Off the Kuff Rotating Header Image

CD15

Who might be next to retire from Congress?

We may see some more exits in the coming years, some voluntary and some not.

Rep. Mac Thornberry

Retirement talk is generally speculative until an incumbent makes an official announcement.

But many Republican operatives bet that U.S. Rep. Mac Thornberry, the most senior Republican from Texas in Congress, could make the upcoming term his last. That’s because Thornberry, currently chairman of the Armed Services Committee, is term-limited out of being the top Republican on that committee, in 2021. Thornberry’s office did not respond to a request for comment for this story.

Beyond a severe loss of power in Washington, there are potentially bigger problems ahead for Texas Republicans. Every Republican incumbent from Texas who successfully ran for re-election saw his or her margins shrink over Democrats from contested 2016 races. Some of these numbers should not be troubling. For instance, U.S. Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Tyler, won his race this year by 46 points, rather than 50 points in the prior cycle.

But five GOP incumbents – [Mike] McCaul and U.S. Reps. John Carter of Round Rock, Kenny Marchant of Coppell, Pete Olson of Sugar Land and Roger Williams of Austin – saw their 2016 margins shrink this year to single digits. These members will likely have to work harder for re-election in 2020 than ever before, and those battles will take place in suburban stretches of Austin, Dallas-Fort Worth and Houston that have become increasingly hostile to the GOP.

[…]

The 2018 results could well prove to have been a fluke, brought on by the coattails of outgoing U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke who ran the best Democratic statewide campaign in a generation in his unsuccessful bid against U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas. But anxiety is high among members and their aides that Texas can no longer sustain so many GOP incumbents – particularly after political maps gets redrawn during redistricting in 2021. Members with an eye on retirement might well wait to see the outcome of the redraw before deciding whether to call it quits.

The East Texas seat of U.S. Rep. John Ratcliffe, R-Heath, is another possible vacancy to watch, though not related to his future re-election prospects. With an increasingly higher profile as a member of the U.S. House Judiciary Committee and a past career as a federal prosecutor, Ratcliffe has emerged as a contender to be Trump’s next U.S. attorney general to replace the current acting AG, Matthew Whitaker.

As the story notes, the delegation has been pretty stable. In 2012, after the last round of redistricting and with four new seats added, there were only eight new members. Three were in new seats, of which one (Roger Williams, CD25) was in the district Lloyd Doggett abandoned to run in the new CD35. Of the other four, two defeated incumbents: Pete Gallego knocked off Quico Canseco in CD23, Beto O’Rourke knocked off Silvestre Reyes in the Democratic primary for CD16. Only Randy Weber in CD14 and Joaquin Castro in CD20 succeeded members that had retired. Between then and this year, Reps. Ruben Hinojosa (CD15) and Randy Neugebauer (CD19) retired, and the now-convicted Steve Stockman (CD36) left to pursue a doomed primary against Sen. John Cornyn in 2014. This year was a bonanza for new faces, and there’s a decent chance we’ll have a few more over the next two cycles.

Democratic primary runoff results

vote-button

Harris County results

Fort Bend County results

Statewide results

Trib liveblog

Just for the record, we didn’t get any precinct results until 8:34, at which time only 8% of precincts had reported. I’m pretty sure it wasn’t because of overwhelming turnout this time. We did get a big batch just after 9, but thanks to some close races, Harris County results will be the last ones I write about in this post.

Grady Yarbrough cements his position as this generation’s Gene Kelly by winning the Railroad Commissioner runoff. I’ll say again, you want a decent candidate to win these downballot primaries, especially against a perennial candidate, you’re going to need some investment in those races.

On a more interesting note, first-time candidate Vicente Gonzalez won the runoff in CD15 to succeed retiring Rep. Ruben Hinojosa. Gonzalez drew support from a bunch of Congressional incumbents, including the Congressional Progressive Caucus. Someone at least thinks he has a bright future, so keep an eye on him.

In Bexar County, Barbara Gervin-Hawkins will succeed retiring Rep. Ruth Jones McClendon in HD120.

In fairness to Stan Stanart, the Fort Bend County result reporting was even worse. They posted some precinct results a few minutes before Harris did, then bizarrely went back to showing early votes with zero precincts in. That was still the case as of 9:45 PM, then finally at 10 PM all the results came in at once. The deservedly maligned Rep. Ron Reynolds led 59-41 after early voting, then held on for a 53-47 margin. I wonder if voters were changing their minds, or if it was just the nature of Reynolds supporters to vote early. Whatever the case, he won.

And from Harris County:

– Dakota Carter wins in SBOE6.
– Ed Gonzalez will be the nominee for Sheriff.
– Judge Elaine Palmer easily held off JoAnn Storey for the 215th Civil District Court. Kristin Hawkins had an easy win for the 11th. The closest race of the evening was in the 61st, where Fredericka Phillips nosed out Julie Countiss by 210 votes after overcoming a small early lead by Countiss.
– Eric William Carter won in JP Precinct 1, while Hilary Green held on in JP Precinct 7.
– Chris Diaz romped in Constable Precinct 2, while Sherman Eagleton cruised in Constable Precinct 3.

And finally, Jarvis Johnson won in HD139, entirely on the strength of absentee ballots. Kimberly Willis won the early in-person vote as well as the Runoff Day vote, but not by a large enough margin given the modest number of people who turned out. Johnson will have the seniority advantage over his fellow freshmen thanks to his win in the special election, but this is not the kind of result that will scare anyone off for the next cycle.

2016 primaries: Congress

Rep. Gene Green

Rep. Gene Green

The big story here is that Rep. Gene Green not only survived, but won big. He was up 65% to 32% in early voting, a margin of about 4,000 votes; in the end he won by about 58-38, for a margin of about 5,000 votes. I had a hard time getting a feel for this race. Green was on TV a lot, but I saw more people than I might have expected expressing support for Garcia on Facebook. Garcia homed in on some issues for which Green might have been vulnerable, and as I said before, he ran the campaign I’d have had him run if I’d have been running his campaign. In the end, people weren’t ready to fire Gene Green. I doubt he faces any more serious challengers between now and whenever he decides to hang ’em up. The Press has more.

The only other Democratic Congressional primary of interest was in CD15, where Rep. Ruben Hinojosa declined to run for re-election. Vicente Gonzalez and Dolly Elizondo were leading the pack, with Gonzalez over 40% and Elizondo at 25%. As noted before, Elizondo would be the first Latina elected to Congress from Texas if she won, but she has a lot of ground to make up in the runoff if she wants to get there.

On the Republican side, multiple incumbents faced challengers of varying levels of crazy. The only one who appeared to be threatened as of when I turned it was Rep. Kevin Brady in CD08, who eventually made it above the 50% mark against three challengers, the leader of whom was former State Rep. (and loony bird) Steve Toth. That would have been one butt-ugly runoff if it had come to that, but it won’t. Reps. John Culberson and Blake Farenthold were winning but with less than 60%. No one else was in a close race.

The one Republican open seat was in CD19, where the three top contenders were Jody Arrington, Glen Robertson, and Michael Bob Starr. Of the latter, John Wright noted the following for the Observer before the results began to come in (scroll down a ways to see):

Finally, in West Texas’ Congressional District 19, retired Col. Michael Bob Starr has come under fire from other GOP candidates for participating in LGBT Pride runs when he served as a commander at Dyess Air Force Base in Abilene. If Starr wins, one of the nation’s most conservative districts would be represented by someone who is arguably moderate on LGBT issues, and the outcome could serve as a barometer of where the movement stands.

Starr was running third when last I checked, but he was behind the leader by fewer than 2,000 votes, so the situation was fluid. That said, as interesting as a Starr victory would be, he’d have to survive a runoff first, and I’d be mighty pessimistic about that. But we’ll see.

Democratic statewide resultsRepublican statewide results

Primary Day is today

From the inbox:

vote-button

“Visit www.HarrisVotes.com to ensure you go to the correct voting location and to find your personal sample ballot for the Tuesday, March 1, Republican Party and Democratic Party Primary Elections,” said Harris County Clerk Stan Stanart, encouraging voters to use the information provided by the County Clerk’s election website before heading to the polls. “Voters can find everything they need to vote, including polling locations, their personal sample ballot, and a list of acceptable forms of Photo ID at www.HarrisVotes.com.”

On Election Day, polling locations will be open from 7 am to 7 pm. In Harris County, the Republican Party will have 401 polling locations and the Democratic Party 383. “Remember, voters are required to vote at the polling location their precinct is designated to vote at on Election Day. During primary elections, the political parties determine where the voting locations are situated based on their respective voter strongholds,” Stanart reminded voters.

In Texas, a registered voter may vote in either party’s Primary Election during an election cycle, but only one party, not both. Overall, in Harris County, there are over 150 races for each party. “Voters can expect to see about 50 contests on their personal ballot. I recommend voters print out their personal ballot, do their homework, and bring their marked up ballot with them into the polling booth,” advised Stanart.

At the close of Early Voting on Friday, 216,961 voters cast their ballots early, or by mail surpassing the 115,958 who voted early in the 2012 primary elections. “Voter participation in the Primary Elections is very important,” concluded Stanart. “If you have not voted, go vote. Your vote will make a difference.”

For more election information, voters can visit www.HarrisVotes.com or call 713.755.6965.

You can find your precinct location here. Do not assume that your normal November location will be open – check first and be sure. You can get a free ride from Metro to your polling station if you need it.

PDiddie names the races he’ll be watching tonight. I agree with his list, and would the four contested Dem primaries involving incumbent State Reps as well – Alma Allen in 131, Gene Wu in 137, Jessica Farrar n 148, and Hubert Vo in 149. All four are vastly better than their opponents, and a loss by any of them would be deeply embarrassing and a kick to the face. I don’t expect any of them to be in danger, but one never knows, and the stakes here are high. The only other contested-incumbent race on the Dem side of interest is in El Paso, where Rep. Mary Gonzalez is being challenged by former Rep. Chente Quintanilla in a race that’s as much about the present and future versus the past as anything else. Quintanilla is one of several former members trying to get back into the game. At least in his case, I’d prefer he stay retired.

Beyond that, I will of course be interested in the rematch in SD26, plus the open seat fight in CD15, where Dolly Elizondo has a chance to become the first Latina elected to Congress from Texas. Most of the rest of the action of interest is on the Republican side, where the usual wingnut billionaires are doing their best to buy up the Legislature, and several incumbent members of Congress are running scared of the seething hoards in their districts. Turnout will be high, which may or may not be good news for Ted Cruz. It’s especially amusing to see professional Cruz cheerleader Erica Greider freak out about Cruz voters ganging up on House Speaker Joe Straus in his primary. I find myself having to root for members like Byron Cook and Charlie Geren, not because they’re great legislators from my perspective but because they’re part of a decreasing faction that still acts like grownups. The Senate is sure to get worse with the departure of Kevin Eltife, thought there’s at least a chance a small piece of that difference could be made up by whoever replaces the execrable Troy Fraser. One must find the small victories where one can. The SBOE is always good for either an atrocity or a belly laugh, depending on how you look at it. Lastly, to my Harris County Republican friends, if you let Don Sumners beat Mike Sullivan for Tax Assessor, you deserve to never win a countywide race again.

I may or may not post results tonight, or I may save them for the morning. Whatever the case, go vote if you haven’t. Remember, you forfeit all right to bitch about who gets elected if you don’t participate.

Dolly Elizondo to run for CD15

This bears watching.

Dolly Elizondo

Dolly Elizondo, a Texas Realtor and local Democratic activist, said Thursday she will run in the state’s 15th District, a campaign that, if successful, could make her the first Latina to represent the Lone Star State in Congress.

Elizondo joined a growing intra-party fight for the seat, rated Safe Democrat by the Rothenberg & Gonzales Political Report/Roll Call, which is being vacated by Rep. Rubén Hinojosa, D-Texas, for the first time in two decades.

“I am a firm believer that ordinary people such as myself need to participate in government. While we have struggled, have had to work hard and fight for resources, we’ve been able to overcome those obstacles and succeed,” she said in a statement. “Now it is our responsibility to get involved and advocate for others.”

Elizondo’s announcement came less than two weeks before the Dec. 14 filing deadline. Already, two other Democrats – lawyers Vicente Gonzalez and Juan Palcios Jr. – have begun their campaigns for the March 1 primary. No Republican has entered the race.

Elizondo’s website is here. That last bit in the story is not true – there are at least two Republicans running, according to The Monitor, which previewed Elizondo’s announcement; the stories that accompanied Rep. Hinojosa’s retirement announcement also noted Republican opposition. And Elizondo isn’t just a “local Democratic activist”, she’s the former Hidaldo County Democratic Party chair. This is what you get from a DC-based publication. Anyway, Elizondo will try to do what other Latina candidates have not been able to. She has drawn some interest from Emily’s List, which ought to help her in the primary if they throw in. I wouldn’t necessarily call CD15 “safe”, though in a Presidential year it should be pretty favorable to Democrats. It would still be best to have a strong candidate running. Elizondo has been on the radar for several years now. It would be way cool if she were to be that candidate.

Rep. Ruben Hinojosa to retire

A second open Congressional seat for 2016.

Rep. Ruben Hinojosa

First elected to Congress in 1996, Hinojosa has largely had a dormant campaign operation for most of this cycle, and he drew a Republican challenger this year in former Rio Grande City Mayor Ruben Villarreal.

Hinojosa’s office didn’t immediately return a request to comment for this article. The Monitor, a McAllen newspaper, reported the retirement earlier Thursday. It said that Hinojosa had scheduled an announcement for Friday in McAllen.

Hinojosa is the 12th U.S. House member and second Texan to announce a departure from Congress this term. U.S. Rep. Randy Neugebauer, R-Lubbock, announced in September that he would not seek re-election.

Congressional District 15, which Hinojosa represents, has traditionally been a reliable seat for Democrats. President Obama carried the district by 16 points in the 2012 presidential election.

As the news of Hinojosa’s retirement broke Thursday, names already began to circulate about possible Democrats who could run to replace them. Names floating among state Democratic operatives included: state Rep. Armando “Mando” Martinez, D-Weslaco, Hidalgo County Commissioner Joseph Palacios, Hidalgo County District Attorney Ricardo Rodriguez and former state Rep. Veronica Gonzales of McAllen.

At least one women’s Hispanic group, Texas Latina List, which bills itself as a progressive political action committee, has its eye on the 15th District.

Rep. Hinojosa has since made it official. CD15 is a slightly purplish blue. Every Dem got at least 54% of the vote in 2012, winning by at least ten points in each case. It was a much closer call in 2014, with John Cornyn and Baby Bush holding their Dem opponents under 50%, but each Dem still got at least a plurality. I’d be more worried about this in an off year than in a Presidential year, but it’s still not a sure thing. I’m rooting for a viable female candidate to emerge – it would be awesome to have the first Latina elected to Congress from Texas in a year where we (hopefully) elect the first female President. Trail Blazers has more.

Elsewhere in Democratic primary news, we have our second contested legislative primary in Harris County, and our first involving an incumbent, as Edward Pollard announced on Facebook and Instagram his candidacy for HD137, against two term Rep. Gene Wu. Pollard’s tag line is “The Conservative Democrat”, which ought to make for an interesting debate. Yes, I’ll be doing primary interviews, which will be on me before I know it, so you’ll get a chance to hear what that means and whatever else I think to ask about. By the way, today is the start of filing season. I’ll do my best to keep track of who is filing for what.

The Congressional Geezer Caucus

The DMN notices that a sizable portion of Texas’ Congressional delegation is, um, old.

Of the most populous states, Texas has the oldest congressional delegation, averaging nearly 63 years old, while the average for Congress as a whole is about 58.

North Texas accounts for a big slice of that, paced by Hall, a Republican who is the House’s oldest member; Rep. Sam Johnson, 81, R-Plano ; Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, 76, D-Dallas; Rep. Kay Granger, 69, R-Fort Worth; and GOP Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, 68, of Dallas.

It’s a record of longevity, solidified by one-sided districts, smart hometown politics and relatively satisfied voters who don’t often kick out incumbents.

That the state sends an older group to Congress is especially striking because Texas has the nation’s second-youngest population, with a median age of 33.6.

[…]

Moving forward, it doesn’t seem likely that the Texas delegation will get much younger any time soon.

Most of the older representatives are in safe seats. And several of the more prominent members — including Sen. John Cornyn, and Dallas Reps. Jeb Hensarling and Pete Sessions — are only in their mid-50s to early 60s — prime years by congressional standards.

Still, the 2012 races may knock Texas off the top of the gray-hair rankings, because it is gaining four new House seats, giving the state 36.

And three of its oldest members — Paul, Hutchison and Rep. Charlie Gonzalez, 66, of San Antonio — are not seeking re-election, although the front-runner for Hutchison’s seat, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, would be 67 if he wins.

Being in a safe seat makes partisan turnover unlikely, but it does nothing to protect an incumbent from a primary challenge. Take a look at the list of Teaxs’ oldest Congressional members, included at the end of the story:

AT A GLANCE: Oldest Texans in Congress

Rep. Ralph Hall, 88, R-Rockwall
Rep. Sam Johnson, 81, R-Plano
Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, 76, D-Dallas
Rep. Ron Paul, 76, R-Lake Jackson
Rep. Rubén Hinojosa, 71, D-Mercedes
Rep. John Carter, 70, R-Round Rock
Rep. Kay Granger, 69, R-Fort Worth
Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, 68, R-Dallas
Rep. Silvestre Reyes, 67, D-El Paso
Rep. Charlie Gonzalez, 66, D-San Antonio

As noted, Paul, KBH, and Gonzalez are retiring. As with KBH and Dewhurst, the leading contender for Paul’s seat, Nick Lampson, is someone who won’t bring the average age down that much. But with Joaquin Castro set to step in for Gonzalez, there’s at least some movement in the youth direction.

What the story did not note was that every single non-retiring incumbent on that list has at least one primary challenger. Two of them, Reps. Reyes and EB Johnson, have challengers who have a big money PAC supporting them; the challengers in those cases, Beto O’Rourke and Taj Clayton, are both 40 and under. You can see who the Democratic challengers are here, and who the Republicans are here. I don’t know anything about these folks, including how old they are, and a quick check on the FEC campaign finance reports page suggests that none of the others have any juice, but you never know. There’s more potential for change now than you might think, and projecting forward I’d say it’s a safe bet that the delegation will look a lot different after the 2021 reapportionment and the 2022 election that follows it.

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.