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Runoff wrapup

Here are the Republican and Democratic runoff results from yesterday. With the exception of Marc Brown, who came from behind to defeat Danny Dexter in the GOP runoff for the 180th Criminal District Court, everyone who led in early voting won. In the one statewide contest, the establishment-backed Debra Lehrmann, a family court judge from Fort Worth, held off social conservative favorite Rick Green for the Place 3 Supreme Court nomination. The more mainstream Marsha Farney defeated Brian Russell in the runoff for the Republican nomination to replace wingnut Cynthia Dunbar on the State Board of Education. Those were setbacks for the far right, but they did well in legislative races.

Republican voters in Lubbock and four other counties ousted long-time state Rep. Jones in favor of Charles Perry, a Tea Party organizer who campaigned for change and apparently got voters worked up about his candidacy: The runoff drew 17,501 voters — more than most primaries in March turned out. There’s no Democrat ahead, so Perry will take a chair in the House next January.

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John Frullo upset the establishment candidate in Lubbock’s other race for the Texas House, an open seat where Republican Rep. Carl Isett decided not to seek reelection. Isett endorsed Frullo and helped finance and run his campaign. And they overcame endorsements from the likes of state Sen. Robert Duncan, R-Lubbock, for Mark Griffin. The former Texas Tech regent nearly won the race in March, but a last minute mailer in that round undercut his lead and set the table for his loss in the runoff. Frullo will face Democrat Carol Morgan in November.

Frullo, Perry, and Van Taylor in Plano all had significant support from Tea Party supporters and from voters upset with incumbents in general. And their victories came in a week in which legislative Republicans pulled together a new group designed to co-opt some Tea Party ideas and to repair the fracture that appeared in this year’s GOP primaries, and to do so before the November general election.

Taylor beat former Plano City Councilwoman Mabrie Griffith Jackson, who was endorsed by former Rep. Brian McCall. Taylor had the Tea Party folks (many of whom supported the third candidate, Wayne Richard, in the March primary) and also had endorsements from two other Collin County lawmakers, Reps. Jodie Laubenberg of Parker and Ken Paxton of McKinney. That wasn’t even close, with Taylor — dubbed “Moving Van” by Jackson for his recent move into the district — pulling 58 percent in the runoff. There’s no Democrat in that race, so Taylor is on his way to Austin.

The only legislative runoff on the Democratic side also saw an incumbent getting ousted.

State Rep. Norma Chávez, the brawler of the El Paso delegation, lost the most important fight of her 14-year political career Tuesday night.

Assistant County Attorney Naomi Gonzalez ousted Chávez in a bitter, high-dollar runoff election for the House District 76 seat.
Personal attacks between the two Democrats were routine as they racked up contributions totaling nearly $1 million. Much of the money went for negative ads.

Gonzalez, 31, talked less about herself than her opponent. She made her campaign a referendum against Chávez, 49.

She said that Chávez’s confrontational approach, one that put her at odds with other members of the El Paso delegation, had rendered her ineffective.

“This was a tough race, but we were focused on change, and the message resonated with the voters,” Gonzalez said. “We talked about the issues, the good and the bad. In the end, people decided to restore integrity in the district.”

The Trib has a full report of results.

Finally, a word on turnout.

Turnout in Harris County was less than 1.5 percent, except in the Humble-Kingwood area, where the [HD127] race between [winner Dan] Huberty and [Susan] Curling had grown increasingly bitter and expensive in recent weeks.

“Kingwood always comes out to vote,” said election judge Jzarela-Arethea “Yogi” Dougherty at Humble Independent School District’s James D. Eggers Instructional Support Center. “They’d come out at midnight if the doors were open.”

“It’s always high,” said [Jared] Woodfill, the county’s GOP chairman [who won his own runoff], “because it’s a Republican stronghold.” Woodfill, who was involved in a runoff himself, said the normally high interest among Kingwood area voters was stoked even higher by the expensive race between Huberty and Curling.

Woodfill’s Democratic Party counterpart, Gerry Birnberg, attributed low voter turnout in his party’s runoff to general voter satisfaction with the candidates running. “I believe that a reason there’s a muted turnout is because the candidates are all easily qualified,” Birnberg said.

Final turnout on the Republican side was 42,918; for the Democrats it was 15,109. Both totals were higher than I thought they’d be. Note that on the Democratic side, turnout in this year’s runoffs was higher than it was in 2006, when there were contests for Senate, Lt. Governor, and the first Borris Miles/Al Edwards matchup. In that context, I’d say Democratic turnout was pretty decent.

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