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The Brief: Primary Runoffs Are Low Turnout, High Stakes

Although today's primary runoff elections will likely see low turnout in contests for the Legislature, the Railroad Commission and the State Board of Education, there are at least five things to watch for on Election Night.

Voters wait in line at the University of Texas Co-op to cast their ballots in the March 1, 2016 primary elections.

The Big Conversation

This evening's primary runoff elections will determine the party nominees for key seats in the Texas Legislature, on the Texas Railroad Commission and on the State Board of Education.

Although runoff elections in primaries routinely generate low turnout across the state, the Tribune's Matthew Watkins shared five things to watch for on Election Night.

•    Whether East Texans will elect Mary Lou Bruner to the State Board of Education, a candidate who made headlines for posting on Facebook that President Obama was once a gay prostitute. Bruner is facing off against Keven Ellis, who has accused her of fearmongering.

•    Whether any incumbents in the Texas House will fail to be re-elected, as three members are "fighting to keep their jobs, and their contests have turned heated," Watkins wrote. Rep. Wayne Smith, R-Baytown, Rep. Doug Miller, R-New Braunfels, and Rep. Ron Reynolds, D-Missouri City, face challenges to their seat. And at least one GOP state representative will not return to the House as state Reps. Bryan Hughes and David Simpson are facing each other in a runoff for a seat in the Senate.

•    Whether mudslinging will make a difference for candidates duking it out through campaign fliers in the Senate District 24 race. One candidate, Dawn Buckingham, distributed fliers suggesting her opponent, state Rep. Susan King, allowed "dangerous refugees" into the state. Political attacks also surfaced in the race for a seat on the Railroad Commission where former state Rep. Wayne Christian called his opponent Gary Gates a "slumlord" and pointed to a childcare dispute from Gates' past.

•    Whether Scott Walker, a Dallas-based criminal defense attorney, will secure a seat on the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. Walker hardly campaigned heading into the March primary but still secured 41 percent of the vote, although "many credit that to his recognizable name," Watkins wrote.

•    Whether anyone will actually show up to vote. Watkins noted that primary election runoffs tend to see routinely low turnout and it would be "a shocker" if more than 1 million people voted. Watkins said turnout will mostly comprise of "hardcore political junkies, campaign staffers and candidates' parents."

Trib Must Reads

Five Years Later, Voter ID Suit Still Moving Forward, by Jim Malewitz – In the latest step in a lawsuit that may end up at the U.S. Supreme Court, Texas’ five-year-old voter identification law will face a fresh round of probing in New Orleans Tuesday.

In Runoff, Ted Cruz Makes Final Pitch for Bryan Hughes, by Patrick Svitek – U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, is making a rare foray into a state-level contest, helping to make the closing argument for Bryan Hughes in his race against David Simpson for the Texas Senate.  

Parents Sue Texas Education Agency Over STAAR Exams, by Kiah Collier – A backlash against this year’s STAAR exams escalated Monday when a group of parents sued the state in an attempt to keep schools from using 2016 test scores to rate students.

The Day Ahead

•    Today is election day for party primary runoffs across the state. 

•    The Texas House Committee on Government Transparency and Operation meets at 1 p.m. in the Capitol extension with the House Select Committee on Emerging Issues in Texas Law Enforcement to discuss the impact of new technologies used by law enforcement and the dissemination of data collected through those tools.

Elsewhere

(Links below lead to outside websites; content might be behind paywall)

Getting a photo ID so you can vote is easy. Unless you’re poor, black, Latino or elderlyWashington Post

Texan Pete Sessions, realizing GOP can’t repeal Obamacare, offers alternative, The Dallas Morning News

Austin district renames campus with ties to ConfederacyAustin American-Statesman 

Texas immigration facility to house transgender detainees, The Associated Press

Suspended HISD chief auditor: 'This district does not want the real dirt to be published'Houston Chronicle

Looming U.S. abortion ruling could be 'dangerous,' says top attorney, Reuters

As convention nears, Ted Cruz continues to hold out support for Donald TrumpSan Antonio Express-News

Senator criticizes Texas CPS leaders’ push to hire caseworkers without college degrees, The Dallas Morning News

Austin tech leaders launching nonprofit ride-hailing companyAustin American-Statesman

Japanese company to establish Dallas subsidiary for Texas bullet trainDallas Business Journal

Quote to Note

"Bryan needs your vote, and tomorrow is your last chance. Bryan Hughes is a conservative fighter we can count on. He's filed legislation to kick Obamacare out of Texas, and he is the only candidate in this race that voted for Gov. Abbott's plan to double border security."

 — U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz in an automated phone call to voters in Senate District 1 in North Texas ahead of primary runoff election night

Today in TribTalk

Time for Child-Focused Foster Care Reform, by Vicki Spriggs – Steps to transform the Child Protective Services system must be governed by the best interests of the child, so state leaders must build reform efforts based on improved information about trauma, improved foster care practices and adequate investigations into abuse and neglect.

Trib Events for the Calendar

•    A Conversation with state Sens. Kel Seliger and Kirk Watson on higher education funding in Texas, on May 26 at The Austin Club.

•    A Conversation with Ryan Sitton, Texas Railroad Commissioner, on June 3 at The Austin Club

•    The Texas Tribune Festival on Sept. 23-25 at the University of Texas at Austin

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