Heading into last week’s primary elections, we outlined four principal storylines we’d be watching as the results came in. Final official results, and the results of any recounts and contests, are still to come, but we have answers to all the questions we posed last week.

Fallen Incumbents? At least five incumbent legislators had been defeated in each primary cycle since 2002 save one, when only four fell (excluding runoffs). We mused that none might fall this year, though runoffs would be likely for several. Indeed, none fell outright, and six were forced into runoffs: Sen. Eddie Lucio Jr. (D-Brownsville) and Reps. Lorraine Birabil (D-Dallas), Harold Dutton (D-Houston), Anna Eastman (D-Houston), Dan Flynn (R-Van) and J.D. Sheffield (R-Gatesville).

However, an incumbent did fall, and it surprised just about everyone, including us. We gave his primary race a one-star rating, which it got by virtue of being contested. Comm. Ryan Sitton (R) became the first incumbent commissioner to lose a primary since 2010, when incumbent Victor Carillo lost the Republican primary to David Porter. Sitton is the second statewide elected official to fail to win re-nomination this decade, joining former Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst (R), who lost the 2014 Republican runoff to then-Sen. Dan Patrick (R-Houston). Two other Republican statewide officials – Supreme Court Justices Steven Wayne Smith (2004) and Xavier Rodriguez (2002) – were denied re-nomination, the latter by Smith following Rodriguez’s appointment to the high court. Since 1996, 95% of Republican statewide incumbents seeking re-election have won their primary (83 times) or runoff (6 times).

We expected Robstown environmental remediation executive Jim Wright would get a boost in Tarrant Co. from sharing the name with a former U.S. House Speaker and across the 28 counties comprising the 11th Court of Appeals, where he shared the name of a longtime judge. Indeed, Wright won all 29 of those counties, plus 203 others. Sitton won Collin, Denton, Donley (by one vote), Fort Bend (by 162 votes), Galveston, Garza (by 21 votes), Harris, Hidalgo, Hockley, Limestone (by 28 votes), Loving (by 6 votes, 15-9), Lubbock, Montgomery, Nacogdoches, Parker, Rusk, Smith, Starr (by 2 votes), Travis, Waller, Washington (by 81 votes) and Wood Cos.

Open-seat Madness: Thirty-two congressional and legislative seat nominations will be set to be decided in runoffs, tying 2018 for the most since at least 1996. Elisa Cardnell’s decision to suspend her campaign could ultimately drop the number to 31 if she formally withdraws.

Many of these runoffs are for open seats:

  • CD11 REP – August Pfluger (52%) won outright
  • CD13 REP – Josh Winegarner (39%) faces Ronny Jackson (20%)
  • CD17 REP – Former U.S. Rep. Pete Sessions (32%) faces Renée Swann (19%)
  • CD22 REP – Troy Nehls (41%) faces Kathaleen Wall (19%)
  • CD23 REP – Tony Gonzales II (28%) faces Raul Reyes Jr. (23%)
  • CD24 REP – Beth Van Duyne (64%) won outright
  • SD29 DEM – Rep. César Blanco (100%) was unopposed
  • HD10 REP – Jake Ellzey (65%) won outright
  • HD25 REP – Ro’Vin Garrett (29%) faces Cody Vasut (22%)
  • HD26 REP – Matthew Morgan (49.7%) faces Jacey Jetton (41%)
  • HD60 REP – Jon Francis (46%) faces Glenn Rogers (44%)
  • HD74 DEM – Eddie Morales Jr. (51%) won outright
  • HD92 REP – Jeff Cason (54%) won outright
  • HD119 DEM – Liz Campos (46%) faces Jennifer Ramos (44%); and
  • HD138 REP – Lacey Hull (59%) won outright

Runoffs will be required to settle these opposing party nominations for open seats and competitive districts:

  • SEN DEM – M.J. Hegar (22%) faces state Sen. Royce West (15%)
  • CD2 DEM – Sima Ladjevardian (48%) faces Elisa Cardnell (31%) unless she formally withdraws
  • CD10 DEM – Mike Siegel (44%) faces Pritesh Gandhi (33%)
  • CD24 DEM –Kim Olson (43%) faces Candace Valenzuela (30%)
  • CD31 DEM – Christine Mann (35%) faces Donna Imam (31%)
  • HD45 REP – Carrie Isaac (48%) faces Bud Wymore (41%)
  • HD47 REP – Jennifer Fleck (32%) faces, at least for now, Don Zimmerman (23%), who is one vote ahead of Justin Berry (23%)
  • HD67 DEM – Tom Adair (33%) faces Lorenzo Sanchez (27%); and
  • HD138 DEM – Akilah Bacy (46%) faces Jennifer Rene Pool (30%)

It is just the third time since 1996 that at least 30 congressional and legislative nominations have gone to runoffs. All three have occurred in this redistricting cycle (2012, 2018 and 2020).

Turnout: With all precincts reported, it now looks as though more than 2M Texans participated in each of the Democratic and Republican primaries for the first time in state history. However, not quite 2M votes were cast for candidates in any of the statewide Republican races. One must add the 72K “uncommitted” presidential voters to surpass 2M.

It is the third time in state history (2008, 2016) that at least 4M Texans voted in the primary election. Just over 25% of registered voters cast ballots, the third highest turnout percentage since 1992, before which primary turnout regularly exceeded 25%.

Presidential Vote: President Trump, who faced no serious opposition, received nearly 1.9M votes, the highest vote total in state history for any presidential candidate in a primary election.

We pondered which Democratic candidates would gain “larger slices of the Election Day pie” after several candidates dropped out during the early voting period. The short answer is, Joe Biden.

We do not have statewide early and Election Day splits at this time, but we looked into the early voting and Election Day results for the 15 counties with the most registered voters. In those counties, Bernie Sanders led the field in early and absentee voting with 29%, followed by Biden (22%), Bloomberg (19%), Warren (14%), Buttigieg (8%) and Klobuchar (4%). Biden more than doubled his share of the vote among Election Day voters, as 45% of Tuesday’s voters chose him, followed by Sanders (32%, +3%), Warren (11%, -3%) and Bloomberg (9%, -10%). Buttigieg and Klobuchar received 0.3% and 0.2% of the Election Day vote respectively.

Put another way, the candidates in third through sixth place after early voting lost 25 percentage points on Election Day, of which 22 points went to Biden and 3 points went to Sanders.

©2020 Texas Election Source LLC