compared to the same period in prior election cycles. Fundraising events cannot happen. Economic pressures and uncertainty affecting Texas families will sharply reduce the number of small donors. Candidates will likely be more reliant than ever on large donations or the ability to self-fund their campaigns. We may very well see this come into play in the runoff elections where candidates who have built a broad network of support are suddenly disadvantaged.

I expect campaigns will get created with digital campaigning, including video meet and greets and increased reliance on social media. Fundraising efforts will get creative as well, but they are facing a cascading uncertainty that will likely drive down political contributions. Creativity does not necessarily require money, so I expect we will see some innovative uses of cheap technology in the coming weeks and months.

I also expect the pandemic response will slow voter registrations, although we will not see this data for some time. The next statewide data point does not come until November, which we all hope is well after Texas has returned to business as usual. Depending on when that occurs, registrations may rebound.

In the meantime, there are signs that campaigns are shifting their grassroots efforts to community service from politics. “I will put my campaign’s grassroots team on the job of helping our neighbors across our huge district,” said CD13 Republican runoff candidate Josh Winegarner in a press release. “I want to help people and help Texans help each other.” Several other candidates have released similar statements, as has the Texas Democratic Party, which launched “ConnectTexas, an online community where folks can connect with people locally and statewide to communicate their needs, share resources, and create a sense of unity despite the uncertainty.”

I, as all Texans, look forward to returning to “business as usual.” For now, we must take care of ourselves and each other. Our coverage may be less frequent and have fewer insights and fewer items to report as this crisis continues, but we remain vigilant and will continue to cover Texas elections and candidates. We will not this nasty virus stop us, and neither will you.

Stay safe, stay healthy and take care of each other.

– Jeff

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