Heated, unconventional matchups mark downballot runoff races

AUSTIN -- Among the multitude of campaign signs, the names Dewhurst and Patrick take top billing among voters in the 2014 Texas runoff elections.

The battle between incumbent Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and state Sen. Dan Patrick for the Republican lieutenant governor nomination has dominated the headlines, but voters this week and next will also decide a number of statewide races further down the ballot. Some of the runoffs are equally heated, while others are unusual, to say the least.

Take, for example, the Democratic runoff for U.S. Senate. Wealthy Dallas dentist David Alameel faces LaRouche follower Kesha Rogers. Rogers has been shunned by the Texas Democratic Party in part over her calls for the president's impeachment. Rogers wrote of Democratic President Barack Obama in the Texas Tribune's TribTalk feature, Obama's crimes take on genocidal proportions, much worse than Adolf Hitler s.

We're headed to the brink of World War III. Thermonuclear war, Rogers warned the audience in an April forum hosted by the Llano County Tea Party, which was posted to her campaign's YouTube channel.

With voters not knowing anything about either of these two candidates, she could prevail, said Harvey Kronberg, a longtime Texas politics watcher and editor of The Quorum Report. For a state party seeking unity on the November ballot, Kronberg says Rogers appearing at the top of the ticket would create an awkward predicament for Democrats.

They are then put in the almost impossible position of saying vote for all Democrats except for this one, said Kronberg.

You may have seen the news segment highlighting state Sen. Ken Paxton's violation of state securities law currently being run as part of a paid advertisement by state Rep. Dan Branch's campaign. In the Republican runoff for Texas Attorney General, Branch hopes to defeat Paxton, who's supported by various tea party organizations and Sen. Ted Cruz.

The irony is the state's chief legal officer could be under the cloud of both criminal and civil proceedings, said Kronberg.

Both Paxton and his opponent have spent millions on blistering attack ads hurling fierce accusations at one another. Meanwhile Jim Hogan, a Democratic candidate for Texas Agriculture Commissioner, hasn't even bought a website. Instead, the slightly tongue-in-cheek fan site www.whoisjimhogan.com was set up by Hogan's supporters. Hogan faces a runoff against humorist Kinky Friedman, whose platform may be the most unique of all.

I want to make to make this election into a referendum on lifting the prohibition on pot and hemp, Kinky told Houston sister station KHOU earlier this year.

The conventional wisdom is, 'God help us if it's Kinky,' Kronberg says of state Democrats. But there has always been a counter-intuitive thread that runs through there that has said he turns out a group of voters that otherwise may not turn out.

In the end, who wins the runoffs and lands on the November ballot will be determined by relatively few voters. In Travis County, just fewer than 12,000 people had voted by the time polls closed for the day on Wednesday. Early voting continues through Friday, and the polls open once more on Tuesday, May 27.




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