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Whitmire draws a primary opponent

Damian LaCroix

Texpatriate notes that 2010 judicial candidate Damian LaCroix is mounting a challenge to Sen. John Whitmire in SD15. This directly concerns me, as I was redistricted into SD15 in 2011 after having been in SD06 since moving to the Heights. His website is here, his Facebook page is here, and LaCroix did a judicial Q&A with me for the 2010 primary, which he ultimately lost to Cheryl Thornton. His priorities page is pretty thin right now – I don’t disagree with anything he’s saying, but there’s nothing there to indicate why SD15 would be better off with a rookie Senator than one with approximately a thousand years of seniority who was recently given national recognition for his work on juvenile justice reform.

New blood is essential, to be sure – I talked about this in the context of SD06 when there had been talk about Sylvia Garcia challenging the late Sen. Gallegos in the 2012 primary. That never happened, but as things turned out Garcia is now Sen. Garcia, having won a special election to succeed Sen. Gallegos after his passing. In any event, while I’m as ready for a “next generation of leaders” to step up as anyone, there needs to be some rationale for any given target. I’m not always Sen. Whitmire’s biggest fan, but offhand I see no reason to replace him. Unlike some other Senators I could name, replacing Whitmire isn’t a surefire upgrade. What is the argument that Damian LaCroix, or anyone else for that matter, will be better for me, for the Democratic Senate caucus, and for Democratic priorities overall? I’m open to hearing such an argument, since no one is entitled to a seat, but it has to be made. LaCroix had not yet begun to make it.

On a side note, SD15 has the third highest concentration of African-American voters of any Senate district:

Dist % Black % White % Hispanic ======================================= 13 58.2 17.6 17.1 23 49.7 24.1 23.3 15 28.1 41.3 24.4 10 19.1 60.7 15.7 01 17.9 75.0 5.2 06 16.9 23.8 56.3 04 14.9 71.9 10.2

Percentages are all CVAP. Districts 13 and 23 are the only two Senate districts currently held by African-Americans, Sens. Rodney Ellis and Royce West. I had wondered when I first looked at this if the 2011 redistricting had substantially changed the racial and ethnic composition of the district, but a look at the data from the previous plan suggests not. Those numbers are VAP and not CVAP, so they’re not a straight apples-to-apples comparison. I’ll bet the much higher Hispanic number from before 2011 would drop considerably, and the Anglo and African-American numbers would rise accordingly, if CVAP were used. What that says is that 1) on the face of it at least, Sen. Whitmire is no more vulnerable to a primary challenge than he was before, and 2) LaCroix can make some headway appealing to African-American voters, but probably not enough to win. He’ll need a broad coalition, which gets back to my earlier point about making the argument why he would represent an upgrade. He will have his work cut out for him.

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2 Comments

  1. Mainstream says:

    I doubt LaCroix needs much of a multi-racial coalition to win a Democrat primary in this area. I suspect that for the past couple of decades, a majority of Democrat primary voters in this district have been black.

    (The Republican got 38% of the vote in Nov. 2012 in this district, and so I think few of the 41% of whites in the total district would participate in a Democrat primary.)

    This contest bears a resemblance to the challenge of Sylvester Turner to longtime incumbent Clint Hackney, the victory of Al Green over Chris Bell, the victory of Bennett over Sue Schecter for district clerk. If black voters decide to united behind LaCroix, he has a fair chance of upsetting the longtime incumbent.

    In 2014 many older white voters who have supported Whitmire, and who live in the Heights, Oak Forest, Spring Branch, etc. will have to choose between participating in the GOP primary which may have a number of heated contests, and the less contested Democrat primary.

  2. All due respect, but I think there’s a big difference between SD15 and CD09, which has a Black % of 50.6 and a White % of 19.5 – basically, CD09 would fall between SDs 13 and 23 on my chart above.

    ftp://ftpgis1.tlc.state.tx.us/PlanC235/Reports/PDF/PlanC235_RED116_ACS_Special_Tabulation_2007-2011.pdf

    The previous CD09 was very similar (same caveat about VAP versus CVAP applies):

    ftp://ftpgis1.tlc.state.tx.us/DistrictViewer/Congress/PLANC100r100.pdf

    I take your point about the composition of the actual electorate, but unlike Rep. Al Green, who was a longstanding Justice of the Peace at the time of his primary win in 2004, Damian LaCroix is not a well-known name, certainly not compared to Sen. Whitmire. Lots of people in SD15 are used to voting for Sen. Whitmire. If he can raise some money and get some endorsements, we’ll see. But I would not bet any of my own money on Sen. Whitmire losing at this time.

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