Off the Kuff Rotating Header Image

Dan Grant

Filings and un-filings

Tomorrow is the re-filing deadline, the last day that candidates have to jump into a district that now looks good to them, or to withdraw from one that no longer does. There is still a possibility of further map changes, however, which would require yet another filing period and almost certainly another delay to the primaries. The reason for this is that there are still unsettled issues with the DC court, and its ruling could make their San Antonio counterparts go back to the drawing board one more time.

I just wanted to post this picture one more time

In the ongoing redistricting saga, the Washington, D.C., court asked for briefs by March 13 on Congressional District 25, currently represented by U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Austin. The three-judge panel seems to be struggling with a contentious issue that has divided plaintiffs’ groups suing the state in a San Antonio federal court over redistricting maps drawn by the Legislature last year; the plaintiffs say the maps are racially and ethnically discriminatory.

At issue is whether District 25 is a minority district protected by the Voting Rights Act or a white district that would not require protection. Some plaintiffs in the redistricting fight argue that Hispanics and blacks join with whites in District 25 to elect a candidate of their choice, while other plaintiffs say it is a majority Anglo district that has long elected Doggett, a white Democrat.

If the D.C. court issues an opinion saying that District 25 deserves protection, it could throw Texas’ election schedule into turmoil again. That’s because the San Antonio court adopted the Legislature’s boundaries for District 25 in drawing the congressional map to be used for this year’s elections.

Assuming the D.C. court will allow enough time to produce new maps by March 31, the San Antonio court could redraw new boundaries for District 25 and the surrounding districts, said Michael Li, a redistricting expert and author of a Texas redistricting blog. But because of tight timetables, any changes would force the court to push back the primary until June 29, almost four months after the original date of March 6.

But if the D.C. court does not allow for new maps to be drawn by March 31, then the primary would have to be pushed back to July with a runoff in September — a move that would be problematic because of general election deadlines, Li said.

There is another — perhaps more likely — option if the Washington court has problems with District 25: The San Antonio judges could shrug off their colleagues in Washington and simply say that they’ll make changes to a remedial map for the 2014 elections.

Michael Li has more on that here and here. It is my non-lawyer’s opinion that the DC court is going to find substantial problems with the Lege-drawn maps, most of which have not been corrected in the interim maps. However, I don’t think their required changes will be made for this election. Still, what I’ve been telling people lately is that until we actually start voting, anything can happen.

Until then, however, one of the effects of the court-ordered maps was to convince CD10 candidate Dan Grant to drop out. Here’s his statement:

Today, Dan Grant, Congressional candidate in the 10th District of Texas, announced he will withdraw from the race citing the most recent changes to the district lines made by the San Antonio Federal Court.

“In the latest version of Congressional maps the 10th District has been redrawn to solidly protect Congressman McCaul. This latest iteration of CD-10 is the same as in the illegal map drafted by the Republican-controlled state legislature last year whose primary goal was to disenfranchise minority voters, dilute Democratic voting strength, and protect Republican incumbents,” Dan Grant said.

“I will continue to do all that I can to support the principles of our campaign: real representation for all Americans, a government that is focused on the people and not on personal politics, and working for the future of our great country. The support that our campaign received shows that all Texans are hungry for these principles, and I’ll continue to work for them,” he added.

“I cannot thank enough all the people who have made this effort possible: my family, friends, supporters and allies. This rested on their shoulders, and I’m deeply grateful for and humbled by what they’ve given.”

Here’s a comparison of CD10 as it is under the 2003 map and as it will be under the interim map:

Plan McCain Obama Wainwright Houston =========================================== Current 54.8 44.0 52.5 44.0 C235 56.2 42.6 53.1 43.2

Not that much redder, but just enough to make an already-daunting task look impossible. If the DC court doesn’t intervene for this year, there’s always 2014.

As Grant looks to the future, a fellow former Congressional candidate gets in to a different race this year. Former CD21 candidate John Courage sent out an email announcing that he had filed for the State Senate. From his email:

I am running for the Texas Senate for District 25.

I am running in opposition to everything Perry, Dewhurst and Abbott have espoused and forced on us. I am running for a stronger, better public education system for all Texans; for a healthcare system that protects our most vulnerable citizens – our children and our seniors, and for the right of every Texas woman to have access to the healthcare she needs and wants. I will fight for a real Citizens Commission for Redistricting our legislative boundaries, to take the process out of the hands of the self-serving politicians who are only interested in their own reelection. I am running to change the way we do business in the Texas Senate, to change the good old boy, back slapping, backroom deal making, that has corrupted our Legislature.

This is the tip of the iceberg I want to take to Austin, and with your help and support we will make it happen.

SD25 is currently held by Sen. Jeff Wentworth, who is frankly not that bad from a Dem perspective. He’s that nearly-extinct subspecies known as the pro-choice Republican – he actually voted against the awful sonogram bill, which would have been enough to derail it if one of Sens. Eddie Lucio, Judith Zaffirini, or Carlos Uresti had had the decency to join him. It would not be the worst thing in the world for Wentworth to return to the Senate. But he’s got opposition from the radical wing of the GOP, and could well be knocked off in the primary. Even in a district that voted 61% for McCain in 2008, you can’t let that go unchallenged.

By the way, the TDP is tracking filings that it has received here; sort it by date to see what’s new. Note that most filings take place with the respective county party office, so don’t sweat not seeing a given name. The most interesting addition to the pool of candidates on that list so far is former State Rep. Dora Olivo, who lost to Rep. Ron Reynolds in the HD27 primary in 2010 and who has thrown her hat into the ring for the new HD85.

More good news on the State House side of things as former Rep. Joe Moody will try to win back HD78. Moody defeated Rep. Dee Margo by a fairly comfortable margin in 2008, then got caught up in the 2010 wave. The redrawn district was won by all statewide Dems in 2008, so Moody should have an excellent shot at taking the tie-breaker. It was a bit of a question if he’s run in HD78, however, because the interim map drew him out of it and into HD77, which gave rise to some speculation that Moody would stay there and primary freshman Rep. Marissa Marquez. But he chose to fight it out in his old district, which I think everyone was rooting for him to do. Here’s his statement on getting back in.

Finally, here’s a little quiz for you. The following are the 2008 numbers for a couple of mystery State House districts. See if you can guess which is which:

Dist McCain Obama Wainwright Houston ======================================== "A" 51.45 47.94 42.24 54.68 "B" 51.04 47.95 43.02 54.53

Figured it out yet? District “A” is HD43, in which the turncoat Rep. JM Lozano decided he’d be better off running as a Republican. District “B” is HD144, in which two-term Rep. Ken Legler decided he couldn’t win it as a Republican.

State Rep. Ken Legler, R-Pasadena, has decided to pack it in. The two-term incumbent from District 144 in southeast Harris County announced today that he would not seek reelection in 2012. He blamed the redistricting controversy for his decision.

“Those that know me know I do not back down from a fight,” Legler said in a statement. “I seem to always enter a contest as the underdog and exit the victor. I have no reason to believe that 2012 would be any different. However, the sad fact is that the Federal Court has seen fit to give me a district that will be a constant electoral struggle every two years throughout the decade. That is a political distraction from legislative responsibilities that I choose not to accept.”

I’ll leave it to you to decide who’s the genius and who’s the chump. Burka reacts to Legler’s decision. I had said that I was hoping for former HD43 Rep. Juan Escobar to jump in against Lozano. I won’t get that, but according to the Trib, former Rep. Yvonne Gonzales Toureilles, who was another 2010 wipeout in HD35, will take up the challenge. As that Trib story notes, HDs 43 and 35 were paired, so YGT should be on familiar ground. This is obviously now a top priority for Dems, so it’s good to have an experienced candidate in place.

Sizing up the opportunities

This Chron story about the new Congressional map and who’s looking at what (which ran in the Express News last week) has a lot of things we’ve been discussing, and a couple of things to point out. First, a theme that I’ve harped on more than once:

The 33rd District in North Texas was transformed from an Anglo-majority, heavily Republican district into one with a 66 percent minority population that cast more than 62 percent of its votes for President Barack Obama in 2008.

The 35th District, as drawn by Republicans, would have forced Austin Rep. Lloyd Doggett into a potentially messy Democratic primary battle. But the courts created a safe 25th District for Doggett anchored in Travis County by eviscerating the Legislature’s heavily Republican 25th District. Meanwhile, the revised San Antonio-based 35th District almost certainly will elect a Latino Democrat.

The 27th District, currently represented by Republican freshman Blake Farenthold, has been redrawn to become more heavily Hispanic and strongly Democratic. Farenthold’s home is in the new 34th District, where he is likely to run.

But even with those three gains, some Democratic partisans worry that they may not be able to maximize their opportunities in a year when Obama is likely to lose the state by a wide margin.

First, of those three districts, only the 35th is reasonably competitive, and with Rep. Joaquin Castro having announced for it, I’m not terribly worried about Democratic prospects there. Second, Obama lost Texas in 2008 by a “wide margin” as well, and the limited polling data we have so far indicates that 2012 looks a lot like 2008. Things can certainly change, and there’s hardly any guarantee that the models pollsters are currently using will be reflective of reality next November, but unless you’re arguing that Obama will lose significant ground from 2008, let’s keep things in perspective.

Among the races Democrats are eyeing:

The 23rd District, stretching from San Antonio to El Paso, became more Democratic in the court-ordered plan, endangering the re-election of freshman Republican Francisco “Quico” Canseco, R-San Antonio. Democrats have recruited a well-known challenger in state Rep. Pete Gallego, D-Alpine.

The 14th District, currently represented by retiring Republican Ron Paul, will shift eastward into Jefferson County and has a minority population of about 35 percent. Former Rep. Nick Lampson, D-Beaumont, who has represented much of the district over the past two decades, is considering another run. The early favorite on the GOP side is state Rep. Randy Weber, R-Pearland.

The 10th District, which rambles from Austin to the outskirts of Houston, loses three-fourths of its heavily Republican Harris County population and becomes a swing district. While Republican Rep. Michael McCaul has turned back expensive challenges in the past, Democrats being mentioned include previous congressional hopefuls Larry Joe Doherty and Michael Skelly of Houston, and Dan Grant of Austin.

The 6th District, long represented by Joe Barton, R-Ennis, has been shifted into heavily minority sections of Dallas County. Democrats think they have a chance to unseat the 14-term incumbent if they can recruit a strong challenger such as former Rep. Chet Edwards, former state Rep. Chris Turner, a longtime Edwards aide, or former state Rep. Allen Vaught, a Purple Heart recipient.

Rep. Gallego has filed for the 23rd. Nick Lampson is still being drafted, though I hear there are other potential candidates out there as well. I have no idea where they got Mike Skelly’s name for CD10. He doesn’t live in the district, not that one is required to do so, and I at least have not heard any chatter about him being interested in a campaign. Dan Grant is known to be interested, I do not know about anyone else, though David Nir wonders about one-time 2010 candidate Jack McDonald. As for CD06, Chet Edwards would indeed be a coup, but again as yet I have not heard anything to that effect. Chris Turner is running for the new State House seat in Tarrant County, so he’s off the list. Oh, and as far as I know John Sharp is not running for any of these seats. I don’t feel whole until he gets mentioned.

Anyway. There are always last minute surprises at filing time, and I daresay this year that will be even more so than usual. Don’t believe anything until it’s official. Oh, and as of last night there was still no word from SCOTUS on the stay request. We’re almost halfway through the filing period.

Filing season opens today

It’s supposed to open today, anyway. It may get pushed back a day or two until the remaining legal actions get sorted out. As we know, after being turned down by the San Antonio federal Court, AG Greg Abbott is filing a request for a stay of the election with the Supreme Court. If it gets denied, things will proceed quickly; if it gets referred to the full Court it could take a bit longer, perhaps a week or so; if it gets granted, God only knows what happens next. Basically, at this point we’re still in limbo. Oh, if things are allowed to go forward, Plan C220 was approved by the three-court panel for the Congressional map.

Assuming things are allowed to go forward, I expect we’ll be buried under an avalanche of candidate filing announcements. I’ll try to keep track of them as best I can. Among the races I’ll be looking for:

CD06 – Chet Edwards, anyone? Ol’ Smokey Joe Barton is in a fairly competitive district, all things considered, but he has a boatload of money. Someone with experience and fundraising chops would need to get in to make this worth watching.

CD10 – Former candidate Dan Grant has expressed some interest.

CD14 – Everyone is still waiting for former Rep. Nick Lampson to say something. Here’s an alternate suggestion in the event Lampson declines to get in. Take a look at the 2008 electoral data for the new CD14. In particular, have a gander at this result:


SBOE 7

Bradley - R 105,472 47.5 %
Ewing   - D 110,265 49.7 %
Johnson - L   6,339  2.9 %

Based on the vote totals, I think there was a small piece of CD14 that did not overlap this SBOE district, but probably 95% of CD14 was covered. Laura Ewing was the one Democrat to get more votes than the Republican in any comparable race. Maybe we should be drafting Laura Ewing to run here.

HDs 26, 33, 34, 35, 40, 45, 54, 78, 105, 106, 107, 108, 113, 117, 134, and 144: These are all of the Dem-favored and Dem-attainable districts for which I am not currently aware of a candidate. (HD93 in Tarrant County has former Reps. Paula Pierson and Chris Turner already in.) Every last one of these had better have a good candidate in it.

SD09: The one Democratic State Senate district that can be remotely seen as a pickup opportunity. Sam Houston got 45.1% of the vote in 2008 for the Dem high water mark. It’s an uphill battle, but it’s an open seat, and those don’t come around very often.

Harris County Tax Assessor: Sylvia Garcia isn’t interested despite my best efforts, and Diane Trautman is running for HCDE Trustee. Someone needs to step up and run against the buffoonish Don Sumners.

Harris County District Attorney: Pat Lykos has made herself more vulnerable with the BAT van stuff. Surely someone senses an opportunity.

I’m pleased to note that there is apparently a candidate for SBOE in my District 6. I saw and signed a petition for someone at an event last week. I don’t remember the candidate’s name because he or she was not there, but I saw the name of the office. I also saw a number of petitions for positions on Appeals Courts #1 and 14. I have no idea if anyone is gearing up for a Supreme Court or CCA run yet, however.

In the meantime, we wait for SCOTUS. What filings are you eagerly awaiting? The Trib has more.

UPDATE: Further analysis from Michael Li.

Dan Grant forms exploratory committee for CD25

BOR:

Dan Grant announced that he’s forming an exploratory committee for CD-25, the Congressional district that includes much of East and Central Austin. Overall, the new CD-25 includes all of Johnson, Hill, Bosque, Somervell, Hamilton, Coryell, Lampasas and Burnet Counties, and parts of Travis, Hays, Erath, and Bell Counties.
Dan Grant previously ran for CD-10 in 2008, and has remained highly active and visible since then, while also continuing to work as a consultant and advisor to the U.S. State and Defense Departments. Grant trains American civilian and military personnel bound for Iraq and Afghanistan, and received a commendation from the State Department in 2009 for his service during the Afghan Presidential election.

Grant enters the race with a long list of notable endorsements from local leaders. Listed on the release materials are Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell, Austin City Council Member Mike Martinez, State Representative Mark Strama, State Representative Donna Howard, State Representative Elliott Naishtat, and Travis County Constable Bruce Elfant. Also offering support are past candidates Larry Joe Doherty and Jack McDonald, who campaigned previously in the CD-10 district that Grant also contended in 2008.

It’s unclear what shape CD-25 will take once the federal Courts repair Rick Perry and the Texas Republican Party’s partisan gerrymander. Currently, the courts are preparing interim maps to make sure the primaries stay on schedule; the interim maps will be used for the primaries if the federal court is unable to clear the current map passed by the Legislature in time. NB: the Justice Department has stated that they believe the Legislature’s current map is unconstitutional and violates the Voting Rights Act.

However, Grant’s announcement and strong list of early supporters suggest that if this remains a swing district, he will be an extremely formidable opponent in both a primary and a general election environment.

Normally, forming an exploratory committee is about checking to see who would donate to the campaign in the event it goes forward. That’s no doubt a part of this effort as well, but I presume there’s a certain amount of getting ahead of the curve in the event that the court produces an interim map that makes significant changes to the Travis County area. If something like the old CD25 is restored, then perhaps something like the old CD10 will be, or perhaps some other district that includes a piece of Travis and has some prospect for a win will be drawn. It’s betting on the come, which strikes me as a perfectly sound strategy. We’ll see what the court provides.

No re-run for LJD

As we know, Jack McDonald has backed out of running for CD10 next year, which left the Democrats without a candidate for that race. For a few minutes, it looked like 2008 candidate Larry Joe Doherty might be ready to gear it up again. Mean Rachel, who was a big supporter of LJD’s candidacy in 2008, reported that he was thinking about it – as he put it in an email to her, “You may tell all interested that I’m interested.” Unfortunately, that was followed up by another email saying he had decided against it. Barring a late surprise, that means incumbent Mike McCaul will get a free pass, which is a damn shame. (For those of you wondering about the other 2008 Democratic hopeful from CD10, Dan Grant released a statement just before Christmas saying he would not be running, as he and his wife are expecting their first child shortly.) Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but that’s how it looks.