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Stories about Texas

Five candidates file to run in Texas state House special election

Candidates interested in running in a special election for the District 68 seat in the Texas House of Representatives had until January 4, 2021, to file. The special election will be held on January 23.

Five candidates—Charles Gregory (D), John Berry (R), Jason Brinkley (R), Craig Carter (R), and David Spiller (R)—filed to run in the special election.

The special election became necessary after Drew Springer (R) won a special election to Texas State Senate District 30 on December 19, 2020. Springer was elected to the state House in 2012. He won re-election in 2020 with 85.5% of the vote.

Texas has a Republican state government trifecta. A trifecta exists when one political party simultaneously holds the governor’s office and majorities in both state legislative chambers. Republicans control the state Senate by an 18-12 margin with one vacancy and the state House by an 83-67 margin.

As of January 2021, 14 state legislative special elections have been scheduled for 2021 in 10 states. Between 2011 and 2019, an average of 77 special elections took place each year.

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Springer defeats Luther in runoff in Texas State Senate district

Drew Springer (R) defeated Shelley Luther (R) in the special general runoff election in Texas State Senate District 30 on December 19, earning 56.5% of the vote.

The general election took place on September 29. As no candidate earned more than 50% of the vote in the general election, the top two finishers advanced to the general runoff. Luther and Springer each received 32% of the vote. Jacob Minter (D) followed with 21%. No other candidate received over 10% of the vote.

Springer will replace Pat Fallon (R) for the remainder of his term, expiring in January 2023. Fallon submitted his letter of resignation on August 22, with an effective date of resignation on January 4. On August 8, local Republican Party county and precinct chairs selected Fallon to replace incumbent John Ratcliffe on the general election ballot for Texas’ 4th Congressional District after Ratcliffe withdrew from the race, following his confirmation as director of national intelligence.

This special election was the last state legislative special election of 2020. There were 59 state legislative special elections held in 27 states in 2020. The Democratic Party saw a net gain of six seats from those special elections. In special elections between 2011 and 2020, one party (either Republicans or Democrats) saw an average net gain of four seats nationally each year.

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Supreme Court releases opinion on water dispute between Texas and New Mexico

Image of the front of the United States Supreme Court building

The Supreme Court of the United States issued an opinion in Texas v. New Mexico, which was argued on October 5, 2020. The case is part of the court’s original jurisdiction, meaning it was the first and only court to hear the case. Original jurisdiction cases are rare. According to the Federal Judicial Center, since 1960, the court “received fewer than 140 motions for leave to file original cases, nearly half of which were denied a hearing.”

Texas v. New Mexico concerned an interstate water dispute. In 1949, the two states entered a compact about use of the Pecos River, which flows south from New Mexico to Texas, where it joins the Rio Grande. In 1988, the U.S. Supreme Court appointed a river master to issue an annual report summarizing New Mexico’s compliance with its compact obligations. In this case, Texas challenged retroactive changes the river master made to his 2014-2015 annual report.

In a 7-1 opinion written by Justice Brett Kavanaugh, the court denied Texas’ motion to review the river master’s annual report, holding the river master correctly determined New Mexico’s water delivery credit. Kavanaugh wrote, “As the River Master correctly concluded, New Mexico is entitled to delivery credit for the evaporated water. That result is both legally accurate and entirely fair.”

Justice Samuel Alito concurred in part and dissented in part. In his opinion, Alito wrote that he would have vacated the case and remanded it to the river master with instructions to redo his analysis.

Justice Amy Coney Barrett did not take part in the case. She was not a member of the court when arguments were held.

As of December 14, 2020, the court had issued opinions in nine cases this term. Four cases were decided without argument.

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Guajardo defeats McComb in Corpus Christi, Texas, mayoral runoff

The general runoff election in Corpus Christi, Texas, was held on December 15, 2020. In the nonpartisan mayoral race, Paulette Guajardo defeated incumbent Joe McComb, earning 56% of the vote to McComb’s 44%.

The general election in Corpus Christi was held on November 3. If no candidate earned a majority of the vote in the general election, the top two vote-getters advanced to a runoff.

Corpus Christi also held runoffs for two city council seats. Billy Lerma won the District 1 race, earning 56% of the vote and defeating Rachel Ann Caballero. In the District 4 race, incumbent Greg Smith won re-election, defeating Kaylynn Paxson by a margin of 63% to 37%. City council elections in Corpus Christi are nonpartisan.

Corpus Christi is the eighth-largest city in Texas by population and the 59th-largest in the United States.

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Leeser wins mayoral runoff election in El Paso, Texas

A runoff election was held on December 12 in El Paso, Texas. Oscar Leeser defeated incumbent Donald “Dee” Margo in the mayoral election. Leeser received 79.5% of the vote, while Margo received 20.5%. Leeser will assume office in early January.

Leeser previously served as the mayor of El Paso from 2013 to 2017. He did not seek re-election in 2017. Margo was elected as mayor that year.

Although mayoral elections in El Paso are officially nonpartisan, The Texas Tribune reported that Leeser identifies as a member of the Democratic Party. Margo previously served as a Republican in the Texas House of Representatives from 2011 to 2013.

Leeser and Margo advanced from the general election on November 3 after neither candidate received a majority of the vote to win outright. Leeser received 42.6%, while Margo received 24.6%.

Twenty-nine of the 100 largest U.S. cities held mayoral elections in 2020. In 15 of those cities, the incumbent was Republican at the start of 2020. Twelve incumbents were Democratic, one was independent, and one was nonpartisan. Overall, Democratic mayors oversaw 64 of the 100 largest cities as of the beginning of 2020.

El Paso is the 6th-largest city in Texas and the 20th-largest city in the U.S. by population.

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Summary of Nov. 3 state appeals court elections — Democrats win seats in Texas, Republicans gain in North Carolina

Democrats won eight of the 24 seats up this year in Texas’ intermediate appellate courts, all of which were held by Republican judges heading into the election. Republicans made gains in North Carolina, winning all five intermediate appellate court seats up this year, four of which were held by Democratic or Democratic-aligned justices.

The Republican Party had greater partisan risk in this year’s Texas intermediate appellate court elections, defending all 24 seats up. Democratic challengers defeated six Republican incumbents and won two open seats. Republicans won 11 uncontested races. In the 2018 elections, Democratic challengers defeated 19 Republican incumbents. Forty-five seats were up that year.

Democrats had the greater partisan risk in North Carolina this year. The five intermediate appellate court seats up included one held by a Republican, two held by Democrats, and two held by judges who were appointed by a Democratic governor but have not stood for partisan election. Republicans won all five races, defeating both Democratic incumbents and winning both open seats held by appointed judges.

Thirty states held intermediate appellate court elections in 2020. Six states held partisan general elections, 11 states held nonpartisan general elections, and 15 states held retention elections (this figure includes two states that held both partisan and retention elections). There were 201 seats up for election out of 976 seats on intermediate appellate courts nationwide.

Intermediate appellate courts serve as an intermediate step between the trial courts and the courts of last resort in a state. Their jurisdiction varies from state to state.

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Supreme Court releases opinion on water dispute between Texas and New Mexico

Image of the front of the United States Supreme Court building.

The Supreme Court of the United States issued an opinion in Texas v. New Mexico, which was argued on October 5, 2020. The case is part of the court’s original jurisdiction, meaning it was the first and only court to hear the case.

Texas v. New Mexico concerned an interstate water dispute. In 1949, the two states entered a compact about use of the Pecos River, which flows south from New Mexico to Texas, where it joins the Rio Grande. In 1988, the U.S. Supreme Court appointed a river master to issue an annual report summarizing New Mexico’s compliance with its compact obligations. In this case, Texas challenged retroactive changes the river master made to his 2014-2015 annual report.

In a 7-1 opinion written by Justice Brett Kavanaugh, the court denied Texas’ motion to review the river master’s annual report, holding the river master correctly determined New Mexico’s water delivery credit. Kavanaugh wrote, “As the River Master correctly concluded, New Mexico is entitled to delivery credit for the evaporated water. That result is both legally accurate and entirely fair.”

Justice Samuel Alito concurred in part and dissented in part. In his opinion, Alito wrote that he would have vacated the case and remanded it to the river master with instructions to redo his analysis.

Justice Amy Coney Barrett did not take part in the case. She was not a member of the court when arguments were held.

As of December 14, 2020, the court had issued opinions in nine cases this term. Four cases were decided without argument.

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Voters to decide special election runoff in Texas State Senate District 30

A special general election runoff is being held on December 19 for District 30 of the Texas State Senate. Shelley Luther (R) and Drew Springer (R) advanced to the general runoff. The winner will serve until January 2023.

A candidate needed to earn more than 50% of the vote to win in the general election. As no candidate earned more than 50% of the vote, the top two finishers advanced to a general runoff. Luther and Springer each received 32% of the vote. Jacob Minter (D) followed with 21%. No other candidate received over 10% of the vote.

The seat became vacant after the resignation of Pat Fallon (R), who was selected by local Republican Party county and precinct chairs to replace incumbent John Ratcliffe on the general election ballot for Texas’ 4th Congressional District after Ratcliffe withdrew from the race following his confirmation as director of national intelligence. Fallon submitted his letter of resignation on August 22, with an effective date of resignation on January 4.

As of December, 59 state legislative special elections have been scheduled for 2020 in 27 states. Between 2011 and 2019, an average of 77 special elections took place each year.

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Three state legislative special elections to be decided in runoffs

Three state legislative seats up for special election in 2020 are still undecided as of November 20, 2020. All three are headed to runoff elections: Mississippi House of Representatives District 87 on November 24, Georgia State Senate District 39 on December 1, and Texas State Senate District 30 on December 19.

Although special state legislative elections in Mississippi are officially nonpartisan, it is the only seat that may result in a flipped seat. It was most recently held by Republican William Andrews. The Georgia race, previously held by Nikema Williams (D), is a special Democratic primary runoff that will not have a special general election. The Texas general runoff election features two Republican candidates running to replace Pat Fallon (R).

Eight state legislative seats have changed parties due to 2020 special elections: one seat flipped from Democratic to Republican, and seven seats flipped from Republican to Democratic. As of November 2020, 59 state legislative special elections have been scheduled for 2020 in 27 states. Between 2011 and 2019, an average of 77 special elections took place each year. 

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