Last night, all three incumbents on the Texas Supreme Court won re-election rather handily. Full results are available from the Texas Secretary of State.

As of this morning (with 99.53% of precincts reporting):

Chief Justice
Wallace Jefferson(REP)53.02%
Jim Jordan (DEM)43.87%
Tom Oxford (LIB)3.09%
Place 7
Dale Wainwright (REP)51.03%
Sam Houston (DEM)45.94%
David G. Smith (LIB) 3.01%
Place 8
Phil Johnson (REP)52.23%
Linda Reyna Yanez (DEM)45.41%
Drew Shirley (LIB)3.04%

Downballot races

Two incumbent appellate justices lost their re-election bids.

In the Third Court centered in Austin, former justice Woodie Jones (DEM) defeated incumbent Chief Justice Ken Law (REP), 52.4% to 47.6%.

In the Eighth Court centered in El Paso, Guadalupe “Lupe” Rivera (DEM) defeated the incumbent Kenneth R. (Kenn) Carr (REP), 66.44% to 35.47%. Justice Carr had been appointed to the court in October 2006.

Lessons for the future of Texas judicial elections?

As with recent elections, the statewide Texas Supreme Court races follow the party-line vote. And there is always a slight drop-off in voters from the top of that ballot as voters move down the page. (( This year, the “turnout” for the presidential election was 59.2%. In the race for Chief Justice, the “turnout” fell to 56.5%. ))

This year, there was something interesting about the way those voters tuned out. On the Republican side, McCain/Palin got 4.45 million votes, and that number fell by about a half million for the statewide Republican Texas Supreme Court winners, who each received between 3.9 million and 4.1 million votes. But the dropoff from the top of the ticket was much less on the Democratic side. Obama/Biden got 3.5 million votes, as did Sam Houston. Linda Yanez and Jim Jordan got around 3.4 million votes.

Electoral strategists can make what they want of that. (( These may not have been the same voters. Some McCain voters may have voted for Democratic judges; some Obama voters may have voted for Republican judges. )) To me, it suggests that the Democratic ad buy to emphasize the judicial races may have gotten some traction.

That said, it was clearly too little, too late. This year, fully two-thirds of Texas’s votes were cast early (5.2 million out of 7.8 million). (( This year may have been unusual, as many people voted early out of fear of lines on election day. In the end, total turnout in Texas was up only marginally since 2004, when 7.4 million votes were cast versus 7.85 million yesterday. )) That suggests a flaw in any strategy to blanket the airwaves with ads over the last few days. (( That’s certainly what it seemed like while I was watching a series of disappointing football games last weekend. The games were so bad that I was hoping the commercial breaks would be more entertaining. No luck. )) By then, many early votes were already recorded.

In 2010, the top of the Texas ballot will be full of statewide offices rather than a presidential contest. Both state parties will have many more things to worry about than just the judicial races.