March 07, 2008
Runoff time

If there's one thing I think I can say with complete certainty, it's that the upcoming primary runoffs are not going to set any records for turnout. Not positive ones, anyway.

In Harris County, there are five Republican and three Democratic runoffs set for April 8. The Democrats will choose the nominees for Railroad Commissioner (Mark Thompson and Dale Henry), 80th District Court judge (Larry Weiman and Marc Isenberg), and Justice of the Peace, Precinct 8, Place 1 (Jeff Heintschel and Dee Wright). The Republicans also get JP Precinct 8, Place 1 (Richard Risinger and Holly Williamson), 174th District Court judge (Kevin Keating and Bill Moore), State House District 144 (Ken Legler and Fred Roberts), plus the two highest profile races still left to be decided. First, there's CD22, in which the two finalists are as I predicted, Shelley Sekula Gibbs and Pete Olson.

Sekula Gibbs attracted 30 percent of Tuesday's primary vote; Olson corralled 21 percent. The total vote from parts of four Houston-area counties was 56,124, of which about 45 percent was cast early, according to the secretary of state.

"The key is that I am a local physician who has represented the district in the past as a council member and briefly as a congresswoman," Sekula Gibbs said, "and I have lived here and raised my children here and paid taxes here."

She served on the City Council of Houston, which covers much of the Harris County portion of the congressional district. The district also includes most of Fort Bend County and parts of Brazoria and Galveston counties.

Sekula Gibbs said she is the exclusive conservative in the race because she took conservative stances on the council and in her seven-week congressional term in late 2006. She served the end of Republican Tom DeLay's term before Lampson took over.

"Clearly, being a conservative doesn't have anything to do with being a local doctor or anything else along those lines," Olson responded. "I have spent my entire adult life in service to our country."

At least with only two of them, the chatter will be more focused. Note the vote totals in there. Here's a press release from Rep. Nick Lampson to help you with the math:

As the results of Tuesday's Primaries in Texas' 22nd congressional district became clear, one fact stood out: Nick Lampson's Republican challengers failed miserably in their attempts to energize the voters. In fact, Nick Lampson, without any Primary opponent, received more votes than all ten Republican candidates combined.

The ten Republican challengers spent money reaching into seven figures to drive out voters for their cause. But voters did not respond to their partisan bomb throwing. Even after receiving mail piece after mail piece, phone call after phone call, and seeing TV ads for candidates, the ten Republican candidates could only convince 56,124 to vote in their Primary. Nick Lampson ran unopposed and received 73,761 votes without campaigning or spending a dime.

"I believe this lack of enthusiasm for my opponents is the result of my hard work for the district," Lampson said. "I have been an independent voice for Texas and, whether by authoring middle-class tax cuts or stepping up to promote NASA, I have proven I know how to best represent this district. Voters don't want the same old name calling and dishonesty from their elected officials. And they've said as much by not showing up for this expensive and highly contested Primary."

After each spending hundreds of thousands of dollars, the two top vote getters in the Republican Primary for CD-22 could only manage a combined 28,311 voters to their cause. And neither could gain a mandate from the meager turnout in their Primary. They will continue campaigning and spending valuable resources for an additional month as they head toward a runoff election to be held on April 8th.

Nice to be in the catbird seat. The other runoff of interest will be for District Attorney, and it's popcorn-worthy already.

After finishing third in the Republican primary for Harris County district attorney, defense lawyer and former prosecutor Jim Leitner said Wednesday he will vote for former judge Pat Lykos in the runoff against prosecutor Kelly Siegler.

Also, Siegler and Lykos denounced each other Wednesday, signaling that their campaign for the April 8 runoff will be as embraceable as a razor saw.

Leitner, who placed third in the primary for DA eight years ago as well, said in this year's campaign that the agency needed reform by an outsider in the wake of disgraced District Attorney Chuck Rosenthal's resignation. He said backing Siegler, a prosecutor for the last 21 years, would conflict with his reform goals.

"It's going to be the same old, same old" with Siegler as the GOP nominee, Leitner said. "I don't think that will be good enough to beat (C.O.) Bradford."

I met Bradford's campaign manager the other day and asked him why Bradford hadn't been more public lately. He said that they were going to let these two slug it out for awhile before really getting into it. I've been skeptical of that strategy, but perhaps I was hasty in that judgment.

"She is a one-act play," Lykos said Wednesday of Siegler's famously sensational techniques in criminal trials. "For all of her career, she has engaged in theatrics and gotten away with fudging facts, in court and now as a cynical politician."

Siegler said Lykos "has a record and a history of being difficult to deal with and of no one wanting to work with her."

Yeah, I can see the logic. As long as someone is taking notes, I'm good for now.

By the way, at what point do you think there'll be a story about Republicans who crossed over to the Democratic to cause mischief there and who now regret being unable to vote in one or more of these runoffs? I bet Rush didn't mention that part.

On the Democratic side, probably the biggest news related to runoffs is that there won't be one for the Senate race.

Rick Noriega, the Democratic nominee for U.S. Senate, was surprised but relieved Wednesday to have narrowly escaped a runoff dance with perennial candidate Gene Kelly.

"We totally were convinced we were going to be in a runoff," said Noriega, who has represented a district from Houston's East End since 1999. "Mr. Kelly is still able to pull with his name."

Incomplete returns showed Noriega received 51 percent of the vote to Kelly's 27 percent. Ray McMurrey came in third with 12 percent and Rhett Smith had 10 percent.

Here's a little fun fact to put this accomplishment in perspective:

Mr. Noriega, a five-term state representative from Houston, is the first Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate in Texas to avoid a primary runoff since former Fort Worth Mayor Hugh Parmer ran virtually unopposed for the party's nod in 1990.

I did not know that. Thanks to Eye on Williamson for the tip.

Back to the Chron:

With his fortunes at least somewhat tied to the top of the ticket, Noriega said he is concerned whether the Democratic presidential nominee will actively campaign in Texas this fall or write off the Republican-leaning state.

"I have certainly put forth a challenge to the Democratic nominees in terms of Texas. While we're here fighting, you don't leave folks ... you don't leave your buddy in the foxhole," said Noriega, a Texas Army National Guard lieutenant colonel who served in Afghanistan and along the Texas-Mexico border.

Along those lines, SurveyUSA yesterday released the results of a massive, 50-state poll that shows how Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama do in terms of electoral votes. Some of the results are a little goofy (North Dakota?), and they assign states to one candidate or the other even when the result is well within the margin of error, but it's provocative nonetheless. Though superficially the two Democrats appear to do about as well as each other in their respective matchups, there's more good news for Obama in there (and in this WaPo poll as well). Finally, to tie it back to what Noriega was saying, you might note that both Democrats do pretty well in Texas. With all the money that the Democrats are raising and will continue to raise, I'll say again, a couple weeks' worth of TV ads here would be a good investment for them. And yes, for people like Rick Noriega as well.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on March 07, 2008 to Election 2008
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