Over 4 million Texans cast their ballots in the March 3 “Super Tuesday” Primary Election. That number is down compared with turnout from the 2016 Primary Election which saw 4.2 million Texans vote. That number in 2016 represented about 30% of registered voters while the unofficial results in 2020 show a turnout of approximately 25% of registered voters. However, that number is an increase over the participation in the 2018 Gubernatorial Primary Election, which had a participation rate of 17%.
What do the participation numbers tell us about who may win or lose in November? How will that affect the Texas Legislature? The votes cast for races that weren’t at the top of the ballot (we’re talking about the voters who made it past the Presidential, congressional and judicial races) give us an idea of what we might expect in terms of the impact of the elimination of straight-ticket voting in the November election. You can compare the total votes cast in the Democratic vs. Republican Primary for just about any race down the ballot and begin formulating some predictions/speculations for November.
It is also worth noting that in 2016, 66% of the March voters cast their ballot in the Republican Primary, while in the 2020 Primary Election, only 49% of the ballots were cast in the Republican Primary. Democratic voters represented 51% of Texans that voted. This could be due to the impact of a highly contested presidential race on the Democratic ballot, or it could be an indication of the turn of the political tide in Texas. The answer to that will become clearer in November.
The only incumbent who lost his or her election outright is Railroad Commissioner Ryan Sitton, who lost his bid for re-election to Jim Wright in the Republican Primary. Wright will now face off against a Democrat in November who will be determined through a runoff election.
Other than the Railroad Commissioner, no other sitting incumbent lost their seat outright in this election. There are six incumbents headed into runoff elections—1 in the Texas Senate and five in the Texas House.
That is different from primary elections of the past. In 2016, four incumbents lost their seats in the primary and three legislators went to runoff elections. In 2018, there were seven incumbent legislators that lost their seats in the primary, with two that landed in runoffs. All in all, this election was short on surprises and seemed to show support for incumbents slightly more than in the past (depending how those runoffs turn out).
There were really two races identified as races to watch in the Texas Senate—one due to the fact that many believe the seat could change party hands in November and the other because some speculated that the long-time legislator might lose his seat in a primary challenge.
As it turns out, neither of these races have been decided as they are both headed to a runoff election in May. Senator Eddie Lucio (D-Brownsville), who received 49.8% of the vote, is headed to a runoff election against challenger Sara Stapleton Barrera (35.6%) for the seat in Senate District 27. Senator Lucio, who has held this seat in the Senate for nearly 30 years, was short by 149 votes of avoiding a runoff.
Over in Senate District 19, Senator Pete Flores (R-Pleasonton) ran unopposed, but many have speculated that he is up for a challenge to keep his seat in November. His challenger will be determined following a runoff election between Democrats Xochil Peña Rodriguez, who received 43.7% of the vote, and Rep. Roland Gutierrez (D-San Antonio), who received support from 37.3% of voters.
The other 15 senators running for re-election are expected to return to the Senate, despite most of them facing General Election opponents in November. There are also two open seats to be filled following the retirements of Senator Jose Rodriguez (D-El Paso) and Senator Kirk Watson (D-Austin). Senator Royce West (D-Dallas) has qualified for the runoff for the Democratic nomination for the US Senate seat, so his future in the Texas remains uncertain.
Two Republican incumbents landed in runoff elections vying to keep their seats. Chairman Dan Flynn (R-Van) received 44.5% of the vote and will face off against Bryan Slaton, who received 35.2%, for the Republican nomination on the November ballot in House District 2. Then, over in HD 59, Rep. J.D. Sheffield (R-Gatesville) received 30% of the vote and is headed to a runoff against Shelby Slawson, who received 45.7% of the vote.
Three incumbents are headed towards a runoff in the Democratic primary. Two of those are names you may not recognize as they both recently won the seats they currently hold in special elections to fill seats that were empty due to retirements. Parent PAC-endorsed Rep. Lorraine Birabil (D-Dallas) will face off against Jasmine Felicia Crockett for the seat in HD 100 and Rep. Anna Eastman (D-Houston) will face challenger Penny Morales Shaw in HD 148.
The third incumbent headed to a runoff in the Democratic Primary is long-time House Public Education Committee member Rep. Harold Dutton (D-Houston). Dutton received 45.2% of the votes for the seat in HD 142 that he has held for over three decades, and will therefore face challenger Jerry Davis, who received 25.3% of the vote.
There are also 10 open seats to be filled in the House that do not have incumbents running for re-election. Half of those races will have runoff elections to determine which name will appear on the November ballot.
- HD 10: Retired Navy pilot Jake Ellzey (R-Midlothian) won the seat in HD 10 outright and has no opponent in the General Election. Ellzey has two daughters in Midlothian ISD.
- HD 25: This seat has been occupied by outgoing Speaker Dennis Bonnen (R-Lake Jackson) for over 20 years. Ro’Vin Garrett and Cody Thane Vasut will compete in the runoff election for the Republican nomination to face Democrat Patrick Henry in November, who did not have a primary opponent.
- HD 26: The seat vacated by out-going Rep. Rick Miller (R-Sugar Land) has primary runoffs on both sides of the aisle. This one is still a 4-way race.
- HD 60: This race in Hood County doesn’t have a Democrat running in November, so the new representative will be selected via the Republican runoff election in May. Jon Francis, who received the endorsement of Empower Texans, received 45.9% of the vote and will face Dr. Glenn Rogers, who received 43.8% of the vote and the endorsement of the Parent PAC.
- HD 74: The primary election narrowed the field to one person from either party vying for the seat of outgoing Chairman Poncho Nevarez (D-Eagle Pass): Democrat Eddie Morales and Republican Ruben Falcon.
- HD 76: Democrat Claudia Ordaz Perez willfill the seat vacated by Rep. Cesar Blanco (D-El Paso) as he steps down to run for the Texas Senate. El Paso City Councilwoman Perez defeated the Parent PAC-endorsed candidate, and she does not have an opponent in November.
- HD 92: In the seat vacated by Rep. Jonathan Stickland (R-Bedford), Democrat Jeff Whitfield will face Republican Jeff Cason, who received the endorsement of Empower Texans and won over 54% of the vote while facing two primary opponents.
- HD 96: Two folks ran unopposed in the primary election in order to face off in November: Democrat Joe Drago and Republican David Cook. This is a race to watch in November, as Rep. Bill Zedler (R-Arlington) narrowly won re-election. If you look at the Primary Election turnout, the Democrat in the race had 1,731 more of the combined 22,119 votes that were cast.
- HD 119: The race for the seat vacated by Rep. Roland Gutierrez (D-San Antonio) due to his run for the Texas Senate will include Republican George B. Garza and the Democrat opponent determined by voters in the runoff election between Liz Campos and Parent PAC endorsed Jennifer Ramos.
- HD 138: House Public Education Committee member Rep. Dwayne Bohac (R-Houston) is retiring from his seat, and Democrats Akilah Bacy and Jenifer Rene Pool will compete in the runoff to see who will face Republican Lacey Hull in November.
State Board of Education
There were two SBOE races that will head to a runoff election—one in each party. In SBOE District 5 (which runs from Austin, through San Marcus, and into San Antonio), for the seat being vacated by retiring member Ken Mercer (R-San Antonio), known “jokester” Robert Morrow received 40.1% of the vote and will compete against Northside ISD speech-language pathologist Lani Popp, who received 33.9% of the vote, for the Republican nomination. Whoever wins the runoff will face Texas State University professor Rebecca Bell-Metereau in the General Election. It should be noted that there were almost 52,000 more democratic votes cast in the combined total of 323,000, even though this seat has been held by a Republican member of the SBOE for quite some time.
In SBOE District 6, the seat of retiring former Chair Donna Bahorich (R-Houston) will be filled by either Republican Will Hickman, an attorney and parent in Spring Branch ISD, or the Democrat challenger to be decided in the runoff election between educator & activist Michelle Palmer and educator/activist/author Dr. Kimberly McLeod.
The Primary Runoff Election
The Primary Election Runoff was rescheduled to take place on Tuesday, July 14, due the pandemic. Early voting begins on Monday, June 29, and runs through July 10. In order to be eligible to vote in the Runoff Election, the voter must vote in the same party’s election (if you voted Republican in March 2020, you must vote Republican in July 2020, or if you voted as a Democrat in March 2020, you may only participate in the Democratic Runoff in July 2020). Or if a voter did not participate in the March 3 Primary Election at all, that voter may choose to participate in either party’s Primary Runoff Election.