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2010: Lubbock or Leave It

Low voter turnout means that in a downballot statewide race like that between Debra Lehrmann and Rick Green the winner could be decided by chance — whose name comes first, or whose name sounds the friendliest. Green and Lehrmann are working to combat that dynamic in an unlikely place: Lubbock.

Rick Green and Judge Debra Lehrmann at a Young Republicans debate in San Antonio.

Primary runoffs attract notoriously low numbers of voters, especially when there's not a hot top-of-ticket race to swell turnout. In a downballot statewide race like that between Debra Lehrmann and Rick Green for an open seat on the Supreme Court, that means the winner could be decided by chance — whose name comes first, or whose name sounds the friendliest.

But Green and Lehrmann are working to combat that dynamic in an unlikely place: Lubbock. There, two close Republican House runoffs — the Delwin Jones/Charles Perry showdown in HD-83 and the John Frullo/Mark Griffin standoff in HD-84 — ensure an engaged electorate.

Chris Winn, the Lubbock County GOP chair, says the Supreme Court candidates have already visited several times since the primary and will probably come again. "Every voter that comes out for those personal relationships in the local races, then benefits a statewide candidate that is running," he says. "It makes the value of the vote about 50 times its normal worth."

So in addition to targeting the traditionally high-vote metropolitan areas like Houston, Dallas, and San Antonio, it makes sense to give some play to Lubbock in this race, too.

The same thing isn’t happening in Travis County, says Michele Samuelson, the executive director of the county's Republican Party, even though runoffs there between Holly White Turner and Paul Workman in HD-47 and Marsha Farney and Brian Russell for the State Board of Education are sure to ramp up turnout.

Samuelson says Green has devoted more resources to wooing voters in Travis County than Lehrmann, and that’s because of the SBOE race: "Rick's issues tend to coincide with what the State Board of Education candidates are talking about. Those voters are going to be his voters."

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