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Home | Tag Archives: texas elections

Tag Archives: texas elections

Analysis: Texas candidates have one week left to sign up or shut up

In one week, we’ll know who’s going to have a primary. Who is going to have a fight in November. Who’s quitting. Who isn’t quitting.

The table will be set for a big 2020 election — and for a very interesting political science experiment in a state that has been unshakably reliable for Republicans since the mid-1990s.

The 2018 elections didn’t follow historical patterns. Turnout was huge: 8.4 million Texans voted in a year when 5.5 million to 6 million — based on past results — would have been considered normal.

That kind of a participation bump — 2 million or 3 million people, give or take — can change an election. And people have been talking about the results ever since: closer Republican wins, including some nail-biters, in statewide races; a Democratic gain of one in the state Senate; a Democratic gain of 12 in the state House.

The big dogs, starting with President Donald Trump, are clearly not taking Texas for granted. And judging by the candidate filings so far, neither are the incumbents and their challengers.

The Democrats and Republicans both want to find out whether the 2018 results marked a change in the political winds in Texas or were just a one-time glitch in a familiar and comfortable Republican pattern.

Republicans raising money for next year’s defense have suggested more than 30 seats in the Texas House could be in play; that is, that either party could win, depending on how things go.

The Texas maps for statehouse and congressional seats were drawn by Republican majorities to favor Republican candidates. But that baked-in bias has faded over the course of the decade. It produced as many as 98 Republican seats at one point; only 83 seats now belong to the GOP.

And because it’s time for a fresh round of redistricting, state and national political people are fighting for a Texas House majority after the 2020 elections.

But are there really that many competitive seats?

Only if you use a broad definition. In 2018, fewer than 10 percentage points separated winners from losers in statewide races — like those for governor and other top offices — in 31 Texas House districts. Of those districts, 18 are held by Republicans and 13 by Democrats.

Those districts are competitive, based on those statewide results. But not all of those House races were competitive in 2018: Those results depended more heavily on the candidates who chose to run.

And candidates are making their decisions now, looking at past results and gauging their chances. Some will look for even better climates: Only 13 districts had a partisan difference of 5 percentage points or fewer. Republicans hold seven of those and Democrats hold six.

That’s a tighter target list. It doesn’t take particularly good and particularly bad candidates into account, or money or fame, any one of which can and does change the results. It’s just a starting place.

The Senate has only one district — held by Republican Pete Flores — that is truly competitive, and that’s not enough to flip the GOP’s control in the upper chamber.

The House is the place where both parties are looking for improvement. Democrats, with 67 seats, need to flip nine to get a majority (and eight to bring the House into perfect 75-75 balance). Republicans, who didn’t expect to lose 12 seats a year ago — and who suspect some of those results were one-time flukes — will be trying to reverse their losses.

And when candidate filing is complete Dec. 9, that competition will finally be underway.

Author: ROSS RAMSEYThe Texas Tribune

Editor’s note: If you’d like an email notice whenever we publish Ross Ramsey’s column, click here.

Analysis: Political eyes are not all on the Texas prize you think

The idea animating many political candidates, consultants and donors in Texas in 2020 is one that’s way down the list of concerns for many Texas voters: redistricting.

The 150-member Texas House has 83 Republicans and 67 Democrats, creating a GOP majority that could flip to Democrats if the minority party could wrest away nine spots.

Leave aside, for a moment, just how difficult that might be. Consider instead the interest it’s generating both inside and outside of the state.

The legislators elected in 2020 will draw the next set of political maps for the state’s congressional and legislative seats. Right now, Republicans hold the governor’s office and majorities in both the state House and Senate — a trifecta that virtually ensures the resulting maps will favor their party.

Winning a Democratic majority in the Texas House would give Democrats some leverage over at least some of the maps the state will use for the next decade of elections. Specifically, it could break the GOP’s control over the congressional maps that will be drawn after the 2020 census. At the very least, it would allow the Democrats to prevent Republicans from drawing those maps — and to throw the political cartography to federal judges instead of Texas politicians.

Republicans, for obvious reasons, like the numbers just the way they are. Because of its growth, Texas is expected to gain more seats before it draws those districts, and Republicans would like to remain in charge.

Other 2020 contests will get more attention. That presidential race you might have heard about, for instance. And after Texas Democrats choose from the growing list of relative unknowns running for the U.S. Senate, the challenge to Republican incumbent John Cornyn will get a fair amount of attention.

Sometimes, the important attractions are sideshows. In this case, the downballot races for federal and state legislative jobs could be, over time, the most consequential races on the Texas ballot.

In the normal course of things, redistricting maps go through the Legislature just like any other bills, approved by the House, approved by the Senate and signed by the governor.

Unlike most bills, however, the content of redistricting bills — new maps — have to be drawn. If the Legislature can’t draw them, others take up the task.

Congressional maps go straight to federal court if the people in the Texas Capitol can’t reach a compromise.

For Republicans, that would introduce a wild card — federal judges — who probably won’t draw the maps Republicans, left to their own devices, would prefer. For Democrats, that’s not such a bad deal. Sure, they’d like to draw their own maps, but the governor is a Republican and 2020 doesn’t look like an election where the minority party has even a rumor of a chance to take over the Senate.

Winning a majority in the Texas House, however farfetched that might turn out to be, is the Democrats’ best chance to throw the congressional maps to the courts. The result could be crummy for them — but the bet is they’d be less crummy than whatever a Republican majority might draw.

When it comes to legislative maps, the Democrats can’t turn Texas blue enough in 2020 to control redistricting in 2021. The numbers aren’t there, and the seats they really need won’t be on the 2020 ballot. The Senate is likely out of reach, and the governor is not on the ballot. But when the Legislature can’t find a compromise on legislative maps, the chore passes to a mostly dormant committee called the Legislative Redistricting Board.

And in this case, the Republicans have that panel all locked up. Its five members are the lieutenant governor, the speaker of the House, the attorney general, the comptroller and the land commissioner. Right now, all five are Republicans: Dan Patrick, Dennis Bonnen, Ken Paxton, Glenn Hegar and George P. Bush. Four of them — everybody but Bonnen — won’t be on the 2020 ballot. Even if the House flips to the Democrats and a Democrat becomes speaker, the redistricting board would have four Republicans and a Democrat.

Don’t expect the next set of legislative political maps to be a delight for Democrats.

But the congressional maps, if the Democrats could swing the House, might be a different story. And the congressional maps are what Democrats outside of Texas are interested in.

The presidency is at the top of the lists: Republicans want to defend the incumbent, and Democrats want to send him home. Democrats have their eye on the U.S. Senate seat in Texas, and they have already put their stamp on efforts to try to flip a half-dozen of the Texas congressional seats now held by Republicans.

But both parties really want to draw those new congressional districts. And the map to that treasure goes through the Texas House.

Read related Tribune coverage

Author: Ross Ramsey – The Texas Tribune

Herald-Post Election Center: Election Day 2018 – Unofficial Election Results

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Sample Ballots

Canutillo ISD (PDF)
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Election Day Polling Places (PDF) – Where to Vote!

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More Than 2,980,915 Texans Have Already Voted in the Midterm Election

As of day seven of early voting, 2,669,506 Texans have cast in-person ballots and 311,409 have cast mail-in ballots in the 30 counties where most registered voters in the state — 78 percent — live.

That preliminary turnout has surpassed the total votes cast in those counties during the entire two-week early voting period in the last midterm election in 2014.

So far this year, 24.3 percent of the 12.3 million registered voters in those 30 counties have voted.









Each day, as more data comes in, the graphs below will be updated to show cumulative in-person and mail-in ballot turnout in these counties. The data is preliminary.

Texas surpassed its 2014 voter turnout by day five. More than half of all those who do vote are expected to cast their ballots early. Some have speculated turnout this year could approach that of the past two presidential elections. Early voting for the 2018 midterms in Texas started Oct. 22 and runs through Nov. 2.

Check out the ballot for the Nov. 6 general election. Here’s what you need to know about voting, and here is our issues guide for young Texans. Get The Brief for the latest 2018 Texas election news.

Harris County

Houston is the largest city in Harris County. There are 3,410,740 people over 18 in the county.
Turnout as of day seven of early voting compared to the same period in previous elections
2018 2,338,460 506,356 21.7%
2016 2,234,678 566,741 25.4%
2014 2,062,792 194,673 9.4%
2012 2,000,011 415,778 20.8%

Dallas County

Dallas is the largest city in Dallas County. There are 1,858,255 people over 18 in the county.
Turnout as of day seven of early voting compared to the same period in previous elections
2018 1,335,313 323,553 24.2%
2016 1,287,171 326,149 25.3%
2014 1,203,513 109,525 9.1%
2012 1,177,468 245,349 20.8%

Tarrant County

Fort Worth is the largest city in Tarrant County. There are 1,485,667 people over 18 in the county.
Turnout as of day seven of early voting compared to the same period in previous elections
2018 1,122,597 276,727 24.7%
2016 1,077,618 299,106 27.8%
2014 999,687 106,906 10.7%
2012 974,880 231,398 23.7%

Bexar County

San Antonio is the largest city in Bexar County. There are 1,443,090 people over 18 in the county.
Turnout as of day seven of early voting compared to the same period in previous elections
2018 1,098,257 241,751 22%
2016 1,045,360 273,248 26.1%
2014 957,110 101,284 10.6%
2012 918,552 207,594 22.6%

Travis County

Austin is the largest city in Travis County. There are 905,571 people over 18 in the county.
Turnout as of day seven of early voting compared to the same period in previous elections
2018 775,950 216,112 27.9%
2016 725,041 223,768 30.9%
2014 655,056 67,550 10.3%
2012 632,962 117,653 18.6%

Collin County

Plano is the largest city in Collin County. There are 761,480 people over 18 in the county.
Turnout as of day seven of early voting compared to the same period in previous elections
2018 579,893 182,125 31.4%
2016 536,915 188,861 35.2%
2014 485,406 50,040 10.3%
2012 458,872 119,785 26.1%

Denton County

Denton is the largest city in Denton County. There are 629,218 people over 18 in the county.
Turnout as of day seven of early voting compared to the same period in previous elections
2018 497,490 135,970 27.3%
2016 464,829 137,607 29.6%
2014 407,040 40,700 10%
2012 386,742 92,545 23.9%

El Paso County

El Paso is the largest city in El Paso County. There are 651,514 people over 18 in the county.
Turnout as of day seven of early voting compared to the same period in previous elections
2018 455,992 89,300 19.6%
2016 428,320 90,809 21.2%
2014 403,979 20,246 5%
2012 383,737 52,997 13.8%

Fort Bend County

Sugar Land is the largest city in Fort Bend County. There are 576,228 people over 18 in the county.
Turnout as of day seven of early voting compared to the same period in previous elections
2018 431,832 121,642 28.2%
2016 404,038 127,922 31.7%
2014 363,147 39,398 10.9%
2012 339,694 95,425 28.1%

Hidalgo County

McAllen is the largest city in Hidalgo County. There are 637,094 people over 18 in the county.
Turnout as of day seven of early voting compared to the same period in previous elections
2018 361,562 72,685 20.1%
2016 338,563 87,291 25.8%
2014 318,772 35,611 11.2%
2012 304,823 60,739 19.9%

Montgomery County

The Woodlands is the largest city in Montgomery County. There are 443,052 people over 18 in the county.
Turnout as of day seven of early voting compared to the same period in previous elections
2018 333,488 85,158 25.5%
2016 311,882 92,039 29.5%
2014 281,496 30,230 10.7%
2012 264,980 72,236 27.3%

Williamson County

Round Rock is the largest city in Williamson County. There are 415,349 people over 18 in the county.
Turnout as of day seven of early voting compared to the same period in previous elections
2018 331,985 104,937 31.6%
2016 299,960 101,718 33.9%
2014 271,612 30,314 11.2%
2012 253,440 58,179 23%

Galveston County

League City is the largest city in Galveston County. There are 243,268 people over 18 in the county.
Turnout as of day seven of early voting compared to the same period in previous elections
2018 212,630 58,910 27.7%
2016 208,228 65,752 31.6%
2014 191,961 20,887 10.9%
2012 185,379 49,083 26.5%

Brazoria County

Pearland is the largest city in Brazoria County. There are 277,007 people over 18 in the county.
Turnout as of day seven of early voting
2018 207,446 58,445 28.2%
No historical day-to-day data for this county

Cameron County

Brownsville is the largest city in Cameron County. There are 319,403 people over 18 in the county.
Turnout as of day seven of early voting compared to the same period in previous elections
2018 206,966 33,918 16.4%
2016 197,726 36,615 18.5%
2014 186,563 12,558 6.7%
2012 180,389 22,325 12.4%

Nueces County

Corpus Christi is the largest city in Nueces County. There are 276,145 people over 18 in the county.
Turnout as of day seven of early voting compared to the same period in previous elections
2018 205,176 41,965 20.5%
2016 199,468 42,239 21.2%
2014 190,179 18,442 9.7%
2012 191,960 34,099 17.8%

Bell County

Killeen is the largest city in Bell County. There are 263,135 people over 18 in the county.
Turnout as of day seven of early voting
2018 195,760 37,001 18.9%
No historical day-to-day data for this county

Lubbock County

Lubbock is the largest city in Lubbock County. There are 225,998 people over 18 in the county.
Turnout as of day seven of early voting
2018 175,881 46,833 26.6%
No historical day-to-day data for this county

Jefferson County

Beaumont is the largest city in Jefferson County. There are 199,688 people over 18 in the county.
Turnout as of day seven of early voting
2018 148,344 38,402 25.9%
No historical day-to-day data for this county

McLennan County

Waco is the largest city in McLennan County. There are 186,612 people over 18 in the county.
Turnout as of day seven of early voting
2018 139,699 32,092 23%
No historical day-to-day data for this county

Smith County

Tyler is the largest city in Smith County. There are 174,917 people over 18 in the county.
Turnout as of day seven of early voting
2018 134,712 39,055 29%
No historical day-to-day data for this county

Hays County

San Marcos is the largest city in Hays County. There are 162,407 people over 18 in the county.
Turnout as of day seven of early voting
2018 134,403 37,453 27.9%
No historical day-to-day data for this county

Webb County

Laredo is the largest city in Webb County. There are 199,685 people over 18 in the county.
Turnout as of day seven of early voting
2018 130,784 18,169 13.9%
No historical day-to-day data for this county

Brazos County

College Station is the largest city in Brazos County. There are 170,743 people over 18 in the county.
Turnout as of day seven of early voting
2018 114,377 24,627 21.5%
No historical day-to-day data for this county

Ellis County

Waxahachie is the largest city in Ellis County. There are 136,188 people over 18 in the county.
Turnout as of day seven of early voting
2018 108,349 28,425 26.2%
No historical day-to-day data for this county

Comal County

New Braunfels is the largest city in Comal County. There are 108,143 people over 18 in the county.
Turnout as of day seven of early voting
2018 100,867 32,069 31.8%
No historical day-to-day data for this county

Guadalupe County

Schertz is the largest city in Guadalupe County. There are 124,215 people over 18 in the county.
Turnout as of day seven of early voting
2018 100,552 25,362 25.2%
No historical day-to-day data for this county

Johnson County

Burleson is the largest city in Johnson County. There are 130,279 people over 18 in the county.
Turnout as of day seven of early voting
2018 97,157 23,338 24%
No historical day-to-day data for this county

Parker County

Weatherford is the largest city in Parker County. There are 111,138 people over 18 in the county.
Turnout as of day seven of early voting
2018 91,858 25,363 27.6%
No historical day-to-day data for this county

Randall County

Amarillo is the largest city in Randall County. There are 101,874 people over 18 in the county.
Turnout as of day seven of early voting
2018 87,827 23,172 26.4%
No historical day-to-day data for this county

Senate District 29 Youth Advisory Committee Publishes Nonpartisan Voter Guide

The Senate District 29 Youth Advisory Committee (YAC) has published a nonpartisan voter guide for the November 2018 El Paso City Council races.

“The YAC spent a lot of time brainstorming questions around issues that are important to us. I hope our questions and the design of the guide, encourage more young people to get excited and come to the polls this November as informed voters,” said Ari Velez, YAC member and senior at Cotton Valley Early College High School.

The voter guide, that can be found online,  is meant to serve as a tool to educate community members and voters on the candidates for City Council and promote informed voting habits.

“Voting is one of the best ways to make sure that your voice is heard and your values and interests are represented. Our democracy functions best when everyone participates,” said Senator Rodríguez. “I’m especially proud of these young people for taking the initiative to inform their peers with a voter guide that addresses critical questions for our community.”

The YAC is one of seven committees that are set up to work with the office of Senator José Rodríguez to:

  1. Effectively represent our community and the state on priority issues.
  2. Inform and engage the Paso del Norte and Trans-Pecos communities in decision-making at the highest levels of state government.
  3. Inform constituents and increase civic participation.

The YAC’s mission statement is to be “an all-inclusive, nonpartisan organization that informs youth through legislation, education and civic participation.” Regular YAC meetings are at 2 p.m. on the second Saturday of every month at 100 North Ochoa Street, Suite A.

Students may register to vote at 17 years and 10 months old. The deadline to register for the upcoming election is tomorrow, Tuesday, October 9 and Election Day is on Tuesday, November 6. Early voting runs from Monday, October 22, 2018, through Friday, November 2, 2018.

For more information about where to register, vote, and what’s on the ballot, visit the El Paso County Elections webpage.

To view the voter’s guide, click here.

Analysis: A Viewer’s Guide to the 2018 Texas Elections

Labor Day doesn’t mark the start of the political season; political season never seems to stop. But it is typical turning point — a date when campaigns that have been building organizations and grubbing for campaign money redirect their attention to the voters who’ll decide the winners and losers.

Texans will be casting ballots in the 2018 general election in less than eight weeks, when early voting begins on October 22. The names are set. Here are some questions these elections should answer.

Is Texas still red, and how red is it?

Nobody likes being taken for granted, although winners take it better than losers. Texas isn’t at play in national elections — except as a fundraising opportunity — because the assumptions about how it will vote are so certain. Democrats haven’t won a statewide race since 1994. Libertarians and other third parties have never prevailed. It’s red. It’s in the bag. Move on to the next swing state.

A purple Texas will emerge eventually, according to folk wisdom. There was a time when Republicans could barely ask strangers for directions in Texas: Look at them now.

Republicans still have the upper hand, by most accounts. But Democrats are enthusiastic — particular about the U.S. Senate race between Democrat Beto O’Rourke, Republican Ted Cruz and Libertarian Neal Dikeman (never ignore a third-party candidate in a race that might be close).

If Texas remains red, reset your alarm clock for two years. If a Democrat slips by in a statewide race or gets close enough to scare the majority party, you’ll start to see outsiders — with money — take an interest in Texas politics again.

Partisan politics is noisier than it’s been in recent cycles, but is it really different?

It’s different in at least one way: The president is using most of the political oxygen. That’s good for Republicans in general — Texas voters, according to the University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll, are firmly behind Donald Trump. But it’s hard on individual candidates across the spectrum who are struggling to grab the attention of voters who are riveted on the activities of the president to notice.

What’s most likely to change in Texas because of these elections?

The balance of power between the governor, the Texas Senate and the Texas House. During the last two sessions, House Speaker Joe Straus and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick were often at odds, and Gov. Greg Abbott took the Senate’s side in many high-profile fights. The Republican majority in the Texas Capitol got a lot done in spite of their differences, but some legislation dear to one side or the other stalled. The elections could change the mixes of Republicans and Democrats in the Legislature, forcing some new political calibrations from the leaders — or it could cement the differences now in place.

What’s going to happen in the House?

The odds are better for Democratic pickups than for Republican pickups in the elections, and the 150 state representatives who take their oaths of office in January will quickly follow by electing a new speaker to replace Straus, who decided not to seek reelection. The results of that contest for speaker — which is already well underway — will set the tone in the lower chamber and in the relationships that institution has with the Senate and the governor. Among other things, it will provide a quick read on whether the House wants to go along to get along or wants to keep its independence.

In the Senate?

With a Republican supermajority in place, Patrick has maintained a strong grip on the Senate. A trio of races will determine whether he’ll remain on solid ground in the next session: a special election in a huge Texas-Mexico border district next month, a seat now held by the Democrats; and two incumbent Republicans in competitive districts in Dallas and Tarrant counties. Republicans have 20 Senate seats now and need 19 to maintain a reliable supermajority. They’d rather have 20, or even 21.

In the congressional delegation?

The question, really, is whether Texas will still have 27 Republicans and 11 Democrats in its delegation when Congress convenes in Washington in January. Cruz is under siege, and three Republican incumbents in the U.S. House are running in districts where the Republican president lost to Hillary Clinton in 2016. There are skirmishes in a handful of other Republican-held districts where the numbers hold more hope for the incumbents, but where Democrats think they smell opportunity.

In the statewide offices?

Gov. Greg Abbott leads the state ballot for the Republicans. He’s been elected statewide to the Texas Supreme Court, to the attorney general’s office and to the governor’s office. Former Dallas County Lupe Valdez, his Democratic challenger — has been elected four times — but only in Dallas County. Mark Tippetts, a Libertarian, is the only other candidate.

Here’s the thing with statewide races: The fortunes of candidates down the ballot, from lieutenant governor to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, depend on the performance of their parties’ candidates at the top of the ballot. If the frontrunners have a good day, they have a good day. If not, not. And only when it’s a mixed or close result at the top — it’s been a while since Texans have seen one of those — do their own efforts truly make a difference.

Recent polls show a close race for Senate and a potential blowout in the governor’s race. Here’s the question for the candidates downstream: Which race will have the most influence?

Is that U.S. Senate race for real?

Here’s what is real about it: It’s got your attention. It’s got national attention, from media, from politicos, from the people who want Texas to remain the big red foundation stone of Republican politics in presidential races to the people who’d like to bust that boulder into pebbles. It’s the only race in Texas that — for the moment — includes candidates who can be named in conversations about future national politics without snickers. It’s the race that will guide future decisions about whether it’s possible to run a competitive race in a general election in Texas and whether it’s even worth trying — whether it’s worthwhile for major Democratic efforts, and whether Republicans can continue to rely on the wealth of conservative sentiment here without investing a lot of money or resources to nurture it.


Don’t forget that the most important figure in the election isn’t even on the ballot. His standing, like any president’s standing in a midterm election, is on the line. And the results will be read by many as a referendum on what Donald Trump has done since his own election two years ago.

Author –  ROSS RAMSEY – The Texas Tribune

Analysis: The Anemic State of Democracy in Texas

The difficulty in getting voters to show up for a runoff election is a big problem in Texas. There are hotspots around the state that might engage more voters, but generally speaking, it’s hard enough to get voters to the table once —and harder still to get them to come back for seconds.

Turnout in the March primaries was mediocre. According to the Texas Secretary of State, 10.2 percent of the state’s 15.2 million registered voters cast ballots in the Republican primary, while 7 percent showed up for the Democratic primary. Together, those primaries attracted a little over 2.6 million voters.

What does that mean for this month’s runoffs? To start with, there’s only one statewide race on the Democratic ballot — the one for governor — and no statewide race on the GOP ballot. In many parts of the state, that takes away a big reason to cast a ballot on May 22 or during early voting. On the Republican side, local races from Congress down to constable could be on the ballot — most of them low-draw affairs.

The last gubernatorial-year primaries in 2014 open a window on this. In the primaries that year, 10 percent of registered voters showed up for the GOP primary and another 4.1 percent came to the Democratic primary.

For anyone who measures civic health by voter turnout, the turnout for the 2014 runoffs would have prompted a call for an ambulance: 5.5 percent turned out for the Republican primary runoff, while 1.5 percent turned out for the Democrats.

What was on that ballot? Democratic voters decided two statewide races, making David Alameel their nominee for U.S. Senate and picking the unknown Jim Hogan over the all-too-well-known Kinky Friedman as their nominee for Texas Agriculture Commissioner. In most parts of the state, those were the only two contests on the ballot.

On the Republican side, four statewide races drove turnout — for lieutenant governor (Dan Patrick beat David Dewhurst), attorney general (Ken Paxton beat Dan Branch), agriculture commissioner (Sid Miller beat Tommy Merritt) and railroad commissioner (Ryan Sitton beat Wayne Christian). All that activity is one big reason their second-round numbers were a bit healthier than the Democrats’ second round turnout.

In 2010, the gubernatorial election year before that one, the Democrats had no statewide races. Voters turned out the way you would expect in that situation: They stayed home. Turnout was 5.2 percent in the primary and dropped to 0.21 percent in the runoff.

Republicans had only a Texas Supreme Court race (Debra Lehrmann beat Rick Green) on their statewide runoff ticket. Their turnout that year dropped to 2.6 in the runoff from 11.4 percent in the primary.

The overall turnout numbers are higher in presidential election years, but the runoff slumps are just as pronounced.

In 2016, with only one statewide race on their runoff ticket (Grady Yarbrough beat Cody Garrett in the race for railroad commissioner), Democratic turnout was 1.3 percent, down from 10.8 percent in that year’s March primary.

On the Republican side, turnout fell to 2.6 percent in the runoff, down from 19.9 percent in the primary. The draws in the first round were big: The GOP had not yet chosen a presidential nominee, and Texans turned out to vote on a list of candidates that included Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio and all those others.

The runoff attractions were a lot less than dramatic, with Wayne Christian beating Gary Gates in a bout for railroad commissioner and two judges — Mary Lou Keel and Scott Walker — winning nominations for the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals.

Those aren’t generally the kinds of races that get many people talking — or voting — and that’s why the drop was so big.

The 2012 presidential primary year wraps up this quick survey. On the Republican side, a hotly contested U.S. Senate race drew national attention for the first time to a political nobody named Ted Cruz, who bested Dewhurst. Christi Craddick was winning a spot on the Texas Railroad Commission and John Devine beat David Medina, an incumbent, for a spot on the Texas Supreme Court.

Those are better-than-average draws, and turnout in the runoff was 8.5 percent, compared to 11.1 percent in that year’s Republican primary. Not bad, as these things go.

On the Democratic side, the 2012 primary turnout was 4.5 percent, about the norm for the state’s smallest major party. The runoff turnout was weak, with only a lackluster U.S. Senate race (Paul Sadler beat Grady Yarbrough) on the statewide tickets. Only 1.8 percent turned out for that.

This year isn’t a presidential year, and there’s just that one Democratic race on the statewide runoff ballot. Hope for a big turnout, but don’t count on it.

Read related Tribune coverage:

Author: ROSS RAMSEY – The Texas Tribune

Analysis: Here’s What’s in Play in Texas’ November General Elections

Now that the first round of this election cycle is out of the way, we can talk about November.

The election moves now — runoffs notwithstanding — to battles between the major parties instead of battles within them.

What’s in play? There’s one congressional seat, and maybe a couple more, that could change flags when the major parties clash. There’s a seat in the Texas Senate, and a couple of wildcard races that will put new people in that body. And there are a dozen or so spots in the Texas House that could go to either the Democrats or the Republicans. Those races will lock down the list of voters in the first significant election of 2019 — the one for speaker of the Texas House.

The top of the ticket is stronger on the Republican side, hardly a surprising development in a state where that party has dominated politics and government for decades.

The most interesting race — which is not to say it will be the most competitive when the votes are tallied — is the one where Republican U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz is being challenged by Democratic U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke. The governor’s race isn’t set, with Democrats Lupe Valdez and Andrew White on their way to a May runoff. And Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick will face Democrat Mike Collier in his re-election bid.

The other non-judicial statewide races — for attorney general, comptroller, and land, agriculture and railroad commissioners — all feature incumbent Republicans and largely untested Democrats. They’re like the bands trying to get attention at the South By Southwest gathering in Austin, unheralded and hoping for a break.

Texas will have eight new people in its congressional delegation, replacing the people who didn’t seek new terms this year. Recent political results favor incumbent parties in those six Republican and two Democratic districts. Three districts where incumbent Republicans are running are generally considered the most likely candidates for political changes. U.S. Rep. Will Hurd of Helotes represents the state’s only true swing district — one that can be won by a candidate of either party. Two more members of Congress — John Culberson of Houston and Pete Sessions of Dallas — are on Democratic target lists because, while they both won in 2016, they won in districts where Hillary Clinton beat Donald Trump.

The closest thing to a swing seat in the Texas Senate is Konni Burton’s in Tarrant County. The Colleyville Republican will face Beverly Powell in a general election that could be a test of President Donald Trump’s popularity in the sort of midterm election that often goes against a sitting president.

Two other seats could be in play soon. Sen. Sylvia Garcia, D-Houston, won the Democratic nomination for a congressional seat; at least two Democrats have already jumped into her replacement race. Garcia doesn’t have to leave the Senate unless she wins the congressional seat in November, but she could leave early.

en. Carlos Uresti, D-San Antonio, was convicted on federal charges including fraud and money laundering and could face millions in fines and years in prison. Like Garcia, he isn’t on the ballot this year — but like Garcia, he’s not expected to be in the Senate when the 86th Legislature convenes next January. Candidates are lining up in that one, too.

The Texas House, which will start 2019’s business by electing a new speaker to replace Joe Straus, who isn’t seeking another term, has a dozen seats where both Democrats and Republicans have a reasonable shot at victory, depending on the political mood and the quality of the candidates on each side.

That’s not enough to flip the House majority. With 95 Republicans and 55 Democrats now, that would require a 21-vote swing. What’s more, the swings are divided between Democrats and Republicans. The state’s Democrats are hoping to pick up five to 10 seats; Republicans are hoping to hang onto their strong majority. Both are hoping to have a strong influence on the selection of the next speaker in a race where three candidates have already surfaced and more are in waiting.

One definition of a swing seat is one in which neither statewide Democrats nor statewide Republicans have been able to run away in elections. The House has a dozen where the average margin of victory in statewide races has been smaller than 10 percentage points.

Five are held by Democrats: Philip Cortez of San Antonio, Abel Herrero of Robstown, Joe Moody of El Paso, Victoria Neave of Dallas and Mary Ann Perez of Houston. Each will have a Republican opponent and, perhaps, third-party opponents in November.

Seven are held by Republicans: Rodney Anderson of Grand Prairie, Cindy Burkettof Sunnyvale, Tony Dale of Cedar Park, Sarah Davis of West University Place, Larry Gonzales of Round Rock, Linda Koop of Dallas and J.M. Lozano of Kingsville. Burkett gave up her seat for an unsuccessful Senate bid, and Gonzales didn’t seek another term. Both major parties have candidates in those two open seats, and the Democrats have a candidate in each of the others.

Those aren’t the only seats in play — just the obvious ones. More than 30 primary races won’t be settled until the May runoffs. A mess of seats are virtually decided since only one major party has a candidate, a list that includes four seats in the state’s congressional delegation, two in the state Senate and 53 in the House.

Everything else is theoretically up for grabs. But some are easier to reach than others.

Read related Tribune coverage:

Author: ROSS RAMSEY – The Texas Tribune

Study: Texas, U.S. Elections Vulnerable to Foreign Hacking

DALLAS – When you cast your vote March 6 in the Texas primary, how will you know if your ballot is secure?

A new study warns that most states – and particularly Texas – have done very little since 2016 to ensure that no one can tamper with their election results.

The study from the Center for American Progress finds that four out of five states have some voting systems that are vulnerable to foreign interference or hacking.

The study gave Texas a grade of D.

Danielle Root, the study’s lead author, says America’s next election could be up for grabs.

“With what we know about Russian interference, we cannot be taking any chances for the upcoming elections,” she states. “They need to be ready now and they need to make improvements now. Otherwise, we risk running into the same problems as we did in 2016.”

Root notes U.S. intelligence officials recently warned Congress that hostile nation states such as Russia, China or North Korea are likely to try to penetrate U.S. election infrastructure again in 2018.

The study ranked voting practices in all 50 states and Washington, D.C. on criteria such as minimum cyber security measures for voter registration databases, proper training for election officials, and the ability to conduct post-election audits.

Root says experts are most concerned about direct-recording election machines, which do not produce a paper trail.

“Texas is one of those states that allows the use of paperless electronic voting machines in some of their jurisdictions,” she points out. “They’re just unreliable from an election security standpoint and they need to be replaced with a paper-based voting system immediately.”

Root says it is critical to American democracy that voters have confidence in their elections.

“It is of utmost importance that all eligible citizens are provided opportunities to vote and have their voices heard in our democracy,” she stresses. “But it is equally important, however, that their votes be delivered securely and their privacy protected.”

Root says changing to paper ballots may seem like a step backward, but until computerized electronic voting machines can be made hack-proof, it is the only way to make sure our elections are secure.

Author: Mark Richardson – Texas News Service

More LGBTQ Texans Than Ever are Running for Office, Magazine Says

A self-described “gun-toting, truck-driving, true Republican,” Shannon McClendon avidly followed state politics and served as a five-time appointee for various boards under former Texas Gov. Rick Perry. But until now, she never pushed herself to run for elected office.

“I’m a Republican who happens to be gay,” the lawyer from Hays County said. “I’ve been told on more than one occasion from members of my own party that Republicans eat their young. So I was pretty much scared from running.”

Then came the 2017 special legislative session, in which legislators debated a bill championed by Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick requiring transgender people to use bathrooms in public schools, government buildings and public universities based on their biological sex.

It failed to pass, but McClendon said the fact that the bathroom bill was seriously considered made her so “incensed” that she couldn’t sit by the sidelines any longer. She is now challenging state Sen. Donna Campbell, R-New Braunfels, in the Republican primary for Senate District 25. 

According to a list compiled by OutSmart, a Houston-area LGBTQ magazine, McClendon is one of at least 48 openly LGBTQ candidates in Texas vying for federal, state and local offices — from the U.S. House of Representatives to the state Legislature and from the Texas Supreme Court to the Austin City Council. The number is roughly three times higher than in any previous election cycle in the state’s history, the magazine reported.

Candidates and experts attribute the unprecedented number to the frenzy stirred up by the Texas bathroom bill and the Trump administration’s proposal to ban transgender people from serving in the military.

“It’s been shocking for many of us how easily some of the progress we’ve made can be ripped away,” said Gina Ortiz Jones, a gay Democrat hoping to challenge U.S. Rep. Will Hurd, R-Helotes, in the November general election. “And a lot of folks are done assuming someone is going to do what we could do ourselves.”

But the bathroom bill has done more than just bolster LGBTQ individuals’ resolve to seek elected office. Those running said it has also made voters more receptive to their candidacies.

The path to elected office

It’s not new for LGBTQ Texans to seek or hold elective office here. Among those running in 2018 are incumbent state Reps. Celia Israel, D-Austin, and Mary González, D-Clint, as well as former Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez, one of two LGBTQ Democratic gubernatorial candidates. At the local level, New Hope Mayor Jess Herbst — the state’s first openly transgender mayor — hopes to be re-elected.

As more LGBTQ people are elected to office, their sexuality and gender identity become less of an issue, Israel said.

“The longer I’m in the public eye, the more people want to know my position on transportation issues than LGBTQ issues,” said Israel, who was first elected to represent House District 50 in 2014 and is running unopposed in her re-election bid. “We’re making forward progress. People are more accepting, and you see even conservatives embracing the concept of gay marriage and accepting their neighbors.”

Don Haider-Markel, a University of Kansas professor who studies LGBTQ political participation, said many candidates first entered the political fray on the tails of former LGBTQ officials. They volunteered on campaigns or obtained a staff position post-election, which gave them a launchpad to run for office, he said. 

“With a lot of candidates in Texas, you see a similar pattern. They’re well-networked in the political community already,” Haider-Markel said. “They’re not running for office on a whim. They’ve been building toward this over time.”

Almost all of the candidates on OutSmart’s list are challengers, Democrats and from big cities. Haider-Markel said LGBTQ candidates in Texas — and ones in other traditionally red states like Kansas and Arkansas — tend to run in districts that lean left and are likely to support Democrats. Republican LGBTQ candidates face a steeper climb in getting elected, occasionally winning their primary election but usually losing the general election to the Democratic nominee, he said.

The Victory Fund, a national group that endorses openly LGBTQ candidates at all levels of government, has had more than 20 Texas candidates apply for endorsement this month alone, compared to 17 in all of 2016, according to spokesperson Elliot Imse.

Annise Parker, the Victory Fund’s president and CEO, said the increase in LGBTQ Texas candidates is part of a national trend that stems from the Trump administration’s anti-LGBTQ rhetoric and proposed ban on transgender troops.

Parker, a former Houston mayor and the first openly gay person to lead a major U.S. city, said more underrepresented candidates — including LGBTQ people, women and people of color — are running for office because they are worried about the country’s direction.

Shaking the stigma in Texas

While the Trump presidency may have created discontent among voters, the bathroom bill grabbed many Texans’ attention and forced them to solidify and act on their beliefs, Haider-Markel said.

Last year, as Texas lawmakers stalled discussion of public education, health care and transportation to debate the bathroom bill, many voters became agitated, Parker said. Candidates said opposition to the bill from numerous business leaders, faith leaders, school districts, tourism officials and law enforcement officials increasingly led non-LGBTQ voters to view the proposal negatively.

As a result, Parker said, more voters began focusing on whether candidates could “get the job done” on issues affecting a broader scope of Texans, rather than on their sexuality or gender identity.

Mark Phariss was one of the plaintiffs who sued to overturn the Texas ban on gay marriage. But Phariss said only the recent confidence that a candidate’s sexuality wouldn’t decide a political race encouraged him and many others to place their names on the ballot.

“I always felt I wouldn’t be judged on my own merits,” said Phariss, a Democratic candidate for Senate District 8, which is an open seat now that state Sen. Van Taylor, R-Plano, is running for Congress. “Now I decided to give Texans a choice and let them make the decision themselves, rather than assuming. I think that’s really what all LGBTQ candidates are doing.”

While on the campaign trail, some office-seekers have noticed their LGBTQ identity is rarely brought up, if at all. Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jeffrey Payne said he seldom addresses being gay while stumping.

“If someone asks, I’m honest about it,” Payne said. “But when I used to test the waters and tell voters directly, they’d say, ‘We don’t care that you’re gay. As governor, what are you going to do?’ And it’s wonderful.”

Still, Jones  the Democrat who hopes to challenge Hurd — said she can’t separate her experience as a veteran and being gay from her candidacy, especially after serving under the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy.

“I bring it up,” Jones said. “You don’t want to be accused of playing identity politics, but politics is about identity. I’ve been able to show people that I know what it’s like to have the talent but have others concentrate on something that shouldn’t matter.”

However they address being part of the LGBTQ community, candidates agreed being open about their sexuality while running for office is crucial for future candidates. The visibility, they said, will eventually normalize the idea that LGBTQ leaders can be qualified leaders.

“I’m married to the love of my life, and that should be a non-issue,” McClendon, the lawyer from Hays County, said. “Maybe in time that won’t be an issue. Many of us in the broader community are looking forward to that day.”

Read related Tribune coverage:

  • Months after state lawmakers tried and failed to pass bills restricting transgender restroom access, transgender Texans plan to vie for seats in Congress and the Texas Senate next year. [Full story]
  • Dozens of women from Texas are running for Congress this year, and several are drawing attention as serious contenders, prompting predictions that the state will elect the first freshman female to a full term in Congress in 22 years. [Full story]
  • After generating a heated statewide debate earlier this year, the Texas bathroom bill died in the special legislative session with little drama or fanfare. [Full story]

Author:  RISHIKA DUGYALA – The Texas Tribune

Analysis: The 2018 Texas Elections Started this Weekend

Now, push comes to shove, politically speaking. The filing period for people who want to be on next year’s state ballots opened Saturday — the beginning of a one-month put-up-or-shut-up period for those who think they ought to be running our governments.

We voters get our own swings at this in four months and then again in a year, as the primaries and then the general election come around.

For now, it looks like slim pickings. Maybe that will change. But so far, only a few Democrats have appeared both willing and ready — “ready” is the key word there —to take on a slate of incumbent Republican statewide officeholders seeking re-election.

The March 6 Texas primaries are the earliest in the country; our candidate-filing period is the earliest, too. (The latest is Louisiana, where all candidates, regardless of party, run on Nov. 6 and the top two — if neither breaks 50 percent in the first round — compete in a runoff on Dec. 8.)

The statewide officials elected next year will be in office the next time Texas draws its political maps, so there’s an extra significance to the 2018 elections. The next U.S. census will be held in 2020, and the Texas Legislature that meets in early 2021 will remake the maps for congressional, legislative and State Board of Education districts.

If legislators can’t get it done, the job goes to a five-person board that includes four of the officials who’ll be elected next year: the lieutenant governor, the attorney general, the comptroller and the commissioner of the General Land Office.

The fifth member is the speaker of the House, who’ll be chosen (or re-elected) by the Texas House in January 2021.

Five of the state’s 36 members of the U.S. House have given notice, saying they won’t be on the 2018 ballot. That’s interesting in and of itself: Jeb Hensarling, R-Dallas, and Lamar Smith, R-San Antonio, are both chairmen, and losing a couple of big shots is always news. But all five are striking, the most vacancies in a cycle in more than a decade. And each incumbent is leaving a seat open for the picking — creating a moment when any number of state senators, representatives, mayors and other fruits and nuts decide maybe it’s time for them to be in Congress.

The month ahead is when the rest of us find out who’s going to be in the lineup.Texas Democrats have been slow to raise their hands for the state’s top jobs. U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke of El Paso is running against U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz in the ballot’s top race, and several candidates new to state politics have said they are looking at challenges to Gov. Greg Abbott and others on the incumbent list.

It’s worth pointing out that, six years ago, one of the least-promising contestants for a statewide job was Cruz himself. He was, at the time, a Houston attorney in private practice who had worked for the state attorney general and clerked for the U.S. Supreme Court but who had never run for office. And he was running against Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, who had won four statewide elections; former Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert; and Craig James, a well-known former professional football player.

Keep that Cruz Asterisk in mind whenever you’re inclined to dismiss a candidate: Sometimes the ball doesn’t bounce the way you think it will.

That said, the Democrats stepping forward for statewide office so far are not endowed with the widespread political fame or campaign or personal fortunes that would support any use of the word “formidable.” It’s safer to call some of them “interesting.”

Down the ballot, there are those five open congressional seats (so far) and several others that will be contested, as Democrats test the electoral strength of Republican incumbents in President Donald Trump’s midterm elections.

Three sitting Republican state senators — Craig Estes of Wichita Falls, Bob Hallof Edgewood and Kel Seliger of Amarillo —will face challengers in their Republican primaries. In the Texas House, a combination of open seats, swing districts and possibly a drag from the nation’s top Republican are expected to attract Democratic challengers hoping to knock off a handful of GOP incumbents. Those incumbents will be in trouble before November, challenged by opponents in a March party primary split between different Republican factions. The first order of business for the state representatives elected next year will be to choose a new leader to replace outgoing Speaker Joe Straus.

That’s the general outlook, as the filings begin. Over the next month, the candidates themselves will provide the specific outlines for the political year ahead.

Read related Tribune coverage:

  • The easiest way to judge public officials is the same way you judge the people where you work: Are they doing a good job? [Full story]
  • If you want Texans to vote, you have to get their attention, to give them something engaging to consider. There’s a constitutional amendment election starting next week. Interested? [Full story]
  • For the first time since 1993, there will be an open race for Texas House speaker. With current Speaker Joe Straus announcing his exit, expect a clear turn in the fight between the state’s business and movement conservatives. [Full story]

Author:  ROSS RAMSEY – The Texas Tribune

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