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Top Ten Texas Runoffs to Watch, Part 1

by: Joseph Vogas

Sat Apr 12, 2014 at 02:00 PM CDT

Most Texas primaries ended on March 4. However, in 24 statewide and legislative races, March was not the end, rather it was only the beginning.

48 candidates are still fighting on, trying to secure their party's nomination through contacting voters, raising money, and blasting members of their own party instead of their opponents for the November general election -- some of whom are likely quietly collecting cash to use against them.

Of these 24 still to-be-decided races 5 are Democratic runoffs and 19 are Republican runoffs. There are 6 statewide primaries, 3 US Congress primaries, 2 State Senate primaries, 11 State House primaries, and 2 primaries for the State Board of Education to-be-decided at this time. The Texas runoff is slated to occur on May 27 with early voting occurring from May 19 to May 23.

There are some run-offs that did not make our Top 10 list but deserve an honorable mention: Agriculture Commissioner, Republican; Agriculture Commissioner, Democratic; Congressional District 23, Republican; Congressional District 36, Republican; and House District 58, Republican.

So, which races should you be paying particular attention to as we count down towards this May's runoff election? Burnt Orange Report would be happy to be your guide.

Head below the jump for Part 1 of our look at the ten most important runoffs to watch as we head towards May 27.

10) House District 108, Republican
Set in uptown Dallas, House District 108 is the seat being left vacant by Rep. Dan Branch as he seeks election to the office of Texas Attorney General. Originally three nearly identical Republicans filed for this seat, but none cleared the necessary 50% +1 needed to avoid a runoff. Morgan Meyer, a lawyer, narrowly avoided winning on the first ballot earning 47.13%. Chart Westcott, a wealthy entrepreneur, will join Mr. Meyer in the runoff. Court Alley finished in third place and will not be on the May ballot.

What makes this race important is the ridiculous amounts of cash that has already been spent here to date. In the most recent fundraising reports, eight days before the March 4 primary, Meyer reported spending $83,990.45 in the final month and maintained $173,061.00 in his bank account, yet to be spent. Westcott reported spending $537,911.44 in the final month of campaigning and maintained another $194,782.59 yet to be spent. While campaigns are becoming more and more expensive, and this is one of the wealthier areas of the state, this large amount of cash is unusual. It will be interesting to see how much more money these two candidate plan to spend between now and May 27. The eventual nominee will face Democrat Leigh Bailey in November.

9) Senate District 2, Republican
How did it come to this? It is an embarrassment for incumbent Senator Bob Deuell to have been pulled into a runoff with either of what could at best be considered gadfly challengers. In fact, I had such low expectations for this race, I left it off Burnt Orange Report's Texas Senate primary fundraising report. Retiree, veteran, and TEA Party activist Bob Hall pulled 38.81% of the vote and will join Sen. Deuell in the runoff. While Hall spent just over $1,500 in the final month, a paltry sum of money, he has earned the attention of the movement conservative groups in Texas, some of whom have already spent heavily on mailers for him.

Sen. Deuell should win this runoff easily -- that was also the conventional wisdom on him avoiding a runoff. Keep an eye on this one, as Sen. Deuell already proved he will allow anything to happen to him. Libertarian Don Bates will face the eventual nominee in November.

8) House District 76, Democratic
In El Paso, two Democrats lined up to challenge incumbent sophomore Representative Naomi Gonzalez in the primary. Rep. Gonzalez had run into heavy criticism back home and in Austin after she was arrested for DWI during the last legislative session. Challenging her were Cesar Blanco, a former Chief of Staff to Rep. Pete Gallego and Norma Chavez, the previous Representative whom Rep. Gonzalez beat in the 2010 primary. Rep. Gonzalez finished in third place with 30.80% in the first round, narrowly behind former Rep. Chavaz who pulled 32.93%. Newcomer Blanco lead the two experienced candidates with 36.25%.

With their incumbent gone, the residents of District 76 will have to decide this May if they want a fresh, new face to be their voice in Austin or if they should return to a former, controversial Representative whom they have rejected in the past. Burnt Orange Report endorsed Cesar Blanco in the initial primary. Libertarian J. Lozano will face the eventual nominee in November.

7) House District 10, Republican
Just south of the Metroplex, two candidates are left standing in the race to replace the retiring Rep. Jim Pitts: T.J. Fabby and John Wray. Both candidates finished with just over 35% while the two other Republicans who failed to make the runoff earned 10% and 16% each.

There are two reasons this race will matter and deserves our attention. First, this contest provides a clear contrast between the TEA Party and establishment wings of the Republican Party. Fabby is an activist who founded a TEA Party club, while Wray is a lawyer who serves on the Waxahachie city council. Rep. Pitts was generally considered to be a member of the establishment wing of the Republican Party and, should Fabby win, it would be another sign the Republican Party is shifting further to the right. The second reason this runoff matters is no other candidate filed for this race, Democrat of third party. Whoever wins the runoff will be the next Representative of House District 10.

6) Senate District 10, Republican
This is the Senate seat being left open by Sen. Wendy Davis, the Democratic nominee for Governor. While Libby Willis won her contested Democratic primary, two Republicans are moving on to a runoff where three others have fallen. Former State Representative, and last cycle's nominee, Mark Shelton will proceed to the runoff with anti-abortion activist Konni Burton. Burton, who has never run for office before, finished in first place with 43.23% and has earned the endorsements from most movement-conservative organizations and several high-profile elected legislators, including Rep. Stickland, Laubenberg, Krause, and Zedler. Shelton has the experience and the temperament to be less likely to embarrass District 10 regularly, while Burton would likely govern like a second Donna Campbell.

Unlike Campbell's Senate District 25, Senate District 10 is not a conservative stronghold. If Burton is the nominee, Democrat Libby Willis may have an opening in the general election.

Stay tuned! On Monday, I will reveal the top five runoffs Texans should keep an eye on this May.

You can follow me on Twitter at @trowaman.

Copyright Burnt Orange Report, all rights reserved.
Do not republish without express written permission.

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