Polls close at 7 p.m. CDT across most of Texas and an hour later in El Paso and Hudspeth Cos. We will have our first update once early voting totals are posted in some of the largest counties.
Storylines we’re watching:
Christian or Gates? Christian lost the 2014 runoff for RRC, and Gates has lost his last four races (HD28 twice, SD18 twice). One will be the presumptive new commissioner after tonight. It is the fourth Republican primary runoff for RRC since 2012 and highly likely to have the lowest turnout (See below).
How many of the three incumbent representatives will retain their seats? Just four of the last 22 incumbents seeking re-election have won runoffs since 1996. All four of those winners finished first in the primary, as did Reps. Doug Miller (R-New Braunfels) and Ron Reynolds (D-Missouri City). Rep. Wayne Smith (R-Baytown) finished second in his primary race to Briscoe Cain. No incumbent who finished second has won a runoff since 1992.
Three other House incumbents are looking for a promotion tonight. Reps. Bryan Hughes (R-Mineola) and David Simpson (R-Longview) face each other in SD1, and Rep. Susan King (R-Abilene) faces Dawn Buckingham in SD24.
All but one House and one Senate Republican race features a candidate endorsed by Empower Texans and other state conservative groups. In 2014, four of nine of their endorsed candidates for legislative seats won runoffs, and the group was three for three in statewide races. In 2012, as far as we can tell, six of 10 of their endorsed candidates for legislative seats won runoffs. The group’s endorsed candidates in this year’s runoffs are Bryan Hughes (SD1), Cole Hefner (HD5), Keith Strahan (HD18), John Keating (HD33), Read King (HD64), Kyle Biedermann (HD73) and Briscoe Cain (HD128). Statewide, the group has endorsed Wayne Christian (RRC), Ray Wheless (CCA2) and Brent Webster (CCA5).
Next Steps for HD120, HD139. Democratic voters in Harris and election-weary Bexar Cos. will decide their party’s nominees for the full-time positions for two seats. In HD139, Rep. Jarvis Johnson, who just won a special election, looks for a full term. In complicated HD120, voters will be closing to knowing who their full-term representative will be than their temporary one.
New Congressmen. Voters in West Texas and South Texas are choosing presumptive new members of Congress. Jodey Arrington and Lubbock Mayor Glen Robertson are vying for CD19. Vicente Gonzalez and Sonny Palacios are angling for the Democratic nomination in CD15. There is a Republican runoff there and in CD18 as well.
National Eye on East Texas. The ED9 race between Mary Lou Bruner and Keven Ellis has drawn national attention.
Low turnout. Republican early voting turnout is the lowest for a runoff since 2008, when there was no statewide race on the ballot. In the state’s largest counties, Republican turnout is down 58% from 2014 and 65% from 2012. Put another way, more people cast votes early in the Republican primary in Harris Co. (131K) than in the runoff in Harris, Dallas, Tarrant, Bexar, Travis, Collin, Denton, El Paso, Fort Bend, Hidalgo, Montgomery, Williamson, Galveston, Nueces and Brazoria Cos. combined (102K). In those counties, runoff early voting turnout is 85% below primary early voting turnout. On the Democratic side, turnout is a little ahead of 2012 and 2014, thanks to a surge in absentee voting (ballots by mail).
County races. A few counties feature prominent runoffs for sheriff, which we’ll be keeping an eye on.
Is there a runoff race of interest to you that we haven’t mentioned? Let us know, and we’ll keep an eye on those, too.