Off the Kuff Rotating Header Image

DCCC

Chron overview of CD07 runoff

Don’t know how much there is here we didn’t already know, but this is the marquee local runoff, so it gets the attention.

Laura Moser

On paper, there is little to separate attorney Lizzie Pannill Fletcher and writer-activist Laura Moser, the two Democrats vying in Houston’s 7th Congressional District primary run-off battle next month.

They’re both women who favor abortion rights, first-time candidates with deep roots in Democratic politics. Both grew up in Houston political families and attended St. John’s School, an elite college preparatory academy on the city’s affluent west side.

But they’re sharply divided over how to unseat nine-term Republican John Culberson, presenting a contrast that serves as a microcosm of the divisions within the national Democratic Party as it looks to flip two dozen seats and wrest control of the House from the GOP.

[…]

A new Moser campaign strategy memo provided to the Chronicle plays up her status as the “grassroots” candidate “not chosen by DC party insiders.”

The memo also outlines her outreach as an “authentic” voice aimed at the party’s progressive base.

“Laura represents a break away from current political establishment politics and a return to the politics of the people of Texas itself,” the memo continues. “Her non-establishment status appeals to 2018 Democratic ‘surge’ voters. Many folks are awakening to political activism for the first time.”

Lizzie Fletcher

Fletcher’s campaign rejects the establishment label, contrasting her lifelong legal career in Houston to Moser’s move to Washington.

“Lizzie has been living and working in this community all her life, representing Houstonians from all walks of life in the courtroom, fighting on the front lines to protect Planned Parenthood and quality education for the next generation,” said Fletcher campaign manager Erin Mincberg.

Fletcher’s supporters point to her most recent fundraising, 80 percent of which came from donors in Houston. Moser has not detailed her most recent fundraising figures, but an earlier analysis by the Center for Responsive Politics showed that nearly 60 percent of her contributions came from out of state. Both campaigns have relied on Washington-based vendors and consultants.

Little separates them on the issues.

Both support gay rights, gun restrictions, and public education. Both also are eager to take on Trump and Culberson, a low-profile Republican lawmaker who they criticize for failing to push harder in Congress for long-neglected flood control projects that could have helped limit the devastation from Hurricane Harvey.

One of their few differences on policy involves health care. Moser, like Sanders, has vowed to push for a single-payer “Medicare for all” system. Fletcher has emphasized the need to protect the Affordable Care Act against GOP efforts to undermine the Obama-era heath care law.

Some of their differences come down to strategy. While both support legislation to protect undocumented “Dreamers” from deportation, Moser said she was willing to shut down the government over the issue. Fletcher said she was not.

“If you look at them on paper, they basically are 99 percent in alignment on all the issues,” said Harris County Democratic Party Chairwoman Lillie Schechter, who disputes the “establishment versus insurgent” narrative that has grown up around the run-off.

I think we’re all familiar with the contours of this race. I find the narrative of this one as tiresome as Lillie Schechter does, but at least the race has (so far, knock on wood) not turned into something ugly, as races between similar candidates often do. Runoffs, like all low-turnout races, are about who gets their people to the polls. Both of these candidates are capable of it, and both of them should provide plenty of motivation for their supporters. May the best one win, and may we all join hands and focus on the prize beginning on May 23.

The DCCC elsewhere in Texas

I’m OK with this.

Colin Allred

The U.S. House Democratic campaign arm may well be at war with another Texas Democrat.

Lillian Salerno, a Democratic House candidate in the Dallas-based 32nd Congressional District, pushed out a fiery news release on Thursday afternoon when the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee telegraphed its preference for her primary rival, former NFL football player Colin Allred.

“Folks here are sick and tired of a bunch of Washington insiders trying to make their decisions for them,” she said. “But I’m not scared — I’ve stood up to power and fought for what’s right my entire life.”

“Texas hasn’t elected a new woman to Congress in twenty-two years, and we’re not taking it anymore,” she added. “The DCCC would do well to remember: Don’t mess with Texas women.”

[…]

At issue was a new list the committee released called “Red to Blue” candidates. The designation serves to signal to donors and DCCC allies which candidates the committee believes should be top recipients for contributions.

Red to Blue is not technically an endorsement from the DCCC. But DCCC Chairman Ben Ray Luján heaped praise on Allred in a committee news release on Thursday.

“Raised by a single mom who taught for 30 years in Dallas’s public schools, Colin Allred has never lost touch with the community that shaped him,” said Luján.

“Now, after representing his community on the football field and standing up for working people’s dignity in the Obama administration, Colin is running to put everyday Texans before special interests. Colin’s experience and new ideas will give North Texas a fresh start as they look to replace a politician who’s spent 20-years too many in Washington.”

In past cycles, the DCCC has named districts to its Red to Blue program, rather than specific candidates, to avoid these kinds of flare-ups.

The committee also named retired Air Force Intelligence Officer Gina Ortiz Jones to the program, who is running to take on U.S. Rep. Will Hurd, R-Helotes. Like Allred, she is in a runoff for her party’s nomination. Both Allred and Jones significantly outpaced their closest rivals in the first round of the primary contest.

She carried 41 percent of the vote in her district, compared to rival Rick Treviño’s 17 percent. Allred won 39 percent of the vote to Salerno’s 18 percent.

Here’s the full list of supported candidates so far. CD07 is not there yet, which seems like a bit of delayed discretion. What makes this different than the DCCC’s previous incursion is pretty simple: They have taken a position for a candidate, instead of against one. Both Allred and Ortiz Jones can reasonably be called the frontrunners, too, though anything can happen in a runoff. One can certainly argue that the DCCC should have waited these races out before getting involved, but if these are the candidates they want to support, then the case for working with them to ensure they get nominated is pretty clear. I sympathize with Trevino and Salerno, who has the support of Emily’s List, but that’s politics. I say don’t get mad, prove ’em wrong and make ’em support you in November instead.

On a side note, while Salerno is correct about the paucity of women elected to Congress from Texas, we’re going to get at least two more of them this year. In addition, if you look at that red-to-blue list, eighteen of the 33 candidates being supported by the DCCC at this time are women. And assuming the DCCC eventually supports the nominee in CD07 – yeah, that might mean making nice with Laura Moser; politics is full of such opportunities – then two of the three Texans they support will be women, too. I get why she’s unhappy and I don’t blame her, but I get what the DCCC is doing in these races, too.

The Republican poll of the Democratic CD07 primary

I would not pay too much attention to this.

Lizzie Fletcher

A poll in a pivotal Democratic congressional primary in Houston shows that activist Laura Moser could be in a position to make the run-off despite recent attacks by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee DCCC).

The poll, by the Republican-aligned Congressional Leadership Fund, shows Moser with 17 percent support in the seven-way primary race in the Seventh Congressional District. She trails only Houston lawyer Lizzie Pannill Fletcher, with 28 percent.

In third place on the last day of early voting in the primary is cancer researcher Jason Westin, at 14 percent.

Laura Moser

Alex Triantaphyllis, the top fundraiser in the Democratic field with more than $1.1 million in receipts, trails with 13 percent, virtually tied with Westin, who has raised half that amount.

Fletcher’s double-digit lead over three rivals in a virtual statistical tie still leaves open the likelihood of a runoff election on May 22. If nobody reaches 50 percent of the vote, the top two vote-gettters go on to a runoff.

The others in the field, James Cargas, Joshua Butler and Ivan Sanchez each polled at about 1 percent in the survey, which was conducted Thursday. Cargas, an assistant city attorney, was the Democrats’ 2016 standard-bearer. About 25 percent said they were undecided, with less than a week before next Tuesday’s primary.

[…]

The automated Interactive Voice Response and phone survey of 726 likely Democratic primary voters found that 61 percent disapproved of the DCCC attacks on Moser, while 13 percent approved and 26 percent said they weren’t sure.

The reason I am dubious is not because this is a Republican firm doing the polling but because nobody knows what a “likely voter” is in this race. Primary polling suffers from the same problem that polling in municipal races suffers, which is that the composition of the electorate can vary widely based on turnout. We already know that a significant number of people voting in the Dem primaries have little to no primary voting history. By definition, these people are not “likely Democratic primary voters”, but here they are anyway. It’s possible that this firm has guessed well as to who is likely to show up and thus arrived at an accurate result, and it’s possible they’ve produced a 2014 UT/Trib debacle. They have no track record in Dem polls to examine, so we’re left to judge this poll for ourselves. My judgment is to note it as a data point and move on. I’d advise you to do the same.

Possibly the last thing I’ll have to say about Laura Moser and the DCCC, at least for now

Nothing like having a seemingly bloodless bit of tactics turned in to a multi-day story.

Laura Moser

Democratic congressional candidate Laura Moser packed her Saturday with campaign events: spinning in the morning, drinking mimosas shortly after, block walking in the afternoon and hosting a “Vote Your Values” rally to finish things off. And at each stop, she did not shy away from the elephant in the room.

Raising her voice to be heard above cheers and applause from her supporters, Moser announced that since national Democrats came out against her on Thursday, she raised more than $60,000 — as well as received flowers and eight free meals.

“I would rather not have been attacked by my own party and have not had the money, any day,” she said. “But I’m glad to see that people are tired of politics as usual. People are tired of bringing down a candidate who has run a totally positive campaign. And there are more of us than there are of them.”

[…]

On Thursday, Moser’s campaign announced it had raised nearly $150,000 in the first 45 days of the year, a number that has been growing after the DCCC’s posting. The candidate said on Saturday that she has received more than 15,000 unique contributions and more than 1,000 volunteers have signed on to her campaign. Moser has also amassed a massive online following for a first-time congressional candidate. Many of her supporters are also fans of U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, who unsuccessfully sought the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination.

I feel pretty confident saying that had the DCCC sat on its research for now pending the outcome of the primary, neither the Texas Tribune nor Chron columnist Erica Greider would have devoted a weekend-of-early-voting story to this race, or to this candidate in particular. Maybe next time y’all come up with a brilliant piece of strategy regarding a contested primary, you run it by a few locals first, to gauge their reaction? Just a suggestion. Again, whatever you think of Laura Moser and her merits as a candidate, it’s impossible to imagine that staying mum and seeing if she made it to the runoff and then deciding how to proceed would have produced a worse outcome for the DCCC.

As far as the fundraising goes, consider this:


Name             Thru 12/31  Thru 2/14  In 2018
===============================================
Triantaphyllis      927,023  1,050,395  123,372
Fletcher            751,352    860,147  108,795
Moser               616,643    765,646  149,003
Westin              389,941    500,389  110,448
Cargas               63,123     85,904   22,781
Butler               41,474     55,762   14,288
Sanchez                   ?     18,025        ?

All numbers represent cash raised. The “through 12/31” totals can be found here, while the numbers for this year so far are in the current FEC reports. Moser remains in third place by this metric, though she has gained ground on Lizzie Fletcher and Alex Triantaphyllis. All of this took place before the DCCC hit job, and her campaign claims to have raised another $60K in the three or four days after. You can look at this as a justification for acting now – if you believe Moser is an inferior candidate, as the DCCC apparently does – or you can see it as stepping on a rake and then falling backwards into a mud puddle. I’ll leave it to you to decide.

Let’s be very clear about one thing: Nobody knows who is going to make it to the runoff in this race. The top four candidates all have a core group of supporters, but so too does James Cargas, who has a lot of residual good will – and name recognition – from having run against Culberson three times. I guarantee you, the candidates themselves have no idea who is winning, in part because a significant share of the people who have voted so far are people with limited to no recent history of voting in Democratic primaries. That’s awesome news from an enthusiasm point of view, but it means that a lot of voters are getting multiple mailers from the campaigns, while many others may have had no direct contact. I have no idea what the less-engaged voters who have yet to make it to the polls will think of this – I’m sure some will be mad at the DCCC, but some will also see what they had to say about Moser and may base their vote on that. I don’t have any more of a sense who may make it to overtime now than I did in December. I just suspect we’ll still be talking about it well past the point of where anything could be learned from it.

More on the DCCC-CD07 mess

Laura Moser

Other folks have weighed in on the DCCC drive-by on Laura Moser from Thursday – Mother Jones, Stace, Campos, Indivisible Houston, the HCDP, and others. I’ve seen plenty of talk of this on Facebook, and I’ve yet to see a single person defend the DCCC’s actions, including plenty of self-identified supporters of other candidates. I honestly can’t think of a single thing the DCCC could have done to make people here feel more favorably towards Moser and more contemptuous of themselves. I truly have no idea what they were thinking.

TPM has a good story on this kerfuffle, including (anonymous) quotes from the DCCC and examples of similar activity from other recent elections. Again, I get the motivation – if you believe this is a genuinely winnable race but that one potential candidate is much less viable than some others, you want to do something about it. “Better to be a jerk than a loser” is the quote at the end, which is easy enough to say but a lot harder to do well. Part of the problem here was that the attack was as subtle as a cleaver to the head, and part of it was that the reasons given were so lightweight. As skeletons in the closet go, this wasn’t exactly an archaeological dig. It’s one thing to go after a truly toxic candidate. If, say, Lloyd Oliver or Kesha Rogers has filed in CD07, no one would complain about a campaign to keep them out of the runoff. But Moser, whether you prefer her as your choice in CD07 or not, is basically a standard-issue Democrat. I can’t imagine too many Dems in that district would have walked away from her if she’d won the nomination in a DCCC-free election.

The DCCC would argue that maybe Dems would stick with Moser, but Republicans – the ones who voted for Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump in this district – would not, or at least would not in comparable numbers to Lizzie Fletcher or Alex Triantaphyllis or Jason Westin. That could be true – you’d have to show me some high-quality polling data to convince me of it, but it’s at least plausible. That assumes that any measurable number of Republicans would cross over for any of these candidates; remember, John Culberson won by 11 points in 2016. Those Hillary-voting Republicans still voted for him, and (with the exception of Kim Ogg) pretty much every other Republican on the ballot that year. An alternate hypothesis would be that Moser might do a better job driving Democrats to the polls in November, and that it will be a surge in Dem turnout that carries someone to victory. I’m not saying this is a more likely outcome than the one the DCCC is proffering, but it’s no less within the range of the possible. You want me to buy into your story line, you’re going to need to convince me the others aren’t going to happen. To say the least, the DCCC came up empty on that.

Which brings me to my main point. We’re all going to have to row in the same direction in this race, and in all the others we hope to win. Forget the national handicappers’ ratings, Dems remain the underdog in this race, for the simple reason that until proven otherwise there are a lot more Rs in CD07 than there are Ds. That 11-point win Culberson achieved in 2016 came in the best year Harris County Democrats have had in anyone’s memory. What we need is unity, which this salvo – and the AFL-CIO’s attack on Lizzie Fletcher, which also annoyed me – is the opposite of. The way to beat a bad guy who will support the Trump agenda is with a good guy who will oppose it. All seven of the CD07 contenders qualify. Let’s all please keep that in mind.

UPDATE: Here’s a Chron story on the saga.

DCCC versus Laura Moser

I don’t care for this.

Laura Moser

The campaign arm of Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives set its sights on a surprising target Thursday: Democratic congressional hopeful Laura Moser.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee posted negative research on Moser, a Houston journalist vying among six other Democrats in the March 6 primary to unseat Republican U.S. Rep. John Culberson. Democrats locally and nationally have worried that Moser is too liberal to carry a race that has emerged in recent months as one of the most competitive races in the country.

The DCCC posting, which features the kind of research that is often reserved for Republicans, notes that Moser only recently moved back to her hometown of Houston and that much of her campaign fundraising money has gone to her husband’s political consulting firm. It also calls her a “Washington insider.”

But DCCC spokeswoman Meredith Kelly went even further in a statement to The Texas Tribune.

“Voters in Houston have organized for over a year to hold Rep. Culberson accountable and win this Clinton district,” Kelly said.

Then, referring to a 2014 Washingtonian Magazine piece in which Moser wrote that she would rather have a tooth pulled without anesthesia than move to Paris, Texas, Kelly added:”Unfortunately, Laura Moser’s outright disgust for life in Texas disqualifies her as a general election candidate, and would rob voters of their opportunity to flip Texas’ 7th in November.”

The DCCC’s post, with links to their claims, is here. I’m just going to say this, as someone who does not live in CD07 and is neutral about that primary on the grounds that all of the candidates are acceptable to me: The DCCC should have kept its mouth shut. I understand that, as Nancy Pelosi put it, they’re going to have to make some “cold-blooded decisions” about where to concentrate their resources this fall. If it’s their judgment that Moser is a weaker candidate in a winnable district, that’s their call and they’re gonna do what they’re gonna do. But the irony of a DC organization criticizing a candidate for not being authentically local enough is not lost on me. Let the voters make their decision, then the DCCC can make theirs. At a time when we’re celebrating enthusiasm-driven high levels of primary turnout, we didn’t need this.

A little concern trolling from the WSJ

This is a story that tries to stir up concerns about all those Democratic Congressional candidates spending money and energy running against each other in the primaries. I flagged it mostly because of the CD07 content at the end.

Rep. John Culberson

In Houston, the Seventh Congressional District is ethnically diverse, well-educated, suburban and includes some of the city’s wealthiest voting precincts. Mrs. Clinton beat Mr. Trump here by 1.4 percentage points, but Mr. Culberson won by 12 points.

The DCCC sent a full-time organizer to Houston in February. She has been working to recruit volunteers and train organizers to defeat Mr. Culberson, without favoring a specific Democratic challenger.

The top fundraiser is Alex Triantaphyllis, founder of a nonprofit group that mentors refugees. He says the party’s “best approach is to be as connected and engaged in this community as possible.”

Primary opponent Laura Moser said at a recent candidate forum that many people in the party “are trying too hard to win over the crossover vote while abandoning our base.” She became a national activist last year by starting an anti-Trump text-message service for “resisting extremism in America.”

In August, Ms. Moser criticized Rep. Ben Ray Luján (D., N.M.), the current DCCC chairman, in Vogue magazine for saying last spring that the party shouldn’t rule out supporting antiabortion candidates.

Elizabeth Pannill Fletcher, a lawyer also running in the Democratic primary, says she welcomes the lively primary race because it helps to have “a lot of people out there getting people motivated” about next year’s midterm election.

She also acknowledges a downside: “We are raising money to spend against each other rather than against John Culberson.” Another candidate has already run unsuccessfully for the seat three times.

Some Democratic candidates worry they will face pressure to tack to the left because people who attend political events early in the campaign tend to be the party’s most liberal activists. A questioner at a forum in July sponsored by the anti-Trump activist group Indivisible demanded a yes or no answer on whether candidates support the legalization of marijuana.

“There is definitely a danger if you have a circular firing squad over who is the most leftist in the room,” Democratic candidate Jason Westin, an oncologist, said in an interview. “This is not a blue district.”

This was the first mention I had seen of the DCCC organizer in CD07. Since that story appeared, I’ve seen a couple of Facebook invitations to events featuring her, which focus on basic organizing stuff. As we now know, there’s a Republican PAC person here in CD07. It’s getting real, to say the least.

I have no idea why the story singles out marijuana legalization as an issue that might force one of the CD07 candidates to “tack to the left”. Support for marijuana legalization is pretty mainstream these days, and that includes Republicans. The second-highest votegetter in Harris County in 2016 was DA Kim Ogg, who ran and won on a platform of reforming how drug cases are handled, which includes prosecuting far fewer of them. Presumptive Democratic nominee for US Senate Beto O’Rourke supports marijuana legalization. If any candidate in CD07 feels pressured to support marijuana legalization, it’s because they’re out of step with prevailing opinion, not because they’re being dragged in front of an issue.

Finally, on the broader question of all these contested primaries, Lizzie Fletcher mostly sums up how I feel. I believe all these primaries will be a big driver of turnout, which will help set the narrative of higher Democratic engagement. If there’s anything a candidate should feel pressed to do, it’s to pledge to support whoever wins in their primary so we can present a united front for November. I’m sure there will be some bumps in the road and some nastiness in these campaigns as the days wear on, but overall this story sounds like the Journal trying to throw a rope to its surely despondent Republican readers. We Dems were telling ourselves the same kind of story in 2010 when the Tea Party was first making things uncomfortable for Republicans. I’d rather have this energy than not, even if some of it will ultimately be wasted.

Republicans are worried about Culberson

They should be, though I bet they wish they didn’t have to be at this point in the cycle.

Rep. John Culberson

Republican strategists are warning that some of the party’s veteran House incumbents aren’t adequately preparing for the 2018 election, putting the GOP majority at risk by their failure to recognize the dangerous conditions facing them.

Nearly three dozen Republicans were outraised by their Democratic challengers in the most recent fundraising quarter. Others, the strategists say, are failing to maintain high profiles in their districts or modernize their campaigns by using data analytics in what is shaping up as a stormy election cycle.

“There are certainly incumbent members out there who need to work harder and raise more money if they want to win,” said Corry Bliss, executive director of the Congressional Leadership Fund, the House GOP’s top super PAC. “They’re fundamentally not prepared for how they’re about to be attacked.”

[…]

Bliss declined to identify specific members who appear to be lagging, but the super PAC’s recent actions speak loudly. CLF recently opened new field offices in the districts of Texas Rep. John Culberson and New Jersey Rep. Leonard Lance, both veteran incumbents who have cruised to reelection without serious opposition in recent years. But Culberson and Lance have raised less money than any Republicans running for reelection in Clinton districts, alarming GOP strategists.

“We’re trying to do a better job in fundraising,” Lance said in an interview. “We’re something like 55 percent ahead of where we were at this time two years ago, and we’re doing a better job, and obviously [we] want to continue with that.”

Lance said the recent gubernatorial and legislative elections in New Jersey made fundraising “a tad bit more difficult” this year. But his campaign also noted that Republican Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno still carried Lance’s district in the governor’s race despite losing statewide by double-digits.

Culberson, who outspent his 2016 Democratic opponent roughly 20-to-1 but won just 56 percent of the vote, was outraised in the most recent quarter by two Democratic challengers.

“Culberson’s problem — and other congressmen like him — lies more with motivating their own base, because if they can’t deliver their own conservative agenda, it’s 100 percent a problem for them,” said Luke Macias, a Republican consultant based in Texas.

“A lot of people feel like he’s not as connected to his district and he doesn’t spend as much time there as he could,” Macias said. “That’s a common criticism from political activists, Republican and Democrat, across the board.”

[…]

Democrats say it’s a sign of GOP weakness to have the super PAC showing up in their neighborhood the year before the election.

“It reflects that this district is looking for new leadership and Republicans have a reason to be worried,” said Alex Triantaphyllis, one of the Democratic challengers who outraised Culberson last quarter. “Culberson has not been engaged with this community … he’s focused more on upholding national Republican ideology.”

“A lot of people feel like he’s not as connected to his district and he doesn’t spend as much time there as he could”. Oy. And that’s what a Republican is saying. To be fair, the DCCC has an organizer on the ground in CD07 as well, so in some sense this is just parity. The CLF also has a presence in CD23, which is a swing district in any cycle. And there’s some very early polling evidence to suggest that Culberson will need all the help he can get. I hope that when all is said and done we at least get a decent account of what did and didn’t work to generate votes in this district.

October campaign finance reports: Congress

Here are the Q2 fundraising reports for Texas Democratic Congressional candidates. I’ll sum up the data below, but here’s the Trib with some highlights.

After Democratic challengers outraised four Texas Republicans in Congress earlier this year, some Republicans recaptured fundraising momentum in the third quarter – but not all of them.

Campaign finance reports for federal candidates covering July through September were due on Saturday. The reports show signs of of Democratic enthusiasm continuing, though U.S. Reps. Pete Sessions of Dallas and Will Hurd of Helotes, both Republicans, posted strong third quarters.

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, barely outpaced his challenger, U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke, D-El Paso, and two GOP congressmen saw Democratic challengers raise more money.

Hurricane Harvey may have depressed fundraising overall, with many incumbents and challengers posting lukewarm quarterly hauls.

“I don’t think it’s appropriate and certainly not tasteful to raise money from people who’ve been devastated and lost everything,” said U.S. Rep. John Culberson, a Houston Republican who was outraised by two of his Democratic challengers.

Democratic numbers were also smaller, suggesting candidates who announced earlier this year picked off the low-hanging donors in their previous campaign reports. And candidates who entered races only recently had less time to raise money.

But also, there was a larger dynamic at work. Ali Lapp is the operative who oversees the super PAC that supports Democratic House candidates, said donors are holding back from challengers because of the crowded nature of the Democratic primaries.

“With so many good Democratic candidates running in primaries, it’s no surprise that many Democratic donors are waiting to give direct candidate donations until after the field shakes out a bit, or even until after the primary is concluded,” she said.

The Chron focuses in on CD07, which has the largest field and the most money raised so far. We’ve seen the aforementioned dynamic in other races, where some people and groups want to wait and see who the frontrunners or runoff participants are before jumping in. The danger is that the candidate or candidates you like may not then make it into the runoff, but that’s a bit esoteric right now. The fact remains that we haven’t had this level of activity in Democratic Congressional primaries since Dems were the dominant party in the state. That’s pretty cool.

So without further ado, here are links to forms of interest and a summary of who did what:

Todd Litton – CD02
Ali Khorasani – CD02

Jana Sanchez – CD06

Alex Triantaphyllis – CD07
Lizzie Fletcher – CD07
Laura Moser – CD07
Jason Westin – CD07
James Cargas – CD07
Joshua Butler – CD07

Dori Fenenbock – CD16
Veronica Escobar – CD16

Joseph Kopser – CD21
Derrick Crowe – CD21
Elliott McFadden – CD21

Jay Hulings – CD23
Gina Ortiz Jones – CD23

Christopher Perri – CD25
Chetan Panda – CD25

MJ Hegar – CD31
Richard Lester – CD31
Christine Mann – CD31

Ed Meier – CD32
Colin Allred – CD32
Lillian Salerno – CD32

Dayna Steele – CD36
Jonathan Powell – CD36


Dist  Name             Raised    Spent    Loans   On Hand
=========================================================
02    Litton          256,222   26,250        0   229,872
02    Khorasani         8,904    8,555        0       348

06    Sanchez          75,113   56,169        0    16,439

07    Triantaphyllis  668,300  132,792        0   535,507
07    Fletcher        550,833  147,634        0   403,198
07    Moser           401,675  129,689        0   271,986
07    Westin          252,085   95,046   10,365   167,393
07    Cargas           46,752   43,091        0    10,078
07    Butler           28,685   25,352        0     3,332

16    Fenenbock       499,262  193,800  100,000   405,462
16    Escobar         332,836   35,780        0   297,056

21    Kopser          417,669  198,249        0   219,419
21    Crowe            69,443   45,068        0    24,375
21    McFadden         49,614   29,923        0    19,690

23    Hulings         200,207   10,752        0   189,455
23    Ortiz Jones     103,920   30,238        0    73,681

25    Perri            61,868   42,603    7,140    26,405
25    Panda            59,853   42,200        0    17,652

31    Hegar            93,459   39,789        0    53,670
31    Lester           52,569   33,061        0    19,507
31    Mann             21,052    8,764        0         0

32    Meier           585,951  147,537        0   438,414
32    Allred          242,444  180,791   25,000    86,653
32    Salerno         150,608   30,870        0   119,737

36    Steele          105,023   62,699    1,231    43,555
36    Powell           50,653   20,817   10,000    39,789

Notes:

– Unlike other campaign finance reports, the FEC reports are cumulative, which is to say that the numbers you see for Raised and Spent are the totals for the entire cycle. For all the other races we look at, these numbers represent what was raised and spent in the specific period. It’s useful to have these totals, but you have to compare to the previous quarter if you want to know how much a given candidate raised or spent in that quarter.

– There are eight candidates in this summary who were not in the Q2 roundup – Khorasani, Escobar, Hulings, Ortiz Jones, Panda, Hegar, Lester, and Salerno. Christopher Perri filed for CD21 last quarter but is shown in CD25 this quarter. Not sure if one or the other is an error – he wasn’t listed as a candidate in a recent story about CD25 – but do note that Congressional candidates are only required to live in the state, not in a particular district. Debra Kerner had been listed in CD07 before but she has since ended her candidacy.

– Not all candidates in all races are listed. I pick ’em as I see fit.

– It’s really hard to say how much of an effect Harvey may have had on fundraising. As the Trib story notes, it may be that many candidates have largely tapped their easiest sources, and it may be that some donors are keeping their powder dry. We may get some idea when we see the Q4 numbers in January. In the meantime, remember that there’s a long way to go.

– One candidate who does appear to have had a change of fortune, and not for the best, is Colin Allred in CD32. No idea why, again we’ll want to see what the next report looks like.

– Still no candidates of interest in CDs 10, 22, or 24. Sure would be nice to either have someone with juice file, or for someone who is already running to step it up.

Another national publication looks at CD07

Mother Jones, come on down.

Rep. John Culberson

In addition to [Laura] Moser, the top competitors for the March primary are first-time candidates with stories that fit the political moment in different ways. Lizzie Fletcher, a well-connected lawyer at a large downtown firm, got her start in politics as a teenager during the 1992 Republican National Convention, when she volunteered to stand outside abortion clinics blocking Operation Rescue types from chaining themselves to the entrance. Alex Triantaphyllis, who at 33 is the youngest of the bunch, co-founded a mentoring nonprofit for refugees in Houston after spending time at Goldman Sachs and Harvard Law School. Jason Westin, an oncologist and researcher at Houston’s MD Anderson Cancer Center, told me he first thought about running a week after the election, after watching his daughter’s soccer game. She had taken a hard fall and Westin told her to “get back up and get back in the game”—but sitting on the couch later that day, scrolling through Facebook, he decided he was a hypocrite. He decided to enter the race with encouragement from 314 Action, a new political outfit that encourages candidates with scientific backgrounds to run for office. The primary is not until March, but in a sign of the enthusiasm in the district, Culberson’s would-be Democratic challengers have already held two candidate forums.

The 7th District starts just west of downtown Houston, in the upscale enclave of West University Place near Rice University, and stretches west and north through parts of the city and into the suburbs, in the shape of a wrench that has snapped at the handle. It had not given any indication of turning blue before last year. But a large number of voters cast ballots for both Hillary Clinton and Culberson. Moser and Fletcher see that as a sign that Republican women, in particular, are ready to jump ship for the right candidate. In the Texas Legislature, West University Place is represented by Republican Sarah Davis, whose district Clinton carried by 15 points, making it the bluest red seat in the state. Davis is an outlier in another way: She’s the lone pro-choice Republican in the state Legislature and was endorsed by Planned Parenthood Texas Votes in 2016. “To the outside world it looks like a huge swing,” Fletcher says of the November results, “but I think that a more moderate kind of centrist hue is in keeping with the district, so I’m not surprised that people voted for Hillary.”

But whether they’re Sarah Davis Democrats or Hillary Clinton Republicans at heart, those crossover voters still make up just a small percentage of the overall population. Houston is the most diverse metro area in the United States, and a majority of the district is non-white—a fact that’s not reflected in the Democratic candidate field. To win, Democrats will need to lock in their 2016 gains while also broadening their electorate substantially from what it usually is in a midterm election. That means making real inroads with black, Hispanic, and Asian American voters in the district, many of whom may be new to the area since the last round of redistricting. “[The] big thing in the district is getting Hispanic voters out, and nobody knows how to do that,” Moser acknowledges, summing up the problems of Texas Democrats. “If we knew how, we wouldn’t have Ted Cruz.”

[…]

At a recent candidate forum sponsored by a local Indivisible chapter, Westin, the oncologist, warned voters against repeating the mistakes of Georgia. “One of the take-home messages was that a giant pot of money is not alone enough to win,” he said. Westin’s message for Democrats was to go big or go home. While he believes the seven candidates are broadly on the same page in their economic vision and in their opposition to Trump, he urged the party to rally around something bold that it could offer the public if it took back power—in his case, single-payer health care. “We’re behind Luxembourg, we’re behind Malta, we’re behind Cypress and Brunei and Slovenia in terms of our quality of health care,” Westin says. “That is astounding.” Who better to make the case for Medicare-for-all, he believes, than someone in the trenches at one of the world’s most prestigious clinics?

Moser, who likewise backs single-payer, may be even more outspoken about the need to change course. She argues that the Obama years should be a teachable moment for progressives. They let centrists and moderates like former Sens. Joe Lieberman and Max Baucus call the shots for a once-in-a-generation congressional majority, she says, and all they got was a lousy tea party landslide. “I don’t know if we would still have been swept in 2010—probably, because that’s the way it goes—but at least we could have accomplished some stuff in the meantime that we could claim now more forcefully and more proudly,” she says. A missed opportunity from those years she’d like to revisit is a second stimulus bill to rebuild infrastructure in places like Houston, where floods get worse and worse because of a climate Culberson denies is changing.

In Moser’s view, Democrats lose swing districts not because they’re too liberal but because they’re afraid to show it. When DCCC Chairman Ben Ray Luján, a congressman from New Mexico, told The Hill in August that the party would support pro-life Democratic candidates next November on a case-by-case basis (continuing a long-standing policy backed by Nancy Pelosi), Moser penned another article for Vogue condemning the position. “As a first-time Congressional candidate, I’ve been warned not to criticize Ben Ray Luján,” she wrote, but she couldn’t help it. Red states like Texas were not a justification for moderation; they were evidence of its failure. “I have one idea of how to get more Democratic women to polling stations: Stand up for them.”

Fletcher and Triantaphyllis have been more cautious in constructing their platforms. They’d like to keep Obamacare and fix what ails it, but they have, for now, stopped short of the single-player proposal endorsed by most of the House Democratic caucus. “I don’t think anyone has a silver bullet at this point,” Triantaphyllis says. Both emphasize “market-based” or “market-centered” economic policies and the need to win Republican voters with proposals on issues that cut across partisan lines, such as transportation. Houston commutes are notorious, and Culberson, Fletcher notes, has repeatedly blocked funding for new transit options.

Still, the field reflects a general leftward shift in the party over the last decade. All the major candidates oppose the Muslim ban, proposals to defund Planned Parenthood, and Trump’s immigration crackdown. Even in America’s fossil-fuel mecca, every candidate has argued in favor of a renewed commitment to fighting climate change. It is notable that Democratic candidates believe victory lies in loudly opposing the Republican president while defending Barack Obama in a historically Republican part of Texas. But Moser still worries her rivals will fall for the same old trap.

“I just think in this district people say, ‘Oh, but it’s kind of a conservative district,’ [and try] to really be safe and moderate, and I find that the opposite is true,” Moser says. “We just don’t have people showing up to vote. We don’t even know how many Democrats we have in this district because they don’t vote.”

Pretty good article overall. I often get frustrated by stories like this written by reporters with no clue about local or Texas politics, but this one was well done. This one only mentions the four top fundraisers – it came out before Debra Kerner suspended her campaign, so it states there are seven total contenders – with Moser getting the bulk of the attention. It’s one of the first articles I’ve read to give some insight into what these four are saying on the trail. They’re similar enough on the issues that I suspect a lot of the decisions the primary voters make will come down to personality and other intangibles. Don’t ask me who I think is most likely to make it to the runoff, I have no idea.

As for the claims about what will get people out to vote next November, this is an off-year and it’s all about turnout. CD07 is a high turnout district relative to Harris County and the state as a whole, but it fluctuates just like everywhere else. Here’s what the turnout levels look like over the past cycles:


Year    CD07   Harris   Texas
=============================
2002  37.37%   35.01%  36.24%
2004  66.87%   58.03%  56.57%
2006  40.65%   31.59%  33.64%
2008  70.61%   62.81%  59.50%
2010  49.42%   41.67%  37.53%
2012  67.72%   61.99%  58.58%
2014  39.05%   33.65%  33.70%
2016  67.04%   61.33%  59.39%

These figures are from the County Clerk website and not the redistricting one, so the pre-2012 figures are for the old version of CD07. High in relative terms for the off years, but still plenty of room to attract Presidential-year voters. Note by the way that there are about 40,000 more registered voters in CD07 in 2016 compared to 2012; there were 20,000 more votes cast in 2016, but the larger number of voters meant that turnout as a percentage of RVs was down a touch. Job #1 here and everywhere else is to find the Presidential year Democrats and convince them to come out in 2018; job #2 is to keep registering new voters. The candidate who can best do those things is the one I hope makes it on the ballot.

MJ Hegar in CD31

Very cool.

MJ Hegar

In a Texas congressional district that includes one of the country’s largest military bases, a military hero is betting she can stage a political upset.

Air Force veteran MJ Hegar is launching a Democratic challenge against U.S. Rep. John Carter, R-Round Rock, in Texas’ solidly red 31st Congressional District.

“I see a threat to our Constitution, our democracy,” Hegar said in a recent interview, “and I feel compelled to do something more about it.”

Hegar served three tours in Afghanistan as a search-and-rescue pilot, and in 2009, she saved the lives of her passengers after her medevac helicopter was shot down by the Taliban. She subsequently received the Purple Heart as well as the Distinguished Flying Cross with Valor Device.

She went on to become a fierce advocate for women in the military, helping lead a 2012 lawsuit against the Defense Department over its now-repealed policy excluding women from ground combat positions.

Hegar’s memoir, “Shoot Like a Girl: One Woman’s Dramatic Fight in Afghanistan and on the Home Front,” was published earlier this year and is being made into a film. Angelina Jolie is reportedly in talks to star in it.

Carter’s district has been reliably Republican, but Hegar, now an executive coach and consultant living in Austin, believes she can flip it, confident in her ability to garner crossover support with her experience at the national and international levels. She said her decision to run was partly motivated by the election of President Donald Trump, who has caused concern among even his own party’s national security professionals.

“I think being a Republican is not what it used to be,” Hegar said. “Even though [the district] is historically Republican, I think some people are voting Republican because they have a misperception of what the Democratic Party is.”

[…]

National Democrats are currently targeting three Republican incumbents in Texas that party leaders view as vulnerable: U.S. Reps. John Culberson of Houston, Will Hurd of Helotes and Pete Sessions of Dallas. Carter is not on that list, but Hegar is urging them to pay attention.

“Please look closer,” she said her message is to groups like the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

Three observations:

1. On paper at least, it’s hard to imagine a more appealing candidate. Military hero, young mother, former Republican, possibly being played by Angelina Jolie in a movie. I mean, if she didn’t actually exist I’d have sworn she was the figment of a Democratic strategist’s overactive imagination. What that translates into in an actual campaign remains to be seen, but I feel confident saying this will not be the only feature story written about her candidacy.

2. Not to be a buzzkill, but the reason the DCCC hadn’t given CD31 much thought is simply that it’s not terribly competitive. It only went 52-40 for Trump after going 59-38 for Romney, but it was 57-37 downballot, which was no change from 2012. Incumbent Rep. John Carter was re-elected 58-36 in 2016 and 61-35 in 2012. If anyone has the creds to win crossover votes it’s Hegar, but she has a lot of ground to cover, and who knows how many gettable Republicans there are in that district, or anywhere.

3. As the story notes, there are three other candidate seeking the Democratic nomination in CD31: fellow veteran Kent Lester; Dr. Christine Eady Mann, a family physician in Cedar Park; and Mike Clark, who was Carter’s opponent last year. Both the fact that there is a crowded field vying to run in this not-a-swing-district and the fact that there is a candidate with star potential like Hegar are further indicators of Democratic enthusiasm for 2018. I’ll put it to you this way: CD31 has existed since the 2002 election. This would be the first time in its history that it would have a contested Democratic primary, let alone a more-than-two-candidate race.

Hegar’s website is here, Kent Lester’s is here, Christine Eady Mann’s is here, and Mike Clark’s is here. We won’t see a finance report for Hegar till the end of the third quarter, but I’ll be very interested to see how she does. If she wants to get the DCCC’s attention, that’s one way to do it.

WaPo looks at a couple of our Congressional primaries

This is supposed to be a story about how there’s a lot of people running for Congress as Democrats but (surprise!) they have different opinions about what to emphasize and how to win and stuff like that. Weird, right? Anyway, a large part of the story is about candidates in CD32 and CD07 right here in Texas.

Colin Allred

Here in Dallas, first-time candidate Colin Allred, a former NFL linebacker for the Tennessee Titans and civil rights attorney, is running against Rep. Pete Sessions (R-Tex.) in a district where Clinton narrowly won last year and Sessions faced just token opposition. Allred has spent the past six weeks hosting “Coffee with Colin” at local coffee shops on Thursday nights and Saturday afternoons, which he says draw as many as 60 people.

Allred believes the contest will be shaped by economic concerns, health care and other “kitchen table issues.” That means focusing on solutions — not on lobbing attacks against Trump or Republicans.

“I’ve never gotten a question on Russia,” Allred said. “I get very few questions about Trump, period.” That’s because for many people here, Trump “is an ever present issue.”

He added: “People in this area that I talk to have come to terms with Trump and are now interested in the next step, and they want a vision for the future.”

Ed Meier, a former State Department official and another first-time candidate, is also planning to run against Sessions. How Meier and Allred will distinguish themselves from each other is less clear. Both were born and raised in the district and did stints in the Obama administration. Neither would draw distinctions with the other on policy or personality.

And other local Democrats are still mulling a run, meaning the field could become even more crowded soon.

“The Trump administration is coming in and is working to tear down the progress that happened in the Obama administration,” Meier said. “We as Democrats need to come back and build back better, build back stronger, be bolder with what our agenda looks like.”

Other factors that could play a role in that contest are race and minority outreach. The Democratic Party has long tried to recruit more candidates of color, such as Allred, to help draw out the party’s base of voters. Which candidate is able to raise more money will also play a role.

[…]

Texas’s 7th District, a wealthy and diverse stretch of Houston suburbia, resembles the one where Ossoff lost in Georgia — and popped onto the Democrats’ 2018 map after Clinton beat Trump by 1.3 points.

Laura Moser, a progressive activist who launched the group Daily Action to stop Republicans and Trump, moved back to run in the 7th District from Washington this month — despite her view that she’s not the D.C. establishment’s dream candidate.

“They have very conventional ideas of who can win — business people who’ve been on this path for a long time,” Moser said in an interview at her new home. “I’d say this: I did not get any encouragement from the DCCC.”

She also faces lots of competition. James Cargas, an environmental attorney, raised less than $100,000 for his third bid against Rep. John Abney Culberson (R-Tex.) last year — and lost the race by single digits. A total of six competitors have jumped in to grab the baton, but he hasn’t dropped it, arguing that he’s been hardened by five lonely years on the trail.

“There’s 700,000 eligible voters in this district,” Cargas explained. “You can’t just meet ’em once — you have to meet them multiple times. That takes retail and hard work.”

First things first – I had no idea Culberson’s middle name was “Abney”. You learn something new every day. Second, I hate to be a numbers nitpicker, but Culberson beat Cargas by the score of 56.17% to 43.83%, which last I checked is not single digits. Third, I’m aware of seven Democratic candidates in CD07 – Cargas, Moser, Jason Westin, Lizzie Fletcher, Joshua Butler, Debra Kerner, and Alex Triantaphyllis. I’m not sure why Cargas was one of the candidates the WaPo spoke to in addition to Moser – I feel confident saying that Triantaphyllis, Fletcher, and Westin are all ahead of Cargas in line for DCCC support, possibly Kerner as well. I’m sure the second quarter finance reports will give some clues on that score. Be that as it may, positioning herself as the “not the DCCC candidate” is likely to give Moser a bit of a boost in the primary, as there is always a receptive audience for that kind of anti-establishmentism, and in a big field like this a small edge like that can be the difference between making it to the runoff and having your season end in March.

Anyway, the candidates in both districts are still just introducing themselves to the voters. I’m still trying to get to know them all; I know Cargas and Kerner from previous campaigns, I’ve met Butler and Triantaphyllis since they began their candidacies, I (very briefly) met Moser at an event in the neighborhood last night – I was only able to stay a little while so I didn’t have much of a chance to talk to her – I’ve got a meeting in the works with Fletcher, and I have not had any contact yet with Westin. Interview season is going to be very busy for me. There’s a lot of time for all who are interested to see who has what to offer. I’m happy to see them get media attention while they’re doing that.

DCCC says it will aim for three Texas Congressional seats

We’ll see what this means in practice.

The House Democratic campaign arm, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, announced Monday morning that the party intends to target two longtime GOP incumbents that, until recently, have long been considered locks for re-election: U.S. Reps. Pete Sessions of Dallas and John Culberson of Houston.

The two races are in addition to the committee’s targeting of U.S. Rep. Will Hurd of San Antonio, who represents Texas’ 23rd District, a perennial target which includes much of the state’s border communities.

[…]

Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton carried all three districts in November, falling just short of an outright majority in each place, according to a DCCC analysis of election records. In contrast, Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney won the same districts in 2012.

While many political observers say Clinton’s performance was likely a one-time phenomenon in the Sessions and Culberson districts, it could serve as a warning sign to Republican incumbents as split-ticket voting is a diminishing habit.

Culberson’s district saw the most dramatic shift: Romney carried the seat with 60 percent of the vote. Four years later, Trump drew 47 percent support, according to the DCCC.

[…]

Democrats on Capitol Hill say President Trump’s performance in Texas against Clinton is why they are concentrating on a state they mostly ignored in the last several cycles, save for Hurd’s district. Trump’s 9-point win over Clinton in Texas was the narrowest for a Republican presidential candidate in 20 years.

Democrats further argue that Trump underperformed in Texas’ urban areas, particularly in Dallas and Harris Counties. At least one Democratic operative close to leadership who was not authorized to speak on the record called the president a potential “albatross around their neck.”

Multiple interviews with House Democratic sources have yet to scare up any possible recruits in the two districts.

“It’s more of a, ‘Where can we go and create opportunities?'” said Moses Mercado, a plugged-in Washington lobbyist with Texas roots.

See here for some background. There’s no doubt that Trump underperformed in urban areas like Houston and Dallas. Further, the evidence I have so far suggests that the underlying partisan mix shifted in Democrats’ favor at least in CD07 and likely CD32; I have not had a chance to look at any part of CD23 yet. CDs 07 and 32 are still reliably Republican, but they are not overwhelmingly so. If 2018 winds up being a strong Democratic year, they’re in the ballpark. Even if not, if the partisan ground shifts by as much between 2016 and 2020 as it did between 2012 and 2016, then these two become genuine swing districts. Just in time for the next round of redistricting, to be sure, but still. It makes sense to pay attention to them, and there’s no reason not to start now.

For all the time I’ve spent cautioning about Presidential numbers versus judicial race numbers in gauging legislative districts, I am intrigued by the potential here. There were large numbers of Republicans in CD07 and CD32 who voted for Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump, and a few more who voted for Gary Johnson or Evan McMullin or some other minor candidate instead of Trump. Surely some of these people, even as they generally voted Republican otherwise, will be open to the argument that in this election, if they still oppose Trump and want to do something to stop him, they need to vote against the members of Congress who are enabling him. I don’t know how many of these crossover voters might be willing to consider that – whatever the number is today, it may well be very different next fall – but we have some time to identify them and to figure out the best way to present that argument to them. If the DCCC really is serious about this, one way they can show it is to do a deep analytics dive into the precinct-level data and figure out who their target audience is. The hard part will be coming up with a message that is persuasive to them without alienating core Democrats, who are not going to be very tolerant about appeals to centrism or bipartisanship. A simple motto of “oppose Trump by opposing this Congressman who stand with him” is probably best.

As for finding candidates, we already have one in CD07, and I’m sure there will be plenty of people interested in CD23, as it is perennially competitive. As for CD32, again I’m sure there will be plenty of people who might want to run, but let me put in a good word for Allen Vaught, Army Reserve captain in Iraq and former State Rep from Dallas. I have no idea if he might be interested, but I do know he’d be a good candidate. D Magazine suggests current Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings, who would also be a fine choice. Let the recruiting begin!

Gallego-Hurd 2.0 is on

As anticipated.

Pete Gallego

Pete Gallego

As expected, former U.S. Rep. Pete Gallego will seek to win back the congressional seat he lost to current U.S. Rep. Will Hurd.

Hurd, R-San Antonio, ousted Gallego, D-Alpine, by a 2-point margin in 2014. The race for the 23rd Congressional District is likely to be Texas’ most exciting federal race in the fall of 2016, thanks to a lack of competitive House races.

“I’m confident in my strengths,” Gallego said in a Thursday morning interview with The Tribune. “I’m prepared to jump any hurdle.”

National Democrats began recruiting Gallego for the rematch immediately after he lost to Hurd in November. Gallego represented CD-23 for one term after serving for 22 years in the Texas House.

“I don’t view that election in any way a reflection on me, and my performance as a member of Congress,” Gallego said of the 2014 election.

Instead, Gallego pointed to poor Democratic turnout in the midterm election, and noted that Hurd did not break the 50 percent threshold.

See here and here for the background. As I’ve noted before, Gallego exceeded the average Democratic performance in both 2012 and 2014. He’s certain to be helped by Presidential-year turnout, but if Hurd can perform at or close to the Republican baseline, that may not be enough. Expect there to be a lot of money spent on this race. Whether any of it spills over into the 27th CD remains to be seen. Texas Politics and Trail Blazers have more.

National Dems say they’re looking at Farenthold’s seat

I’ll believe it when I see it.

Rep. Blake Farenthold

The hunt is on in Southeast Texas for a Democrat to challenge U.S. Rep. Blake Farenthold, R-Corpus Christi.

At first glance, it might seem like an absurd notion; Farenthold won re-election by a 2-to-1 margin in 2014. But some Democrats say they have designs on the seat because of the seediness of accusations against the third-term congressman in a sexual harassment lawsuit filed against him in 2014.

For now, the Democrats’ political point man for House races only speaks about Texas in broad tones.

“We’re looking for opportunities all over the country, wherever they may be,” U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Luján of New Mexico told The Texas Tribune last week.

“Texas is an important state to us,” he added. “There’s important opportunities all over the country. I would say we’re keeping an eye on all districts all over the states.”

Privately, at least four Washington Democratic insiders who are knowledgeable about party recruitment efforts say there is a serious effort to unseat Farenthold.

Maybe there is and maybe there isn’t. I’d love to see this happen, though even if it does this would be at best the second-tier target in Texas, with CD23’s freshman Rep. Will Hurd being #1 on the list whether or not Pete Gallego runs again as the DCCC wants him to. Farenthold’s ethical and behavioral issues are certainly a good club that can be used to attack him with, and as noted later in the story he’s neither a big fundraiser nor an accomplished campaigner. His large margin of victory in 2012 is somewhat misleading as he underperformed relative to his ballotmates. I should note that was not the case last year – I don’t feel like copying and pasting in the data, but Farenthold received 83,342 votes for 63.60% in 2014, and only Greg Abbott and Baby Bush did better than that.

But 2014 was a bad year, and 2016 is a Presidential year, with hope to do better. Finding a good candidate and investing the resources to boost turnout are good and worthwhile things. And in what is either an odd coincidence or an example of carefully planned timing, this story appeared later in the same day.

Former state Rep. Solomon Ortiz Jr. — the son of former U.S. Rep. Solomon P. Ortiz Sr., whom Farenthold defeated in 2010 — said he’s weighing a 2016 challenge against the Republican incumbent.

“I think a race for office is something that takes a lot of prayer and meditation and thought,” Ortiz Jr. said in a phone interview with The Texas Tribune. “And yes, obviously, I’m considering it.”

[…]

Besides Luján, Ortiz has discussed a possible run with his father.

“He was the guy here in South Texas who broke down barriers,” the younger Ortiz said of his father. “He knows what it takes to be an effective member of Congress,”

And the topic has come up in conversations with some Texas House colleagues: U.S. Reps. Marc Veasey of Fort Worth and Joaquin Castro of San Antonio.

The elder Ortiz’s loss to Farenthold in the 2010 Republican wave election was particularly bitter for Democrats. National Democratic operatives assumed Ortiz was in a safe Democratic seat, but Farenthold defeated him by 775 votes.

Ortiz Jr. lost his Texas House re-election bid that same year.

Should he run, Ortiz would benefit from his father’s name recognition. But this will not be the same district his father represented for nearly 30 years. State mapmakers made the district more strongly Republican during the 2011 redistricting.

As this story notes, Ortiz, Jr flirted with running in 2014, but (wisely, as it turned out) stayed on the sidelines. He says he’s more serious this time, but we’ll see. Going back to the first story, we have to be prepared for the possibility that this may be little more than a feint.

And winning the 27th District may not even be the objective for Democrats. It’s to cause trouble for Republicans.

One Democratic operative pointed out that the party lost so many seats in 2014 that Democrats are widely expected to be on offense in the fall of 2016. The theoretical aim would be to force Republicans to “squander resources” that would otherwise be used against Democratic challengers and incumbents. For them, a competitive race materializing at all in the 27th District would be a moral victory.

And then there is the fact that the DCCC’s online fundraising operation is the envy of American politics, a dynamic Farenthold’s troubles could play into.

“They can make an example of Blake Farenthold that can raise the Democrats oodles of money,” the Democratic operative added.

Yeah, count me out for that. I totally understand this from a strategic perspective, but we’ve been used for such purposes enough. Play to win here or don’t play. If Ortiz, Jr is in, that’s great. I’ll be sure to direct any donations I may make to his campaign. At least that way I know it would stay in Texas.

Gallego/Hurd 2.0 seems likely

I won’t be surprised.

Pete Gallego

Pete Gallego

A congressional rematch may be nigh in southwest Texas.

National Democrats still reeling from their midterm clobbering are intent on picking up seats in 2016, and their eyes already are on Texas’ only competitive congressional district, the 23rd.

U.S. Rep. Will Hurd, R-San Antonio, won the seat by a mere 2,422 votes last November. The Democrats’ top recruit is the man Hurd ousted – former U.S. Rep. Pete Gallego, D-Alpine – and the sense in Washington is that more likely than not, he’ll jump into the campaign.

The head of House Democratic campaign efforts said as much in a Tuesday statement.

“We’re excited about his potential candidacy, and confident that he would run a strong campaign with the tailwinds of a more favorable electorate in 2016 at his back,” said Rep. Ben Ray Lujan of New Mexico.

About a week after the election, Democrats floated Gallego as a top recruit, and the one-term congressman did not rule out a rematch in a Tuesday phone interview.

“Everyone that I’ve talked to, Republican and Democrats, think that [there will be a] different electorate in 2016, and I don’t know anyone who thinks that the last election was a referendum on me or my performance as a congressman,” he said. “But having said that, it’s a little early.”

“I haven’t gotten to that bridge yet, but I will cross that bridge when I get there,” he added.

See here for the background. Gallego has outperformed the Democratic baseline in both of his elections in CD23. If he does that again in 2016, he’d be very likely to win. Hurd may be able to cut into that advantage as the incumbent, but then it may be the case that Hillary Clinton carries CD23 and Gallego wins anyway. Be that as it may, it is too early to think about this stuff. We’ll have plenty of time to obsess over this stuff after this year’s election.

Son Of Ortiz/Farenthold?

Maybe.

Solomon Ortiz, Jr

A grudge match could be brewing in South Texas.

On Tuesday, the Democrats’ top congressional strategist hinted that he’s been trying to recruit someone to challenge two-term Rep. Blake Farenthold, a tea party Republican from Corpus Christi.

Turns out, that person is Solomon Ortiz Jr., a former state representative and son of the longtime congressman, Solomon Ortiz Sr. — ousted by Farenthold in one of the closest and most surprising contests of 2010.

“I don’t know. I haven’t made a decision one way or another,” Ortiz Jr., said Wednesday evening, reached by cell phone.

Rep. Steve Israel, D-N.Y., chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, went out of his way Tuesday to fuel speculation that his party will make a run at Farenthold. But he was coy about who he’s been encouraging, and aides declined to name names.

Turns out, Ortiz Jr. put the secret in plain sight:

I’ve been clamoring for a challenger to Farenthold, so this is music to my ears. There’s certainly an argument to be made for a fresh face against Farenthold, but there’s a lot to be said for having a familiar name go against him, too. It is a tough challenge, tougher than what the DCCC normally takes on – there just ain’t that many swing seats these days – but the good news is that Farenthold was an underperformer in 2012. A sufficiently financed challenger, with some name ID and a boost from Battleground Texas, could make a race of it. First, we need someone to file. We’ll see if the DCCC was able to sway Ortiz, Jr into the race.

Targeting Farenthold

Yes, please.

Rep. Blake Farenthold

Democrats are trying to exact a political price for Texas Republicans’ votes to restart deportations of so-called “DREAMers” — the children illegally brought into the U.S. by their parents.

The target of the latest ad buy is Corpus Christi Rep. Blake Farenthold, who was one of 23 Texas Republicans to favor the measure by Iowa Rep. Steve King enacted by the House last week. (Republican Rep. Pete Sessions of Dallas did not vote on the proposal. All 12 Texas Democrats voted no.)

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee said today it had bought air time on Spanish language radio stations “across” the district, which stretches from Corpus Christi to the Austin and San Antonio media markets, to demand that Farenthold “stand with our young people and not with most extreme members of his party.”

The district’s population is majority Latino, but voters who go to the polls tend to favor Republicans.

“Instead of giving these young people a chance at the American Dream, Congressman Farenthold showed his true colors: an extreme ideology that would deport young people who have been contributing to this country since they were brought here as children,” said Emily Bittner, a spokeswoman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. “The people of Texas want a comprehensive solution to our broken immigration system, but Congressman Farenthold just did the opposite — and voted to restart deportations for 800,00 DREAMers.”

The ad includes the words of a young Latino person eligible for the DREAM Act who could be among 800,000 youths facing deportation under the King Amendment because of their parents’ decisions.

“I have lived in the United States since I was a child, and it’s my only home,” the unnamed immigrant says in the ad. “I’m a student, I work, and I’m proud to give back to my community. I’ve always done what was asked of me. The only thing I ask is for the opportunity to do it.”

Farenthold easily won re-election in the redrawn 27th District last year after upsetting veteran Democrat Solomon Ortiz two years earlier in the old 27th, which was much more heavily Latino. But Democrats are hoping to soften him up with negative ads, particularly if the federal courts redraw Texas congressional maps to increase the district’s Mexican-American population.

I’m very glad to see this. Besides just being morally correct and good politics, Farenthold does have a soft underbelly despite being in a nominally safe district. As I noted before, he lost a significant amount of support from the top of the ticket despite running against an opponent with few resources. A district like his, with its heavy concentration of low-turnout Latinos could be prime proving ground for Battleground Texas. I don’t know how much the DCCC is spending here, or how focused that money is, but it’s a good start. This is the kind of issue that can motivate voters. If we can get a good candidate in place, we have a chance to make something interesting happen.

Castro gets some homework

Joaquin Castro isn’t even a member of Congress yet and already his future colleagues are leaning on him.

Joaquin Castro

Democrats are so confident that U.S. House candidate Joaquin Castro will capture a traditionally Democratic seat in San Antonio next November that they’re relying on the Texas state representative and Harvard Law School graduate to help raise campaign donations for Democratic candidates who are facing more competitive races elsewhere.

Rep. Steve Israel, D-New York, described Castro’s unusually high-profile role on Wednesday as the chairman of House Democrats’ 2012 campaign effort designated 36 competitive House races nationwide that will receive extra campaign support by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee as the vanguard of Democrats’ effort to retake political control of the House.

[…]

Castro, who is seeking to succeed retiring seven-term Rep. Charles Gonzalez, D-San Antonio, joins former Rep. Alan Grayson, D-Florida, and Steven Horsford, D-Nevada, as so-called “majority makers” whose all-but-guaranteed election prospects frees them to campaign on behalf of other Democrats. Their early efforts are expected to help forge loyalties and political IOUs even before they take office on Capitol Hill.

“We are so confident that they’re going to win and that they are coming to Congress that we have a program (so) they are actually helping their colleagues,” said Israel. “These will be new members of Congress who will have already helped their colleagues obtain the majority.”

And one of the first beneficiaries of this effort will be Nick Lampson. This is of course assuming that the SCOTUS-ordered redraw doesn’t shuffle the deck in a manner that puts Castro into the same district as either Lloyd Doggett or Ciro Rodriguez again. Which, if you’re a believer in the weauxf gods, ought to make you sweat a little. These things work in mysterious ways.

I will also note that this is the sort of thing I had in mind when I first wrote about Castro versus Doggett and the need to enable the next generation. One of the things a role like that does for Castro is give him access to a much broader fundraising base, and a whole lot of people who would have reason to be grateful to him if he’s successful. Both of those are nice things to have in your pocket if you have a statewide campaign in mind for your future.

Lampson on the DCCC’s list

It’s just like old times again.

Nick Lampson

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, launching its bid to win back the House majority, has unveiled its list of top 2012 recruits.

DCCC Chairman Steve Israel announced 18 candidates on Wednesday who are being inducted into the House Democratic campaign arm’s “Red to Blue” program, which aims to provide support to top candidates across the country.

[…]

The program includes three former members: former Ohio Rep. Charlie Wilson and former New York Rep. Dan Maffei, both of whom lost their seats in 2010, and former Texas Rep. Nick Lampson, who lost his seat in 2008. There are also three Democrats who waged bids in 2010 but fell short: California physician Ami Bera, former Washington state House Majority Leader Denny Heck and New Hampshire attorney Ann McLane Kuster.

It’s almost not an election without the DCCC teaming up with Lampson in a hot race – it’s happened in 2004, 2006, 2008, and now 2012. Lampson has the virtues of being a known commodity and a proven fundraiser in a district that is unlikely to change much if at all by the SCOTUS-ordered do-over – the CD14 drawn by the Lege and the CD14 drawn by the San Antonio court are very similar geographically and in partisan makeup. I expect the DCCC to get involved in CD23 eventually, once there’s a nominee and a final (for now) district, and in a happy world they’ll have the resources and the inclination to help out in CD10, but we’re getting way ahead of ourselves. For now, we have the DCCC and Nick Lampson, together again.

The redistricting battle is fought one State House seat at a time

The Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee (DLCC) is the State House version of the DCCC. With 2011 being a redistricting year, the DLCC takes a more prominent role in the November elections than it would in other years, and with the Texas Lege being fairly balanced, they’ll be paying some attention to our state and its legislative races.

The national committee, which provides financial support to Democratic candidates in state legislative races, will spend $20 million in an effort to take control of 21 legislative chambers in 17 states, a spokesman said.

[…]

The $20 million in committee money in the current cycle far outpaces what the organization has spent in the past. The committee spent $12 million on state races in 2008 and $10 million in 2006, spokesman Matt Compton said.

The committee hasn’t decided how to allocate the money for the November elections, he said.

One potential recipient could be the Texas House Democratic Campaign Committee, which operates to elect Democrats to the state House.

Coleman said Democrats have many opportunities to pick up House seats.

“There are several targets, and most of them are open seats,” said Coleman, a board member of the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee.

But “our primary objective is to protect incumbents.”

Obviously, we’re still very early in the game, and that $20 million represents a goal, not a bank balance. Assuming the money gets raised, the candidates themselves still have to demonstrate they’re worth the investment, which in this case means competing with hopefuls around the country. In other words, don’t go ordering any ad packages based on DLCC money just yet. When and if that money does come this way, you can get an idea of which races it may get spent in by taking a peek at this Lone Star Project report, which covers most of the likely takeover targets. The Dems have a number of seats to defend as well, and like the takeover list that may grow or shrink depending on things like how everyone involved does with their own fundraising.

Texas Congressional races on the radar

The Hill lists its Top 10 dark-horse Congressional races to keep an eye on for 2010. Two of them are in Texas.

1. Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas)

McCaul was technically a lower-tier Democratic target in 2008, but that was really only because his opponent, former TV judge Larry Joe Doherty (D), was raising money like gangbusters. Doherty really didn’t have the right profile, and he wound up losing by a pedestrian 11 points — the exact margin of the presidential tally in the district. Now, Democrats have another big-money candidate, with businessman Jack McDonald raising $300,000 in the first quarter. We’ll see if he has the right profile, but the fact that he is vice chairman of the Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce suggests he might. The party has already put McCaul near the top of its target list.

[…]

4. Rep. Pete Sessions (R-Texas)

Democrats tried to mount a late charge in 2006 against National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) Chairman Tom Reynolds (R-N.Y.), and they could do it again in 2010 against current NRCC Chairman Pete Sessions. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) only took this suburban Dallas district 53-46 in the 2008 presidential race, and the heavily Hispanic areas have grown at a faster pace than the white areas. Sessions’s district is actually probably more fertile ground than McCaul’s, but Democrats might not have as good a candidate. Attorney Grier Raggio (D) has an exploratory committee, but it’s not clear who else might emerge.

You know how I feel about Sessions’ CD32. Now that Dallas County is solid blue, there’s no reason at all to leave him untargeted. The DCCC is already inclined to help out. The rest is up to the locals. McDonald’s fundraising success will keep the CD10 race on the front burner. Now we need someone to copy that formula in CD32. Thanks to BOR for the link.

Big John versus El Rushbo and The Newt

There’s just not enough popcorn in the world.

As if to magnify what are already major differences between elected Republicans and conservative activists on the question of Sonia Sotomayor, check out what conservative senator (and chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee and Judiciary Comittee member and former Texas State Supreme Court Justice) had to say on NPR yesterday.

“I think it’s terrible. This is not the kind of tone that any of us want to set when it comes to performing our constitutional responsibilities of advice and consent.”

Republican leaders may not have as much sway over their own interest groups as Democratic leaders do over their, so don’t expect the attacks to stop. But it’s a bold statement. He even lashed out at Newt Gingrich and the unassailable Rush Limbaugh.

“Neither one of these men are elected Republican officials [and] I just don’t think it’s appropriate and I certainly don’t endorse it. I think it’s wrong.”

You can listen to the entire interview here.

Of course, any time a Republican official says anything unflattering about Rush, it’s worth asking a couple questions: Will he apologize for it? And how long will he wait?

You know you’ve gone completely round the bend when Big John tells you to dial it down a bit. Not that it matters, as neither Newtie nor the Round Mound of Sound is backing off. Oh, and now the DCCC is joining in the fun by calling out Rep. Pete Sessions, who as Cornyn’s counterpart in Congress has been silent so far. Who needs summer movies when you have this kind of entertainment?

UPDATE: Forgot to add that there’s video of Big John taking on his foes. And as we know, the Rushmeister was in town last night. Here’s a photo of him and some of his fanboys from that event. BOR has more.

White rakes it in for his Senate bid

Among other things, today is the deadline for federal candidates to report their campaign finance status. Of the many contenders for Kay Bailey Hutchison’s Senate seat, whenever that becomes available, I think it’s safe to say that Bill White had the best start to the year. From his press release:

Mayor Bill White reported contributions totaling more than $2.6 million in just over 100 days since launching his U.S. Senate campaign, according to a report filed with the Federal Elections Commission today.

More than 1,400 Texans contributed through March 31st, the end of the filing period. The contributions for the filing period totaled more than $1.8 million.

Campaign Finance Chair Scott Atlas said, “The outpouring of support from donors and volunteers has been simply amazing. The energy around Mayor White’s campaign shows Texans believe in his ability to bring people together and get things done. People want their next senator to be a voice for our state’s future.”

So far, none of the Senate incumbents or hopefuls have their reports up on the FEC disclosure page, so I can’t give you the details yet. However, Gardner Selby has some information.

Democrat John Sharp topped five other candidates or prospective candidates for the U.S. Senate in cash on hand as of March 31, though his camp didn’t say this afternoon how much of the $2.4 million he piled up since Jan. 1 came from loans. His loan chunk—perhaps tapping Sharp’s personal wealth—may be left to show up when his report, filed with the Federal Election Commission, surfaces online.

Another Democrat, Houston Mayor Bill White, had $2.1 million cash on hand at the end of this year’s first quarter; he’d taken no loans.

Among Republicans, former Texas Secretary of State Roger Williams had $388,628 cash on hand; a haul fueled by $200,000 in loans he gave his exploratory committee. State Sen. Florence Shapiro, R-Plano, had $310,407. She was trailed in her bank balance by two members of the Texas Railroad Commission, Elizabeth Ames Jones with $164,663 and Michael Williams with $113,957.

As Selby notes, we can’t fully judge Sharp’s total till we know how much of it was loaned by himself to the campaign. It’s possible he did better than any of the Republicans and yet still fell well short of White, and it’s possible he outraised White, though to be honest if he’d really taken in $2 million or so, I’d have expected him to be shouting that from the rooftops. We’ll know soon enough. In any case, as BOR notes, the two Dems are way out in from of the Rs – heck, all of them put together can’t match either Dem. That may change if a David Dewhurst or a Greg Abbott jumps in, but for now, it’s a nice position for the Dems to be in.

Other reports of interest, all Congressional:

Pete Sessions, who has been in the crosshairs of the DCCC lately and whose district is trending strongly Democratic, had a good quarter with over $200K raised and almost $900K on hand. Sessions has always been an able fundraiser, no doubt why he’s chairing the NRCC this go-round.

– Mike McCaul doesn’t have a report yet. He already has a well-heeled challenger and a DCCC bulls-eye on his back, but he’s also filthy rich and will not be outgunned financially.

John Culberson had a decent quarter, with $100K raised, though only a modest $70K on hand. He didn’t leave anything in reserve after his expensive re-election fight last year, and though I think he’s likely to skate this time around, I’ll bet he invests some time in restocking his coffers.

Sheila Jackson Lee didn’t raise much, and spent more than she raised, but she starts the year with over $400K on hand, which may give pause to anyone looking to primary her.

– The benefits of running for President, having a national following, and being stalked by Borat not having an opponent in the last cycle: Ron Paul has over two million dollars on hand, despite raising almost nothing and spending nearly $250K.

– Randy Neugebauer in CD19 doesn’t have a report up yet, either, but according to the CREW crew, he wants to use his campaign funds to pay for the use of his yacht to fundraise for his campaign. Just click over and see for yourself. The yacht is anchored in DC, in case you were wondering (as I was) what the heck one would do with a yacht in Lubbock.

– Former Congressman Jim Turner, who was drawn out of his seat in the 2004 Tom DeLay re-redistricting, still has over a million bucks on hand. Which in theory he eventually needs to dispose of in some fashion, either on another campaign of his own or by giving it to other candidates.

That’s all for now. I’ll add to this as I see more reports.

DCCC targeting CD10

Good to hear.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee will begin running radio ads next week in the districts of six Republicans, all of whom voted against the economic recovery package. One of the six targeted districts, though, sticks out from the rest.

Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas), whose 10th District runs from the Houston suburbs west to include parts of Austin, is the only one of the six targeted members to represent a district won by John McCain in 2008. Both McCaul and McCain won the district by 11 points in November, which begs the question: Is the DCCC really targeting this seat?

Apparently they are, and in no small part because of an already well-funded candidate named Jack McDonald, whose exploratory committee announced yesterday that it had raised more than $300,000 in just five weeks. Should McDonald, a self-described “centrist Democrat” and “successful businessman,” officially jump in the race, he’ll face a Republican whose winning percentage has dropped significantly as his opponents have spent more money, but who held off a well-funded opponent last year.

BOR has more on McDonald. The D-Trip has also targeted Rep. Pete Sessions, who is also the NRCC Chair, in CD32. Nice to see national money flowing to Texas, instead of just the other way around. These two districts may be where all the action is this time around, especially if Rep. McCaul jumps into the race for Attorney General as has been speculated. That would require a few dominoes to fall first, and there’s already a stand-by waiting in the wings in the event that happens, so I wouldn’t consider that a likely event, but you never know. Regardless, I’m glad to see CD get some attention outside of Texas. I hope it can hold that attention for the duration.

Dallas Dems look to 2010

Never too early to be thinking about these things.

“I don’t think it’s a big stretch to say we can do 57 percent [countywide] in 2010,” said Darlene Ewing, chairwoman of the Dallas County Democratic Party.

Because of that comfort level, Ewing said, the county party is targeting Dallas County commissioner Precinct 4, held by Republican Ken Mayfield.

Mayfield won in narrow victory in 2006, as his Republican-leaning area in western Dallas County continued to see demographic shifts that resulted in more Hispanic voters.

Dallas Mayor Pro Tem Elba Garcia, a Democrat, is expected to challenge Mayfield next year.

Ewing said Democrats are also eying state House District 105, where last year Republican Linda Harper Brown of Irving held on by 19 votes to beat little-known Democrat Bob Romano.

HD105 is a given; it really should have been won in 2008, but that’s water under the bridge at this point. It gets harder after that – HDs 108, 112, 113, and 114 are all within numerical reach, though they all present challenges. If they can find and fund quality candidates, anything is possible. Some defense will be in order as well, especially in HD 101, where the Obama wave was helpful to Robert Miklos’ victory.

Beyond that, I sure hope their sights are set a little higher than this. Winning a County Commissioner’s seat is big, but there’s another prize out there that’s just begging for a claim to be put in. I’m speaking about CD32, where Pete Sessions will be operating as the chair of the NRCC in a district that’s trending strongly Democratic – as the Swing State Project documented, where George W. Bush won 64% in CD32 in 2000, and 60% in 2004, John McCain could muster only 53% last year. With the DCCC having already targeted Sessions on the airwaves, and with a lack of any countywide races to take over, why not take aim here? The Dems had a candidate in 2006 who had money but no visible campaign that I could discern, and a candidate in 2008 who ran an active campaign but had little money. Surely in 2010 they could find someone to put both halves of the formula together. Thanks to BOR for the link.

Pete Sessions and the Taliban

Rep. Pete Sessions in CD32 is the chair of the NRCC this cycle. He’s also…well, see for yourself.

Frustrated by a lack of bipartisan outreach from House Democratic leaders, Rep. Pete Sessions (R-TX), chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, said today that the GOP should look to the Taliban for guidance in conveying its position on the stimulus package and, more broadly, in working to make the party’s views on issues known. […]

“Insurgency, we understand perhaps a little bit more because of the Taliban,” Sessions said during a meeting with Hotline editors. “And that is that they went about systematically understanding how to disrupt and change a person’s entire processes.

“And these Taliban — I’m not trying to say the Republican Party is the Taliban. No, that’s not what we’re saying. I’m saying an example of how you go about [sic] is to change a person from their messaging to their operations to their frontline message. And we need to understand that insurgency may be required when the other side, the House leadership, does not follow the same commands, which we entered the game with.”

The quotes come from the National Journal, and they’ve now been picked up by the DMN, so you can expect some walking back Real Soon Now. I don’t often play the “can you imagine if a Democrat said that” game, but I don’t see how you can’t here. Seriously, imagine this was 2002 and some Congressional Democrat used this metaphor to describe opposition to President Bush. I can’t even wrap my mind around it. Both the Journal and First Read, which wonders what Drudge would do if a Dem had said this – I say imagine Fox News – go there. (Thanks to Sessions Watch for the links.)

What I really want to is if this will finally spur a well-funded challenge to Sessions this year. He’s already been targeted by the DCCC in radio ads for the GOP’s unanimous anti-stimulus vote, so that’s a good start. CD32 is a lot less Republican than it was in 2004 – John McCain took 53% of the vote there – and that trend isn’t going to stop. I thought Eric Roberson was a decent candidate last year, but he got nowhere in the fundraising department. Will Dallas and national Democrats finally get serious about taking Session on? I sure hope so.