Tuesday’s runoffs sent four new members to the 84th Legislature and created yet another vacancy in the House:

  • Jose Menendez defeated Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer, 59-41, flipping the special election result in SD26
  • Leighton Schubert defeated Carolyn Bilski, 57-43, flipping the special election result in HD13
  • John Cyrier held off a furious comeback by Brent Golemon to win HD17 by a 52-48 margin, and
  • Diego Bernal defeated Nunzio Previtera, 64-36, to win HD123.

Once the votes are canvassed and Menendez has been sworn in as senator, Gov. Abbott will call a special election for HD124.

Runoffs are low-turnout, often unpredictable affairs. Many resemble primary elections, particularly when contested between two candidates from the same party. As runoffs go, Tuesday’s were unusual in several ways:

  • Two second-place finishers (Menendez and Schubert) overcame deficits of 10 and 18 points, the most in any special election runoff in at least 20 years.
  • A third second-place finisher (Golemon) made up almost all of a 22-point deficit but fell just short of victory.
  • Votes cast were up for each of the four runoff elections over their respective special elections, ranging from 4% for HD17 to 24% for SD26. Votes cast have fallen in 10 of the the previous 16 special runoff elections for legislative seats from their respective special elections, and
  • A significant number of Republican voters impacted the SD26 race despite having virtually no impact on the HD123 race.

We will not have precinct-level data from Bexar Co. until after votes are canvassed early next week. However, it is clear that Republican primary and Republican-leaning general election voters swung the SD26 race to Menendez. We noted in our last analysis prior to the election that the race would “hinge on the ability of Menendez to turn out less partisan general election [Democratic] voters and Republican base voters,” a task we deemed a “tightrope of a campaign strategy.”

Rep. Jose Menendez

Rep. Jose Menendez

Menendez appears to have executed it perfectly, with the significant help of Texans for Lawsuit Reform and local Republican groups. Based on the results in HD123, it appears that Republicans across the district – not just those supporting Previtera – turned out to vote for Menendez (or, perhaps more accurately, against Martinez Fischer).

It appears Martinez Fischer was unable to expand his appeal much beyond his initial base. This was the night’s most surprising result, especially considering his string of key Democratic endorsements, staunch support of labor groups and his historically solid get-out-the-vote efforts. Compared to the special election, Martinez Fischer drew only an additional 1,404 voters. An additional 10,064 more voters selected Menendez in the runoff than in the special election.

We will have more on this race in the next week or so, once we are able to analyze precinct-level data.

Elsewhere, the two Central Texas races both saw significant upward movement by the second-place finishers. Schubert turned a 10-point deficit into a 14-point win while Golemon lost by just 4 points after trailing by 22 in round one. Before the runoff, we noted that Schubert had the best shot of flipping the special election result. The campaign remained a low-key, positive, “retail politics” kind of race, and it appears Schubert simply outworked Bilski across the counties. He improved his performance in every county by at least 166 votes and even won Bilski’s home county by 28 votes (She received 557 more votes than Schubert in the special election.). Bilski improved by more than 150 votes in just two counties.

HD13: Changes in Vote Totals Between Special and Runoff Elections

County Leighton Schubert Carolyn Bilski
Special Runoff Difference Special Runoff Difference
Austin 736 1,575 + 839 1,293 1,547 + 254
Burleson 749 1,181 + 432 78 72 – 6
Colorado 104 296 + 192 465 514 + 49
Fayette 374 696 + 322 597 641 + 44
Grimes 204 370 + 166 313 353 + 40
Lavaca 113 331 + 218 371 547 + 176
Washington 979 1,901 + 922 1,202 1,089 – 113
Totals 3,259 6,350 + 3,091 4,319 4,763 + 444

Schubert nearly doubled his vote total from the special election while Bilski improved by just 10%. He received 94% in his home county – up from 75% in the special election – and won five of the seven counties.

In HD17, Golemon more than doubled his vote total from the special election, but it was not enough to overcome Cyrier.

HD17: Changes in Vote Totals Between Special and Runoff Elections

County John Cyrier Brent Golemon
Special Runoff Difference Special Runoff Difference
Bastrop 1,394 1,692 + 298 1,290 2,318 + 1,028
Caldwell 943 1,119 + 176 269 485 + 216
Gonzales 466 563 + 97 139 175 + 36
Karnes 388 473 + 85 66 91 + 25
Lee 329 302 – 27 103 751 + 648
Totals 3,520 4,149 + 629 1,867 3,820 + 1,953

Golemon won his home county, 58-42, and decisively won Lee Co., 71-29, but he received only 26% in the other three counties.