Now that the field has narrowed to two candidates for each party, likely winners are emerging — though election day still has room for surprises.
The Republican primary began with eight candidates, but after no candidate won a majority of the vote on March 1, state Sen. Dawn Buckingham (R-Lakeway) and educator Tim Westley advanced to a runoff.
Buckingham is the obvious frontrunner for the May 24 runoff election. On March 1, she led Westley with 42 percent of the vote after raising more money than any other candidate for the seat, Republican or Democrat. Since then, Buckingham has added several new endorsements to a collection that had already established her as the party favorite for top Republicans. In addition to the endorsements of former president Donald Trump, U.S. Sens. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and John Cornyn (R-TX), and former land commissioner Jerry Patterson, Buckingham won the support of several of her primary competitors. Former Republican land commissioner candidates Weston Martinez, Ben Armenta, Victor Avila, Don Minton, and Rufus Lopez all ultimately sided with Buckingham after failing to make the runoff.
Westley, meanwhile, has spun his modest fundraising into an underdog reputation after taking second place in the primary with 15 percent of the vote. Westley’s biggest endorser is Allen West, who appointed Westley historian of the Texas GOP during his tenure as the party’s chairman. West challenged Gov. Greg Abbott in the Republican primary to lead the state and finished in second place with 12 percent of the vote.
On the Democratic side, King Ranch scion Jay Kleberg has a solid lead over San Antonio counselor Sandragrace Martinez. Unlike Buckingham, Kleberg has not gained the support of his former competitors. However, he has secured the endorsements of a slew of Texas Democrats since March 1. Previously enjoying a home-field advantage among South Texas Democrats, Kleberg has more recently welcomed the endorsements of several officials from North and Central Texas.
Kleberg’s widening breadth of support is not just geographical. Ideologically, several progressive Democrats in the state legislature threw their support behind attorney Jinny Suh before March 1. Kleberg’s early South Texas endorsements represent a more conservative side of the Texas Democratic Party. Coupled with the more recent endorsements of Reps. Rafael Anchia (D-Dallas), Julie Johnson (D-Irving), and Chris Turner (D-Grand Prairie), to name a few examples, Kleberg’s base of political support has grown in the past month to include a larger swath of the party.
However, Kleberg’s wide fundraising lead and powerful political support failed to materialize into real votes on March 1. He finished second to Martinez, who reported spending just $637 in the last campaign finance report filed before the primary.
According to a poll released April 13 by the Texas Hispanic Policy Foundation, Martinez leads Kleberg by 16 points among likely voters. She enjoys a four-to-one advantage over Kleberg among Hispanic likely Democratic runoff voters.
The same poll also says voters who voted for Suh on March 1 are likelier to support Martinez than Kleberg in the runoff. The same applies to voters who voted for veteran and businessman Michael Lange.
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