AUSTIN (KXAN) — The Texas primary election season will last a while longer because almost two dozen statewide and local races will now head to runoffs after candidates failed to secure their party’s nominations Tuesday.
The primary results remain unofficial until canvassing can happen, which should take about a week. However, a runoff in Texas is required between the top two finishers in a primary if no one captures 50% plus one vote. That new election is scheduled for May 24, so some candidates will have to keep focusing on beating someone from their own party before they can pivot to the general election campaign.
Voters handed big victories to both Gov. Greg Abbott and Beto O’Rourke in their respective primaries for Texas governor, so the two men will prepare for a head-to-head matchup in November. However, it remains undecided after Tuesday’s vote which Republican and Democratic candidates will advance in the key race for attorney general.
Texas Attorney General (Republican & Democrat)
The runoff in the Republican primary will pit incumbent Ken Paxton against Texas land commissioner George P. Bush. Unofficial results showed Paxton leading the four candidates in the primary with about 43% of the vote — not enough to avoid a runoff. Bush finished in second with more than 22%, which propelled him past the other two candidates Eva Guzman and Louie Gohmert to the impending runoff.
At a watch party Tuesday in McKinney, Paxton said the runoff means “the establishment” got what it wanted. He’s served as Texas’ chief lawyer since 2015, but legal issues of his own may complicate his path to another term in office. Paxton is facing an outstanding securities fraud indictment as well as an ongoing FBI investigation into allegations of abuse of office. Some Republicans argue his candidacy could jeopardize the GOP from retaining the seat, but Paxton has the endorsement of former President Donald Trump and still captured the most votes in the primary.
With the runoff approaching in May, Bush issued a challenge Tuesday night to Paxton.
“I’ll call him out right now and challenge him to five televised debates in all parts of our state. Let’s do this,” Bush told reporters. “Let’s roll up our sleeves and have a discussion so that the public in their entire Republican Party has a chance to weigh in on this race.”
Meanwhile, Democratic voters will also head back to the polls to decide which candidate will represent them in the attorney general’s race. Rochelle Garza, a civil rights attorney, received the most votes in Tuesday’s primary — 43%, so she has enough to move on safely to the runoff. However, who she’ll face then remains too close to call right now. Joe Jaworksi, the former Galveston mayor, and civil rights lawyer Lee Merritt are separated by only about 2,300 votes after the primary.
Jaworski wrote on his Twitter account Wednesday, “The Dem AG primary offered voters (1st time since 1998) a choice, and I’m proud my message of courage/integrity connected very well. Awaiting final votes from Harris County before the results official. I want to congratulate all the candidates for running excellent campaigns.”
Merritt has yet to make a direct comment on his social media accounts, but he retweeted messages Wednesday from groups supporting his campaign that expressed optimism about making it to the runoff based on Harris County’s outstanding votes.
Texas Lieutenant Governor (Democrat)
Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick sailed to victory Tuesday in his Republican primary, capturing more than 76% of the vote against five challengers. His campaign released a statement about his win saying in part, “Texans are committed to keeping our state on its conservative path.” Patrick will have to wait until May, though, to find out which Democrat he’ll face in November.
Mike Collier, the Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor in 2018, could not avoid a runoff this time. He got about 41% of the vote Tuesday. State Rep. Michelle Beckley, who represents District 65 in north Texas, came in second with 30%.
Texas Land Commissioner (Republican & Democrat)
Neither party knows which candidate for Texas land commissioner will move on yet to the general election.
In the crowded Republican primary, the top two vote-getters among the eight candidates are Texas Sen. Dawn Buckingham (41%) and Tim Westley (14%).
Dr. Dawn Buckingham has represented central Texas as a state senator for District 24 since 2017. She’s received the endorsements of former President Donald Trump, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, former Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick. Dr. Tim Westley — an educator and former pastor — has previously sought public office. He won the Republican nomination for Texas’ 15th Congressional District in 2016 and 2018, but was defeated in the 2020 primary.
“Onto the runoff!” Buckingham wrote on Twitter Wednesday. “Thank you for your continued support as the fight goes on! I look forward to earning your vote to be your next Commissioner of the General Land Office!”
Westley thanked his supporters on Twitter and wrote, “Let’s FINISH THIS RACE – & WIN, WIN, WIN in November!”
Democratic voters will now have to decide between Sandragrace Martinez and Jay Kleberg in their runoff. Martinez emerged with the most votes (32%) followed by Kleberg (25%).
Martinez is a licensed counselor in Bexar County and hopes to be the first bilingual Hispanic woman elected to the office. Kleberg, a South Texas rancher and former associate director of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation, said he’d like to address the impact of climate change on the state’s environment by reducing CO2 emissions and championing renewable energy.
“I’m honored by the support we’ve received from voters and organizations across Texas so far and look forward to building on that momentum in the coming months,” Kleberg wrote on Twitter. “This runoff won’t be easy, but I look forward to the challenge.”
U.S. House District 28 (Democrat)
No clear winner emerged from a closely-watched Congressional race in South Texas, so a runoff will happen in the Democratic primary for the 28th Congressional District.
U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar pulled slightly ahead of his progressive Democratic challenger Jessica Cisneros early Wednesday, but neither captured a majority of votes.
Cuellar is seeking his 10th term in office, but some questioned if he could win reelection after the FBI raided his home and offices in Laredo in January. He has not been charged with any crime and has said he is fully cooperating in any investigation. Cisneros, an immigration attorney who once worked for Cuellar, seized upon news of the FBI raid in her attempt to unseat him. The two candidates previously faced each other during the Democratic primary in 2020.
State Senate District 24 (Republican)
Two Republican candidates — Pete Flores and Raul Reyes — are moving onto the runoff in Texas Senate District 24, as they hope to succeed Dawn Buckingham. As detailed earlier, she’s facing a runoff of her own in the GOP primary for land commissioner.
Flores, a former state senator from Austin, is seeking a return to office. Reyes, who lives in Castroville, unsuccessfully ran two years ago to become the Republican candidate for the 23rd Congressional District.
According to finance reports, Flores spent almost three times as much as Reyes did ahead of Tuesday’s primary. Flores ended up capturing about 46% of the vote, while Reyes earned almost 33%.
State House District 19 (Republican)
The runoff in the Republican primary for State House District 19 will feature candidates Ellen Troxclair and Justin Berry. Results showed that Troxclair, a former Austin City Council member, received 38% of the vote, while Berry got 35%.
Before the election, Berry was one of 19 Austin police officers indicted for use-of-force concerns during May 2020 racial justice protests.
“With all of my heart, thank you. Because of YOU, we made the runoff with all the momentum on our side!” Berry wrote Wednesday on Twitter. “We faced incredibly tough challenges these past few weeks but with you in our corner, we kept the faith & broke through!”
Here’s a list of other expected runoffs that voters in Central Texas will decide in May.
Texas Comptroller (Democrat)
Texas Railroad Commissioner (Republican)
U.S. House District 37 (Republican)
U.S. House District 35 (Republican)