Texas Runoffs: What You Need to Know

May 27, 2014 8:59am

It’s another big day in the Lone Star State. The May 4 primary helped secure several established Republicans’ spot on the ballot, but with a few leading candidates failing to garner the required 50 percent of the vote, a few races were left in limbo. Today’s runoffs will round out the ballot with the final list of Democratic and Republican nominees.

WHO’S ON THE BALLOT? From a CIA agent fighting to clinch a hotly contested GOP congressional nomination to an Obama-hating Democrat hoping to topple Republican Sen. John Cornyn, a cast of colorful characters are on the ballot. Plus, the oldest member of Congress, who’d be the only World War II veteran left on the Hill in November, is fighting for his congressional life.

WHO’S VOTING AND WHEN? Registered voters can cast their ballot from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. local time. (Because part of the state is in mountain time, all the polls in the state will be closed by 9 p.m. ET.)

A NASTY RACE GETS NASTIER: With neither candidate securing more than half the vote in a four-way March primary, the Texas lieutenant governor’s race culminates in a runoff tonight between David Dewhurst, who has served as lieutenant governor since 2003, and state Sen. Dan Patrick. WHY IT MATTERS: Texas voters might hand Dewhurst his second stinging runoff defeat in as many years. Dewhurst was considered the hands down favorite to win the Texas Senate race in 2012 until a little-known tea partier named Ted Cruz swooped in and bucked the establishment pick. Out went the idea of U.S. Sen. Dewhurst and in came U.S. Sen. Cruz. It just might happen again as Dewhurst was forced into a runoff by Patrick, a conservative radio host who secured 41 percent of the votes in the March primary while Dewhurst trailed behind at 28 percent. The primary race turned nasty in recent weeks after Jerry Patterson, a former opponent and Dewhurst supporter, leaked some of Patrick’s private medical records, which documented time he spent in psychiatric hospitals 30 years ago. (And who can forget the Dewhurst campaign’s spoof of “Let It Go” from the Disney hit “Frozen”?)

OVER THE HILL OR ON IT? Call it a generational contest. U.S. Attorney John Ratcliffe, 48, is fighting to unseat 91-year-old incumbent Rep. Ralph Hall, the House’s oldest serving member to date. Hall, who has already served 17 terms representing Texas’ fourth Congressional district, promises the next term would be his last. But Ratcliffe, critical of Hall’s approach to the national debt, says he just couldn’t risk waiting another two years. And although he swears he’s not making Hall’s age an issue, Ratcliffe’s “Next Generation” ad certainly seems suggestive. WHY IT MATTERS: This is hardly your typical tea-party-versus-establishment-Republican race. Both candidates are positioning themselves as “true conservatives,” and both have garnered support from influential tea party groups. With Ratcliffe’s fundraising now outpacing Hall’s, this promises to be the 91-year-old’s toughest race yet.

THE OTHERS:

A TIGHT PRIMARY, AN EVEN TIGHTER WAR CHEST: Former Rep. Francisco Canseco, who lost in 2012 to the current incumbent, Democratic Rep. Pete Gallego, is hoping to reclaim his seat representing Texas’ 23rd Congressional district in the House. But before he can oust Gallego, Canseco will have to beat his Republican primary opponent, former CIA agent William Hurd. Just 159 votes separated the two candidates in the March 4 primary. WHY IT MATTERS: Canseco and Hurd are competing for what many consider the only swing district in the Lone Star State but, as The Hill points out, their runoff campaigns are depleting their war chests, making it even harder for the Republican nominee to defeat Rep. Gallego in November.

DEMS FIGHT FOR CHANCE TO TOPPLE CORNYN: Left standing after the unconventional Democratic senatorial primary are runoff opponents David Alameel, a millionaire dentist endorsed by gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis, and Kesha Rogers, a Democrat who has repeatedly compared Obama to Hitler. WHY IT MATTERS: No matter who prevails in the runoff, it’s unlikely a Democratic candidate could topple incumbent Republican Sen. John Cornyn, the Senate Minority Whip. But a Rogers win could put the Texas Democratic Party in an awkward position: The state party chair refuses to support her candidacy.

OUT-OF-STATERS STIR CONTROVERSY: Today, Texas state Sen. Ken Paxton will once again take on state Rep. Dan Branch in a bid for Texas Attorney General. In the March 4 primary, Paxton beat Branch by almost 140,000 votes statewide, but his campaign has been bruised by recent ads attacking Paxton for alleged violations of the Texas Securities Act. WHY IT MATTERS: The ad came from the American Dream Initiative, an out-of-state group based in Virginia that insists it’s not coordinating with Branch’s campaign. Nevertheless, the money the Virginians spent on almost $500,000 worth of air time could seriously affect Paxton’s campaign in Texas.

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