On to the urban counties. I’m grouping these three together because there’s really only one opportunity in each, and none of them are truly “new”. But never mind that. Let’s look at some data.
Incumbent: Paul Workman (first elected in 2010)
Best 2008 Dem performance: Barack Obama, 44.75%
HD47 was the last of the Travis Republican seats from the 2001 redistricting to go blue, and by the skin of Donna Howard’s teeth the only one to fall back in the 2010 wave. Republicans might have tried to draw a 4-2 Dem map for Travis County, but that carried a significant risk of losing them both, as they did with their greedy 3-3 map in 2001. Leaving the map at 5-1 and shoring up their one incumbent was very doable, and with Obama outperforming the rest of the Dem ticket by three or more points, they did a good job of it. Assuming Workman doesn’t do anything stupid, he ought to be in decent shape for awhile. There’s a lot of growth in west and northwest Travis County, however, so there’s no guarantee the demographics or partisan mix of his district will remain the same. And as the lone Republican in the county (not counting the Congressionals, who are only using bits of Travis for their own purposes), he’ll always have a target on his back. He may make it through the decade, but he’s unlikely to have any easy races.
Incumbent: Dee Margo (first elected in 2010)
County: El Paso
Best 2008 Dem performance: Sam Houston, 54.10%
Margo was another beneficiary of the 2010 wave, winning an otherwise Democratic-leaning seat in his third try for office; he lost to Eliot Shapleigh for SD29 in 2006, and to Joe Moody for this seat in 2008 to succeed the retiring Republican Pat Haggerty. Unlike Paul Workman in Travis County, there aren’t enough Republican voters in the vicinity to draw him a majority GOP district. Every Democrat carried HD78 in 2008, so barring anything unusual his tenure should be short. For sure, this is a top priority district for the Dems in 2012.
Incumbent: John Garza (first elected in 2010)
Best 2008 Dem performance: Linda Yanez, 54.10%
Another wave beneficiary who can’t be adequately protected. Democrat David Leibowitz won this seat in 2004, knocking off now-SBOE member Ken Mercer, who had won the seat in 2002 against an indicted opponent. He had not faced any serious challenges and this race was certainly not on my radar last year. As with HD78, every downballot Dem carried this district in 2008, and I feel confident saying that it will be viewed as a must-win seat for the Dems next year.