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Barbara Radnofsky

UT/Trib: Cruz 41, O’Rourke 36, part 2

We pick up where we left off.

Republican Ted Cruz leads Democrat Beto O’Rourke 41 percent to 36 percent in the general election race for a Texas seat in the U.S. Senate, according to the latest University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll.

Neal Dikeman, the Libertarian Party nominee for U.S. Senate, garnered 2 percent, according to the survey. And 20 percent of registered voters said either that they would vote for someone else in an election held today (3 percent) or that they haven’t thought enough about the contest to have a preference (17 percent).

In the governor’s race, Republican incumbent Greg Abbott holds a comfortable 12-percentage-point lead over Democratic challenger Lupe Valdez — the exact same advantage he held over Democrat Wendy Davis in an early-summer poll in 2014. Abbott went on to win that race by 20 percentage points. In this survey, Abbott had the support of 44 percent to Valdez’s 32 percent. Libertarian Mark Tippetts had the support of 4 percent of registered voters, while 20 percent chose “someone else” or said they haven’t made a choice yet.

[…]

The June UT/TT Poll, conducted from June 8 to June 17, is an early look at the 2018 general election, a survey of registered voters — not of the “likely voters” whose intentions will become clearer in the weeks immediately preceding the election. If recent history is the guide, most registered voters won’t vote in November; according to the Texas Secretary of State, only 34 percent of registered voters turned out in 2014, the last gubernatorial election year.

The numbers also reflect, perhaps, the faint rumble of excitement from Democrats and wariness from Republicans who together are wondering what kind of midterm election President Donald Trump might inspire. The last gubernatorial election year in Texas, 2014, came at Barack Obama’s second midterm, and like his first midterm — the Tea Party explosion of 2010 — it was a rough year for Democrats in Texas and elsewhere. As the late social philosopher Yogi Berra once said, this year could be “Déjà vu all over again.”

Accordingly, voter uncertainty rises in down-ballot races where even previously elected officials are less well known. Republican incumbent Dan Patrick leads Democrat Mike Collier in the contest for lieutenant governor, 37 percent to 31 percent. Kerry McKennon, the Libertarian in that race, had the support of 4 percent of the registered voters surveyed, while the rest said they were undecided (23 percent) or would vote for someone other than the three named candidates (5 percent).

“As you move down to races that are just less well known, you see the numbers drop,” said Daron Shaw, a government professor at the University of Texas at Austin and co-director of the poll. “They drop more for the Republicans. Part of that reflects the visibility of those races, and of those candidates.”

Henson said Patrick and other down-ballot incumbents work in the shadow of the governor, especially when the Legislature is not in in session. “That said, he’s still solid with the Republican base, though he lags behind Abbott and Cruz in both prominence and popularity,” he said. “There’s nothing unusual about that.”

And indecision marks the race for Texas attorney general, where Republican incumbent Ken Paxton has 32 percent to Democrat Justin Nelson’s 31 percent and 6 percent for Libertarian Michael Ray Harris. Four percent of registered voters said they plan to vote for someone else in that race and a fourth — 26 percent — said they haven’t chosen a favorite.

Nelson and Harris are unknown to statewide general election voters. Paxton, first elected in 2014, is fighting felony indictments for securities fraud — allegations that arose from his work as a private attorney before he was AG. He has steadily maintained his innocence, but political adversaries are hoping his legal problems prompt the state’s persistently conservative electorate to consider turning out an incumbent Republican officeholder.

“If you’ve heard anything about Ken Paxton in the last four years, more than likely you’ve heard about his legal troubles,” said Josh Blank, manager of polling and research at UT’s Texas Politics Project. Henson added a note of caution to that: There’s also no erosion in Ken Paxton support by the Republican base. This reflects some stirrings amongst the Democrats and Paxton’s troubles. But it would premature to draw drastic conclusions for November based upon these numbers from June.”

Shaw noted that the support for the Democrats in the three state races is uniform: Each has 31 percent or 32 percent of the vote. “All the variability is on the Republican side, it seems to me,” he said. When those voters move away from the Republican side, Shaw said, “they move not to the Democrats but to the Libertarian or to undecided.”

Trump is still getting very strong job ratings from Republican voters — strong enough to make his overall numbers look balanced, according to the poll. Among all registered voters, 47 percent approve of the job the president is doing, while 44 percent disapprove. Only 8 percent had no opinion.

See here for yesterday’s discussion. Before we go any further, let me provide a bit of context here, since I seem to be the only person to have noticed that that Trib poll from June 2014 also inquired about other races. Here for your perusal is a comparison of then and now:


Year    Office  Republican  Democrat  R Pct  D Pct
==================================================
2014    Senate      Cornyn   Alameel     36     25
2018    Senate        Cruz  O'Rourke     41     36

2014  Governor      Abbott     Davis     44     32
2018  Governor      Abbott    Valdez     44     32

2014  Lite Guv     Patrick       VdP     41     26
2018  Lite Guv     Patrick   Collier     37     31

2014  Atty Gen      Paxton   Houston     40     27
2018  Atty Gen      Paxton    Nelson     32     31

So four years ago, Wendy Davis topped Dems with 32%, with the others ranging from 25 to 27. All Dems trailed by double digits (there were some closer races further down the ballot, but that was entirely due to lower scores for the Republicans in those mostly obscure contests). Republicans other than the oddly-underperforming John Cornyn were all at 40% or higher. The Governor’s race was the marquee event, with the largest share of respondents offering an opinion.

This year, Beto O’Rourke leads the way for Dems at 36%, with others at 31 or 32. Abbott and Ted Cruz top 40%, but Dan Patrick and Ken Paxton are both lower than they were in 2014, with Paxton barely ahead of Justin Nelson. Only Abbott has a double-digit lead, with the other three in front by six, five, and one (!) points.

And yet the one quote we get about the numbers suggests that 2018 could be like 2010 or 2014? I must be missing something. Hey, how about we add in some 2010 numbers from the May 2010 UT/Trib poll?


Year    Office  Republican  Democrat  R Pct  D Pct
==================================================
2014    Senate      Cornyn   Alameel     36     25
2018    Senate        Cruz  O'Rourke     41     36

2010  Governor       Perry     White     44     35
2014  Governor      Abbott     Davis     44     32
2018  Governor      Abbott    Valdez     44     32

2010  Lite Guv    Dewhurst       LCT     44     30
2014  Lite Guv     Patrick       VdP     41     26
2018  Lite Guv     Patrick   Collier     37     31

2010  Atty Gen      Abbott Radnofsky     47     28
2014  Atty Gen      Paxton   Houston     40     27
2018  Atty Gen      Paxton    Nelson     32     31

There was no Senate race in 2010. I dunno, maybe the fact that Republicans outside the Governor’s race are doing worse this year than they did in the last two cycles is worth noting? Especially since two of them were first-time statewide candidates in 2014 and are running for re-election this year? Or am I the only one who’s able to remember that we had polls back then?

Since this cycle began and everyone started talking about Democratic energy going into the midterms, I’ve been looking for evidence of said energy here in Texas. There are objective signs of it, from the vast number of candidates running, to the strong fundraising numbers at the Congressional level, to the higher primary turnout, and so on. I haven’t as yet seen much in the poll numbers to show a Democratic boost, though. As we’ve observed before, Beto O’Rourke’s numbers aren’t that different than Bill White or Wendy Davis’ were. A bit higher than Davis overall, but still mostly in that 35-42 range. However, I did find something in the poll data, which was not in the story, that does suggest more Dem enthusiasm. Again, a comparison to 2010 and 2014 is instructive. In each of these three polls, there’s at least one “generic ballot” question, relating to the US House and the Texas Legislature. Let’s take a look at them.

If the 2010 election for [Congress/Lege] in your district were held today, would you vote for the Democratic candidate, the Republican candidate, or haven’t you thought enough about it to have an opinion?

2010 Congress – GOP 46, Dem 34
2010 Lege – GOP 44, Dem 33

If the 2014 election for the Texas Legislature in your district were held today, would you vote for the Democratic candidate, the Republican candidate, or haven’t you thought about it enough to have an opinion?

2014 Lege – GOP 46, Dem 38

If the 2018 election for [Congress/Lege] in your district were held today, would you vote for [RANDOMIZE “the Democratic candidate” and “the Republican candidate”] the Democratic candidate, the Republican candidate, or haven’t you thought about it enough to have an opinion?

2018 Congress – GOP 43, Dem 41
2018 Lege – GOP 43, Dem 42

Annoyingly, in 2014 they only asked that question about the Lege, and not about Congress. Be that as it may, Dems are up in this measure as well. True, they were up in 2014 compared to 2010, and in the end that meant nothing. This may mean nothing too, but why not at least note it in passing? How is it that I often seem to know these poll numbers better than Jim Henson and Daron Shaw themselves do?

Now maybe the pollsters have changed their methodology since then. It’s been eight years, I’m sure there have been a few tweaks, and as such we may not be doing a true comparison across these years. Even if that were the case, I’d still find this particular number worthy of mention. Moe than two thirds of Texas’ Congressional delegation is Republican. Even accounting for unopposed incumbents, the Republican share of the Congressional vote ought to be well above fifty percent in a given year, yet this poll suggests a neck and neck comparison. If you can think of a better explanation for this than a higher level of engagement among Dems than we’re used to seeing, I’m open to hearing it. And if I hadn’t noticed that, I don’t know who else might have.

Lupe and Beto

Beto O’Rourke has a year-old, well-funded campaign for US Senate. Lupe Valdez doesn’t have anything like those advantages in her campaign for Governor. Will her lower profile effort have a negative effect on his higher profile one?

Rep. Beto O’Rourke

The race for governor is often the biggest spectacle in Texas politics, and the governor’s mansion the biggest prize.

But the contest between incumbent Republican Greg Abbott and Democratic nominee Lupe Valdez is forecast to be not much of a contest at all. Abbott, who in 2014 beat former state Sen. Wendy Davis by 20 percentage points, looms like Goliath on the political landscape, with Valdez lacking the weaponry to take him down. She needs more than five smooth stones.

Democrats have focused much of their attention on the remarkable campaign of Beto O’Rourke, the El Paso congressman who’s challenging incumbent Ted Cruz for Senate.

The Cruz-O’Rourke showdown is the marquee race of the season, and could change the fortunes of Democrats and Republicans alike.

With Abbott poised to spend more than $40 million to turn out the Republican vote and in the process help Cruz, the question becomes: does Valdez’s presence on the ticket hurt or help O’Rourke?

Lupe Valdez

“Compared to nothing, she helps,” said Mark Jones, a political scientist at Rice University.

[…]

Paul Quinn President Michael Sorrell, who Democrats recruited to run for governor, said Valdez’s presence on the ticket will have little impact on O’Rourke’s efforts.

“I don’t think Lupe makes a difference to this race,” Sorrell said. “People view Beto’s race as a separate entity from Lupe’s race.”

Veteran Republican consultant Bill Miller said Valdez could be a problem for O’Rourke and other Democrats because her campaign is so irrelevant.

“The Democrats believe she helps, but in my opinion she hurts,” Miller said. “She’s not going to be a strong candidate and her race is not a hot race. She’s going to be discounted early on and that won’t help O’Rourke.”

My inclination is to agree with Michael Sorrell. We haven’t had a situation like this in recent memory. In the recent years where we have had concurrent races for Senate and Governor:

– Wendy Davis’s gubernatorial campaign was much higher profile than David Alameel’s Senate campaign in 2014. Not that any of it made much difference.

– The four-way Governor’s race in 2006 defies comparison to anything else.

– Both Tony Sanchez and Ron Kirk had well-funded campaigns in 2002, with Kirk doing a few points better in the end.

Honestly, the real factor here is Greg Abbott and his gazillions of dollars, which would be a major concern no matter who was his opponent. Valdez has improved as a candidate after a rough start, and in the end I think she’ll raise a million or two bucks, which is a water balloon against Abbott’s fire hose but will at least allow for some kind of campaign activity. The main way Abbott can use his money to affect other races is by spending a ton on GOTV stuff, which again he’d do if he were running instead against Andrew White or Julian Castro or whoever your fantasy alternative candidate might be. He still has to contend with whatever chaos Donald Trump unleashes, whatever discontent the electorate may feel about Hurricane Harvey and gun violence, and other things that money may not be able to ameliorate. All things considered, I think Valdez’s campaign will have little effect on Beto’s. It’s unlikely to be of any help, but it probably won’t hurt, either.

(Yes, I wrote this before the property tax story came out. I still don’t think one campaign will have much effect on the other.)

O’Rourke sure sounds like a candidate for Senate

Sure feels like it’s a matter of when and not if Rep. Beto O’Rourke announces his candidacy for US Senate.

Re. Beto O’Rourke

U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke, D-El Paso, is sailing toward a 2018 Senate campaign — an uphill battle that would pit the little-known congressman against one of the state’s most prominent Republicans in the unpredictable era of President Donald Trump.

“I really want to do this,” O’Rourke said in an interview Saturday in which he also promised to run a positive campaign against U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas — no matter how much animus the incumbent inspires among Texas Democrats.

“Being against Ted Cruz is not a strategy,” O’Rourke said. “It might motivate some folks and might make the election of a Democrat for the first time in 30 years more likely, but it in itself is not a strategy, and so I’m really putting my time and my efforts and my thinking into what makes Texas a better place and what makes the lives of the people who live in this state better, and so I’m just going to stay focused on that.”

O’Rourke has said for weeks that he is likely to take on Cruz but has not set a timeline for an official announcement. He said Saturday he wants to make sure he is mindful of his current constituents and that “I’m thoughtful in how I make this decision and keep El Paso, my family, foremost in mind.”

“I don’t want to run unless we’re going to win, and I’m confident we can,” O’Rourke said. “I just want to make sure the way we do this, we set ourselves up for victory.”

[…]

If O’Rourke runs for Senate, fundraising would likely be one of his biggest challenges. While he was the underdog in his 2012 Senate campaign, Cruz has since built a national fundraising network, partly through his 2016 presidential bid.

O’Rourke has already made clear he plans not to accept PAC money in a potential Senate campaign. Asked Saturday if that would apply to money from national Democratic groups who may want to help him out, O’Rourke held firm that he “won’t take money from political action committees — and that’s across the spectrum.”

“I think folks just need to know that, clean and simple,” O’Rourke said. “When you start picking and choosing then, you know, it becomes a slippery slope and you just start doing what everyone else is doing, what everyone is so sick of and what has made Washington so dysfunctional and corporate.”

See here, here, and here for some background. As noted before, we are probably not going to get any kind of positive announcement until after the March 31 campaign finance deadline for the first quarter. I will say again, I really hope Rep. O’Rourke has a plan to achieve the kind of grassroots fundraising success he talks about, because it ain’t easy to do. Neither is running for Senate with less than a full complement of resources, as Paul Sadler and Rick Noriega and Barbara Radnofsky could tell you. Believe me, I’m rooting for Rep. O’Rourke, and I’ll chip in when the time comes, I’m just trying to be clear-headed about the road ahead.

On the matter of whether or not his colleague Rep. Joaquin Castro will join him in this quest, Rep. O’Rourke says that while Rep. Castro is his friend and he’d be a great Senator himself, he can’t and won’t wait to see what someone else does to make his own decision. Fair enough. I still don’t believe the two of them will square off in a primary, but 2018 is going to be a weird year, so who knows what might happen.

What the Trib’s pollsters miss about their own polls

Having published their poll results, Jim Henson goes back and analyzes their gubernatorial poll, pronouncing it all a big success.

Sen. Wendy Davis

Sen. Wendy Davis

The partisan responses to the poll results have been similarly predictable. The Republican chorus is singing I-told-you-so, chalking up Davis’ position to the impact of the media pack reporting of her biographical fudges. The Democratic peanut gallery has pointed to the fact that the poll was in the field before Ted Nugent did a double live gonzo on Abbott’s thus far business-as-usual campaign.

The partisan responses are simultaneously more or less plausible, but in both cases frequently overstated – not a shocking state of affairs since we are, after all, in the middle of an election year. But these latest results reflect factors that are much more deeply rooted than the low-hanging fruit making headlines and feeding campaign emails: Abbot’s 11-point pre-Nugent advantage emerged from the relatively static underlying pattern of partisan identification in the state and the dynamics of candidate name recognition ­– both of which still add up to a significant disadvantage for Democrats.

None of which is to say that Davis’ campaign has collapsed, as some critics, both friendly and hostile, have suggested. These new numbers are less a sign of the decay of the Davis candidacy than a reversion toward the mean ­– that is, a return to the expected steady state. Davis’ 6-point deficit in the October 2013 UT/TT poll reflected the final dance of her very public coming out party as the excitement that propelled her into the race in the first place receded into the realities of day-to-day campaigning. At the time, Davis was in a unique position for a Texas Democrat, known by a greater share of the electorate than her Republican counterpart.

Davis now finds herself trailing by 11 points, but this current state reflects the underlying partisan composition of the electorate – not some major, event-driven shift in sentiment.

Maybe I’m the only person fixating on this, but as I said before, the problem with comparing the two polls is that in the first one they asked about three candidates – Davis, Abbott, and Libertarian Kathie Glass, who drew five percent – but in the second one they only asked about two. It seems likely to me that Glass would have drawn a few points away from Abbott, but even if you think the effect would have been more or less evenly distributed, the fact remains that Davis and Abbott likely would have had different numbers in a two-person matchup than they did in the three-person race that was polled. I say that makes the two polls not directly comparable, and I fail to understand why in two different articles so far neither Henson nor Daron Shaw has even mentioned this difference, if only to dismiss it as the useless obsession of some punk blogger. It’s a small thing, but I really don’t think I’m asking for too much for them to acknowledge the difference.

That may be a small thing, but this isn’t:

While Davis needs to both mobilize large groups of Democratic voters in an off-year election and persuade no small number of Republicans to defect, the task is becoming harder by the day. Among key groups that Davis might hope to court, Abbott looks stronger – at least so far. On the trial ballot, Abbott leads Davis 42 percent to 40 percent among suburban women;among Hispanics, favorable attitudes toward Abbott have increased from 21 percent in June 2013 to 30 percent in October to 39 percent in our most recent poll. Add to this that most of the Texas electorate, especially in non-presidential years, tends to be white — where Abbott leads Davis 57 percent to 32 percent — and Davis’ challenge only grows.

Maybe you looked at that 57-32 lead Abbott holds with Anglo voters in this poll and said “Huh, that’s a pretty big lead” and didn’t give it another thought. Or maybe you were curious enough to wonder how that might compare to other recent poll results in Texas, since putting a number in context always makes it more useful than not putting it in context. If only there were date from previous polls to which that could be compared.

Well, of course, such data does exist, as Jim Henson well knows since some of that data is his own. See those Texas poll results there on my sidebar? Let’s click through a few of the recent ones to see what they tell us about Anglo voter preferences in our fair state in the last election.

YouGov, Oct 31 – Nov 3: Romney 70, Obama 25

Texas Lyceum, Oct 2012 (page 422): Romney 67, Obama 28

UT/TT, Oct 2012 (page 112): Romney 67, Obama 24

In other words, according three different polls, one of which was Jim Henson’s own UT/Texas Trib poll, Mitt Romney was leading President Obama by a range of 39 to 45 points among Anglo voters, which is considerably more than Greg Abbott’s relatively puny 25-point lead with them over Wendy Davis. In fact, if you substitute the 57-32 numbers they found in favor of Abbott for the 67-24 numbers they had for Romney and recalculate the raw totals based on that, Romney’s lead drops from 14 points (53.88 to 39.75) to three points (47.38 to 44.5). And Henson wants us to believe this represents a “growing challenge” to Wendy Davis? Henson didn’t just bury the lede in his story, he first strangled it with a lamp cord, then covered up the grave with loose vegetation to throw off the searchers.

Well, sure, you say, but everybody knows that the makeup of the 2012 electorate was less Anglo than the electorate in a non-Presidential year like 2010 or 2014 would be. I’d agree with that, but guess what? We have 2010 poll data to look at, too, including a result from – you guessed it – Jim Henson:

Texas Lyceum, Oct 2010: Abbott 66, Radnofsky 20

UT/TT, Oct 2010 (page 62): Perry 60, White 30; (page 73): Abbott 63, Radnofsky 24

For some bizarre reason, the Lyceum poll has no breakdown by race of the 2010 gubernatorial election. They have it for other races, but not Perry versus White. I’m sure that’s an inadvertent omission in the publication of the crosstabs, but go figure anyway. Once you get past that, the first thing you might notice, if you compare the crosstabs from 2010 to the crosstabs from 2012 for the UT/TT poll is that the racial makeup of each sample is identical, with roughly 65% of the total being Anglo. Henson and Shaw then take the raw totals backstage and do their proprietary statistical mumbo-jumbo on them to produce the result they then write about. That’s the basis (via PDiddie) of RG Ratcliffe’s complaint about Trib polls. But putting that aside, Henson’s own polling shows that Abbott went from a 39-point lead among Anglo voters in 2010 against Barbara Radnofsky to a 25-point lead among Anglo voters in 2014 against Wendy Davis. The drop is smaller in the Governor’s race poll, where Bill White trailed Rick Perry by 30, but that’s still a five point improvement for Wendy Davis. Why isn’t this precipitous drop in support among Anglo voters for Republicans the story? What am I missing here?

By the way, if you do the same math for the Abbott-Radnofsky numbers that I did for the Romney-Obama numbers, Abbott winds up better off – he still leads BAR by a 50.3 to 39.7 mark, which is pretty close to the lead Henson reports Abbott having over Davis, though down quite a bit from the 20-point lead they actually showed him with in 2010. The difference here is due to Abbott being in a near-tie among Hispanic voters with BAR; Rick Perry had the same result against Bill White in that poll. While Henson says Abbott’s favorability numbers among Hispanic voters are trending up he doesn’t say anything about the horserace numbers among Hispanic voters. For reasons I don’t understand, the Trib doesn’t include the crosstabs of their own polls when they report on them. You have to go to Henson and Shaw’s other home, the Texas Politics Project, to find them. Turns out Henson does show Abbott leading Davis 40-36 among Hispanic voters, a result that ought to be even bigger news than the topline but which does even warrant a by-the-way. That isn’t a fluke, either – David Dewhurst leads Leticia Van de Putte 33-31 among Hispanic voters, though poor Dan Patrick trails her by a 35-27 margin. Nobody’s really claiming Hispanic voters went nearly 50-50 for Republicans in 2010, or that they’re set to do the same thing or be even more favorable to them this year. Henson and Shaw certainly aren’t, or surely they would have said so by now. This is an artifact of their very small sample size – 130 Hispanic voters total, for a margin of error of 8.6% – and their odd construct, which is why it attracts so much criticism. Whatever mumbo-jumbo they’re doing behind the scenes, they must be doing a lot of it.

I get that Henson and Shaw are making their best guess about what the electorate will look like in November, just as every pollster ultimately does. They expect that the electorate will tend to favor Greg Abbott, and by God that’s what their results show. But this poll, with its bizarre but completely unmentioned crosstabs, is national news, as is that highly questionable Democratic primary poll. If the goal was to get people talking about this race – especially if the goal was to get people talking to Henson and Shaw about their perception of this race – then this has been a big success. If the goal was to help us understand what’s actually happening in this race, then I’d say there’s still work to be done. But don’t worry, I’m sure their next poll will clear up any lingering questions.

The UT/TT poll’s track record in past Democratic primaries

The one result in that UT/TT poll from Monday that has people freaking out is the one that shows nutball LaRouchie Kesha Rogers leading the Senate race with 35%, followed by David Alameel with 27%. I expressed my skepticism of that result at the time, because among other things I have my doubts that their sample is truly representative of the Democratic primary electorate, but I thought it might be worthwhile to take a look at the Trib’s previous efforts at polling Democratic primaries and see how they’ve done in the past. There are two elections to study. First, let’s go back to 2010 when all of the statewide offices were up for grabs. Democrats had three contested primaries that the Trib polled: Governor, Lt. Governor, and Ag Commissioner. Here are the results.

In the Democratic primary race, former Houston Mayor Bill White has a huge lead over his next closest challenger, businessman Farouk Shami, pulling 50 percent to Shami’s 11 percent. Five other candidates are in the running for the Democratic nomination; the survey found that only 9 percent of those polled prefer someone other than the two frontrunners.

Undecided voters are still significant in both gubernatorial primaries. On the Republican side, 16 percent said they hadn’t made up their minds. Pressed for a preference, 51 percent chose Perry, 34 percent chose Hutchison, and 15 percent chose Medina — an indication that Perry could win without a runoff if he can attract those voters into his camp. Among Democratic voters, 30 percent were undecided, and of those, 48 percent, when pressed, said they lean toward White. With White already at 50 percent, that means Shami would have to strip votes away from him in order to force a runoff or to claim a win.

[…]

Democratic primary voters have a couple of other statewide races to decide. In the contest for lieutenant governor — the winner will face Republican incumbent David Dewhurst in November — labor leader Linda Chavez-Thompson took 18 percent of those polled, former Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle got 16 percent, and restaurateur Marc Katz had 3 percent. Five percent of voters said they wanted “somebody else,” and a whopping 58 percent remain undecided on the eve of early voting, which begins on Tuesday. Kinky Friedman and Hank Gilbert — two refugees from the governor’s race now running for agriculture commissioner — are locked in a tight race, 32 percent to 27 percent. While Friedman’s ahead, the difference is within the poll’s margin of error. And, as with the Lite Guv race, “undecided” is actually leading, at 41 percent. The winner will face incumbent Republican Todd Staples in November.

And here’s the reality:

Governor Alma Aguado 2.83% Felix Alvarado 4.95% Bill Dear 0.96% Clement Glenn 1.44% Star Locke 0.92% Farouk Shami 12.84% Bill White 76.03% Lieutenant Governor Linda C-T 53.13% Ronnie Earle 34.67% Marc Katz 12.18% Commissioner of Agriculture Kinky Friedman 47.69% Hank Gilbert 52.30%

So White did have a big lead on Shami, but it was much bigger than they indicated. Linda Chavez-Thompson was indeed leading Ronnie Earle, but by a significant amount, more than enough to avoid a runoff. And Hank Gilbert defeated Kinky Friedman, despite the UT/TT poll showing Friedman in the lead.

How about the 2012 Senate primary, which is a reasonably decent facsimile of this one, as it’s a large field of mostly unknown candidates? Here’s the poll:

The Democrats, too, could be building to a July finish, probably between former state Rep. Paul Sadler and Sean Hubbard, according to the poll.

Sadler led the Democrats with 29 percent, but was followed closely — and within the poll’s margin of error — by Hubbard. Two other candidates — Addie Dainell Allen and Grady Yarbrough — also registered double-digit support.

And the actual result:

U. S. Senator Addie Allen 22.90% Sean Hubbard 16.08% Paul Sadler 35.13% Grady Yarbrough 25.87%

Sadler did in fact lead the field, but Hubbard came in fourth, well behind eventual second-place finisher Grady Yarbrough, whom the Trib pegged for fourth.

So what conclusions can we draw from this? Mostly that we don’t have enough data to be able to evaluate the Trib’s ability to poll Democratic primaries. To be fair to them, they were quite accurate in the corresponding GOP races. They had Rick Perry winning in 2010, though not quite over 50%, with Debra Medina’s level nailed exactly, and they had David Dewhurst with a lead over Ted Cruz with Tom Leppert in third, but with the Dew falling short of a majority. As such, I’d put some faith in their GOP polling, at least until we see how they actually did. But I would not put much faith in their Dem results. They clearly pushed people to pick someone – anyone! – in the Senate race, they polled before David Alameel dropped a bunch of mail, which they themselves said (but didn’t acknowledge in their writeup) is exactly the sort of thing that could enable someone to win that race, and as I said I just don’t believe they’ve got a representative sample of the Dem primary electorate. I’ll be more than a little shocked if it turns out they got this one right.

One more thing: What if they are right about Rogers leading? Well, as long as she doesn’t crack 50%, I’d suggest we all remain calm. For all its constraints and limitations, the state Democratic Party has managed to get the nominees it has wanted in the last three Senate primaries. Rick Noriega cleared 50% in round one in 2008, and Sadler in 2012 and Barbara Radnofsky in 2006 both won their runoffs – Radnofsky has said that her overtime race against the now apparently dormant Gene Kelly was the best thing that happened to her, as it boosted her fundraising and made people actually pay attention to that race. I feel reasonably confident that if Rogers is in a runoff with anyone, everyone else in the party will fall as loudly and visibly as they can behind her opponent, whoever that winds up being. It’s already happening to a large degree – the TDP, the HCDP, and the Fort Bend Democratic Party have put out messages condemning Rogers and urging Democrats not to vote for her. I’d have preferred to see that happen earlier than this, and I’d much rather it not come to banding together to beat her in a runoff, but I’m not going to fall into a spiral of self-loathing over this one poll result. Do your part to help people make a good decision in this race, and be prepared to support someone other than Kesha in a runoff if it comes to that.

Congressional map gets final approval

On to the Governor.

The Republican-controlled Texas Senate approved a new congressional district map for the state Monday and sent it to Gov. Rick Perry for his approval.

[…]

The map was approved 19-12 along party lines and without debate. Democrats have complained the new map violates the federal Voting Rights Act by splitting Latino and black communities and diluting their voting power.

If Perry, a Republican, signs the map into law, it will go to the Department of Justice for review. The Voting Rights Act requires Texas to make sure the map does not diminish minority representation.

Far as I know, the map is the same as the one the House approved last week. Here’s a final look at the numbers, with districts sorted into those drawn to be Republican seats and those drawn to be Democratic. First, numbers we’re familiar with, from the 2008 elections:

Dist Obama Houston =================== 01 30.4 36.4 02 35.9 36.7 03 37.4 36.8 04 29.3 37.6 05 37.3 42.0 06 42.5 45.4 07 39.1 37.8 08 26.1 29.4 10 42.6 43.2 11 23.1 27.5 12 44.2 44.8 13 22.2 27.5 14 42.0 47.3 17 40.9 44.1 19 27.9 32.3 21 42.2 40.2 22 37.6 38.3 23 47.5 49.6 24 40.5 39.9 25 42.7 43.5 26 38.7 38.9 27 40.1 45.8 31 42.5 42.4 32 43.8 43.7 33 41.7 43.0 36 29.6 39.3 09 76.5 76.8 15 57.3 60.0 16 64.4 66.5 18 79.6 78.7 20 59.1 59.5 28 60.0 62.7 29 64.6 69.7 30 81.8 82.0 34 60.0 63.6 35 63.2 63.1

As observed before, all downballot Dems but one carried CD23 in 2008, with two of them getting a clear majority. This district is definitely winnable and should be a top target in 2012. Other districts bear watching and deserve willing challengers, but may not be ready to turn. Joe Barton’s millions will make CD06 a tough nut to crack even as it keeps getting bluer.

I’ve done most of my analysis on the 2008 elections, since the first election after redistricting will be a Presidential year election, and I wanted to compare apples to apples. But let’s take a look at some non-Presidential year numbers to see what they tell us as well:

2010 2010 2010 2006 Dist White LCT BAR Moody ============================= 01 31.5 23.8 23.2 37.1 02 36.3 27.5 26.4 35.5 03 33.6 26.6 27.5 34.2 04 32.9 24.1 23.3 43.2 05 38.3 28.9 28.8 43.5 06 41.9 35.2 34.4 45.4 07 40.5 28.9 28.3 37.4 08 27.1 19.0 18.0 32.7 10 41.2 31.8 30.7 46.3 11 23.9 16.8 15.7 33.1 12 41.7 35.6 34.6 46.7 13 24.7 16.5 15.6 34.0 14 41.8 34.7 33.6 50.6 17 41.2 31.6 30.3 47.3 19 28.1 19.5 18.2 36.5 21 38.8 30.7 29.3 43.7 22 37.3 29.1 27.6 38.3 23 43.8 37.8 34.8 51.1 24 36.2 29.0 29.5 38.4 25 41.4 32.4 31.3 47.9 26 34.6 27.8 27.6 39.3 27 40.0 32.2 29.4 49.9 31 36.6 29.5 27.8 41.9 32 42.1 33.0 35.3 43.3 33 39.5 33.1 31.9 43.0 36 32.8 24.8 23.4 44.4 09 76.6 72.8 71.2 73.9 15 53.7 49.4 45.7 55.5 16 60.0 54.8 53.1 69.8 18 79.6 73.8 72.8 78.6 20 57.1 51.4 46.8 62.1 28 59.0 53.5 50.3 61.5 29 69.1 63.9 61.3 69.0 30 81.1 78.4 77.1 79.2 34 55.7 52.2 46.8 62.2 35 59.9 53.6 50.1 65.5

White is Bill White, LCT is Linda Chavez-Thompson, the 2010 Democratic nominee for Lt. Gov., BAR is Barbara Radnofsky, the 2010 nominee for Attorney General, and Moody is Bill Moody, who ran for State Supreme Court in 2006 (and in 2002 and 2010, but never mind that for now). White was by far the top Democratic votegetter in 2010, earning about 400,000 more votes than most of the rest of the Dems, all of which came out of Rick Perry’s totals. Radnofsky was the Democratic low scorer, as Greg Abbott topped the GOP field – he had about 115,000 more votes than Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst – and won a few crossover votes of his own in doing so. Moody was the top Dem in 2006.

BAR’s numbers represent a worst case scenario. Three districts drawn for Democrats – Ruben Hinojosa’s CD15, Charlie Gonzalez’s CD20, and the “new” CD34 (which is really Solomon Ortiz’s old district with a different number) would fall under these conditions. The good news, if you want to look at it that way, is that BAR lost by over 30 points. LCT, who lost by “only” 27 points, won all 10 of these districts; she didn’t get a majority in CD15 but she did carry it by two points and about 2,000 votes. Barring a repeat of 2010 or unfavorable demographic changes, these districts should continue to lean Democratic even in bad years. That said, if I had absolute control over who ran for what, I’d give serious thought to finding a successor for the 71-year-old financially troubled Rep. Hinojosa, on the theory that it’s better to defend an open seat in a year where the wind will probably be at your back than in a year where maybe it won’t be.

I included Moody’s 2006 numbers because I wanted to show what things might look like in a year where Republican turnout isn’t crazy off-the-scale high. The comparison is a bit skewed because the 2008 and 2010 reports from the Texas Legislative Council include third-party candidate, but reports from before then do not. There was a Libertarian candidate in the Moody-Don Willett race in 2006, and that candidate got about 4%, so Moody’s numbers here are all a bit high. Still, you see that he won CD23, lost CD27 by a hair (less than 300 votes), and – surprise! – won CD14. I still believe that the underlying fundamentals of that district are going the wrong way, but who knows? The right candidate with the right message could make life interesting in 2014.

I will have one more thing to say about these numbers in a future post, but for now that about closes the books, at least until the Justice Department and eventually the courts have their say. Remember, if history is any guide, we’ll have some new districts to play with in 2016. You can see the 2010 report here, the 2008 report here, and the 2006 report here; my thanks to Greg for sharing them with me. The Lone Star Project has more.

Endorsement watch: Early voting? Never heard of it

Somewhat incredibly, there were still endorsements being made over the weekend. Two newspapers finally got around to picking a side in the Governor’s race. The good news is that at least they picked the right one. First up, the Abilene Reporter News.

Big Country residents (and Texans in general) face an important choice Tuesday — return Gov. Rick Perry to office, virtually guaranteeing him 14 years in the office, or elect former Houston mayor Bill White to the post.

The Abilene Reporter-News advisory board recommends White as the candidate most suited to govern our state. His business experience, progressive views regarding education and conservative take on fiscal issues were the things that most impressed the advisory board during its meeting with him and investigation into his background.

A competent businessman, an entrepreneur, an energy expert and, yes, even a plaintiff’s attorney, White was successful in the private sector before going into the public sector.

[…]

In the face of Perry’s un-American secessionist statements, the flat refusal of federal funds for education rather than diplomatic wrangling, the Trans-Texas Corridor fiasco, an education system that has more than its share of issues, unaddressed immigration problems, a mandate for the vaccination of all Texas girls against human papillomavirus, an $18 billion to $21 billion budget shortfall, Texas Department of Transportation issues, Tea Party pandering and the completely unnecessary fostering of partisanship in a political game for political gain — Bill White’s curriculum vitae paints a picture of a candidate Big Country residents and West Texans should help vote into office.

If you’re wondering what “virtually guarantees” means, it’s because Perry wants to run for President. Because what this country needs now is another idiot right-wing Texas Governor in the White House.

And winning a special award in the “Why do today what you can put off till tomorrow?” department, here’s the El Paso Times offering an opinion about the entire statewide slate.

El Paso needs the big ear that is a governor’s.

Thus we feel a change in leadership is warranted, and we believe Democrat Bill White should be the next governor of Texas.

“El Paso will not be forgotten,” said the man credited with getting Houston out of massive financial straights by going over budget items line by line — and doing it over again month by month until the problem of money has been solved.

The El Paso Times also endorses Barbara Ann Radnofsky for Attorney General, and incumbents Susan Combs for comptroller, Jeff Weems for Railroad Commissioner and Jerry Patterson for Land Commissioner.

We especially like Radnofsky’s stance that legalized casino gambling should become law in Texas as a means of generating much-needed revenue, and that she would use her office to make sure a fair share of federal border security money sent to Austin would be sent here.

It must be noted that they’re not so big on early voting in El Paso, so I guess we shouldn’t be surprised by the EPT’s casual attitude towards endorsing. And again, at least they got it right. Eventually.

Endorsement watch: DMN for BAR

I have to admit, I was not expecting to see any Democrats for statewide non-judicial offices endorsed other than Bill White and Jeff Weems, but I am delighted to see this.

[A]fter eight years of [Attorney General Greg] Abbott, Texas can go no farther down this path.

Democratic challenger Barbara Ann Radnofsky offers a viable alternative. She’s a smart, hard-nosed attorney who rightly suggests that the incumbent has done a poor job of picking battles.

Radnofsky, 54, ran unsuccessfully for the U.S. Senate in 2006. Now, as then, she sometimes struggles to strike the right tone on the campaign trail as she aggressively argues her case. But she also immerses herself in legal issues, devouring details and offering informed proposals.

[…]

In this race, though, Radnofsky earns our recommendation. She’s well prepared for the job and would back off from battles the state can’t win – and shouldn’t be fighting. Voters should not give Abbott another four years to tilt at Washington’s windmills.

In the endorsements I’ve seen in other papers of Abbott, they’re generally complimentary towards Radnofsky and have been critical of Abbott for his windmill-tilting, as the DMN puts it. It just hasn’t been enough to push them away from the incumbent. Not so for the DMN, apparently, and good for them for taking a stand on it rather than hoping for something hopeless to happen.

Interview with Barbara Radnofsky

Barbara Radnofsky

Coming into the home stretch, we move towards the top of the ballot with Barbara Radnofsky, who is running for Attorney General. Radnofsky, the 2006 Democratic nominee for Senate, is an attorney and mediator who has remained very active in state politics since her previous run. Radnofsky has been strongly critical of two-term incumbent AG Greg Abbott for his headline-seeking (and frequently hypocritical) legal filings, as well as for the one he has chosen not to do, about which I interviewed her before. All that and more in this interview:

Download the MP3 file

The Trib did an interview with Radnofsky a few weeks ago – audio and a transcript can be found here. Typically, Abbott has chickened out on debating her.

You can find a list of all interviews for this cycle on the 2010 Elections page.

UPDATE: I’m pleased to see that BAR got the DMN endorsement.

UT/TT poll: Perry 39, White 33

Another poll result.

Republican Gov. Rick Perry leads his Democratic challenger, Bill White, by 6 percentage points — 39 percent to 33 percent — in the latest University of Texas/Texas Tribune poll. Libertarian Kathie Glass has the support of 5 percent of the Texans in the survey; Green Party candidate Deb Shafto gets 1 percent. And 22 percent of respondents — more than one in five Texans — say they’re undecided about which candidate to support with only seven weeks to go in the fall campaign.

Clearly, the natives are restless: In addition to the high percentage of undecided voters up and down the ballot, the poll also found that third-party candidates are capturing enough of the vote to affect the outcomes of some statewide contests. And 31 percent of respondents — nearly one in three Texans — consider themselves part of the Tea Party movement.

“White has not yet faded and remains in striking distance of Perry,” says Daron Shaw, a government professor at the University of Texas who oversees the UT/Tribune poll with his colleague Jim Henson. “The downside for White is that Perry is up by 18 points among those who say they are extremely likely to vote. White needs a big turnout among young voters and minorities to be competitive.”

As for the undecided voters, Shaw and Henson say the high percentage isn’t that unusual when you consider that they weren’t pressed to say whom they’d support if the election were held today. The candidates have plenty of voters to fight for, they say — and there are enough unanchored votes to swing the election either way. The question to be answered between now and November is what those people will do when it comes time to vote.

“There are a lot of people out there who are not ready to respond to a poll about who they’re going to vote for,” Henson says. “If you look at the breakdown, there are a lot of moderates and a lot of independents.”

You can see more info here, though full crosstabs aren’t out yet. Color me a little skeptical of this one. I believe Rick Perry has a lot of soft support, but I don’t believe 22% of the electorate is actually undecided. Just hearing the words “Democrat” and “Republican” should get you a candidate selection over 80% of the time, as it did in their generic Congressional/legislative ballot question. Nor do I believe that the Libertarian candidates will collect over 5% of the vote in most of these races. No Libertarian candidate got as much as 5% in 2006 in a statewide race. Finally, if 14% of your sample is people who don’t know (6%) who they voted for President in 2008 or didn’t vote at all (8%), then I think you’re sampling a lot of people who will not be voting this November. Unless you were ineligible to participate in 2008, if you didn’t vote then you ain’t voting now.

Note that in their May poll, Perry was leading by 9, 44-35, meaning he lost five points and White two between the two polls. I didn’t see a “Who did you vote for in 2008?” question in their Day One toplines, so I can’t compare the two on that. Interestingly, every single candidate appears to have lost ground in this poll since May:

Candidate Race May Sept ================================ Perry Gov 44 39 White Gov 35 33 Dewhurst LtGov 44 41 Chavez-Thompson LtGov 30 26 Abbott AG 47 43 Radnofsky AG 28 26 Patterson LandCom 39 35 Uribe LandCom 27 25 Staples AgCom 39 33 Gilbert AgCom 28 26 Porter RRCom 39 33 Weems RRCom 27 25

All Republicans except Dewhurst, who went from +14 to +15, saw their leads shrink. That’s with the generic Congressional ballot going from 46-34 in the GOP’s favor in May to 48-33 in September. You’d think that might have been worthy of comment, but it went unnoted by the pollsters. Given my issues with the sample, I don’t think it means all that much, but it was striking nonetheless. I presume there will be more data coming, including the full crosstabs, so we’ll see what else there is soon enough. Burka has more.

Rick Perry isn’t the only debate ducker out there

Speaking of debates and those who don’t want to have them, meet Greg “I’ll leave the decision about whether or not I participate in a debate to my staff” Abbott. What are these guys afraid of? Is the thought of defending your record in front of an audience that might not include people who already support you that scary? I guess that like Perry Abbott doesn’t want to face a smart, engaged opponent in Barbara Radnofsky who will aggressively challenge him. Much safer to stick to approved talking points about political matters that don’t really have anything to do with his job.

Fundraising: Other statewides

Bill White kicked butt in the fundraising department, but how did the other statewide candidates do? Not nearly as good, unfortunately. Here’s a look:

http://www.ethics.state.tx.us/php/summary.php?rn=458383&form=COH

Totals From Report For Linda Chavez-Thompson
Filed on: July 15 2010
Covering the Period February 21, 2010 Through June 30, 2010

Total Unitemized Contributions: $94.00
Total Political Contributions: $331,023.42
Total Unitemized Expenditures: $1,442.55
Total Expenditures: $162,904.34
Total Unitemized Pledges (Schedule B1 or B2) $0.00
Total Contributions Maintained As Of The Last Day Of The Reporting Period $136,421.09
Total Principal Amount Of All Outstanding Loans As Of The Last Day of the Reporting Period $0.00
Total Unitemized Loans: $0.00

http://www.ethics.state.tx.us/php/summary.php?rn=458315&form=SPAC

Totals From Report For David Dewhurst Committee
Filed on: July 15 2010
Covering the Period January 01, 2010 Through June 30, 2010

Total Unitemized Contributions: $0.00
Total Political Contributions: $3,172,765.68
Total Unitemized Expenditures: $987.03
Total Expenditures: $1,299,511.30
Total Unitemized Pledges (Schedule B1 or B2) $0.00
Total Contributions Maintained As Of The Last Day Of The Reporting Period $3,550,829.75
Total Principal Amount Of All Outstanding Loans As Of The Last Day of the Reporting Period $1,137,500.00
Total Unitemized Loans: $0.00

http://www.ethics.state.tx.us/php/summary.php?rn=458258&form=COH

Totals From Report For Barbara Ann Radnofsky
Filed on: July 15 2010
Covering the Period January 01, 2010 Through June 30, 2010

Total Unitemized Contributions: $11,790.00
Total Political Contributions: $233,941.91
Total Unitemized Expenditures: $1,424.84
Total Expenditures: $176,092.13
Total Unitemized Pledges (Schedule B1 or B2) $415.00
Total Contributions Maintained As Of The Last Day Of The Reporting Period $463,852.09
Total Principal Amount Of All Outstanding Loans As Of The Last Day of the Reporting Period $0.00
Total Unitemized Loans: $0.00

http://www.ethics.state.tx.us/php/summary.php?rn=458479&form=SPAC

Totals From Report For Texans for Greg Abbott
Filed on: July 15 2010
Covering the Period January 01, 2010 Through June 30, 2010

Total Unitemized Contributions: $30.00
Total Political Contributions: $1,717,734.99
Total Unitemized Expenditures: $2,861.64
Total Expenditures: $653,222.40
Total Unitemized Pledges (Schedule B1 or B2) $0.00
Total Contributions Maintained As Of The Last Day Of The Reporting Period $11,209,703.93
Total Principal Amount Of All Outstanding Loans As Of The Last Day of the Reporting Period $0.00
Total Unitemized Loans: $0.00

http://www.ethics.state.tx.us/php/summary.php?rn=458764&form=COH

Totals From Report For Henry E. Gilbert
Filed on: July 15 2010
Covering the Period February 21, 2010 Through June 30, 2010

Total Unitemized Contributions: $0.00
Total Political Contributions: $51,701.98
Total Unitemized Expenditures: $6,229.72
Total Expenditures: $32,684.16
Total Unitemized Pledges (Schedule B1 or B2) $0.00
Total Contributions Maintained As Of The Last Day Of The Reporting Period $90,710.73
Total Principal Amount Of All Outstanding Loans As Of The Last Day of the Reporting Period $0.00
Total Unitemized Loans: $0.00

http://www.ethics.state.tx.us/php/summary.php?rn=458472&form=SPAC

Totals From Report For Texans for Todd Staples
Filed on: July 15 2010
Covering the Period January 01, 2010 Through June 30, 2010

Total Unitemized Contributions: $1,455.00
Total Political Contributions: $387,462.34
Total Unitemized Expenditures: $3,616.61
Total Expenditures: $210,392.40
Total Unitemized Pledges (Schedule B1 or B2) $0.00
Total Contributions Maintained As Of The Last Day Of The Reporting Period $1,065,709.00
Total Principal Amount Of All Outstanding Loans As Of The Last Day of the Reporting Period $0.00
Total Unitemized Loans: $0.00

http://www.ethics.state.tx.us/php/summary.php?rn=458249&form=COH

Totals From Report For Jeffry D. Weems
Filed on: July 15 2010
Covering the Period January 01, 2010 Through June 30, 2010

Total Unitemized Contributions: $168.00
Total Political Contributions: $63,716.53
Total Unitemized Expenditures: $100.00
Total Expenditures: $88,389.86
Total Unitemized Pledges (Schedule B1 or B2) $0.00
Total Contributions Maintained As Of The Last Day Of The Reporting Period $17,448.60
Total Principal Amount Of All Outstanding Loans As Of The Last Day of the Reporting Period $0.00
Total Unitemized Loans: $0.00

http://www.ethics.state.tx.us/php/summary.php?rn=457583&form=COH

Totals From Report For David J. Porter
Filed on: July 14 2010
Covering the Period February 21, 2010 Through June 30, 2010

Total Unitemized Contributions: $782.00
Total Political Contributions: $128,482.00
Total Unitemized Expenditures: $0.00
Total Expenditures: $63,133.72
Total Unitemized Pledges (Schedule B1 or B2) $0.00
Total Contributions Maintained As Of The Last Day Of The Reporting Period $74,727.48
Total Principal Amount Of All Outstanding Loans As Of The Last Day of the Reporting Period $15,000.00
Total Unitemized Loans: $0.00

http://www.ethics.state.tx.us/php/summary.php?rn=458410&form=COH

Totals From Report For Hector Uribe
Filed on: July 15 2010
Covering the Period February 22, 2010 Through June 30, 2010

Total Unitemized Contributions: $1,295.00
Total Political Contributions: $44,703.85
Total Unitemized Expenditures: $0.00
Total Expenditures: $33,008.80
Total Unitemized Pledges (Schedule B1 or B2) $0.00
Total Contributions Maintained As Of The Last Day Of The Reporting Period $7,289.77
Total Principal Amount Of All Outstanding Loans As Of The Last Day of the Reporting Period $0.00
Total Unitemized Loans: $0.00

http://www.ethics.state.tx.us/php/summary.php?rn=458409&form=COH

Totals From Report For Jerry E. Patterson
Filed on: July 15 2010
Covering the Period January 01, 2010 Through June 30, 2010

Total Unitemized Contributions: $0.00
Total Political Contributions: $307,629.67
Total Unitemized Expenditures: $0.00
Total Expenditures: $205,441.21
Total Unitemized Pledges (Schedule B1 or B2) $0.00
Total Contributions Maintained As Of The Last Day Of The Reporting Period $822,401.18
Total Principal Amount Of All Outstanding Loans As Of The Last Day of the Reporting Period $0.00
Total Unitemized Loans: $0.00

The Republicans break down into three groups: Dewhurst and Abbott, who have the resources to run a bunch of TV ads statewide if they want to (though I suspect Abbott will save a few pennies for a 2012 Senate race); Staples and Patterson, who have a comfortable lead in finances but don’t have enough to do more than spot some ads in select markets; and David Porter, who has a token amount, though still more than his opponent, Jeff Weems. None of the Democrats are going to approach the top level, but getting to the second tier is a doable goal, especially for Chavez-Thompson and Radnofsky. If you’re a big Democratic donor and you’ve already given five figures or more to Bill White, you can get a pretty decent amount of bang for those bucks if you were to write a similar check to some or all of his ballotmates.

Radnofsky urges Abbott to sue Wall Street

Interesting.

Texas should file a sweeping lawsuit against Wall Street firms similar to the ones that led to the multibillion-dollar tobacco settlements of the 1990s, Democratic attorney general candidate Barbara Ann Radnofsky argued Monday.

Shortly after she launched her appeal, incumbent Republican Greg Abbott’s office divulged that the state, the U.S. Department of Justice and other states have launched a broad inquiry into the Wall Street firms that were central to the financial collapse.

Radnofsky, a Houston lawyer challenging Abbott, published a legal briefing Monday that accuses Wall Street companies of deception, negligence, fraud and “causing [the] financial crisis.”

Modeled after the mass settlements generated from lawsuits against the tobacco industry, the complaint seeks about $18 billion in damages, as well as other reparations for Texas.

[…]

Jerry Strickland, a spokesman for Abbott’s office, said Texas and other investigators are focusing on “the relationships between Wall Street banks, rating agencies and the impact their conduct had on the financial crisis.”

He declined to comment on Radnofsky’s briefing. He also could not provide more details about Abbott’s investigation or which companies are being targeted. He could not say whether the investigation is civil or criminal in nature.

He said the inquiry involved nearly 30 states, as well as the federal government, and has continued for more than four months.

When told that Abbott’s office has already launched an inquiry into the financial industry, Radnofsky said that the attorney general is “dragging his feet.”

“He’s got everything he needs to file a lawsuit right now,” she said.

The press release Radnofsky sent out is here. You can also read the complaint and the brief, as well as a Daily Kos diary by Radnofsky that outlines her reasoning. I also had the chance to ask Radnofsky a few questions about this. Here’s what she had to say:

Download the MP3 file

If only Abbott had the same sense of urgency about this as he did about filing suit to overturn the Affordable Care Act. You can sign Radnofsky’s petition at SueWallStreet.com if you’d like to help persuade him to get cracking on it.

Abbott’s health care lawsuit

The Trib has a copy of the lawsuit that AG Greg Abbott and a dozen of his buddies have filed against the health care reform bill that was signed into law today. You may be wondering, as I have been, if they’re just whistling past the graveyard or if there’s something to their argument about the individual mandate. There’s a lot of legal commentary out there already that suggests this effort isn’t going to go anywhere, but I think Kevin Drum sums it all up pretty well.

[I]f the Supreme Court decided to overturn decades of precedent and strike down the mandate even though Kevin Drum says they shouldn’t (hard to imagine, I know), the insurance industry will go ballistic. If they’re required to cover all comers, even those with expensive pre-existing conditions, then they have to have a mandate in order to get all the healthy people into the insurance pool too. So they would argue very persuasively that unless Congress figures out a fix, they’ll drive private insurers out of business in short order. And that, in turn, will almost certainly be enough incentive for both Democrats and Republicans to find a way to enforce a mandate by other means. If necessary, there are ways to rewrite the rules so that people aren’t literally required to get insurance, but are incentivized so strongly that nearly everyone will do it. As an example, Congress might pass a law making state Medicaid funding dependent on states passing laws requiring residents to buy insurance. Dependent funding is something Congress does routinely, and states don’t have any constitutional issues when it comes to requiring residents to buy insurance. They all do it with auto insurance and Massachusetts does it with health insurance.

And if they do manage to strike down the individual mandate, there are other ways to achieve the same end. All that is assuming they can even get a court date before that provision comes online in 2014. (Remember how SCOTUS upheld the Indiana voter ID law because they said no one had actually been harmed by the law since it hadn’t been allowed to go into effect yet? It’s like that.) And if they do ultimately succeed at winning in court after losing at the ballot box and in the legislature, as Ezra Klein says, “No conservative who supports these legal challenges can complain about activist judges ever again.”

Closer to home, this letter from a number of Democratic state lawmakers to AG Abbott asks some pretty good questions as well:

While you are free to hold whatever personal view you care to hold, given that Texas state agencies are being asked to cut their budgets by 5 percent, and the Legislature has neither appropriated your office the funds for nor instructed you to pursue such litigation, this action has all the markings of a frivolous lawsuit.

We would also question why you would file a lawsuit that, if successful, would ostensibly result in the reimplementation of the worst practices of the insurance industry. It is disconcerting that you would expend state resources in an attempt to repeal small business tax credits, repeal tax subsidies to middle income families, reinstate the Medicare “donut hole,” allow insurance companies to indiscriminately drop people from their coverage, and prevent Texas from receiving any of the myriad pro-consumer reforms in the legislation.

To our knowledge, the Legislature has not instructed you to institute this suit nor has it specifically appropriated money for the proposed litigation. Please explain what constitutional or statutory provisions authorize you to bring this type of lawsuit. Also, please explain how you have obtained the consent of your client, the State of Texas, under the applicable provisions of the Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct. Finally, please explain how you intend to pay for the litigation.

Finally, please provide our offices with copies of any legal briefs or memoranda prepared by your office that address in any way the questions in the preceding paragraph. To the extent that you seek to withhold any information, please note that this request for information is made for legislative purposes under Section 552.108 of the Government Code.

In other words, it’s all basically politics on Abbott’s part. As Barbara Radnofsky notes, Abbott and RPT Chair Cathie Adams are using this lawsuit as a fundraising opportunity. I know, I’m as shocked as you are. Better milk all you can out of the repeal thing while you still can, Greg.

Abbott’s bogus health care claims

If there’s an opportunity to play politics, you can be sure AG Greg Abbott will take it.

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott said Tuesday that the push in Washington to force most Americans to buy health insurance may violate the U.S. Constitution and eventually trigger a lawsuit.

Abbott and 13 other attorneys general have already raised constitutional questions about another provision in the legislation, dubbed the “Nebraska Compromise.” If passed, that stipulation would shield Nebraska — but not other states — from the cost of expanding Medicaid, the federal health insurance program for the poor.

Now, Abbott warns Texas and possibly other states could sue the federal government over the measure requiring nearly all Americans to buy insurance. The warning from Abbott, a Republican, comes as Congress enters the final stages of negotiations over the health care legislation, Democratic President Barack Obama’s signature domestic initiative.

Just curious here, but has Abbott ever expressed any concern over the legal requirement to buy auto insurance, or for some homeowners to buy flood insurance or mortgage protection insurance? I didn’t think so. Here’s a response in the Huffington Post from Abbott’s opponent, Barbara Radnofsky. Any attorneys want to jump in here?

UPDATE: Andre Pineda brings some historical perspective.

You sure you’re married?

Maybe you are, and maybe you’re not.

Barbara Ann Radnofsky, a Houston lawyer and Democratic candidate for attorney general, says that a 22-word clause in a 2005 constitutional amendment designed to ban gay marriages erroneously endangers the legal status of all marriages in the state.

The amendment, approved by the Texas Legislature and overwhelmingly ratified by Texas voters, declares that “marriage in this state shall consist only of the union of one man and one woman.” But the trouble-making phrase, as Radnofsky sees it, is Subsection B, which declares:

“This state or a political subdivision of this state may not create or recognize any legal status identical or similar to marriage.”

Architects of the amendment included the clause to ban same-sex civil unions and domestic partnerships.

But Radnofsky, who was a member of the powerhouse Vinson & Elkins law firm in Houston for 27 years until retiring in 2006, says the wording of Subsection B effectively “eliminates marriage in Texas,” including common-law marriages.

She calls it a “massive mistake” and blames the current attorney general, Republican Greg Abbott, for allowing the language to become part of the Texas Constitution. Radnofsky called on Abbott to acknowledge the wording as an error and consider an apology. She also said that another constitutional amendment may be necessary to reverse the problem.

“You do not have to have a fancy law degree to read this and understand what it plainly says,” said Radnofsky[.]

This argument was made in 2005 when that referendum passed, and as it is now it was pooh-poohed then by those who pushed it. I’m not a lawyer and can’t give a lawyer’s opinion of this, but I certainly do remember having the same misgivings, and my archives will show that I wrote about them at the time. I suppose it’s all theoretical until someone files a lawsuit, but now that we’ve had the gay divorce ruling in Dallas, who knows what could happen. The best course of action, on many levels, would be to repeal this petty little piece of bigotry. That, sadly, isn’t going to happen, and I doubt the proponents of this amendment will see any need to modify the verbiage, so I guess we’ll just have to wait and see if it ever gets challenged. Hair Balls has more.

More names surfacing for statewide runs

Via Greg, it appears that Smokey Joe Barton may want to party like it’s 1993.

No one seems to be mentioning U.S. Rep. Joe Barton, R-Arlington, as a candidate to replace outgoing Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas.

Turns out that Barton — who came in third in the 1993 special election that Hutchison won in a runoff — is indeed thinking about running.

“Congressman Barton continues to watch the developments in Texas politics with an interested eye,” spokesman Sean Brown said. “He believes serving the entire state of Texas as their next senator would be an honor. If and when an opportunity presents itself, he will discuss it with his wife, family and supporters before making any decision.”

If he runs, Barton, a congressman since 1985, will not have to give up his seat, but he will have to do something pretty quickly about an awkward situation.

His longtime campaign consultant and spokesman, Craig Murphy, is also the spokesman for Roger Williams, the Weatherford auto dealer and former secretary of state who — oops — is running for Senate.

Barton drew a shade under 14% of the vote in the 24-candidate field, good for third place and a smidgeon ahead of former Republican Congressman Jack Fields. He wasn’t anywhere close to finishing in the money, however, as KBH and appointed Sen. Bob Krueger each received 29%. I have no idea why he thinks he might do any better this time around, but hey, dream big. And I’ll somewhat churlishly note that it’s only a free shot if KBH does in fact resign, which I’ll believe when it actually happens. Burka, who notes that Barton has a decent chunk of change in his campaign coffers, suggests the possibility of Barton being Perry’s appointee to the seat. I dunno about that, but as he says, stranger things have happened.

Meanwhile, via Marc Campos, this Statesman article is mostly about the Governor’s race and the top Democratic contenders (Tom Schieffer) and potential contenders (State Sen. Kirk Watson, Ronnie Earle) for it, but the interesting bit in the story to me was this paragraph:

Barbara Ann Radnofsky, the Democrats’ 2006 U.S. Senate nominee, has announced she’ll run for state attorney general. Others who have run before (Hank Gilbert, agriculture commissioner; Sam Houston, Texas Supreme Court; William Moody, Texas Supreme Court; Richard Raymond, land commissioner; Nick Lampson, U.S. House) are described by party leaders as weighing or intending statewide bids.

I can confirm that Hank Gilbert is running. Moody and Houston are great names to hear, as they were the Democratic frontrunners in 2006 and 2008, respectively. Having them both on the ticket – I’m hoping they’re not each eyeing Harriet O’Neill’s open seat – would be an asset. I know Rep. Raymond has had ambitions for another statewide run, but this is the first I’ve heard of it. As for former Rep. Lampson, I know he mulled a Senate run in 2008 before deciding to try for re-election in CD22. I’ve no idea offhand what office he might have in mind – the Senate special election field is pretty crowded – so I don’t know what to say about this other than it’s the first I’ve heard of it as well.

One more thing from the Statesman piece:

Earle, who earlier said he might run for attorney general, said that he’s no longer eyeing that possibility; he’s had a law enforcement post.

So it’s presumably Governor or nothing for Earle, unless he’s open to the Lite Guv position; I’m assuming he’s not interested in running for Comptroller or Land Commissioner or something like that. But AG is out, so that’s good news for Radnofsky.

Jeff Weems

We’ve been hearing plenty about the top of the ticket for Democrats in 2010, but there are still several slots to fill. One of them is the Railroad Commissioner seat held by Victor Carrillo. Via email to Carl Whitmarsh, here’s a name for you:

Jeff Weems is running for the Democratic nomination for Texas Railroad Commissioner in 2010, hopefully earning a chance to square off with Republican incumbent Victor Carrillo.

Jeff is currently the precinct Chair for Precinct 274. He is an oil and gas litigation attorney, representing exploration companies, service companies and landowners. Before becoming an attorney, he worked in the industry for years, first as a laborer on drilling rigs, next as a mud man, then as a landman. He has been an attorney for 19 years. He works with Harrison, Bettis, Staff, McFarland & Weems, a mid-sized Houston litigation firm.

Jeff is running because he knows the energy industry inside and out. He knows that the Railroad Commission can do so much more than it does now. The incumbent Republican commissioners are far too ready to take contributions from companies with matters pending before the commission, even when they are not up for election. Even more importantly, the current commissioners have demonstrated a bias toward the gas utilities when rate cases are heard, which ends up costing the citizens of Texas dearly. In addition, Jeff will balance the desires of the operators seeking to drill and complete wells with the need to protect Texas’ environment (such as in the Barnett Shale).

Won’t surprise me if Dale Henry, who was a candidate in 2006 and again in 2008, runs again. Mark Thompson, who defeated Henry and Art Hall in the 2008 primary for RR Commish, is currently running for Governor. There may be someone else out there as well – who knows, maybe Hall wants to take another crack at it – but at least we have one.

The potential contenders for all statewide offices at this time, as I know of them:

Governor – Tom Schieffer is in, Kinky Friedman and Mark Thompson say they’re in. Kirk Watson and/or Ronnie Earle may decide to join them. Former San Antonio Mayor Phil Hardberger has been mentioned as well, but while everyone I’ve spoken to loves the guy, nobody as yet thinks this is likely.

Lieutenant Governor – Not a whole lot of chatter about this one just yet, but I’ve recently heard that State Sen. Royce West, who has previously expressed some interest in Attorney General, may run for this slot instead. Watson remains a possibility here as well.

Attorney General – Barbara Radnofsky is in. West and Earle are possible. State Rep. Patrick Rose has been in the conversation, but any buzz he’s had has diminished of late. 2006 nominee David Van Os is always a possibility, but the word I’ve heard lately is that he’s not considering it.

Comptroller – Haven’t heard a peep. Susan Combs may become the Kay Bailey Hutchison of the next decade, at least if no one serious ever challenges her.

Ag Commish – 2006 nominee Hank Gilbert is running. He may have company, but as yet I’ve not heard any other names.

Land Commish – I have recently heard the name of a potentially exciting candidate for this slot, but that person has not made a decision and the name was given to me in confidence, so that’s all I can say for now.

So there you have it. Regarding the Comptroller slot, Combs probably is the one person no one serious wants to run against. There’s a danger in that if there is a vacuum, it could get filled by a clown like Fred Head, whose buffoonish presence would be a drag on a ticket that had, say, Watson, West, and Earle/Radnofsky as the headliners. You can’t stop anyone from running – see “Kelly, Gene” for all the evidence of that you’ll need – but you can try to persuade someone with a bit more heft to challenge him in the primary if it comes down to it. A self-funder would be preferred, given the amount of funds that will need to be devoted to other races. Whether one can be found or not is the question.

The first domino

Everybody’s been waiting to see what Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst will do next year, in the anticipation that if he announces a run for something else, Attorney General Greg Abbott will announce that he’s running for Lite Gov, and the dominoes will start falling as others scramble to move up the ladder. Turns out that it may not matter what Dewhurst decides to do – Abbott may knock over that first domino regardless.

Abbott’s new political director was coy when asked about a tip that Abbott definitely is running for lieutenant governor.

“The dominos are all falling. We still have the special session to get through. It’s a game of speculation right now,” says Luke Marchant, who returned to Texas earlier this month to run Abbott’s political shop.

As we know, right now Barbara Radnofsky is running for AG as a Democrat, and Republican Ted Cruz is all set to go as well. All I can say is that they’ll both have company in the event this happens.

Radnofsky says she’s in for AG

No surprise, since she has been talking about running for Attorney General for awhile, but Barbara Radnofsky sent out a press release yesterday confirming that she’s in the race for keeps. From the release:

Barbara Ann Radnofsky, a Houston attorney and the Democratic United States Senate nominee in 2006 is running for Texas Attorney General in 2010. Radnofsky says she will hold a formal announcement later in the year or early next year, but she’s in the race to stay because of what’s at stake for Texas.

“Our statewide leaders aren’t fighting for us; they’re fighting for themselves and their own personal agendas. We’ve seen how the Attorney General can harm our everyday lives: our electric bills, the insurance and taxes we pay, the safety of our children. We need an Attorney General who will use her skills to make sure all Texans get the protection they deserve,” Radnofsky said.

Barbara Ann Radnofsky, known as BAR to many of her friends and supporters, has emerged as the first Democratic candidate who says she’s definitely a candidate for Attorney General. Radnofsky says she intends to build upon her base of 1.55 million votes from 2006 with the help of a top notch team of political professionals with a track record of winning in Texas and across the country. She currently has hired fundraising, polling, media, direct mail, and opposition research firms to work on her 2010 campaign.

[…]

Since running in 2006, Barbara Ann has maintained her statewide organization and has engaged her organization to help elect more Texas Democrats in 2008. Recent polling shows Texas is ready to vote Democratic. In a recent poll conducted by a Republican polling firm in Texas, only 32% of voters in Texas said that Republican elected officials performed their job well enough to deserve reelection for their offices. In contrast, more than half (54%) responded that, “it’s time to give Democrats the chance to do better.”

“I’m in this race to stay and I’m in it to win,” said Radnofsky.

“I have a statewide organization, thousands of donors, and an experienced team of campaign professionals working with me. Texans are fed up with their interests taking a back seat to partisanship and next year it’ll show at the polls,” she concluded.

For what it’s worth, that Texas Lyceum poll shows an erosion in Republican party identification as well:

More respondents (46%) identified themselves as Independents than as Republicans (25%) or Democrats (28%). More of those who don’t identify with a party said they lean Republican (29%) than lean Democrat (22%). Asked about their political outlook, more consider themselves Conservative (46%) than as Moderate (35%) or Liberal (19%).

About the same number of those polled said they are “certain” or “likely” to vote in each party’s primary (Republicans, 31%; Democrats, 30%), and another 17 percent said they intend to vote in a primary but haven’t yet decided which one.

We’ll have a better idea of where we stand when they release their election polling today. I’ll say again, the biggest factor in turning these numbers from potential gains into actual ones is going to be fundraising. Dems have done very well at that in House races, and it’s resulted in near-parity in the House after starting with an 88-62 deficit. Greg thinks we’re basically a 55-45 state right now. Sufficient resources plus good candidates and a favorable environment can overcome that. That’s still asking for a lot, but it’s doable.

Back to BAR, this is reminiscent of the 2006 Senate campaign in that she jumped in early while many other potential contenders held back in the hope of KBH stepping down. As it was then, there are a lot of other possible candidates out there, and a lot of speculation that the incumbent, Greg Abbott, has his eyes on something else, in this case either KBH’s Senate seat or the Lite Gov’s office. We’ll see how it plays out this time, and if being first in line helps her in the event it’s an open seat and a contested primary.

More on Radnofsky for AG

Barbara Radnofsky talks to Gardner Selby about her intent to run for Attorney General in 2010.

Radnofsky said Thursday she’s going to run next year for attorney general, starting with an Austin fund-raiser Tuesday featuring nine Democratic state representatives (all 74 Dems were contacted, Radnofsky said, but most may be session-swamped).

Reminded that the past three Democratic aspirants for attorney general drew no more than 44 percent of the November vote, Radnofsky replied: “You’re mired in the past.”

Radnofsky stressed research gathered last year suggesting that Texas voters are identify themselves as Democrats than Republicans. Tracking polls analyzed by the Gallup organization found that 43 percent of Texans see themselves as Democrats compared to 41 percent of Republicans.

“The face of the state has changed,” she said.

Obviously, I believe the face of the state is changing, but as I said before where we’ve mostly seen this is in the downballot races between unknown, unfunded Democrats and unknown, unfunded Republicans. A race between a Dem with some name ID and campaign resources and a non-incumbent Republican with same, which is what we may get if current AG Greg Abbott aims at a higher office, could build on that dynamic and maybe persuade a few more of those people who say they’re calling themselves Democrats to vote for one in a statewide race.

That assumes, of course, that Radnofsky or whoever the nominee is can raise the dough needed for that. She seems to be taking a step in that direction.

New-hires on her side: Fund-raising consultant Jim Cunningham of Kentucky, pollster Andre Pineda of Los Angeles and direct-mail consultant Kevin Geary, who heads the Philadelphia office of the Baughman Group. Radnofsky said she’s hunting for a TV advertising consultant.

Interesting that she’s going out of state, but when you realize there are essentially no Dem consultants here with experience winning statewide in the past decade or more, it’s not so surprising. I’ll be very interested to see how they do.

Separately, I’ve heard chatter that other Democrats could yet test the waters for AG including state Reps. Trey Martinez Fischer of San Antonio, Pete Gallego of Alpine and state Sens. Royce West of Dallas and Kirk Watson of Austin, the party’s AG nominee in 2002. Republicans in the mix could include Ted Cruz, the state’s former solicitor-general (who’s already raising money and exploring a try), state Rep. Dan Branch of Dallas and Justice Dale Wainwright of the Texas Supreme Court.

Radnofsky said she’d be happy not having a major primary opponent. Referring to the perennial Universal City candidate with a dancer’s name whom she beat in a 2006 runoff, she said: “If the only opponent ended up being Gene Kelly, that’d be OK.”

Lots of new names on the might-run list; here’s some confirmation of Sen. West’s potential interest. As I said before, I’ll be perfectly happy to see contested primaries statewide, and if one of them involves a well-known figure like Ronnie Earle, so much the better. Among other things, spirited primaries will raise everyone’s profile, and will keep Dems out of the Republican primary, where some folks are considering a vote for KBH just to make sure we’re in the final days of Rick Perry’s reign. I understand BAR’s preference, but I say come one, come all. As long as we fill out the ticket with quality candidates, it’s all good.

Statewide race for Earle?

Well, this is interesting news.

Retired for all of four months, former Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle is considering running for a new job, possibly as the state’s top lawyer.

“There have been people who have talked to me about statewide runs,” for either governor or attorney general, said Earle, who served as Travis County’s top prosecutor for 31 years before retiring in December.

Eye on Williamson has been on the Earle-for-Governor bandwagon for months now, so this ought to make him happy. I think just the fact that “people” have been talking to Earle about a possible statewide run next year suggests that these people, who one presumes are the type who can actually make a campaign financially viable, think such a race is winnable. That says something about the political climate these days. Such optimism may be misplaced, but give how not too long ago the meme was that Democrats had already punted on the 2010 elections, it’s remarkable in and of itself.

Earle is an appealing candidate in many ways. He’s well known around the state, which is something you can’t say for many Texas Dems. He’d have no trouble firing up the base, thanks to his pursuit of Tom DeLay. Even better, the DeLay brand is sullied enough that any resentment of this case would likely be limited for the most part to folks who wouldn’t vote for any Democrat anyway. The eventual and long-awaited prosecutions of DeLay and his cronies would keep Earle’s name in the news even with him gone from the Travis County DA’s office. If everyone gets acquitted it would be a negative for him, but I think the odds are pretty good of at least some convictions. Earle’s reputation is that of a straight-shooter, which would play very nicely with any kind of reform message. All in all, there’s a lot to like about this.

Now of course, Democrats already have candidates for each of these offices. With all due respect to Tom Schieffer, I’d vote for Ronnie Earle in a heartbeat for the gubernatorial nomination. But if Sen. Leticia Van de Putte runs, I’d likely prefer her, as I think her legislative experience will make her the stronger candidate. Attorney General would be an excellent fit for Earle, and as much as I respect Barbara Radnofsky, I’d be strongly inclined to support Earle for that office. Maybe BAR might consider shifting focus to the Supreme Court if Earle does jump in – that’s where statewide Dems have gotten their highest vote totals in the past couple of elections, and her name ID would be as much of an asset there as anywhere else on the ballot.

Of course, all this is predicated on Earle actually taking the plunge in one of these races. I’ve lost count of the number of “so-and-so is considering a run for something” stories I’ve seen in the past few years; if I had a nickel for each one, my 401(k) would still be worth something. If and when we hear more about his ambitions, or those of anyone else who might be lurking out there, we’ll figure it all out then. Thanks to BOR for the tip.

BAR for AG

Barbara Radnofsky has been talking about a run for Attorney General in Texas in 2010 for some time now; I had a conversation about it with her back in 2007. Today she officially announced her intent, making her the third Democrat to do so for a statewide office. She told me on the phone that didn’t intend to do anything fancy at this point, and would be concentrating on fundraising for the next few months. She had previously filed her paperwork to run, so she can raise funds for her campaign.

As Vince notes, others have been in the mix for AG on the Democratic side: David Van Os, who ran for AG in 2006; Larry Veselka, who is currently on the list of candidates for the US Attorney position in Houston; State Sen. Kirk Watson, who has also been mentioned as a possible candidate for Lt. Gov.; and State Rep. Patrick Rose. Of those, I think the most likely to run is Van Os. While I would not mind seeing contested primaries up and down the ballot – we’re going to have a ton of them here in Harris for county judicial races – if Van Os were to ask me I’d suggest he take a crack at the 3rd Court of Appeals, which could use a little more partisan balance. But that’s just my opinion.

As far as her prospects, or that of any Dem statewide, I will say this. What we’ve seen in the last couple of elections has basically been two categories of statewide race: Well-funded R versus underfunded (or unfunded) D, and unfunded R versus unfunded D. We haven’t seen well-funded R versus well-funded D since 2002, and I think we can all agree that the electoral landscape is considerably different today than it was then. In any event, in the races where both candidates are not well-funded, which I think represents the baseline vote for each party, the Dems have done better. If current AG Greg Abbott, who has a huge pile of money, runs for something else as he’s rumored to want to do, Radnofsky would be in a position to start out roughly at financial parity with her opponent, most likely Solicitor General Ted Cruz. Given that she almost surely has higher name recognition to begin with, if she can build on the $1.5 million she raised in 2006 – say, double or triple that – this could be a pretty tight race. I’ll be very interested to see what kind of numbers she posts for the January disclosures.