Author Archives: Jim Ellis

Cruz Wins in Texas; Other Results

Ted Cruz


All the pre-election signs were predicting a Ted Cruz upset victory over Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and the prognostications proved true in the Texas run-off vote last night. Cruz, identified as the clear conservative standard bearer with strong Tea Party support, racked up an impressive 56-44 percent win. Dewhurst has won three previous lieutenant governor statewide elections and another as lands commissioner. It was a crushing loss for for the wealthy lieutenant governor who spent $25+ million on the Senate race, about $17 million of which was self-contributed.

Cruz, the former Texas solicitor general, will now face former state representative Paul Sadler, who easily won the Democratic run-off. The new Republican nominee is the prohibitive favorite to capture the seat in November, winning the right to succeed retiring Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R).

Turnout for the Texas run-off exceeded 1.1 million voters, about half of whom took advantage of the state’s early voting procedure. The state has a notoriously low primary and run-off history, but the raw number of ballots cast in yesterday’s election is among the highest ever recorded.

The run-off effectively produced a number of new congressmen who now will face only token opposition in the general election. In the new 25th District, former Secretary of State Roger Williams notched a 58-42 percent win to secure the GOP nomination and effectively win the seat.

In the Democratic 33rd District, Ft. Worth state Rep. Marc Veasey nipped former state representative and Dallas City Councilman Domingo Garcia in a battle of the two major Metroplex cities. Ft. Worth has the larger share of the district and each city voted overwhelmingly for their hometown candidate. Mr. Veasey effectively won a ticket to the House last night as the 33rd District is clearly a Democratic seat.

Traveling south to the Rio Grande Valley, the newly created 34th CD yielded a victory to Democratic attorney Filemon Vela. The presumptive congressman is from a prominent Brownsville family that sent his father to a federal judgeship and mother to the mayor’s office. He scored an easy 67-33 percent win. Like Veasey mentioned above, Vela will be coming to Washington as part of the new 113th Congress next January.

In new District 36, former one-term representative Steve Stockman, raising virtually no money for his run-off, nonetheless scored a win over financial advisor Steve Takach. With little in the way of general election competition, Mr. Stockman will win the general election and have a seat that he can hold, unlike the one he won back in 1994 where he lasted only one term.

In two run-offs that will yield competitive general elections, state Rep. Randy Weber easily defeated Pearland City Councilwoman Felicia Harris and now will face former Rep. Nick Lampson (D) in a seat that should favor the new Republican nominee. In the San Antonio to El Paso seat (District 23), Democratic state Rep. Pete Gallego successfully dispelled former US Rep. Ciro Rodriguez and will now face freshman GOP Rep. Quico Canseco. The 23rd is the only marginal seat in the Lone Star State.

Georgia Notes:

No real surprises came from the Georgia primary. All congressional incumbents of both parties were easily renominated in their respective elections.

In the new 9th District, the seat awarded Georgia in reapportionment, a Republican run-off will occur in what will be a safe GOP seat. State Rep. Doug Collins and radio talk show host Martha Zoller came within a point of each other, meaning the Aug. 28 run-off election will be a knock-down, drag-out brawl.

Another run-off will be held in District 12 for the right to challenge Rep. John Barrow (D) in an Augusta-based district where almost half of the territory is new to the incumbent. State Rep. Lee Anderson and businessman Rick Allen are the secondary election participants. Allen just nipped retired Navy officer Wright McLeod by under 600 votes to secure the second and final run-off position.

Texas-Sized Upset in the Making?

Yesterday, we covered the races being decided in today’s run-off (Texas) and primary elections (Georgia) and mentioned that former Texas solicitor general Ted Cruz has a legitimate chance of upsetting Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst in the Lone Star State’s US Senate Republican run-off. The release of the new Public Policy Polling data for Texas underscores that the trends are supporting an upset result. According to their survey (July 28-29; 665 Texas GOP likely run-off voters) Cruz has a 52-42 percent lead over the lieutenant governor. The Dewhurst campaign countered with their internal Baselice & Associates poll showing their candidate with a 48-44 percent lead, but these results appear out of line with the other publicly presented trends.

Perhaps most disconcerting for the Dewhurst camp, the PPP numbers report Cruz to be leading 63-33 percent among those who are most excited about voting in the run-off election. Additionally, the ex-solicitor general leads the veteran statewide office holder among those considering themselves as Tea Party voters by a huge 75-22 percent split. In a low turnout election where 70 percent identify themselves to be somewhat or very conservative, this type of spread could well be the defining factor.

Typically, Texas primary and run-off elections record very low turnouts. More than 1.4 million people voted in the May 29 primary election, but a considerable smaller number will vote in the secondary election. The likely turnout projection suggests a participation rate of less than one million voters.

Ohio’s LaTourette to Retire

Latourette

Nine-term Ohio Rep. Steve LaTourette (R-14) abruptly scheduled a news conference for later today to announce that he will not seek re-election in November, despite winning renomination in March. Reports indicate he experienced a falling out with the majority leadership in relation to future committee assignments.

The 14th District, politically marginal in nature, is located in the northeastern corner of the state between Cleveland and the Pennsylvania border. Both President Obama and John McCain received 49 percent of the vote here in 2008.

Local Republican Party officials throughout the district will subsequently meet and choose a replacement candidate. Democrats have accountant Dale Blanchard as their nominee. Blanchard has twice lost to LaTourette and he has yet to even file a 2012 FEC financial disclosure report meaning he has yet to raise $5,000 for the campaign. Unless the Democrats can get Blanchard to withdraw from the ballot, they will be left with a sub-standard nominee in a competitive district.

OH-14 now becomes the 61st open seat in the current election cycle. Much more will be forthcoming from here in the next few days.

Eyes on Georgia’s 9th CD

In Georgia, only of a few of the state’s 14 districts are in contested situations tomorrow. The biggest news will be what happens in the newly created 9th Congressional District in the northeastern sector of the state. The seat, awarded to Georgia in reapportionment because of the state’s robust growth rate during the past decade, is drawn to elect a Republican. It is likely that state Rep. Doug Collins and radio talk show host Martha Zoller will head to a run-off contest on Aug. 21.

In the Augusta-based 12th District, in what is likely to be the most hotly contested general election race in the state, four Republicans battle for the opportunity to challenge veteran Rep. John Barrow (D) in a re-configured district. Barrow, seeking his fifth term in the House, only represents 53 percent of the new 12th CD’s constituency. A run-off is probable, most likely between state Rep. Lee Anderson and businessman Rick Allen. Much more will be heard from this campaign before the final votes are cast later this year.

In Atlanta, veteran Rep. John Lewis faces a Democratic primary foe but is expected to easily win renomination. Former judge Michael Johnson is a credible candidate, but no match for the 13-term congressman and former Civil Rights leader.

Texas Run-off Tomorrow

Dewhurst | Cruz

Voters go to the polls in Texas tomorrow to choose US Senate as well as several congressional nominees. The big Senate battle is on the Republican side, where three-term Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst fights to save his political credibility against former state solicitor general Ted Cruz. In the May 29 primary, Dewhurst placed first with 44.7 percent of the vote versus Cruz’s 34.1 percent.

The primary results place Dewhurst in a gray area as to whether he can develop a winning run-off coalition in a two-way race. Most often, a well-known candidate who fails to secure a majority of his own party’s vote in the primary election loses the subsequent run-off because the majority opposition only has one choice. Turnout and the candidate who has the most energized base tend to be the determining factors.

Internal polls released from both camps show their own candidate leading in the high single-digit range. The Cruz polling was conducted just among May 29 primary voters while the Dewhurst samples are from a likely voter model. The methodology difference lends more credence to the Cruz polls. The chances of seeing an upset win here are at least 50/50.

On the Democrat side, former state Rep. Paul Sadler and retired educator Grady Yarbrough battle for a ticket to the general election. Realistically, the winner of the Dewhurst-Cruz contest easily defeats the Dem winner in November, so tomorrow’s GOP run-off is likely race-determining.

On the congressional level, run-off voters in several districts will effectively choose House members. In the Dallas-Ft. Worth area, the 33rd Congressional District is one of four new seats awarded the state. A Democratic battle between Ft. Worth state Rep. Marc Veasey and former state representative and Dallas City Councilman Domingo Garcia is peaking. The race has become a rivalry contest between the two Metroplex cities. With more of the Ft. Worth area included in the new 33rd and placing first with a 37-25 percent margin, Veasey is viewed to be the favorite tomorrow. The Democrat winner claims the seat in November.

In the Rio Grande Valley, the new 34th Congressional District is anchored in the city of Brownsville and travels along the Gulf of Mexico coastline. Filemon Vela will likely win the Democratic nomination tomorrow against former congressional aide Denise Saenz Blanchard. Vela, an attorney, is the son of ex-federal judge Filemon B. Vela and former Brownsville mayor Blanca Sanchez Vela. His wife, a Republican, is a sitting district judge. Vela placed first in May with 40 percent of the vote against only 13 percent for Blanchard. The large spread suggests Vela is in strong run-off and general election position.

For the Republicans, in the district stretching from the southern tip of Tarrant County (Ft. Worth) into western Travis County (Austin), former Secretary of State Roger Williams, assuming that financial wherewithal is a determining factor, is poised to score a run-off victory against Tea Party activist and college professor Wes Riddle. Williams is projected to outspend Riddle by an 8:1 margin, but the latter should have a grassroots advantage. In a low turnout election, that could be significant but it is unlikely he can overcome Williams’ many advantages.

In the state’s fourth new district, the 36th CD to the north and east of Houston, first-place finisher Mark Takach, a financial advisor who placed just 350 votes ahead of former Rep. Steve Stockman in the primary, face each other tomorrow. The outcome here is difficult to predict. Takach is an unknown and Stockman served only one term back in 1995-97 in an adjoining area. The winner, however, becomes the prohibitive favorite for November.

In the open 14th District, the seat veteran congressman and presidential candidate Ron Paul is vacating, two strong Republicans, state Rep. Randy Weber and Pearland City Councilwoman Felicia Harris, are fighting for the right to face ex-Rep. Nick Lampson (D) in the general election. The district clearly favors Republicans, but Lampson represented the Beaumont-Galveston region for four terms until his defeat in the redistricted 2nd CD that took him out of his regional base.

From the expansive district that stretches from San Antonio all the way to El Paso, another defeated congressman, Ciro Rodriguez, is attempting yet another comeback. He placed first in the May 29 Democrat primary and now faces state Rep. Pete Gallego in tomorrow’s run-off. The Democrat establishment is clearly behind Gallego, who most believe will be the stronger opponent to freshman Republican Rep. Quico Canseco, but the San Antonio base still appears to be a Rodriguez asset. The general election will be a toss-up in what is Texas’ only real marginal congressional district.