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Opening thoughts on the carnage

In no particular order…

– Republicans gain 22 seats in the State House, for a 99-51 advantage. That’s with Pete Gallego, Hubert Vo, and Donna Howard, all of whom had been trailing early, coming back to win. Howard’s margin of victory is a microscopic 15 votes, so she’ll have to survive a recount. No Republican seats flipped.

– Among many other things, I strongly suspect that’s a death blow for expanded gambling this session. Which is ironic, since polls pretty consistently showed that people prefer expanded gambling to nearly any other choice for bridging the budget gap. With this partisan margin in the House, you’ll need a majority of GOP legislators to favor a joint resolution for expanded gambling, and I don’t see that happening; if there had been as much as one third of the GOP caucus in favor of it in 2009, it would have passed then. Sam Houston Race Park may have a new, deep-pocketed investor with a record of getting other states to allow slot machines at racetracks, but I don’t think that will do them any good here.

– The good news, I suppose, from a Democratic perspective is that even with another Republican-drawn legislative map for 2012, there will be no shortage of takeover targets and quite a few Republicans who likely can’t win outside of such an extremely favorable environment. The bad news, part of it anyway, is that the ceiling is now much lower due to the wipeout in rural districts. If Democrats net 10 seats in 2012, they’re still short of where they were in 2002.

– Speaking of redistricting, the Republicans are now in the position of having to draw at least one of their members out of a seat next year, as West Texas will lose a district. The West Texas delegation comprises one former Speaker (Craddick), one potential future Speaker (Chisum), and a bunch of freshmen, all of whom are Republicans, so options like “target the Democrat” and “convince one of the old coots to retire” aren’t on the table. They may face a similar dilemma in East Texas, it’s too early to say.

– Dems may have targets a-plenty in two years, but where will the money for those races come from? The Mostyns spent a gazillion dollars and have less than nothing to show for it. Annie’s List saw nearly its entire slate erased. Losing a bunch of incumbents means losing a lot of fundraising capability.

– I don’t mean to be indelicate, but party chairs usually don’t survive results like these. I hope whoever succeeds Boyd Ritchie has a strategy in mind.

– Despite losing four State House members, Dallas County remained blue.

– In Harris County, Democrats did in fact do better on Election Day than in early voting, by about six points. Outside of Bill White, who ultimately did carry the county, and Loren Jackson, that wasn’t enough for a majority of the Election Day votes, let alone a winning total.

– Final turnout in Harris was over 779,000, which will likely stand as the high-water mark for several cycles. I think it’s safe to say Republicans got a significant number of people who don’t normally vote outside of Presidential years to come out this time. Two thirds of all votes cast in Harris were straight ticket votes, with Republicans reversing a two-cycle trend and taking a 50,000 vote advantage there. Democratic turnout overall wasn’t terrible – vote totals in the 310,000 to 340,000 range would have meant big wins in 2006, and would have won most races in 2002. Not this year.

– Among other things, Sheriff Adrian Garcia’s job just got a lot harder now that he’s lost his strongest ally on Commissioners Court. I don’t see a whole lot more progress being made on reducing jail overcrowding at this point.

– Despite trailing in early voting, Prop 1 (Renew Houston) squeaked through, for one of the very few good results of the day. Prop 3, to keep red light cameras, lost in a fairly close vote. If you had told me on Monday that only one of these two would pass, I’d have bet a lot of money on it being the other way around. Prop 2, which would have allowed for a six-month residency requirement for Council in the 2011 election only, lost big. That will make City Council redistricting more challenging.

– Red light cameras also lost in Baytown.

– Judith Cruz and Juliet Stipeche will face each other in a runoff for the open HISD Trustee seat. The lone Republican in that race, Dorothy Olmos, finished fourth. All things considered, you have to wonder if that represents a missed opportunity for the local GOP.

– The city of Dallas got wet. Good for them.

– The city of Austin had its own somewhat controversial ballot proposition to fund infrastructure improvements. It wound up passing easily.

– Harry Reid won re-election. In some ways, that may be the weirdest result of all. By all rights, Republicans should have taken the Senate, but Democrats held on there and in West Virginia and apparently Colorado, while being gifted Delaware after basically writing it off when Mike Castle jumped in.

– Finally, in regard to polling, Rasmussen Reports had a bad cycle, which included producing the single worst result, by a large margin. Polling in Texas understated Rick Perry’s margin by a bit, and overstated, in some cases by a lot, the performance of third-party candidates.

I’m sure I’ll have more later.

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20 Comments

  1. Bubba at Shell says:

    I predicted Good Hair by 12. Can’t believe I missed it by 1. After all the Oracle of Baytown is seldom wrong.

    The Democrats in Texas are hampered by two things:

    1) Really, really bad candidates (e.g., Bill White, Chris Bell, Hank Gilbert, Kinky Friedman, etc.). This goes back years and years.

    2) A core group of voters that, as Hal Heitman points out, is terribly lethargic.

    Not a good combination. Bad candidates and lethargic voters.

    Nationally, while the Democrats held on to the Senate, it’s not that much good news. Harry Reid is still around (you have to be proud of that). The fact that President Obama and Vice-President Biden had to spend so much time campaigning to defeat Republican flawed candidates in Delaware (Biden’s former seat), Illinois (Obama’s former seat), Nevada (for the Majority Leader’s seat), etc. made it impossible to help out in other races. It is beyond belief that two short years after the historic victory, there was not a single safe Democratic candidate–to much time, money and energy spent protecting seats that should have been taken for granted. Who would have imagined President Clinton having to spend more than 30 seconds helping to keep Barney Frank elected?

  2. John says:

    Bubba nailed it the Dems are putting absolute zeros up for these statewide offices. Bill White was able to show how clueless either 1) he or 2) his consultants (who I am sure made a small fortune off his campaign) are how to run a race. Every “consultant” for the Dems in the state knows how to do one thing- lose a race. The Dems need to find new ones and get ones that don’t live in Austin where everyone just sits in a circle and say they agree with everything.

    The main issue (both locally and nationally) was jobs/economy and whether it was b/c of his leadership or not Texas is doing better than other large states (OH, FL, CA, MI) and it was going to be hard for White to attack Perry with that. White was picking issues nobody cares about (his big bombshell was the TRS issue- really that is the best he could do?).

    Unless the economy comes back (many Wall Street analysts predicting another round of layoffs in January) or the Repubs nominate that idiot Palin then Obama is going to lose in 2012 (if Hillary does not take him out first).

    Back to basics- “It’s the economy stupid.”

  3. Thank you Baytown and Houston voters, you saw through the scam and voted out the cameras. Is it time to call Bob Stein out for the political hack he is yet? He doctored up the accident report for the city and did a BAD POLL showing only 36% would get rid of the cameras. Thanks to Charles for covering everything! Next thing is to contact your state reps to tell them we need a statewide ban!

  4. KTS says:

    Agreed on the consultants Bubba, not quite sure about bad candidates (at least not the entire slate, White did win 41% after all in a solid Red State), and agreed on incredibly lethargic core voters.

    One other point, Dem’s were *very slow* to react to fundamental issues like THE ECONOMY, defending the health care bill, and financial reform. It was as if they themselves were seized with embarassment over their own accomplishments. Across the board they didn’t own their policies and consequently were defeated by those framing the conversation in absence of leadership.

  5. Bubba at Shell says:

    So KTS thinks the candidates are not bad? Well keep trotting out what has been trotted out the last 3 governor elections and I wouldn’t expect any different results:

    2010 – Bill White – lost by 700,000 votes

    2006 – Chris Bell – lost by 400,000 votes

    2002 – Tony Sanchez – lost by 800,000 votes

    1998 – Gary Mauro – lost by 1,400,000 votes

    Put all four of them together and not sure you can get a strong candidate. To think that Chriss Bell has been closest to being elected says all that needs to be said about Democratic governor candidates and the quality of the races they have run.

  6. KTS says:

    You blame the candidates, I blame a combination of weak and ineffective strategy, a down economy, and anti-incumbent fervor trickling down from the national races. What would make a good Democratic candidate in Texas Bubba? One that is right from center? Look around, many centrist Democrats were defeated statewide!

  7. Bubba at Shell says:

    KTS–did you really just mention anti-incumbent fervor?

    Please re-cap for me the number of Texas state-wide office holders that were swept out of power.

    Ann Richards was the last decent candidate the Democrats ran with any real chance of winning the govenor’s race.

    Sure our consultants have been bad, but what have they really had to work with? Bill White? Chris Bell? Tony Sanchez? Gary Mauro? These guys make George Bush and Rick Perry look like star candidates.

  8. JJMB says:

    Come on guys, the answer is that neither a good candidate nor some other strategy would have worked. Who is the “best” Democrat in the entire country? I’ll let you imagine a name or two, even get into “stars” like Ben Affleck or George Clooney. That person would NOT have won either.

    Texas is a Republican state currently. There is no issue that the consultants could have picked this time around. The upcoming budget problems are that — upcoming. There is no deficit yet. Services have not been cut back. 55%+ of voters think their kids schools do well enough. Texas probably has the best economy of any state right now.

    The only thing that might have turned out Rick Perry was scandal. If there was evidence of kickbacks from the tech fund that went to buying him a ranch. Or if he had a mistress.

    I don’t think replacing either Bill or his consultants — or both — would have changed things.

  9. KTS says:

    Seriously? Look at the Texas Dem’s in conservative districts – they didn’t fare well. You never answered my question. What would make a good Democratic candidate to you, since this is your sticking point.

  10. Jeb says:

    I think that Workman’s win will make redistricting more difficult for the Rs. Efforts to protect him may likely mean that they create a safer district for Howard. The caveat being that there are no minority voting concerns and the courts may allow the Rs to draw a narrow district that extends from Lake Austin to San Angelo.

    The losses in Hays County and Bolton’s loss have set the Ds in Central Texas back 10 years.

    It looks like the Rs concerted backlash against Obama gained them +5 points across the board.

    How is it that White lost major urban counties including D strongholds like Nueces and Jefferson and others like Galveston and Tarrant? Those were must wins along with, as Kuff pointed out, major suburban counties like Fort Bend.

  11. Bubba at Shell says:

    Maybe you are right. Maybe there is no Democrat that can become governor of Texas. But if this is the case, let’s don’t fool ourselves into thinking we can win.

    Why not poor the money we waste every four years on losing the governor’s races into more down ballot / local races that we have had chance to win in past? Why not really do something about our GOTV activities? Our GOTV this election was horrible–the Republicans kicked our ass.

    I would argue that the Democratic performance in Texas this election is every bit as bad as the performance of General Motors before their bail-out. And we all agreed that the GM leadership had to go.

    But why do I doubt that Mr. Richie and others that leader the State Democratic party will suffer any consequences for their dismal performance? And how many of the SDEC will own up to their responsibilities and failures and resign to allow new leadership?

    Instead they will spend their time making excuses and protecting their own hide. And Texas will get less Blue and less Blue under their leadership.

  12. Mainstream says:

    Not true that Democrat GOTV efforts were inferior to those of the GOP. I was on the inside of several GOP campaigns, using out of date rosters, bad phone data, sloppy voter registration, not enough folks to block walk, while I kept seeing where union/D/glbt/allied groups had hung hangers on targeted doors in the neighborhoods I visited.

    Voters for the GOP were just self-motivated and enthusiastic.

  13. Bubba at Shell says:

    I argue there was a lack of leadership (candidates, party officials, SDEC, grass roots) that led to un-motivated / lethargic voters.

    I am fearful that the only thing that brings large numbers of Texas Democrats to the polls is a strong leader at the top of the ticket. If this is the case, let’s just take mid-year elections off (and save our money) and wait for Presidential leaders.

  14. Robert Nagle says:

    Bubba at Shell: You talk like a concern troll. What is your definition of a “good candidate”?

    Do you think Rick Perry meets your definition of “good candidate?” Be prepared to defend your answer.

  15. Ishmael says:

    Agree with most of the analysis here. It’s quite possible no Democrat could have toppled Perry.

    One other glimmer of good news was the passage of the $459m bond referendum for Katy ISD. However, I was shocked at the slim margin–48 to 51%.

  16. […] carry will move through unobstructed.  The tough part of course as  always will be the budget.  Gambling will likely not be taken seriously. Republicans gain 22 seats in the State House, for a 99-51 […]

  17. Bubba at Shell says:

    A good candidate is one whose views are similar to those I hold (how’s that for a selfish definition) and can motivate similarly minded folks to get out and vote.

    Rick Perry is a total loser, but from Repub perspective he is a great “candidate”.

    What troubles me is that Democrats cannot find any candidate that can even be competitive in Governor’s race. I don’t have answers…just frustration.

  18. Brad M. says:

    Bubba, good Dem candidate or not there are too many sheep in this state that can’t think for themselves and all they know what to do is push a little R in the voting booth.

  19. […] of their opportunity to maintain the ground they’ve taken. (Heflin’s seat almost surely won’t exist in 2012.) Still, there’s only so many ways you can slice and dice things, and only so many […]

  20. […] conventional wisdom, to which I subscribe, says that the results on this election are bad news for proponents of expanded gambling. One […]