Fall Has Full Ballot, but Most Races Are Decided

The big election is still ahead, but most of the Texas races are over.

Some ended on Tuesday, some in the May primaries and some when the legislative and congressional maps were drawn earlier this year. In modern politics, most races are over when the partisans have spoken.

The runoffs didn’t just set the ballot for November — it started the 2014 races, too. Shortly after it became clear that Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst had lost the race for U.S. Senate, Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson sent this text: "I have great respect for Lt. Gov. Dewhurst. However, I'm running for LtGov in 2014."

The big contest that draws the most voters is still ahead. Texas hasn’t voted for a Democrat in a statewide race since 1994, but the race between President Obama and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney will dominate attention for the next 100 days.

Presidential elections regularly produce the biggest voter turnouts in the state, and those numbers will drive the rest of the results.

 

That top-of-the-ballot contest will lead into a race for U.S. Senate between Republican Ted Cruz and Democrat Paul Sadler, 36 congressional races, 31 Senate races and 150 contests for the Texas House. Those will be on the ballot, but that doesn’t mean they’ll be competitive.

Redistricting maps drawn by state legislators and refined by federal judges leave most of the state’s congressional and legislative districts noncompetitive in general elections — another way of saying most districts are drawn to favor candidates from one party over another. As a result, many contests are decided in the party primaries, and only a relative few are truly up for grabs when the November elections come around.

Some candidates have no major party opposition; barring something really unusual, they’ll skate through the general election. Two to watch:

• CD-14, the seat now held by U.S. Rep. Ron Paul, R-Lake Jackson. Nick Lampson, a Democrat who lost his House seat after redistricting last decade, will run against Randy Weber.

• CD-23, where U.S. Rep. Francisco “Quico” Canseco, R-San Antonio, will get a strong challenge from state Rep. Pete Gallego, D-Alpine.

The Texas Senate has 31 seats, but there’s really just one Senate race on the November ballot — Fort Worth’s SD-10 contest between Democratic Sen. Wendy Davis and Republican state Rep. Mark Shelton.

By the time the runoffs began, 37 of the House’s 150 members had already either decided not to run again or lost their primaries. Voters added to the total on Tuesday, knocking out incumbent Republican Reps. Sid Miller of Stephenville, Chuck Hopson of Jacksonville and Jim Landtroop of Plainview. Along with the heavy turnover from 2010's elections, that means at least half of the state's represenatives will be in their first or second terms when the legislative session begins in January.

Most of the seats in the House are already decided, unless voters decide to install a Libertarian or a Green candidate: 89 candidates don’t have major party opponents in November.

 

The 61 remaining races each feature a Republican and a Democrat, but many of those are in districts built to protect one party or another. About a dozen districts have been competitive in statewide races over the last two election cycles; in others, the candidate from one party or the other won by more than 12 points in statewide races in 2008 and 2010.

• HD-23, where Democratic Rep. Craig Eiland of Galveston will face Wayne Faircloth, who won a Republican runoff Tuesday.

• HD-34, a rematch between Rep. Connie Scott, R-Corpus Christi, and former Rep. Abel Herrero, D-Portland.

• HD-41, an open seat where Democrat Bobby Guerra faces Republican Miriam Martinez.

• HD-43, where party-switcher J.M. Lozano, now a Republican, will face former Rep. Yvonne Gonzalez Toureilles, D-Alice.

• HD-48, a contest between Democratic Rep. Donna Howard of Austin and Republican Robert Thomas.

• HD-78, a rematch between Rep. Dee Margo, R-El Paso, and former Rep. Joe Moody, D-El Paso.

• HD-107, where Rep. Kenneth Sheets, R-Dallas, is battling former Rep. Robert Miklos, D-Mesquite.

• HD-117, where Democrat Philip Cortez is challenging Republican Rep. John Garza of San Antonio.

• HD-118, where San Antonio Democrat Joe Farias is seeking re-election and Republican Robert Casias is trying to unseat him.

• HD-144, an open seat contest featuring Republican David Pineda and Democrat Mary Ann Perez.

• HD-149, a Houston match between Democratic Rep. Hubert Vo and Republican Dianne Williams.

[Editor's note: An earlier version of this story included HD-113; the Democratic candidate who filed for that race later dropped out, and Rep. Cindy Burkett, R-Mesquite, has no major party opponent.]

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