By Jeff Blaylock – Founder & Senior Editor

MAR. 4, 2024

Endangered incumbents?

Only one legislative incumbent has fallen in a primary election in the last two primary

elections. At least four legislative incumbents were ousted in the each of the previous

nine primary elections going back to 2002. This year, 57 House incumbents and two

Senate incumbents face at least one primary challenger.

Twenty-one House incumbents face multiple primary challengers. From 2008 to 2022,

53 House incumbents – 40 Republicans and 13 Democrats – have faced multiple

primary challengers. Of those, 30 won outright and two lost outright. The other 21 were forced into runoffs, 14 of which ultimately lost. Put another way, 57% of House

incumbents facing multiple primary challengers since 2008 won re-nomination outright and another 13% prevailed in a runoff.

If these percentages holds for 2024, then we would expect to see 12 incumbents facing multiple primary challengers to win outright. That would put as many as nine

incumbents into a runoff. It’s a question of rounding as to whether history suggests we will see an(y) outright loss(es).

Dueling endorsements?

Gov. Abbott and Atty. Gen. Paxton have issued dueling endorsements in at least nine

contested House primaries. For the most part, Abbott backed incumbents while Paxton favored challengers (Abbott is backing other challengers, just not against Paxton’s incumbents.). History gives Abbott the edge but does not make any of his backed candidates immune to Paxton’s supporters.

Bubbling underneath these endorsements are clashes more typical of past Republican primaries, including Texas Right to Life vs. Texas Alliance for Life and scorecard conservative groups against Texans for Lawsuit Reform and Associated Republicans of Texas.

Open-seat Races?

There’s a historical trend worth watching in significant open-seat primary races with

three or more candidates. These races include open-seat races for the retiring

incumbent party’s nomination or, in cases of competitive general election races, the

opposing party’s nomination.

Since 2006, the candidate with the highest total contributions through the 8-day-out

reporting period has won outright 27% of the time and advanced to a runoff 52% of the time. The candidate with the second-highest total contributions has won outright 5% of the time and advanced to a runoff 46% of the time.

No candidate outside the top two fundraisers has won such a primary outright. Only a

quarter of candidates with the third-highest contribution total made a runoff. One in eight of candidates with the fourth-highest contribution totals make a runoff, and just one in 20 of everyone else.

These percentages have been remarkably stable for the last 10 years.

Where does turnout fit in recent years?

Republican turnout appears headed for the second highest in state history, measured

as the total number of votes cast. As of the end of early voting, 1.23M people have

voted in person or by mail in the Republican primary. It is the 9th straight primary election in which at least 1M people voted in the Republican primary and the 12th overall. If turnout reaches 2020 levels, then it will be the third time at least 2M people have voted in a Republican primary. Turnout is unlikely to eclipse the all-time mark of 2.84M set in 2016.

Democratic turnout is right about where it has been most of the past five election cycles, except for 2020’s contested presidential primary. Around 600K people have voted early so far in the Democratic primary. Turnout has exceeded 1M people in each of the last four Democratic primaries – it has done so only twice in the previous 10 primaries.

Some other questions will be answered Tuesday (or early Wednesday):

  • Can Colin Allred avoid a runoff in his bid to unseat U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz?
  • Will Rep. Victoria Neave become the first primary challenger to oust a sitting

    state senator since 2018 and the first to oust a sitting Democratic state senator

    since 2006?

  • Will U.S. Rep. Tony Gonzales be forced into a runoff in South Texas amid record

    levels of Republican voting there?

  • Which candidates will emerge from crowded fields for open congressional seats, and how small will their vote percentages be?
  • What surprises are in store for us?
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