AUSTIN — Now that the Texas Primary Runoff election is complete, the ballot is set for national and statewide races. KVUE's Ashley Goudeau sits down with Ross Ramsey, Executive Editor and Co-Founder of The Texas Tribune, to discuss the races.
Goudeau: "The ballots are set now. Talk to us about your overall thoughts on the race."
Ramsey: "You know, the turnout was terrible. And you know the lowest in almost 100 years for the democrats. This is like the lowest gubernatorial runoff turnout since 1920. In terms of the number of people, less than half-a-million, so they've got some interest to gin up. They have picked a candidate who doesn't have anywhere near the fundraising prowess or the statewide organization that Greg Abbott has. So they've got a big hill to climb for the next six months. But now we reset the thing, we're back to talking about the senate race and the race for lieutenant governor and attorney general and all the way down the ballot. The two sides are set for congressional races, for house races and senate races. It's on."
Goudeau: "Let's start at the top and work our way down. We already knew that it was going to be Ted Cruz and Beto O'Rourke, but talk to us about where that race sort of stands as of now."
Ramsey: "You know, O'Rourke, the challenger, is a congressman from El Paso. He has, so far, out-raised Ted Cruz. Not by much, but by a little bit. I think you could say at this point he is going to have enough money to run, Cruz is going to have enough money to run. It's a red state, but O'Rourke is probably the most intriguing challenger on the democratic ballot. He's sort-of the front face of the Democratic Party for the 2018 general elections. Ted Cruz is a tough candidate. He's very well liked in the Republican Party. He's a planner. He snuck up on David Dewhurst six years ago, that's going to be a really interesting tough race."
Goudeau: "Another race that I think will be interesting is the fight for Lamar Smith's seat. There was a runoff on both the democrat and the republican sides, now we've got the ballot set. What are your thoughts on whether or not that seat could flip to democrat?"
Ramsey: "You know, it could flip to democrats but only if there's, you know, there's been this talk of a blue wave, they need a blue tsunami for this one. This is one of those very republican districts. It's San Antonio up to Austin and into the hill country. The republicans should win this thing. If they don't, it's an upset by anybody's reckoning."
Goudeau: "And when we talk about the governor's race, obviously, now Greg Abbott a powerhouse versus Lupe Valdez. Governor Abbott wasted no time in launching attacks against her, in fact launching them before it was even announced that she was the winner."
Ramsey: "Well, he was helping her along the way, you know, he was advertising against her in the last couple weeks before the runoff on issues that are attractive to liberal democrats. So it was a really interesting way to advertise. It was mostly online, but he was advertising, you know, 'she's a liberal, and she's pro-choice,' and in the Republican Party, you kind of go, "gasp," but right at that moment the democrats were deciding between her and Andrew White, he was advertising in a way that made democrats go, 'Oh, well, she's my candidate.' So, kind of an in-kind help. I think she's the candidate he wanted to run against. She's been the four-time Dallas County Sheriff. It's a straight up battle between a democrat and a republican on one hand. A governor who's been tough on immigration issues, sanctuary cities and other things like that against a sheriff who's been in the middle of that sanctuary cities fight. I think we're going to hear a lot about that between now and November and, like we said a minute ago, he's got so much money. He's got more than $43 million in the bank. She's she's got less than a million in the bank. She's got a long hill to climb."
Goudeau: "Do you think that is was unusual that he launched a website using her name, LupeValdez.org, against her?"
Ramsey: "Not really, I mean this is sort of a trademark of Dave Carney who's his political consultant, one of his big political consultants. It's not unusual. Carney campaigns are often negative. They're often about the opponent's weaknesses. With the voters that the governor is depending on, I think we're going to see a steady drumbeat."
Goudeau: "She, however, did make history becoming the first Latina to be a gubernatorial candidate."
Ramsey: "Right, first Latina, first out lesbian. She's got, she was elected four times in Dallas County as a sheriff so she's actually got a little bit of a track record there. She hasn't run statewide before. She's had some wobbles as a candidate, but, you know, she's got time to put this together."
Goudeau: "Do you think this will be an easy win for Abbott?"
Ramsey: "It should be an easy win for Abbott. And anything short of an easy win for Abbott is in the upset territory. Usually the governor's race in the gubernatorial year is like the show, that's the big race. It looks like this year, the show is going to be the U.S. Senate race. The governor's race is interesting. And then you've got a bunch of candidates who are kind of struggling to get the same name ID as the people at the top of the ticket, both on the republican and the democratic sides, incumbents and non incumbents. People don't necessarily know who Ken Paxton is statewide. They don't necessarily know who Justin Nelson, his democratic opponent, is statewide. And it's like that on down the ballot."
Goudeau: "What about the Lieutenant Governor's race? Mike Collier running a strong campaign and has been for a while against Dan Patrick."
Ramsey: "He's got a disadvantage in money but he's got an advantage in that Dan Patrick is probably one of the best known, and among democrats and some independents, least-liked republican incumbents. So, it's a very sharp contrast in a way that, you know, maybe the Governor's race is not. So Collier may, you know, for example after the Santa Fe shootings Dan Patrick was very prominent, Mike Colliers criticism of Dan Patrick was very prominent, that could be a noisy race."
Goudeau: "Let's talk about Austin. House District 46. The race between Sheryl Cole and Chito Vela was very close."
Ramsey: "Right, part of the reason it was close was because turnout was so low. So few people turned out, so the margin is going to be skinny. But that said, the test in this race was whether this district has changed so much that it's not a reliable district for black democrats and it is now a district where Hispanic democrats have a shot. Clearly that's the case and it's going to be a competitive district going forward. It was a weird race because both of the candidates got in when Dawnna Dukes said she wasn't running again, and when she changed her mind and decided to stay in the race, neither of them got out. So, it became, the first round was about the incumbent, and the second round in the runoff was about what kind of district this is and who is going to represent it going forward."
Goudeau: "Sheryl Cole mentioned in her acceptance speech when she was speaking to supporters that she had Obama-like turnout from black voters in that district."
Ramsey: "You know, that will take some analysis. The turnout wasn't really really big. She got good turnout, she got her voters out, something under 200 more than he got out. You know, a win is a win, and you can characterize it however you want when you win."
Goudeau: "What's interesting though is while this has been a democratic seat for such a long time, the republicans are really hopeful that their candidate has a shot at beating a democrat in this race. What're your thoughts on that?"
Ramsey: "I think it would be an upset. You know, this is one of those seats where the Texas redistricting maps were drawn by a republican legislator but they were drawn so that these districts over here are pretty firmly republican. Whoever wins the republican primary is going to win that seat. These seats over here, smaller number, are going to be democratic seats, winnable by democratic candidates. I think it would be very difficult for a republican to win this seat, that's not to say they can't, but they'd have to have some things go rights. Among other things its hard for republicans to win democratic seats in the midterm elections of a republican president."
Goudeau: "I know that you can't see into a crystal ball to tell us what's going to happen, but what are your thoughts on how this midterm is going to turn out as far as will we really have a blue wave, will we really see that happen?"
Ramsey: "You know, right now the president's numbers look pretty strong in Texas. He's very popular among Republicans, he's not eroding really among independents. Democrats really don't like him, but there are more republicans than there are democrats right now. So, at the moment, six months ahead of an election, he doesn't look as bad as he could look. In fact, he doesn't look as bad as he might have looked in January or February, you know, when everyone was talking about 'Trump's going to have a bad midterm election.' The democrats need a lot of things to fall into place. They need to have the president to have a bad year, they need to have some of the prominent republican candidates have a bad time and they need the democratic candidates to not make any mistakes. And then they need a big turnout. They need voters excited and out and republican voters depressed a little bit. That's a lot of things to have happen, it's possible, but it's ... these would be upsets."
Goudeau: "And obviously Texas really has to do a better job when it comes to getting people out to vote."
Ramsey: "Yes, turnout is terrible. Turnout in the runoff was under two percent. Turnout in the primary elections combined was 17 percent. Texans aren't voting right now."
Goudeau: "Do you think it has anything to do with some of the voter ID laws and some of the issues with registration. We just saw a judge last week rule that Texas has to allow people to register to vote online when they're renewing their drivers license, do you think some things like that impact us in November?"
Ramsey: "I think some things like that are important but are more on the edges of this thing. You know, the fundamental case here is that Texas has about 15.2 million registered voters and in the primary elections only about two and a half million of them showed up. So what happened to the rest of the people who were already registered, already signed up to vote, ready to go, sitting home at the couch?"