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November 16th, 2012:

Friday random ten: For the ladies, part 6

More ladies’ names as song titles. Let’s get to it:

1. Margot Fonteyn – Eddie From Ohio
2. Mari Mac – Great Big Sea
3. Marie – Randy Newman
4. Mary Ann – Ben Arthur
5. Minnie The Moocher – from “The Cotton Club”
6. Miss Amanda Rae – Clandestine
7. Miss Fritchie – Eddie From Ohio
8. Miss Kate Rusby – Battlefield Band
9. Miss P – The Rogues
10. Miss Shepherd – Silly Wizard

Kind of formal this week. I may or may not skip this series next Friday, we’ll see if I’m inspired to do something else or not. In any event, there’s still more to come in later weeks.

Precinct analysis: Sadler v Noriega and Sadler v Obama

Day Two of precinct analysis, in which we take a look at the Senate results. As I did with the Presidential results, I’m going to compare the candidates from this year to the candidates from 2008.

Dist Cruz Sadler Cornyn Noriega ======================================== HD126 63.86% 36.14% 62.26% 37.74% HD127 70.57% 29.43% 67.93% 32.07% HD128 72.95% 27.05% 66.87% 33.13% HD129 65.92% 34.08% 61.64% 38.36% HD130 77.23% 22.77% 74.54% 26.46% HD131 16.84% 83.16% 17.37% 82.63% HD132 60.83% 39.17% 60.02% 39.98% HD133 68.91% 31.09% 67.19% 32.81% HD134 57.28% 42.72% 55.21% 44.79% HD135 60.51% 39.49% 61.04% 38.99% HD137 36.31% 63.69% 36.85% 63.15% HD138 61.32% 38.68% 59.72% 40.28% HD139 24.74% 75.26% 23.36% 76.64% HD140 31.36% 68.64% 28.00% 72.00% HD141 13.22% 86.78% 14.11% 85.89% HD142 23.00% 77.00% 20.27% 79.73% HD143 33.60% 66.40% 28.89% 71.11% HD144 49.50% 50.50% 45.22% 54.78% HD145 41.21% 58.79% 34.99% 65.01% HD146 21.07% 78.93% 21.56% 78.44% HD147 21.64% 78.36% 18.50% 81.50% HD148 43.49% 56.51% 38.34% 61.66% HD149 43.47% 56.53% 43.88% 56.12% HD150 69.92% 30.08% 67.33% 32.67%

As before, I’m omitting the third party candidates and just giving the two-party percentages. Even with that, this isn’t a perfect comparison, since the candidates are different. Rick Noriega, running in a year with maximal Democratic turnout, scored a majority of the vote in the county, while Paul Sadler trailed Ted Cruz. Also, while Noriega wasn’t exactly swimming in campaign cash, he did raise over $4 million in his race, or about ten times what Sadler collected. Noriega had actual staffers on his campaign, Sadler was basically a one-man show. As such, one should expect better performance from Noriega overall; among other things, Noriega only lost about 7000 votes from Obama’s total, while the lesser-known Sadler dropped 23,000 votes from Obama. Still, it’s interesting to see the range of percentages in the Latino districts, to compare the two Latino candidates, one from each party. All things considered, Cruz didn’t do that much better than John Cornyn. His name may have given him a boost in the Latino areas, but the overall decline in Latino support for Republicans was a drag on that.

But how much of a boost did Cruz get? The number we’ve heard tossed around is six percent, so let’s compare Sadler’s share of the Obama vote to Cruz’s share of the Romney vote:

Dist Sadler Obama Ratio ================================ CD29 64.73% 66.60% 0.97 SD06 65.26% 67.14% 0.97 HD140 68.64% 70.74% 0.97 HD143 66.40% 67.82% 0.98 HD144 50.50% 51.47% 0.98 HD145 58.79% 61.13% 0.96 HD148 56.51% 57.92% 0.98 Dist Cruz Romney Ratio ================================ CD29 35.27% 33.40% 1.06 SD06 34.74% 32.86% 1.06 HD140 31.36% 29.26% 1.07 HD143 33.60% 32.18% 1.04 HD144 49.50% 48.53% 1.02 HD145 41.21% 38.87% 1.06 HD148 43.49% 42.08% 1.03

So Sadler got between 96 and 98 percent of Obama’s vote, while Cruz improved on Romney by two to seven percent. A six percent boost is therefore plausible, but notice what I’ve done here: I’ve compared percentages, not raw vote totals. This actually makes it look better for Cruz, for two reasons. One is that the sheer number of votes is fairly small. Add up all the votes in the five State Rep districts above (CD29 and SD06 largely overlap those districts, so including them would double- and triple-count a lot of votes) and you get the following:

Romney 55,839 votes, Obama 89,709 votes, meaning Romney got 38.36% of the vote overall.
Cruz 56,605 votes, Sadler 84,891 voters, which is 40.00% for Cruz.

Putting it another way, Cruz’s percentage was 4.29% better than Romney’s, but his vote total was only 1.37% better. While Cruz clearly picked up some Obama voters, what largely drove his improvement over Romney in percentage of the vote was undervoting on the Democratic side. It’s fair to blame some of this on Sadler’s lack of finances, though how much is hard to say. Still, my point is that depending on how you look at it, Cruz’s improvement on Romney is pretty modest, at least in Harris County.

You may be looking at those percentages above and thinking “Hey, these guys did pretty well in Latino areas. I thought Republicans were supposed to have sucked wind this cycle with Latinos.” Remember that this kind of analysis is a very blunt instrument. There’s still a lot of non-Latino voters in these districts, and for what it’s worth the most heavily Latino district (HD140) is the one where Cruz and Romney did the worst. You can see population and voting age population (VAP) totals for each district here, but even that only tells you so much since it doesn’t say what the citizen voting age population (CVAP) is, and of course we don’t know what the Latino versus non-Latino turnout in each district was. This is what I’ve got to work with, so this is what I can tell you.

One last point to make is that Cruz actually got more votes than Romney in nearly all of the Democratic state rep districts:

Dist Cruz Romney Ratio ================================ HD131 7,144 6,851 1.04 HD137 8,488 8,468 1.00 HD139 12,382 12,138 1.02 HD140 7,160 6,846 1.05 HD141 4,949 4,617 1.07 HD142 9,366 9,194 1.02 HD143 9,916 9,771 1.01 HD145 11,674 11,374 1.03 HD146 10,261 10,112 1.01 HD147 11,340 11,107 1.02 HD148 16,325 16,268 1.00 Total 109,005 106,746 1.02

Cruz trailed Romney in vote totals in HDs 144 and 149. Overall, Cruz got 2.11% more votes than Romney in these Democratic districts. He did not lead Romney in any Republican district. It should be noted that while the others listed here aren’t officially “Latino” districts, Latinos comprise a majority of the VAP in HD137 and a significant minority in all the others, at least 27% in each case. Again, though, we’re talking VAP and not CVAP, so tread carefully. We can only guess about who the Obama/Cruz voters were and why they chose to split the ticket in that fashion.

That’s all for today. More on these and other races next week and after Thanksgiving.

On peeing in a cup

Another solution in search of a problem from the Republican leadership.

Out of the more than 250 bills filed Monday, the first possible day to file legislation for the 83rd session, one measure — concerning drug testing for welfare applicants — is already drawing the support of the state’s top lawmakers and the criticism of civil liberties advocates.

Senate Bill 11 would require applicants to the Texas Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program to undergo a drug test. If applicants fail the test, they would not be eligible to apply again for a full year, unless they attended a substance abuse treatment program. The bill was written by state Sen. Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound, and several other Republican lawmakers.

“This will help prevent tax dollars from going into the pockets of drug abusers,” Gov. Rick Perry said Tuesday at a news conference. He said that the goal of the bill is to “empower every Texan to reach their potential,” because “being on drugs makes it harder to begin the journey to independence.”

“It is a legitimate function of government to help people that are not able to help themselves,” added Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst. He said that because “virtually every” business he has encountered uses random drug testing on employees, it’s a good idea for the state and will lead to reduced unemployment by proving to employers that the people they are hiring have been certified by the state as drug-free.

“We owe it to all Texans to structure our welfare and unemployment programs in a way that guarantees that recipients are serious about getting back to work,” he said.

“This is not all about punishment,” Perry added. “This is also an incentive to get people off of these drugs.”

But critics of the bill say the bill is needlessly punitive and will mainly harm innocent children, whose parents are found to have even a minor amount of drugs. “The purpose of TANF was really to help children,” said Terri Burke, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union in Texas. “If you don’t give the moms the money, then the children lose out.”

She pointed specifically to the bill’s provision that would require the Texas Health and Human Services Commission to report applicants with drug abuse problems to Child Protective Services. “Now we’re going to take the child of a parent who has smoked a couple of joints and give them to CPS,” she said. “If there’s a genuine concern about drug abuse, let’s do something about it. There’s no evidence that poor people abuse drugs more than other folks, but we keep coming up with bills that target poor people.”

“Adding insult to injury,” Jim Harrington, director of the Texas Civil Rights Project, said in a press release, “is that Perry would pay for the drug testing out of the very TANF funds that should go to provide assistance to people. In other words, he’s taking about $350,000 worth food and assistance from all families from the general TANF grant just to try to find a few violators. This is simply callous and perverse.”

I don’t have much to say that hasn’t already been said by Lisa Falkenberg, Burka, Jason Stanford, BOR, Stace, or EoW. I’m particularly fond of Rep. Joe Deshotel’s response, noted in that BOR post, which was a call to add a drug test requirement to the application to run for state office in Texas. Lord knows, for the amount we spend on Rick Perry’s travel detail, we ought to get some assurance he’s not taking the opportunity to toke up while out on the road.

All other concerns aside, the bottom line is that this has been done in other states, most notably Florida, and there were no savings to be had and very few users getting caught. Burka astutely noted the parallel to the failed program of steroid testing for high school athletes, another expensive way for the state to (if you’ll pardon the expression) piss its money away chasing something that wasn’t there in the first place. For a gang that likes to rhapsodize about getting government out of people’s lives, they sure sing a different tune when it comes to the lives of people they don’t like.

Will health insurance exchanges be on the Lege’s agenda?

The deadline was today for states to decide what they want to do about implementing health insurance exchanges.

It's constitutional - deal with it

At least eight Republican governors vowed not to implement the health-care law until after the November election. “I will make that decision number one after the election,” Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley told a local television station in September.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said in late October, “I’ll make decisions when I have to.”

In the wake of President Obama’s reelection, and with the Affordable Care Act’s future secured, Republican-led states are scrambling to figure out what comes next for the law they squarely oppose.

“The folks who need to restrategize at this point are going to be the Republican governors, for the most part,” says Cheryl Smith, a director at Leavitt Partners, the health consulting firm founded by former Health and Human Services Secretary Michael Leavitt.

“They can’t just say no anymore. They have to accept that the Supreme Court ruling was what it was, and that the status quo is not sustainable.”

What, exactly, happens next is far from clear. States face a Nov. 16 deadline to inform Health and Human Services. That’s when they need to decide what they’ll do with their health exchange, a new insurance marketplace that each state will have in 2014.

I say it was today, because it’s now been postponed till January 1. Be that as it may, I don’t expect Rick Perry to accept anything that doesn’t fit into his worldview. It should be noted that there’s a decent argument for letting the feds do it.

Just for a minute, put yourself in the shoes of a Republican governor who has done very little to prepare for the health-care law. You think Obamacare’s the wrong direction for America and see public opinion data suggesting that half of the country agrees with you.

You waited out the Supreme Court decision, hoping they’d overturn the law, then the election, hoping the law would get repealed, and, all of a sudden, the law is here to stay and you barely have any time to implement it.

You could slap together a health insurance exchange at warp speed, hiring all the consultants you can find in the next few weeks. This decision is risky: If the health insurance exchange malfunctions (and it might, given the time constraints), the blame lands squarely at your feet. It’s also time- and energy-consuming.

[…]

Option two is leave the task to the federal government. They already promised that they’ll make sure every state has an insurance exchange standing by Jan. 1, 2014. They have a huge interest in making sure these exchanges work really, really well: This is, after all, the Obama administration’s signature legislative achievement.

We don’t quite know how well the federal exchange will work, but that’s almost irrelevant to a governor. If it functions really well, then the health law rolls out smoothly. Perhaps the state even takes control of the exchange within a year or two. If it bombs, the finger-pointing is directed toward the federal government — and not at the governor.

To an extent, Rick Perry and his crew are between a rock and a hard place, but I can’t honestly see them taking any proactive step to implement Obamacare even if the alternative is to invite the feds in to do it for them. Perry said he would not create an exchange after SCOTUS handed down its ruling, and he reaffirmed that stance yesterday. Still, I don’t think it matters. We’re too far behind on it already, and the Lege has plenty of other things on its plate. While I’m sure someone will file a bill to create an exchange, I’ll be very, very surprised if it even gets a committee hearing.

Not on the Ben Hall bandwagon

Ouch.

Ben Hall

Ben Hall is talking about running for mayor — again.

He won’t do it, and if he does do it, he won’t win, says one local African-American political consultant.

Bethel Nathan is a veteran of local politics. His recent clients include Elaine Palmer, who last week won the general election for the 215th District Court after knocking off an incumbent in the Democratic primary.

Hall has no moment of historic import going for him, Nathan explains.

“What’s the cry going to be? ‘Elect one of us?’” Nathan asked. “We already elected one of us,” Lee Brown, who served as mayor from 1998 to 2003.

[…]

Nathan said he believes local voters essentially take turns with their firsts as mayor. First there was the first female, Kathy Whitmire, in the 1980s and 1990s. Then there was Brown. Now, Mayor Annise Parker is the city’s first gay mayor. There has not been a Hispanic mayor of Houston.

“I think a Hispanic will get to be mayor of Houston before another African-American gets it,” Nathan said.

“There’s nothing emotional that’s driving me to turn out in mass numbers for Ben Hall,” Nathan said. “The only thing Ben Hall does is take African-American votes from Annise Parker and make it possible for a white conservative” to win.

Hall hasn’t made his announcement yet, so who knows what he’ll do. This probably isn’t the kind of greeting for that announcement he would have wanted. I’m just guessing.