Votes Are Down: What This Means for Candidates

Runoff elections are usually plagued with the same problems: low turnout, apathy in the news/media, and less funds for the candidates to get their names out.  This Houston runoff election has low turnout, not a whole lot of media coverage, and not much money coming in.  So what makes this election unique?  It is just how low the turnout is this time.
Only 13% of registered voters voted in the general election.  Although it was projected that 8% (75,000 people) would vote in the runoff, it is now projected that the turnout will actually be about 50,000.  Only 15,690 people voted early in person with another 7,340 by mail.  The 2009 runoff had roughly 152,000 people.  Although there was a mayoral runoff in 2009, and that will usually bring out more voters, 50,000 votes is nothing when you consider the positions at stake here. 
So what does this mean for the candidates?  Let’s take a look at the races:
District A:
The Trini Mendenhall Sosa Community Center on Wirt is most likely where all the early voters in District A voted.  This location only received 1,868 votes so far.  In 2009, CM Brenda Stardig received 9,273 votes in the runoff with 16,382 total votes.  It doesn’t look like the numbers will be anywhere close to these numbers this time around. Stardig has $81,023 on hand, and challenger Helena Brown has $4,409.  I don’t believe that the cash on hand will necessarily predict the winner here.  Stardig grew up in District A and has many friends in the area who will vote for her no matter what.  They will also come to the runoff to vote for her.  It has yet to be seen if Brown’s supporters are as enthusiastic to come back.  Although people either love Stardig or hate her (and not many people are willing to change their mind either way), it is surprising that she hasn’t spent more money lately. 
District B:
Alvin Byrd (raised $23,700 with $6,027 cash on hand) received a lot of grassroots support.  Although Jerry Davis (raised $37,350 with$29,435 on hand) raised more money, Byrd (barely) beat Davis in the general election.  Money may not play a role in this election.  It is really a matter of who can bring out more voters.  With the turnout so low, both candidates will have a long couple of days ahead of them.
At-Large 2:
Andrew Burks has been running for office since the 1990s.  Although there is some name recognition there, I don’t think it is enough to beat Kristi Thibaut.  Low voter turnout or not, I think Thibaut is going to pull through despite the fact that Burks beat her in the general election.  I think some of Thibaut’s support went to Jennifer Pool and a few other candidates.  With them no longer in the race, Thibaut will likely prevail.
At-Large 5:
Both CM Jolanda Jones and challenger Jack Christie raised and spent about the same amount of money.  I believe low voter turnout will impact this race more than the others.  Those going out to vote in the District A race will likely pick Christie, while those voting in the District B race will likely back Jones.  Past that, we will see many strong Jones supporters coming out as well as strong Jones opponents.  The Jones opponents might not be Christie supporters, but they will vote for him.  At this point it becomes a battle of who turns out to vote.  This one will probably be very close.


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