House races in Ellis and Bexar Counties decided by low turnout
Texas Legislature Elections Privatization | Vouchers
Date Posted: 9/29/2021
A pair of low-turnout special elections Tuesday, Sept. 28, 2021, resulted in a win for private school voucher proponents and another race heading to a runoff.
Republican Brian Harrison of Midlothian defeated former state representative and fellow Republican John Wray of Waxahachie in Tuesday’s special runoff election in House District (HD) 10 by about 1,100 votes in Ellis County, carrying 55% of the vote to Wray’s 45%. Turnout was just 9.5% of registered voters in a district representing 163,000 people.
Harrison indicated throughout his campaign that he will prioritize private school vouchers, which redistribute working Texans’ taxpayer dollars intended for public schools to benefit private and for-profit institutions instead. He was endorsed by voucher proponent Betsy DeVos, whose family has invested millions into efforts to privatize public schools. Harrison will now be able to vote on any public education policy that comes to the House floor until his term expires in January 2023.
In a separate special election in HD 118 in southern Bexar County, another former state representative, Republican John Lujan of San Antonio, and Democrat Frank Ramirez emerged as the top finishers in a five-way race with 42% and 20% of the vote, respectively. The HD 118 race will now head to a runoff on a date to be determined by the governor.
With just 6.8% of registered voters turning out in the HD 118 race, Republican voters narrowly outnumbered Democratic voters Tuesday in a district that Democrats carried by 17 points in 2020. This is a familiar scenario for Lujan, who won a special runoff election in 2016 only to be defeated later that same year in the general election before ever serving in a legislative session.
The biggest factor in special elections is often low turnout. Each of these races was determined by less than 10% of the total district population, meaning that each person who voted made the decision for nine other people. This low turnout presents a huge opportunity for those who choose to participate to determine who will represent their interests. For example, approximately 4,000 educators live in HD 10. That’s nearly four times the 1,100 votes that separated the candidates.
Though the HD 10 election has come to its conclusion, all registered voters in HD 118—including educators—still have a chance to determine their next state representative in the upcoming special runoff election. You don’t even have to have voted in Tuesday's special election in order to vote in the upcoming runoff, so be sure to show up to the polls for the runoff even if you didn’t vote Tuesday.
With more critical issues being decided in special sessions, it is more important than ever to vote in every election—especially special elections. Read more about the importance of registering to vote and turning out in elections in this blog post about voter participation from ATPE Lobbyist Mark Wiggins.
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