Texas Democrats are poised to take control of the state’s governor’s office after taking control of all three branches of government, setting the stage for a runoff election in November that could mark a critical turning point in the state and the country.
The latest poll by the nonpartisan Harris Polling Center shows Democratic Gov.
Greg Abbott with a slim 1.3 percentage point lead over Republican incumbent Greg Abbott.
That’s well within the poll’s 4.6 percentage point margin of error.
But even in the wake of the governor’s approval ratings plunging to historic lows in early November, the poll suggests the GOP could pull off an upset in the gubernatorial race.
According to the Harris Poll, more than three-quarters of Texans believe Abbott will be reelected.
And the poll shows nearly half of respondents say Abbott is “strongly” or “somewhat” likely to win.
But as it turns out, the survey was conducted after Abbott and Abbott’s Democratic challenger, Lt.
Dan Patrick, each lost their re-election bids.
Patrick lost to Democrat Tom Mecham in a runoff in March, and he also dropped out of the race before the poll was released.
But while the Harris poll shows the race is within the margin of sampling error, the final outcome could be different if a runoff were held.
That could give the Democrats a significant advantage over the GOP in the November vote, as Republicans could focus on trying to flip the seat back to the GOP by defeating Abbott.
A runoff election would likely be the first time that Democrats have controlled both chambers of the Texas Legislature since at least 1994, when the party won three of four governorships.
The Democrats also control the governor, lieutenant governor and legislature in both the House and Senate.
A Republican win in the 2018 gubernatorial election would mean that Texas will be one of just three states with no statewide elected Republican officials.
The other two states are Louisiana and West Virginia, and they have Democratic governors.
In fact, Texas has only one Democratic governor in more than 100 years.
The Harris Poll also shows that more than a third of Texans would not be voting for a Democrat in the race for governor if it were held today.
That means a Republican would need to win at least 33 percent of the vote in order to capture the governorship.
That would require winning a majority of the GOP primary vote and at least 31 percent of Democratic primary voters.
Republicans have held two gubernatorial races in Texas since the state went to Republican control in 2010.
A third runoff election is scheduled for 2018.
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