Five Things To Watch On Runoff Election Night

It’s all about turnout and Democratic enthusiasm.

By Jill AmentMay 22, 2018 10:41 am

Have you voted yet? It’s election day again, and you can cast your ballot in a handful of primary runoff races until 7 p.m., Tuesday. Statewide, there are a whopping 17 congressional runoffs on both sides of the aisle, a Democratic gubernatorial race, and more runoffs, down the ballot.

With such a busy ballot, Peggy Fikac, Austin bureau chief for the San Antonio Express-News, broke down her five things to watch on Election Day.

One seat, two runoffs

The U.S. House District 21 seat, which has been represented by Republican Lamar Smith since 1988, will have a new occupant when Smith ends his term in January. There are runoffs on both the Democratic and Republican ballots. The district reaches north from San Antonio into southwest Austin. Fikac says the Democrats running are Joseph Kopser, a tech entrepreneur, and Mary Wilson, a teacher-turned-minister who ran first in the primary.

“On the Republican side, we have Chip Roy, the establishment favorite,” Fikac says. “He’s worked for [the] attorney general, for Rick Perry, for Ted Cruz. He’s facing Matt McCall, a businessman who actually tried to unseat Lamar Smith twice.”

A run on the border

In Congressional District 23, two Democrats are vying to face incumbent Republican Will Hurd in November. Fikac says District 23, which runs along Texas’ southwestern border, is among the few true toss-up districts remaining, since partisan gerrymandering made most other seats safe for one party or the other.

“You have a choice between a couple of candidates who…don’t differ that much on the issues, but their style is quite different,” Fikac says.

Gina Ortiz Jones is a former Air Force intelligence officer, with support from national Democrats. Rick Trevino “has run sort of a Bernie Sanders-style campaign,” Fikac says. “I think he’s had all of about $40,000 to play with in his race.”

Fikac says that El Paso Democrat Beto O’Rourke, who’s also running for the Senate, is staying out of the District 23 runoff. He’s famously a friend of Hurd.

Will south Texas turn out?

Fikac says she’s watching voter turnout in south Texas.

“I think this will tell us a lot about what could happen in November – whether Democrats have a chance of closing the gap with Republicans,” she says. The region is heavily Democratic, and a heavy turnout there could indicate enthusiasm for Democratic candidates in the general election.

Can Democrats count on city voters?

Similarly, high Democratic turnout in big cities, where many of the party’s supporters live, could indicate whether anti-Trump sentiment is enough to get people to the polls.

“The story of this election is going to be – can Democrats use the anger and angst and energy generated by President Trump to try to get a toehold in Texas politics,” Ficak says.

Tussle at the top of the ticket

At the top of the ticket, Democrats Andrew White and Lupe Valdez are competing for the chance to meet Gov. Greg Abbott in November. Ficak says Democratic turnout in congressional races, and in the progressive strongholds of south Texas and the state’s big cities, will play a major role in determining which candidate takes the gubernatorial nod.

“We’ve got Lupe Valdez, the first woman, the first Hispanic elected sheriff of Dallas County. We have Andrew White, an entrepreneur, and the son of Democratic former Governor Mark White, who passed away last year.”

Written by Shelly Brisbin.