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Runoff Review – Part II

Map of US Congressional districts in Texas

By Jim Ellis

March 26, 2020 — With Gov. Greg Abbott (R) moving the Texas runoff election date, it has drastically changed the short-term Lone Star State political scene. At the end of last week, Abbott transferred the post-primary runoff election date from May 26 to July 14 in consideration of COVID-19 virus precautions.

Statewide, the US Senate Democratic primary is headed to a runoff election, as well as 15 different congressional campaigns.

In the Senate race, retired Army helicopter pilot M.J. Hegar, who held Rep. John Carter (R-Georgetown) to a 51-48 percent re-election victory in 2018, placed first in the Democratic primary with 22.4 percent of the vote, but a long way from the 50 percent plateau a candidate needs to claim a party nomination. She will face state Sen. Royce West (D-Dallas) who slipped into second place by just over a percentage point in the 12-candidate field. Sen. Royce scored 14.5 percent statewide.

The eventual nominee faces three-term Sen. John Cornyn (R), who easily secured re-nomination in his Republican primary (76 percent over four opponents). The longer runoff cycle should typically help the second place finisher, since the individual has more time to change the campaign’s flow. In this case, however, the Democratic nominee, who already starts as a severe underdog to Sen. Cornyn, would lose valuable general election time with the later runoff, thus making the task of overcoming the incumbent even more formidable.

Of the 15 House runoffs, nine are viable to some degree. The six that are not lie in districts that are safe for one party or the other. For example, it matters little which Democrat wins the 13th District runoff (Trump ’16: 79.9 percent), or who eventually becomes the victorious Republican in the 18th CD secondary vote (Clinton ’16: 76.5 percent).

Rep. Van Taylor’s (R-Plano) north Texas seat is typically thought of as safely Republican, but his 54 percent win percentage in 2018 was considerably below the average GOP vote. Two attorneys, Sean McCaffity and Lulu Seikaly will now do battle until July 14 to see who faces Rep. Taylor in his first re-election bid. The two were virtually tied in the Democratic primary, 44.5 – 43.7 percent, with the slight edge going to McCaffity. Rep. Taylor will be the decided favorite in November.

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