House elections in Texas

June 23, 2010

Texas is boring. Maybe not as a state, maybe not even in its politics. But when it comes to House races, there’s not much excitement to see. Part of this is due to some impressive gerrymandering, but a lot of it is simply that Texas has deep blue cities and deep red everywhere else. This means there’s not much in the way of swing districts, and it shows. All the expert sites out there only mention two Dem held seats that are possible pickup points, and I can’t see much reason to argue with them. It’s going to take a lot more than Tea Party enthusiasm to knock out the urban districts, after all. The good news, however, is that the reverse is also true. There’s really no reason to be worried about defense this year. Really, the only wrinkle is how the immigration debate will impact the moderately Hispanic districts (the heavily Hispanic ones are basically a lock for Dems anyway).

Note: for all potentially competitive seats, I’ll include in paranthesis which of the big three issues the incumbent voted for (ST: stimulus, CT: Cap & Trade, HC: health care).

Dem held seats – 12
Safe seats – 10
9) Al Green vs Steve Mueller (D+22)
15) Ruben Hinojosa vs Eddie Zamora (D+3)
16) Silvestre Reyes vs Tim Besco (D+10)
18) Sheila Jackson Lee vs John Faulk (D+24)
20) Charlie Gonzalez vs Clayton Trotter (D+8)
25) Lloyd Doggett vs Donna Campbell (D+6)
27) Solomon Ortiz vs Blake Farenthold (R+2)
28) Henry Cuellar vs Bryan Underwood (D+0)
29) Gene Green vs Roy Morales (D+8)
30) Eddie Johnson vs Stephen Broden (D+27)

First of all, it should come as no surprise that those double-digit PVI seats are safe. Just be happy the GOP managed to find someone to run in them; two of those seats were unopposed in 2008. While TX-15 looks competitive on paper, it’s a rematch of 2008, where Zamora only got 32% of the vote. That’s too much ground to make up. The 28th district also looks promising, but it’s heavily Hispanic and the white Underwood has little fundraising and little presence. Dr. Campbell has the same problem in the 25th district, albeit doing a bit better on the fundraising front. But when Doggett has never gone below 65% of the vote, I have a hard time seeing an insurgent victory here. I almost considered the 27th district to be a potentially competitive seat, but Ortiz is a long term Congressman in a heabily Hispanic district who’s been winning by 20 points recently. But if there is going to be a dark horse victory here, that’s the seat it will be.

Competitive seats – 1
23) Ciro Rodriguez (ST, HC) vs Francisco Canseco (R+4)
Quico Canseco is a perennial candidate, although this is his first primary victory. While that doesn’t spell good news, the fact is that he’s Hispanic (hey, it’s demographics; I hate it too…), wealthy, has a decent operation, and solid conservative credentials. He’s big on border control (which should be good for voters along the, y’know, border), and has been hitting Rodriguez on his health care vote and his lack of town hall meetings. A recent internal poll from Quico has him down only 48-45, which isn’t too bad. But the incumbent near 50 already? This one will clearly be difficult. But if Rodriguez can be successfully tied to Pelosi and Obama, and if Canseco can raise his name recognition, he could have a chance here.

Lean Takeover seats – 1
17) Chet Edwards (ST) vs Bill Flores (R+20)
Yeah, you saw that right. R+20. This is the most conservative district in the US that is held by a Dem. And Edwards has held it primarily by distancing himself from the national Dem party. Yet his luck can only last so long. In 2008, he won 53-45 against an underfunded challenger, and he now has a serious challenge from businessman Bill Flores, who’s done well with fundraising and in garnering name recognition. Flores, for his part, is planning on tying Edwards to Obama (who only received 32% of the vote here) and as someone not serious about fiscal discipline. And it may work out: a Republican poll conducted in May has Flores up 53-41. Yeah, it’s a partisan poll, but that’s some serious distance between the two. If not for Edwards’ past skills at winning here, I’d say this one would be in the bag.

Rep held seats – 20
Safe seats – 19
1) Louis Gohmert unopposed (R+21)
2) Ted Poe unopposed (R+13)
3) Sam Johnson vs John Lingenfelder (R+14)
4) Ralph Hall vs Valinda Hathcox (R+21)
5) Jeb Hensarling vs Tom Berry (R+17)
6) Joe Barton vs David Cozad (R+15)
7) John Culberson unopposed (R+17)
8) Kevin Brady vs Kent Hargett (R+25)
10) Michael McCaul vs Ted Ankrum (R+10)
11) Mike Conaway vs James Quillian (R+28)
12) Kay Granger vs Tracey Smith (R+16)
13) Mac Thornberry unopposed (R+29)
14) Ron Paul vs Robert Pruett (R+18)
19) Randy Neugebauer vs Andy Wilson (R+26)
21) Lamar Smith vs Lainey Melnick (R+14)
22) Pete Olson vs Kesha Rogers (R+13)
24) Kenny Marchant vs Alex Dunaj (R+11)
26) Michael Burgess vs Neil Durrance (R+13)
31) John Carter unopposed (R+14)

Considering that all the seats have a double digit advantage in PVI, you know there’s not much to be worried about. A few key races: Hall is 85 years old in the 4th district, which is really the only reason you might worry that he won’t make it. In the 10th, McCaul has not been winning by much recently (54-43 in 2008), but this race is a rematch of 2006 where he won by 15 points in a worse year for Reps. Pete Olsen’s a freshman in the 22nd, but he lucked out when the LaRouche advocate Kesha Rogers won her primary. She’ll get no support from the establishment, although maybe running on an “Impeach Obama” platform will help her… And while this is Ron Paul’s first election after gaining national attention and thus may get more skepticism, his opponent doesn’t seem like much. All told, none of the Dem opponents look like top tier candidates (none has raised more than $50k so far), so things should be safe all around.

Potentially competitive seats – 1
32) Pete Sessions vs Grier Raggio (R+8)
This appears to be the token race the Dems are interested in. In all fairness, they could have a decent shot if 2010 is similar to 2008. After all, the demographics are trending away from Republicans very quickly in this district, and it likely won’t be an R+8 seat much longer (if it still is). Raggio is a serious candidate, an attourney who has raised ~$150k so far, and has the backing of the Dem establishment. Sessions, meanwhile, won by 16 points last year to an underfunded and undercampaigned opponent. The Dems would dearly love to pick off the NRCC chair, but he has raised over $1 million, and he did win by 16 in a heavily Dem year. Frankly, I’m not worried.

Final Thoughts
Not much is happening in Texas this year. I think if the Republicans can take TX-17, we should all be happy. After all, it’s already a 20-12 advantage for Reps in a state with a few large cities and a huge Hispanic population. Needless to say, being far far away from the border (well, the Mexican border, that is), it’s hard for me to get a feel for how the immigration debate will affect the results. But I see no reason to disagree with the experts who see Texas as not changing too many incumbents.

Previous analyses
Illinois
Indiana

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House Elections in Indiana

May 16, 2010

In 2006, Indiana was the harbinger of doom for Republicans. With their polls closing early and three vulnerable Rep-held seats, you knew the election would be bad when all three of them fell. With any luck, 2010 can be the reverse. All three of those seats are once again competitive, and perhaps all three can switch back to Red. It’ll still be tough to do, but tough is not impossible. So while the Senate seat is the big draw here, keep your eye on the House as well.

The big question is whether or not the 2008 election was an anomaly or not. Indiana’s swing left was, if I recall correctly, the largest in the nation. How a state that went from a reliably Republican state surrounded by blue states to voting for Obama (this is despite the fact that he only got ~50% in the primary against Hillary) is beyond me. Even weirder, it happened at the same time that the state was reelecting Mitch Daniels (the mild-mannered version of Chris Christie) as governor by a wide margin. So is Indiana’s experiment with leftism over? We hope so.

During the primary, we had proof that the Tea Party is very active in the state, but unfortunately their presence can be summed up as “close but no cigar.” While Stutzman’s challenge of Coats was well known, two Republican incumbents in the House were nearly picked off, and would have been if the anti-incumbent votes weren’t split. Let us hope they don’t become discouraged by these results, and that there’s still enough enthusiasm in November.
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Illinois House Races 2010

May 10, 2010

Illinois looks like an exciting state in 2010, with both competitive Senate and Governor races. The grassroots may have been disappointed in the primary, but there really is no reason for that. There was no serious challenge to Kirk, and while the Tea Party candidate didn’t win the Governor spot, the winner is a solid conservative. In truth, this may bode well for downstream races. You have an unassuming moderate running against a shifty banker to bring the squishy Republicans out, and a downstate conservative to bring out the base. Not too bad. Unfortunately, all other state considerations seem to go against the Republicans. The State Party is one of the worst in the nation (they were, after all, the ones that all but conceded the Senate race to Obama 6 years ago), and the Dem incumbents are very well funded. Meanwhile, the question remains if the Dems will be motivated to insure no embarrassing losses in Obama’s home state. And yet, they were just as motivated to avoid embarrassment in the DNC Chair’s home state of VA in 2009, and look how that turned out.

The good news? Judging by how the primary went in downstream races, the Tea Party is rather active in Illinois. If that’s true, hopefully the grassroots enthusiasm will continue through November. I count 5 competitive House races here, with 4 of them being held by Dems.
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Lansing Tea Party

April 11, 2010

Ah, my first Tea Party, how exciting. We started off with hurling racist insults, then we started throwing bricks through windows and rioting, and ended the night with sacrificing a hippy to Zombie Reagan and singing hymns of praise to Hitler.

Or not.

In any case, a quick report of the night. The unfortunate side effect of planning your protests around a bus tour is that things can be late. Very late. The bus was about 90 minutes late, leading to a somewhat restless crowd waiting around and signing nomination forms for candidates or anti-health care amendments. My random guess on crowd size was about 1000; the LSJ claimed 800, and the Tea Party organizers said the police estimated 1500. Not quite as large as I would have expected.

To be honest, I was a bit disappointed with the lineup. The event seemed to be focused more on entertainment and less on activism. A few politicians gave talks, most notably Mike Cox and Mike Bouchard for governor, Brian Rooney running against Mark Schauer in the 7th district, and some state rep who’s name escapes me (hey, he wasn’t in my district, so I can’t vote for him). Only a few activists spoke as well. Instead, a lot of the time was taken by musicians singing Tea Party related songs. I don’t listen to country music and tend to segregate (wait, can I say “segregate” in a post about the Tea Party, or is that racist?) my entertainment and my politics, which led to that part being somewhat boring.

But besides that, it was fun. Much of the conversation revolved around Bart Stupak, and it was obviously celebratory. He was criticized, not necessarily for voting for the health care bill, but rather for sacrificing his principles for a worthless piece of paper. Integrity and principles were some of the common themes surrounding the day. It’s not surprising to see general distrust of politicians be a major theme; it’s long been my belief that we’ve reached a tipping point between joking about how bad Congress is and now believing it (see Gallup’s polls showing record anti-incumbency fervor as an example). Some attacking of the media and it’s dismissive attitude was prevalent as well, and there was also plenty of attacking of both parties (while still clearly favoring Republicans). I would have preferred a stronger warning to Republican candidates that they better walk the walk if they do get elected, but whatever. Both national and local politics were emphasized along with local activism, which was quite useful. And thankfully, the weather was nice.

A few picks follow:
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Why Bayh’s goodbye makes Pelosi cry

February 15, 2010

OK, quick recap for those who have been living under a rock (then how did you end up here?!?). Sen. Evan Bayh (D-IN) announced today that he would not seek reelection, basically because he’s sick of Congress (can’t argue with him there). He seemed likely to win reelection, although being a Dem in a red state this year the Reps had a decent shot at picking it up. With his exit, there’s a better road to hitting 50 seats for the Republican party, something that’s not going to make the Dems happy. Even weirder, the deadline for filing signatures to get on the primary ballot is tomorrow, and it appears likely that there will be no one on for the Dems*. Assuming that’s the case**, the Dems will hold a caucus to choose their candidate.

Now, let’s look at this from a Dem’s perspective. This isn’t necessarily a lost cause for them like, say, Arkansas or N Dakota is. After all, the Rep candidate is going to be either a has been (Coats), a guy who can’t campaign (Hostetler), or a nobody (Stutzman). Meanwhile, they’d get to hand pick their candidate. And while some on the Right are claiming that the caucus format would lead to a loony Lefty getting nominated, that’s not really the case. The people doing the nomination will be smart, politically active, motivated folks, and they’ll choose someone who’s at least viable. To the Dem perspective, this is still a winnable seat. And so they will choose a candidate who gives them a good chance to win.
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Why I like Scott Brown

January 16, 2010

Scott Brown doesn’t seem to be your typical politician. Well, let’s face it, he’s a Republican running for Senator in Massachusetts, and might actually win. That’s bizarre enough. But he gave an interview with Real Clear Politics and said something that most politicians probably wish they could say or actually do say at times, but I never believe them. Maybe I’m naive, but I actually do believe Mr Brown here.

I don’t want to be beholden to anybody. I don’t owe anybody anything. Martha Coakley is in lock-step with all the special interests, she’s part of the Democratic machine in Massachusetts. And she’ll be the same way in Washington.

One of the things that’s made me an effective legislator in a highly and heavily-controlled Democrat area is to look at each bill on its own merits. I’ve never been anybody whose vote can be taken for granted. People need to earn my vote. If it’s a good piece of legislation that is a Democrat piece and is good for my state, and it makes sense for the people of the United States, then it’s possible I’ll support it. But for anyone to think that I’m going to be in lock-step with anybody, I think they’re mistaken.

This is what we need in Washington. It’s easy to say no when the other party is in power. But as Evan Bayh and Ben Nelson and Blanche Lincoln proved, it’s not so easy when your party is in power. It’s not so easy when you’re being pressured to toe the line on something that’s just a bad idea in general and has flaws galore in it, but the President in your party really really wants it. The Democrats aren’t doing it now, and the Republicans didn’t do it from 2001-2006. It’s why we hate both parties. So will Scott Brown be one to buck the trend?

Now obviously, he’s from Massachusetts. Obviously, he’s going to have positions I don’t like. Obviously he’s not going to vote the way I want him to all of the time. But that doesn’t mean he’ll be the type of moderate that we all hate. Voting against the party doesn’t mean you have to do it Snowe or Graham style, where you go for a sense of bipartisanship to make yourself look better to the “moderates”. When you do that, you’re basically saying you’re unprincipled, and are merely calculating how to vote to preserve the correct image. Instead, we need people in Washington who’ll buck their party when the party has a bad idea.

Assuming Brown wins (and it’s looking more and more likely), he has absolutely no incentive to be beholden to any ideology, any party leaders. He’s from Massachusetts, it’s not like he’ll be in the Senate for long. Likely he’ll be tossed out in 2012, and there’s nothing the RNC can do to stop it. So what Brown said is absolutely correct; what does he owe them? He’ll caucus with them, vote no on health care, but what else? And, since he’ll likely be thrown out in 2012, what does he owe the voters? I know that sounds bad, but I’m referring to image here. He doesn’t need to pretend to be anything to be reelected.

The only way to get reelected in 2012 is the same thing that may be catapulting himself to the Senate in the first place: act with complete integrity.

Everything about Brown’s campaign so far has been positive, honest, and forthright. He hasn’t run from views that may be unpopular, nor has he married himself completely to the conservative cause. Hence we get this silly confusion among the left, calling him a Tea Party Republican in one breath and a liberal Republican the next. Instead, he speaks his mind, and says he wants to do what’s best. He’s a Republican, yes, but an independent Republican. For once, people can look past the label, past the partisanship, and choose based on the person himself. And they like him, even the Democrats. And so people flock to him. Huge crowds of people, it looks like.

It’s the only explanation for why he’s in the lead. We trust him. We believe he’ll do what he thinks is right for the country. He doesn’t seem like a politician. It’s a perfect contrast with his opponent, who is as fake and nasty and beholden to political interests as they come (see Dan Riehl for an excellent take on Martha Coakley). And if there’s one thing that people are absolutely fed up with, it’s the politicians. Obama was able to pretend he was different, and so he won handily. Bob McDonnel said he was different, and he won a landslide. We don’t want people that will agree with us all the time; we know that’s impossible. Instead, we want people we can trust.

Maybe I’m crazy, but I trust Scott Brown to do what is best. And because of that, I can forgive the times I disagree with him.


40 in 2010: WV-01

January 4, 2010

There’s a lot of talk about the realignment shift, wherein conservative southern Democrats turn Republican while liberal northeast Republicans turn Democrats. Well, the liberal northeast Republicans have turned, but the southern Democrats are still hesitating. So will Nancy Pelosi be the one to finally be the catalyst to get a southern revolution? Who knows. But sometimes you feel there’s a perfect storm brewing, and if it doesn’t happen now, it never will. That’s probably not the case for all districts, but it just might be the case in West Virginia.

West Virginia 01
Location: The northern third of the state. It doesn’t contain Charleston or any other large cities, but does include WV University. It’s fairly rural, a bit blue-collar-ish, almost purely white, and supposedly fairly conservative.
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