The 2016 Primary Runoffs

The state’s primary voters decided on most of their general election nominees in the March 1 elections, but 22 of those contests will go to runoffs on May 24. The Democrats have six races left, the Republicans 16. All told, only four statewide races are left; races for Congress, the State Board of Education and the two houses of the Legislature make up the rest. Here’s the list, along with the totals each candidate received in the primaries.



More Flash Than Bang at Capitol Open-Carry Demonstration

C.J. Grisham, the founder of Open Carry Texas, (left) protests the SXSW Festival's no gun policy. A local Austin woman (right), who declined to give her name because she was concerned she would be harassed by gun rights activists, staged a counter-protest by taking off her shirt and shouting "More boobs, fewer guns" and "Boobs for peace" at passersby.
C.J. Grisham, the founder of Open Carry Texas, (left) protests the SXSW Festival's no gun policy. A local Austin woman (right), who declined to give her name because she was concerned she would be harassed by gun rights activists, staged a counter-protest by taking off her shirt and shouting "More boobs, fewer guns" and "Boobs for peace" at passersby.

Despite drawing national headlines for coinciding with a presidential visit, an Austin open-carry demonstration at the Texas Capitol last Friday afternoon proved to be more flash than bang.

At its high point, four armed men who represented the entire demonstration argued amiably with a half-naked woman about gun rights while more than a dozen reporters watched. The tiny group was more than a mile away from the Long Center for the Performing Arts, where President Barack Obama would eventually be speaking.

The goal of the demonstration was to show visitors in town for South by Southwest that open carry laws can be safe and non-disruptive, according to C.J. Grisham, the founder of Open Carry Texas.

Some national media outlets portrayed the event like an armed militia intent on intimidating the president, but Grisham said he planned to stay far away from the presidential entourage.

The small demonstration was met with some resistance — one Austin woman, who declined to give her name because she feared being harassed by gun rights activists, took off her shirt and shouted "more boobs, fewer guns" and "boobs for peace" at passersby.

"I've been doing topless protests since the '70s," she told Texas Weekly. "These boobs are very political."

Eventually, the four men and their new shirtless acquaintance took off down Congress Avenue. Austin locals did not seemed phased by the demonstration.


Texas will intervene in a complicated — and politically charged — court battle between Red River-area landowners and the federal Bureau of Land Management.

A federal district judge has granted the state standing in the tug-of-war over land along a 116-mile strip of the river, whose meandering has spurred a century’s worth of property disputes along the Texas-Oklahoma border.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton announced the development late Monday.

“Washington D.C. needs to hear, loud and clear, that Texas will not stand for the federal government’s infringement upon Texas land and the property rights of the people who live here,” the Republican said in a statement.

Questions have swirled near the stretch of river since December 2013, when bureau representatives arrived in North Texas to discuss updates to its resource management plans in Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas — specifically how the land would be used for the next 15 to 20 years.

The area includes about 90,000 acres along the Red River that the agency considers public land, with perhaps a third of it on the Texas side.

The agency has said its claim comes from a 1923 U.S. Supreme Court decision, one that delineated the boundaries between Texas and Oklahoma and assigned to the federal government the patches in between.

But Texans have long managed swaths of that area. They hold deeds to the land and have diligently paid their local taxes. The bureau has not fully surveyed the area, so it is not clear precisely where the public boundary lines intersect with private lands.


The U.S. House voted Thursday to authorize Speaker Paul Ryan to file an amicus brief on a Supreme Court case addressing President Barack Obama's 2014 executive action to prevent many undocumented immigrants from being deported.

Texas members voted along party lines, with Republicans supporting the resolution and Democrats opposing it.

“This Republican resolution is counter-productive, it’s anti-immigrant, and it’s contributing to the ugliness of this political season, a season when the Latino community and immigrants of all backgrounds have been slandered by the Republican Party," U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-San Antonio, said on a conference call with Hispanic House colleagues.

Many of the Democrats on the call, members from places like California and Illinois, aimed to tie the resolution to the rhetoric of Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump.

Some Texas Republicans bristled at the comparison to reporters after the vote.

"It's a precedent issue. It doesn't deal with the president's motives at all," U.S. Rep. Ted Poe of Humble countered at a news conference.

"It deals with whether or not the rule of law will be followed in every case or whether the executive, even future executives can make exceptions because the executive doesn't like the law."

The program, announced in November 2014, is known as Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents, or DAPA. It would shield more than 4 million undocumented immigrants from deportation and allow them to apply for a renewable work permit.

Texas was the first state to file suit to stop the program; 25 states eventually joined the case.

U.S. District Court Judge Andrew Hanen of Brownsville put a halt to the program, ruling the Obama administration didn’t comply with the federal government’s Administrative Procedure Act guiding how federal regulations are made. A Nov. 9 decision by the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld Hanen's decision.

Proponents of the program have also weighed in through several briefs of their own. Earlier this month, the Catholic Legal Immigration Network Inc. joined more than 300 religious and civil rights groups in asking the Supreme Court to let the program stand.

 “Many deserving individuals will also have access to better jobs and the ability to improve their lives, the lives of their families, and their communities,” the brief stated.

Cruz Drops Two New TV Ads Ahead of Utah, Arizona Contests

Supporters wait for U.S. Senator Ted Cruz to take the stage at the Red Neck Country Club in Stafford TX, on Super Tuesday, Mar. 1, 2016.
Supporters wait for U.S. Senator Ted Cruz to take the stage at the Red Neck Country Club in Stafford TX, on Super Tuesday, Mar. 1, 2016.

The Ted Cruz campaign has launched two new TV ads aimed at next week's nominating contests in Utah and Arizona.

The Utah ad highlights Cruz's endorsement by Utah Sen. Mike Lee, highlighting Cruz's stands against Obamacare and against "efforts to undermine" gun rights and religious liberty.

The Arizona ad, meanwhile, highlights an incident in that state where a killing by an undocumented immigrant who had been released from jail on bond but had not been deported.

The contests next week give Cruz his first opportunity to demonstrate his strength after the field narrowed last week with the departure of Florida Sen. Marco Rubio. His campaign has high expectations in Utah where he counts on the support of Lee and that, with the closed caucus system there, he could win a majority and sweep the available delegates.


Meanwhile, Cruz has tapped a Texas regulator and the head of a Houston-based energy investment firm to lead his campaign’s energy policy task force.

The Republican presidential hopeful announced late Monday that Texas Railroad Commissioner Ryan Sitton and Wil VanLoh, president and CEO of Quantum Energy Partners, would co-chair a group that will advise a campaign that seeks less government involvement in energy sector matters.

“If we do not stop crushing energy producers with burdensome and unnecessary regulations, energy costs will skyrocket, and our most vulnerable citizens will pay the greatest price,” Cruz said in a statement.

“As president I will advocate for every form of energy production, without subsidies or government interference, and unshackle the ingenuity and entrepreneurship of America’s critically important energy industry.”


The Cruz campaign said last Friday that he’s won an endorsement from Missouri Congresswoman Ann Wagner.

Significant here are Wagner’s bona fides as a member of the establishment wing of the GOP: she is a former state party chairwoman and former RNC chairwoman aspirant who served as ambassador to Luxembourg in the George W. Bush administration.

She’s also a leader among the more junior members of the House Republican conference and among the House Republican women.

Considered a savvy House member, Wagner’s endorsement is worth taking notice as perhaps a sign of things to come: establishment Republicans moving to Cruz as the last chance to stop Donald Trump.


David Simpson, the Longview Republican in the GOP runoff for the open SD-1 seat, sent out a statement late Thursday night aimed directly at Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick.

Patrick endorsed Simpson’s House colleague Bryan Hughes in late August after initially planning to stay away from endorsements in contested legislative primaries.

Simpson was critical of that as well as Patrick’s public education agenda, which he said did not have the best interests of the residents of SD-1 at heart.

Simpson said, in part:

“We have seen the heavy foot print of the lieutenant governor in this race on behalf of Bryan Hughes. While I respect the lieutenant governor — and there are few issues that divide us — his program to substantially alter public education is not in the best interest of our children, their parents, or the school districts in Senate District 1.

“Two sessions ago when the legislature cut funding for public education by $5 billion, it also preserved $1 billion in corporate welfare. I am in my third term in the Legislature and we have yet to equitably fund public education. Failure to fund our constitutional requirements is one of the primary reasons I have voted against each budget.

“The lieutenant governor may want ‘a reliable vote,’ but what East Texas needs is reliable representation.”

Simpson officially secured his spot in the runoff for the open SD-1 seat on Monday, besting Red Brown by 13 votes.

According to vote totals from Texas GOP spokesman Michael Joyce, Simpson finished with 28,395 votes to Brown’s 29,382.


Gary Gates, in a Republican runoff for a seat on the Texas Railroad Commission, sought to capitalize Friday on a Texas Tribune report revealing that former state Rep. Wayne Christian, his opponent, was unclear on the full scope of the agency’s duties.

“Shouldn’t our next Railroad Commissioner actually know what the Commission does?” he said in a statement. “Having an understanding of the Commission’s basic functions and regulatory authority should clearly be a prerequisite if running for this very important office.”

Christian — who served 14 years in the Texas House, some of them on the chamber’s energy committee — has touted his expertise on the campaign trail and knocked Gates, a real estate magnate, for his lack of policy experience.

But the Tribune reported Friday morning that Christian didn’t realize the Railroad Commission regulated natural gas utilities until a reporter told him.

Gates, who has never served in public office and lost four previous Texas Legislature bids, was aware of the commission’s involvement in setting natural gas rates.

Inside Intelligence: About That Voter Turnout in Texas...

For this week’s nonscientific survey of insiders in government and politics, we asked about that voter turnout in Texas.

The Tribune reported this week that Texas still has the second lowest voting-age participation rate of all states that have held both Democratic and Republican primaries so far. Only Louisiana registers a lower participation rate.

We began the survey this week by asking if this is something the state's leaders should be addressing. On this, nearly two-thirds of the insiders said that something should be done to improve voter turnout in Texas.

We next presented a set of potential tools to boost turnout and asked the insiders as to which ones would work best. Online registration/voting was the most popular option, cited by 53 percent of the insiders. Better candidates were requested by 48 percent while expanded early voting and Election Day voter registration were each favored by 41 percent.

We followed that by asking which turnout improvement tool stands a chance of being passed out of the Legislature next session. Forty-three percent of the insiders thought lawmakers would be amenable to increasing the number of super precinct voter centers. That was followed by expanded early voting, cited by 23 percent, and online registration/voting, cited by 17 percent.

We closed by asking if improved voter turnout would change the partisan balance of the electorate. A slight majority said that it would while a quarter of the insiders said higher turnout wouldn't impact the partisan balance.

We collected comments along the way, and a full set of those is attached. Here’s a sampling:


Should Texas leaders do more to increase voter turnout?

• "No. Why should citizens be goaded into voting? They're all adults. Low turnout is the natural selection of the political realm."

• "Only people who are informed should be voting. If folks don't want to get involved, or don't know who they support, they shouldn't be voting. If they know who they support, they should already be voting."

• "Run better campaigns."

• "There is danger in using voter turnout as the single variable to measure effective democracy; it is a very slippery slope, this is pure politics in that it is viewed by the Ds as hurtful to the Rs, that's why the Ds support efforts to increase voter turnout. The exercise of the right to vote also includes the right not to vote. It can be interpreted as satisfaction as well; of course, the traditional view is that low voter turnout is somehow not acceptable. For example, if 100 percent turnout is the goal, then that is fiction. So, is 90 percent the goal? If not, is 60 percent the goal? What turnout figure is enough?"

• "Educate people in a more proactive manner about why/how/when/where to vote, how to evaluate candidates. Current info is lame. The Internet changes everything. Distribution of info is now inexpensive. Add curriculum to an existing mandatory class for high school seniors."


What are the best ways to improve voter turnout?

• "Better, more consistent, more user friendly information about elections, especially sample ballots. The Secretary of State's website is great if you know what you are looking for, but it's not very helpful for the new or infrequent voter."

• "You want to increase voter turnout? Have Apple lock everyone out of their iPhones until they enter the four-digit code used to vote electronically. No vote, no cell phone."

• "Competition between the parties. Too many races are decided in low-turnout Republican primaries and a few along the border in Democratic primaries."

• "If leadership in the state does something to make folks mad, people will get out and cast ballots; but they haven't, so folks aren't motivated to vote. If a majority truly didn't like the direction Texas was going, you would see that in election returns."

• "Better public information about candidates, better reporting, better coverage of the down ballot races the media largely ignores (at least outside rural areas). Lots of government happens at the local level, but local candidates are all but invisible in urban and suburban areas to all but the political junkies."


Which of these stands a chance of becoming law next session?

(EDITOR'S NOTE: Due to technical issues beyond our control, the accompanying graphic has an error. The fourth option should read "More super precinct voting centers".)

• "No change. No interest."

• "Interesting election cycle, so depending on turnout and results in the General, could be reduction of the 30-day period for registration and change in election code to create greater opportunity for third party."

• "Online registration would generate the same kind of fraud problems we now have with mail in ballots, and we don't have the resources to accommodate Election Day voter registration, since our elections are run largely by volunteers. No one wants to make Early Voting any longer — particularly now, when we have seen that many people voted too early and ultimately wasted their vote — ask those folks who voted for Jeb Bush for President. Bigger, more prominent Voting Centers might be helpful."

• "None of these or anything similar is needed. There's an old saying 'round these parts: You can lead a horse to water but you can't make it drink. Until voters truly care about voting and start showing up, there's no need to expand the voting opportunities when today's voters do not avail themselves of the plentiful options already in place."

• "I have been an election judge for more than 10 years, during every type of election, presidential, gubernatorial, primary, municipal, school bonds, etc. I can count on one hand the number of voters that ever mentioned any of these ideas. The reality is, chasing some arbitrary number is not a good use of public funds; let's face it, Ds are under the impression it helps them (Rs mistake this as fact). But the facts are not proven that any of these measures would increase voter turnout. The only other idea not mentioned is voting on Saturday."


Would increased turnout change the partisan balance of the electorate?

• "Trump will let us know. It would appear he is turning out previously disenfranchised white and blue collar white voters in numbers never seen previously."

• "My hunch is yes, but it may become more Republican. It all depends on who is doing the increase. This year, we had increased primary turnout, but it was decidedly more Republican, so that may be telling."

• "Ds have always argued that the nonvoters were their folks. Trump's ability to pull bring in prior nonvoters makes that a dubious assumption."

• "Increasing turnout in party primaries is what's most important. As evidenced by this cycle, it will tend to moderate the candidates coming out of the primary. As a side benefit, increased primary turnout will also tend to increase general election turnout."

• "Somewhat but purposeful (and admitted) gerrymandering for political purposes makes our election system such a joke that nothing else really matters."

Our thanks to this week's participants: Gene Acuna, Cathie Adams, Brandon Aghamalian, Jay Arnold, Andrew Biar, Allen Blakemore, Tom Blanton, Raif Calvert, Lydia Camarillo, Kerry Cammack, Marc Campos, Snapper Carr, Elna Christopher, Kevin Cooper, Randy Cubriel, Curtis Culwell, Denise Davis, June Deadrick, Glenn Deshields, David Dunn, Jack Erskine, Tom Forbes, Neftali Garcia, Dominic Giarratani, Bruce Gibson, Eric Glenn, John Greytok, Clint Hackney, Wayne Hamilton, Bill Hammond, Susan Hays, Jim Henson, Steve Holzheauser, Mark Jones, Robert Kepple, Richard Khouri, Tom Kleinworth, Dale Laine, Pete Laney, Dick Lavine, James LeBas, Luke Legate, Myra Leo, Ruben Longoria, Homero Lucero, Vilma Luna, Matt Mackowiak, Jason McElvaney, Steve Minick, Bee Moorhead, Mike Moses, Steve Murdock, Nelson Nease, Gardner Pate, Robert Peeler, Jerry Philips, Tom Phillips, Wayne Pierce, Allen Place, Gary Polland, Jay Propes, Ted Melina Raab, Patrick Reinhart, David Reynolds, Carl Richie, Jeff Rotkoff, Grant Ruckel, Andy Sansom, Barbara Schlief, Stan Schlueter, Robert Scott, Steve Scurlock, Ben Sebree, Christopher Shields, Carol Sims, Jason Skaggs, Ed Small, Larry Soward, Leonard Spearman, Dennis Speight, Jason Stanford, Bob Stein, Colin Strother, Sherry Sylvester, Sara Tays, Trey Trainor, Vicki Truitt, Corbin Van Arsdale, Ware Wendell, David White, Seth Winick, Angelo Zottarelli.

The Calendar

Friday, March 18

  • Republican Women of Kerr County runoff candidate forum; Inn of the Hills Conference Center, Grand Ballroom, 1001 Junction Highway, Kerrville (11:50 a.m.-1 p.m.)
  • 50th Annual Texas Legislative Conference (TLC), honoring U.S. Sen. John Cornyn with the "Texan of the Year" award; New Braunfels Civic Convention Center, 375 S. Castell Ave., New Braunfels (12-1 p.m.)
  • Art of Leadership cocktail reception and luncheon honoring state Rep. Sarah Davis, R-West University Place; Hotel Saint Cecilia, 112 Academy Drive, Austin (12-1:30 p.m.)

Saturday, March 19

  • HD-27 Democratic candidate Angelique Bartholomew runoff campaign kickoff; 2435 Texas Parkway, Suite G, Missouri City (2 p.m.)

Sunday, March 20

  • Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton fundraiser with guest Robby Mook, campaign manager for Hillary for America; Dallas (6-8 p.m.)

Monday, March 21

  • State Rep. Abel Herrero, D-Robstown, fundraiser; 12 Niles Road, Austin (5-7 p.m.)

Tuesday, March 22

  • Presidential nominating contests: Arizona primary, Idaho caucuses (Democratic only) and Utah caucuses

Wednesday, March 23

  • State Rep. Allen Fletcher, R-Cypress, fundraiser; 1504 Marshall Lane, Austin (4:30-6 p.m.)

The Week in the Rearview Mirror

Gov. Greg Abbott pushed back forcefully in response to President Barack Obama's suggestion last week that Texas leaders are uninterested in improving voter turnout because of things like the leadership's push for a voter ID law. "The fact is that voter fraud is rampant," Abbott said this week.

The Texas Supreme Court denied a request Monday aiming to rewrite the ballot language for an upcoming referendum that will determine how the city of Austin regulates vehicle-for-hire companies like Uber and Lyft.

A survey taken after Travis County state District Judge Julie Kocurek was shot last fall in the driveway of her Austin home found that hundreds of Texas judges have feared for their safety at least once in the last two years.

Texas A&M University jumped 38 spots in the 2017 U.S. News and World Report law school rankings released Wednesday, marking the biggest improvement among any graduate school in the state.

State agencies and the companies they contract with must use the E Verify system to screen for undocumented workers, Attorney General Ken Paxton said in an opinion Thursday.

The number of children sleeping in Child Protective Services offices shot up after an internal policy change at the agency limited child placements, according to state data released Thursday.

A federal judge on Thursday said the Texas Department of Public Safety hasn't yet offered a good enough reason to keep a civil rights lawsuit filed by the mother of Sandra Bland from moving forward.

A Collin County court tossed out an attempt to stop payments to the special prosecutors appointed to pursue the financial fraud case against Paxton on Thursday.

Two Houston congressmen are asking the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate whether unequal distribution of voting machines and polling locations in Harris County disenfranchised minority voters during the March 1 primary election.

After a new round of states voted Tuesday, Texas still had the second lowest voting-age participation rate of all that have held both Democratic and Republican primaries so far, behind only Louisiana.

Two state representatives — Bryan Hughes and David Simpson — are set to face off for an open position in the Texas senate after the third place candidate, Red Brown, said Monday he will not request a recount. Simpson edged Brown by 13 votes for the second spot in the runoff for the East Texas-based Senate District 1.

Disclosure: Texas A&M University, Uber and Lyft are corporate sponsors of The Texas Tribune. A complete list of Tribune donors and sponsors can be viewed here.

Political People and their Moves

Maj. Gen. John F. Nichols of Spring Branch was reappointed as Adjutant General of Texas by Gov. Greg Abbott for a term set to expire Feb. 1, 2018. The adjutant general is commander of the 24,283 soldiers and airmen of the Texas Military Department (TMD).

President Barack Obama announced on Tuesday five nominations to serve on the federal bench in Texas. They are:
•    Walter David Counts III, Western District
•    E. Scott Frost, Northern District
•    James Wesley Hendrix, Northern District
•    Irma Carrillo Ramirez, Northern District
•    Karen Gren Scholer, Eastern District

The Ted Cruz campaign announced the newest members of its national finance team.  As the GOP presidential field narrows, it’s notable here the presence of former backers of Govs. George W. Bush and Rick Perry as well as former Marco Rubio supporters.

•    Jim Dannenbaum, Houston
•    Carey Maguire, Dallas
•    Kit and Charlie Moncrief, Fort Worth
•    Marsland and Richard Moncrief, Fort Worth
•    Dan Brouillette, San Antonio
•    Reed Morian, Houston
•    Peggy and Dan Allen Hughes, San Antonio

Texas Right to Life is endorsing former state Rep. Wayne Christian in his runoff for a seat on the Texas Railroad Commission. In a news release late Tuesday, the anti-abortion group said it has built a strong relationship over the years with the East Texas Republican, “fighting for the rights of preborn, elderly, and disabled Texans.”

Former Harris County GOP Chairman Jared Woodfill and former RPT Chairwoman Cathie Adams, who are looking to unseat Tom Mechler and Amy Clark as chair and vice chair at the May state party convention, picked up the support on Tuesday of Julie McCarty, president of the NE Tarrant County Tea Party.

The Texas Advocacy Project announced the addition of four new board members — Marci Braden of Frost Bank, Sheri Hunter of King & Spalding, fitness entrepreneur Shonnery Pettit and Alison Walgren of Deloitte Consulting. The nonprofit’s mission is to provide free legal services to survivors of domestic and dating violence, sexual assault and stalking.

The McGuire Woods Consulting firm announced a couple of new hires and a promotion on Tuesday. Amber Hausenfluck, who joined the firm in January 2015 as an assistant vice president of state government relations, was promoted to vice president. As to those hires: former Greg Abbott deputy press secretary Cait Meisenheimer was hired as assistant vice president and Chasity Tillis, former chief of staff to state Rep. Marisa Marquez, was brought on as a research assistant.

Disclosure: Frost Bank and Deloitte are corporate sponsors of The Texas Tribune. Dan Allen Hughes Jr. is a major donor to the Tribune. A complete list of Tribune donors and sponsors can be viewed here.

Quotes of the Week

The U.S. Supreme Court and the United States is at a Constitutional tipping point. It is essential that the Supreme Court vacancy be filled with a true Constitutionalist in the form of Justice Scalia.

Gov. Greg Abbott, giving a thumbs down to President Barack Obama's choice for the Supreme Court seat left open by Justice Antonin Scalia's death

It's not about hunting. It's not about fishing. It's not about sweet tea. It has to be about white supremacy.

Lawyer Carlos Moore in an interview with NPR on his federal lawsuit to force the removal of Confederate imagery from the Mississippi state flag

What a bizarre world we’re in where reporters are forced to ask the question, ‘Should political campaign staffers physically assault reporters?’

Ted Cruz, who said Monday that a campaign staffer grabbing a reporter would be a "fireable offense." Donald Trump's campaign manager was accused of doing that recently to a reporter for Breitbart News.

What was in his best interest was labeling the rest of us as establishment, and he as the only true conservative. It kind of undermines that narrative if he asks now for endorsements.

Republican Indiana Sen. Dan Coats, on the conundrum facing Ted Cruz in appealing to his Senate colleagues to unite behind him against Donald Trump