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GOP Contests Dominate Runoff Early Voting

Also, the race to succeed Bob Duncan gets an early start, and Sid Miller's bid for ag commissioner gets a boost from Gov. Rick Perry

Paper-ballot boxes flood Reliant Center, where Harris County officials convened to count thousands of paper ballots.

With three days of early voting tabulated for Tuesday’s party primary runoffs, it’s pretty clear that the attention-grabbing contests at the top of the GOP ticket are drawing most of the action to the Republican side of the ledger.

According to figures kept by the secretary of state, 151,535 votes were cast in the GOP runoff in the state’s 15 largest counties from Monday through Wednesday. That’s nearly three times the ballots cast in the Democratic runoff.

The Democrats have a couple of interesting contests, highlighted by the duel for the U.S. Senate between failed former congressional candidate David Alameel and LaRouche acolyte Kesha Rogers, and the contest for agriculture commissioner between humorist Kinky Friedman and ultimate dark horse Jim Hogan.

Those contests, though, don’t come close to the fireworks thrown off by the GOP races for lieutenant governor between David Dewhurst and Dan Patrick and attorney general between Ken Paxton and Dan Branch.

This is the second cycle in a row where the Republican runoff has featured a hotly contested statewide race. Two years ago, it was the U.S. Senate runoff between Dewhurst and Ted Cruz.

In that race, more than 1.1 million voters went to the polls to cast ballots in the Senate race, a huge number made more incredible by the fact that the contest had been pushed to late July because of legal fights over the state’s electoral maps.

In that race, about 476,000 votes, or about 43 percent, were cast early.

At this point, it’s impossible to compare accurately the turnout in early voting from this year to 2012. That is because the totals kept by the secretary of state are from just 15 counties, albeit the state’s biggest counties. Still, it looks like early voting appears on track to at least be in the neighborhood of the early voting totals from two years ago.

Early voting finishes up today in advance of the runoff elections on Tuesday.

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A vacancy in the state Senate is rare, and a vacancy in the seat representing Lubbock and the South Plains is even rarer. Lubbock Republican Robert Duncan has represented SD-28 since December 1996. But he will soon be leaving for one of the few posts that could tempt him away from the Legislature — chancellor of Texas Tech University, his alma mater.

So it’s not surprising that at least one Senate hopeful has already made his intents known. Two-term state representative Charles Perry, who represents a large chunk of Lubbock County as well as a handful of counties south and southwest of Lubbock, sent word through his consultant that he’ll run for the seat.

"Rep. Perry has shown the ability to win elections and by large margins," said Perry's political consultant, Jordan Berry. "He's a solid conservative who has South Plains values."

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Gov. Rick Perry offered up his only endorsement of a statewide candidate this election cycle, giving his stamp of approval to Sid Miller of Stephenville for agriculture commissioner.

The endorsement was made via a video made by Perry in Austin, who called Miller a “proven conservative” and “the real deal.”

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