Politics
11:29 am
Wed March 5, 2014

Texas & Travis County Primary Live Blog: Who Won, Who's In a Runoff

Update: The Results Are In

Election results are now in with between 99.95 and 100 percent of precincts counted statewide. Click Here for KUT's rundown of election night winners. Click Here to check out how Republicans voted across the state. Click Here to see results from the Democrats. 

One hundred percent of Travis County precincts have also reported results. But the final tallies might change just a tad because votes cast after 7 p.m. have not yet been included. The polls in Travis County were open late on Tuesday because of bad weather. Click Here for the latest from Travis County.

Overall, the night turned out to be a good one for many Tea Party candidates. KUT's Ben Philpott takes a look at that:

Update: Texas Tea Party Primaries Show Success Closer to Home

Two members of the Republican establishment fended off Tea Party challenges tonight in the Texas primaries. 

U.S. Senator John Cornyn faced seven challengers in his GOP primary, many of them calling Cornyn a liberal because he did not back Sen. Ted Cruz's attempts to defund the Affordable Care Act via a government shutdown. But none of Cornyn's challengers attracted as much attention or as many votes as U.S. Rep. Steve Stockman, who disappeared from the campaign trail for weeks and even alienated some of the same Tea Party groups he was counting on for support. Cornyn easily beat all his challengers, earning close to two-thirds of the vote. 

Meanwhile, Republican Rep. Pete Sessions faced his own challenge from Katrina Pierson. She enjoyed the backing of national tea party groups like FreedomWorks and earned praise just short of an endorsement from Cruz. But Sessions campaigned on his conservative record and vowed to fight Obamacare, and voters rewarded him with an easy win over Pierson.

Far-right conservatives had better luck in state races.

Tea Party Sen. Dan Patrick bested incumbent Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst in a four-way race, with Dewhurst finishing a distant second. The race now goes to a runoff. And Ken Paxton holds a lead heading into the GOP's Attorney General runoff. Paxton emphasized has connections to Sen. Cruz (who stopped just short of a full endorsement).

Update: More on Travis County's Most Watched Races

KUT's reporting partners the Austin Monitor have more on tonight's closely watched Travis County races. Here's the Monitor on Brigid Shea's commanding Precinct Two win (subscription required):  

Shea entered the Precinct Two race with the most name recognition, having served as an Austin City Council member from 1993 to 1996, and run unsuccessfully for Austin mayor in 2012. She is active in the environmental movement and co-owns Carbon Shrinks LLC, an environmental consulting practice. She is also a co-founder of the Save Our Springs Alliance.

Not surprisingly, she campaigned largely but not exclusively on environmental issues, though she also honed in on property tax reform. She outraised her opponents by a considerable margin, bringing in $273,000 by the last reporting deadline.

And here's more from the Monitor on the closely contested race for Travis County Judge, which Sarah Eckhardt appears to have locked up:

Eckhardt was the Precinct Two Travis County Commissioner who stepped down last May to run for County Judge. She is a former Travis County prosecutor and comes from a legendary Central Texas political family. She is the daughter of former Congressman Bob Eckhardt, a Democrat who served 14 years from 1967 to 1981.

Eckhardt said her strength is her experience and understanding of county government. She campaigned on her record in office, touting items like working to set the county’s policy for corporations seeking tax incentives, developing groundwater rules for subdivisions and pushing for more transparency on the court.

Update: Runoff Certain in GOP Attorney General Race (11:08 p.m.)

Little has changed in the Republican primary for Attorney General since early voting numbers were released earlier today. With 68 percent of precincts reporting, State Sen. Ken Paxton has 44 percent of the early vote. State Rep. Dan Branch has 33 percent, all but certainly locking the two into a runoff. 

Railroad Commissioner Barry Smitherman has 23 percent of the early vote as of this writing. 

Update: Republican Railroad Commission Race Goes to Runoff (11:01 p.m.)

From KUT's StateImpact Texas

A four-way primary race has narrowed to two. Former State Representative Wayne Christian will face off against Ryan Sitton to become the Republican nominee for an open seat on the Railroad Commission of Texas, the agency that regulates Texas oil and gas industry.

Christian and Sitton, an engineer who owns a consulting firm that works with oil and gas companies, have mostly campaigned on red-meat issues like criticizing the Obama administration and touting their conservative credentials, rather than rather than highlighting their positions on oil and gas regulation.

In the Democratic primary, Steve Brown, a former legislative aide, defeated Dale Henry, and will advance to the general election ballot for November. Brown is the only major party candidate so far to suggest that the Railroad Commission should do more to limit the recent surge in earthquakes in Texas linked to oil and gas disposal wells.

Brown and the eventual Republican nominee will be running for the seat currently held by Barry Smitherman, who did not run for re-election on the Commission to pursue an unsuccessful bid for State Attorney General. 

Update: Could 'Impeach Obama' Candidate Head to Democratic Senate Runoff? (10:02 p.m.)

Establishment Democrats had hoped to keep Kesha Rogers – a Lyndon LaRouche acolyte whose campaign materials compare President Obama to Hitler – off the ballot in November. But Rogers is second place in the Democratic U.S. Senate primary after David Alameel.

With 47 percent of precincts reporting, Alameel is at 48.1 percent – just short of the plurality needed to avoid a runoff. 

Update: Agriculture Commissioner Races Both Heading Towards Runoffs (9:56 p.m.)

From KUT's StateImpact Texas:

It's possible that come November voters will get to choose between a pro-weed Jewish troubadour and a horse scandal-plagued businessman with Ted Nugent as his treasurer.

Both primaries for Agriculture Commissioner are headed for a runoff. On the Democratic side, poll watchers were surprised to see Jim Hogan, a cattle rancher from Cleburne who raised zero dollars for the race and spent few more, is currently in the lead. That's despite having little to no profile in the race. (Many of the state's Democratic heavyweights endorsed Hugh Fitzsimmons, who is placing a distant third.)

Hogan will likely face Richard "Kinky" Friedman, who's running on a platform of hemp and pot legalization, and who state Democrats had actively tried to stop from winning. KUT's StateImpact Texas project talked to Friedman about his plans to turn Texas "green" in February. 

On the Republican side, Sid Miller is currently in the lead for Ag Commissioner, but will likely head into a runoff with one of the other five candidates. Miller is the one politician who didn't distance himself from Ted Nugent after his controversial remarks about President Obama. Nugent is Miller's campaign treasurer.

If Miller and Friedman end up in a head-to-head battle after the runoff in May, expect to see a more entertaining agriculture commissioner race than you're used to. 

Update: Republican Lt. Gov Race Headed for Runoff; Dewhurst Blames Weather (9:36 p.m.)

In the race for the powerful post of Lieutenant Governor, incumbent David Dewhurst will have to face a runoff with State Sen. Dan Patrick in late May. With early vote totals and over a quarter of precincts reporting, Patrick has a sizable lead over Dewhurst, 42 percent to 28 percent. In a speech to supporters, Dewhurst blamed extremely cold weather for hampering turnout and predicted that he'll do better in May. 

He also made a point of singling out immigration as an issue in the months ahead. "I want to secure our Southern border," Dewhurst said. "I've been working on it for seven years and I want to shut it down once and for all." 

His opponent Dan Patrick has taken a hard stance on immigration, saying Texas needs to "stop the invasion" of undocumented immigrants in Texas. 

Update: More County Races To Watch (9:27 p.m.)

Brigid Shea is on her way to winning the Travis County Commissioner Precinct Two race. 

Shea, former Austin City Council member and mayoral candidate, is facing off against Garry Brown and Richard Jung. In early voting, she's taking 65 percent of the vote (4,658 votes).

The Precinct Two race is for former commissioner Sarah Eckhardt's seat. Eckhardt resigned to run for county judge, with former Austin Mayor Bruce Todd appointed to fill the remainder of Eckhardt's term.

Attorney and associate municipal judge Ramey Ko is struggling in his bid to unseat longtime Travis County Treasurer Dolores Ortega-Carter, who was first elected in 1986. Ortega Carter leads Ko, 11,434 (54%) to 9,867 (46%).

Update: Travis County Early Voting Numbers In; Eckhardt Leads Brown (9:13 p.m.)

The Democratic primary for the Travis County Commissioners' top seat has been a slugfest between Sarah Eckhardt, who has served as county commissioner since 2006, and Andy Brown, longtime Travis County Democratic Party chair.

Eckhardt is over Brown in early voting: 12,183 (53%) to 10,645 (47%). As KUT noted earlier, should the race tighten further, those provisional ballots cast between 7 and 9 p.m. could play a deciding factor.

Update: Smooth Trip to November for Unopposed Travis County Representatives (8:45 p.m.)

The general election in November is still months away, but after tonight, a handful of Central Texas lawmakers will have been basically re-elected.

All but one of the incumbents in the Travis County's legislative delegation is running without a primary opponent – and without a challenger in November.

Representatives Dawnna Dukes, Donna Howard, Elliott Naishtat, Eddie Rodriguez and Paul Workman are running unopposed tonight, and have no major party opponent in the fall. Neither does state Sen. Kirk Watson.

Only newly elected Rep. Celia Israel has a major party challenger in November. She will face off against Republican Mike VanDeWalle, who she beat in January's special election runoff.

Update: GOP Attorney Gen. Candidates Headed to Runoff? (8:36 p.m.)

In the GOP scramble for Texas Attorney General, not one of the three candidates is winning in early voting with a plurality.

State Sen. Ken Paxton has 43 percent of the early vote. State Rep. Dan Branch has 32 percent. And Railroad Commissioner Barry Smitherman has 24 percent of the early vote. 

Update: Another Race Called – For Another Bush (8:36 p.m.)

The race for land commissioner has also been called, with George P. Bush – nephew of former President George W. Bush – winning. It's Bush's first election, and expected to be just the beginning of his political career. 

Update: No Surprises in Gubernatorial Primary (8:32 p.m.)

As expected, both candidates for Governor – Democrat Wendy Davis and Republican Greg Abbott – won their respective primaries. Davis is the Texas Democrats' first female nominee in years, since former Gov. Ann Richards.

Update: Stockman Concedes (8:15 p.m.): 

Rep. Steve Stockman has conceded in his race to oust incumbent Republican Sen.  John Cornyn. The Associated Press has called the race for Cornyn. 

Stockman tweeted: 

Original Story (7:18 p.m.): Early voting numbers are starting to come in for the 2014 Texas primaries. 

Polls across the state have closed, except for Travis County and El Paso. Winter weather in Travis County delayed polls opening this morning. A judge later granted a request from County Clerk Dana DeBeauvoir to keep voting open until 9 p.m.

Any ballots cast in Travis County will be provision, meaning they will not be part of unofficial results posted tonight.

Here's the state of a couple closely watched races: 

Lieutenant Governor: 

Early vote returns show State Sen. Dan Patrick is having a strong showing in several big cities in his race for Lieutenant Governor, against incumbent David Dewhurst, Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson and Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples.

Our political reporting partner, the Texas Tribune reports: 

"Some tentative early vote totals in the lieutenant governor's race from major population centers: looks like Dan Patrick wins Dallas, Collin, Bexar, Harris, Tarrant and Montgomery counties. Biggest margins for Patrick so far look to be in Collin, where he is at 56 percent to incumbent David Dewhurst's 17 percent, and in Montgomery, where he has received 61 percent to Dewhurst's 14 percent."

U.S. Senate: 

Meantime, U.S. Senator John Cornyn appears to be fending off Tea Party challenger U.S. Rep. Steve Stockman. Cornyn is outrunning Stockman by more than 4 to 1 in early returns, meaning he could avoid a runoff. 

In the Attorney General race, early voting returns show Ken Paxton in the lead, followed by Dan Branch.