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Runoff Races Heating Up

Also, voters in Southeast Texas go to the polls on Saturday to select a new state senator in SD-4.

Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and State Sen. Dan Patrick squared off in a debate for the upcoming runoff election for Lieutenant Governor.

We are 10 days from the start of early voting in the May 27 primary runoff election, but you don’t need to look at a calendar to know that. All you need to do is look at the headlines from the past couple of days. Here’s a recap:

•    On Wednesday morning, GOP lieutenant governor candidates David Dewhurst and Dan Patrick debated in Dallas. Big topics included how long Dewhurst spent at an Austin steak restaurant while the Senate dealt with amendments to an anti-abortion bill.

•    On Wednesday afternoon, the Dewhurst campaign released a web video attacking Patrick in a parody of the song “Let It Go” from the Disney animated movie Frozen. The Patrick camp responded with a BuzzFeed-style series of GIFs lifted from Frozen attacking Dewhurst.

•    On Thursday morning, failed lieutenant governor candidate Jerry Patterson gave a dual endorsement/un-endorsement in which he presented a top 10-styled list of reasons of why he could not back Patrick even if he were to win the GOP nomination. Not surprisingly, an anti-Dewhurst website later in the day came up with its own list of reasons not to vote for Dewhurst.

•    Also on Thursday, Dewhurst scored an endorsement from former Congressman and former presidential candidate Ron Paul.

Developments also abounded in the GOP race for attorney general. Both candidates in the runoff were set to drop ads, with Ken Paxton airing radio ads beginning midweek and Dan Branch set to go up on TV this weekend.

Also, Branch touted on Thursday morning his endorsement by Railroad Commissioner Barry Smitherman, who finished third in the first round of balloting for attorney general in March. The endorsement statement highlighted action taken by the State Securities Board against Paxton for not registering as a solicitor for an investment adviser.

The question lurking beneath this flurry of activity is whether any of it matters. Both Patrick and Paxton bested their runoff opponents by double digits in March. Has Dewhurst’s recent barrage of attack ads, for example, moved the needle? We hear anecdotally that it has, but the question remains: Is this movement too little, too late? Also, does an endorsement by Paul, whose backers are more motivated to vote than the average primary voter, appreciably change the electoral arithmetic? And what matters more to runoff voters: media coverage of Paxton’s disclosure lapses or his subsequent disappearance from meet-the-voter events?


Here’s another tidbit to keep an eye on this month. One long-term trend in Texas electoral politics has been the migration of votes from Election Day to the early voting period. Lots of theories have been offered on why this is, but odds are this trend will continue with this election. Why’s that? The runoff takes place the day after the three-day Memorial Day holiday weekend.


Somewhat lost in the shuffle is the fact that voters in Southeast Texas choose their next state senator tomorrow. Four Republicans — Brandon Creighton, Steve Toth, Gordy Bunch and Michael Galloway — are in a special election to succeed Tommy Williams, R-The Woodlands, who resigned the SD-4 seat in October.

So far, the election has shaped up as a contest between two deep-pocketed candidates — Creighton and, to a lesser degree, Bunch — and two lesser-funded candidates — Toth and Galloway — hoping that already existing name ID among the grassroots will translate to success at the ballot box.

In the latest round of campaign finance filings, which cover fundraising activity for all of April, Creighton reported spending nearly $550,000 with about the same amount left over in cash on hand. Bunch, meanwhile, had spent a little more than $250,000 and had about $130,000 in cash on hand.

Toth and Galloway spent $89,000 and $6,000, respectively.

If no one gets 50 percent plus one vote on Saturday, a runoff between the top two vote-getters will ensue.

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