Former state senator David Sibley of Waco led retired lieutenant colonel Brian Birdwell of Granbury by almost three thousand votes in the special election to succeed Kip Averitt as state senator for District 22, which runs from McLennan County to the southern Metroplex suburbs and west to State Highway 6. Darren Yancey, who was the first candidate to announce for the race, finished a distant fourth, behind Gayle Avant, the lone Democrat in the race.
Sibley polled 13,720 votes to Birdwell’s 10,889, which translates to a margin of 44.97% to 36.45%.
Both Sibley and Birdwell piled up large majorities in their home counties. Sibley won McLennan County by 6,720 - 2,138 over Birdwell, a margin of 4,582. In Hood County, Birdwell prevailed by 3,6725 - 819, a margin of 2,806. The other two counties that are a significant source of votes are Ellis County (Waxahachie), which Sibley carried by 2,370 - 1,470 with the help of an endorsement by appropriations committee chair Jim Pitts, and Johnson County (Cleburne), which Birdwell carried by 2,017 - 834. Five of the six rural counties in the district went for Sibley by a total of 1,088 votes. Birdwell carried only Somervell County, the rural county with the least votes.
Candidates in Sibley’s position–leading a multiple candidate race going into a runoff–have not fared well this election cycle. Mabrie Jackson and Delwin Jones lost their House races. Still, the pattern in this election appears to favor Sibley. He won the biggest county in the district by a huge margin. He won the rural counties by a thousand votes. Almost all of Birdwell’s vote came from Hood and Johnson counties. The Waco Herald-Tribune’s analysis of the upcoming runoff (which cites my Saturday morning preview of the election) makes the point that the record turnout in Hood County was driven by a hotly contested mayoral race in Granbury. The article points out that Hood County’s turnout rate was twice that of McLennan’s. That won’t be the case in the runoff. Where does Birdwell go to get the votes to overtake Sibley?
Birdwell does have this advantage: Runoffs are generally decided by which side can get their vote out. Ideological voters turn out for runoffs, and Birdwell will have the support of conservatives, who are the most highly motivated voters this year. However, as I wrote in my post yesterday morning about the race, the Waco civic and political community is also motivated by the fear of losing their political clout. Advantage Sibley.