Two Republican state representatives — Brandon Creighton of Conroe and Steve Toth of The Woodlands — are through to a runoff election to fill the state Senate seat left vacant by the resignation of Tommy Williams, R-The Woodlands, last October.
But aside from both being members in good standing of the Texas House Republican Caucus, the two men took different paths to earning a spot in the next round of the special election.
Creighton had the deepest pockets of the four men in the special election field — the other two candidates were Gordy Bunch and Michael Galloway. On the final full fundraising report, Creighton reported spending nearly $550,000 in April on the campaign.
That was more than six times the amount spent by Toth, who rode Tea Party connections to a GOP primary win two years ago over House Public Education Chairman Rob Eissler.
That residual name ID among Montgomery County voters seemed to be a decisive factor in Toth’s success. Nearly two-thirds of the 30,000-plus votes cast in the special election came from Montgomery County.
In fact, Toth was able to amass a nearly 1,500-vote advantage over third-place finisher Bunch. That secured his place in the runoff even with Bunch besting Toth by 700-plus votes in Jefferson County and nearly 200 votes in Harris County.
Overall, Creighton took 45 percent of the vote, according to unofficial results tallied by the secretary of state. Toth came in second with almost 24 percent, with Bunch in third with close to 22 percent.
Here's a data point to file away for later this month. Almost 19,000 votes were cast early in the SD-4 special election, or a bit less than two-thirds of the total number of votes. Like the upcoming runoff elections, the SD-4 special election was on a truncated early voting schedule. We've remarked before on the continuing trend toward voters preferring to cast ballots before Election Day. If voters statewide later this month mirror the trend among SD-4 voters, that could point to something interesting. Scheduling the runoff for the May 27 — the day after Memorial Day — might not have the same impact on turnout as it would have had in years past when more votes were cast on Election Day. We're not predicting anything here. The behavior of this subset of voters from a small corner of the state might turn out not to share much with the larger primary electorate. But it's well worth keeping an eye on turnout trends in early voting next week.
Early voting for the party primary runoff elections begins Monday, May 19, and continues through Friday, May 23. The last day to apply for a runoff mail-in ballot is today. The secretary of state’s office further specifies that the ballot application must be received — and not postmarked — by today.
And here’s one last, pre-early voting batch of endorsements…
• In the closely watched CD-4 election, 91-year-old incumbent Ralph Hall, R-Rockwall, scored an endorsement from his former colleague Ron Paul. His challenger, John Ratcliffe, picked up support from the Tea Party Express to go along with endorsements from Club for Growth, the Madison Project and the Senate Conservatives Fund. Hall has a few Tea Party-related endorsements of his own, ranging from U.S. Reps. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota and Trey Gowdy of South Carolina to former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee.
• Aside from rumors put out by the Sid Miller campaign that he might be getting a nod from his friend Gov. Rick Perry, the GOP ag commissioner candidate is touting an endorsement from state Rep. Tim Kleinschmidt, R-Lexington.
• GOP lieutenant governor candidate Dan Patrick has been endorsed by Focus on the Family founder James Dobson.