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August 6th, 2013:

Yet another wacky poll about Latino voting in Texas

Just when I thought I was out…they pull me back in.

Not Ted Cruz

Not Ted Cruz

Sen. Ted Cruz lost the Hispanic vote in Texas by about 20 percentage points, but out-performed GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney, according to post-2012 election polling shared with the Washington Examiner.

Cruz defeated Democrat Paul Sadler last November by nearly 16 percentage points on his way to garnering 56.5 percent of the vote. Romney bested Obama by nearly 17 percentage points while garnering 57.2 percent of the vote. But a survey taken about six weeks after the election and made available by the Republican senator’s political team, shows Hispanics favored Sadler over Cruz 60 percent to 40 percent and Obama over Romney 59 percent to 33 percent.

The survey offers a unique window into voting patterns of Hispanics, the nation’s fastest growing voting bloc, in conservative-leaning Texas, where exit polling is hard to come by given its reliable Republican voting record in statewide races and the high cost of gathering data in such a large state. With Cruz, son of a Cuban immigrant, exploring a 2016 presidential run, the poll could shed light on how the senator compares with other Republicans when it comes to winning Hispanic votes.

[…]

The poll, conducted by Cruz pollster Wilson Perkins Allen Opinion Research, surveyed 601 Texas Hispanics who voted in the 2012 general election, and has an margin of error of 4 percentage points.

I don’t know if this horse is dead yet, but if it isn’t it’s definitely in the ICU. A few basic observations, which I will try to keep fresh, since even I’m getting tired of this:

– There’s no polling data available for inspection, so it’s that much harder to do any intelligent analysis of this. Wilson Perkins did a Presidential poll in September and released all their data for it, so it’s not like they have a track record of secrecy. Yes, I know, polls commissioned by candidates/officeholders often have proprietary information in them, but they’re also often released in this manner to advance an argument. Mike Baselice does this a lot. I’m not saying this makes a poll automatically suspect, but you are ultimately taking the pollster’s word for it, and when a pollster has been hired by a partisan, that partisan has an interest in what is taken away from the information provided. Caveat emptor, is what I’m saying.

– That claim that the Latino vote divided 60-40 between Cruz and Sadler is suspicious for several reasons. For one, I’ve never seen a poll result where the totals for two candidates added up to 100%. Even in a runoff situation, there will be some “don’t know” and “refused/no answer” type responses. In addition, as we have seen many times before, the percentage of people who have expressed a preference in the Cruz/Sadler race was considerably less than the percentage that expressed a preference in Romney/Obama. It beggars belief that literally everyone picked either Cruz or Sadler. This number alone makes me want to disregard the entire poll.

– As I have pointed out before, claims about Latino voting in Texas can be checked against actual results, and deviations from the Latino Decisions poll last November can generally be shown to be suspect based on that. It’s also worth noting that claims about a certain level of preference for Latino voters affects what the numbers would have to be for Anglo voters as well. For example, if you assume that the racial/ethnic breakdown in Texas was 70% Anglo, 20% Latino, and 10% African-American, then to say Ted Cruz got 40% of the Latino vote implies he must have gotten about 68% of the Anglo vote in order to get 56.5% of the vote overall. Note that back in September, Wilson Perkins claimed that Mitt Romney was polling at 77% among Anglo voters in Texas. How do they explain that disparity? Everyone agrees that Cruz did a little better than Romney did among Latino voters in Texas, which therefore implies that Romney did a little better than Cruz among Anglo voters – you can see that in the data if you compare the county by county results for each – but not nine points better. Which one of their polls would Wilson Perkins say was inaccurate?

– It’s not quite as easy to draw conclusions about the Anglo vote in Texas from precinct or county results, but a look at the most Anglo State Rep districts in Texas suggests that Cruz did better than 68% overall among that demographic:

Dist Anglo% Cruz Sadler Cruz% Sadler% ================================================ 2 81.4 43,359 13,782 73.9% 23.5% 19 80.7 48,200 15,964 73.4% 24.3% 21 80.0 46,050 17,057 71.5% 26.5% 58 80.4 41,720 12,225 75.0% 22.2% 60 84.7 51,821 11,081 80.1% 17.1% 61 85.8 54,602 11,591 80.2% 17.0% 62 82.2 38,182 14,041 70.8% 26.1% 98 80.9 56,907 17,802 73.9% 23.1%

You get into fuzzy math very quickly, so I don’t want to spend much time on this. The Anglo% is Voting Age Population, which is likely to be less than Citizen Voting Age Population, and is also likely to be less than the share of the actual electorate. Unlike Latinos, who voted fairly consistently for Democrats, there are a couple of places in the state that are heavily Anglo but not very Republican – specifically, much of Austin and some place in Houston like Montrose and The Heights. HD48, for example, is 69.5% Anglo VAP, but voted only 37.9% for Cruz. (See the election numbers here and population figures here.) There’s also a lot more Anglo voters than there are Latino voters, so you can’t get nearly as big a total by looking at the most heavily Anglo districts. All that said, there’s nothing here to suggest Cruz got only 68% of the Anglo vote, and as such there’s nothing here to suggest he got as much as 40% of the Latino vote.

– Along the same lines as above, the cited figure of 32% Latino support for Romney is reasonably in line with other data, and implies a level of Anglo support in the 71-72% range, which strikes me as being plausible. I could buy 35% for Cruz – bearing in mind that some number of people thought Cruz was the Democrat in the race – but 40% is just a stretch. I’ll say it again: Show me the math if you want me to believe. Link via Burka.

Davis narrows her choices

Governor or re-election, no other options.

Sen. Wendy Davis

Sen. Wendy Davis

State Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, said Monday that she will either run for re-election or for Texas governor, and that she’s working hard to make her decision.

Speaking at a National Press Club luncheon, Davis said those were the only two options, and that she’s not considering joining the lieutenant governor’s race. She did not indicate when she’ll make up her mind.

“People do feel we need a change from the very fractured, very partisan leadership we’re seeing in Texas right now,” she said.

[…]

In her speech on Monday, Davis painted Texas Republicans as being driven by party politics, criticizing Perry in particular for his job-luring trips to New York and California and his veto of equal work-equal pay legislation. Davis tried to portray herself as above party interests, saying she had worked on “issues people don’t usually associate with Democrats” such as transportation and water funding.

“I will seek common ground because we must,” Davis said. “But sometimes you have to take a stand on sacred ground.”

Davis also spoke out against the restrictions on abortion clinics lawmakers recently passed and previous cuts to family planning in Texas, saying she relied on free and low-cost women’s health care as a young woman. “Partisan legislation on top of years of significant budget cuts has cut that access for tens of thousands of women across the state,” she said.

Following her address, Matt Angle, a senior strategist for the Davis campaign, said he expects her to make a decision on her political future before Labor Day.

There had been some speculation that perhaps Lite Guv was a better spot for Davis, since no one has as loaded a campaign warchest as Greg Abbott, and Davis would likely get to go up against either David Dewhurst or Dan Patrick, both of whom would be perfect foils for her. I thought there was some merit to that, but it not surprisingly generated some pushback, most eloquently from Harold Cook. I don’t know if the Davis-for-Lite-Guv thing was ever an actual thing or just something that we talking heads dreamed up to keep ourselves busy in between actual bits of news – and hey, I am fully aware of my own role in this – but whatever the case, it ain’t a thing now. I wish Sen. Davis all the best in making up her mind, and I do not envy her that choice one bit. Texpatriate and Texas Leftist have more.

And that’s a wrap on Special Session 3

Hallelujah.

Finally no more sequels

The Texas Legislature adjourned its third special session since May on Monday night after passing a measure estimated to increase transportation funding by $1.2 billion annually if Texas voters approve it next year.

“Let’s adjourn this mutha,” said state Sen. John Whitmire, D-Houston, after the Senate had sent House Bill 1 back over to the lower chamber for final passage.

It was the third try by lawmakers since the end of the regular session to pass a measure to boost funding for the cash-strapped Texas Department of Transportation without raising taxes or fees.

Gov. Rick Perry praised both chambers for “increasing funding for transportation without raising taxes, which sends an incredibly strong message that Texas is committed to keeping the wheels of commerce turning, while protecting taxpayers.”

[…]

The latest version is estimated to raise $1.2 billion a year for TxDOT, a fraction of the more than $4 billion TxDOT has said it needs in additional annual funding to maintain current congestion levels as the state’s population grows.

The plan now requires the Legislature to vote in 2025 to continue the diversion or it would stop. It also requires TxDOT to find $100 million in “efficiencies” over the 2014-15 biennium and put that money toward paying the agency’s multibillion-dollar debt.

“They’re a $20 billion a year agency and a lot of us believe that they can tighten the belt,” said state Rep. Joe Pickett, D-El Paso and the author of HB 1.

A repeated sticking point on the plan has been whether and how to create some sort of minimum balance, or floor, for the Rainy Day Fund’s balance below which tax revenue could not be diverted to transportation. The version passed by both chambers Monday will require a select joint committee of legislators to recommend a minimum balance before each regular legislative session. Then members of both chambers will be given a chance to vote in favor of that minimum balance or a different balance. If a majority of both chambers can’t agree on one by the 45th day of the session, then the committee’s recommendation will be enacted.

That final provision drew the support of several House Republicans who had been wary of the plan beforehand.

About damn time. For all of the wailing and gnashing of teeth that led to this “what took them so long?” compromise, it’s still little more than a Band-Aid that leaves most of the problem un-addressed and hostage to ideology. I doubt it will lead to other states to cease their badmouthing of Texas’ inadequate infrastructure as a way to undermine its appeal to businesses. But it did accomplish the task of getting everyone the hell out of town before any further wingnut wish list items could be added to the agenda. For that alone, kudos all around. The item will be on the 2014 ballot, not the 2013 ballot, so don’t look for it this November. I’m sure you’ll hear about it again before you get to vote on it.

On PACs in city elections

Houston Politics looks at something we haven’t seen much of in city elections – PACs that are candidate-specific instead of being centered on a referendum.

BagOfMoney

Among the topics bandied about last week was why [Ben] Hall and District A candidate Brenda Stardig (who is seeking to regain the seat she lost in 2011 to current incumbent Helena Brown) had formed specific-purpose political committees, or SPACs, as part of their campaigns.

There was speculation that Hall, in particular, may have fallen afoul of city ordinance by his PAC spending more than $10,000 in coordination with his campaign (Stardig’s had only spent $1,300 as of June 30, thus under the $10,000 limit).

The city’s rules are similar to federal guidelines on this: If a PAC coordinates with a candidate, it is capped at $10,000. If it just sends the check and doesn’t help decide how to spend it, the support can be limitless. City Attorney David Feldman said he planned to contact Hall and Stardig’s campaign treasurers to discuss the issue, given that there was clear evidence of coordination in both camps: The PACs, for instance, carry the candidates’ names (as opposed to the typically vague variety, such as Karl Rove’s Crossroads GPS or satirist Stephen Colbert’s Making a Better Tomorrow, Tomorrow).

Jerad Najvar, an election lawyer Hall consulted, and Susybelle Gosslee, who works compliance for Stardig, said there really isn’t any intrigue here.

Najvar points to Section 18-2 of the city code, which states, “To the extent that any candidate elects to receive contributions or make expenditures through a (SPAC) … then the (SPAC) shall be regarded as the agency of the candidate, and the actions of the (SPAC) shall be deemed to be actions of the candidate.” These actions explicitly include, ”The soliciting or accepting of a campaign contribution or the making of a campaign expenditure.”

But perhaps these candidates were seeking to get around the $5,000 limit on individual contributions, or around the limits on the amount of personal loans candidates can repay themselves using campaign cash: $75,000 in the mayor’s race, $15,000 in an at-large race and $5,000 in a district race?

No again, said Najvar and Gosslee.

“You either file a report that says ‘Ben Hall,’ personally, or you file a report that says ‘The All for Hall Committee.’ Substantively the law is no different,” Najvar said. “Filing an SPAC does not allow you to get around any contribution limits or any other limits. When you’re a candidate, you have a campaign account: It’s either filed on a COH (individual) report or an SPAC report, and it doesn’t matter which one.”

“No candidate benefits financially from having an SPAC,” Gosslee agreed.

For what it’s worth, this sort of thing is common in county and state politics, especially with Republican candidates and officeholders. Search for the finance reports for numerous Republican incumbents and you’ll find that all the action is in their “Texans For” or “Friends Of” PACs. Most of them also have regular candidate finance reports, but usually there’s little to them. I’m okay with this arrangement in city elections as long as everything gets disclosed and there are no contributions bigger than $5K from an individual or $10K from a PAC. I don’t see it as altering the dynamics of city races, but I suppose we’ll find out.