Tag Archives: Tom Leppert

Dewhurst, Cruz in Run-off; Other Texas Results

The delayed Texas primary was finally held last night and featured a voter participation rate of approximately 20 percent. The vote was originally scheduled for March 6, but had to be twice postponed because of litigation over the state’s redistricting maps.

In the much-anticipated Republican Senate race, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, who began the race as the prohibitive favorite, did in fact place first but fell about four points below the 50 percent threshold necessary to avoid a run-off election. Therefore, he and second-place finisher, former Texas solicitor general Ted Cruz, will square off in a July 31 secondary vote. Placing far behind these two were former Dallas mayor Tom Leppert and ESPN college football analyst Craig James. Leppert and James are eliminated from further competition.

Dewhurst was spending wildly at the end of the race in hopes of attaining the majority plateau in order to make an outright claim upon the nomination. Overall, the lieutenant governor’s primary spending will likely top $20 million, of which $12 million came from the candidate himself in the way of a loan. In contrast, Cruz only spent in the neighborhood of $5 million. Forcing Dewhurst into a run-off was Cruz’s only hope at winning the nomination, since it was never feasible he could top the lieutenant governor for first place. In a one-on-one battle where turnout will be even lower than in the primary leads to a political situation where anything can happen.

On the Democratic side, former state Rep. Paul Sadler and psychologist Grady Yarbrough will head for a second election. The winner becomes the sacrificial lamb to either Dewhurst or Cruz in the general election.

In the district congressional races, it appears, when all of the votes are finally counted and released, that eight-term veteran Rep. Silvestre Reyes (D-TX-16) may have lost the Democratic nomination to former El Paso city councilman Beto O’Rourke. The challenger was hovering around the 51 percent mark, which will be enough to win the nomination outright. Late votes could force a run-off if both fall just below the majority mark. O’Rourke was supported by the Campaign for Primary Accountability, which concentrates on defeating long-term incumbents in both parties. This would be a major upset; Reyes will be the third non-paired incumbent to already lose in his or her own party primary.

In other congressional races, Rep. Ralph Hall (R-TX-4), at 89 the oldest member of the House, stared down two GOP opponents to secure renomination. Hall garnered 59 percent against a pair of opponents. In the Dallas area, Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX-6) easily avoided a run-off by scoring 64 percent of the vote against two opponents. Reps. Kenny Marchant (R-TX-24) and Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX-30) also easily avoided run-offs against opponents who originally appeared to have the wherewithal to organize credible campaigns.

All other incumbents easily won their nomination battles including freshman Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-TX-27) who was a surprise winner in 2010. Because redistricting added 46 percent new voters, most of whom are Republican oriented, Farenthold has a strong chance of keeping this seat the rest of the decade now that he is the bona-fide incumbent in this newly constructed seat. He scored an impressive 80 percent of the vote last night. Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-TX-25), who redistricting placed in the new heavy Hispanic 35th District between Austin and San Antonio defeated two opponents with 71 percent of the vote. He will now go onto an easy re-election campaign in the fall.

In the open seat races, state Rep. Joaquin Castro, who was unopposed for the Democratic nomination in the San Antonio-based 20th District that retiring Rep. Charlie Gonzalez (D) is vacating, took one major step toward winning in the fall as he now becomes the official party standard bearer. He will easily win election in November.

In the new 14th CD, the seat presidential candidate Ron Paul is vacating, Republicans will feature a run-off election between state Rep. Randy Weber and Pearland City Councilwoman Felicia Harris. The winner faces former Rep. Nick Lampson (D) in what will be an interesting general election. The eventual Republican nominee should win here, but Lampson has proven strength in the Beaumont-Galveston area.

Turning to the four new seats that population growth awarded the state, former Secretary of State Roger Williams placed first in a field of 12 GOP candidates and will now face retired Army officer and Tea Party activist Wes Riddle. The winner of the 25th District Republican run-off, probably Williams, will claim the seat in November.

In the new Dallas-Ft. Worth-based 33rd District, as expected, former Dallas city councilman and state representative Domingo Garcia and ex-congressional aide (to then-Rep. Martin Frost, D-TX-24) Marc Veasey will also head to a secondary election, with the latter placing first by more than 10 points.

In the Brownsville area in South Texas, attorney Filemon Vela, the son of former US District Judge Filemon Vela, Sr. and Brownsville Mayor Blanca Sanchez Vela, placed first in the 34th District primary. He will face former Edinburg city manager Ramiro Garza. The run-off winner, very likely Vela, takes the seat in November.

In the new Republican 36th District, a three-way battle is still being finalized among financial advisor Stephen Takach, former US representative Steve Stockman, and state Sen. Mike Jackson. Takach seems poised to finish first. Because of the outstanding vote in Harris County, the only place Jackson showed real strength, he will probably edge the former congressman for second. The run-off winner claims the seat in November.

Turning to the state’s one strong general election challenger race, in the San Antonio-based 23rd District, former Rep. Ciro Rodriguez (D-TX-23) who has won and lost two different House seats, is very close to capturing the outright majority that would clinch yet another party nomination for him. State Rep. Pete Gallego is second hovering in the mid-30s percentile, and he will either lose or barely qualify for a run-off when all ballots are finally counted. The new Democratic nominee will now face freshman Rep. Quico Canseco (R) in the general election. The 23rd is a tight district, so expect a highly competitive race in the fall.

Conflicting Texas Senate Polls

A Super PAC supporting Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst’s (R) US Senate bid has released its own polling data to counter Public Policy Polling’s latest survey that showed the Texas GOP battle tightening.

According to the Dresner Wickers Barber Sanders polling firm, conducting a survey for the Conservative Republicans for Texas organization, Dewhurst enjoys a 51-16-7-2 percent advantage over former Texas solicitor general Ted Cruz, Dallas ex-mayor Tom Leppert, and college football ESPN analyst Craig James, respectively. The poll was taken over the April 27-30 period of 400 likely Texas Republican primary voters.

The Public Policy Polling data, as previously released and reported, showed the same candidate order but in a much different numbering sequence. According to their 400-person study (also of likely Texas Republican primary voters) taken a little over a week before, April 19-22, Dewhurst had only a 38-26 percent lead over Cruz with Leppert scoring 8 percent and James 7 percent.

Both polls were taken over a weekend period, though the PPP survey completed more calls during weekdays. Polling results tend to differ when asked of people on a weekend versus during the work week because a different pool of respondents are typically available. Additionally, the Dresner poll was taken after Dewhurst ran some pointed negative ads against his opponent, Cruz, who is seemingly gaining the strongest foothold against the lieutenant governor.

The difference in the two polls suggest a net 23 point swing in Dewhurst’s favor. This is seemingly too large a movement in too short a time with too little action to support such a turn.

Public Policy Polling, known as a Democratic firm but one that now releases regular independent polls from around the country, represents no particular candidate in the Texas Senate race. The Conservative Republicans for Texas back Dewhurst, which leads to questions about methodology and further asks at what point did the questions appear in the interview schedule. In other words, and this is something that we do not know from the available information, were these figures derived from the answers to push questions? If so, then the results should be discounted.

The key question is not whether Dewhurst finishes in first place, because he very likely will. The point the polling cannot definitively determine is whether he can win the nomination outright on May 29, or whether Cruz forces him into a July 31 run-off election. Dewhurst likely will not fare well in a run-off, since the most well-known candidate being forced to a second election – by definition because a majority of the people chose someone else – often leads to defeat. It is this type of an invariably low turnout run-off scenario that scares the Dewhurst people.

Watch Dewhurst make a major outright victory push between now and May 29th, which, if successful, will clinch the Republican nomination. In all practicality, because the Democrats appear weak in the general election, such a victory would also secure the Senate seat itself.

In terms of resolving the conflict between the Public Policy Polling and Dresner surveys, it is more likely that the PPP data comes closer to accurately depicting the actual campaign picture than does the Dewhurst Super PAC prognostication. Their methodological consistency and reliability appears to be superior.

Dewhurst Begins to Falter in Texas Senate Race

Public Policy Polling released the results of their latest Texas US Senate Republican primary survey (April 19-22; 400 likely Texas GOP primary voters) revealing that prohibitive favorite, David Dewhurst, the state’s three-term lieutenant governor, may be headed to a run-off election with former Texas Solicitor General Ted Cruz, a first-time candidate. The PPP numbers post Dewhurst at 38 percent, followed by Cruz with 26 percent, former Dallas mayor Tom Leppert with 8 percent, and former NFL football player and ESPN analyst Craig James with only 7 percent. Three of the four candidates find themselves with positive approval ratings: Dewhurst, 47:22 percent; Cruz, 31:17 percent; and Leppert, 20:15 percent. James is the only major candidate with an upside-down personal image: 14:21 percent favorable to unfavorable.

Under Texas election law, if no candidate receives an absolute majority of the primary vote (re-scheduled for May 29), then the top two finishers face each other in a secondary election (in this case, July 31). It is becoming clear that postponing the primary twice because of the state’s self-induced congressional and legislative redistricting fiascos gave Cruz time to gain enough credibility to seriously challenge Dewhurst. In a low-turnout, run-off election, backed with solid conservative and Tea Party support, Cruz is a potential upset candidate.

The PPP survey confirms what many have begun thinking: that the Texas Senate Republican primary race has come to life and the final result is very much in doubt.

Santorum Exits: What Else Changes?

The surprisingly abrupt suspension of former Sen. Rick Santorum’s presidential campaign will affect more than just the national political contest. While Santorum’s decision effectively crowns Mitt Romney as the Republican presidential nominee, several other political contests will also change because of yesterday’s developments.

Looking ahead to contested Republican primaries where a Santorum candidacy would either positively or negatively affect the turnout model in places that vote for president and Congress together, many candidates will now have to re-adjust their own political campaign efforts. The lack of having an active presidential race will clearly alter the voter participation rates in their particular races.

One such contest that comes to mind is the upcoming Indiana Senate campaign where six-term Sen. Richard Lugar is facing state Treasurer Richard Mourdock in what is becoming a contentious and hard-fought Republican primary election. Polling shows the race to be within single digits but, among self-identified Republicans, Lugar is clearly in trouble. Under Indiana law, the primary election is open so Independents and Democrats can choose to vote in the Republican primary. Lugar runs stronger with Democrats and Independents so inclined to vote Republican, but it is difficult to gauge at this point in time the overall size of such a pool of voters.

It is probably a bit too early to predict with any certainty just how Santorum’s exit from the presidential campaign will change the Lugar-Mourdock race. One school of thought suggests that the senator might actually benefit because Santorum’s absence now gives the most conservative voter less of a reason to vote. On the other hand, the lower overall turnout will make those most motivated to visit the polls all the more important and influential. The more intense voter tends to support the non-incumbent in these types of electoral situations, thus Lugar’s position becomes tenuous since Mourdock, as the lone GOP challenger, is solely benefiting from all of the anti-incumbent sentiment.

Another race where the lack of a Santorum presidential challenge could make a difference is in the Texas Senate race. There, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, who should be the overwhelming favorite to win the nomination outright on May 29, could find his chances of being forced into a July 31 run-off increasing as the rate of turnout drops. Texas has notoriously low primary election participation rates so, as in Indiana, the more motivated voters generate greater influence within a smaller pool. Thus, conservative challenger Ted Cruz, the state’s former solicitor general, could benefit from this development.

Cruz’s only chance to wrest the nomination away from Dewhurst is to force him into a run-off election by holding him below 50 percent in the primary. With eight other candidates on the ballot, including former Dallas mayor Tom Leppert, and former NFL and Southern Methodist University football star Craig James, a lower turnout might make the run-off scenario more plausible.

Many congressional races will be effected, too. With contested Republican primary campaigns in action throughout North Carolina – GOP nomination challenges to Reps. Walter Jones (R-NC-3) and Howard Coble (R-NC-6) and crowded open seat races in the 9th (Rep. Sue Myrick), 11th (Rep. Heath Shuler), and 13th CD’s (Rep. Brad Miller) along with Republican challenger primaries for the right to face incumbents Mike McIntyre (D-NC-7) and Larry Kissell (D-NC-8) in the general election – the new turnout model could greatly alter all Tar Heel State political outcomes.

The same can be said for the California House races, particularly as the state institutes its new primary system that allows the top two finishers in every campaign, regardless of political party affiliation, to advance to the general election. With Republican voter turnout percentages, now without an active presidential race on their side, probably falling into line with Democratic participation rates, several campaigns – such as Rep. Gary Miller’s 31st District election and the newly created open 41st (Riverside County) and 47th (Long Beach area) districts – will likely change direction. Which way they will move is still unclear.

Much more analysis will come for all of these campaigns as we get closer to their respective election dates. It is clear, however, that politics in a macro sense will drastically change as a result of Santorum conceding the presidential nomination to Romney.

Craig James: A “Texas Patriot” for Senate

Craig James is an ESPN college football analyst. Prior to his career in television, James starred for five years with the New England Patriots NFL football club, playing on their 1985 Super Bowl team. In college, he started at running back for Southern Methodist University in Dallas. Yesterday, he announced that he would enter the US Senate race as a Republican, hoping to succeed retiring Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison.

The James campaign is starting from scratch in an election that still could be held on March 6. Chances are that the US Supreme Court staying the implementation of the congressional and state legislative redistricting plans will delay the primary considerably, probably until May 22, and that will give James more time to mount a serious campaign effort.

His obstacle is to overcome Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, who is clearly the front-runner for not only the nomination, but the seat itself in November. The earlier primary date favors the current statewide office holder as polls show he is in position to win outright, thus avoiding a run-off election with his closest competitor. The later date will give James and the other two top contenders, Dallas former Mayor Tom Leppert and ex-Texas Solicitor General Ted Cruz, more time to attempt to force Dewhurst into the secondary election.

The courts are indicating that the primary decision likely will be made on or before Jan. 12, leading almost everyone to believe that all Texas primary balloting will be moved. Curiously, they are letting candidate filing begin on Friday, but will give potential candidates more time to enter the race once the primary schedule and district boundaries are finalized.