After Local and State Primary Elections, Runoffs Emerge

Victorious in their Democratic primary elections, incumbent County Judge Nelson Wolff and state Sen. and lieutenant governor candidate Leticia Van de Putte avoid May runoffs—but not everyone was so lucky. - Mary Tuma
Mary Tuma
Victorious in their Democratic primary elections, incumbent County Judge Nelson Wolff and state Sen. and lieutenant governor candidate Leticia Van de Putte avoid May runoffs—but not everyone was so lucky.

Cadillac Bar was abuzz with election night fervor on Tuesday, March 4. The Bexar County Democratic Party took over the Downtown watering hole to celebrate wins, await totals and get down on the dance floor.

“It’s an exciting time for us; there are more local Democratic candidates running today than ever before,” Chair Manuel Medina tells the Current. “With strong leadership like Wendy Davis and Leticia Van de Putte—from our hometown—at the top of the ticket and David Alameel going for the Senate, we’ve been able to translate that enthusiasm at the grassroots level.”

But as the dust settled after primary election night and winners soaked up their victories while defeated candidates delivered teary-eyed concession speeches, several of the primary races didn’t shake out as easily as Van de Putte’s uncontested lieutenant governor bid or Davis’ comfortable win—or SA state Rep. and Speaker of the House Joe Straus’ nearly double margin victory or George P. Bush’s smooth sailing to land commissioner, on the Republican side—and stand far from the finish line.

On the statewide level, incumbent Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst trailed state Sen. Dan Patrick, a religious conservative from Houston (Dewhurst polled at 27 percent statewide and 32 percent in Bexar county compared to Patrick’s 43 and 47 percent, respectively) in a show of Tea Party voting force, but garnered just enough votes to pit the two men against each other in what will be a very heated GOP primary runoff come May.

Likewise, while GOP gubernatorial candidate and current Attorney General Greg Abbott delivered his primary victory speech at San Antonio’s Aldaco’s Mexican Cuisine after crushing two Republican opponents vying for the now-open seat—McKinney Republican Ken Paxton (43 percent state/41 Bexar) and Dallas GOPer Dan Branch (32 percent/35 Bexar) face a May runoff for the state’s AG seat.

And watch out for these other GOP runoffs: former state reps Sid Miller vs. Tommy Merritt for ag commissioner; former state rep Wayne Christian vs. Ryan Sitton for railroad commissioner and Francisco “Quico” Canseco vs. Will Hurd for U.S. House District 23.

Bexar County Republican Party Chair Robert Stovall tells the Current he’s downright enthused by the caliber of GOP candidates in the runoffs; he’s eyeing the lite guv, AG and HD-23 races particularly closely. Stovall says the widespread ascension from lower Texas political office to higher ranks is unprecedented in his lifetime.

“I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a shuffle like this from the top of the ticket down,” he says. “When [Gov.] Perry decided not to run, it created a floodgate of opportunity for candidates to move up the ladder.”

On the Democrat side, David Alameel and Kesha Rogers (who splashed national headlines for her not-so-popular call to impeach President Obama) go toe-to-toe in May and cigar-chewing, pro-pot Kinky Friedman takes on Jim Hogan for agriculture commish.

At one point, it looked like state Sen. Donna Campbell (R-New Braunfels) would likely see a runoff against former District 9 City Council member Elisa Chan, but the Tea Party darling narrowly took the lead with 54 percent of the vote and evaded another conservative showdown. (By the way, Chan, most famous for her ignorant anti-LGBT remarks scored 27 percent in the Bexar County Republican primary, so there’s that.)

Locally, Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff and Precinct 2 County Commissioner Paul Elizondo largely glided to victory with 56.9 and 74.9 percent of the vote, respectively, against challengers.

But other races weren’t so smooth.

Oscillating voting numbers had Bexar County District Attorney Democratic candidates Nicholas “Nico” La Hood and Therese Huntzinger at the edge of their seats. In the end, La Hood beat his newly minted Dem opponent by a razor thin 50 votes or 50.06 to 49.94. Now, unless provisional ballots still to be counted at press time change the narrow margin, La Hood faces long-time incumbent Republican Susan Reed in the general, a redux of the 2010 race, where he lost out to Reed by seven percentage points.

A handful of local races ended up in runoffs—most notably, County Commissioner Precinct 4, which yielded both a Dem and GOP runoff. On the left, SAISD board trustee Democrat Debra Guerrero and Eastside organizer Tommy Calvert attracted nearly equivalent vote totals, separated by just one percentage point (we’re talking 25 versus 26 percent) in the open spot made available by Tommy Adkisson’s bid to unseat Wolff. However, securing a victory for Guerrero may be an uphill battle—the former SA city council member was embroiled in allegations that she got too close for comfort with architecture firm Kell Muñoz while the company was contracting with the City. On the other end, the GOP runoff sees two mayors—Timothy Wilson of Kirby and Alan Baxter of Windcrest—fight it out this May.

District clerk Dem candidates Mary Angie Garcia and Elva Abundis-Esparza face each other again in May and whoever stands victorious will challenge incumbent Republican Donna Kay McKinney, uncontested in her primary. And the county clerk race produced a similar Dem runoff between Cassandra Littlejohn and Suzanne de Leon. The winner faces incumbent Republican Gerard “Gerry” Rickhoff in November.

Expectedly, voter turnout was paltry; just 109,430 out of 916,408 registered Bexar County voters showed up at the polls for the primaries, netting a voter turnout of less than 12 percent (a slight decrease from the last gubernatorial primary). And the GOP presence outshined the Dems, taking 59 percent of total votes to 40 percent of Democrats.

Primary battles begin in late May; stay tuned.

Runoff FAQs

When are the runoffs?

Runoff Early Voting Period: May 19-23
Runoff Election Day: May 27

Can I vote in the runoff election?

If you skipped the primary, you can vote in the runoff election but if you voted for one party in the primary you cannot switch over during the runoff. So, if you voted in the Democratic primary and now hope to switch over and vote for all the moderate Republicans in the runoff, or vice versa, sorry!

Why do runoffs occur?

In Texas, if no candidate wins 50 percent of the vote, the two candidates with the highest vote totals must go head-to-head to duke it out one more time.

Where can I find more runoff voting information? (note: the May 27 runoff election is different than the May 10 election, which covers city and school board offices).

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