Thursday, November 29, 2012

Republican Voters are Key

The race to replace the late Sen. Gallegos is in full swing in Houston.  There are three announced candidates:  State Rep. Carol Alvarado; R. W. Bray, the Republican nominee in the November 6 general election posthumously won by Sen. Gallegos; and former Harris County Commissioner Sylvia Garcia.  Two other significant players are considering the race:  Col. Rick Noriega, the Democratic nominee for the U. S. Senate in 2008; and HCC Trustee Yolanda Navarro Flores.  Flores received 46.07% of the vote when she ran against Sen. Gallegos in the 2004 Democratic primary.

It is my understanding that Gov. Perry is planning to canvas the votes of the November general election on December 6.  The canvas will trigger the vacancy and start the 20-day time period for the Governor to issue a writ of election.  The election must be held on a Tuesday or Saturday between 21 and 45 days after the Governor orders the election.

At this point, the likely date for the election appears to be January 22, although it could be as late as February 5.

The Governor’s writ of election will also set the deadline for candidates to file to run in the special election.  Texas Election Code Sec. 201.054(a) requires that the filing period be at least five days.  Candidates will all be listed on the same ballot, although they will have a D or an R after their name.

The two clear frontrunners are Rep. Alvarado and Comm. Garcia.  They are evenly matched and equally credentialed Democrats.    The outstanding question is whether a runoff will be necessary to determine the winner because neither Alvarado or Garcia receives more than 50% of the vote in the election.

Although Senate District 6 is heavily Democratic, there are pockets of Republican vote comprising about 30% to 35% of the electorate.  Rep. Wayne Smith, for example, resides in SD 6.  I expect that 5 or more candidates will ultimately file to run in the SD 6 special election, and that Republican voters will not support either Alvarado or Garcia in the first round.  The number of candidates running plus the Republican vote will likely require a runoff between Alvarado and Garcia.

It is ironic that in this heavily Democratic district, there will be an opportunity for the Republican voters to determine the runoff winner.