Texans are voting in July for the first time in decades, the result of a lengthy federal court battle over new political districts that delayed the primary from March 6 to May 29. The unusual timing of the runoff in the middle of the summer — when many people are on vacation or not thinking about politics — will likely drive down turnout.
High turnout [in the GOP runoff] could favor [Lt Gov David] Dewhurst, who began the campaign with more money and name recognition. But the delayed primary gave [Ted] Cruz a chance to catch up in both areas, leading to Dewhurst leading in the primary 44.6 percent to 34 percent, but not breaking the 50 percent mark needed to clinch the nomination.
Cruz had always said his goal was to force a runoff, where he felt his tea party base would give him the edge. Activist voters are more likely to vote in the runoffs and recent polls indicate the Senate race is neck-and-neck.
In the Democratic race, [Paul] Sadler was forced into a runoff, despite [Grady] Yarbrough failing to mount a statewide campaign. The results showed Yarbrough performing well in the Houston-Galveston region, the home of a famous but unrelated Democratic family named Yarborough. Sadler has yet to raise enough money to buy television ads and is relying on personal appearances to rally voters. Yarbrough recently failed to appear at a scheduled joint appearance in Austin.
This year’s runoff also includes an unusual number of additional statewide races. There are two Republican races for the Texas Railroad Commission and incumbent Republican Supreme Court Judge David Medina faces challenger John Devine. Those races should bring more Republican voters to the polls.
I’m not going to make any guesses about GOP runoff turnout or who it may or may not benefit. Burka drew a line at 825,000 votes – above that he thinks Dewhurst wins, below that he thinks Cruz has the advantage. All I know is that the longer this goes on the more ridiculous and awful the two of them sound. I don’t just mean awful to me, Democrat that I am, I mean awful in the way that a high-dollar fight between two candidates who don’t really have that many differences between them on policy matters and whose campaigns are stocked with people who have grudges against the other guy’s staff always is. Believe me, I’ve been there, I know how soul-crushing it can be. Good luck getting the taste of this one out of your mouths, Republicans.
On the Democratic side, my prediction is for something like 150,000 to 200,000 votes, which would be in line with the 2006 and 2008 runoffs. What raised my eyebrows yesterday was an email sent out by the TDP that was a comparison between Sadler and Yarbrough and made it perfectly clear without ever explicitly saying the words that the party was endorsing Sadler as the better choice. It’s highly unusual to see this, but I’m perfectly happy with it in a case like this where one candidate really is objectively a better choice. I mean, outside the case of someone who publicly switches parties, it should be non-remarkable for a party to support someone with a long and well-established history with that party over a gadfly who ran on the other team’s banner in the past. This is a race to represent a party; history, affinity, and involvement should mean something. Not everything, of course, but when one candidate doesn’t measure up at all on that score, what else do you need? Frankly, I hope the HCDP takes a hard look at the result from this year’s DA primary and gives some thought to taking similar action in the future where warranted. You may look foolish if it doesn’t work, but no more foolish than having a lemon on the ballot in the first place.
Here’s the Day One early voting totals from the Harris County Clerk. Republicans have accounted for about 75% of the total vote so far, and over 80% of the in person vote. I’m not going to make any projections based on this, and with only five days of early voting we’ll know soon enough how this goes. Leave a comment if you’ve already voted or plan to do so soon.