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More than 30 Texas primary races are headed to a runoff. Here’s what you need to know.

Texas Tribune

By Alex Samuels

March 8, 2018


               While the March 6 Texas primary elections may be over, several races still don’t have a clear winner. So what happens now? 

Welcome to the runoffs. 

We’ve compiled an overview of what it takes for a race to end up in a runoff, some of the upcoming primary runoff races and how Texas voters can learn more about the 2018 candidates and races. 

What sends a primary election to a runoff?

If no candidate in a primary receives at least 50 percent of the votes plus at least one additional vote, the top two vote-getters go head-to-head in a runoff election. For 2018, primary runoffs are scheduled for May 22. 

Are there runoffs in general elections?

No. There's no required 50 percent threshold for a candidate to win a general election race, which means the candidate who gets the most votes wins. 

When is the voting period for the runoff?

Early voting for the primary runoffs will take place from May 14 through May 18. Election Day is May 22. 

Why are runoffs so much later than the primaries?

After the primary, the secretary of state’s office has up to 30 days to certify the votes. 

Under the Texas Election Code, runoff elections can't be held earlier than the 20th or later than the 45th day after the final canvass of the primary votes is completed. 

So, in which 2018 primary races will there be a runoff?

According to the latest election results from the secretary of state’s website, more than 30 races are headed to the primary runoffs. Here are some of the ones to watch at the state level: 

Primary for governor —Democrats Lupe Valdez and Andrew White

House District 46 — Democrats Sheryl Cole and Jose "Chito" Vela

House District 8 — Republicans Thomas McNutt and Cody Harris

House District 121 — Republicans Matt Beebe and Steve Allison

House District 54 — Republicans Scott Cosper and Brad Buckley


On the congressional side, six Republicans and two Democrats in the 38-member Texas congressional delegation opted not to run for re-election, which led to some packed races to replace them. The most crowded included 18 Republicans and four Democrats running for the seat U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith, R-San Antonio, has held for more than 30 years. 

The congressional races headed to runoffs include five of the eight open-seat congressional primary races:  

 2nd Congressional District — Republicans Kevin Roberts and Dan Crenshaw

5th Congressional District — Republicans Lance Gooden and Bunni Pounds

6th Congressional District — Republicans Ron Wright and Jake Ellzey; Democrats Ruby Faye Woolridge and Jana Lynne Sanchez

21st Congressional District — Republicans Chip Roy and Matt McCall; Democrats Mary Street Wilson and Joseph Kopser

27th Congressional District — Republicans Bech Bruun and Michael Cloud; Democrats Raul (Roy) Barrera and Eric Holguin


How do I know if I’m eligible to vote in one of the runoff elections?

If you voted in a party primary, you're eligible to vote in that primary's runoff. According to the Texas Election Code, if you haven't affiliated with a particular party during the same voting year — by either participating in a party’s primary or convention — you can vote in any party’s primary runoff election as long as you're registered to vote for that race, according to the Texas Election Code. 

“So if, for example, a voter who participated in the Democratic primary wants to vote in a Republican primary runoff, he or she will not be accepted to vote in that Republican primary runoff race,” said Sam Taylor, a spokesman for the Texas Secretary of State's Office. 

If you voted in your party’s primary and choose to vote in the runoff elections, you don’t need to re-register to vote, Taylor said. 

What does turnout typically look like for primary runoff elections?

Voter turnout in Texas is historically underwhelming (just 16 percent of the eligible voting population cast a ballot in Tuesday's primaries). If history is any guide, May primary runoff turnout will be low. 

In 2012, roughly 11 percent of registered Republicans voted in their party’s primary compared to 4.5 percent of Democrats. When it comes to voting numbers, typically half of the number of voters who cast a ballot in the primaries will show up to a runoff, according to the secretary of state’s website.  

                This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at  The Texas Tribune is a nonprofit, nonpartisan media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them — about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.



Here's what happened in the 2018 Texas primaries

Texas Tribune

By Cassandra Pollock

March 7, 2018

                As polls opened in the Texas primaries on Tuesday, The Texas Tribune laid out seven key questions for election night. Now that the smoke is clearing, here are the answers: 

Did more Texas Democrats vote than Republicans?

In short: No. 

Before Election Day, a snapshot of the 10 counties in Texas with the highest number of registered voters showed motivated Democrats casting ballots early. But totals in the primaries for U.S. Senate told a different story: More than 1.5 million people voted in the Republican primary, with close to 100 percent reporting, compared to about 1 million Democrats, also with near 100 percent reporting.  

Gov. Greg Abbott tried to unseat three Republican incumbents. How did they do?

State Reps. Sarah Davis of West University Place and Lyle Larson of San Antonio are one step closer to returning to the Texas House in 2019 — despite Abbott making an extraordinary effort to unseat them. Both Republicans won their primaries Tuesday night but face general election challengers. 

But the governor did prevail in one race: Abbott-backed Mayes Middleton unseated state Rep. Wayne Faircloth of Galveston on Tuesday, edging out the incumbent by roughly 15 percentage points. 

Abbott went to particularly great lengths to unseat Davis, dumping around a quarter million of his own dollars on the race. Davis led Susanna Dokupil by more than 10 percentage points with almost all precincts reporting Tuesday night. 

The governor’s 1-for-3 record — and Davis’ explicit shots at Abbott during her victory speech — could color the next legislative session in 2019. 

What happened in Texas' 7th Congressional District?

Laura Moser secured a slot in the party’s primary runoff on Tuesday, despite rare attempts by national Democrats to end her bid over concerns she is too liberal for the district. 

Moser, a journalist and activist, will face attorney Lizzie Pannill Fletcher in the May 22 runoff — which will likely be a brutal intra-party fight and could divide west Houston and the national Democratic Party. 

Fletcher led the crowded Democratic field on Tuesday with 30 percent of the vote, and Moser placed second with 24 percent. 

Whoever makes it out of the runoff will face U.S. Rep. John Culberson, R-Houston, in the fall. This race is one of three in Texas that Democrats are expected to target in hopes of gaining a majority in the U.S. House in 2019. 

Democratic primary candidate for the 7th Congressional District Laura Moser cheers with supporters at a watch party in Houston in Houston on Mar. 6, 2018.  

 What happened with Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush's re-election bid?

Land Commissioner George P. Bush took a giant step toward serving a second term Tuesday night, winning outright a four-way Republican primary race for the statewide office. 

Bush — who kept a low profile during the campaign — raked in nearly 58 percent of the vote with around 93 percent of precincts reporting, avoiding a runoff against his predecessor, Jerry Patterson. Patterson came in second with around 30 percent of the vote, with Davey Edwards and Rick Range coming in third and fourth place, respectively. 

Bush, the nephew of President George W. Bush and son of former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, will face Democrat Miguel Suazo in a November general election that’s not expected to be competitive. 

How many primaries for Texas' eight open congressional seats will have to be settled in runoffs?

Five of the eight open-seat congressional primary races are headed to runoffs. The other three were decided Tuesday night. 

State Sen. Van Taylor, R-Plano, easily won the nomination to replace retiring U.S. Rep. Sam Johnson, R-Richardson, and is expected to win the seat in November’s general election.

State Sen. Sylvia Garcia, D-Houston, also won her party’s nomination Tuesday for the seat being vacated by U.S. Rep. Gene Green, D-Houston, placing her on track to win in the fall.

Veronica Escobar edged out other Democrats in a crowded race for the seat currently occupied by U.S. Rep. Beto O'Rourke, D-El Paso, who is leaving to run for the U.S. Senate.

Here’s who’s set for a one-on-one matchup in the remaining races: 

2nd Congressional District — Republicans Kevin Roberts, a Houston state representative, and Dan Crenshaw

5th Congressional District — Republicans Lance Gooden and Bunni Pounds

6th Congressional District — Republicans Ron Wright and Jake Ellzey

21st Congressional District — Republicans Chip Roy and Matt McCall

27th Congressional District — Republicans Bech Bruun and Michael Cloud

Who came out on top in the expensive North Texas primary battle between Phillip Huffines and Angela Paxton?

Paxton beat Huffines on Tuesday by about 10 percentage points in their race for an open state Senate seat. 

The contest between Paxton, wife of Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, and Huffines, twin brother of state Sen. Don Huffines, R-Dallas, was the most expensive primary for a state office this year. 

Which Democrat is going to run against Abbott?

Lupe Valdez, the former Dallas County sheriff, and Andrew White, son of late Gov. Mark White, will duke it out this spring over who will be on the November ballot against Abbott. 

Both Valdez and White have long been considered likely frontrunners for the nomination. The two stayed far ahead of the other seven Democrats who had lined up to challenge Abbott on Tuesday night, with Valdez leading with around 42 percent and White placing second with roughly 28 percent. 

Whoever wins the May 22 runoff will face an uphill climb in their efforts to unseat Abbott. He’s the most popular statewide elected official, and he has $41 million in the bank for his re-election bid. 

                This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at The Texas Tribune is a nonprofit, nonpartisan media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them — about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.


Candidate filing opens for 2018 elections in Texas

Candidate filing opened Saturday for next year's elections in Texas, and it runs through Dec. 11.


The Texas Tribune

The 2018 election season is officially underway in Texas.

Candidate filing began Saturday for next year's March 6 primaries, when voters will decide who should serve in a U.S. Senate seat, most of the statewide positions in Texas government, all 36 of the state's U.S. House seats, 15 of the 31 spots in the Texas Senate and all 150 positions in the Texas House. The filing period lasts through Dec. 11.

Though filing just opened, many candidates have already announced their campaigns for 2018. But with a month until the filing deadline, there is still some suspense on at least two fronts: Recent retirement announcements by three Texas congressmen have opened up seats for which the fields are still taking shape, and Democrats are still looking to fill out their statewide ticket with serious candidates, particularly the governor spot.

Perhaps the biggest news of the day was that state Rep. Dan Huberty, the Houston Republican who chairs the House Public Education Committee, filed for re-election after months of uncertainty over whether he would run for another term. He faces a primary challenge from Kyle Stephenson.

Republican Gov. Greg Abbott, who is seeking his second term next year, marked the day — also Veterans Day — by holding an event at an American Legion post in Austin where he filed for re-election and unveiled a set of policy proposals aimed at veterans.

"These veterans who have served for us, these veterans who have fought for us — they deserve a governor who will fight for them just as hard as they fought for the United States of America," Abbott said. "I am running for re-election to continue to fight for the veterans who have fought for our country."

Abbott’s "Front of the Line" plan asks the Legislature to pass laws that would waive occupational licensing fees for veterans’ moving to Texas, allow veterans starting businesses to get personal property tax exemptions of up to $30,000 for the first five years of operation and encourage local governments to incentivize businesses to hire veterans by offering commercial property tax exemptions.

Texas is home to the country’s second-largest veteran population, behind California. The Lone Star State’s expansive terrain makes Veteran's Affairs health facilities nearly inaccessible for veterans living in remote areas. Abbott wants to expand use of tele-health services to reach those living in counties without certain providers, such as mental health counselors and psychiatrists.

Abbott is also calling on Washington to work with state officials to develop a model for expanding veterans’ ability to use VA funds not only to pay for care from providers of their choice in the market but also to buy private insurance.

In addition to Abbott, a number of other Republican officials said they filed for re-election Saturday. The group included Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who made his 2018 plan clear earlier this year amid speculation he might challenge Abbott.

In recent weeks, much more attention has been paid to the newly open congressional seats following the recent retirement announcements by Republican U.S. Reps. Jeb Hensarling of Dallas, Lamar Smith of San Antonio and Ted Poe of Houston. Saturday brought some news in Smith's 21st District: Susan Narvaiz, the former San Marcos mayor who has repeatedly challenged Democratic U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett of Austin, filed to run for Smith's seat. She joins state Rep. Jason Isaac, R-Dripping Springs, who announced Thursday he was running for the 21st District.

The other big question as the filing period began: whether Democrats will land a serious gubernatorial contender. So far only little-known Democrats have lined up to take on Abbott, while a few more prominent figures — most recently Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez — have said they are taking a look at the race. One other name cropped up Saturday: Grady Yarbrough, a perennial candidate who won the Democratic nomination for railroad commissioner last year, filed to run for governor as a Democrat in 2018.


Texans in favor of all 7 constitutional amendments

Texas voters were in favor of all seven constitutional amendments on the statewide ballot, according to early voting results released Tuesday evening by the Texas Secretary of State’s office.


The Texas Tribune

All seven constitutional amendments on the statewide ballot were approved by Texas voters, according to results released Tuesday evening by the Texas Secretary of State’s office.

With roughly 99 percent of precincts reporting, less than 6 percent of the state's 15 million eligible voters had cast ballots for Tuesday's election — a decrease from 2015's constitutional amendment election, when voter turnout was at approximately 11 percent.

Almost 70 percent of voters approved of Proposition 2, which would ease restrictions on borrowing against home equity and allow Texans easier access to their equity. The proposition would also lower the maximum fees that can be charged in connection with home equity loans and would exempt certain charges from the calculation of that maximum.

Proposition 1 would authorize property tax exemptions for certain partially disabled veterans or their surviving spouses — those whose homes were donated to them by charity for less than market value. As of late Tuesday evening, it was passing with more than 85 percent of the vote.

Proposition 6, which would give property tax exemptions to surviving spouses of first responders killed in the line of duty and was one of Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick's legislative priorities for the 2017 regular session, was winning with 84 percent of the vote.

Turnout in constitutional amendment elections historically has been low. In 2013, only 1.1 million voted. In 2011, only 690,052 Texans showed up — of the 12.8 million who were registered to vote at the time — to vote on 10 amendments.

Any changes to the Texas Constitution must be approved by a majority of Texas voters. Getting a proposed amendment on the ballot requires support from more than two-thirds of both chambers of the Legislature.

Several contentious local issues were also on ballots across the state. With 72 percent of the vote recorded, Austin voters were on their way to approving a $1.1 billion Austin Independent School District bond to improve deteriorating campus infrastructure, address overcrowding and build more than a dozen schools.

In Dallas County, 56 percent of voters were against a measure that would have kept Dallas County Schools, a troubled school transportation provider, alive. And a majority of Buda voters — 67 percent — rejected a city proposal to reintroduce fluoride into their tap water.

Katie Riordan contributed to this report


Analysis: A rules fight, prelude to a Texas speaker’s race

The most liberal and the most conservative members of the Texas House might not matter much when it comes to electing a new speaker — if the decision is made on partisan grounds.

by Ross Ramsey Nov. 3, 2017

The Texas Tribune

Suppose you were the most conservative member of the Texas House — or the most liberal.

You are in real danger of being ignored when it comes to picking the next speaker of the House — the man (probably) or woman (it would be a first) who will replace Joe Straus, R-San Antonio.

Republicans have a strong majority right now, with 95 of the House’s 150 seats. They’re likely to hold a substantial majority next year, given the conservative leanings of Texas voters and the biases built into the political maps from which House members are elected.

And they’re talking about cutting the Democrats out of the election for the next speaker — not a new idea, or an enforceable one, but one that would potentially move the already conservative leadership of the Texas House to the right.

That phrase — “already conservative” — is at the center of the debate. This is the House, after all, that stopped some of the legislation sent over by the decidedly conservative Senate, giving some evidence to those who think the House isn’t conservative enough. It’s also the House that passed one of the most stringent immigration laws in the country — the so-called “show us your papers” bill that would allow police to check the immigration status of anyone they pull over for traffic or other stops. That’s the evidence for those who think the House, while not as far to the right as the Senate, is well to the right of its predecessors.

Now that House, however you’d like to classify it, is deciding what it wants to be after the 2018 elections. Even when the House and Senate are politically in tune, they are institutionally allergic to one another.

Even so, some of the House’s most conservative members would like to move in the Senate’s direction, politically speaking. They think Straus is insufficiently conservative and contend that his support from Democrats in the House is part of the problem.

The Democrats, of course, would love to have a Democrat in the top job or — short of that — the least conservative Republican they can find.

That most conservative member of the House would like to get a speaker from the most conservative part of the membership; one way to get that going is to get the Republicans in the House to agree on a candidate and then to elect that person even if every single Democrat objects.

That most liberal member of the House would rather elect a speaker with all of the Democrats and just enough Republicans to get the required 76 votes; in the current House, that would be 55 Democrats and 21 Republicans.

The House’s Republican Caucus will meet Dec. 1 to talk about the next speaker election and to hear from members hoping the caucus will stick together and vote as a bloc. In a state with at least two oppositional factions within its Republican Party, that’s no easy thing. The conservatives don’t want a moderate; the moderates might have a better chance at electing one of their own by siding with Democrats.

The Democrats are hoping the Republicans will remain split and that the next speaker will have to draw Democratic support.

A GOP working group found that party caucuses in 39 other states choose speaker candidates and vote as blocs. In many of those, as in Texas, it’s up to the full House to finally decide who presides. And here’s the thing: Texas doesn’t have a strong party structure in its Legislature, where majority and minority leaders have real power and where committee chairmanships all go to the majority.

As a practical matter, that leaves state representatives free to vote for the speaker that’s best for them — whether that suits their parties or not. If the caucuses had control over committees or rules, they’d be in a position to enforce caucus preferences for speaker — requiring each of their members to vote with the bloc or else. They don’t.

Still, they’re set to talk about it. Their proposal calls for a “secure vote” in a December meeting of the caucus preceding the January 2019 legislative session. It doesn’t include a recommendation as to whether that would be a secret or an open ballot. And there’s no provision to keep dissenters on board if they don’t like the candidate chosen by their fellow Republicans.

The process, at this point, is more important than the result. Members are testing each other, slowly figuring out who will stand where in a vote 14 months from now that will set the course for House leadership for several sessions to come. Whether the caucus votes together is less important than the direction they take: Right, left or straight ahead. 


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