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Scouting the opposition in CD07

Not impressed so far.

Rep. Lizzie Fletcher

Facing a roomful of conservative voters at a meet-and-greet earlier this month, Republican Wesley Hunt laid out the stakes for his party’s primary in Texas’ 7th Congressional District.

“This is about putting the best candidate forward who can beat Lizzie Fletcher. Period.” Hunt said.

Republican voters still are smarting from their 2018 loss in this suburban west Houston district, where Fletcher, a Democratic Houston energy lawyer, toppled nine-term GOP incumbent John Culberson. Her five-point win flipped the seat blue for the first time since the 1960s, prompting Republicans to take aim at the district almost as soon as Fletcher took office.

The GOP primary field already has come into focus, setting up a clash between Hunt, an Army veteran who works for Perry Homes, and Cindy Siegel, a former Bellaire mayor and METRO board member. Battle lines are sharpening, but not around the two candidates’ conservative bona fides or the strength of their policy proposals. The early contours of the race instead have centered on the question: Who is best positioned to snatch the seat from Fletcher?

Threatening to upend the primary is the potential candidacy of Pierce Bush, CEO of the nonprofit Big Brothers Big Sisters Houston affiliate and grandson of former president George H.W. Bush, who once represented the district.

Bush in an email earlier this month said he still is mulling a run for the seat and has been “flattered by people who are encouraging me to consider running,” though he did not lay out a deadline for a decision.

Meanwhile, both declared Republicans have their electability pitches ready to go. Hunt, 37, contends the party could use a “new generation of leadership,” and he peppers his stump speech with references to his time as a helicopter pilot in the Army, including his combat deployment to Iraq. Siegel, meanwhile, pitches her governing experience serving on Bellaire city council and as mayor, along with a number of boards and commissions.

Also, she contends that it will take a Republican woman to beat Fletcher.

“I feel that way strongly,” the 64-year-old Siegel said. “It’s coming as no surprise to anyone, on a national basis: Women have moved away from the Republican Party.”

[…]

In 2018, Trump’s name did not appear on the ballot, but scores of voters in Texas’ 7th said they viewed the election as a referendum on the president nonetheless. Now, the president’s down-ballot impact is set to become amplified, for better or worse, with his name likely atop the Republican ticket in 2020.

After the president lost the district to Clinton in 2016, 48 to 47 percent, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee took notice and weighed in heavily on Fletcher’s behalf, spending north of $3.5 million on the seat in 2018.

This time, House Democrats’ campaign arm again figures to play a heavy role, making early attempts to muddy the GOP waters. When Trump visited Houston in April, for instance, the group sent reporters a news release with the subject line: “With Trump in Houston, How Far Will Hunt and Siegel Go to Win Him Over?”

That last bit is more important than who wins this primary, because whoever it is will have Donald Trump as their running mate. Unless the national mood starts souring on Democrats, I think that’s going to be too big an obstacle to overcome.

Beyond that, it’s just too early to have any opinions about these two, or possibly three, candidates. I fully expect one or two other names to pop up, though whether the field expands like it did on the Democratic side in 2018 I couldn’t say. Given the need to raise funds for this race, time is starting to run out for any other wannabes.

Speaking of fundraising, here’s a data point to note for when Hunt and Siegel file their Q2 finance reports. The top four Dem contenders in CD07 raised $1.2 million combined as of July 2017. Fletcher had the second most, with $365K. The eye-popping early numbers all around the country were a leading indicator of Democratic enthusiasm for the 2018 election. I’ll be very interested to see how things look this time around.

One more thing. What happens to CD07 in the 2021 redistricting cycle. Before the 2018 election, when I figured John Culberson would still be the incumbent, my thinking was that Republicans were going to have to shift some of the district out of Harris County – maybe into Montgomery, maybe into western Fort Bend, maybe northwest into what’s now part of CD10 – to keep it red enough for him. At the very least, they’d have to take some of the bluer-and-bluer inner Harris parts out to keep things in their favor. What happens now if Fletcher wins again? Well, they could try this anyway, to take that seat back by other means. Redistricting doesn’t happen in a vacuum, though, and with CDs 02, 10, and 22 all getting competitive it might be too much to save everyone, especially in a solidly blue Harris County and a much more balanced state as a whole. It would not shock me if the Republicans basically gave up on CD07 and used parts of it to shore up those other districts, especially CD02. That’s more or less what they did with the State House in 2011, making HD133 (which they had lost in 2008) redder while making HDs 137 and 149 bluer. Incumbent protection is still a thing that matters, and in a state with fewer safe Republicans, it may matter more than ever. Just a thought.

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11 Comments

  1. Bill Daniels says:

    Lizzie will have a record to run on, and we’ll see if all those energy district workers like her record. She started with telling us she’s not Nancy Pelosi’s puppet, then her very first act was to….vote for Nancy as Speaker of the House. There must have been some reason she chose to distance herself from Pelosi when she was running. She must have feared that alliance would be bad for her election chances.

    In any event, I think that district is a bellweather for things nationally. If she wins reelection, then yes, the country HAS shifted left. If the left’s coalition includes people in oil and gas, Team Trump is in trouble.

  2. Tom in Lazybrook says:

    Id love to be a fly on the wall over at the GOPs redistricting headquarters right now.

    The suburbs trending to the Dems is creating massive headaches for them.

    Heres the sceanrio the GOP may be facing in 2021 in Congressional reapportionment.

    1) Texas is given 3 new CDs in reapportionment

    2) metro Houston gained 1.2 million residents

    3) both metro San Antonio and metro Austin gained 500,000 plus residents each

    4) DFW gained 1.2 million residents

    5) The Rio Grande Valley gained 300,000 residents

    All of these places grew more rapidly than the rest of Texas. Of the 4 million or so new residents of Texas since 2010, 90 percent of that gain will be in the those areas plus El Paso County. Those people have to be districted somewhere.

    6) Unless they can get around the Voting Rights Act, they cannot pack more Anglos into Doggett’s seat in Austin, and it severely limits what they can do with Hurd’s district as well.

    7) There are up to 10 current seats that they need to protect. Olson, McCaul, Crenshaw, Roy, Taylor, Wright,
    Granger, Hurd, Marchant, and Williams are most at risk.

    —-

    While there are several scenarios, I expect that most involve 1 new CD being created for Anglo Dems in Austin/San Antonio, Fletchers and Allreds seats being made into a safe Dem seats (as well as Hurds if he loses next year). And that is going to still leave a lot of GOP incumbents very vulnerable.

    —-

    And I suspect state legislature reapportionment is going to be equally painful for the GOP, and moreso, because they wint get extra seats to play with.

    —–

    No reason for any Republican to jump in the CD 7 race…the district is going to be very difficult for any Republican that get through a GOP primary to win, and even harder for them to hold.

  3. brad says:

    Bill,

    Way to go conflating a vote for Pelosi’s speakership as being a puppet.

    I guess you are a brain eating zombie because you support Trump. Isn’t this how the argument goes?

  4. Bill Daniels says:

    Brad,

    My point was, she misled the voters. She distanced herself from Pelosi in the campaign, for whatever reason, then no sooner had she gotten to Washington and unpacked her suitcase, she was pulling the lever for Pelosi. But who knows, maybe being in Pelosi’s camp will be a strength in 2020, vs. a perceived weakness.

    Reminder:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GAdHTJmmuLw

    -doesn’t support government takeover of healthcare

    -doesn’t support violent criminals coming into our country (she leaves out the illegal part)

    -won’t take orders from Nancy Pelosi or anyone else

    -Republicans and Democrats won’t work together, she ran and won to change that

    It seems like these campaign promises should be pretty easy to track, correlating them to her votes. Did she oppose Pelosi on any vote since taking office?

    Did she vote for any proposal to stop violent illegals from getting into the country?

    Did she vote for any expansion of government with regards to healthcare?

    Has she been a cosponsor of any bipartisan legislation since she’s been elected?

  5. Bill Daniels says:

    Well, looks like she did vote for one bipartisan bill:

    https://votesmart.org/bill/26146/66489/177031/expressing-the-sense-of-congress-that-the-report-of-special-counsel-mueller-should-be-made-available-to-the-public-and-to-congress

    I don’t see where she failed to rubber stamp anything that Pelosi endorsed, though. I mean, not one thing. Maybe she’s not taking orders from Nancy, but she sure seems perfectly aligned with Nancy when it comes to voting. Maybe she doesn’t HAVE to take orders…..she just knows what she is supposed to do.

  6. blank says:

    It would not shock me if the Republicans basically gave up on CD07 and used parts of it to shore up those other districts, especially CD02.

    While there are several scenarios, I expect that most involve 1 new CD being created for Anglo Dems in Austin/San Antonio, Fletchers and Allreds seats being made into a safe Dem seats (as well as Hurds if he loses next year). And that is going to still leave a lot of GOP incumbents very vulnerable.

    I’ll take the under. All of the past redistricting actions suggest that the Republicans will be as aggressive as possible at redistricting. For example, take a look at the DFW Metroplex in Plan C185 (ftp://ftpgis1.tlc.state.tx.us/DistrictViewer/Congress), which is what the House passed originally before the courts redrew it due to preclearance. They used the exurbs to prevent creating Veasey’s urban district. So this time, I expect them to pack Veasey’s and Johnson’s districts and crack up Allred’s district. Yes, the map will look ridiculous but no more ridiculous than the DFW Metroplex in Plan C185. I expect a similar cracking with CD 7. There a still a lot of bright red districts in West and East Texas that can be used to do so.

  7. Tom in Lazybrook says:

    The problem for the GOP is that its going to be damn hard for them to try to add GOP voters to or subtract Dem voters from CD 07, without causing big problems elsewhere.

    Its tricky to shift Anglos into neighboring Dem districts because they are all minority opportunity districts, which are protected by the VRA. So the voters stripped from 07 will have to go to either 02 (Crenshaw won by 7 percent), to Olson’s disteict (Olson won by less than 5 percent), McCauls district (he won it by 4 percent), or somewhere else. None of those three neighboring districts can afford any more Dems.

    Oh theyll come up with something. But if they try to grab all 3 new CDs and not make Allred and Fletchers seats safe, theyll put between 14 and 17 districts in play during the next decade, instead of 10. Using my scenario, they concede 2 seats they lost and give up 2 more, but protect many of the remaining seats.

    A bigger problem for the GOP in congressional reapportionment is that they have excess voters (West Texas, the Panhandle, and East Texas) are not growing that fast and theyre really far from the areas where the GOP needs extra voters. So sure, the could try to take the Amarillo district into Fort Worth, the Lubbock one into Austin, the Beaumont one into Houston, the Tyler one into Dallas, and the Midland one into San Antonio. The problem with that is that the people on those seats are so conservative that they need excess partisan margin to win.

    For the GOP, the loss of support by Anglo suburbanites is a crisis, whether they realize or not. Any more loss in support and even extreme gerrymandering starts to fail. The Dems could (not likely, but plausibly) pick up 10 seats in 2020.

    I suspect that is why Weekley wrote a 25 million dollar check to try and stem the losses.

  8. blank says:

    Tom–I think your comments are insightful, and if I were the GOP in charge redistricting, I would certainly take your advice; namely:

    While there are several scenarios, I expect that most involve 1 new CD being created for Anglo Dems in Austin/San Antonio, Fletchers and Allreds seats being made into a safe Dem seats (as well as Hurds if he loses next year). And that is going to still leave a lot of GOP incumbents very vulnerable.

    If we could find old Swing State Project posts and comments, you would see that I wrote posts and comments that were similar to yours back in 2010. That said, I don’t expect them to do this, and I think we should consider the following:

    1. It’s more than likely that the GOP will draw a map in 2021 that is eventually thrown out due to VRA violations. For example, see Plan C185 and Tom Delay’s re-redistricting in 2003. However, unless a lot of unlikely stuff happens in 2020, Texas will not require preclearance. So, even though the VRA may eventually toss out the 2021 map, it is unlikely to do so before the 2022 election.

    2. The GOP maps have certainly used sprawling districts, such as those you describe, to crack urban seats. For example, see Austin, which is currently cracked by districts from Waco, Johnson county, Houston exurbs, and rural Hill Country.

    3. The GOP maps are not immune to dummymanders. For example, see the State House maps for Bexar County in 2001 and Dallas County in 2011. Hopefully, Tarrant County will look like a dummymander after the 2020 election.

  9. N.M. Horwitz says:

    I recently connected with Cindy Siegel on Facebook. I’ve had a negative impression of her since the Robbie Tolan incident, but I never realized she’s a full-blown MAGA hatter. Like, lots of right-wing, Macedonian-made troll posts.

  10. asmith says:

    I think Tom is right but the GOP will try to do Max gain like blank is talking about. I can see them putting more of Arlington and Irving in Veasey seat, and adding the m-streets, uptown, and lakewood into EBJs district to try to defeat Allred or at least give the GOP a chance. Calculus changes if marchant in the 24th is defeated in 2020 which I think will happen.

  11. Tom in Lazybrook says:

    You are correct that the 2010 redistricting max gain was largely successful. Remember that the goal of gerrymandering is to not waste your votes and make the other side waste theirs. Even though they lost 2 seats in 18, they held on in lots of others by tiny margins.

    But…the GOP starts with a lot less to work with this time and if Anglo GOP support falls much further, theyll have a difficult time holding their max seat scenario for 8 years.

    The max gain plan involves a census undercount, undercutting the VRA, trying to only count citizens for representation, and cracking. If the first three fail, theyre gonna have a lot tougher decisions in 21 than they did in 11.