Voter Turnout, Fundraising Challenges Ahead for Candidates in May Runoff

State & Regional

Primary season isn’t over in Texas just yet and a number of races are headed to a runoff election in May, before November’s general election.

Andrew White, son of former Texas Gov. Mark White, and former Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez will continue campaigning to secure a spot to go against Republican Gov. Greg Abbott.

“One of the real challenges to campaigns that find themselves in runoffs is that they have to go back and re-mobilize their voters,” Jim Henson, director of the Texas Politics Project at the University of Texas at Austin, said.

Democrats across Texas showed high enthusiasm with high early voter turnout numbers and just over 1 million votes overall, with some saying what’s driving new energy is the number of candidates that ran in their party, along with what’s happened under President Donald Trump’s leadership. More Republicans ended up showing up at the polls and their primary had more than 1.5 million voters.
However, voter turnout always goes down in a runoff, Henson said. In 2014, 8,010 voters cast a ballot in the Democratic Party’s primary runoff. In the Republican primary runoff, there were 21,124 voters.

“You have to spend resources on this,” Henson said. “Every dollar that you’re spending campaigning in a runoff, particularly in a statewide election in the case of the Democratic gubernatorial candidates, is a dollar and a day you’re not spending fighting a general election fight, so it’s not really what you’re after. In the longer scope of things, it’s not a terrible thing for the Democratic Party to have some time to have a little bit more interest in their race, but it’s not optimal with all things being equal.”

Experts say what will be critical for whoever wins the runoff between White and Valdez for example, is to turn the Democratic momentum into fundraising for what’s ahead. Abbott has more than $40 million cash on hand.

“Andrew White has loaned himself a lot of money and has raised a fairly good amount of money as well,” Brandon Rottinghaus, professor of political science at the University of Houston, said. “Lupe Valdez has raised very little money and I think that’s going to be the biggest stumbling block for her is — can she get enough money to advertise her message.”

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