Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Sometimes The Good Gals Win

In the Texas Runoff yesterday, the chronic non-campaigner Gene Kelly (suspected of being a Republican plant by the state Democratic Chair), lost again for U.S. Senator, this time to a good candidate, Barbara Ann Radnofsky. For Lieutenant Governor, the aging former judge and state representative Ben Grant lost to younger veteran's activist Maria Luisa Alvarado. The two women will both be vastly overmatched in funding, but are respectable additions to the ticket, and able to serve well if events carry in the whole ticket on a landslide.

Best of all, the down-ballot races will not suffer from the terrible break in stright-party voting that Kelly atop the ticket would have caused. It seems the party establishment did learn their lesson from 2000, when they let Kelly's anti-coattails kill local candidates, including at least one here in Dallas. The state Chair, both candidates for Governor, and party leaders and elected officials across the state actually got involved in supporting Radnofsky. Thanks to all of them.

Both women got similar percentages, 59.80 for Radnofsky and 57.60 for Alvarado. In Dallas County, we once again gave Kelly an even lower vote than he got statewide. In the 2000 Runoff that Kelly won, he only got 29.91% here; this time he only got 20.05%. Travis County (Austin) did even better, giving Radnofsky an astonishing 92.15%. This massive margin meant that much smaller county gave her more votes than we did (7520 to our 7501).

Barbara wasted no time in taking after her incumbent opponent, saying of the Senator who once talked of serving only two terms, "Just as aging prom queens need to get out of the way and move over for the new crop, the new blood, I think it is time for her to move on." (Spotted by Capitol Annex's Vince Liebowitz, who contributes an appropriately Photoshopped picture of the ex-TV reporter.)

Meanwhile, Burnt Orange Report finds good news in the legislative runoffs, where five of the six backed by our present pathetic Speaker were defeated.

But there is something strange about the statewide results, and I wish someone would dig into them further. Since Radnofsky won anyway, that probably won't happen, but it smells suspicious to me.

Turnout was pathetic almost everywhere, and for both parties. It was for the Primary too, but this was much worse. But it wasn't evenly bad for both candidates for Senator. Radnofsky won the biggest counties in the state, but the turnout there was pitiful. The percentage of registered voters who showed up was less than 1% in the counties containing Houston, San Antonio, Dallas, and Fort Worth. Austin's county was barely better, at 1.49% She did atypically better in El Paso (5%) and Corpus Christi (6%). But overall, with a few exceptions, Radnofsky did best in counties with lower percentage turnout in the Runoff.

Not counting the tiny Maverick County (where Radnofsky's name was not printed on the early voting ballot at all - a scandal predictably involving ESS which Vince covers), and a handful of places she and Kelly tied (mostly with small numbers like 15-15 in Coke County, or 16-16 in Hall), Kelly won only 45 counties of the 254. But in only 4 of those was the turnout less than 1%. She won only 63 with 1% or better. Now that doesn't look so bad, Radnofsky gets 63 of the counties with 1% or more turnout, Kelly gets 41. That's close to her overall state percentage.

Try upping the number. Of those counties with a turnout of 4% or more, Kelly got 31 to her 21. Increase it still more. Of counties with a turnout of 7% or more, Kelly got 28, and Radnofsky only got 11. Of counties with a 10% or better turnout, Kelly won 19 to Radnofsky's 8. Yes, she did barely win the one county with the highest percentage in the state, Jim Hogg (though there's something very strange about its incredible 49% figure, with an unprecedented majority of the votes being early), but most of the other big percentage turnouts went for Kelly.

Why? Was there an effort by some outlying Republican county chairs to push Kelly votes to help Hutchison this fall? Would someone who can do fancy statistics look at the county-by-county figures at the Secretary of State's web site and do an analysis? I would really like to be reassured this wasn't some highjack attempt that just failed.

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