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How do incumbents do in runoffs?

So with all of the polls showing Rick Perry ahead in the GOP primary but below 50%, the odds appear good that he’s headed for a runoff. What are his odds of winning that runoff? The Come and Take It blog (an admitted KBH partisan) has repeatedly suggested that Perry is unlikely to win back anyone who voted against him in the first round, though at least one poll disagrees with that assessment. Still, you do have to wonder: How do incumbents who fail to get a majority in a contested primary do in their runoffs?

Well, wonder no more. I looked back at all runoffs for state or federal office from 2002 through 2008, and this is what I found:

Year Party Office Incumbent Pct Runoff ============================================= 2002 GOP CCA Price 46.94 57.74 2002 GOP CCA Womack 44.55 56.48 2002 GOP CCA Cochrane 42.93 63.00 2002 Dem HD80 King 39.89* 48.09 2002 Dem HD143 Moreno 46.81 60.64 2004 GOP RRC Carillo 49.60 62.77 2004 Dem HD35 Canales 31.36* 27.10 2004 Dem HD41 Gutierrez 33.94* 29.01 2006 GOP CCA Holcomb 45.00 53.62 2006 GOP SBOE5 Montgomery 34.96* 38.61 2006 GOP HD72 Campbell 33.48* 39.77 2006 Dem HD42 Raymond 49.83 57.75 2006 Dem HD146 Edwards 48.16 46.45 2006 Spec CD23 Bonilla 48.60 45.71 2008 GOP CD22 S-Gibbs 29.72 31.47

Asterisks indicate that the candidate in question came in second in the initial election. As you can see, that’s pretty much the kiss of death, though coming in first is not a guarantee of runoff success. Perry isn’t in any danger of failing to get at least a plurality, so let’s not worry about that.

The CD23 election of 2006 was a special election that resulted from the Supreme Court ruling on the 2003 re-redistricting lawsuit. Shelley Sekula-Gibbs wasn’t really an incumbent when she ran in 2008, but she had won the special election to finish out Tom DeLay’s term in 2006, so even though she was basically Congresswoman For A Day, she still got to campaign as a sort-of incumbent.

Several of the incumbents who lost in runoffs had scandals or other issues to deal with. Scott Campbell nearly lost his 2004 re-election bid when reports of a drunk driving arrest and what Texas Weekly delicately called “allegedly seeking an illegitimate massage in a legitimate massage parlor” came out that fall. He survived that but was widely considered a dead man walking going into the 2006 primary. Gabi Canales had also been arrested for drunk driving. Roberto Gutierrez was targeted by Texans for Insurance Reform for his support of the tort “reform” bill; I don’t know why Tracy King lost to Timo Garza in 2002 – it may have been a function of the 2001 redistricting – but he won his seat back in 2004 in part on the same issue. The late Buddy West was dealing with issues of his declining health; he was also being attacked by pro-Craddick forces. We know all about Al Edwards. I don’t know what the deal was with Dan Montgomery in SBOE5, but he lost to Ken Mercer, who will hopefully suffer the same fate this year.

Anyway. The bottom line here is that history suggests Perry will win in a runoff if he is forced into one. No guarantees, of course, but if I were a betting man that’s where my wager would go.

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  1. John says:

    Medina won’t break 10% and Perry will get 50%. So after Tues it will just be Perry v White

  2. Blue Dogs says:

    John, I agree with you the GOP primary will be OVER on Tuesday night with Perry getting 50 percent, KBH with 25 percent and Medina only getting 5 percent.