Despite the rapid escalation of anti-Trump campaign expenditures in various states, yesterday’s primary election results, certainly brought into focus the identify crisis gripping the GOP, sending a real signal to the so-called establishment, that Donald Trump, barring some catastrophic change in voter direction, is extremely well poised to win the Republican nomination. After Super Tuesday, the GOP establishment is now 1 for 15 in this cycle, giving Trump more delegates (285) than Cruz (161, who did win Iowa, Texas, Oklahoma and Alaska) and Rubio (87, whose sole win was Minnesota) combined. The Republican Party has 2,472 delegates nationally, requiring a candidate to secure 1,237 for the nomination. We can expect the Cruz and Rubio campaigns to advance their numerical delegate possibilities and offer various brokered convention scenarios. However, the GOP establishment needs to comprehend the breath of Trump’s current appeal and the mathematical realities of the current delegate count situation.
Likewise, Hillary Clinton’s performance among Democratic voters makes her the presumptive favorite for her party’s nomination, extending the lead for her party’s delegate count, with 1001, significantly ahead of Senator Bernie Sanders, who has garnered only 371 delegates. Barring some colossal change in voter attitudes, Clinton is well on her way to securing the 2,382 delegates to secure the Democratic nomination.
There are a multitude of Super Tuesday story lines to pick from, but from a Texas perspective, some of the more compelling include down ballot drop off and Senator Cruz’s margin of victory as a test of Tea Party or non-establishment support.
CRUZ MARGIN OF VICTORY & ANTI-ESTABLISHMENT SENTIMENT
Senator Cruz’s home state margin of victory (43.7%, cracking his 37% ceiling during his primary against Dewhurst, marking a notable increase of strength by the Tea Party in Texas). Although Cruz beat Trump by 16.95%, who as the other perceived outsider, acquired 26.75% of the vote, for a combined 70.45% of the GOP primary vote. The anointed establishment candidate, Senator Marco Rubio was only able to marshal just 17.73% of the primary vote at the top of the ticket, just 2.27% below the 20% needed to qualify proportionally for Texas delegates. Cruz, who was endorsed by many of the current statewide GOP leadership, including Governor Abbott and Lt. Governor Patrick, was in a must win situation in his home state, which he won handily, perhaps becoming the new alternative to Trump as the presidential narrative plays out. It would seem unlikely that Rubio or Kasich would suspend their bids prior to their home state primaries (Florida and Ohio respectively), but it would not surprise if Carson contemplated ending his campaign.
At least 4.24 million people voted in either primary, narrowly eclipsing previous record set in 2008. For the GOP, 2.83 million or 19.9% of registered voters participated, nearly doubling previous record set in 2010. For Democrats, 1.41 million or 9.8% of registered voters cast ballots, not quite half the record of 2008 but more than last two primary elections combined. The bottom line is that voter turnout was very high.
TEXAS DOWN BALLOT IMPACTS
As we have previously reported, we were keenly interested in how the national presidential campaigns might impact a number of state legislative down-ballot races, particularly with the anticipated increase in voter turnout and vast sums of campaign expenditures in various targeted campaigns that we believed were among the most significant in terms of the primary result influencing or shaping the tone and tenor of next state legislative session. A quick look shows that while the “movement” conservative sentiment was in full bloom at the top of the ticket, particularly when benchmarked against the combined vote that Cruz and Trump (70.45%) received, incumbents and the perceived GOP establishment personified (fairly or not) by Speaker Joe Straus and his supporters did equally well with the GOP primary voters.
Absent a complete forensic view of voting demographics and patterns, it appears that there was indeed record numbers of voters participating in the Texas primaries of both parties. However, it also appears that there was significant down ballot drop off. In other words, some primary voters cast their ballots for their preferred presidential candidate (top of the ticket) and no one or fewer down ballot. It is often debated on who benefits more from the down ballot drop off phenomenon – incumbents or challengers, but in many of the close races, incumbents seemed to have the advantage.
Down ballot drop off and beating back the targeted resources of the Empower Texas PAC, will be one of the big issues discussed leading up to the next legislative session. Empower Texas, who contributed over $1 million to candidates challenging Republican incumbents that they believed do not reflect their social conservative views, did not appear to have the impact that they had hoped for and are probably disappointed that there was such a shift between the top and bottom of the ballot. Their money is publically reported to account for almost 83% of the money that went to candidates against Straus supporters, so even the objective observer is left somewhat underwhelmed by their results, but there are still a few runoffs that remain.
Overall, of the 19 members who voted against Speaker Straus, 1 is retiring from the House, 2 ran for Texas Senate, 9 had no primary opponents, 2 were defeated by primary opponents, and 5 won their primary races. Below is a general summary of how incumbents did last night.
INCUMBENTS DEFEATED (4)
HD4: Spitzer by Gooden, 52-48%
HD20: Farney by Wilson, 54-46%
HD55: White by Shine, 50.3-49.7%
HD150: Riddle by Swanson, 52-40%
INCUMBENTS IN RUNOFFS (3)
HD27: Reynolds (48%) and Bartholomew (24%)
HD73: Miller (43%) and Biedermann (40%)
HD128: Smith (44%) and Cain (48%)
It is not unusual that targeted financial resources in certain state down-ballot races, when combined with multiple candidates, and the larger than normal presidential turnout of new primary voters can result in some legislative upsets – every cycle there are always a few surprises in elections. However, this primary election cycle will most likely be remembered as somewhat strange and oddly unpredictable, with numerous examples of candidate conduct, vulgar dialogue, blatant untruths, and dirty tricks blunders that have destroyed campaigns in the past, seeming to not matter and defying adverse expectations that played out in years past.
What follows is the score sheet for those key down ballot races, along with our initial predictions. Correct assessments are listed in yellow. Below is a summary of the key races we are following closely, along with their 8 day out financial balances.
|House District||Perceived Establishment Candidate (s)||Movement Candidate (s)||General Comments and Observations|
|121||Speaker Joe Straus – (I) R – San Antonio Raised $1.2M, spent $1.7M, an $8.0M on hand||Sheila Bean R – San Antonio Raised $28K, spent $24K, and $9K on hand (Raised more for the period than for the cycle to date – $24K) Jeff Judson R – San Antonio Raised $428K, spent $238K, and has $41K on hand (Raised more for the period than for the cycle to date – $232K)||
Straus wins convincingly with 60.2%, avoiding a run-off.
Most political observers believe that Speaker Straus will prevail, as we do. Concerns over the possibility of a run-off do exist given that there are two candidates opposing the Speaker. Empower Texas has been active in this race.
|8||Byron Cook – (I) R – Corsicana Raised $353K, spent $708K, and has $262K on hand||Thomas McNutt R – Corsicana Raised $95K, spent $308K, and has $12K on hand||Cook wins by 195 votes or 50.38% votes in a very close race. One of the most watched races in the GOP primary. Cook, Chair of H. State Affairs, is one of Straus’s top lieutenants and the top target for Empower Texas. We expect this race to be very close and hope Cook wins.|
|99||Charlie Geren – (I) R – River Oaks Raised $314K, spent $510K, and has $461K on hand (contributions for the cycle have topped $1M, and he has spent nearly $1.2M for the cycle)||Bo French R – Fort Worth Raised $176K, spent $294K, and has $51K on hand||Geren wins by 58.23% Another high target race for Empower Texas, which is also being closely watched. Geren is also one of Straus’s top lieutenants and we expect this race to be close with Geren the likely winner.|
|84||John Frullo –(I) R – Lubbock Raised $238K, spent $239K, and has $271K on hand (raised more in this period – 238K – than for 2015-16 cycle heading into this period – $195K)||Jim Landtroop R – Plainview Raised $59K, spent $73K, and has $44K on hand||Frullo wins by 55.2% A closely watched race that again features the seven-year battle between Empower Texans and Speaker Joe Straus and his supporters. Frullo, Chair H. Insurance, was first elected in 2010 and faces Landtroop, who also served in the Texas Legislature. Conventional wisdom leans Frullo in a close race.|
|128||Wayne Smith (I) R – Baytown Raised $230K, spent $206K, and has $371K on hand||Briscoe Cain R – Deer Park Raised $40K, spent $54K, and has $13K on hand Melody McDaniel R – Report not available, did not file a 30day out report.||Smith got 43.57% and Cain got 48.01% so this will be a highly watched run off. Another close race, with a Straus ally. Conventional wisdom has Smith holding the advantage and we agree Two opponents do leave open the possibility of a runoff.|
|114||Jason Villalba – (I) R – Dallas Raised $133K, spent $137K, and has $37K on hand||Daniel Morenoff R – Dallas Raised $48K, spent $39K and has $40K on hand||Villalba got 55.15% Villalba is an Empower Texas target, but convention wisdom suggests that the incumbent holds off challenger Morenoff.|
|73||Doug Miller – (I) R – New Braunfels Raised $280K, spent $545K and has $120K on hand (contribution and expenditure totals net out two transfers between his accounts totaling $111K)||Kyle Biedermann, R – Fredericksburg Raised $61K, spent $84K, and has $2K on hand (raised more for the period than for cycle to this point – $39K) Chris Byrd, R – Boerne Raised $57K, spent $86K, and has $4K on hand (raised nearly as much for the period as for the cycle to date – $69K – and he added $20K in new loan principal)||Miller received 43.47% and Biedermann got 39.84% in what will be another high profile run off. One of the most watched races in the GOP primary. Miller, Chair of H. Special Purpose Districts, is a key Straus ally and an Empower Texas target. We expect this to be a close with the advantage to Miller and we agree.|
|115||Bennett Ratliff R – Irving Raised $152K, spent $214K, and has $10K on hand (raised nearly as much for the period as for the cycle to this point – $177K)||Matt Rinaldi – (I) R – Coppell Raised $32K, spent $115K, and has $75K on hand (shocking low contribution given the competitiveness of the race)||Rinalidi wins 53.44% This is a rematch between these two candidates and is expected to be a tight race, with incumbent Rinaldi, supported by Empower Texas, having a slight advantage. Rinaldi voted against Straus for Speaker.|
|92||Scott Fisher R – Bedford Raised $161K, spent $191K, and has $10K on hand (Raised more for the period – 161K – than for 2015-2016 cycle to date – $100K)||Jonathan Stickland – (I) R – Hurst Raised $158K, spent $353K, and has $107K on hand.||Stickland wins 58.11% A big fundraising contest. Incumbent Stickland, who is supported by Empower Texas, is in a serious race, vicious race. Conventional wisdom suggests this race will be close, with only a slight advantage to Stickland. Stickland voted against Straus for Speaker|
|94||Andrew Piel R – Arlington Raised $17K, spent $27K, and has $35K on hand||Tony Tinderholt –(I) R – Arlington Raised $90K, spent $45K, and has $137K on hand||Tinderholt wins 58.32 Incumbent Tinderholt, also supported by Empower Texas, is in what most expect to be a close race, with the edge to Tinderholt. Tinderholt voted against Straus for Speaker|
|55||Hugh Shine R – Temple Raised $55K, spent $136K and has $44K on hand (has edge in expenditures to date, $234K to $211K)||Molly White – (I) R – Belton Raised $44K, spent $99K, and has $64K on hand (Has a narrow edge in contributions for the cycle to date – $254K to $233K)||Shine wins 50.28% or 118 votes Another big fundraising contest featuring incumbent White (Empower Texas supported) against a former legislator. Conventional wisdom suggests this will be a very close race, dependent on voter turnout. White voted against Straus for Speaker|
|4||Lance Gooden R – Terrell Raised $48K, spent $45K, and has $36K on hand||Stuart Spitzer – (I) R – Kaufman Raised $60K, spent $96K, an has $66K on hand||Gooden wins 51.78% This is a rematch between these two candidates and is expected to be a tight race, with incumbent Spitzer, supported by Empower Texas. Spitzer has the fundraising edge, and a razor advantage over former state representative Gooden. Spitzer voted against Straus for Speaker.|
|2||Dan Flynn – (I) R – Van Raised $163K, Spent 103K, and has $126K on hand (raised more in the last month – $163K – than for the 2015-2016 cycle up to this point – $159K)||Bryan Slaton R – Greenville Raised $59K, spent $52K, and has $31K on hand||Flynn wins 50.99% Flynn, H. Pensions Chair, is a Straus ally and faces a tough challenge from Slaton who is supported by Empower Texas. Conventional wisdom gives Flynn the advantage and we agree.|
|81||Brooks Landgraf (I) R – Odessa Raised $100K, spent $135K, and has $170K on hand||Josh Crawford R – Odessa Raised $32K, spent $41K, and has $31K on hand||Landgraf wins 67.58% A competitive race out of Odessa, with conventional wisdom pointing to Landgraf. Landgraf supported Straus for Speaker.|
|58||DeWayne Burns (I) R – Cleburne Raised $213K, spent $195K, and has $47K on hand (raised more in the last month – $213K – than for cycle up to this point – $154K)||Philip Eby R – Clifton Raised $30K, spent $60K, and has $23K on hand||Burns wins 53.60% Anticipated to be a competitive race, with Empower Texas backed candidate, Eby, running an active campaign. Conventional wisdom pointing to a Burns advantage and we agree. Burns supported Straus for Speaker.|
|59||J.D. Sheffield (I) R – Gatesville Raised $131K, spent $167K, and has $75K on hand||Brent Graves R – Stephenville Raised $3K, spent $3K, and has $2K on hand (raised > $8K since Jan. 1)||Sheffield wins 61.64% This was expected to be a competitive race, but money raised suggests otherwise. Incumbent Sheffield, has the advantage. Sheffield supported Straus for Speaker.|
|150||Debbie Riddle (I) R – Tomball Raised $152K, spent $148K, and has $72K on hand (raised more for the period than for the cycle to date – $82K)||Valoree Swanson R – Raised $172K, spent $111K, and has $102K on hand (raised nearly $100K more for the period than for the cycle to date – $76K)||Swanson wins 52.46% A big fundraising contest featuring incumbent Riddle who angered pro-life PACs last session against Swanson. Swanson also has the backing of Empower Texas as well. While incumbent Riddle, who has served since 2002 has a slight advantage. However this is expected to be a very close race in a heavy R district. Riddle voted for Straus for Speaker|
|134||Sarah Davis (I) R – Houston Raised $203K, spent $144K, and has $191K on hand||David Palmer R – Houston Raised $24K, spent $24K, and has $65K on hand||Davis wins 59.47% This was also expected to be a more competitive race, but money raised suggests otherwise. Incumbent Davis has the advantage. Davis supported Straus for Speaker.|
|113||Cindy Burkett (I) R – Mesquite Raised $220K, spent $185K, and has $105K on hand (Raised more for the period than for the cycle to this point – $200K)||Jonathan Boos R – Raised $70K, spent $74K, and has $25K on hand (Raised nearly twice as much for the period than for the cycle to date – $38K – and he added $15K in new loan principal)||Burkett wins 55.95% Anticipated to be a competitive contest with Empower Texas supported Boos, with conventional wisdom pointing to incumbent Burkett’s advantage. Burkett supported Straus for Speaker.|
|14||John Raney (I) R – College Station Raised $173K, spent $205K, and has $123K on hand (Raised almost as much for the period as for the cycle to this point – $186K)||Jess Fields R – College Station Raised $80K, spent $160K, and has $26K on hand||Raney wins 68.78% A closely watch race. Conventional wisdom suggests that incumbent Raney with the fundraising lead has the advantage. Raney supported Straus for Speaker.|
|17||John Cyrier (I) R – Lockhart Raised $28K, spent $112K and has $192K on hand (Raised nearly as much for the period as for the entire cycle to date – $288K)||Brent Golemon R – Bastrop Raised $32K, spent $27K, and has $23K on hand||Cyrier wins 64.89% A rematch from last cycle’s special election. This is expected to be a close, competitive contest. Conventional wisdom and the fundraising advantage points to incumbent Cyrier’s advantage.|
|36||Sergio Munoz (I) D – Edinberg Raised $132K, spent $117K, and has $203K on hand (Raised more for period than for entire cycle to date – $119K||Abraham Padron D – Raised $219K, spent $155K and has $72K on hand (Raised nearly 7x more for period than cycle – $43K – and added $59K new loan principal||Munoz wins 60.06% A big fundraising contest that shows to be somewhat more competitive than initially expected, pitting the Texas Trial Lawyer’s PAC with incumbent Munoz against the Texans for Lawsuit Reform’s PAC backing who are backing Padron. This will be a close race in the Democratic primary.|
|Senate District||Incumbent||Challenger||General Comments and Observations|
|26||Jose Menendez D – San Antonio Raised $251K, spent $293K and has $267K on hand (Has raised $1.296M for the cycle)||Trey Martinez Fischer D – San Antonio Raised $188K, spent $576K and has $73K on hand (Has raised $1.286M for the cycle)||Menendez wins 59.21% A rematch from last cycle’s Special Election runoff. A high dollar campaign, expected to be very close among well-known candidates. Conventional wisdom leans to the incumbent with a razor advantage.|
|19||Carlos Uresti D – San Antonio Totals are not yet available (entered the period with $67K on hand and had out-raised Madla $193K to $11K for the cycle)||Helen Madla D – Raised $4K, spent $6K and has $4K on hand (Raised less than $15K for the cycle)||Uresti wins 74.55% Anticipated to be a competitive contest between former Senator Madla’s wife and incumbent Uresti, who beat Madla to become a senator. Fundraising totals seem to suggest a strong advantage for Uresti.|
|24||OPEN SEAT Senator Fraser R-Horseshoe Bay||Dawn Buckingham R – Lakeway Raised $78K, spent $626K and has $15K on hand (Added $75K in new loan principal) Jon Cobb R – Raised $46K, spent $336K, and has $151K on hand Susan King R – Abilene Raised $23K, spent $729K and has $224K on hand (Added $100K in new loan principal) Brent Mayes R – Fredericksburg Raised $5K, spent $285K, and has $42K on hand Reed Williams R – Burnet Raised $0, spent $16K, and has $409K in hand (Appears to have withdrawn from race) Ryan Downton, R – Totals are not yet available||King at 27.22% and Buckingham at 24.76% are headed to a high profile run off. A high fundraising race with multiple candidates, most likely to head to a runoff, between Buckingham, Cobb, King and Mayes.|
As political insiders move from denial to anger, from depression to acceptance, there will be plenty of hind sight autopsies about the re-writing of the traditional elections playbook, which may foretell an adaption to what might be perceived as the new normal, where a candidate’s campaign advantages are no longer measured by their association to the party infrastructure, maintaining a support base from a particular demographic voter profile, or even harnessing the power of incumbency moving forward. In the short run, the emphasis will do doubt focus more on the repercussions than on the conduct used to tap into voters.