Liveblog: Run-Off Elections 2012


10:33 p.m.: With 76 percent of precincts reporting, former state judge and wingnut John Devine appears likely to oust incumbent David Medina for a seat on the Texas Supreme Court. There is no Democratic candidate. So tonight’s winner—and that seems to be Devine—will win the seat on the state’s highest civil court.

Devine is truly a radical jurist. We outlined the Medina-Devine race in detail here, but the highlights are thus:

—When Houston lawyers were surveyed about candidates this year by the Bar Association, more than two thirds said John Devine was “not qualified” to be a Texas Supreme Court justice.

—When Devine ran for judge in 1994, the Houston Press said he would be an “ayatollah on the bench” because of his extreme pro-life stance. Devine has been arrested repeatedly (at least three times, although he has claimed 37) at protests outside abortion clinics, and his wife carried their seventh child to term despite the fact that the child would not survive and the pregnancy could have killed her.

—In 2004, when Devine ran for U.S. Congress (one of many races he’s lost over the years) he filled out a survey for that’s still available online. In answer to the question, “What role should the Federal judiciary play and how would you ensure judges stay within that role?” Devine said that Congress could control judicial activism by “cutting off the funding of misbehaving courts and jurists.”

Devine added, “Lastly Congress can and should limit the appellate jurisdiction that the Supreme Court has over subject matter issues. Congress can, by simple majority vote, state that the subject matter of a particular bill is not within the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court or other federal courts.”

You won’t hear many judges saying that kind of thing.

For his extremism, Devine was the tea party pick this year and probably rode the wave of Cruz’s turnout. Devine and Medina both avoid press, but Devine got most of his attention in the wider world during this election cycle for allegedly saying he was challenging Medina because he had a Hispanic name and would be easier to beat. Medina’s name may have had something to do with Devine’s win. There have been several examples of Texas Republican primary voters ousting incumbents with Hispanic names in down-ballot races they know little about. Devine’s win may be another example.

Whatever the reason, Texas is about to get perhaps its most right-wing Supreme Court justice. — Emily DePrang

9:18 p.m.: I will renege on my promise below, and engage in this one bit of facile analysis: Texas Parent PAC and other pro-public education groups had a so-so time of it on May 29, when many school-watchers had been expecting an uprising of angry parents responding to last year’s school budget cuts. Tonight, though, their voters showed up bigtime. On this strange election date, carried by the fired-up few who actually bothered to show up at the polls, candidates backed by education groups are doing well.

I wrote here about how Sid Miller’s education and health care record—and not his high profile sonogram law—might do him in tonight against Gatesville doctor J.D. Sheffield. Sure enough, Sheffield’s up 56-44 with upwards of 80 percent of the vote in.

Ken King, another guy with public ed support, has managed to oust Jim Landtroop tonight, and Parent PAC-endorsed Greg Bonnen easily won his race to become the second Bonnen in the Texas House. Bennett Ratliff leads 54 to 46 percent in his suburban Dallas race against Steve Nguyen, with just under one third of the vote in. Ratliff, too, is a Republican with the Parent PAC seal of approval.

Trent McKnight, vilified in his runoff campaign as a low-down tax-raiser—for suggesting there might be a problem with how Texas raises money for its schools—has a narrow lead of 150 votes, with three-quarters of the precincts reporting in his West Texas race with Drew Springer. — Patrick Michels

8:28 p.m.: The Typical. Washington. Lawyer. has done it tonight, folks—Twitter is lighting up with analysis of what Ted Cruz’s win-in-progress means for high-ranking Republicans in the state, because AP and the Tribune both called the race for him two minutes ago. Dave already used the phrase “facile analysis” below, so I’ll save you mine. But it’s 54-46 Cruz over Dew with just over one-fifth of the precincts reporting. It means the end of those red screen/blue screen Dewhurst ads that have all over the NBC Olympic coverage, and boy will things be awkward up there in the Senate next session—another tea party wave that’s elected a bunch of new conservative Senators, and kept the Lite Guv right where he’s been all along, presiding over them. —Patrick Michels

8:24 p.m.: If your’e the type to get excited by this kind of thing, runoff night has been a real thrill so far. The Texas Tribune just called the only runoff race in the Texas Senate for Donna Campbell, the far-right challenger to Sen. Jeff Wentworth. With 15 percent of the vote in, Campbell still has a two-to-one lead over Wentworth. The race to see who’ll be running that Senate next January remains close—but not as close as it used to be—with Ted Cruz leading Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst 53.2 to 46.8 percent.

The race for the new seat in Congress running south from Fort Worth has cut the other direction, with former Secretary of State and current car dealer Roger Williams leading 60-40 over tea party favorite Wes Riddle. (The Tribune feels like that one’s close enough to call, too; about a quarter of the votes are in there.)

On the Democratic side, Pete Gallego is up 53-47 over former Congressman Ciro Rodriguez in the battle for the right to challenge Quico Canseco for his seat in November. Just under 20 percent of the percents have reported in that race.

The AP has also called the evening for Paul Sadler, who really has been the presumptive winner in this primary all along, who’s up 62-38 over Grady Yarbrough. —Patrick Michels


6:47 p.m.: A few thoughts before results start coming in.

The easy narrative tonight on the Republican side is the so-called split between the business wing and the tea party. I certainly can see why people have cast the races that way, but that seems facile analysis.

For one, not all the tea party/anti-establishment candidates are created equal. For instance, John Devine—who’s trying to win a seat on the Texas Supreme Court—and Greg Parker, who’s running for the Railroad Commission, are clearly more on the fringe than, say, Ted Cruz.

And what about Cruz? Sure, he’s running to Dewhurst’s right, but it’s not clear how much they really disagree on policy, a point well argued by Ross Ramsey in the Texas Tribune. Cruz is a corporate attorney with a degree from Harvard and experience arguing before the U.S. Supreme Court. I imagine the “business Republicans” and the establishment in D.C. will be OK with him if he reaches the U.S. Senate.

So I’m not sure he’s anti-establishment. Anti-Perry seems a more apt description. And to me, that’s the headline of the night. Perry is really on the line here. He’s done ads for Dewhurst. The governor has given Dewhurst his campaign team and access to his money men. Perry’s long-time ATMs—Harold Simmons and Bob Perry—have donated at least $1.4 million to this effort, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. So if Dewhurst somehow pulls it out, it’s a win for Perry.

But if Cruz wins, and that’s the conventional wisdom at this moment, then it’s another stinging rebuke for Perry after he ran perhaps the worst presidential campaign in recent memory.

If Parker and/or Devine win, then I think we can make some larger comment about the growing power of the tea party in Texas and all the assorted implications. But I really don’t see any larger themes or messages to a Cruz win alone—except that Rick Perry would occupy an awfully weakened position heading into the 2013 legislative session and the 2014 campaign. —Dave Mann


6:12 p.m.: Warm up your internet machine. Tonight, The Texas Observer will be following the returns from run-off elections with the enthusiasm of a tea partier at a Sarah Palin book signing. Keep your eyes glued to this page for real-time updates. Be sure to check us out on Twitter (@TexasObserver) and Facebook for a running commentary, analysis and political snark.

Looking to pre-game? Make sure you’ve got the full run-off rundown by reading our pre-election night coverage:

The Nine Lives of Ciro Rodriguez
Democrat tries another comeback in closely watched congressional race.

Palin and Cruz Take the Woodlands

The Oddest Race In Texas
Can the tea party capture a seat on the Texas Supreme Court?

Is Sid Miller In Trouble?
The author of Texas’ infamous sonogram law faces voters’ ire over cuts to education and health care.

There’s a Prospect on the Right
Ted Cruz might become the next Ronald Reagan — if he can just win an election first.