In the first round of voting in the HD-50 special election, Mike VanDeWalle, the sole Republican in the contest, came in first with 39 percent of the vote. Read another way, that meant that 61 percent backed a Democratic candidate. That ratio held in the runoff election, which concluded amid the Austin icepocalypse on Tuesday.
Celia Israel — who beat out two other Democrats to make the runoff — won easily with more than 59 percent of the vote. The weather certainly did not help VanDeWalle. Icy conditions interfered with the last day of early voting on the Friday before election day. Conditions were even worse on Tuesday, leading to the closure of eight polling places.
But VanDeWalle had his work cut out for him from the get-go. The district was drawn to lean Democratic, and it has trended even bluer recently. Also, the special election became something of a coming-out party for Battleground Texas, the voter turnout effort intended to increase Democratic strength in the Lone Star State. The group, which was founded by a couple of veterans of the Obama turnout machine, blockwalked for Israel and was quick to trumpet her victory on Tuesday evening.
Could VanDeWalle do better with the BGTX, weather and special election factors removed from the electoral equation? We'll find out in November as the two are slated to meet in the general election.
We are still waiting on a date for the immigration debate between GOP lite guv candidate Dan Patrick and San Antonio Mayor Julián Castro. An improbable product of a Twitter exchange, the two agreed to meet in person in San Antonio late last week. But as of Thursday, a date had not been finalized.
For those interested, here's the latest update. Via Twitter, naturally:
— Dan Patrick (@DanPatrick) January 29, 2014
Then on Thursday evening came this exchange:
.@JulianCastro ready to debate the immigration invasion Mayor. Even on your home turf. Backing down?— Dan Patrick (@DanPatrick) January 31, 2014
@DanPatrick ? Gave your guy March 19/25/26. You're ok w/March bc u plan to win primary on 3/4, right? Or do u need Feb dates in case u lose?— Mayor Julián Castro (@JulianCastro) January 31, 2014
Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate David Alameel has added an endorsement from lite guv candidate Leticia Van de Putte to an earlier endorsement from gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis. The decision to endorse by Davis in a contested party primary drew criticism from some quarters among Texas Democrats. SDEC member Rosalie Weisfeld, for instance, described Alameel as "an enemy within our ranks" in a fundraising letter for Maxey Scherr, another Democratic candidate for U.S. Senater.
The criticism is centered chiefly on Alameel's past contributions to Republican candidates. In an attempt to counteract those criticisms, Alameel last week told The Texas Tribune he wanted a refund of those contributions. As it so happens, the current U.S. senator, John Cornyn, has received $8,000 from Alameel. The incumbent took advantage of the opportunity to send a tongue-in-cheek letter to Alameel in which he regretfully declined the request for a refund.
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