Previewing the Texas House Runoffs
In addition to the attention-grabbing GOP Senate contest between Ted Cruz and David Dewhurst, Texas is holding a slate of House primary runoffs Tuesday, too. The most important of those runoffs is the Democratic contest between former Rep. Ciro Rodriguez and state legislator Pete Gallego in the 23rd District. It might mean the difference between winning and losing the seat for Democrats. Rodriguez has won before, but he has shown an astonishing lack of fundraising prowess that could preclude a strong challenge to freshman GOP Rep. Quico Canseco. Gallego has been the far more energetic candidate and has drawn more support from national Democrats, raising over $844,000 to Rodriguez's $304,000 this cycle.
Yet Rodriguez's preexisting name recognition helped him to a first-place finish in the May primary, and national groups that spent on Gallego's behalf have been largely absent during the runoff. Rodriguez's San Antonio-area base also presents a problem for Gallego. It will be easier for Rodriugez to turn out runoff voters in denser Bexar County than for Gallego to drive his West Texas supporters to the polls -- though Gallego has spent at least $40,000 on "field services" since the first primary and told local media that his voter engagement strategy would carry the day for him.
Democrats feel like they should be winning heavily Hispanic seats like Texas's 23rd District. Tuesday's runoff will give us some idea of how likely that outcome is. No matter what, Canseco will start with a hefty cash advantage. He has over $1 million in the bank, while the extended primary has bled both potential opponents dry.
A few other House runoffs to keep an eye on Tuesday in Texas after the jump.
14th District: Ex-Rep. Nick Lampson, the Democratic nominee, is his party's best shot to take this deeply Republican seat being vacated by Rep. Ron Paul. But it may not matter whether he faces state Rep. Randy Weber or city official Felicia Harris -- such are the fundamentals of this 57 percent McCain seat. Weber has Paul's imprimatur while Harris has some endorsements from other Texas congressmen. Like Canseco in the 23rd District, Lampson will start off with a cash lead over whoever advances here.
25th District: Former state official Roger Williams and tea party activist Wes Riddle present a contrast even stronger, perhaps, than the one between Dewhurst and Cruz in the GOP Senate runoff. Yet Williams is expected to cruise and all but lock down this new, safely Republican seat. Unless Riddle surprises us all, this runoff will be a reminder that just being an outsider isn't enough, even in an outsider's year. Candidates still need a certain level of financial support to be viable in a two-way race.
33rd District: The new Democratic seat in Dallas-Ft. Worth has exposed all sorts of lingering tensions between the two cities and across racial lines. African-American state Rep. Marc Veasey finished a commanding first in the initial primary, while Hispanic former state legislator Domingo Garcia hopes, again, that the opportunity to support a viable Hispanic candidate will encourage the district's plurality-Hispanic vote-eligible population to support him. But that strategy didn't work all that well in May. Garcia's chances are abetted by a hefty personal loan and a late TV buy, but Veasey has continued campaigning hard and is the runoff favorite.
34th District: Democratic attorney Filemon Vela finished with 40 percent in the May primary, far ahead of second-place finisher Denise Saenz-Blanchard, a former chief of staff to Solomon Ortiz, with 13 percent. Saenz-Blanchard has attacked Vela as a crypto-Republican, but his family has a long political history in the district, and candidates with such substantial margins in initial primaries rarely lose runoffs. Whoever wins will likely join Congress next year from the new, reliably Democratic seat.
36th District: Neither GOP runoff candidate has particularly impressed local Republican leaders, but whoever wins will get the new seat. Controversial former Rep. Steve Stockman held a rocky single term in Congress after the GOP wave of 1994, while financial adviser Stephen Takach is spending his own money to combat Stockman's name recognition. The candidate seemingly most favored by the GOP establishment failed to advance to the runoff, and now it's anyone's guess who and what will prevail: Takach's spending or Stockman's lethargic leverage of his previous stint in D.C.