Texas HD #118 Special Election Runoff – January 26, 2016

There is one state legislative special election today, a runoff in Texas State House District #118 in San Antonio.  Back in November, 3 Democrats and 3 Republicans were on the ballot to replace Joe Farias (D), who resigned to spend more time with his family.  The special election field was very fragmented, with Republican John Lujan coming in first but with only 29% of the vote.  The other runoff participant is Democrat Tomas Uresti, who received 22%.

It is rare for the two runoff election candidates to have only garnered about 50% of the vote between them in the first round of voting.  And as I tweeted yesterday, the votes in November were very evenly split along party lines.  So even though Mr. Lujan finished first by almost 500 votes, the total number of votes cast for the three Democratic candidates was actually about 140 votes more than that cast for the 3 Republicans.  That makes this a very interesting runoff election indeed.

To further understand the context of this election, I examined all state legislative runoff elections in Texas over the last ten years – 15 runoffs in all, which can be downloaded as a pdf file here (Texas state legislative runoff elections).

Texas State Legislative Runoffs since 2005

This produced some interesting observations:

  • Mr. Lujan’s winning vote share of 29% in November’s special election was the lowest such percentage in any Texas state legislative special election in the last 10 years.  The lowest vote percentage that a first-place finisher had had prior to that was in November 2007, when Democrat Dan Barrett came in first in his HD #97 special election with just 32% of the vote.  Although 6 GOP candidates split the other 68% of the special election votes against him, Rep. Barrett amazingly still won his runoff six weeks later.
  • Runoffs between a Democratic and a Republican candidate have been somewhat rare of late, occurring only 5 times in the last ten years.  Interestingly, the Democratic candidate has been victorious in the runoff in four of those times.
  • As I alluded to above, when one compares the votes for each party in this past November’s HD #118 race, the total cast for all Democratic candidates was 51%, compared to 49% for all Republican candidates.  That is by far the closest margin between the parties in the first round of voting of any of the elections on this list.
  • In the previous four instances when a state legislative special election took place in November of an odd-numbered year (those races highlighted in blue), voter turnout in the ensuing runoff was unsurprisingly down.  The total number of votes in the second round of voting was about 40% lower on average.  This suggests that only about 4,000 votes will be cast in today’s runoff.

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