Some Texas Races Decided Before Voters Hit Polls

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We are just one week away from Super Tuesday but before a single ballot is counted in the March 1st Primary, we already know who some of the winners will be in November.

There are 16 seats up for grabs in the State Senate in the 2016 election.  If you look at the list of Republican and Democratic candidates, 12 of these elections are one party races—meaning there are only Republicans or Democrats in the running.

Nine of the State Senate elections are one-person races—meaning there is only one candidate in the running.

According to their party’s websites, the Libertarian and Green Parties will challenge six of those seats in the general election but that still leaves three State Senators who are set to win the election by default.

It is still possible for other third party independent candidates to join the statewide races before the November election, but it’s difficult to win as an independent, especially when a candidate joins this late in the game.

The primaries narrow the list of candidates to determine who the Republican and Democratic nominees will be, but in many races, primary voters will only have one option within their party.

Between the State House and Senate Races, 47 percent of the Republican candidates will run unopposed in the primary election. The same goes for 45 percent of the Democratic candidates— they face no inner-party competition.  

Some candidates will go completely unchallenged, with no bipartisan competition in the general election.

Of the 150 seats in the Texas House of Representatives, 48 candidates are set to run unopposed in both the primaries and that general election—that’s including competition from the Libertarian and Green parties.

In total, with the 48 seats in the State House and three senate seats, that’s more than 30 percent of state legislature who are set to get elected not by voters, but by default.

Political consultant David Butts said some argue this is not what a democracy should look like. “It’s more a ‘dollar-ocracy.’ It’s money basically controlling that system,” Butts said.

65 percent of all the elections in the state senate and house are one-party races and with only Republicans or only Democrats in the running, that means the winners will likely be determined in the primaries.

“Why spend money in a race when there is no chance of you winning?” Butts said, “Even if you spent $1 million in some of these seats, you couldn’t win.”

He said gerrymandering has become a “very refined art,” not just in Texas, but all across the U.S. “There is just no reason for running in them, they are either so Democratic or so Republican that no one can challenge them,” said Butts.  

A political consultant with more than 30 years of experience in Texas politics, Butts said It’s not worth the opposing party’s time or money to enter a candidate in a race—especially when the dominate party has an incumbent in the running.

“You’re more likely to get struck my lightening then get one of those seats,” Butts said. “This is a numbers game, it’s math—you realize that the odds of you winning are very, very remote.”

The state’s voting districts were last drawn in 2011 by the Republican controlled legislature.

“Democrats do it, Republicans to do it and that leads to sort of a one party system that develops out of that,” Butts said, “The problem is that you have very few districts where you have a real contest.”

If election season is the time for voters to make their voices heard, Butts said a lack of competition gives them little say. 

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