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How to assess the odds in HD134

Rep. Sarah Davis

Texpatriate informs us that two-term Rep. Sarah Davis will be getting a primary challenger in HD134 – Bonnie Parker, who lost to Davis in the 2010 primary, and who will unsurprisingly be attacking Davis from the right. There are three things I know about HD134:

1. Democrats have been urgently searching for a candidate to run in HD134. On paper at least, it’s a swing district, the kind of district Dems must win if they want to have any hope of making serious inroads in the House.

2. However it looks on paper, realistically speaking Sarah Davis would be a heavy favorite to be re-elected. Ann Johnson was a strong and well-financed challenger in 2012, but Davis won with room to spare. The district was lean R prior to redistricting, and it’s slightly redder now. All this has made Democratic recruiting efforts difficult, to say the least. I know of one person who has said No to the HDCC; it is likely there have been others. Dems do now have a candidate in Alison Ruff, but I feel confident that they will continue to search around until the filing deadline.

3. The equation does change if Davis gets knocked off by a teabagger in the primary. Unlike most House districts, it is possible to be too conservative for HD134, as Martha Wong could attest. If we knew for a fact that Davis would get such a challenger, and we knew for a fact that said challenger would defeat her, I feel confident that there would already be an HDCC-backed candidate in the race.

So now that we know that Davis is being primaried, the next question is how likely is she to lose? I’m going to throw two sets of numbers out at you to help you decide. First is a look at how Republican State Rep candidates in Harris County did in their primaries in 2012.

Dist Candidate Vote % ========================== 127 Huberty 82.43% 126 Harless 82.06% 135 Elkins 77.28% 128 W Smith 76.28% 130 Fletcher 76.24% 150 Riddle 74.56% 141 Bunch 71.03% 132 Callegari 70.71% 137 Khan 66.85% 129 J Davis 64.67% 139 Brocato 66.83% 138 Bohac 66.17% 134 S Davis 66.10% 147 Faulk 60.50% 133 Murphy 56.66% 144 Pineda 49.25% 143 Weiskopf 48.91% 149 Williams 44.67%

“Vote %” is the candidate’s share of the total ballots cast, so undervotes are included. I did that to be able to compare unopposed candidates with those who were in contested races. Among incumbents, Davis had the lowest share of the vote of anyone except Jim Murphy, who unlike Davis had an opponent. Dan Huberty, Debbie Riddle, and John Davis all had opponents but still took a greater share of the vote than Sarah Davis did. What this suggests to me is that Sarah Davis is not as popular with the primary electorate in HD134 as her peers are in their districts.

That doesn’t necessarily mean that a teabag challenger would defeat Davis. So for some further information, I went looking to see how Ted Cruz did against David Dewhurst in the district in 2012. I pieced together the information from the primary and runoff canvasses. In the May primary, Dewhurst got a plurality of the vote, 49.78% to Cruz’s 40.80%; Dew missed a clear majority by 36 votes out of 16,105 cast. In the runoff, however, Cruz prevailed by a 53.09 to 46.91 mark, with 14,625 votes cast. This suggests that Davis could be vulnerable to a challenge from the right, though it’s not clear-cut. On the plus side for her, she’d likely be in better shape in a higher-turnout race, which this would probably be. On the minus side, all of the races that will get any attention will be from candidates that are trying to make Ted Cruz look like a treehugger. Honestly, if one of the statewide candidates doesn’t try to rip the still-beating heart from the chest of a rival candidate, I’ll consider it an upset.

So I still don’t know how to evaluate this race. If Davis is the nominee, any Democrat is a longshot at best. If she loses, I’d say Dems at least have a chance to defeat Parker, with a suitable nominee and enough resources. It remains to see if Alison Ruff can be that candidate, but that’s getting ahead of the story. It’s hard to recruit for a possibility, especially given that a win automatically makes you the top target in 2016. This is a race to watch, starting now until the filing deadline.

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3 Comments

  1. joshua ben bullard says:

    ok=allow me to tell you what kuffner =fails to mention=this district is majority red=yes=however its more moderate red than conservative red=and believe me the moderate reds come out in car loads for a gop primary=davis will win the gop primary 58% to 42%= now then on to the general election=we all know that davis will win in a landslide victory=even more than last time=lets just say that voters in this district love to vote for her.

    so 58% to 42% davis wins the primary and 60% davis in the general election.

    I don’t know if kuffner is just reaching for material or what but this is an easy call…………….Joshua bullard

  2. robert g. says:

    I think this district is an interesting one. The ‘map makers’ have definitely minimized the D’s possibilities for a win in this district, but if Wendy Davis can draw out D’s to the polls in a way similar to how Obama did in ’08, I think the R’s may not have the margin they are given credit. It’s not about the amount of R’s that show up, but the amount of D’s- even in this district, with its traditionally high turnouts, the potential is in the D turnout numbers. Johnson ran a good campaign, but the ‘tide’ was not with her. That could be different for D’s next year, but they will certainly need a strong candidate, with a large war chest, to mount a serious campaign.

  3. Avon says:

    Posts like these make me pause and worry about the future of the democratic party in Texas. HD 134 was out of reach in 2012, and yet an inordinate amount of money was wasted there (and a good candidate’s time and future political possibilities). Why, because activists believe there are all these moderate Republicans and Independents, especially women, who are just yearning to vote for a Democrat. They believe this is especially true if the R is hard right. Sorry. Keep pouring money and focus on these sort of districts, and Texas will never get even purplish.
    The money must go into suburban districts with large numbers of unregistered and low propensity voting minorities. Then all the activists have to leave the comfortable club meetings and wine tasting events, and knock on doors. Tens of thousands of doors. Over and over again. And this will take several cycles. Its not going to happen all at once in 2014. Sorry. The die is cast in that district, or else the Rs wouldn’t have redistricted it that way. They purposefully avoided their 2001 mistakes.
    HD 134 isn’t it. Try that soon to be swing district in Fort Bend County. HD 105 and HD 113 in Dallas County.

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