Tomorrow is the special runoff election between Pleasanton retired game warden Pete Flores (R) and former Rep. and U.S. Rep. Pete Gallego (D-Alpine). The winner will serve the remainder of former Sen. Carlos Uresti’s (D-San Antonio) unexpired term, which runs through 2020.
We spoke with election officials in every county today and received early voting numbers from all but Val Verde Co. Early voting numbers across SD19 indicate turnout will be greater than the July 31 special election, but it is likely that fewer than 10% of registered voters will participate.
The number of votes cast early for the runoff is already higher than the total number of votes cast, early and on Election Day, for the special election in six of the district’s 17 counties:
- Medina Co. turnout is already 25% above the special election’s total turnout
- Crockett Co. turnout is already 21% above the special election
- Zavala Co. turnout is already 16% above the special election
- Real Co. turnout is already 11% above the special election
- Atascosa Co. turnout is already 7% above the special election; and
- Bexar Co. turnout* is at least 1% above the special election.
Runoff early turnout is already at least 80% of the total special election turnout in seven more counties. Turnout in the remaining counties is likely to eclipse the special election once Election Day voters are counted.
Importantly, Flores finished ahead of Gallego in five of the six counties where turnout has already exceeded the number of votes cast in the special election. Flores received a majority vote in Medina (69%), Real (69%) and Atascosa (64%) Cos. Flores edged out Gallego in Crockett Co. by 10 votes. Flores finished ahead of Gallego in Bexar Co., but both finished behind Rep. Roland Gutierrez’s (D-San Antonio) 33% there.
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Gallego finished ahead of Flores in two of the three counties with the lowest early voting turnout relative to the special election. Gallego also received nearly double the number of votes Flores received in Val Verde Co., for which we received no early voting data.
Yesterday, we looked at the in-person vote totals at each of Bexar Co.’s early voting centers projected onto a map showing Flores’s percent of the vote in each precinct. A third of all in-person early votes were cast in a northwestern San Antonio library surrounded by precincts where Flores performed better than his countywide average.
Based on their special election performances, we estimate Flores has around a 2,150-vote advantage over Gallego in Atascosa and Medina Cos. We estimate Gallego has around an 1,100-vote advantage in Brewster and Maverick Cos. Lacking data from Val Verde Co., we guess Gallego’s advantage there is around 500 votes. We estimate Gallego has about a 300-vote advantage in the district’s remaining counties other than Bexar Co.
Adding all those numbers together, Flores would have about a 250-vote lead in early voting in the counties outside of Bexar Co. We estimate that 51% of all early votes will be cast by Bexar Co. voters.
In the special election, more than 70% of the Bexar Co. early vote went to Democratic candidates. In that scenario, Gallego would have a 5,100-vote advantage there in early voting and would thus be significantly far ahead going into Election Day.
However, it’s important to remember than top Republicans did not strongly back Flores until early voting had already begun for the July 31 special election. Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick’s (R) campaign has been Flores’s biggest donor since the special election, with nearly all of that support coming in the form of polling, advertising and get out the vote efforts. It is also important to remember that one out of every three early voters in Bexar Co. voted for a local state representative who is not on the ballot this time and who has not endorsed the Democrat in the race.
We do not expect Gallego will naturally pick up Gutierrez’s supporters, and we doubt that Democrats in Bexar Co. will turn out in droves to vote for a candidate whose official residence is at least a five-hour drive away. Recent special elections in Bexar Co. suggest that Democratic turnout will not be high. Further, we believe Republican voters have turned out in relatively stronger numbers based on the number of votes cast at the county’s early vote centers.
So, we estimate that the Bexar Co. early vote will break 55%-45% toward Gallego. That would give him a 1,300-vote advantage in the county and, thus, about a 1,000-vote advantage districtwide going into Election Day.
In the special election, Flores received more votes on Election Day districtwide than Gallego and Gutierrez combined. In Bexar Co., he more than doubled up Gallego on Election Day. In Medina Co., Flores received more than 80% of the Election Day vote, getting more than 8 times the number of votes Gallego received there. We estimate Flores could make up more than 1,000 votes on Election Day, based on our pessimistic view of Democratic turnout in Bexar Co. and optimistic view of Republican enthusiasm to flip the seat.
The seat would have leaned Democratic had it been scheduled to coincide with the general election. This emergency special election is a different animal entirely. Turnout for the July 31 special election was 5.5% districtwide. Turnout in Bexar Co. (4.4%) was the second lowest of any county, finishing ahead of Zavala Co.’s 3.4% (Gallego won Zavala Co. outright.). Turnout for the runoff will assuredly be higher but still south of 10%. Flores is likely to win a majority vote in most of the higher-turnout counties, which leaves Gallego’s fate to Bexar Co. voters.
We estimate Gallego needs to be at least 1,500 votes ahead in early voting and he would need Bexar Co. Democrats turn out at a greater rate than in the special election (when one of their local representatives was on the ballot) to win the seat.
We doubt this combination of events will occur and thus predict Flores will win this election.
* Jacque Callanen, the Bexar Co. election administrator, gave us an estimate of the number of ballots by mail that have been returned so far.
©2018 Texas Election Source LLC