A few days ago, we listed some storylines we’d be watching as the runoff election votes were tallied. Here we revisit those storylines and a couple of others from previous posts.
Christian or Gates? We knew one of the candidates was going to buck history, but it was not clear which one until Christian’s Election Day ground game success began coming into focus. Statewide, Gates won 53% of the early vote, and Christian won 56% of the Election Day vote. Christian was particularly strong in rural counties featuring Republican legislative runoffs. Indeed, SD1 provided Christian’s margin of victory. Low urban county turnout hurt Gates, and, possibly, a relative lack of spending for the runoff.
Gates spent $1.9 million leading up to the primary. He spent not quite $550K leading up to the runoff. Gates spent less on his runoff race than Rep. Wayne Smith (R-Baytown), although they both shared the same fate.
Incumbent Representatives. Counting Tuesday, now five of the last 25 incumbents seeking re-election have won runoffs since 1996. Rep. Ron Reynolds (D-Missouri City) won, despite losing around 75% of his primary voters. We previously noted that his primary margin put him, at least historically, in best position to win, and that Reps. Doug Miller (R-New Braunfels) and Smith were facing longer odds in their races. Smith’s loss extends to 10 the runoff losing streak of incumbent legislators who finished second in their primary races.
Reps to the Senate. Rep. Bryan Hughes (R-Mineola) was the lone sitting state representative to receive a promotion on Tuesday. He defeated his colleague, Rep. David Simpson (R-Longview), easily while Rep. Susan King (R-Abilene) was defeated by Dawn Buckingham, 61%-39%. Hughes won every county in SD1, and Buckingham won all but King’s home of Taylor Co. Hughes is the 10th sitting House member to win a Senate seat since 2012, while seven House members have lost Senate bids.
Successful Promotions Since 2012
2016 – Bryan Hughes*
2015 – Jose Menendez (special election)
2014 – Van Taylor
2014 – Brandon Creighton (special election)
2014 – Lois Kolkhorst (special election)
2014 – Charles Perry (special election)
2012 – Kelly Hancock
2012 – Ken Paxton
2012 – Charles Schwertner
2012 – Larry Taylor
* unopposed for the general election
Unsuccessful Senate Bids Since 2012
2016 – Susan King
2016 – David Simpson
2016 – Trey Martinez Fischer
2015 – Trey Martinez Fischer (special election)
2014 – Steve Toth (special election)
2013 – Carol Alvarado** (special election)
2012 – Mark Shelton
2012 – Todd Smith
** Alvarado remained in the House and is unopposed for re-election this year.
Empower Texans. As far as we can tell, the conservative group’s endorsed candidates for legislative offices had won 10 of 19 runoffs since 2012, and all three of their statewide endorsed candidates had won in 2014. The group stayed consistent as it got as many victories as second-place finishes, but it did get to celebrate the defeat of two incumbents. The five winners were Christian (RRC), Hughes (SD1), Cole Hefner (HD5), Kyle Biedermann (HD73) and Briscoe Cain (HD128). The five unsuccessful endorsees were Ray Wheless (CCA2), Brent Webster (CCA5), Keith Strahan (HD18), John Keating (HD33) and Read King (HD64).
Next Steps for HD120, HD139. A union-backed Democrat failed to win another Bexar Co. race, losing to Barbara Gervin-Hawkins and continuing a recent trend of failure to mobilize union voters, in HD120. Rep. Jarvis Johnson won his runoff and a likely full term after being handed the special election by his runoff opponent. Johnson won 65% of the absentee vote, and that was more than enough to overcome Kimberly Willis’s 54%-46% edge in in-person voting (early and Election Day).
New Congressmen. Jodey Arrington won convincingly in CD19, taking both Lubbock (54%) and Taylor (58%) Cos., which comprised 30K of the 47K votes cast. Vicente Gonzalez won every county in CD15 en route to an easy victory. They are highly likely to become the newest members of the Texas delegation.
Mary Lou Bruner. She was about 3,600 votes short of winning a seat on the State Board of Education in March. Then the national publicity began. Runoff voters opted to send Lufkin ISD president Keven Ellis to Austin instead, 59%-41%. Bruner won Anderson, Cass, Hunt, Kaufman and Rockwall Cos. Ellis won the other 26 counties.
Low Turnout. It was low. Following record Republican primary turnout and relative high Democratic primary turnout, around 4% of registered voters cast ballots in the runoff. We’ll have more on turnout at a later date, so we’ll just point out that at least seven out of eight people who voted in either party’s primary did not return for the runoff. Both parties saw the same 87% drop in participation.
Absentee Voting. During early voting, we speculated that absentee voters would have a proportionally greater influence on the runoff than in the primary. We identified seven candidates who we believed would benefit if this were the case. In the RRC race, Gates won 65% of the absentee vote in the counties we were monitoring, but Christian overcame that deficit with in-person voters, both early and on Election Day. In SD1, Hughes took about 70% of the absentee vote, which was better than his in-person performance. In HD64, Lynn Stucky received 70% of the absentee vote, about five points better than his in-person performance. In CD15, Vicente Gonzalez took nearly three quarters of the absentee vote. Absentee voters gave Reps. Jarvis Johnson and Ron Reynolds their margins of victory. After votes are canvassed, we’ll be able to see if Hefner received any additional advantage.
Holding the Line. Candidates are highly likely to win a runoff if they simply get the people who voted for them the first time to go back to the polls. This is always easier in theory than in practice, but almost every runoff candidate saw their vote totals decline sharply from the primary. Only Ernest Bailes received more votes in the runoff than in the primary. The remaining legislative candidates lost an average of 51% of their voters. The real figure is higher, because some of the runoff voters either voted for a different candidate or did not vote in the primary.