With Texas’ presidential primary finished, vote in primary runoff

Noah M. Horwitz

It has now been nearly a month since the Texas primary took place. We don’t have Marco Rubio to kick around anymore, but the presidential contest looks more or less the same as it did back then. Donald Trump still battles with this state’s mendacious junior senator, Ted Cruz, in the Republican contest. Young men, rowdy and sententious as ever, still deride Hillary Clinton on behalf of Bernie Sanders on the Democratic side.

Indeed, with the state of Texas almost certainly voting for the Republican nominee for president in the fall, along with all 38 of the votes in the Electoral College for Texas, the days of most Texans having a say in the presidential contest are all but over. Short of phone-banking for a candidate, or getting out your checkbook, there’s not a lot left to do.

The primary, however, is not over in Texas. On May 24, both the Democratic and Republican parties will hold primary runoff elections.

Concurrent with the presidential nominating contest on March 1, Texans also voted to nominate candidates for lower offices, from Congress down to local school boards. But some of the contests in both parties failed to produce a candidate with a majority of the vote, prompting the need for a runoff. If you voted in one party’s primary though, you cannot vote in the other party’s primary runoff.

Statewide, Republicans can pick their nominees for one of the state’s highest courts, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, as well as for Railroad Commissioner. (These nominations will be tantamount to election.) Democrats, meanwhile, can choose their sacrificial lamb of a nominee for Railroad Commissioner.

More locally, Democrats have more big decisions to make. The next county commissioner in Precinct 1 will be determined by those who show up to the Democratic runoff electorate here in town. Democrats in Harris County can choose their nominee for sheriff.

Upon first glance, these lower-ballot nominating contests may seem rather unimportant. They are anything but. In fact, nominating totally unqualified people for high office — because of low turnout or voter apathy — has been one of the single biggest causes of embarrassment for this state in recent years.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton is an unqualified partisan hack currently under indictment for securities fraud. Republican primary runoff voters selected him in 2014 over Dan Branch — a universally-respected lawmaker who chaired the House Higher Education Committee — because of a commercial where Cruz said some nice things about him. (I’m not joking).

In 1976, the Democrats nominated Donald Yarbrough for the Supreme Court. Voters confused him for Ralph Yarborough, a senator who had supported the New Deal. Donald Yarbrough was elected, resigned the office in disgrace six months later and eventually evaded federal authorities by fleeing to Grenada.

Today, the Democrats, in their hopeless primary for railroad commissioner, face the prospect of yet another totally unqualified individual being nominated for high office because of a fortuitous surname. Grady Yarbrough, a retired schoolteacher, is vying to be one of the state’s top regulators of oil and gas.

The presidential primary continues to slog on, with all its wretchedness and dishonesty. But in Texas, it is firmly in the rear-view mirror. The primary runoff, however, is still up ahead. Make your voice heard and vote in it too. 

Horwitz is a government senior from Houston. Horwitz is a senior columnist. Follow him on Twitter @NmHorwitz.