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October 29th, 2012:

Early voting, one week in

We have completed one full week of early voting, and through Sunday a total of 362,827 people had voted in person, with an additional 53,131 ballot being cast by mail, for a grand total of 415,958. The updated spreadsheet is here for your perusal. For comparison, there were 314,252 in person ballots cast through Sunday, 2008, so this year represents a 15.5% increase in non-absentee early votes. Another way to look at it is that there were 1,892,65registered voters in 2008, and this year there are 2,003,436 registered voters, which is 5.8% more. If the increase in early voting turnout were driven entirely by the increase in voter registration, we would have had 332,479 early votes by now. The actual total of 362,827 is therefore an increase of 9.1% over what might have been expected.

Again, all this suggest what we are seeing is the new normal. The totals are high-water marks, but they’re not a quantum leap like what we saw in 2008. It’s not out of the question to me that we could see the pace of early voting slack off a bit next week, with 2012 numbers losing some of their lead over 2008 numbers. I’m confident that 2012 will have more early voting, even accounting for registration growth, but the percentage margin may be less at the end of this week than it is right now. Just a feeling, I have no objective evidence for this. We’ll see.

One more thing to talk about is not just how many people are voting early, but which people are voting early. In 2004, 45.5% of all straight-ticket Republican votes and 43.8% of George W. Bush’s votes were cast early, while 40.7% of both straight-ticket Democratic votes and John Kerry’s votes were cast early. In 2008, those numbers were 61.6% of straight-ticket Republican votes and 59.4% of John McCain’s votes, and 66.6% of straight-ticket Democratic votes and 66.4% of Barack Obama’s votes were early. I suspect in the end that the share of each party’s early votes will be about the same, and at least as high as the Democratic share was in 2008. And, as foolish as it is to make predictions this far out, I suspect we’ll see the same sort of behavior in 2016.

Lampson-mentum

I always thought that with Nick Lampson in the race, CD14 would be competitive. Looks like national perception is catching up to that belief.

Nick Lampson

Texas Republicans are ringing the alarm over a House race that had seemed a safe bet to remain Republican.

The reason for worry is the third-quarter fundraising and spending totals that recently came to light in the race for Texas’ 14th district. Former Rep. Nick Lampson (D) both outraised and has far more in cash on hand than the favorite to win the seat, state Rep. Randy Weber (R).

“I’d say there is a panic button that somebody, somewhere is hitting,” a Texas GOP consultant said.

Lampson outraised Weber by about $50,000 in the third quarter, but the greater concern is that the Democrat had about $422,000 in cash on hand, while Weber only had $55,000.

Late last week there was a rally with Bill Clinton to get out to vote for Lampson, and a Chron overview of the race that calls it a tossup as well. Overall, Lampson and Weber have raised about the same total amount for the cycle, though Weber had to raise a fair amount of that for the primary. A recent poll released by the Lampson campaign showed him trailing by three, but with a majority among voters who were already familiar with him, and his campaign had not yet begun its main advertising push. That’s where the cash-on-hand disparity, and the concern by Republicans about it, come into play. Given the demographics of this district, it’s not clear to me that Lampson does any better in a high-turnout Presidential year than he would in a lower-turnout off year, but I do agree with Greg that if Lampson can run up the score in the Beaumont area, he can win. Here’s hoping.

The Heights Wal-Mart is now open

On the plus side, the world did not come to an end. On the minus side, it’s still a lousy location for a Wal-Mart and a giant missed opportunity for better, more urban-oriented development.

For nearly 2½ years, Heights-area residents fought against one of the largest corporations in the world, employing yard signs, meeting with City Council members, even filing a lawsuit. It was an intense emotional effort to stop Walmart from opening a store just outside the Heights, its first inside Loop 610.

In the end, Walmart won. Its 153,000-square-foot Supercenter opened Friday at Yale and Koehler streets.

Those living nearby have mixed feelings about the store, ranging from anger to apathy, with some just waiting to see if any of the naysayers’ concerns come to fruition.

But for some opponents, the fight is far from lost. They say their cause always extended beyond just stopping the development of the Walmart.

“It was if you’re going to develop the neighborhood, do it right,” said Rob Task, president of Responsible Urban Development for Houston, a nonprofit born from the controversy over the Supercenter.

This earlier Chron story and The Leader have more on what’s on the inside of this store, and on the Studemont Kroger a mile or so due east that opened the same day. I can’t say I noticed a difference in traffic on Studemont on Friday, but it’s been awful around there for some time now, so it’s hard to say how much worse it could get. We’ll never know what could have been here, we can just hope that what we got isn’t as bad as we’ve feared it will be.

Endorsement watch: The scoreboard for Sadler

More endorsements for Paul Sadler from the past week. Here’s the El Paso Times:

Paul Sadler

We need a U.S. senator who will work on border issues with our members of Congress in Dists. 16 and 23. We are endorsing Democrats Beto O’Rourke and Pete Gallego in those districts, respectively.

We like that Sadler, since leaving the Texas Legislature in 2002, has worked to promote clean and affordable energy. In our case, that would be solar energy. We have more than 300 days of bright sunlight each year and should be one of the nation’s hot spots for developing new methods to create the renewable energy that can be harnessed from the sun.

Sadler is a strong advocate for U.S. military veterans, of which there are some 70,000 in this immediate area.

We believe Sadler will work with our elected congressmen to bring a full-fledged VA hospital to El Paso. Sadler advocates increased VA funding.

We also like Sadler’s views on health care. He staunchly opposes efforts to allow insurance companies to deny coverage based on pre-existing conditions and to drop policy holders who get sick. He says politicians should stay out of women’s health care.

A strong El Paso vote for Paul Sadler will be a loud vote heard throughout Texas.

We are an important part of this large state, and we believe Paul Sadler is the best choice to carry our message in the U.S. Senate.

And the San Angelo Standard-Times:

If there was a “golden era” of Texas politics, it was the 1990s, when the two major political parties shared power and smart, competent leaders worked cooperatively to solve problems.

One of the key players of that time was Paul Sadler. A Democrat from Henderson, in East Texas, he joined former San Angelo state Rep. Rob Junell and other lawmakers who set aside party and ideological chest-beating and tackled big issues in serious fashion. They were equally committed under Democratic Gov. Ann Richards and Republican Gov. George W. Bush.

That record leads the Standard-Times editorial board to recommend Sadler as the next U.S. senator from Texas.

We are impressed with Republican Ted Cruz’s rise to prominence and count his primary win over Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst as one of the most remarkable upsets in Texas political history. However, the tone of his campaign has been combative and divisive, and precisely the opposite is needed now in the U.S. Senate.

I’m not quite that misty-eyed about the 90s in Texas politics, but whatever works for you. The EPT endorsement was noted by Texas Monthly, which observed that Sadler was defeating Cruz in newspaper endorsements around the state; they quoted this post of mine in making that observation. The San Angelo endorsement came after they posted, as did another ringing recommendation of Sadler by the better-late-than-never Austin American-Statesman.

Since his primary runoff victory over Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, Republicans have considered Ted Cruz a rising star in national politics. With the growing adoration have come guest spots on news talk shows and a prime-time speech at the Republican National Convention.

This is all well and good for Cruz, but Texas needs a capable legislator. And in the race to replace retiring Republican Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, Democrat Paul Sadler is the candidate with the impressive legislative record. He’s our choice for U.S. Senate.

[…]

We endorsed Cruz over Dewhurst in the Republican primary because we found his passion for policy and his willingness to engage on the issues refreshing. Cruz is sharp; he keeps you on your toes. We respect his role in the debate over the size and power of the federal government. But we disagree with him on many issues.

And Cruz, the state’s former solicitor general who served in the George W. Bush administration, has no experience as a legislator. Unlike Sadler, Cruz knows little about the nuts and bolts of writing and negotiating legislation. Sadler, however, understands that reaching compromise on bills involves difficult give-and-take work. If Washington is to move past the obstruction of the past several years, compromise cannot take place when it is defined as Cruz defines it: only when the other side sees things your way.

Cruz is ambitious. There is nothing wrong with ambition, but Texas doesn’t need a senator who will stick to extremes to win invitations to the Sunday morning talk shows. We need a senator whose best work takes place on Capitol Hill paying attention to the hard details that go into representing the needs of a growing state and strengthening our nation’s future. We need a legislator with experience and skill, one who will seek out responsible, pragmatic solutions to the state’s and nation’s problems.

We therefore recommend Paul Sadler for U.S. Senate.

Not too shabby. All this stands in sharp contrast to the Chron’s limp and misguided endorsement of Cruz, which they base on the hope he will be transformed by the Magic Bipartisanship Fairy into something he isn’t. I’ll say again, all things considered, this is a strong statement of just how outside the mainstream Cruz really is.