Sadler in Runoff; Labor-Backed Candidates Strong in Primary Elections
Paul Sadler, the COPE-endorsed candidate for U.S. Senate, led a four -person field in the Democratic primary and will continue his quest for nomination in a July 31 runoff –part of an election in which labor-backed candidates performed strongly.
Sadler will face Grady Yarbrough, whom AP reports is a “perennial candidate” who has run for office in the past as a Republican. Sadler spent part of election night at Texas AFL-CIO headquarters watching returns that showed him with a percentage lead of 35-26 in an election of fewer than half a million votes. Sean Hubbard, a newcomer who had been expected by some pundits to make a runoff, finished last in the field.
“Paul Sadler achieved this result in a very difficult environment in which all the TV advertising for the Senate race was Republican,” Texas AFL-CIO President Becky Moeller said. “Runoffs are a different dynamic, but many difficulties remain.”
“While union PACs pitched in some contributions, Paul Sadler does not have a money train in sight. He has worked hard to build trust with voters the old-fashioned way – traveling the state and meeting people wherever he can find them. The Texas AFL-CIO COPE will keep working to bring Paul Sadler’s deep reservoir of knowledge and experience to the U.S. Senate, but we will need to do it by cultivating our grass roots.”
On the Republican side, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst was forced into a runoff against Tea Party darling Ted Cruz, a lawyer, despite spending millions of dollars of his own money on the campaign. Pundits noted that Cruz did better on Election Day than in the early vote, suggesting he has momentum. Dewhurst led Cruz, 45-34, among 1.4 million Republican voters in a combative campaign.
In a highlight congressional election, U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Austin, a COPE-endorsed candidate who ran in a Republican-drawn district designed to defeat him, stormed to an easy victory over two candidates with a whopping 73 percent of the vote. Organized labor worked for Doggett both in the district’s San Antonio base, where he won a solid majority against a county-wide officeholder, and in the Austin and other portions of the district, where he cleaned up.
Other easy winners in contested races who carried the COPE endorsement included Nick Lampson in CD 14, U.S. Rep. Ruben Hinojosa in CD 15 and U.S. Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson in CD 30.
Three runoffs involve COPE-endorsed candidates. In the new CD 33, state Rep. Marc Veasey, D-Fort Worth, led an 11-person field with nearly 37 percent of the vote and will face Dallas lawyer Domingo Garcia in the runoff. Veasey’s strong showing benefited from active support of Central Labor Councils and unions in both Fort Worth and Dallas.
In CD 23, former U.S. Rep. Ciro Rodriguez and state Rep. Pete Gallego, D-Alpine, made their way into a runoff, with Rodriguez leading the primary by about 5 percentage points. COPE issued a dual endorsement in that contest between two friends of labor.
In CD 7, James Cargas and Lissa Squiers, who shared a dual COPE endorsement, are in a runoff.
The lone defeat of an incumbent in the Democratic primaries came in CD 16, where COPE-backed U.S. Rep. Silvestre Reyes lost to Beto O’Rourke, a former El Paso City Council member. O’Rourke won with a little over 50 percent of the vote.
No Democratic state senator had a contested primary, including Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, who is the top GOP target in Texas in the fall election. Davis, the COPE-endorsed candidate, will face Rep. Mark Shelton, R-Fort Worth, who easily won his primary.
In state representative contests, COPE-endorsed incumbents who beat back Democratic primary challenges include Reps. Rene Oliveira of Brownsville, Armando Martinez of Weslaco, Marisa Marquez of El Paso, Tracy King of Eagle Pass, Lon Burnam of Fort Worth, Alma Allen of Houston, Borris Miles of Houston and Garnet Coleman of Houston. The closest of these races involved Burnam, who received considerable labor support and took just under 52 percent of the vote in an HD 90 that was redrawn to give Latino voters a clear opportunity to elect the candidate of their choice.
Other COPE-endorsed outright nominees include Oscar Longoria in HD 35, Yvonne Gonzales Toureilles, the former state representative seeking to retake HD 43, Poncho Nevarez in HD 74, Mary Gonzalez in HD 75 and Justin Rodriguez in HD 125.
COPE-backed nominees who made July 31 runoffs include: Terry Canales in HD 40, Nicole Collier in HD 95, Philip Cortez in HD 117 and Jamaal Smith in HD 137.
A split result occurred among Republican candidates endorsed by COPE. Rep. Allan Ritter, R-Nederland, won easily. Rep. Mike “Tuffy” Hamilton, R-Mauriceville, lost to Rep. James White, R-Woodville, a Tea Party favorite in a new district that paired the incumbents.
“Up and down the ballot, the candidates who had the support of working families performed strongly,” Moeller said, “especially in light of the exceptionally weak turnout in the Democratic primary. We believe that union Brothers and Sisters continue to vote in disproportionate numbers in elections. Union votes made an important difference in these contests.”
Moeller noted a positive development amid low Democratic turnout: several border counties turned out in above-average numbers. In fact, Hidalgo County, which includes McAllen, had the highest numerical turnout in early voting of any county, beating out even Harris County, which is six times as large.
“Stronger turnouts in the Rio Grande Valley and El Paso are a positive trend for the future,” Moeller said. “Paul Sadler understood the potential of that vote and spent significant time campaigning in the Valley and South Texas. This is a bright spot in what was otherwise a dismal turnout.”
Runoff elections are set for Tuesday, July 31. Early voting takes place Monday, July 23, to Friday, July 27.
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