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Labor Day Weekend: the traditional kick off of the Texas general election season

There are just 68 days left until the Nov. 8 general election.

If your station is like most, it’s probably not been a particularly active year in the political category.

Broadcasters were hopeful that Texas’ early place in the primary election schedule this year could translate into increased national campaign political advertising spending, but it wasn’t 2008 again.

It didn’t even match 2012 when the election was held in May.

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, spent minimally to win the state primary in this year’s presidential contest.

Businessman Donald Trump’s political advertising spending was non-existent.

The Clinton and Sanders campaigns also spent minimally in the primary, limiting their spending to the Democratic metro strongholds.

The one Texas primary bright spot for the industry, albeit only half of it, is that radio continued to see more down ballot campaign buys.  

One must always keep in mind that Texas’ political districts are drawn tightly to favor one party over another so that very few political offices are ever truly in play.

That’s the key factor in the overall lack of political advertising activity in Texas.

It does help that 2016 is a presidential election year, which always brings a higher turnout.

Higher turnout means a handful of down the ballot races could see seats change hands, particularly in the Texas House of Representatives.

Veteran political watchers think Texas Democrats will likely pick up five seats in the Texas House, possibly more.

The broadcast markets that will see the most activity in 2016, in order, are San Antonio, Dallas-Ft. Worth and Houston.

San Antonio leads because it has the one Texas congressional seat that is competitive: CD-23.

That’s the huge U.S. House of Representatives district that runs from San Antonio’s west side to the eastern edge of El Paso.

The CD 23 congressional race, in particular, could see a lot of out-of-state political ad dollars, just as it did in the 2012 and 2014 elections.

The seat tends to go “D” during higher turnout presidential election years and flip to “R” in “off-year” congressional elections.

Republicans and Democrats alike want the seat badly.

Political operatives think the race could easily see $2 million or more in political ad spending, much of it in third-party political buys advocating or vilifying candidates in the race.

Incumbent U.S. Rep. Will Hurd, R-Helotes, is being challenged by the man he unseated in 2014, former U.S. Rep. Pete Gallego, D-Alpine.

Interestingly, the next largest politically-related ad buy in Texas will not be by a campaign at all.

The Houston Chronicle reported this past weekend that the State of Texas will spend $2.5 million, nearly half of it in advertising according to court documents, before the November election to inform the public about changes to the state’s voter ID law.

Last month a federal appeals court ruled the Texas voter ID law was discriminatory and ordered the state to expand the types of ID that could be used to cast a vote.

The ads are meant to educate voters on what types of ID are now acceptable.

How much advertising and in what markets?

Good luck with that question. Documents that would have shed light on the planned buys were sealed by a federal judge at the request of Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton's office.

Burson-Marsteller is handling the state’s voter ID education campaign.

Paxton’s office argued in court filings that the public relations giant’s documents contained "proprietary" or "confidential" information and should be shielded from release.

The federal judge in the case agreed.

That means Texas is spending more than $1 million in advertising and the public will not definitively know how much and in what markets.

Elsewhere on the ballot, the Texas Senate simply has no competitive races this fall, but politicos think there will be at least one battle in 2018.

There will be some fall presidential campaign advertising in Texas, but it will be just a glimmer of what the handful of “swing states” will see.

Despite a recent poll showing businessman Donald Trump up by just six points in Texas over former Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, he is still seen as the favorite in Texas.

Trump has already demonstrated he does not have to spend much to do well in Texas.

For Clinton, It makes much more sense to spend the bulk of a presidential campaign’s ad dollars in the 10‐12 swing states that have the potential to go either way.

The lack of serious spending by either campaign in Texas is a byproduct of being a state dominated by one political party.

It also means the 2018 Republican primary election in Texas could be quite interesting.

That’s the next time a complete slate of statewide political offices will be up for grabs.

The political rumor mill is already swirling about primary challenges to several incumbent Republican statewide office holders in 2018.

Broadcasters will just have to wait and see if those races materialize.

Questions? Contact TAB's or call (512) 322-9944.

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