Texas, often the most interesting political state in the country, has been a scrooge about polling data recently. The exit pollsters of 2012 saved money by skipping the state, denying us data about how the Democrats (and Ted Cruz) played with Hispanic voters. This year’s pollsters have mostly ignored the snoozer primary between Sen. John Cornyn and a scattering of conservative challengers.
But we have the new University of Texas/Texas Tribune poll, the first I’ve seen that covers every candidate in a primary that ends in eight days. The poll’s an “internet survey of 1,200 registered voters”—not ideal, but good enough. It finds Cornyn at 62 percent against his field, with Rep. Steve Stockman leading the stragglers at 16 percent. Not good enough to force a runoff, though Stockman’s campaign and allies have started hitting mailboxes with fliers and with his odd “conservative newspaper.”
But the difficulties of Stockman and other federal candidates backed by Tea Party groups are not to be read as failures of the conservative movement. They’re certainly not good news for Democrats. Ken Paxton, the AG candidate who’s running on his friendship with Ted Cruz, is running just 4 points (42–38) behind establishment candidate Dan Branch. That race looks prime for a runoff, a lower-turnout context that would benefit Paxton. Debra Medina, the 2010 Ron Paul-backing candidate for governor who imploded after sounding skeptical about the official story of 9/11, is doing much better in the race for comptroller—a 13-point lead over the closest competitor, for a guaranteed runoff berth.
On to the Democrats. Obviously, they should be disappointed that Wendy Davis is down by 11 points in an early test against Republican gubernatorial nominee Greg Abbott. But their race for the U.S. Senate seat held by Cornyn is far sadder.
In the Democratic primary, the candidate who has been on the ballot the most times, Kesha Rogers, leads the best-financed candidate, David Alameel, 35 percent to 27 percent. Maxey Scherr had 15 percent, followed by Harry Kim at 14 percent and Michael Fjetland at 9 percent.
One reason Rogers has “been on the ballot the most times” is that she’s a Lyndon LaRouche cultist who constantly runs for office. In 2010 she managed to win the party’s nomination in the old Tom DeLay seat, TX-22, a primary that doesn’t draw many Democratic voters. “After we impeach Obama,” Rogers promised in 2010, “we are going to implement the LaRouche Plan, beginning with a global Glass-Steagall, and full-funding for a Moon-Mars mission.” In 2012 the Democrats attempted to inform voters of just how insane Rogers was. They failed—she won another primary, by 103 votes.
In 2014 she gave the Democrats of TX-22 a break and ran for Senate. Democrats, who put up credible candidates against Cornyn in 2002 and 2008, settled this time for a dentist and philanthropist named David Alameel. Wendy Davis has endorsed him. Newspapers have endorsed him. And at the very best, he’s going to be in a runoff with a LaRouche maniac.
This is, sadly, not a new problem for Texas Democrats. For more than 20 years, the party had to fend off a strange and private man named Gene Kelly, who ran for House seats, Supreme Court seats, Senate seats, and more. He counted on low-information voters showing up and casting a ballot for him, because there was also a famous dancer with the name “Gene Kelly.” Once, he was proved right: He was the 2000 nominee for U.S. Senate, sharing a ballot with Al Gore. It took the infamy of that campaign and a spirited 2006 runoff to stop Kelly—and the guy almost forced a runoff in 2008 anyway.
And so, come March 4, the Texas Democrats may find themselves spending money to stop an “impeach Obama and travel to Mars” candidate to prevent her from sharing a ballot with Wendy Davis. A bigger irritation than any unflattering magazine cover.