As early voting begins for Texas’ primary runoff, the challenge for candidates leads off with piquing enough interest for registered voters to convince them to head to the polls.
With more than 30 runoffs across Texas for seats in the U.S. House and Texas legislature, candidates battle traditionally low turnout for runoffs. Most voters focus on the general election in November, and some participate in March’s primary, but few partake in the May runoff.
“One of the pitch arguments I make to voters is that their vote is going to count a lot more in a runoff that it would in a general race,” Travis County Republican Party chairman Matt Mackowiak.
“From a party standpoint, there is less interest, there’s less demand, there’s less attention, there’s less focus, there are few were candidates running,” Mackowiak said of runoffs. “It could be for a lot of people they only have an interest in a couple different offices, and if those offices don’t have runoffs then maybe they don’t think it’s all that important.”
Texas Democrats hope to capitalize on the statewide race on every Democratic runoff ballot: the nomination for governor, narrowed from a field of nine to former Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez and Houston businessman Andrew White.
“There is something for everybody this election,” Texas Democratic Party communications director Tariq Thowfeek said. “Whether you are excited about one of the candidates in the gubernatorial runoff, or you’re excited about the fact that look we need 24 seats to take back the House and there is a good chance that four of those seats could come from Texas.”
Thowfeek, said a reason for an elevated number of runoffs this year ties to the political climate in Texas and around the country.
“Texas Democrats have the most amount of candidates we’ve ever had in 25 years,” he explained.
Former State Rep. Sherri Greenberg, now a clinical professor at UT Austin’s LBJ School of Public Affairs, argues it’s up to the candidates themselves to compel voters of all types to the polls.
“If you’re in a runoff, what you have to do is make sure you get those people to the polls who you know are going to vote no matter what so they will vote for you, but then capturing the imagination, dragging more people to the polls too to get you over that hump,” Greenberg stated.
Early voting for the primary runoff lasts until Friday, May 18. Election day is Tuesday, May 22.
To find out your polling place, click here.