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Analysis: Voters Dispatch Familiar Figures to Private Sector

The list of Tuesday's losers — a feature of every election — includes an unusual number of well-established officeholders, particularly in top state races.

Jerry Patterson, Barry Smitherman and Todd Staples

It’s not every day that Texas voters can throw so many officeholders out on the streets, but they did on Tuesday.

Three statewide officials are involuntarily on their way back to the private sector: Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples and Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson finished third and fourth in the race for lieutenant governor, and Railroad Commissioner Barry Smitherman finished third in the race for attorney general.

U.S. Rep. Steve Stockman, R-Friendswood, gave up a shot at re-election to run for U.S. Senate. Voters wanted incumbent John Cornyn instead. State Rep. Harvey Hilderbran, R-Kerrville, was hanging on by his teeth in a comptroller’s race where state Sen. Glenn Hegar, R-Katy, was within a handful of votes of a win as of early Wednesday morning. He’s either out, or starting far behind in a runoff.

Likewise, U.S. Rep. Ralph Hall, R-Rockwall, finished first but without enough votes to avoid a runoff. Voters will get another look at him in the May 27 runoff with John Ratcliffe. And state Sen. Bob Deuell, R-Greenville — whose district overlaps Hall’s — will be in a runoff, too, against challenger Bob Hall.

State Sen. John Carona, R-Dallas, lost a close race to challenger Donald Huffines, who eked out a 635-vote win after an expensive campaign and a tense night of vote-counting. Huffines will face Libertarian Mike Dooling in November.

In the House, at least eight incumbents fell on Tuesday, including Democrats Lon Burnam of Fort Worth and Naomi Gonzalez of El Paso, and Republicans George Lavender of Texarkana, Lance Gooden of Terrell, Diane Patrick of Arlington, Ralph Sheffield of Temple, Linda Harper-Brown of Irving and Bennett Ratliff of Coppell.

It is no solace to the losers, but the legislative turnover on Tuesday was fairly light. More political careers were upended in statewide races than Texas is accustomed to, but that’s partly because of the high number of open seats this year — a situation triggered by Gov. Rick Perry’s decision not to seek re-election. That, in turn, prompted a number of people to risk their positions to try to climb the ladder and ensured that voters would be turning out a large number of well-established figures.

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Politics 2014 elections