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Denise Saenz Blanchard

Congressional runoff stories

A couple of Chron stories about area Congressional primary runoffs for your perusal.

CD14:

Sometimes [CD14 GOP candidate Randy Weber] mentions that he was designated the most conservative member of the Texas House during his two terms in Austin.

“We don’t knock on a lot of moderate doors, because my message doesn’t really resonate with them,” he said.

[…]

Felicia Harris, whose reserved, no-nonsense style is in sharp contrast to the voluble Weber, said she has been knocking on doors, as well – thousands and thousands, sometimes between 200 and 400 a day.

“Our grass-roots game is the same as it’s always been,” she said at her campaign office in a League City strip center.

The lawyer and former Pearland city councilwoman, a graduate of Texas A&M University and South Texas College of Law, said she has a more youthful outlook than her opponent.

“I’m 42 years old. He’s almost 60,” she said. “Nothing wrong with age differences, but it’s a different perspective.”

It is, or at least it can be. I don’t really expect that Harris would vote any differently than Weber – the story doesn’t mention any disagreements the two have on issues – so it’s all a matter of style. Weber’s style is apparently to only talk to people who already agree with him. Unclear if Harris is the same way or not, but I doubt she’d say otherwise in the heat of a primary runoff. Much better to vote for Nick Lampson in November and get someone who’d do his best to represent the whole district, wouldn’t you say?

CD36:

If neophyte political candidate Stephen Takach was unaware that politics ain’t beanbag, as the saying goes, he’s fully aware now, thanks to his Republican primary runoff experience in the newly created 36th Congressional District with an opponent whose campaign strategy is unorthodox, to say the least.

Steve Stockman, 55, who served one term in Congress in the 1990s, spurns most public events and candidate forums and rarely talks to news media. Instead, he has blanketed the East Texas district with fake tabloid newspapers emblazoned with such headlines as “Stephen Takach drove family friend into bankruptcy,” “Gunowners Furious as Takach sides with ‘gun grabbers’ ” (Sheila Jackson Lee, Barack Obama and Nancy Pelosi) and “Takach smears Stockman for taking care of his Alzheimer’s-stricken father.”

Takach, 50, said last week that he mentioned in a mailing that Stockman had declared bankruptcy in 2002. According to the account in Stockman’s “Times Free Press,” the candidate had to declare bankruptcy because he quit work to tend to his father’s needs – ergo Takach was smearing Stockman for caring for his father, “a World War II veteran who served his country fighting the Nazis.”

“The people that know me are just livid,” Takach said. “They are so upset.”

[…]

Most of Takach’s positions are doctrinaire Republican: against the Affordable Care Act, against amnesty for undocumented immigrants, for traditional marriage, against abortion.

He pointed out that he and his opponent hold similar positions on a number of issues – issues that are closer today to the tea party-infused GOP mainstream than they were when Stockman was in Washington. Back then, Stockman supported a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution, as does Takach.

What we learn: Being a better person does not necessarily make one a better Congressperson. As with CD14, and with every other Congressional Republican from Texas, there’s not a dime’s worth of difference between Takach and Stockman on the issues. Having not been raised by wolves, Takach will be less embarrassing, though even Steve Stockman may have a hard time outdoing Louie Gohmert these days. But that’s about all it means. Sadly, CD36 was drawn to elect a Republican, so there’s a decent chance Stockman will get his return engagement to Congress. You ought to get to know Max Martin anyway.

As of the end of early voting, no story has been written on the Democratic runoff in CD07. I know, it likely won’t matter in November, but if you wanted to highlight a race in which the two candidates did actually differ on some issues, and for which there’s been no lack of, um, material for a story, I don’t know how the Chron could overlook this one right in their own back yard. Finally, I have to agree with David Nir that the Democratic runoff in CD34 deserved a hell of a lot more attention than it has gotten. Unfortunately, I can’t claim to have done much about that, either. I sent Filemon Vela an email asking to do an interview way back when I first geared up for the May primaries and the Congressional districts had been settled, but he never replied. I didn’t try to contact Denise Saenz Blanchard, and once the May primary was over I was too busy and distracted to try either of them again for the runoff. I’ll try to reach the nominee for a November interview, but you know how it goes. The CD33 race has understandably gotten a ton of coverage, but this one should not have slipped under the radar.

Democratic results, statewide

Let me get this off my chest first:

In tonight’s Texas primary, President Obama faces another set of red-state voters — and with it the possibility that some little known challenger could wrack up some significant portion of the Democratic vote.

Challenging Obama for the Democratic primary nod will be John Wolfe, the Tennessee attorney who took over 40 percent of the primary vote in Arkansas, Florida author Darcy G. Richardson and Chicago investor Bob Ely.

“I think the President might have some protest votes against him in the Texas Democratic primary today,” said Harold Cook, a veteran Democratic strategist in the state. “Many conservatives here vote in the Democratic primary, driven mostly by local contested races.” But he added, the vote has “absolutely no significance for November.”

Matt Angle, another expert on Texas Democratic politics, concurred. ”In Texas, the people who don’t like Obama vote in the Republican primary,” he said.

A look at the numbers suggests that Obama will perform better in Texas than in Arkansas, Kentucky and West Virginia — all states where he lost upwards of 40 percent of the Democratic primary vote. Even so, the Lone Star state could still cause the Obama campaign a bit of heartburn.

Politico had a similar thumbsucker on its site as well:

President Barack Obama’s humbling Appalachian primary tour is over. But there’s still one more chance for him to be embarrassed by white, rural working class voters.

While he’ll win the state easily, Texas borders three of the president’s worst performing primary states this year – Arkansas, Louisiana and Oklahoma. And the resistance to Obama in those states is concentrated by the Texas border and is likely to bleed across state lines into the counties in the Texas Panhandle, the Red River Valley and East Texas.

The good news for Obama is that the bulk of the Democratic vote will come from elsewhere in Texas. And the Democratic ballot will feature three little-known candidates, which will disperse the protest vote. But one of those candidates will be John Wolfe, who won 42 percent in Arkansas and 12 percent in Louisiana. While that’s enough to capture some Democratic delegates, state party officials in both states refused to award them to him.

For the record, President Obama was at over 88% with 91% of precincts reporting. Has no one noticed that you could fit all of the rural, white, working class, Democratic primary voters in this state in a Yugo? Sheesh. The vote in Texas, at least on the D side, comes from the cities and South Texas. This was not a state that was going to embarrass him.

Anyway. On to the other races. Statewide results are here, and the live chat transcript is here.

– Paul Sadler will face Grady Yarbrough in a runoff for the Senate nomination. No, I knew nothing about him before last night, either. I quote from the Trib’s liveblog:

Educator Grady Yarbrough of San Antonio is currently running second in the four-way Democratic primary for U.S. Senate, with 21 percent of precincts reporting.

Reached by phone, Yarbrough said he had not been following the results but is not surprised he is running ahead of Addie Allen and Sean Hubbard and only behind former state Rep. Paul Sadler.

“I felt that it would be a runoff and yes, I have a plan for the runoff,” Yarbrough said. “It’s turning out the way I thought it would.”

Unlike his three competitors in the primary, Yarbrough has not reported raising or spending any money with the Federal Elections Commission. Yarbrough said he just hasn’t filed any reports yet but did spend money around the state promoting his campaign. Yarbrough said he advertised in African-American newspapers and had yard signs up in several parts of the state.

“I spent money, you bet I have,” Yarbrough said.

Better file that report before someone files a complaint, dude. Sean Hubbard finished fourth. There will come a day when a good social media strategy will mean more than a familiar-sounding name in a race like this, but that day is not today. Sean, please run for something in Dallas in 2014. We do need more people like you on the ballot.

– The Campaign for Primary Accountability may have its scalp here. As of last report, Beto O’Rourke was leading Rep. Silvestre Reyes with 51.34% of the vote to Reyes’ 43.31%. (I’m going by Trib results here.) Rep. Eddie Berniece Johnson cruised in CD30 with over 70% of the vote, Rep. Ruben Hinojosa finished with 71% in CD15, and Rep. Lloyd Doggett won easily in CD35, with 73%. Reyes was the only Congressional casualty, but not necessarily the only interesting result. Former Rep. Ciro Rodriguez led the field in CD23 and will face former State Rep. Pete Gallego in the runoff. Rodriguez was above 50% for much of the night but Gallego caught up late to force overtime. Also going into overtime:

CD33 – Former State Rep. Marc Veasey (38%) versus former State Rep. Domingo Garcia (24%). I’m grimly pleased to note that the guy who spent over a million bucks of his own money, David Alameel, came in fourth.

CD34 – Filemon Vela, with 41%, most likely against Denise Saenz Blanchard, who led Ramiro Garza by about 140 votes with several precincts still out. Former Cameron County DA Armando Villalobos, who looked like the frontrunner at one point, came in fifth. I’m guessing those federal charges didn’t help his cause much.

CD27 – Jerry Trevino (40%) versus Rose Meza Harrison (32%). Ronnie McDonald was third with 26%. I hope he runs for something else in 2014, too.

Former Rep. Nick Lampson took over 80% of the vote in CD14. I’m pretty sure he’s happy that both of his potential opponents are from Pearland.

– Another “what the hell just happened?” SBOE result as Michael Soto, the incumbent in SBOE 3, got crushed by Marisa Perez, 66-34. I have no idea where that came from. The open SBOE2 race will have Celeste Zepeda Sanchez versus Ruben Cortez, Jr. in the runoff, while Martha Dominguez won the right to face Charlie Garza in the best pickup opportunity in SBOE1.

– No Democratic incumbents in the Lege lost – Rene Oliveira, Mando Martinez, Marisa Marquez, Tracy King (who trailed early), and Lon Burnam all survived.

– Oscar Longoria is the new State Rep. in HD35; former Rep. Yvonne Gonzalez Toureilles will face the GOP runoff winner in HD43; Poncho Nevarez took the three-way race in HD74; Chris Turner will return to the House in HD101; Toni Rose won HD110, and Justin Rodriguez in HD125. I’m very pleased to note that Mary Gonzalez made history in HD75 as the first female candidate to win in that part of El Paso, and also as the first openly gay candidate to make it to Austin. (I am hoping for one other in the fall.) There will be runoffs in these HDs:

HD40 – Terry Canales versus Auggie Hernandez
HD95 – Nicole Collier versus Jesse Gaines
HD117 – Phillip Cortez versus Tina Torres

– Rosemary Lehmburg easily won re-election as Travis County DA, as did Travis County Sheriff Greg Hamilton.

– Turnout was around 600,000, which is down from 2004. The only things driving turnout were local races, and that’s not a recipe for big numbers.

On to Harris County Democratic results from here.

March fundraising reports for Congressional candidates

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

Area races

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

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

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

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

Elsewhere

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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