Creighton Easily Wins Special State Senate Race

State Reps. Steve Toth, R-The Woodlands, and Brandon Creighton, R-Conroe, faced off for the vacant Senate District 4 seat in a special election runoff Tuesday.
State Reps. Steve Toth, R-The Woodlands, and Brandon Creighton, R-Conroe, faced off for the vacant Senate District 4 seat in a special election runoff Tuesday.

Updated, 8/5/14 at 9:43 p.m.:

State Rep. Brandon Creighton of Conroe routed fellow Republican state Rep. Steve Toth of The Woodlands to gain a seat in the state Senate in a special election runoff Tuesday.

In the low-turnout election, Creighton garnered roughly 67.4 percent of the vote to Toth's 32.6 percent. About 22,600 voters cast their votes in the election, nearly two-thirds of them during early voting. That was down from roughly 30,300 voters in the first round of the May special election, in which four candidates vied to fill former Sen. Tommy Williams' vacant seat.

About two-thirds of the votes came from Montgomery County, a Republican bastion in the Houston suburbs.

For Creighton, the day was doubly sweet: He turned 44 on Tuesday. 

Updated, 8/5/14 at 8:29 p.m.: 

Creighton continued to hold a wide lead, with 69.04 percent of the vote compared to Toth's 30.95 percent, with about two-thirds of precincts reporting results and all early votes counted. Roughly 19,100 votes had been tallied. 

Updated, 8/5/14 at 7:29 p.m.:

State Rep. Brandon Creighton, R-Conroe, has taken a large initial lead over state Rep. Steve Toth, R-The Woodlands, in a special election runoff for the vacant Senate District 4 seat.

Among early voters in three of the five counties included in the district — Montgomery, Jefferson and Galveston — Creighton garnered 68.14 percent of the vote, while Toth took 31.85 percent.

Early voting tallies from Harris and Chamber counties, and Tuesday numbers from the district's more than 230 precincts, were not yet available. Polls closed at 7 p.m. Tuesday. 

Original story:

Houston-area voters will select a new state senator on Tuesday as they head to the polls in a runoff special election for a vacant state Senate seat.

After a May 10 election whittled the race down from four contenders, the two remaining candidates in the heavily conservative Senate District 4 are both Republican state representatives with Tea Party backing.

The seat has been empty since late October, when Tommy Williams resigned to take a job with the Texas A&M University System.

The race to replace him between Rep. Brandon Creighton of Conroe and Rep. Steve Toth of The Woodlands, who have little to distinguish them politically, is likely to hinge on two factors: turnout and Tea Party loyalties. Creighton, the front-runner, is better-funded than Toth and was the top vote-getter in May.

“The only way for Toth to win is with miserable turnout,” said Montgomery County GOP Chairman Wally Wilkerson, who is neutral in the race.

The majority of 30,348 voters in May came from Montgomery County, the conservative suburban stronghold home to Creighton and Toth. In that race, Creighton came close to avoiding a runoff election, but he fell short of a majority, with 45.2 percent of the vote. Toth ran second with 23.7 percent, knocking out The Woodlands Township Director Gordy Bunch and former state Sen. Michael Galloway.

High turnout generally favors the front-runner, but turnout for a low-visibility special election runoff in early August is unpredictable. Wilkerson said he expects it to be down significantly from the first round, in the range of 20,000 or 25,000 voters.

As a special election, the race does not involve party primaries, so the winner of Tuesday’s runoff is headed to the state Senate.

Both candidates claim significant Tea Party credentials. Toth won success in the first round of the special election despite his relative lack of funding because of his popularity among grassroots Tea Party voters, to whom he is a hero for knocking off House Public Education Chairman Rob Eissler in the 2012 Republican primary.

Creighton was chairman of the House GOP Caucus and has made defending Texas’ prerogatives under the 10th Amendment’s guarantee of states’ rights a major part of his legislative agenda. His campaign has also assiduously announced endorsements from local Tea Party groups in recent weeks.

Wilkerson said he took note when the area’s established Tea Party group, the Texas Patriots PAC, endorsed Creighton in the runoff. In the first round, it had recommended three of the four candidates — Creighton, Toth and Bunch.

A breakaway Tea Party group, the Montgomery County Tea Party, endorsed Toth, Wilkerson said. Trying to figure out who the Tea Party candidate is in Montgomery County has proven a challenge.

“It is a confusing mess for the voters,” Wilkerson said.

Disclosure: The Texas A&M University System is a corporate sponsor of The Texas Tribune. A complete list of Texas Tribune donors and sponsors can be viewed here.