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SD-26 Runoff: Cakewalk or Showdown?

A large group of Republican voters came out in the first round. Will they come back, and could they tip the scales in favor of the runner-up in the second round?

Of the three special elections this week that are now headed to runoff contests, the one generating the most commentary by far is the contest to find the next occupant of the state Senate seat held by Leticia Van de Putte, D-San Antonio.

As expected, two San Antonio Democratic state representatives — Trey Martinez Fischer and José Menéndez — won the most votes and qualified for the next round.

TMF, as Martinez Fischer is often called, won a significant plurality of the vote. He took 43.3 percent of the vote, almost a full 18 points higher than the 25.4 percent won by Menéndez.

Does that mean the runoff will turn into a TMF cakewalk?

Observers are not so sure. As supporting evidence, they point to the cumulative 28 percent taken by a pair of Republican candidates, Alma Perez Jackson and Joan Pedrotti.

The thinking goes that any carryover Republican vote goes to Menéndez because of the big dollars being spent by tort reform group Texans for Lawsuit Reform against Martinez Fischer.

And it may turn out that 43 percent is a ceiling for Martinez Fischer, who cultivates a street-fighter approach to politics and has been known to throw his fair share of sharp elbows.

The counterargument, of course, is that Menéndez would need to have all those Republicans enter his column while not losing his own Democratic support to Martinez Fischer, who can use the TLR attacks on him to rally the Democratic base.

It could also be the case that folks in the Martinez Fischer camp are saying they’re “running scared” as another way of motivating their voters to come out for yet another round of voting.

Of course, it’s anybody’s guess as to who will be bothered to turn out for a runoff election in SD-26. That makes the business of making predictions here something of a fool’s errand.

Gilbert Garcia of the San Antonio Express-News pointed out in a post-election column that turnout in the first round failed to break 20,000 in a district that produced 175,000 votes in November 2012.

Here’s a pretty good guess: The number of votes will be well south of 20,000 for a runoff. The big question might turn out to be less whether they are D or R and more about whether they are pro- or anti-TMF.


Here are some endorsements of note:

•    The political arm of the Texas Medical Association is endorsing Carolyn Bilski in the House District 13 special election. Bilski is one of four candidates — three of them are Republicans — seeking the House seat vacated by state Sen. Lois Kolkhorst, R-Brenham.

Bilski, who is finishing up her fifth term as Austin County judge this month, has also earned the endorsement of the public education advocacy group Texas Parent PAC.

•    Jared Woodfill's bid to become Republican Party of Texas chairman has earned the endorsement of former Republican National Committeewoman Denise McNamara.

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