In Congressional District 25, A Crowded Ballot
Thanks to a new political map, Travis County is now home to five congressional districts. District 25 – stretching from western Hays County through Travis and up to the Tarrant County line in North Texas – is home to one of the most high-profile primaries in the state. There are 12 Republicans running for the party nomination.
There’s an interesting aspect of a field of 12 candidates running for the same nomination: It doesn’t actually feel like a crowded field. Driving through the district, you don’t see wave after wave of campaign signs. There are just a handful, from two or three candidates at most. SMU political scientist Cal Jillson says when 12 candidates compete in a primary, as many as nine or even 10 can end up being invisible.
“They’ve got very little organization, very little fundraising, [and] no chance probably even to do brochures – let alone any other advertising,” Jillson says.
So how does a candidate stand out from the pack in 12-person race? According to Jillson, pretty much the same thing that distinguishes any successful candidate.
“You look at the top of the ticket and ask, ‘Who are the high-quality candidates that have access to fundraising and endorsements?’” he says.
In District 25, the two candidates who fit that description have a possible handicap: the same last name. They are former Texas Secretary of State Roger Williams and former Railroad Commissioner Michael Williams.
With just days before the election, those two candidates each have enough money to run TV ads and send out campaign letters. Republican strategist Ted Delisi says in a district that spans 11 counties, success depends on spreading your message.
“You need to distinguish yourself on the airwaves as a candidate capable of mounting the type of campaign to make the runoff,” Delisi says.
Nothing is ordained in an election with modest voter turnout – as is expected on primary day, Delisi says. But a runoff in District 25 is expected, which is why the top candidates have to make sure there’s still money in the bank – enough to keep people engaged through that second election day. And voters know that.
“This congressional race is so big, so robust, that voters aren’t trying to compare candidates,” Delisi says. “They’re just trying to figure out who they have some connection to and figure it out later.”
Primary day is May 29. The expected runoff date is July 31. The eventual GOP winner from District 25 will face Democrat, Libertarian and Green Party candidates in the fall.