The biggest news about the runoff elections held this Tuesday, April 11 -- aside from moderate Republican Cynthia Thornton's squeaker of a victory over conservative Christian Bob Schoolfield in the race to represent traditionally Democratic District 10 on the state school board -- was the dismal turnout: Just 3% of Austin's registered voters cast votes in this year's primary runoffs, possibly the worst turnout ever. And in 14 electoral precincts, no one bothered to vote at all.
Even for an election in Austin, where voters will go to the polls some half-dozen times this year, even for a rainy Tuesday afternoon, and even for a runoff election with few choices to quicken the pulses of voters active in party politics, it was a dark day for the electoral process.
The low turnout may have accounted for the trouncing of one Democrat, Charles Gandy, highly favored by party insiders to oppose U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison in November; the former state representative lost to political novice Gene Kelly, who has never held public office, by a margin of 59% to 41%. On the other hand, it may have helped political unknown Thornton, who beat the heavily funded Schoolfield by only 280 votes. At any rate, Tuesday's turnout was consistent with low voting levels throughout the state, particularly among Democrats; in Houston, for example, less than1% of registered Democrats cast their ballots for two contested Democratic races.
In another notable race, high-tech lawyer Jill Warren beat fellow attorney Scott Loras, who had waged an unusually nasty runoff campaign, in the Republican battle for District 48, the Texas House seat being vacated by retiring Democratic Rep. Sherri Greenberg. Warren will face Democratic challenger Ann Kitchen November. And in two notable upsets, Democrat Maria Canchola beat incumbent Rocky Medrano and will take over his position as Travis County Constable for Precinct 4, while Alan Sager bested incumbent Travis County GOP Chair Becky Motal (reviled by many of her constituents in the party) in a highly contested fight for that position .