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David Alameel

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.)

Alameel 2018?

Sure, why not?

David Alameel

David Alameel

Even against long odds, David Alameel hasn’t thrown in the towel in his bid to unseat Sen. John Cornyn.

“I’m in it for the long run,” the Dallas investor and dentist told The Dallas Morning News editorial board on Monday.

Cornyn leads by about 20 percentage points in most polls. Alameel says it hasn’t dampened his optimism.

“My aim is not just to win. I want to change the way people think,” he said.

He also sees this year’s effort as a way to position himself to try again in 2018, when freshman Sen. Ted Cruz’s term expires.

“The next one is in four years, and you have to build a base. I’m building a base right now,” Alameel said.

I appreciate the willingness to think beyond this election. Some races need to be viewed as multi-cycle. Most candidates, for good and obvious reasons, don’t have that in them, so kudos to Alameel for taking the long view and seeing Ted Cruz’s re-election bid as an opportunity. That said, I hope Alameel has some fierce competition for the chance to take on our lunatic junior Senator. I hope this election is successful enough that several of our vaunted “rising stars” begin licking their chops and gearing up their fundraising with an eye for being first in line at filing time in December of 2017. A nice, high-profile Senate primary will be an excellent way to start the year in 2018.

By the way, the Alameel-Cornyn debate will be tonight, and it can be viewed on Univision on Saturday dubbed in Spanish. There’s a drinking game in there somewhere, I’m sure of it.

Comptroller candidates will debate

It’s a trend!

Mike Collier

Mike Collier

Candidates in the race for state comptroller have agreed to one televised debate, though watching the debate requires a Time Warner Cable subscription fo North Texas viewers.

Mike Collier, a Democrat from Houston, and Sen. Glenn Hegar, a Katy Republican, will face off 7 p.m., Oct. 29 in Austin. The 30-minute debate is sponsored by Time Warner Cable News. It will be broadcast to the Austin, San Antonio and Hill Country media markets.

The debate will be viewable statewide through the TWC’s On Demand service, as well as online here: http://sanantonio.twcnews.com/content/politics/.

As chief financial officer, the comptroller’s office collects all taxes owed to the state and estimates the state’s tax revenue for the biennium, among other duties. Lawmakers use the revenue estimate to set the two-year budget.

“Senator Hegar looks forward to discussing the important issues facing our state,” said David White, a spokesman for the campaign.

“Texans deserve to hear from the person who will be accountable for their tax dollars. I’m honored to receive this opportunity to show Texans how I will be their financial watchdog in the Comptroller’s office, not just another career politician,” Collier said.

If you can get past the fact that it happens with two days left in early voting and it’s easily available to only a fraction of the state, this is a good thing. The fact that there’s a debate at all, and that the Dems have a candidate that’s worth having in a debate, makes it worthwhile. Yes, it would be better to have something more widely visible, but given that the baseline for comparison is “nothing”, it’s an improvement. The Trib has more.

By the way, Collier continues to dominate the newspaper endorsements, picking up nods from the Express News and Star-Telegram this week. I thought Collier would do well in the editorial board interviews, but as a first-time candidate going against an experienced legislator who wasn’t weighed down by sixteen tons of ethical baggage, it was hardly a slam dunk that he’d get a string of endorsements. That he’s one paper away from a Sam Houston-style clean sweep says a lot about his qualities as a candidate and as a person. He’s also been sharp in how he has presented himself, as his latest campaign ad attests. I’m hard pressed to think of any way in which Collier could have run a better campaign. I hope the actual viewership of that debate far exceeds my meager expectations.

On a related note, there’s also this.

The only debate scheduled between Republican U.S. Sen. John Cornyn and his Democratic opponent, David Alameel, could end up only being broadcast in Spanish.

Cornyn and Alameel are scheduled to participate in a one-hour debate in Dallas hosted by Univision on Oct. 24. The debate will be conducted in English. Univision will broadcast the debate the next day with the candidates’ remarks dubbed in Spanish at 10 p.m. in eight markets around the state, according to Felicitas Cadena, community affairs manager for Univision Communications.

“The debate will not air in English in any market,” Cadena said in an email.

[…]

Cadena said the channel is open to talking with other media outlets about broadcasting the debate in English on television or online.

“We’re just looking at technical possibilities,” Cadena said. “We’d be more than glad to have that discussion.”

Putting the video online somewhere, pre-dubbed and post-dubbed, should not be too much to ask. I guess we’ll see.

YouGov: Abbott 54, Davis 40

Sen. Wendy Davis

Sen. Wendy Davis

As Ed Kilgore noted on Friday evening, YouGov dropped a load of gubernatorial race polls, including another Texas result. You may look at the topline number and feel dejected, but let me point out two things. One is that YouGov has consistently been the most pessimistic pollster for Davis. This is the third result they’ve published, and it’s the closest they’ve shown the race yet. Last month, they had Abbott up by 18, 56-38, so you could say that Davis is closing the gap. That may seem like cold comfort with such a margin, but YouGov isn’t the only game in town, and other polls have shown some movement as well in the same direction. The Davis campaign, the yang to YouGov’s ying, says its polling shows a six point race, down from nine a couple of weeks ago. Whatever the margin, the general consensus is that the race is tightening. YouGov, in its idiosyncratic way, supports that.

The other point is that YouGov had Davis up by five among women, 46-41. That appears to be the driver of the difference between this poll and the last one, in which they had Abbott up by a point, 43-42. Abbott made a big deal about his two-point lead among women in the Lyceum poll, though that lead depended on their likely voter screen. If Davis is gaining among women, that’s definitely a good sign.

Anyway. YouGov also had a Senate result, showing Big John Cornyn up by 20 over David Alameel. That result is identical to their previous poll, and it shows Cornyn leading Alameel among women by five points. Those numbers are additional evidence that something is happening in the Governor’s race. There’s still a lot of ground to make up whether you buy YouGov’s model or not, but the wind does seem to be blowing in a favorable direction.

Alameel and Cornyn will debate

We’ve had Davis-Abbott, we’ve had Van de Putte-Patrick, and we’ll get Alameel-Cornyn.

David Alameel

David Alameel

Sen. John Cornyn and Democratic challenger David Alameel have agreed to one face-to-face televised debate.

They’ll meet in Dallas at Mountain View College on Friday, Oct. 24. The hour-long debate will air Saturday night Oct. 25 at 10 pm on Univision stations across Texas. The debate will take place in English, with Spanish simulcast.

Neither campaign has announced the event.

“That’s the only one they asked for and we said yes,” said Cornyn, a Republican seeking a third 6-year term.

He mentioned the event this morning in a meeting with The Dallas Morning News editorial board, and Alameel spokesman Gustavo Bujanda confirmed it.

But Bujanda said the challenger sought many more debates, including and especially one aimed at a broader audience. The Cornyn side refused, he said.

“Alas, no success,” he said.

Cornyn campaign manager Brendan Steinhauser disputed that. He said he’s unaware of any requests from Alameel for other debates and said that this one stemmed from an invitation from Univision, not the challenger.

“I don’t know what they’re talking about,” he said.

There’s an open letter from Alameel to Cornyn at the link. Honestly, given that this event will take place after the first five days of early voting have taken place, I rather doubt there would be much value to any subsequent events. Mark your calendars for this one and we’ll see how it goes.

Lyceum: Abbott 49, Davis 40

Pretty decent result that will hopefully put the “double digit lead” narrative out to pasture.

Sen. Wendy Davis

Sen. Wendy Davis

Republican gubernatorial candidate Greg Abbott leads Democratic opponent Wendy Davis by 9 percentage points, 49 percent to 40 percent, according to the latest Texas Lyceum poll, released Wednesday.

The poll showed Davis, a state senator from Fort Worth, held a “clear lead” among Hispanics, by 36 points, and African Americans, by 80 points, while Abbott, the state attorney general, held a “slight lead” with independent voters, by 6 points, and women, by 2 points.

“Davis is running slightly ahead of other Democrats on the ballot and over- performs compared to Democrats from recent statewide races,” University of Texas Professor Daron Shaw, who conducted the poll, said in a statement. “But the number of candidates who have made up this kind of deficit in the last month, in a state where party ID favors the other side so consistently, is close to zero.”

Immediately following the release of the poll, Abbott sent out a press release noting his campaign had $30.1 million on hand for the “final push” of the race, raising $7.8 million since July. In July, Abbott had $35.6 million on hand, the largest amount ever recorded in the state, while Davis had $8.8 million.

The poll showed that in the lieutenant governor’s race, state Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, was ahead of state Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, D-San Antonio, by 14 percentage points, 47 percent to 33 percent. Van de Putte led with African Americans by 64 points and Hispanics by 24 points, but did not perform as well as Davis with either group.

The Lyceum did actually poll this race before, last September. Most likely the reason you (and I) hadn’t heard of that poll before now is because fully half the voters who responded had no opinion. Abbott led 29-21 among the rest.

The Lyceum’s index page for their 2014 polls is here. Their press release, on which just about all of the coverage I’ve seen has been based, is here, and the Executive Summary is here. Questions and toplines are here, and crosstabs are here. You have to be a little careful in reading their summaries (and therefore the coverage), because they don’t always specify when they are talking about likely voters (LVs) instead of registered voters (RVs). Scroll down to page 111 of the crosstabs to see where the raw numbers are. I’ve summarized below:

Governor RV tot RV pct LV tot LV pct =========================================== Abbott 362 43.04 265 48.89 Davis 314 37.34 215 39.67 Glass 32 3.80 12 2.21 Parmer 20 2.38 9 1.66 Lt Gov RV tot RV pct LV tot LV pct =========================================== Patrick 330 39.29 256 47.23 Van de Putte 289 34.40 177 32.66 Butler 32 3.81 18 3.32 Courtney 28 3.33 12 2.21

There are also Senate numbers, which I’ll get to in a minute. The point here is to notice that the RV numbers are much tighter than the LV numbers – indeed, the Lt Gov race is close to being within the margin of error for the RV numbers. This is the clearest illustration of what the effect of turnout may be, and it’s why I’ve been so critical of the polling we’ve seen to date. I don’t think previous public polls have considered the question of turnout and the Battleground Texas effect at all so far. Sure, not all of these registered voters will show up, but you can see the potential here. The contrast in the Lite Guv race, where for reasons I don’t comprehend they’ve decided there are a lot fewer “likely” voters, is especially stark. If you need a reason to believe in what BGTX is doing, this is it, right here.

One other point to note is in the reporting of female voters, where the topline shows a lead for Abbott. The crosstabs tell a slightly different story, however:

Governor Male Male % Female Female % ============================================== Abbott 198 46.48 164 39.42 Davis 142 33.33 173 41.59 Glass 18 4.23 15 3.61 Parmer 12 2.82 7 1.68 Lt Gov Male Male % Female Female % ============================================== Patrick 181 42.49 149 35.99 Van de Putte 129 30.28 160 38.65 Butler 21 4.93 11 2.66 Courtney 20 4.69 8 1.93

Yes, I noticed the one-vote discrepancies for Davis, Glass, and Parmer, and no, I don’t know what’s up with that. My point is that the press release is apparently giving LV totals for female voters, but they don’t break out those numbers in the crosstabs. We don’t therefore know what the exact RV/LV gap is there, but we know there is one. Like the single digit/double digit distinction, this would change the narrative if anyone other than me were to notice it. It’s also where the rubber meets the road for BGTX, given the heavy Democratic lean that exists for single women and women of color along with their lesser propensity as a rule to show up. If the final result winds up being more Democratic than what the polls have suggested so far, the first place to look for an explanation in the exit polls will be among female voters.

As for those Senate numbers:

Senate RV tot RV pct LV tot LV pct =========================================== Cornyn 358 42.62 263 48.43 Alameel 237 28.21 163 30.02 Paddock 33 3.93 20 3.68 Sanchez 63 7.50 22 4.05

Here I would submit that Alameel’s poorer numbers are one part much lower name recognition, and one part “Spicybrown” Sanchez getting a disproportionate share of the total. Third party candidates tend to poll higher than their final totals, and that’s what I expect is happening here. In the end, it is likely that most of Spicybrown’s supporters (who, if you check the crosstabs, are disproportionately Latino) will wind up voting D anyway. It won’t shock me if she does better than the average Green statewide candidate, but her ceiling is maybe five percent, probably lower. PDiddie, Texas Politics, and TRail Blazers have more.

Rasmussen: Abbott 48, Davis 40

Make of it what you will.

Sen. Wendy Davis

Sen. Wendy Davis

The gubernatorial race in Texas is slightly closer than it was earlier this year.

A new Rasmussen Reports statewide telephone survey of Likely Texas Voters finds Republican Attorney General Greg Abbott picking up 48% of the vote to Democratic State Senator Wendy Davis’ 40%. Three percent (3%) prefer some other candidate in the race, while nine percent (9%) are undecided. (To see survey question wording, click here.)

In our first look at the race in March, Abbott led Davis by 12 points – 53% to 41%.

Texas moves from Safe Republican to Leans Republican on the Rasmussen Reports’ 2014 Gubernatorial Scorecard.

Both candidates are backed by 86% of voters in their respective parties. Abbott leads 43% to 35% among unaffiliated voters, compared to 50% to 37% in March.

Abbott continues to hold a double-digit lead among men, 52% to 35%. But while Davis held a 12-point lead among women in March, the two candidates are now tied among these voters.

I hadn’t realized Rasmussen had polled in March; if there was any news coverage of it, I missed it. Both results are on the sidebar now. It’s nice to see a trendline in Davis’ favor but I’m not going to hang too much on that, especially when it all comes from Abbott losing a few points of support, which could mean little more than a higher number of his likely supporters saying “I don’t know” this time around. Rasmussen doesn’t provide crosstabs, so we can’t say for sure what that’s about. While Ras notes Davis’ loss of support among women from their March result to this one, you have to click the link for their March poll to see that she made a big gain among men, going from down 66-29 to down 52-35. I doubt either of these represent much more than odd fluctuations among smaller subsamples. Again, I’m not going to make too much of this – no more than I did of the less friendly Internet polls – but I do wonder if this one will attract any coverage, as that YouGov poll did, and if it will change even slightly the narrative from “Davis trails Abbott by double digits” to “Davis trails Abbott by double digits in most polls” or something more favorable to her. We’ll see about that. (And just as I was writing that, Texas Politics posted about the poll, followed a bit later by the SA Current and finally the Austin Chronicle. One daily paper blog post, two alt-weeklies, so far.)

Finally, Ras also polled the Senate race, showing Big John Cornyn leading David Alameel by a score of 47-29. You can credit that bigger lead almost entirely to Davis’ much higher name recognition than Alameel’s. We don’t have the crosstabs, but I’d bet a non-trivial amount of money that they show a much greater proportion of Dem-friendly demographics going “don’t know/no answer” on Alameel than they did on Davis. Cornyn’s equivalent level of support to Abbott is the tell here.

Probably the last thing I’ll write about Jim Hogan

At least, I hope it’s the last thing, because there ain’t much to say.

Jim Hogan

Texas Democrats are not holding their breaths for a win for the office held by Republicans since Perry ousted Jim Hightower in 1992.

Democratic consultant Jason Stanford went so far Wednesday as to say [Jim] Hogan’s candidacy [for Ag Commissioner] is “as good as a forfeit.”

“Sid Miller could probably move to Oklahoma and win this race,” Stanford said. “No one would notice.”

The best thing the Democrats can hope for in the race is for Hogan to continue his strategy without publicly embarrassing the party, said Mark Jones, a political scientist at Rice University.

Jones said Hogan’s nomination reflects poorly on party leadership.

“It’s really a sad state of affairs for the Texas Democratic Party when someone is able to be a statewide candidate without actively campaigning at all,” he said.

Yes, it’s embarrassing, but let’s keep some perspective here. Republicans didn’t exactly nominate their best candidates for Ag Commissioner or Attorney General or Railroad Commissioner, either. Let’s also not forget that all the way back in 2010, some dude named David Porter, who campaigned about as much as Jim Hogan did, knocked off two-term incumbent Railroad Commissioner Victor Carillo despite Carillo having huge advantages in campaign finances and name recognition. Hogan’s win is a forehead-slapper, but it’s hardly unprecedented.

The good news is that there’s a fairly simple fix for this. The problem in a nutshell is that when voters are faced with unfamiliar choices, you get random results. We’ve seen this in elections at every level. Your best bet to avoid a random result is for the viable candidates to have the resources to properly introduce themselves to the voters, and by “resources” I of course mean money. Roll the clock back six months or so, have a few big Democratic donors seed the Hugh Fitzsimons campaign with $500K or so for some targeted mail, and I’m willing to bet he makes it to the runoff. For all the crap I’ve given that Trib poll, the one useful thing about it was that it highlighted at the time how unknown all of the Democratic candidates for Senate were. I’m sure that changed dramatically over the next few weeks as David Alameel was plastering his image over the entire Internet. You wouldn’t have needed Fitzsimons to win outright, you just need to ensure he makes it to the runoff. He needed 70,000 votes to pass Kinky, 75,000 to pass Hogan. Surely that was within reach for that kind of money. I’ve said before that if we want to be able to recruit quality candidates for these downballot races in 2018 and however many elections after that until the bench is deep enough to take care of this by itself, we need to be able to reassure them that they’ll have the resources they’ll need to fend off whatever quacks and wannabes file for the same race. Someone in a better position than me to make this happen needs to start thinking about this ASAP.

Some postmortem thoughts

The Trib leads with the obvious.

As the results of Republican primary runoffs began to roll in Tuesday evening, Texas Democrats realized they were getting exactly what they wanted — and exactly what they feared.

The victories of Dan Patrick over incumbent David Dewhurst for lieutenant governor and Ken Paxton over Dan Branch for attorney general were just the most high-profile examples of Republican runoff races in which the candidate widely viewed as farther right prevailed.

The outcome means Democrats will have an easier time contrasting their ticket to the Republican option in November.

“You really can’t have a competitive election that voters pay attention to unless you have a clear contrast between the nominees,” Texas Democratic consultant Harold Cook said. “To the extent you’re going to have a Republican opponent, if that opponent can be just as far to the right as possible, that’s just what any Democratic nominee would want.”

Yet Tuesday’s results also raise the stakes for Democrats, who last won a statewide office in Texas 20 years ago. Most notably, a failure by Democratic state Sen. Leticia Van de Putte to win her bid for lieutenant governor will mean, come January, Patrick will be standing at the Senate dais, gavel in hand, ready to kick off a new legislative session. It’s an outcome that many Democrats fear will lead to the passage of even more conservative legislation on immigration, education and access to abortion, some of which their party’s members have managed to block so far.

“Some Democrats have said they want me to be the nominee,” Patrick said during his victory speech. “Well, they’ve got me, and I’m coming.”

We’ve discussed this before. As I said then, it’s a high-risk, high-reward strategy for Democrats, who as underdogs can’t afford to play it safe. At this point, given the elevated stupidity level of the Senate after Bob Deuell’s loss and Robert Duncan’s retirement, it’s not clear to me that the downside risk is all that great. Sure, Dan Patrick will do things as Lite Gov that David Dewhurst didn’t or wouldn’t, like not name any Democratic committee chairs, but does anyone think Dewhurst would have had the spine to push back on whatever crazy-ass legislation this next Senate is likely to want to pass? I’m not saying Dan Patrick wouldn’t be worse – he most assuredly would be – I’m just saying that the upside is much, much greater than the downside. Whatever the actual odds of the preferred outcome are, you have to like that kind of bet.

As noted yesterday, the anecdotal evidence of Republican crossover support for Leticia Van de Putte against Dan Patrick is already coming in. For sure, she’ll need that in order to win, though first and foremost she needs the base level of Democratic support to rise so that she can be within striking distance. One interesting perspective on this comes from Erica Greider:

A second problem for Texas Republicans in the wake of yesterday’s “conservative” victories is that, as a result of an election in which less than 6% of registered voters in Texas bothered to vote, the party now has several standard bearers that Republicans themselves aren’t exactly crazy about. Some of the nominees aren’t even popular among grassroots activists. You’ll have to take my word for that, because in public, they’re all circling the wagons, but my sense is that the Tea Party establishment is genuinely excited about a couple of candidates, including Konni Burton. They’re tepid about others; there weren’t many tears shed for Wayne Christian last night, and there won’t be many shed for Sid Miller in November when American hero Jim Hogan turns Texas blue with his bare hands. Perhaps most odd is how little sympathy there is between the Patrick and [Ken] Paxton crowds. Those two posted the biggest wins of the night, and apparently drew almost exactly the same voters, but I’ve met very few conservatives who are equally excited about both–and a number of Paxton supporters, in particular, who can barely conceal their disdain for Patrick.

This may be because Patrick and Paxton are temperamentally opposite (Patrick is a showman, and Paxton is very shy). It may be that Cruz supporters are skeptical of Patrick–Patrick attacked Cruz freely on behalf of Dewhurst in 2012, and Paxton would never do such a thing. My own unpopular opinion is that Patrick has the potential to do well as lieutenant-governor, whereas Paxton’s nomination to succeed Greg Abbott as attorney-general is a huge victory for the state’s lesser prairie chickens, who will soon roam free over federally protected habitats, enjoying their newly expanded Medicaid benefits–but that’s a post for another day, perhaps. For now, I’ll conclude by saying this: whatever the cause, the tension within the Tea Party or conservative movement is subdued at the moment. But this year’s Republican nominees, many of whom will be propelled to high office by support from 3 or 4% of the voters in Texas, can’t really afford for any further faultlines to emerge.

First I’ve heard of tension between Patrick and Paxton. Patrick has alienated a number of his Republican colleagues along the way so that’s not too surprising. The question as always is how many of them are good soldiers in November, and how many of them, however secretly, either undervote or cross over. It won’t surprise me if polling in this race winds up being more than a little wonky. Anyone know more about what Greider is saying here?

Frequent Burkablog commenter WURSPH makes an intriguing quantitative observation on Burka’s post lamenting the Tuesday results:

One feature of interest in yesterday’s balloting is the major DROP-OFF in the number of voters who participated in the GOP Run-off. A smaller turnout in the run-off was to be expected especially with it being a Tuesday election right after a holiday. But the drop was significant with total turnout down more than 580,000 from the original primary (748,000 to 1.3 million). And BOTH Patrick and Dewhurst received fewer votes than they did in the first primary (Patrick was down 63,000 and Dewhurst by 114,000).

It looks like this is attributable to two factors:

First, a lot of voters, including a good number who had voted for Patrick and Dewhurst the first time, thought it was effectively all over in March and didn’t bother to come out again.

And, secondly, the Staples-Patterson voters basically stayed home.

I doubt anyone was running exit polls yesterday, but if someone did it would be interesting to see what it says about the percentage of voters who voted for Staples or Patterson who voted this time. If they were turned off by the two other candidates it could have a small impact in November….Being Republicans most of them will probably come back into the fold in the fall, but if any perceptible percentage sit that one out too, it could have some impact on the November elections.

You know me, any time there are numbers to inspect my ears perk right up. Runoffs are tricky beasts to analyze for many reasons, but a look at the 2014 and 2012 Republican runoffs do illustrate what WURSPH is talking about. Here are the numbers for the two races that involved David Dewhurst, the 2012 Senate primary/runoff and the 2014 Lite Guv primary/runoff:

Year Primary Top Two Runoff ====================================== 2014 1,333,896 930,548 749,915 2012 1,406,608 1,108,289 1,111,938

There aren’t any runoffs of interest to look at before 2012, so these are the data points we have. All numbers are from the races that featured David Dewhurst – Dewhurst/Cruz in 2012, Dewhurst/Patrick in 2014. “Primary” is the total number of votes cast in those races, “Top Two” is the number collected by Dewhurst and his eventual runoff opponent, and “Runoff” is of course the total number of votes in that race. WURSPH is on to something here, as at least a few people who didn’t vote for either Dew or Cruz in the first round came out for one of them in overtime, while the total votes for Dew and Patrick dropped by almost 20%. Does that mean anything for November? Eh, I don’t know – maybe, maybe not. Either way, it’s interesting.

Finally, a few words about the Democratic side.

When the Associated Press declared the Dallas-area dentist millionaire David Alameel won, he was described as a “former major GOP donor.”

Here’s a fun fact. We all know about Alameel’s past history of contributions to some GOP officeholders. He stopped doing that in 2008, and the bulk of his activity was in 2002 and 2004. Did you know that when Wendy Davis first announced her candidacy for State Senate in 2008, the then-Chair of the Tarrant County Democratic Party had some harsh words for her based on her vote in the 2006 GOP primary? That happened more than a few days ago, so of course no one remembers it. My point here is simply that there are two ways Democrats can catch up to Republicans. One is the much-heralded demographic wave, in which old white Republicans die off and are replaced in the electorate by young progressive Latinos. That’s happening, but in slow motion, and is not going to be much of a factor this year even with Battleground Texas ginning up Democratic turnout. The other is for people who currently identify as Republicans to start voting for at least some Democrats. Both Wendy Davis and Leticia Van de Putte are basing their campaigns in part on luring crossovers. You can look at Alameel’s history as a negative, as some people once looked at Wendy Davis’ 2006 GOP primary vote as a negative, or you can recognize that we need a lot more people like David Alameel, who spoke in his interview with me about how couldn’t support such a radical, reactionary Republican Party any more, this November.

While Democrats believe they are fielding their strongest gubernatorial and lieutenant gubernatorial candidates in at least a decade, with Sens. Wendy Davis and Leticia Van De Putte, the state party struggled once again to recruit top-tier candidates to fill out the rest of their statewide slate.

Beyond the questionable candidates for U.S. Senate, challenging incumbent John Cornyn, and to run the state’s Department of Agriculture, Democrats also lack a compelling candidate for Texas Attorney General and Republicans just nominated a candidate in Sen. Ken Paxton, who was recently admonished by authorities for violating the state’s securities laws.

What the hell? Sam Houston is a respected and well-qualified attorney who unlike nearly everybody else on both parties’ ballots has actually run statewide before – he got 46% as a candidate for Supreme Court in 2008, which was the highest percentage any Democrat received. I have no idea who Nolan Hicks is talking to or if he just pulled that out of his own posterior, but it’s gratuitous and misinformed. BOR and Texpatriate have more.

Primary runoff results

So long, Dave.

So very sad

Riding a wave of conservative sentiment that Texas Republicans were not being led with a hard enough edge, state Sen. Dan Patrick crushed Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst in Tuesday’s Republican primary runoff election for lieutenant governor, ending the career of a dominant figure in state politics for the last dozen years.

The Associated Press called the race shortly after 8 p.m., just an hour after polls closed in most of the state. As votes were still being counted, Patrick was winning by a margin of 64 percent to 36 percent.

Patrick’s victory marked the end of a rough campaign for Dewhurst, who trailed Patrick, a second term senator, by 13 percentage points in the four-way March primary. The incumbent sought to define Patrick, who is far less well-known statewide, as an untrustworthy figure more given to self-serving publicity stunts than the meticulous business of governing.

[…]

Dewhurst, who built a fortune in the energy industry and entered politics as a big-dollar Republican donor, won his first election as land commissioner in 1998 which laid the groundwork for a successful run for lieutenant governor in 2002, twice winning re-election in 2006 and 2010.

But Dewhurst’s luck turned when he lost the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Kay Bailey Hutchison in 2012 to Ted Cruz, a former solicitor general, who captured the spirit of the rising tea party movement in Texas. Cruz took advantage of an election calendar delayed by redistricting fights, holding Dewhurst to less than 50 percent in the primary and surging past him in the mid-summer runoff.

Dewhurst’s defeat at the hands of Cruz exposed Dewhurst’s vulnerability and when it turned out that he was going to try for a fourth term as lieutenant governor as the capstone of his career, Patrick, Patterson and Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples proceeded with their candidacies to try to take him out.

Let’s be clear that while Dan Patrick is a terrible human being who should never be entrusted with political power, David Dewhurst deserves no sympathy for his plight. He brought it on himself, and no one should be surprised by what happened. I doubt Dewhurst could ever have been sufficiently “conservative” to satisfy the seething masses that Dan Patrick represents, and I doubt he could have been powerful enough to have scared Patrick and his ego from challenging him, but there was nothing stopping him from being a better and more engaged Lt. Governor. I’m sure his many millions of dollars will be an adequate salve for his wounds, so again, no need for sympathy.

Democrats were obviously ready for this result. I’ve lost count of the number of statements and press releases that have hit my inbox so far. This statement from Yvonne Gutierrez, executive director, Planned Parenthood Texas Votes, was the first to arrive:

“Greg Abbott and Dan Patrick are two peas in a pod when it comes to women’s health, having led the fight to block Texas women from their rights and access to health care. Both oppose access to safe and legal abortion, even in cases of incest or rape. And both have worked to cut women off from preventative health services, and to close health centers, including Planned Parenthood clinics, that offer affordable birth control and cancer screenings.

Abbott and Patrick have made clear that they do not trust Texas women to make their own health care decisions. But the decision Texas women make at the ballot box this November will decide the election. You can’t win in Texas by working against Texas women. We’ve had enough of politicians like Greg Abbott and Dan Patrick, who want to impose their personal agenda on all Texas women – and between now and Election Day, Planned Parenthood Texas Votes will be working around the clock to make sure that Texas women know what the Abbott-Patrick ticket will mean for their access to health care.”

Others came in from Sen. Van de Putte, the Wendy Davis campaign, who wondered when we’d see Patrick and Abbott together, the Texas Organizing Project, and Annie’s List. The van de Putte campaign also released a statement announcing the support of “two prominent business leaders”: William Austin Ligon, the co-founder and retired CEO of CarMax, and Republican Louis Barrios, with whom we are already familiar. It’s a nice move to deflect a bit of attention, but I sure hope that list grows and grows and grows.

In other Republican news, the deeply unethical Ken Paxton won the AG nomination, the deeply unqualified Sid Miller won the Ag Commissioner nomination, and Ryan Sitton won the Railroad Commissioner nomination. As I’ve said before, this is easily the weakest Republican statewide slate in my memory. Doesn’t mean they won’t win, just that there’s no reason to be scared of them – as candidates, anyway. They should scare the hell out of you as officeholders, but they’re no electoral juggernaut.

On the Democratic side, the good news is that David Alameel won easily in his runoff for the US Senate nomination, with over 70% of the vote. All I can say is that I sincerely hope this is the last we hear of Kesha Rogers, and if it’s not I hope enough people know who and what she is so that she won’t be a factor in whatever race she turns up in. In other news – whether good or bad depends on your perspective – Jim Hogan defeated Kinky Friedman for the Ag Commissioner nomination. Hogan’s a zero, but I guess too many people weren’t ready to forgive Friedman for his prior offenses. I voted for Kinky in the runoff, but I understand the feeling. The main lesson here is that a first-time candidate in a statewide primary needs more than just endorsements to be successful. Either they get the funds they need to get their name out to a few hundred thousand voters, or you get a random result. Ask Hugh Fitzsimons, and ask David Alameel.

Dem statewide results are here and Republican statewide results are here. Bob Deuell lost in the SD02 runoff, making the Senate that much more stupid next year than it needed to be, while 91-year-old Congressman Ralph Hall appears to be finally headed for retirement. Some reasons for guarded optimism downballot: Ben Streusand lost in CD36, SBOE member Pat Hardy defeated the truly bizarre Eric Mahroum, and most of the Parent PAC candidates appear to have won. You take your victories where you can. Also, as noted below, Denise Pratt was soundly defeated in her runoff. So there’s that.

There will be plenty of time to talk about these races in more depth as we go. I may do some number-twiddling with them if I think there’s anything of interest in the county and precinct results. For now, it’s on to November, with a brief pause along the way in June for the SD04 runoff. For various reactions and liveblogs, see the Observer, the Trib, BOR, PDiddie, Juanita, and the always full of wit John Coby. And in closing, this may be the saddest thing I’ve ever read:

As the early voting totals rolled in, showing Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst behind by nearly 20 percent, supporters trickled in to a small election watch party north of the Galleria.

Members of the press outnumbered the early crowd, but campaign staff said they expected nearly 200 people to arrive. Many were still working the polls, they said, hoping to eke more votes out of a rainy day.

Almost enough to make me feel sorry for him. Almost.

Early voting begins today for primary runoffs

From the inbox:

EarlyVoting

Harris County voters can prepare to vote in the May 27 Democratic and Republican Primary Runoff Elections by visiting www.HarrisVotes.com to view the contests which will appear on their ballot. Early Voting for the Primary Runoff Elections begins on Monday, May 19 and continues until Friday, May 23. During this period, 39 early voting locations will be open from 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. to serve the over 2 million registered voters in Harris County. Keep in mind, Election Day, May 27th, is the day after Memorial Day.

All voters are encouraged to vote early at one of the 39 early voting locations because the number of Election Day polling locations has been significantly reduced by the Democratic and Republican Parties to 12% of the usual number of polls on Election Day. Many voters will have to travel further than normal to vote on Election Day. To find all early voting locations and specific Election Day polling locations, visit www.HarrisVotes.com.

“Voters can use the “Find Your Poll and Ballot” link at www.HarrisVotes.com to print out their own personal ballot to review before going to the poll,” said Harris County Clerk Stanart, who is also the county’s Chief Elections Officer. All Democratic Party voters will have the same ballot in Harris County. For the Republican Party, there are 11 contests; 4 of which are not county-wide.

“The County Clerk’s Office has provided an enormous amount of information for the voters on our website to increase the voter’s knowledge and accessibility to the polls,” added Stanart. “Timely information about elections can be received by following our office on twitter @HarrisVotes.”

Stanart reminds voters “If you voted in the March Primary, you are only able to vote in the same party’s election for the Primary Runoff. If you did not participate in either Parties March 4th Election and are eligible to vote, you may participate in the Runoff Primary of your party choice.”

To view the early voting schedule, a list of acceptable forms of Photo ID that can be presented to vote at the poll, Election Day polling locations and other voting information, voters may visit www.HarrisVotes.com or call 713.755.6965.

See here for early voting locations and hours – it’s 7 AM to 7 PM each day. Two things to emphasize: There are only five days of early voting. It starts today and ends Friday. Runoff Day is Tuesday, May 27, which as noted is the day after Memorial Day, and you can expect that only a handful of precinct voting locations will be open. It’s very much in your interest to vote early if you plan to vote. I plan to do sol, and I’ll be voting for David Alameel and Kinky Friedman. I don’t expect a lot of company. From the Chron story, which is mostly about how the air will be a little safer to breathe once the toxic GOP Lite Guv runoff has finally concluded, comes this prediction about turnout:

Despite all of those races, and dozens of local ones – including for two Harris County state representatives and four Harris County judges – officials are expecting a very low turnout.

Harris County Clerk Stan Stanart is predicting that, at most, 75,000 Republicans and 20,000 Democrats will cast ballot, less than 5 percent of the county’s 2 million registered voters.

Stanart speculated that more than half of voters will vote early or by mail, a route that is becoming increasingly common.

“Historically, primary runoffs tend to not have a large number of people,” Stanart said. “But you never know what’s going to drive people to the polls.”

The only local runoffs in Harris County are Republican runoffs. We Dems only have the two statewide races. There are Dem runoffs for State Rep in Dallas and El Paso, but anything beyond that will be for local races. Be that as it may, I think Stanart’s prediction for Dem turnout may be a tad optimistic. The Harris County turnout for the “>2006 Democratic primary runoff, which also featured two low profile statewide races plus two local races, one of which was the fairly high-interest HD146 battle between Al Edwards and Borris Miles, was a pitiful 13,726. (GOP runoff turnout was even lower, but then their races that year were even lower profile.) I’d bet the under on a Dem turnout projection of 20,000, but I’ll buy that half or more of the voters will show up before May 27. Feel free to do your part to make my predictions look foolish.

Interview with David Alameel

David Alameel

David Alameel

As you may recall, I tried to interview Democratic Senate candidate David Alameel prior to the March primary. For one reason or another, the two of us were never quite able to connect up and make it happen. Well, he was in town recently and I got a call from a member of his campaign who asked if we could try again, and here’s the result of that. We’re in a restaurant, so please forgive the background noise, but I think it’s audible. Alameel, who ran for CD33 in 2012, was endorsed early on by both Wendy Davis and Leticia Van de Putte, and collected most of the newspaper endorsements as well. A dentist and Army veteran, Alameel immigrated to the US from Lebanon at the age of 20, and currently lives in Dallas. He has faced some questions about past campaign contributions to Republicans, and association with anti-abortion organizations, so these were among the issues we discussed in the interview. He faces LaRouchie wingnut Kesha Rogers in the May 27 runoff. He has my vote in the runoff and I hope he’ll have yours. Here’s the interview:

Please note that I did this interview before the story about allegations of sexual harassment at one of Alameel’s clinics came out. I’d have asked him about that if I’d been aware of it at the time. I will pick up the interview series later in the year as we get closer to November. You can review all of my interviews for the primary on my 2014 Election page.

Chron overview of Senate primary runoff

We’ve heard this story before.

David Alameel

David Alameel

Texas Democrats trying to gain traction in statewide elections face an awkward predicament in the May 27 primary runoff election for the U.S. Senate.

If the winner is Kesha Rogers, a follower of Lyndon LaRouche, their nominee won’t even be welcome at the Texas Democratic Convention in Dallas next month. LaRouche is a perennial fringe candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination who espouses various conspiracy theories to explain world events. Since 2009, his followers have said President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act is something Adolph Hitler’s Nazi Party would have supported, a view embraced by Rogers in the Democratic primary.

“She’s not on our ticket,” said Texas Democratic Party Executive Director Will Hailer. “If she came to the convention, she wouldn’t be speaking.”

It’s a prospect Democrats hope to head off with David Alameel, a wealthy Dallas dentist better known for bankrolling races than running in them. But even as party leaders tried to warn voters off Rogers in the March 4 primary, she managed to finish second in a five-way race. More importantly, she kept the largely self-funded Alameel just under the 50 percent mark, thus forcing a runoff.

You know, the three other candidates in the race besides Alameel and Rogers were also campaigning for votes. One could quite reasonably argue that Maxey Scherr, who finished third and collected the lion’s share of Democratic club endorsements while vocally criticizing Alameel for his past history of giving to Republican candidates, is the reason Alameel couldn’t quite break the 50% mark. Given the existence of that crappy Trib poll that showed Kesha leading and had everyone freaked out, I thought Alameel did all right for a first time statewide candidate. He got his name out there and put himself in a position to win. What more do you want?

As I said the last time, this race is about getting the word out about who Kesha Rogers is, and making sure that people know they need to get out and vote. Alameel can do his part and the rest of us can do ours. I finally had a chance to do an interview with Alameel, so look for that on Monday. The Trib has more.

Endorsement watch: All for Alameel

In the March primary, most of the newspaper endorsements for the Democratic Senate race went to David Alameel. The one exception among major papers was the San Antonio Express-News, which went for Maxey Scherr. As Scherr did not make it to the runoff, they needed to make a new recommendation. Not surprisingly, they joined their peers in endorsing Alameel.

David Alameel

David Alameel

[Kesha] Rogers is not a credible Democratic candidate. It is difficult to envision her as any party’s nominee.

Alameel, on the other hand, would have appeal as a Democratic candidate even if Rogers hadn’t managed to make it into the runoff, itself a story of Democratic Party disarray in Texas.

Alameel has a compelling personal story and good positions on serious issues. He is a Lebanese immigrant who arrived in this country when he was 20, a U.S. Army veteran and a Dallas dentist who built a successful business of clinics.

He would bring to the Senate solid positions on sensible budgeting, immigration reform, raising the minimum wage, bringing the troops home, holding banks and Wall Street accountable and protecting Social Security and Medicare.

[…]

In the runoff, there is simply no question about the better choice: We recommend Alameel for the Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate.

No question indeed. It’s just a matter of making sure everyone who realizes this votes in the runoff. Early voting starts soon, so get ready to get out there and do your job.

DMN overview of Senate primary runoff

Let me sum it up in four words: Don’t vote for Kesha. Any questions?

David Alameel

David Alameel

Some primary candidates struggle to differentiate themselves from the pack. Kesha Rogers does not have that problem.

The Democratic Senate hopeful’s platform calls for the impeachment of President Barack Obama and compares the Affordable Care Act to Nazism. She campaigns around the state with a poster of Obama sporting a Hitler mustache. Plus, she’s a supporter of extremist Lyndon LaRouche.

“There is this certain unique quality to what I do,” she said in an interview. “I go out and inspire people, especially people who have been discouraged by the party and discouraged by the political situation.”

That has drawn the ire of mainstream Texas Democrats, who know that a Rogers win would disrupt the party’s unified front. The party is touting what it hopes will be its most competitive statewide slate in years, but if Rogers were to win the nomination in the May 27 runoff, she would stick out.

“They want candidates that are traditional and effective, and that’s something I think that they are at a risk of losing here if … Kesha Rogers wins the runoff,” said Brandon Rottinghaus, a political science professor at the University of Houston. “It makes the party look like they are in disarray. It makes it look like they haven’t adequately vetted their candidates.

Democratic organizations across the state are lining up to discredit the Rogers campaign while David Alameel, the Dallas dentist who led the March primary but didn’t get a high enough share of the vote to win outright, keeps his distance. Even though many Democrats believe Alameel will win, they don’t want to take chances.

“It’s important that Dr. Alameel be the nominee and we do demonstrate that gadfly candidates like Kesha Rogers won’t get nominated in important races,” said Matt Angle, an adviser to Democratic gubernatorial nominee Wendy Davis who runs the Washington-based Lone Star Project. The group recently put out a video opposing Rogers.

State parties usually stay out of primaries, but the Texas Democratic Party has been vocal in its support of Alameel. Rogers’ campaign remains cut off from all party resources, including access to its voter data.

And that’s how it should be. The story goes on to quote a Kesha supporter who says something about being willing to criticize the President. Well, there’s a difference between being critical and calling for impeachment, or comparing the signature health care law to Nazism. Some things really are out of bounds, and really do disqualify you from being worth supporting. We’re a big tent, not an infinite tent. My hope is that this campaign will serve as an education to Democratic voters about Kesha Rogers, so that going forward she won’t be able to sneak into any more runoffs on the basis of a vaguely familiar name and voter ignorance. People eventually figured out not to vote for Gene Kelly – and Lloyd Oliver, here in Harris County – hopefully now they’ll have figured it out about Kesha Rogers, too. See the Chron’s re-endorsement of Alameel for more.

Don’t forget about Kesha

From the HuffPo:

David Alameel

David Alameel

Texas Democrats are working hard in the U.S. Senate race — against a member of their own party.

Activists in the state want to make sure that Kesha Rogers doesn’t get their party’s Senate nomination because she is a follower of Lyndon LaRouche, who heads a fringe political movement that has been compared to a cult.

Rogers has already advanced further than most people expected; she came in second in the March 4 primary, meaning she and Dallas dentist David Alameel are facing off in a run-off election on May 27.

“Having her on the ballot would just be bad,” Rep. Marc Veasey (D-Texas) told Fox4 in Dallas-Fort Worth.

“She’s a member of the LaRouche Movement, which has a history of violent exclusionary and discriminatory rhetoric,” added Taylor Holden, Dallas County Democratic Party executive director. “The Dallas County Democratic Party does not recognize members of the LaRouche Movement, including and especially Kesha Rogers.”

Dallas County Democrats also tweeted on Monday, “Friends don’t let friends vote Kesha Rogers in the Primary Runoff (May 27).”

Honestly, I haven’t heard that much about the Senate runoff so far. David Alameel isn’t on every webpage I visit these days, as he was leading up to the primary. With few runoffs in local races, this should be a low turnout affair – I’ll set the under/over at 200,000 votes, about what there was in the 2006 Democratic Senate primary runoff. Which is fine, since these should be the most plugged-in voters, thus the most likely to know not to vote for Kesha. As previously noted, returns from March in Harris County look promising for May. Kesha herself is doing what she can to stay in the news, which I believe works in favor of sanity. Still, talking up the need to vote for Alameel in the runoff is everone’s job, and I expect Alameel will spend a few bucks on mail and other forms of outreach as we enter May. Just remember to do your part by showing up and voting for Alameel, and it’ll be fine.

Precinct analysis: Democratic primary elections

I finally got around to asking for the canvass reports for the primaries in Harris County. I didn’t have any specific agenda in looking at the data from each, I just wanted to see what I could learn. Let’s start on the Democratic side with a look at the vote totals in each State Rep district for the Senate race.

Dist Kim Kesha Alameel Fjet Scherr ============================================= 126 119 276 513 40 165 127 128 346 531 25 234 128 128 163 603 43 145 129 175 318 991 133 275 130 121 201 431 35 146 131 412 1,200 1,827 72 361 132 131 319 384 41 139 133 131 169 1,040 82 297 134 277 246 2,773 176 613 135 134 280 483 29 135 137 97 193 447 27 107 138 117 224 635 45 203 139 353 1,140 1,735 97 366 140 152 227 455 37 95 141 283 721 1,307 54 273 142 310 864 1,243 72 264 143 232 436 814 50 193 144 123 117 514 24 113 145 232 285 995 80 265 146 391 1,068 2,391 106 374 147 422 1,018 2,738 134 411 148 260 300 1,521 76 376 149 224 326 539 45 145 150 121 273 500 50 129

The main conclusion I’d draw from this is that people seem to have gotten the message about Kesha Rogers. None of the districts had any surprises. Even in the African-American districts, where one might be concerned that Roger’s name could earn her some votes in a low-information race, she scored only 27%, not much higher than her 20% overall. Straight up against David Alameel, she got about 35% in the African-American districts. I was already feeling pretty good about the runoff, and the data here reinforce that.

Here’s what the Governor’s race looked like:

Dist Davis Madrigal ======================= 126 1,093 71 127 1,228 91 128 1,010 107 129 1,849 111 130 911 61 131 3,788 288 132 968 74 133 1,783 68 134 4,310 104 135 1,031 85 137 833 73 138 1,204 83 139 3,678 273 140 803 208 141 2,612 162 142 2,778 216 143 1,465 359 144 794 145 145 1,560 447 146 4,302 240 147 4,719 282 148 2,464 275 149 1,184 132 150 1,045 77

For all the tsuris around Davis’ performance in South Texas, she did just fine in the Latino districts here, scoring over 83% of the vote. More is always better, but hey, she didn’t campaign. There’s nothing to see here.

The headscratcher race was of course the Ag Commissioner race.

Dist Hogan Kinky Hugh ============================ 126 445 342 301 127 468 403 363 128 466 350 251 129 617 582 640 130 361 322 248 131 1,822 1,049 796 132 429 335 237 133 439 591 687 134 981 1,445 1,571 135 437 344 273 137 308 282 234 138 413 437 358 139 1,691 1,041 781 140 508 290 155 141 1,415 642 436 142 1,397 787 539 143 856 560 273 144 422 331 143 145 730 707 404 146 1,905 1,263 936 147 1,904 1,487 1,083 148 843 1,063 610 149 540 424 271 150 419 342 285

The voters in HD134 got the message about Hugh Fitzsimons, but that’s about it. Maybe if he’d had Alameel money, it would have been different. As for Hogan, I’m going with the theory that he did well by being the first name on the ballot. Doesn’t explain how he did in other counties, but it’s the best I can do.

And finally, the Railroad Commissioner race, which in its own was is also a mystery.

Dist Henry Brown ==================== 126 352 687 127 413 775 128 408 622 129 644 1,063 130 319 566 131 1,034 2,654 132 361 599 133 450 1,078 134 942 2,508 135 402 598 137 275 510 138 362 779 139 1,079 2,396 140 362 574 141 717 1,784 142 913 1,787 143 622 1,042 144 334 498 145 602 1,125 146 1,206 2,821 147 1,268 3,012 148 824 1,424 149 414 796 150 378 627

Like Jim Hogan, Dale Henry was first on the ballot, but unlike Hogan it did him no good. It’s reasonable to think that Steve Brown would do well in his backyard, and he is an active campaigner and social media presence. But let’s be honest, anything can happen in a downballot no-money race. I’m just glad the better outcome is what happened here.

How I’ll be voting in the runoffs

David Alameel

David Alameel

This is pretty straightforward, as there are only two races in the runoff for me to consider.

Senate – This is the definition of a no-brainer. David Alameel wasn’t my first choice. I voted for Maxey Scherr, and didn’t recommend a vote for Alameel in March because of questions about his past (and possibly present) political activities that I didn’t have the chance to ask and didn’t see get answered elsewhere. None of that matters now. Alameel’s ubiquitous web ads have put him firmly on the right side of issues I care about, and while there are still questions I’d like to ask Alameel – and I plan to try again to set up an interview with him – I’m satisfied with that. Just as I didn’t believe Mark Jones when he tried to convince me there were stealth moderates in the GOP primaries, I will take Alameel at his word on these issues. And not to belabor the obvious, but the alternative is unthinkable. I speculated before that perhaps the reason the establishment all lined up with Alameel early on is because someone foresaw the Kesha Rogers problem and reasonably concluded that Alameel and his bankroll were a solution to it. Whether that was by accident or design, it seems to be working pretty well and almost closed things out in the first round. I’ll be voting for David Alameel in the runoff.

Ag Commissioner – I feel terrible for Hugh Fitzsimons, who was clearly the best and most qualified candidate running in either party. I wish I had an answer to that; I do have a couple of thoughts that I’ll get back to later. I think I’ve been pretty clear about my view of Kinky Friedman and the pros and cons of his candidacy. I ultimately voted for Fitzsimons because I wasn’t fully sold on Kinky and his one-note crusade, but at least Kinky can articulate a reason why he’s running and is actually trying to win. That’s more that can be said for Jim Hogan. Here’s Hogan in his own words in the Trib:

Hogan said he did not spend money during the campaign because “it’d be silly to raise money.” He added that there was no need for a campaign website, which he doesn’t have, because “somebody’s going to Google you anyway.”

And in the Observer:

I talked to Hogan today, and he attributes his victory to the Almighty.

“It was a miracle and only God could’ve pulled it off,” he told me. “That doesn’t sell papers and you may think that’s corny but I truly believe it.”

I can understand why God wouldn’t want the atheistic Kinky Friedman representing God’s Party but what about Fitzsimons, who actually campaigned?

Hogan scoffs at the idea that “the Establishment” has anything to teach him.

“When I called Democrats and told them I was gonna be on the ticket first thing they said was, ‘How long you been in politics?’ I said, ‘I’m not no politician.’ They said, ‘Let me tell you something: It takes a lot of money to win a state race and you can’t win.’ I said, ‘Let me tell you something, y’all haven’t won since 1994.’”

And that’s true enough. Democrats have lost every single one of the last 100 or so statewide races since 1994. Hogan thought he’d try something a little different: He wouldn’t really campaign.

“Basically I run on the internet and a phone,” he said. “My motto is: My phone and Internet can outrun any jet plane or car across the state of Texas. I don’t have to be there.”

But how did voters know about him at all? Details about his candidacy only appear in a handful of small-town papers.

“All you gotta do is Google my name—’jim hogan ag commissioner’—and there’s enough on there.”

Sorry, but I refuse to vote for someone who doesn’t campaign. If Hogan wants to be the next coming of Gene Kelly, he can do it without my help. If the result of the Ag Commissioner primaries has you looking elsewhere or sitting it out, I understand. But you can’t beat something with nothing, and Hogan is nothing. I’ll be voting for Kinky.

As I said, I’m sad this happened to Hugh Fitzsimons. Frankly, we’re lucky it didn’t also happen to Steve Brown, but one random result is enough. Someone needs to be thinking how to deal with this in 2018, because unless everyone is running for re-election, Dems are going to have to try to fill out another slate with quality candidates. Getting such people for the top of the ticket shouldn’t be too hard (we hope), but we still need those Commissioners and Supreme Court/CCA justices, and raising statewide money for those offices is a huge challenge. It shouldn’t be that expensive in a primary to establish enough name ID for someone to avoid this scenario. Some targeted mail, some online ads, maybe a spot of cable TV – I saw plenty of ads for Nathan Hecht and Glenn Hegar on ESPN and CSN-Houston during early voting. Maybe if some people would quit screwing around with Republican primaries and questionable PACs they might realize such a thing wouldn’t be all that expensive and it might just help the next Hugh Fitzsimons make it through to November. Our bench isn’t nearly deep enough to burn candidates like that, and it won’t be deep enough in four years’ time. If we can’t figure out a way to invest in these guys, we’ll face the same problem then. BOR has more.

The case for Kinky

The Trib sums up the reasons for voting for the Kinkster in the runoff.

Kinky Friedman

Kinky Friedman

The race for agriculture commissioner is far down the list, both in terms of voter interest and the interest of people who write checks to political campaigns. It is the backwater of state politics, which makes it a great place for a candidate who is well known and doesn’t need the help of the financial people to get the attention of voters.

Miller and Merritt have never run statewide races. Friedman ran for governor in 2006 in a pack that included Republican Rick Perry, Democrat Chris Bell and Republican-turned-independent Carole Keeton Strayhorn (who has since divorced and changed her last name back to Rylander). Friedman finished fourth.

Let us argue the case on behalf of the Republican candidates.

One, Friedman got decimated in the 2006 race even though — and perhaps because — the voters knew who he was.

Two, it’s a Republican state, and the Democrats are unlikely to win, especially with a candidate who can be difficult to take seriously.

Three, Friedman’s idea of legalizing marijuana and making it a cash crop in Texas is out of the mainstream and cannot possibly be a winning issue in a Texas election.

The other side? He is better known than either Miller or Merritt. They, like Friedman himself, have been rejected by voters, and the deficiencies that made their opponents successful are there for new opponents — like Friedman — to exploit.

It will be hard for all of the candidates to raise money — an advantage for the best-known candidate, as long as it’s not a bank robber.

Marijuana — if it doesn’t turn off the voters — sets Friedman’s campaign apart. It’s something for voters who are not otherwise interested in the Texas Department of Agriculture to talk about. Public opinion is shifting; the governor recently talked about decriminalizing pot. Perry is not for legalization, but decriminalization is a long way from the zero-tolerance policies that were in vogue a few years ago.

We’ve covered this before. Other than the Trib’s mention that Kinky could highlight his differences with the state Democratic Party as a general campaign theme, there’s nothing new there. Either you buy into the idea of Kinky as a viable and potentially successful candidate, or you’d sooner French kiss an electric outlet. I can’t say either of these views are wrong, but if you vote in the runoff – and you should come out to vote for David Alameel, because Kesha Rogers must be stopped – then you’ll have to decide how you feel about this.

The Trib explains itself on its polls

Good for them.

Wrong!!!

The ongoing challenge of public polling is to reconcile popular expectations about what polls “mean” at election time with our own desire to provide the public with information about mass opinion on politics and policy. We begin with the realization that polling results provide an account of public attitudes only at the time the data are collected. However, publicly released polls tend to be taken as a prediction of what will happen on Election Day. As much as we would like this to be the case, and as pleased as we are when the polling results comport with the eventual reality, we don’t, in the end, view the results in this way.

A situation with (a) a lot of unformed or non-existent opinions of candidates and (b) active campaigning in multicandidate races with no distinguishing party labels in a notoriously low-turnout election was, and is, likely to create volatility in results and uncertainty about the composition of the electorate. This volatility, particularly in the weeks leading up to an election, as voters slowly begin to pay attention, is why campaigns invest in daily tracking polls if they can afford them. As several candidates found out Tuesday, the past, even the relatively recent past, is always an imperfect guide to the present.

In our own polling, to assess the state of the primary elections, we screened “likely voters” from the larger sample of registered voter respondents — people who told us that they intended to vote in a particular party’s primary and, in addition, said that they were “very” or “somewhat” interested in politics and had voted in “every” or “almost every” one of the past few elections. Even among this group, many expressed no candidate preference in a number of races. With the election just around the corner, we forced them to make a decision — asking which candidate would get their vote in each race if “don’t know” was not among the options. In sum, we reported the results for people who seemed to be “likely” primary voters at some distance from the actual primary election. This screen, like any screen, is arbitrary, but has, in the past, been particularly robust and, maybe even more important to us, is purposefully agnostic about the eventual composition of the electorate.

As someone who has criticized that poll and called on Henson and Shaw to do an after action review on it, I commend them for doing so. I’m sure this has not been a fun week for them.

Now that they have undertaken this job, let me make a couple of suggestions to them. I don’t see why the screening process for primary voters needs to be complicated. We have a very good idea of who the likely voters in a primary election are – the people who have voted in the primaries before. Look at the turnout levels for the last three primaries – they’re in a pretty tight band for both parties. It’s the same thing for Houston’s odd-year elections. Pre-screen for those who have voted in two of the last three such elections – which is to say, do what the campaigns themselves do – and be done with it. Sure, the electorate gets expanded sometimes – 2008 for the primaries, 2010 for Republicans in the general; Democrats are working to make 2014 be like that for themselves – but you’ll be right more often than not, and in the exceptional years you’ll very likely have some external data telling you that this time it’s different. If that’s not easily done within the confines of their YouGov panel model, well, maybe that should tell them something.

The other thing I’d suggest is that it’s OK for “I don’t know” to be the majority answer. A poll result that said Kesha Rogers led David Alameel by nine percent to seven percent, with 76% undecided, is admittedly unsexy and unlikely to get picked up with Politico and the Washington Post, but it’s also unlikely to result in you writing a mea culpa after being roundly mocked for your crap-ass predictions. Seems like the better choice to me.

They reinforce that point later:

Additionally, what these tables don’t show is how uninformed and underdeveloped the attitudes of the electorate were in the final weeks of the campaign — an element that was sure to create volatility (that is, broad but potentially uneven changes in preferences that affect the totals for the candidates). Additional data elaborate the point: About a fifth of GOP voters for each of the lieutenant governor candidates did not register either a positive or negative opinion toward their preferred candidate. In addition, roughly half of the potential GOP primary voters surveyed in the attorney general and comptroller races originally stated that they hadn’t thought enough about the race to form an opinion. This is almost certainly why Debra Medina polled so high among people forced to choose: They recognized her name.

The Democratic side of the ledger was even more disheartening for anyone who wants to assume the existence of a large, engaged and informed electorate. U.S. Senate candidate Kesha Rogers’ strong initial polling — driven in large part by African American respondents who, in the end, didn’t vote — was also buoyed by the roughly three-quarters of our respondents who initially said that they had no opinion in that primary. (As with the Republicans, those who initially chose no one were then asked which way they leaned.)

There was a ton of self-loathing on the Democratic side at the new of Rogers leading that poll. I guess we can take a small measure of comfort at the news that despite the coverage and the millions spent, a bunch of Republicans had no idea whom to support in these races. Of course, none of their choices would be as offensive to them as Rogers is to us, so it’s not quite the same. Be that as it may, this is what I’m talking about above. By Henson and Shaw’s own admission, these voters are highly likely to be swayed by late campaign activity. If so, why would you want to push them for an answer when you know it’s very much subject to change? If this experience doesn’t let that lesson sink in, I don’t know what would. I’m glad they’re reviewing their approach, but I think they ought to keep thinking about it.

The UT/TT primary polls were completely useless

Wrong!!!

I expressed my contempt with the UT/Texas Trib’s Democratic primary poll result for the US Senate race last night, which they richly deserved. Sure, pollster Jim Henson admitted that “the first person to raise some money and run some ads could really move this”, and that’s largely what happened, but that got lost in all the national attention that was paid to Kesha Rogers being proclaimed the frontrunner in a poll where basically nobody had an initial preference. They had a “result” that was guaranteed to get them a ton of attention, and that’s what they got even though their track record in past Democratic primaries was shaky at best.

Well, now it’s time to pay them a bit of negative attention, because their Republican primary polls, which I originally noted had a decent track record based on previous results sucked eggs, too. Let’s take them one at a time and assess the damage. I’ll even be generous and start with the one poll they basically nailed, just to give them credit where it’s due. Here’s the poll story from which I’ll be quoting:

U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, facing a field of seven other Republican primary candidates in his bid for re-election, won the support of 62 percent of the likely Republican primary voters, followed by U.S. Rep. Steve Stockman, R-Friendswood, who got 16 percent. Support for the rest was in single digits: Linda Vega, 7 percent; Dwayne Stovall and Ken Cope, 4 percent each; Reid Reasor and Chris Mapp, 3 percent each; and Curt Cleaver, 1 percent.

Actual result: Cornyn won with 59.44%, Stockman came in second with 19.13%. Dwayne Stovall was actually in third with 10.71%, but I won’t crime them for that. From here, it’s all downhill.

In the heated Republican primary for lieutenant governor, incumbent David Dewhurst leads the pack with 37 percent of likely Republican primary voters at his side, followed by state Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, at 31 percent; Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples at 17 percent; and Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson at 15 percent.

Actual result: Dan Patrick led the pack with 41.45%, followed by incumbent David Dewhurst with 28.31%. Staples had 17.76% and Patterson 12.47%, not that it mattered. That’s a pretty big miss, but it’s not their biggest.

The Republican primary for attorney general is a statistical dead heat between state Rep. Dan Branch of Dallas, at 42 percent, and state Sen. Ken Paxton of McKinney, at 38 percent — a difference smaller than the poll’s margin of error. Railroad Commissioner Barry Smitherman got 20 percent. When they were initially asked about the race, 47 percent expressed no preference between the candidates.

Actual result: Paxton 44.44%, Branch 33.49%, Smitherman 22.06%. They did get Smitherman’s level of support correct, but they had the wrong frontrunner and the race wasn’t as close as they said. Oh, well.

In the race for comptroller, that group of initially undecided voters accounted for 54 percent, perhaps an indication of continuing flux in the race. Debra Medina, the only candidate who has been on a statewide ballot (she ran for governor in 2010), got 39 percent after voters were asked whom they would support in an election now, followed by state Rep. Harvey Hilderbran, R-Kerrville, at 26 percent; state Sen. Glenn Hegar, R-Katy, at 24 percent; and former state Rep. Raul Torres, R-Corpus Christi, at 11 percent.

Actual result: Hegar came thisclose to winning outright, with 49.99%. He was 151 votes short of a majority with four precincts still uncounted. Hilderbran was second with 26.01%, Medina third with 19.30%, and Torres last with 4.68%. I’m sorry, but that’s just embarrassingly inaccurate.

So in all three downballot Republican races as well as the Democratic Senate race, they incorrectly identified the frontrunner, with the extra indignity of having the almost clear winner of the Comptroller’s race not in the cut for a runoff. Well done, fellas. Well done.

Now you may say “c’mon, polling primaries is especially tricky”, and if you did I would agree. I’d also say that maybe their self-selected-sample-plus-secret-sauce methodology is especially poorly designed for polling in these specialized races, and I’d point to these very results as proof of that. You may also say that no one else was providing poll information on these races so at least they were telling us something, and I’d say we would have been better off with no information than we were with their badly wrong information. I’d also say they owe us an explanation for why they were so wrong, and a public examination and reconsideration of their methods given how badly wrong they were. If they can screw these races up so badly, why should anyone believe their general election polling? The ball’s in your court, guys.

I should note that I’m saying all this as someone who likes the Tribune and who thinks they generally do a good job. On this, however, they did a terrible job, and I’m not the only one who noticed. They should be embarrassed by this, and they should want to figure out where they went so far off track. I would advise them to be quick about it. Steve Singiser has more.

Primary results: Statewide

So Wendy Davis and Greg Abbott won easily.

Sen. Wendy Davis

Sen. Wendy Davis

They never had to sweat their primaries, so on Tuesday night Attorney General Greg Abbott and Democratic state Sen. Wendy Davis turned their attention to a fall election that is shaping up to be one of the most hotly contested and closely watched Texas governor’s races in decades.

Davis, who was winning almost 80 percent of the vote in early returns, and Abbott, who was pulling in more than 90 percent at last count, both gave early victory speeches on a night when uncertainty and surprise shook up candidates in several other key state races.

Davis went first, focusing her remarks on job creation and education, saying Texas badly needed new leadership after years of uninterrupted Republican rule.

“I want you to know this: I am ready to fight for you and to fight for every hardworking Texan across this state,” Davis said at her campaign headquarters in Fort Worth. “Now is the time to fight for our future. This is not a time to stand still.”

But Davis’ remarks quickly turned into an attack on Abbott. She criticized him for defending in court steep cuts made by the Legislature to public education in 2011 in response to a lawsuit filed by a coalition of school districts that say the state’s education system is flawed and doesn’t appropriately fund schools.

“He’s defending those cuts,” Davis said. “Cuts that laid off teachers and forced our kids into overcrowded classrooms.”

She also mentioned the ongoing abortion debate in Texas — the issue that helped turn her into an overnight sensation last summer when she filibustered a restrictive abortion bill. Davis bashed Abbott for his stance on abortion, saying that he wants to “dictate for all women, including victims of rape and incest.” Abbott has said he believes abortion should be legal only when the mother’s life is in danger.

“I will be the governor who fights for the future of Texas,” Davis said, adding that “Greg Abbott is a defender of the status quo.”

There were a lot of uncounted ballots at the time I called it a night last night, but turnout on the Dem side will probably be around 600,000, or about what we had in 2012. A bit more than half the votes were cast early, which strongly suggests yesterday’s rotten weather had some effect. Republicans also had more than half their turnout come in early, so it affected both sides. This is why I always vote early, y’all.

John Cornyn easily won his primary, but with a not-terribly-impressive 58% or so of the vote. Barring any late surge, David Alameel will finish with about 47% and will face (sigh) Kesha Rogers in the runoff, as she finished second with about 22%. I expect he’ll win easily in a low turnout race, and I have to wonder if this is the reason he got those early endorsements from Wendy Davis, Leticia Van de Putte, and a whole passel of Dem officeholders. Maybe someone in the hive mind had the foresight to think that he had the best shot at solving the Kesha problem, hopefully in March but surely in May if it comes to it. Be that as it may, let me take this opportunity once again to spit on that crappy Trib primary poll. Use a dartboard next time, fellas.

Anyway. Alameel will be joined in the runoff by Kinky Friedman and Jim Hogan, who led the field for Ag Commissioner for no apparent reason. At least Steve Brown won the Railroad Commissioner nomination, so there was just one random result.

On the Republican side, Baby Bush collected 73% in the Land Commissioner race, so he joins Abbott in getting to start running for November. Glenn Hegar was within an eyelash of 50% at the time I closed up shop; if he falls back, Harvey Hilderbran will get another shot at him. All Supreme Court incumbents won, and all Court of Criminal Appeals races had clear winners. Otherwise, here are your runoff lineups:

Lite Guv – Dan Patrick versus David Dewhurst. Sure looks like The Dew is going down.

Attorney General – Ken Paxton versus Dan Branch. Back to the Railroad Commission for you, Barry Smitherman.

Ag Commissioner – Sid Miller versus Tommy Merritt. If things hold to form, Ted Nugent will have had quite the successful primary himself.

Railroad Commissioner – Wayne Christian versus Ryan Sitton. Yeah, I know, who?

That’s all I got. What are your thoughts about the primaries?

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.

The turnout issue in 2014

Two recent articles of interest, both about the nature of the electorate in non-Presidential years. First, via Ed Kilgore, who has been beating the drum about the volatility of the Democratic base, comes this NYT story about what the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) hopes to do about it as it has to defend numerous seats in tough territory.

The Democrats’ plan to hold onto their narrow Senate majority goes by the name “Bannock Street project.” It runs through 10 states, includes a $60 million investment, and requires more than 4,000 paid staffers. And the effort will need all of that — and perhaps more — to achieve its goal, which is nothing short of changing the character of the electorate in a midterm cycle.

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee is preparing its largest and most data-driven ground game yet, relying on an aggressive combination of voter registration, get out the vote, and persuasion efforts.

They hope to make the 2014 midterm election more closely resemble a presidential election year, when more traditional Democratic constituencies — single women, minorities and young voters — turn out to vote in higher numbers, said Guy Cecil, the committee’s executive director.

[…]

Both voter registration and mobilization efforts are at the center of the Democrats’ new strategy. In Georgia, for example, the committee estimates that there are 572,000 unregistered African-American voters, and that there are more than 600,000 likely supporters of Michelle Nunn, the Democratic Senate candidate there, who voted in 2012 but not in 2010. The goal, then, is to register the African-American voters, and to target the likely Nunn voters to show up to the polls during a midterm election.

But black voters who did not register to vote in 2008 or 2012, amid all of the excitement surrounding the nation’s first black president, could pose a challenge to register in 2014.

The Bannock Street project is specifically focused on ten states — Alaska, Arkansas, Georgia, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, North Carolina, Michigan, Montana, and West Virginia — with plans for senior field operatives and other staff members to be in place by the end of the month.

No, Texas isn’t on their list. This isn’t a surprise, for multiple reasons. One, the Texas Senate race is on no one’s list of races to watch, though that will likely change in the improbable event that Steve Stockman manages to oust incumbent Sen. John Cornyn in the primary. Two, we don’t know who the Democratic nominee is. I’d say David Alameel is the most likely to draw interest from the DSCC if Cornyn gets past Stockman, as he can provide plenty of seed money for his race, but I wouldn’t expect much more than an email or two sent on his behalf by the DSCC. They just have too many other, larger fish to fry.

In addition to all that, there’s already a Democratic-focused and well-financed statewide turnout operation going on, that being of course Battleground Texas. It remains to be seen what effect they can have in Texas, especially in a year they originally weren’t expecting to be competitive statewide. One thing for sure is that there’s plenty of slack in the system for them to work with. Too many Presidential year Democrats don’t come out at other times, and too many potential Democrats don’t come out at all. The Trib takes a closer look at that.

Battleground Texas, started by former Obama operatives who want to turn the state away from its Republican devotions, is trying to register new voters, identify Democrats and turn them out for this year’s elections. They started a year ago and said it would take four to six years to turn Texas their way.

A couple of promising candidates showed up early, putting faces on the effort. The candidacies of Wendy Davis, who is running for governor, and Leticia Van de Putte, who is running for lieutenant governor, bring some focus to the organizing efforts. After all, it is easier to raise a crowd for a candidate or a cause than for the general promotion of civic health. It helps to be about something or somebody.

Up front, the math favors the Republicans. They have been winning statewide elections for 20 years, and it has become sort of a habit. Folk music has had a bigger comeback than Texas Democrats.

The Democratic administration remains remarkably unpopular in Texas, and conservative candidates from the bottom of the ballot to the top are running against either the president, his signature health care program or both. Even if Texas suddenly had equal numbers of voting Republicans and voting Democrats, those Democrats would have the political winds in their face this year.

That last paragraph is a fundamental misunderstanding of the race this year, one that I think is far too prevalent. The first priority of Battleground Texas is to get partisan Democrats who don’t generally vote in non-Presidential years out to the polls this year. That was the secret to the Republican wave of 2010. Having a bunch of increasingly right-wing Republican candidates out there bashing President Obama and saying all kinds of crazy and offensive things about immigration, marriage equality, abortion, Medicaid, and so forth isn’t a headwind for that effort. It’s a motivating factor. If people are angry about these things, that’s awesome. It’s much easier to channel already existing emotions into action than it is to try to get someone to feel something in the first place.

Now I agree that in a straight up turnout battle, Republicans have a clear advantage. But we can’t do anything about their level of turnout. All Dems can do is work to maximize our own numbers. Only by ensuring that piece of the puzzle can Democrats like Wendy Davis and Leticia Van de Putte hope to change the focus to soft Republicans that might be turned off by their candidates’ brand of extremity. This can be done as well, and again I’d call the expected amount of vitriol from the Republican side a potential asset in that. It is possible to peel away some voters – Bill White received between 200,000 and 300,000 crossovers in 2010, running against Rick Perry. In a 2008 turnout context, I believe he would have won. In the absence of that, as was the case in 2010, he didn’t come close. Maximize the base first, everything follows from there. We may well fall short, but accomplishing that much would be a huge step forward, as turnout on the Dem side has basically been flat since 2002. I’ll take a look at that in some more detail tomorrow.

Endorsement watch: Chron for Alameel

The Houston Chronicle makes a nice endorsement of David Alameel for the Democratic nomination for Senate.

David Alameel

David Alameel

David Alameel isn’t your usual political candidate. Most big money political donors don’t start like Alameel: a gas station attendant and farm laborer. But this Lebanese immigrant’s story of working his way up to the top by joining the Army, becoming a dentist and eventually selling his chain of dental offices in Dallas to a venture capital firm stands as an embodiment of the American dream. It is a tale that grows rarer every year, with skyrocketing costs of higher education and a middle class that’s losing the economic potential necessary to fuel our economy. That’s where Alameel puts his focus. “I don’t care what other issues are involved,” Alameel told the Chronicle. “You have to keep pushing education.”

His passion for the issues comes from his experience as an immigrant and as a father who married into an Hispanic family. For him, immigration policy isn’t just a topic for political debate, but something that he’s lived: citizens harassed by border patrol, grandmothers separated from their children, businesses that need hardworking laborers. It is a refreshing perspective in a campaign season filled with hyperbolic claims from folks who live their lives in sanitized suburbs.

While other Democratic candidates will hit the pavement to register and turn out voters in Texas’ big cities, Alameel says he wants to stay along the border and make sure that those folks vote not just in the primary, but in the general election. It is an admirable goal in a state with such low turnout.

They throw in a few nice words for Maxey Scherr at the end but concede that Alameel will be better funded. The Chron’s rather warm embrace stands in contrast to the Star Telegram, who also endorsed Alameel but wasn’t impressed with any of the Democratic candidates and mostly went with Alameel on the grounds that he might be able to have a reasonably well-financed campaign. I was going to say that the Chron endorsement of Alameel was the first major endorsement by someone other than an individual I’d seen, but a scan of his campaign Facebook page shows that he has been receiving a decent number of group endorsements around the state, and it included the link to the FWST editorial that I’d missed. Scerr, for her part, is quick to send out emails touting her endorsements, which recently included the San Antonio Express News and the Austin Chronicle.

Also in the Chron were a handful of judicial primary endorsements, with this one being of the most interest:

113th Civil District Court: Steve Kirkland

Steve Kirkland’s loss in the 2012 Democratic primary for the 215th civil district court stands as a case study in the pitfalls of a partisan elected judiciary. After serving for years as a dedicated and highly praised judge, Kirkland was challenged by an unqualified opponent whose campaign was almost exclusively funded from a single source – local plaintiff’s attorney George Fleming, who coincidentally had lost a major judgment in Kirkland’s court. The election was marred by underhanded attack ads, and the message to Harris County was clear: Justice is for sale.

Democracy should not go to the highest bidder. But history threatens to repeat itself. Fleming is at it again, bankrolling Kirkland’s only challenger in this race, Lori Gray. There is no question in this election. Democratic Party voters should send a message and put Kirkland back on the bench where he belongs.

A graduate of the University of Houston Law Center, Kirkland served for four years as a civil court judge and eight years as a municipal court judge. He may not have the backing of a big-dollar plaintiff’s attorney, but he does have the endorsement of the Houston Chronicle.

I noted Fleming’s financial involvement in my roundup of 30-day finance reports for county candidates. I hope the dynamics of the primary this time are more favorable to Kirkland, but we’ll see. The Chron made no recommendation in the Democratic primary for County Criminal Court at Law 10, and made endorsements in three Republican judicial primaries. I have to assume there are more of these to come, as there are quite a few other contested primaries, and I can’t believe the Chron won’t take the opportunity to weigh in on the GOP race for the 311th District Family Court, home of Judge Denise Pratt. We’ll see if they have more to say on these and a few other races, like SD15, as early voting gets underway.

What’s at stake in the Democratic primaries

I’ve had my fun poking holes in Mark Jones’ ridiculous argument that we should all just vote in the Republican primary, but now it’s time to talk about the Democratic primary and why these races matter.

US Senate

David Alameel

David Alameel

On Monday and Tuesday I published interviews with Mike Fjetland and Maxey Scherr. I wish I could present an interview with David Alameel today, but as you can see I don’t have one. I made contact with his campaign manager, but after some initial back and forth I heard nothing for a couple of weeks, then got an email out of the blue late last week from another campaign staffer; after replying to him I heard nothing further. Team Alameel is welcome to contact me any time between now and Primary Day and I’ll do my best to accommodate his schedule, and run the interview the next weekday. Y’all have my email address and my cell number. I’m not going anywhere.

There are twenty-one candidates running for the Senate, including the incumbent, and five of them are Democrats. Two of them, Fjetland and Scherr, are clearly worthy of your consideration. I personally lean towards Scherr because I have a preference for younger candidates and I think there would be value in having three women at the top of the ticket, but both of them are honorable and will run respectable campaigns. One candidate, Harry Kim, is largely unknown to me and I daresay to most people reading this. He has a website now, though the content is generic to the point of being formless, his campaign Facebook page was last updated on January 7 when he uploaded a cover photo, and his campaign Twitter account has yet to tweet anything. I don’t think I’m asking too much of first time candidates operating on a shoestring to at least take advantage of the free tools that are available to them so those of us that will not otherwise get to interact with them can learn a little something about them.

One candidate should come with glaring spotlights and screaming klaxons, to warn everyone in her path to stay the hell away. I speak of course of the LaRouche nutball Kesha Rogers, who for the last two elections managed to get herself and her message of impeaching President Obama nominated in CD22. That’s mortifying to say the least, but in the end neither nomination had any effect on anything. Nominating her for the Senate – even allowing her to slip into the runoff – would make all of us a laughingstock on a national scale with the force to knock Chris Christie out of the news cycle and with the potential to administer real damage to Wendy Davis’ campaign. This is what we get with Kesha Rogers. She has thrived in the past on obscurity in low profile, low turnout elections. The only antidote to this is a sufficiently informed electorate. Make sure everyone you know knows about Kesha Rogers.

And then there’s Alameel, who despite plastering the entire Internet with his ads, remains an enigma. Forget my own inability to get an interview with him, I’ve yet to see a profile of him in some other news source. We all know that he made a lot of contributions to Republicans in years past but has been Democratic-only since 2008. We know there are questions about his commitment to reproductive rights, given past and possibly ongoing connections to a Catholic pro-life group. We know that despite these things, both Wendy Davis and Leticia Van de Putte saw fit to endorse him. But we don’t know the answers to these questions, and until someone with a microphone or notebook gets to pose those questions to him, we won’t know any more than we do right now. The Davis and LVdP endorsements carry some weight, but without knowing more about him I can’t recommend even considering a vote for him at this time. If I get the opportunity to interview him, even if I just get the opportunity to read something written by someone who has had the opportunity to speak to him, I may change my mind about that. I’ll let you know if that happens.

Governor

We’re all voting for Wendy in the primary, right? I mean, whatever misgivings you may have about her campaign at this time aside, Ray Madrigal has done no campaigning that I can see, he has no online presence, and he offers zero odds of competing against Greg Abbott, let alone winning. The only real item of interest here is Davis’ vote share. If she fails to get above some arbitrary number – I don’t know what that arbitrary number is, but I do know that it will be decided after her vote total is in – there will be some number of stories written about Democratic “discontent” with her, or maybe just “trepidation” about her. The number of such stories is inversely proportional to her actual vote share, as it the number of “unnamed Democratic insiders/strategists” quoted in those stories. To paraphrase those DirecTV ads, don’t let there be lots of stories written about Democratic “discontent” – or “disenchantment”, there’s another good word – with Wendy Davis, with multiple quotes from “unnamed Democratic insiders/strategists”. Vote for her in the primary and do your part to head that off.

By the way, I do presume there is an arbitrary number for Greg Abbott as well. Partly because he has a gaggle of opponents, and partly because he’s not Wendy Davis, I presume his arbitrary number is lower than her arbitrary number. I also presume the tone of those stories, if they get to be written, will be more of surprise than an opportunity to pile on and air grievances. This is of course an untestable hypothesis – like I said, we don’t know what each candidate’s arbitrary numbers are – but however you want to slice it, I’d bet Abbott would get more slack for a lower-than-you-might-have-expected vote share than Davis would get. Assuming either of them gets less than one might expect, whatever that is.

Ag Commissioner

The stakes here are pretty basic: A well-known candidate that can generate his own press and who is running on a sexy issue but whom basically no one trusts to be a good Democrat, versus a highly qualified and much more acceptable to the base candidate who will be utterly ignored by the press. Dumb ideas aside, Mark Jones did at least characterize this race correctly. Kinky is clearly higher risk, but at least potentially higher upside. Hugh Fitzsimons is solid and trustworthy, but again will get absolutely no attention from the press save for a cursory campaign overview story some time in October. Which do you prefer? Again, I’m ignoring the third candidate, Jim Hogan, who does not appear to be doing much of anything. Maybe that’s foolish after Mark Thompson came out of nowhere to win the Railroad Commissioner nomination in 2008 over two more experienced candidates, but it’s what I’m doing.

Railroad Commissioner

No one is going to claim that this race will be on anyone’s radar, but there’s still a choice, and in my consideration it’s a clear choice. Dale Henry is by all accounts a well-qualified candidate, having been the Democratic nominee for RRC in 2006 and 2012. He’s also, to put it gently, old school in his campaign style and methods. Steve Brown is young, dynamic, an outsider for an agency that could use a fresh perspective, a modern campaigner who will work hard for himself and the top of the ticket, and has a future even if all he gets out of this election is the experience of running statewide. I think he’s the obvious call to make, but in a low profile campaign anything can happen. But if you’re paying attention and you want a better slate overall, you’ll be sure to vote for Steve Brown.

Local races

Here’s where Mark Jones’ idea really makes no sense. Pretty much every county where Democrats are strong features important primaries. We already know about Harris County, where the need to nominate Kim Ogg outweighs Jones’ suggestion all by itself. Travis County is electing a County Judge, as is El Paso County, which also features three hot legislative races. Bexar County has races for County Judge, County Clerk, District Attorney, District Clerk, and a slew of District Court judges. Dallas County has a power struggle between current DA Craig Watkins and Party Chair Darlene Ewing, with the former running his own slate of candidates, including one against Ewing. Tarrant County will be key to Rep. Mark Veasey’s re-election. And those are just the big counties.

Bottom line: We have some important, consequential decisions to make beginning on February 18. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

Alameel wants a refund

Good luck with that.

David Alameel

David Alameel

Just like his first run for office in 2012, David Alameel’s second bid for public office is drawing questions about his past campaign donations.

Alameel, the owner of a multimillion-dollar chain of dental clinics that caters to Hispanics, is one of five Democrats vying for the U.S. Senate seat currently held by Republican John Cornyn. In recent years, Alameel has emerged as one of the top donors to Democratic groups and candidates in the country. However, before 2010, his donations were more bipartisan. Over several years, he donated more than $750,000 to Republican candidates and groups, including $8,000 to Cornyn in 2004.

In a phone interview Monday, Alameel said he would not make the same donations to Republicans again.

“I want a refund right now because I believe John Cornyn and his Republican friends in Washington work for Wall Street and not Texans,” Alameel said. When asked if he regretted those earlier donations to Republicans, he reiterated that he wanted “a refund.”

Alameel said that his view of the Republican Party has changed in recent years.

“I used to think that Democrats and Republicans work together, but you know, it’s becoming more and more crystal clear that today’s Republican Party is far too extreme,” Alameel said. “John Cornyn is part of that extreme problem.”

Not clear from this story if he’s just asking for his $8K back from Cornyn or if he’s seeking to recover the whole enchilada. I kind of doubt it’s the latter, but if it is I don’t see how it happens. For that matter, Cornyn isn’t playing ball, either, and he does a nice bit of knife-twisting for good measure. Let this be a lesson about being careful to whom one makes political donations, kids.

There’s been a lot written about Alameel’s past history of political giving, with the Lone Star Project – a recipient of his largesse as well – highlighting his Dem-only track record since 2008, and the Maxer Scherr campaign understandably pushing his GOP donor history. Here’s a Google spreadhseet I’ve put together, based on a query of Alameel as a contributor, from January 1, 2000 forward, sorted chronologically. I’ve helpfully highlighted the Republican recipients, as best as I recognize them, for your convenience. As you can see, there are none after February of 2008, which is consistent with what the Lone Star Project has highlighted, but doesn’t explain the reasons behind the change.

I still haven’t gotten a date from Alameel’s campaign for an interview and at this point I’m not holding out much hope for one, so we’ll all have to decide for ourselves how sincere his apparent conversion is. At least by going from R to D no one can claim he’s doing it for the easier path to victory. Alameel has some other questions to answer as well, and I’m sorry I won’t get the chance to ask them, or to hear his answers for myself. I have no problem believing that Wendy Davis sees something worthwhile in Alameel, but I’m reserving my own judgment on that.

UPDATE: Sen. Leticia Van de Putte has endorsed Alameel, so she sees something in him as well.

Endorsement watch: Davis for Alameel

This was unexpected, at least by me.

David Alameel

Texas Democrats may be working on drafting a 2014 dream team.

State Sen. Wendy Davis announced today that she’s backing David Alameel in his bid for the U.S. Senate nomination.

The wealthy Dallas dentist and investor is one of five Democrats vying in the March primary. The winner will face two-term Sen. John Cornyn, if he survives his own primary fight with Rep. Steve Stockman and a handful of others.

“Dr. Alameel is an astute and successful business leader who shares my commitment to creating good paying jobs, improving education for all our children and protecting the retirement our seniors have worked hard for and earned,” said Davis, D-Fort Worth. “I am pleased to endorse him for U.S. Senate.”

Davis gained national attention last summer after an 11-hour filibuster over an abortion bill. Since then, she has become a rallying point for Democrats hoping to put some blue back in Texas’ deep red Republican politics. She’s likely to face Attorney General Greg Abbott in November.

“I am honored to have the support and encouragement from my good friend, Senator Wendy Davis,” Alameel said in a statement. “Wendy knows I will work hard to make sure every Texan has a real voice in Washington and that I will bring fair and common sense leadership back to our nation’s capital.”

Alameel brings deep pockets to the race, with an estimated fortune of about $50 million. He flexed his financial muscle in a 2012 campaign for what is now Rep. Marc Veasey’s Fort Worth congressional district. He spend more than $4.5 million in the Democratic primary, ending up in fourth place with 10 percent of the vote.

Alameel would not be my first choice, in part because I know precious little about him. His webpage is new and as of this morning still hasn’t been indexed by Google – his old webpage is still the first result when you Google his name, and it doesn’t redirect to the new webpage – and his Facebook page was created January 6 and isn’t displayed when you enter “David Alameel” in Facebook’s search box. The main thing I learned when I did find these two pages is that Alameel has been endorsed by Wendy Davis.

I’m personally leaning towards Maxey Scherr, who I think has the highest upside and who has been the most active campaigner so far. Mike Fjetland is someone I’ve known for several years for whom I have a lot of respect. But Davis prefers Alameel, and while it’s easy to see a financial motive in that choice, I’ll take her at her word. Be all that as it may, let’s not forget that the real bottom line here is to ensure that LaRouchie wacko Kesha Rogers is not the nominee. We can argue all we want about which of the others is the best choice, but right now I care more about Rogers not being the nominee than I do about who is.

More primary thoughts

I wonder if Big John Cornyn will come to rue this interview.

Big John Cornyn

Big John Cornyn

BDS: At the kickoff for your reelection campaign in November, Governor Perry said that you are “the epitome of what I look for in a U.S. senator.” He has certainly been embraced by members of the tea party. But in your speech you said that Republicans should be the party of the “big tent,” which sounded an awful lot like it was pointed in their direction.

JC: To be clear, I was talking about being a welcoming party, not an exclusive party. I don’t know how we got off on this track, where some people are welcome in our party and some people are not. Hence my reference to Ronald Reagan’s line, “What do you call someone who agrees with you eight times out of ten? An ally, not a twenty-percent traitor.” Well, we’re at a point where you can agree with someone 98 percent of the time, but they think of you as a 2 percent traitor, which is just an impossible standard. I like to point out that my wife and I have been married for 34 years, we don’t agree with each other 100 percent of the time. We need to be a little more realistic about the goals, and we need to look not just at the short term but at the long term. If the goal is to change the direction of the country—and I would say to save the country from the big government track we’re on now—then we have to win elections by adding voters, not subtracting them.

That sound you hear is Steve Stockman rubbing his hands and cackling with glee. Remember, Steve Stockman is nuts. I know that term gets thrown around a lot, but seriously. That boy ain’t right.

Josh Marshall ponders what the implications are of Stockman’s entrance.

Everyone seemed to think Cornyn had successfully evaded a challenge and that he was home free. And Stockman got in just under the wire. I’m curious whether he waited so long precisely to assure a serious Democrat didn’t get into the race. As long as there’s no serious Democrat running, that will make it easier for him to argue he’s not another Akin in the making.

Of course, he is basically an Akin in the making, or an Akin before there was Akin (Stockman first came in in the ’94 Republican landslide but was too nuts and got bounced out after one term). But if there’s no credible Dem, maybe he gets through?

I seriously doubt the condition of the Democratic field for Senate had anything to do with Stockman’s move. I don’t think he operates that way, and I don’t think the Texas GOP would behave any differently towards him if he wins the nomination regardless. A better question is whether or not the DSCC and other national Dem groups get involved in the event it’s Stockman versus Maxey Scherr or David Alameel or Mike Fjetland. If it winds up as Stockman versus Kesha Rogers, we may as well just admit that this whole experiment in self-governance has been an abject failure and see if Great Britain is willing to take us back.

Speaking of Maxey Scherr, the El Paso Times covered her campaign kickoff in Austin.

[Scherr] said she is coordinating her effort with statewide Democratic organizations that are hopeful that with Texas’ changing demographics and, in Wendy Davis, an attractive candidate at the top of the ticket, 2014 will be the year Texas starts to turn blue.

[…]

“If I can raise $7 million, I can be competitive, and I think I can,” she said.

She plans to suspend her law practice and spend the coming year the same way she spent Monday — traveling the state in a motor home towing a car with a smashed-in hood and emblazoned with her campaign slogan, “Texas on Cruz Control.”

If she wins the Democratic Primary, Scherr will likely face Cornyn, but she says her real opponent is Texas’ junior senator, Ted Cruz, who won’t be on the ballot until 2018.

“This race is about Ted Cruz,” Scherr said. “This race is about Ted Cruz because John Cornyn has taken a back seat to Ted Cruz. It’s unfortunate that our senior senator of Texas has done everything that Ted Cruz, the junior senator, wants him to. He doesn’t have the guts to stand up to Ted Cruz on anything that matters to Texans and I will.”

[…]

Among the issues Scherr plans to attack Cornyn are education, health care, women’s rights and immigration. On the latter topic, Scherr said she’s tired of Republicans whipping up false fears about security on the border.

“Ted Cruz and John Cornyn have voted against a comprehensive immigration reform bill every single time it has come up. I find that offensive,” she said.

“I come from El Paso and El Paso been consistently rated as one of the safest cities for several years. What these guys want to do is militarize our border, put a military-type outfit along the border. But they are wrong about that. El Paso is a huge border city and we don’t need to militarize it. We are safe as can be. What we need to do is pass comprehensive immigration reform that doesn’t tear apart families.”

Even if Emperor Cruz stays out of the GOP Senate primary – well, at least if he doesn’t take any overt action – a Stockman win would cement the point that Scherr is making about Cruz driving the action. In a sane world, Cornyn would have nothing to worry about in March. He may yet have nothing to worry about, but I doubt he’ll run his campaign that way. Of the sane Democrats running, I see Scherr as having the highest upside. I look forward to seeing her first couple of finance reports to see if she can make any headway on that fundraising goal.

More news from El Paso:

Meanwhile, all of the El Paso County incumbents in the Texas House of Representatives have filed for re-election.

Four have challengers.

District 76 Rep. Naomi Gonzalez faces former state Rep. Norma Chavez and Cesar Blanco, chief of staff to U.S. Rep. Pete Gallego.

District 77 Rep. Marisa Marquez faces El Paso attorney Lyda Ness-Garcia.

District 75 Rep. Mary Gonzalez is being challenged by Rey Sepulveda, president of the Fabens school board.

And District 79 Rep. Joe Pickett, the dean of the El Paso delegation, faces Chuck Peartree.

I have no brief for Reps. Marquez or Naomi Gonzalez; they can explain their support of Dee Margo over Joe Moody (who did not get a primary challenger) to the voters. Pickett has been the Transportation Committee chair and has some juice, but he also voted for HB2; if he gets beaten up about that in his primary, I’ll shed no tears. The one legislator in that group I do care about is Rep. Mary Gonzalez, who is a force for good and deserves to be supported for re-election.

I mentioned yesterday that Rep. Marc Veasey avoided a rematch in CD33 with Domingo Garcia. I thought at the time that meant he was unopposed in the primary, but apparently not.

Several local members of Congress drew opponents as well.

U.S. representative, District 6: Republican Joe Barton (i), Frank Kuchar; Democrat David Edwin Cozad.

U.S. representative, District 12: Republican Kay Granger (i); Democrat Mark Greene

U.S. representative, District 24: Republican Kenny Marchant (i); Democrat Patrick McGehearty

U.S. representative, District 25: Republican Roger Williams (i); Democrats Stuart Gourd, Marco Montoya

U.S. representative, District 26: Republicans Michael Burgess (i), Joel A. Krause, Divenchy Watrous

U.S. representative, District 33: Democrats Marc Veasey (i), Thomas Carl Sanchez

There had been much speculation about whether former state Rep. Domingo Garcia, D-Dallas, would challenge Veasey for the 33rd Congressional District, setting up a rematch of last year’s hotly contested primary race. But Garcia put out a statement late Monday that he would not enter the race.

“I am truly humbled by the encouragement and support I have received to run for congress this year but after careful consideration I have decided against a run for congress in 2014,” he said. “I look forward to helping turning Texas blue and will continue to work to register and turn out more voters. I look forward to continuing to serve the community in one capacity or another.”

Democratic officials said Monday that little is known about Veasey’s challenger, Sanchez of Colleyville, other than that he is an attorney.

I feel reasonably confident that Rep. Veasey will win, but as always it’s best to not take anything for granted.

On the Republican side, Burka has a couple of observations. Number One:

Two trends are evident in this year’s campaign. One is that this is not necessarily shaping up as a tea party year. There are a lot of Main Street Republicans running for the House of Representatives — business people and school district leaders. Some of the candidates backed by Michael Quinn Sullivan might find themselves on the losing end of races. Matt Schaefer faces a strong opponent in Tyler. The same is true for Jonathan Stickland, whose opponent in Bedford is a popular former coach and educator.

That would be fine by me, but see my earlier comment about underestimating the crazy. Numero Dos:

The most significant late filings in the Republican primary:

(1) Steve Stockman vs. John Cornyn (U.S. Senator)

(2) Robert Talton vs. Nathan Hecht (Chief Justice, Texas Supreme Court)

(3) Matt Beebe vs. Joe Straus (House District 121)

(4) John Ratcliffe v. Ralph Hall (U.S. House District 4)

(5) Mike Canon vs. Kel Seliger (Texas Senate District 31)

Stockman is about as far-right as far-right can get in this state. Cornyn can swamp him with money, but the tea party will be out in force against Cornyn.

Talton is a conservative trial lawyer who is famous for once having stationed a DPS officer outside his door to prevent gays from entering his office. He is a threat to Hecht (the stationing of the DPS officer outside his door notwithstanding).

Talton’s most recent foray into elections was last year as the GOP candidate for Harris County Attorney. He won that primary but lost the general, and slightly underperformed his peers. Hecht of course is deeply unethical. The winner of that race faces Bill Moody in the general.

There’s still a lot to process from the candidate filings. I don’t have a full picture yet of everything, and I suspect there are still some unexpected stories to tell. I’m already thinking about what interviews I want to do for March; with the primary back to its normal spot on the calendar next year, there isn’t much time to plan. What caught you by surprise this filing period?

And then there were three Democrats running for the Senate

This one has run for something before and spent a bunch of money doing it, though he was not very successful at it.

David Alameel

Democratic dental center mogul David Alameel has confirmed he will run for the seat held by Texas’ senior senator, joining at least six other hopefuls from both major parties. Alameel said he has mailed his filing forms to Austin.

“I don’t like what’s happening with our political system,” Alameel told The Texas Tribune on Friday. “I don’t like the detachment and apathy people have about about politics, and I would like the change the way they think.”

Alameel added that establishment politicians like Cornyn are “part of the problem.”

[…]

In the Democratic primary, Alameel faces El Paso lawyer Maxey Scherr and former GOP House candidate Michael Fjetland of Houston, who switched parties after the 2006 elections.

Alameel is no stranger to crowded primaries. In 2012 he ran for the newly created Congressional District 33 seat against 10 other Democrats. After spending more than $2.6 million on the race — most of it his own money — he finished fourth; state Rep. Marc Veasey, D-Fort Worth, was the eventual winner and won the seat in November. In his failed bid, Alameel outspent every other Congressional candidate in the state.

Alameel won 10.93% of the vote in that 2012 primary for CD33, finishing behind three candidates that had previously won elections. He might be able to make better use of his money in this primary where his opponents will be about as well known as he is. It’s nice to have some of your own money for the general election, but unless he wants to spend about ten times as much as he did in 2012, it’s probably better to try and raise what you need from actual supporters. We’ll see if anyone else jumps into this race in the week or so remaining before the deadline.

March fundraising reports for Congressional candidates

Here’s a roundup of campaign finance reports for Congressional races and candidates of interest. I’ve been collecting links to the reports for contested Democratic races on my 2012 primary pages.

Area races

Nick Lampson had a typically strong fundraising report, which brings him up to parity with most of his potential Republican rivals. James Old, Michael Truncale, and Randy Weber (by the way, welcome to the district, Randy) have raised more in total – they’ve also been in the race longer – but only Old has more cash on hand, and that’s likely to change by the time the primary rolls around. Lampson should be in good shape to take on whoever emerges from that cattle call.

Is it just me, or does anyone else think that Mike Jackson‘s fundraising in CD36 has been less than impressive? Just over $200K total, with $50K of that being loans, and $75K on hand, for a veteran legislator who’s been running since the beginning and is the consensus favorite? Sure, he’s got a clear path to the seat in November once he vanquishes his unheralded primary opponents, but that’s my point: The guy who’s gonna win generally has no trouble raking in the dough. Anyone want to venture a theory about this?

Along the same lines, what in the world is John Culberson spending all that money on? He’s got no primary opponent, a district that’s drawn for him to win, Democratic opponents who haven’t raised any money, yet he has a paltry $62K on hand, which is actually an improvement over the December report. He’s spending it as fast as he’s collecting it, and I have no idea why.

UPDATE: As Mainstream notes in the comments, Culberson does have a primary opponent, Bill Tofte. My confusion on that point stemmed from the fact that the FEC shows Tofte in CD36. Of course, they also show Ciro Rodriguez in CD35, plus a few other misplaced people. I presume Tofte re-filed in February and I missed it. My apologies for the confusion. At least now Culberson’s spending makes sense to me.

Elsewhere

Beto O’Rourke now has more cash on hand than incumbent Rep. Silvestre Reyes, but Reyes has raised more than twice as much, spent almost five times as much, and recently received the endorsement of President Obama and former President Clinton. I don’t know offhand how much the Campaign for Primary Accountability may be spending against Reyes.

It’s basically a two-person affair in CD30, at least if you go by the fundraising reports. Incumbent Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson and challenger Taj Clayton have far outraised challenger Barbara Mallory Caraway; Johnson holds a better than two-to-one lead over Clayton in cash on hand. This is another race in which President Obama is supporting the incumbent, and it’s one in which things have gotten a little personal.

Pete Gallego has raised $590K, more than double the haul of former Rep. Ciro Rodriguez, who is still shown as running in CD35; several candidates who are now in CD34 are still shown in CD27 as well. Gallego has a ways to go to catch up to Rep. Quico Canseco, whose buddies are well aware he’s in for a fight this November. As far as I know neither Obama nor Clinton have weighed in on this race, but the League of Conservation voters endorsed Gallego recently.

Rep. Lloyd Doggett is again a million-dollar man and surely holds a wide lead in every financial category in his race. I can’t say exactly how wide because as of this posting, the March 31 report for Sylvia Romo has not been posted, but Postcards says Romo raised $52K between January 1 and March 31; add that to the $35K reported in her December report, and you get that Doggett has raised more than ten times as Romo. While the President has not offered an opinion on this race, however, Romo has the backing of most of the San Antonio political establishment and may wind up garnering some support in Austin after Statesman columnist Ken Herman wrote about her age in a way that probably won’t endear himself to some voters.

There’s a lot of money in the open seat cattle call of CD33, with a good chunk of it coming from the candidates themselves. David Alameel, who started in CD06 before the San Antonio court redrew its interim map, has loaned himself over $2 million so far. I have to say, that’s just nuts. I don’t know that it’s even possible to spend that much money in a Congressional primary; if it is, I’m not sure it’s advisable. The record of zillionaire first time candidates in Congressional races is not enviable. Former State Rep. Domingo Garcia wrote a $300K check for his campaign, and Chrysta Castaneda gave herself $65K. State Rep. Marc Veasey had the best non-self-funded haul at $177K, followed by former Dallas City Council member Steve Salazar at $77K. There are a couple of reports still outstanding. The Lone Star Project has an analysis of the candidates, though I’m pretty sure they’re not an unbiased source on this.

Joaquin Castro isn’t in a primary, but he sure continues to bring in the donations, a development that will undoubtedly make eyes twinkle at the DCCC. I could compare his performance to that of Mike Jackson, but it’s not really fair to do so, as Castro was going to be in a smoking hot primary for much of the cycle, and much of his total is the result of that. I still think Jackson is underperforming, though.

Ronnie McDonald made a big splash when he announced he was leaving his post as Bastrop County Judge to pursue a seat in either the Texas Lege or Congress, but so far his choice to go for CD27 hasn’t translated to fundraising success. Rose Meza Harrison, who was in the race before he was, has outraised him so far and has more cash on hand, though neither is remotely in Rep. Blake Farenthold‘s neighborhood. I hope McDonald responds to my email requesting an interview, I’d love to ask him why he chose this race, which always seemed objectively less winnable to me.

Republican Reps. Ralph Hall and Smokey Joe Barton have been targeted by the Campaign for Primary Accountability, but it’s not clear to me they have much to worry about. Hall isn’t exactly swimming in cash, but his main opponent has collected less than $10K of other people’s money. Of Barton’s opponents, Joe Chow has raised a respectable $162K, but he’s got a high burn rate and has only $28K on hand. Itamar Gelbman‘s $185K is almost entirely his own money, but he’s hardly spent any of it. CPA has its work cut out for it.

To put this in some perspective, Barton has $1.3 million on hand after having raised $976K and spent $1.1 million. CPA has raised $1.8 million and spent $1.2 million, leaving it with $588K on hand; their totals are through February 29, not March 31. They do have a stable of well-heeled donors, though curiously enough none of the $100K+ club has given anything in 2012. That could have changed since March 1, or could change any day, of course, but my point is that some targets are softer than others.

Finally, in CD34 Filemon Vela reported $245K total, of which $150K was his own. That leaves Armando Villalobos with the biggest actual haul at $157K. Ramiro Garza ($138K, including $58K in loans), Denise Saenz Blanchard ($104K, $10K in loans), and Anthony Troiani ($56K) followed behind.

The Congressional shuffle

Let the races begin!

Pending any further news, I think I’ve got my 2012 Democratic primaries, non-Harris County page updated. Most of the action was in Congressional races. Here are a few highlights from these filings.

David Alameel switched from CD06 to CD33, while Kenneth Sanders switched from CD33 to CD06.

Rose Meza Harrison was the only candidate who had filed for CD27 back in December to remain in CD27. All of the other candidates – Armando Villalobos, Ramiro Garza, Denise Saenz Blanchard, and Anthony Troiani – moved over to CD34.

– It’s early, so a lot of new entrants don’t have websites, but I’ve been able to find out a few interesting facts. CD06 candidate Brianna Hinojosa-Flores is a Council Member in the city of Coppell, and according to this is a patent attorney with Research in Motion, the makers of BlackBerry.

– CD33 candidate Jason Roberts was a speaker at TEDx in Austin this year.

– I don’t know if the Occupy movement will spawn candidates the way the Tea Party movement did, but CD05 candidate Linda Mrosko lists Occupy Tyler as part of her work experience on her Facebook page.

– I’m normally reluctant to hold this sort of thing against someone, but in light of recent party switches I feel compelled to note that CD34 candidate Filemon Vela is married to Republican appeals court judge Rose Vela, who ran unsuccessfully in the GOP primary for State Supreme Court against Eva Guzman. Make of that what you will.

– Possibly the most interesting candidate on the ballot is CD34 hopeful Juan Angel Guerra, whom those of you with long memories may recall as the Willacy County DA who tried to prosecute Dick Cheney and Alberto Gonzales on a variety of charges. Let’s just say that the unintentional comedy potential there is high and leave it at that.

– There are now two more contested SBOE primaries. SBOE 1, which is currently held by Republican Charlie Garza but which can and should be won by a Democrat in 2012, now has three candidates, including Webb County Democratic Party Chair Sergio Mora. SBOE 3 freshman Michael Soto picked up a challenger as well.

– Hardly any changes in Harris County. A couple of extra Constable candidates and Jim Dougherty’s entry into CD02, but that’s it. If you missed the update to my Sunday post, there was a typo in that Harris County spreadsheet and that Tracy Good has filed for the 33rd Civil District Court and not the 339th Criminal District Court. So there are no unchallenged judicial seats after all.

That’s about all I’ve got. I’ll keep looking for candidate webpages, and of course the March campaign finance reports for Congressional candidates will start coming in soon. With the short run to the primary, I’m sure a few of these candidates will remain mysterious by the time it’s all over.

January finance reports: Congress and Senate

The last batch of finance reports to come in are the federal reports, which for the most part don’t get posted till a full month after they’re due, which in this case was February 1. I’ve created a Google spreadsheet of the Texas FEC reports, taken by querying on Texas from this page, then culling the chaff. You can compare my report to this one at Kos, which focuses on the more interesting race. Note that in my spreadsheet you will find links to each candidates’ report so you can see for yourself what they’ve been up to. You can see all the finance report links on my 2012 Harris and 2012 Texas primary pages. A few highlights:

– Still no report yet from David Dewhurst and Paul Sadler. I can’t say I’m expecting much from Sadler, but I’m hoping to be pleasantly surprised. As for Dewhurst, it’ll be interesting to see how his contributions from others compare to his self-funding – he would surely like to do better than Tom Leppert in that regard – and to the contribution totals Ted Cruz puts up.

– There’s Jim Turner in East Texas, who ran his last race in 2002 before being DeLayed into retirement, still sitting on a million bucks in his campaign treasury. Why it is that he hasn’t ever used any of that money to help the Democratic cause, and why it is that we rank and file Democrats tolerate that sort of behavior from so many current and former officeholders is a mystery to me.

– Nick Lampson’s late entry into the CD14 race produces a small fundraising total so far. Given his presence on the early DCCC watch list, I expect much bigger things in the March report.

– Joaquin Castro continues to hit it out of the park. Assuming the courts cooperate, you can see why the DCCC is expecting big things from him.

– A couple of Democratic primaries just got more interesting, as challengers outraised incumbents in both of them. In CD16, former El Paso Council member Beto O’Rourke took in $211K to Rep. Silvestre Reyes’ $177K. There’s a third candidate in this race, but he has no report listed. The Lion Star blog discusses what this means.

– Meanwhile, in CD30, challenger Taj Clayton raised $212K to Rep. Eddie Berniece Johnson’s $95K. State Rep. Barbara Mallory Caraway took in $16K. Clayton’s accomplishment is more impressive given his late entry into the race – he did it all in just ten weeks.

– Other Democratic races of interest: David Alameel wrote himself a $245K check for his challenge to Smokey Joe Barton in D06. His co-challenger Don Jacquess had no report. New dad Dan Grant raised $37K in CD10. State Rep. Pete Gallego took in another $137K in CD23 to bump his total to $288K for the cycle. Rep. Lloyd Doggett has over $3.3 million on hand after raising another $150K. Armando Villalobos led the pack in CD27 with $134K raised, followed by Ramiro Garza with $70K and Rose Meza Harrison with $15K. However, Villalobos spent $116K to Garza’s $3K, leaving him with only $16K on hand to Garza’s $67K. State Rep. Mark Veasey collected $46K for CD33, putting him ahead of Kathleen Hicks, who had $5800. Finally, former Rep. Ciro Rodriguez was actually out-raised by Sylvia Romo in CD35, with her getting $35K to his $27K, but he maintained $99K in cash to her $30K.

– On the Republican side, there’s a lot of money flowing into CD14. I don’t know who James Old is, but he’s taken in $433K for the cycle and has $310K on hand. Following him are State Rep. Randy Weber ($313K for the cycle, $206K on hand); Michael Truncale ($269K for the cycle and $149K on hand); and Felicia Harris ($161K for the cycle and $103K on hand). State Sen. Mike Jackson has a surprisingly paltry $61K on hand for CD36, having raised $130K for the cycle. No one else has as much as $10K on hand in that race, however. The Williams non-brothers, Michael and Roger, have plenty of money available to them but as yet not district in which they would want to use any of it. I’m sure they’re burning candles in hope of a favorable map from the judges.

That’s about all I have for now. The good news for me is that with the delayed primary, the next reports won’t be out till April.