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Analysis: Handful of Candidates Hoping to Regain Voters' Favor

A handful of candidates seeking election this year are trying to win the favor of some of the same voters who previously voted them out of office.

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A few Texas politicians are testing the idea that when the voters throw the bums out, they do it temporarily.

The four former legislators in question have lost at least one re-election bid each and are now asking voters to return them to the same office or promote them to a statewide job.

Michael Galloway, R-The Woodlands, shocked the Democrats in 1994, riding that year’s conservative wave to defeat State Sen. Carl Parker, a Port Arthur Democrat who had been in the Legislature since 1962. A surprised Parker said at the time that his pollster had told him he was safe; he and his fellow Democrats never saw it coming.

Four years later, they got their revenge: David Bernsen, D-Beaumont, sent Galloway home. In 2002, Galloway attempted a comeback, falling short in an election that sent Tommy Williams, R-The Woodlands, to the Senate. Galloway tried again in 2008 and 2012, and failed.

Williams resigned from the Senate last year to take a state job. The special election to replace him is May 10, and Galloway is one of four aspirants for the job — a group that includes two members of the Texas House. Galloway intends to find out whether the voters in those other elections were opposed to him or just more favorably disposed to his opponents.

Three former legislators are on the May 27 Republican runoff ballot for statewide office. Wayne Christian of Center hopes to win a job on the Texas Railroad Commission. Tommy Merritt of Longview and Sid Miller of Stephenville will face each other in a runoff for the party’s nomination for agriculture commissioner.

Each of the three men lost his last race. Christian gave up his House seat in 2004, making an unsuccessful run for Congress. He won the Texas seat again two years later, but lawmakers redid the political maps and made him vulnerable. In 2012, he lost in the Republican primary to Chris Paddie, a former mayor of Marshall. Christian finished first in the Republican race for railroad commissioner, but will face Ryan Sitton in a runoff.

Neither Merritt nor Miller can blame redistricting for their defeats. They simply lost. Merritt, one of a small group of Republicans who helped House Speaker Joe Straus unseat his predecessor in 2009, lost to David Simpson, R-Longview, the next year. Simpson positioned himself as the more conservative of the two, and prevailed by an even bigger margin in a rematch two years later.

Miller’s race went the other way. The six-term veteran proclaimed himself the conservative in his re-election bid in 2012, but drew two primary opponents and lost in a runoff to J.D. Sheffield, R-Gatesville. Some of his allies backed a challenger to Sheffield in this year’s primary, but that effort fell short: With no Democrats in the race, Sheffield is on his way to a second term.

The vanquished are trying to become victors. It is not unheard-of, but it can be difficult. Galloway has to convince financial backers and voters that he can win a seat he has already failed four times to win. The others have a different job — to introduce themselves to new voters around the state while making amends with the voters back home.

Jerry Patterson, the state’s land commissioner, got the post after losing to David Dewhurst the first time he tried. Dewhurst went on to become lieutenant governor, and Patterson, after a four-year break from public life, won the spot. Dewhurst is a variation of the political retread; Republican primary voters chose Ted Cruz over him in 2012 in the U.S. Senate race. The lieutenant governor, now seeking re-election, is on the ropes after finishing second and going to a runoff with state Sen. Dan Patrick.

Others in Texas politics have won after losing. George W. Bush lost a congressional race years before running successfully for governor and then for president. Gov. Bill Clements lost a re-election bid to Mark White in 1982 and then beat White in a 1986 rematch.

It happens, but it is unusual. The voters seem to mean it when they call for replacements.

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