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February 6th, 2017:

DCCC says it will aim for three Texas Congressional seats

We’ll see what this means in practice.

The House Democratic campaign arm, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, announced Monday morning that the party intends to target two longtime GOP incumbents that, until recently, have long been considered locks for re-election: U.S. Reps. Pete Sessions of Dallas and John Culberson of Houston.

The two races are in addition to the committee’s targeting of U.S. Rep. Will Hurd of San Antonio, who represents Texas’ 23rd District, a perennial target which includes much of the state’s border communities.

[…]

Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton carried all three districts in November, falling just short of an outright majority in each place, according to a DCCC analysis of election records. In contrast, Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney won the same districts in 2012.

While many political observers say Clinton’s performance was likely a one-time phenomenon in the Sessions and Culberson districts, it could serve as a warning sign to Republican incumbents as split-ticket voting is a diminishing habit.

Culberson’s district saw the most dramatic shift: Romney carried the seat with 60 percent of the vote. Four years later, Trump drew 47 percent support, according to the DCCC.

[…]

Democrats on Capitol Hill say President Trump’s performance in Texas against Clinton is why they are concentrating on a state they mostly ignored in the last several cycles, save for Hurd’s district. Trump’s 9-point win over Clinton in Texas was the narrowest for a Republican presidential candidate in 20 years.

Democrats further argue that Trump underperformed in Texas’ urban areas, particularly in Dallas and Harris Counties. At least one Democratic operative close to leadership who was not authorized to speak on the record called the president a potential “albatross around their neck.”

Multiple interviews with House Democratic sources have yet to scare up any possible recruits in the two districts.

“It’s more of a, ‘Where can we go and create opportunities?'” said Moses Mercado, a plugged-in Washington lobbyist with Texas roots.

See here for some background. There’s no doubt that Trump underperformed in urban areas like Houston and Dallas. Further, the evidence I have so far suggests that the underlying partisan mix shifted in Democrats’ favor at least in CD07 and likely CD32; I have not had a chance to look at any part of CD23 yet. CDs 07 and 32 are still reliably Republican, but they are not overwhelmingly so. If 2018 winds up being a strong Democratic year, they’re in the ballpark. Even if not, if the partisan ground shifts by as much between 2016 and 2020 as it did between 2012 and 2016, then these two become genuine swing districts. Just in time for the next round of redistricting, to be sure, but still. It makes sense to pay attention to them, and there’s no reason not to start now.

For all the time I’ve spent cautioning about Presidential numbers versus judicial race numbers in gauging legislative districts, I am intrigued by the potential here. There were large numbers of Republicans in CD07 and CD32 who voted for Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump, and a few more who voted for Gary Johnson or Evan McMullin or some other minor candidate instead of Trump. Surely some of these people, even as they generally voted Republican otherwise, will be open to the argument that in this election, if they still oppose Trump and want to do something to stop him, they need to vote against the members of Congress who are enabling him. I don’t know how many of these crossover voters might be willing to consider that – whatever the number is today, it may well be very different next fall – but we have some time to identify them and to figure out the best way to present that argument to them. If the DCCC really is serious about this, one way they can show it is to do a deep analytics dive into the precinct-level data and figure out who their target audience is. The hard part will be coming up with a message that is persuasive to them without alienating core Democrats, who are not going to be very tolerant about appeals to centrism or bipartisanship. A simple motto of “oppose Trump by opposing this Congressman who stand with him” is probably best.

As for finding candidates, we already have one in CD07, and I’m sure there will be plenty of people interested in CD23, as it is perennially competitive. As for CD32, again I’m sure there will be plenty of people who might want to run, but let me put in a good word for Allen Vaught, Army Reserve captain in Iraq and former State Rep from Dallas. I have no idea if he might be interested, but I do know he’d be a good candidate. D Magazine suggests current Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings, who would also be a fine choice. Let the recruiting begin!

Some things never evolve

The SBOE, for instance.

The Texas State Board of Education on Wednesday voted preliminarily for science standards that would keep in language that some say opens the door to creationism.

The votes came a day after the board heard from scientists begging them to remove the language. Board members are set to hold a second public hearing and take final votes on the changes to the science standards in April.

The process began in July, when the board convened a teacher committee that recommended the deletion of several high school science standards, including four controversial biology standards they said would be too complex for students to understand. In their recommendation for deleting a clause requiring students examine explanations on the “sudden appearance” of organism groups in the fossil record, they included the note, “Not enough time for students to master concept. Cognitively inappropriate for 9th grade students.”

Republican board member Barbara Cargill led the charge Wednesday to keep three of those four standards in some form — arguing that they would actually help students better understand the science and keep teachers away from creationist ideas.

[…]

At Tuesday’s public hearing, former Texas science teacher Joni Ashbrook told the board that specific language is included in creationist arguments that a supernatural agent explains a burst of new forms in the fossil record.

But Cargill said her addition allows students to fully comprehend the ebbs and flows in the number of organism forms over time. “Something obviously happened in the environment, and they’re gone and the fossil record flatlines and we don’t see them anymore,” she said.

I did not follow this closely, so let me point you to the Texas Freedom Network, which is as always on top of it. If you’re looking for a place to channel some excess activist energy in between calls to Cruz and Cornyn’s offices, contacting your SBOE member and asking them to support the change to this language would be helpful. If you want to bone up on creationist talking points and the scientific responses to them, the delightfully old school Talk Origins FAQ secion is a good resource. The Chron has more.

“The Short, Tumultuous Tenure Of Corpus Christi Mayor Dan McQueen”

This is just amazing.

Dan McQueen

After just 37 days in office, Dan McQueen announced his resignation as the mayor of Corpus Christi via Facebook last Wednesday. “Consider this my resignation. I resign immediately,” he wrote in the Facebook post, according to the Corpus Christi Caller-Times. “The city can no longer deal with such differing views and divisiveness. I step down from my position as Mayor, in order to allow the council and city to regain focus on success. Sorry, they are now into my ex-wives and kids. Nothing good will come from that mess.”

The sudden resignation marked the end of a tumultuous, albeit short, tenure as mayor. McQueen, who ran as a political outsider and made promises to fix the city, encountered a clean water crisis less than two days after he came into power. In recent weeks, he took jabs at local media and members of the city council on Facebook, and found himself the subject of several investigative news reports that raised questions about the legitimacy of his educational background and the nature of his relationship with his chief of staff.

By the time McQueen officially tendered his resignation to the city secretary, he had clearly had enough of the intense public scrutiny that all high-ranking public officials inevitably must face. McQueen hinted at his intention to quit as early as last Monday, according to Corpus Christi’s local ABC affiliate KIII-TV, when he took to Facebook to criticize both the media and his constituents, all while drawing a tenuous link between himself and Martin Luther King, Jr.:

“On a Day of Unity, I find a City of Divisiveness. Dr. King and I both are graduates of Boston University, and I find my-self in a city named, “The Body of Christ” (IRONIC). However, in the past 35 Days, I have been attacked by council as being Sexist, Racist and continue to fight attacks from Media and the public. I just don’t see the VALUE in this fight for 600 more. I had such HOPE for our city. God Bless Corpus Christi!”

McQueen deactivated his Facebook page shortly after that post, then re-activated the account on Wednesday. Given his lack of experience in the public sector—during his campaign, McQueen branded himself as a “tech guy” who would apply his business and engineering background to the mayor’s office—it’s sort of understandable that McQueen felt a little shell-shocked by his busy first (and, as it would turn out, only) month leading the city. But it’s still surprising to see how quickly it all fell apart.

Read the whole thing, it’s something else. Basically, this guy was an outsider candidate, a businessman whose credentials turned out to be shaky, who was elected over an establishment politician because the people wanted “change”. It quickly became apparent that he was temperamentally unsuited for the job, and wound up spending a lot of time feuding with people on social media. I feel like I’ve heard this story before, I just can’t put my finger on where. At least in Corpus, there was a relatively painless resolution before any real damage was done. The rest of us should be so lucky.