In less than a week, you'll know something about the legislative session six months away. David Dewhurst is either leaving a Senate that will elect his replacement from its own ranks, or he'll become the first statewide official in Texas government, since, um, Rick Perry, to return to his current job after losing a race for federal office.
Lots of fun either way, right?
The late elections make for a long primary season and a relatively short general election, lengthening the first and shortening the second by about two months.
The Senate race has been the main act, but it's a relative thing. Only 11.7 percent of voting age Texans turned out for round one in May, and the norm is for a runoff to produce just a fraction of the turnout of the primary.
In the Democratic primary for Senate and in the other three statewide races on the ballot, the candidates are fighting for any advantage in name ID in a state where voters are barely engaged and the candidates' resources are too skimpy to attract much attention.
The national story here is a simplified version of the Senate race — a narrative line about whether the Tea Partiers and other insurgents in the GOP can overwhelm a traditional establishment Republican — albeit a very conservative one.,
Dewhurst picked up late endorsements from Comptroller Susan Combs, who'd like to run for his job if he wins the U.S. Senate race, and from state Sen. Dan Patrick, who has coyly assisted Dewhurst for weeks without actually endorsing him. Patrick told his Facebook friends that he's voting for the Lite Guv. Ted Cruz, Dewhurst's opponent, will start the last weekend before the election with a rally in The Woodlands, featuring Sarah Palin and U.S. Sen. Jim DeMint.
The Texas Democratic Party generally stays out of primary races, but they sent out an email that came as close to endorsing U.S. Senate candidate Paul Sadler as you can without taking sides. It's a two-column email comparing political and legislative experience (Grady Yarbrough has never held office), legislative accomplishments (Sadler was a prominent House member in the 1990s), awards for legislative work and newspaper and union endorsements. The party doesn't tell anyone how to vote, but it makes its intentions clear. The subject line? "The choice is yours." Yarbrough closed with a light advertising buy, not disclosing the size of it. Yarbrough has yet to file any of the required campaign finance reports in this contest.
Some fact-like objects on the way to Tuesday's election:
• 37 races on the primary runoff ballots
• 12 on the Democratic ballot
• 25 on the Republican ballot
• 5 are statewide races (two for U.S. Senate, one for Texas Supreme Court, two for Railroad Commission) (1 Democratic race, 4 Republican races)
• 11 are congressional runoffs (6D, 5R)
• 3 are for seats on the State Board of Education (1D, 2R)
• 1 (a loud one, at that) is for state Senate (1R)
• 17 are for the state House (4D, 13R)
• Incumbents — all Republicans — are in six of the runoffs: Railroad Commissioner Barry Smitherman, Texas Supreme Court Justice David Medina, state Sen. Jeff Wentworth, and state Reps. Chuck Hopson, Sid Miller, James Landtroop, and J.M. Lozano.
• 5 involve current state officeholders who are running for offices they don't hold now: David Dewhurst, Warren Chisum, Pete Gallego, Randy Weber, and Marc Veasey. Dewhurst is the only one who'll be an elected official in January no matter how this election goes.
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