Off the Kuff Rotating Header Image

Election 2000

Another non-Trump elector

I don’t know if this is becoming a thing, but it is interesting.

I am a Republican presidential elector, one of the 538 people asked to choose officially the president of the United States. Since the election, people have asked me to change my vote based on policy disagreements with Donald J. Trump. In some cases, they cite the popular vote difference. I do not think president-elects should be disqualified for policy disagreements. I do not think they should be disqualified because they won the Electoral College instead of the popular vote. However, now I am asked to cast a vote on Dec. 19 for someone who shows daily he is not qualified for the office.

[…]

Mr. Trump urged violence against protesters at his rallies during the campaign. He speaks of retribution against his critics. He has surrounded himself with advisers such as Stephen K. Bannon, who claims to be a Leninist and lauds villains and their thirst for power, including Darth Vader. “Rogue One,” the latest “Star Wars” installment, arrives later this month. I am not taking my children to see it to celebrate evil, but to show them that light can overcome it.

Gen. Michael T. Flynn, Mr. Trump’s pick for national security adviser, has his own checkered past about rules. He installed a secret internet connection in his Pentagon office despite rules to the contrary. Sound familiar?

Finally, Mr. Trump does not understand that the Constitution expressly forbids a president to receive payments or gifts from foreign governments. We have reports that Mr. Trump’s organization has business dealings in Argentina, Bahrain, Taiwan and elsewhere. Mr. Trump could be impeached in his first year given his dismissive responses to financial conflicts of interest. He has played fast and loose with the law for years. He may have violated the Cuban embargo, and there are reports of improprieties involving his foundation and actions he took against minority tenants in New York. Mr. Trump still seems to think that pattern of behavior can continue.

The author of this op-ed is Christopher Suprun, who is from Dallas. He joins Art Sisneros in being unwilling to cast his vote for Trump, though he parts ways with Sisneros by remaining an elector. There are faithless electors from time to time, with two of them this century, but I think it’s fair to say that we may see more of them than usual this year. Whether it becomes more than a footnoted curiosity some day or something more I couldn’t say, but it is interesting. The Trib and Think Progress have more.

A theory about third parties

Before I get to that theory, have you ever wondered about the people who vote straight ticket Libertarian or Green in Harris County? I got to wondering about them, because that’s the sort of thing that I think about at times like this. Here are the total numbers of such people, grouped by Presidential and non-Presidential years, going back to 2000:


Year  Total votes  SP Lib  SP Green   Lib%  Green%
==================================================
2000      995,631   1,935     4,503  0.19%   0.45%
2004    1,088,793   3,343            0.31%
2008    1,188,731   4,017            0.34%
2012    1,204,167   4,777     1,759  0.40%   0.15%
2016    1,336,985   8,781     4,577  0.66%   0.34%

2002      656,682   1,159     1,399  0.18%   0.21%
2006      601,186   3,052            0.51%
2010      798,995   2,506     1,110  0.31%   0.14%
2014      688,018   2,922     1,180  0.42%   0.17%

“SP Lib” is the total number of straight party Libertarian votes, and “SP Green” is the same for the Greens. “Lib%” and “Green%” are the share of these straight party votes to all votes cast in the county. If you look at the election result pages on the HarrisVotes.com website, you will see that my percentages are lower than the ones shown there. That’s because they calculate the percentage of these votes as a share of all straight-party votes cast, not a share of all votes. I did it this way to see what if any trend there was for Libertarian and Green voting overall. For comparison purposes, 30.01% of all votes in Harris county this year were straight ticket Republican, with 35.35% of all votes being straight-ticket Democratic.

As you can see, in the Presidential years the Libertarians had been slowly ticking upwards, with a bit of a jump this year, though the trend is more erratic in the off years. The spike in 2006 is odd, because the Libertarian candidate for Governor received only 0.61% of the vote that year. If you wanted to vote outside the two-party box for Governor in 2006, you had plenty of choices. The Greens weren’t officially on the ballot in 2004, 2006, or 2008, so there’s less of a trend to spot. I’d say they do better in or right after a year where they have a Presidential candidate who gets some attention. Whether any of this will hold next year is not something I’m going to speculate about at this time. My mantra for the next twelve to eighteen months is “conditions in 2018 will be different than they were in 2014 and 2010”, and leave it at that.

That brings me to my theory, which applies to low profile races – not President, not Senate, not Governor, sometimes not other races. I’m limiting myself to statewide contests here, since that’s where you get most of the third party candidates that an individual voter sees. In my case, there was a Green candidate for CD18, a Libertarian for SBOE, and nothing else below the state level. I believe that in these races, which this year would be the Railroad Commission and the two state courts, voters for third party candidates can be broadly sorted into one of three groups. The first group is the party faithful, which as we have just seen is a relatively small cohort. There are probably a few more people who vote L or G as a first choice but don’t vote straight ticket, but that’s still a small group even in the context of just third party voters. Most of the people voting third party in these races aren’t voting third party as a matter of course.

So who are they? Group Two I believe is people who normally vote for Rs or Ds but who refuse to vote for their candidate in this particular instance. That may be because the candidate of their party is too/not sufficiently liberal/conservative for them, because that candidate supports or opposes a specific thing that is of great importance to them, because the candidate has ethical baggage, or because they just don’t like that candidate for some reason. In these cases, they don’t want to vote for the candidate of the other party, so a third party it is. Gary Johnson obviously got a lot of these votes in the Presidential race, but the downballot exemplar for this one was the Railroad Commissioner race, where Libertarian Mark Miller got a bunch of newspaper endorsements for being the most qualified candidate running.

The thing is, I don’t think there are that many races like that. I think in a lot of these races, people just don’t know anything about any of the candidates. So if you’re someone who (say) generally votes Democratic but aren’t that committed to it and you’re looking at a race for the Court of Criminal Appeals, you may say to yourself “well, I know I don’t want to vote for the Republican, but I don’t know who any of these other people are, so I’ll just pick one and move on”. These people are my Group Three.

What that says to me first of all is that both Republicans and Democrats are leaving some votes on the table in these downballot races by not doing a better job of getting their candidates’ names out there. That’s not much of a concern for the Republicans, who continue to win by double-digit margins, but it could eventually matter. I see this as an extension of a problem that Democrats are increasingly having in their primaries, where candidates like RRC nominee Grady Yarbrough have won races by a combination of pseudo-name recognition and random chance because no one knows who the hell these people are. I have many wishes for Texas Democrats going forward, and high on my list is for the party and the donor class to take these downballot primaries seriously.

One possible exception to this may be for Latino candidates. Look at the top votegetters for each party: Supreme Court candidates Eva Guzman and Dori Contreras Garza. My hypothesis is that Latino voters in a Group Three situation will choose a Latino candidate, even possibly one from their non-preferred party, instead of just randomly picking someone. Again, this is in races where none of the candidates are known to the voters, and thus there could be a different outcome if people had more knowledge. If we ever get to that point, maybe we’ll see that difference.

Finally, I believe my theory is consistent with the Libertarian candidate almost always doing better than the Green candidate does in these situations, for the simple reason that the Libertarian candidate appears on the ballot above the Green candidate. If it’s true that some people just pick a name after having moved past the first two candidates, then it makes sense that the first candidate listed after those two would get a larger share.

Anyway, that’s my theory. I could be wrong, and I doubt anyone other than me had given this much thought. I’ll get back to the precinct analyses tomorrow. Let me know what you think about this.

Voter registration way up statewide

That’s a lot.

Still the only voter ID anyone should need

Still the only voter ID anyone should need

Nearly 15 million people are now registered to vote in Texas, a state record.

Texas currently has more than 14.8 million voters registered — over 1 million more than were registered in the 2012 presidential election, according to the Texas secretary of state’s office.

Keith Ingram, director of elections for the secretary of state, told the House Elections Committee on Wednesday that about 14.3 million voters were registered in time for the March primaries.

The increase could be attributed to higher voter interest in a presidential election year, as well as a growing Texas population, according to Alicia Pierce, spokeswoman for the Texas secretary of state.

“We can definitely see there’s historical trends that presidential elections tend to attract more attention,” Pierce said.

There are still two weeks left before the registration deadline, so expect the final number to be higher, perhaps over 15 million. To put this into some context, here are the registration totals from previous years:

2016 (est) – 14.8 million
2012 – 13,646,226
2008 – 13,575,062
2004 – 13,098,329
2000 – 12,365,235

So to put this another way, the increase from 2012 to 2016 is almost as big – and in the end, may be at least as big – as the increase from 2000 to 2012. At 15 million registrations, if turnout of registered voters is the same as it was in 2012 (58.58%), total turnout would be nearly 8.8 million, or some 800,000 more than what we had in 2012. One possible reason for the polls being what they are is a belief that all of this will lead to a surge in Democratic numbers. For example, a result of 4.6 million for Trump, 3.9 million for Clinton, and 300,000 for the others would be an eight-point Trump win (52.3% to 44.3%), certainly in line with polling. We’re deep into speculation here, and of course the polling numbers may change, so don’t take any of this seriously. We’ll begin to get some idea when early voting begins. In the meantime, let’s just call this further evidence that this is a different election.

Endorsement watch: A Libertarian moment

The Chron thinks outside the box in endorsing for the Railroad Commission.

Mark Miller

Mark Miller

Our editorial board interviews scores of candidates for political office every election year, but seldom do we find ourselves wholeheartedly endorsing a nominee from the Libertarian Party. Then again, seldom have we met a Libertarian candidate like Mark Miller.

Ask this man anything at all about the Railroad Commission of Texas and he’ll give you a straight, smart answer informed not only by decades of working in the industry and teaching petrochemical engineering at the University of Texas, but also by a mastery of the issues facing the energy business and the state body that regulates it. He’s an affable retired oil and gas man with a doctorate from Stanford University who’s so interested in this agency he literally wrote a book on the railroad commission.

With impressive clarity and authority, Miller offers well-informed opinions on a litany of arcane issues involving the energy industry: why the Texas Legislature needs to resolve the conflict between the owners of surface rights and mineral rights, why the state should dramatically reduce the number of permits for flaring natural gas, why Texas needs to figure out how to plug oil wells left unplugged by companies that go bankrupt. This guy clearly knows what he’s talking about.

By comparison, none of the other candidates for this office have actually worked in the industry they propose to help oversee. Wayne Christian, the Republican nominee, earned a troublesome reputation as a combative bomb-thrower in the state Legislature; he helped craft a shamefully self-serving amendment exempting his own Bolivar Peninsula home from the Texas Open Beaches Act, and Texas Monthly twice rated him one of the state’s worst lawmakers. Grady Yarbrough, the Democratic nominee, is a retired school teacher whose background seems better suited to an education post. Martina Salinas, the Green Party nominee, is an earnest construction inspector from the Fort Worth area who, again, never worked in the energy business.

I don’t have any particular quarrel with the recommendation. Experience is a somewhat overrated qualification for the RRC, given that its Commissioners (those with industry experience and those without it) tend to be rubber stamps for the industry they purportedly regulate anyway. Certainly, Wayne Christian will do whatever his overlords tell him to do, so in that sense it doesn’t matter whether or not he understands anything about what he’s doing. Maybe Grady Yarbrough will take advice from other sources, who knows. At least he’ll have to be more visible if he somehow gets elected.

Endorsement aside – it would not shock me if Miller collects more than one such recommendation, given the other choices – the more interesting question is whether Miller can break the five percent barrier in this race. Libertarians and Greens have relied in recent years on statewide races in which there was no Democrat running to place a candidate who can top that mark and thus guarantee ballot access for all statewide races for their team. This year, those tricky Democrats actually ran candidates for all statewide offices, meaning the Ls and the Gs are going to have to do this the hard way if they want to be on the statewide ballot in 2020. (The hard way involves collecting a sufficient number of petition signatures, possibly with a little help from friends of convenience.) The question I want to answer is: Have any Libertarian or Green Party statewide candidates cracked the five percent mark in a statewide race that featured both an R and a D in recent years?

We go to the Secretary of State election returns for that. Here are the high statewide scorers for the Ls and the Gs in such races in Presidential years:


Year    Candidate     Party       Race    Pct
=============================================
2012      L Stott       Lib        CCA  3.26%
2012    C Kennedy       Grn        RRC  1.99%

2008      D Floyd       Lib        RRC  3.52%

2004     A Garcia       Lib        RRC  3.60%

2000     M Ruwart       Lib     Senate  1.16%
2000      R Nader       Grn  President  2.15%

(Note: There were no statewide Green candidates in 2004 or 2008.) Doesn’t look too promising. How about in the non-Presidential years?


Year    Candidate     Party       Race    Pct
=============================================
2014    M Bennett       Lib        CCA  3.61%
2014    M Salinas       Grn        RRC  2.03%

2010  J Armstrong       Lib     Sup Ct  4.04%
2010   A Browning       Grn        RRC  1.49%

2006      J Baker       Lib     Lt Gov  4.36%

2002  B Hernandez       Lib  Land Comm  4.12%
2002  O Jefferson       Grn        CCA  1.74%

(Note: There were no statewide Green candidates in 2006.) Not much better. Note that total turnout is a factor – Jack Armstrong (195K) received more votes than Judy Baker (188K) or Barbara Hernandez (180K), but he was running in a much higher turnout environment, so his percentage was lower. By the way, Mark Miller and Martina Salinas were both candidates for the RRC in 2014 as well; Miller received 3.15% of the vote, against R and D candidates who were much better qualified than the ones running this year. Make of that what you will. To get back to my original question, I’d say both Ls and Gs will be relying on their Presidential candidate for their best chance to crack the five percent mark. I’d give Gary Johnson a decent shot at it, but Jill Stein? I figure if Ralph Nader couldn’t get halfway there in 2000, Stein is unlikely to be the one. There’s always the petitions.

It’s the vote spread that matters

I had an email conversation with Judge Mark Davidson regarding my post about straight-ticket voting and its effect on judicial races. He said I misunderstood the point he was trying to make in that Chron story. From his email, quoted with permission:

Your analysis fails to look at what I call the “Straight Ticket Judicial Vote” as opposed to the straight ticket vote. The STJV is the total vote cast by the trailing Judicial votegetter of each party. The assumption is that anyone voting for that person got the votes they did for one reason only – their party affiliation. That was the 97.2% the article referred to.

When I got elected in 1988, and for the election cycles on both sides of that year, the % of STJV was about 85%. In other words, 15% of the voters cast a two party judicial ballot. If that were still the case, there would be fewer mullets elected judge (of both parties). The point I made to the Chron reporter that called was that at least the people who were going through the ballot and casting votes for every candidate of both parties were thinking a little on who to vote for, unlike the lever pullers.

Judge Davidson is correct, that’s not what I looked at, and I didn’t grasp what he was getting at when I wrote that post. Which wouldn’t have really changed what I wrote, because I was specifically intending to address Sen. Dan Patrick’s bill and the uncritical accolades he has received for filing it. My point was that straight-ticket voting, whatever you may think of it, has hardly had the effect on judicial races that is being ascribed to it. The numbers here and elsewhere clearly prove that. That was my point.

But Judge Davidson raises a good point as well, one I hadn’t considered. And since it involves numbers, I’m constitutionally incapable of not digging into them. He calculates the STJV number by adding the percentage of the low-scoring judicial candidates from each party, so here’s a look at the STJVs for the elections that are listed on the County Clerk’s webpage:

2012 – 97.5
2010 – 96.1
2008 – 95.9
2006 – 96.8
2004 – 97.9
2002 – 95.0
2000 – 95.2
1998 – 94.3
1996 – 88.3

Judge Davidson includes the 1st and 14th Appeals Court candidates in his calculation, so I did the same here. This does have an effect on the numbers, as Eric Andell carried Harris County in 2000, thus dropping the low Republican score to under 50. Limit the reckoning to Harris County-only races, and you’d get 97.6 for 2000 (there were all of two contested non-Appeals Court races that year, as previously noted). Margaret Mirabal also carried Harris County in 1996, but Katie Kennedy won a District Court race with a higher score, so Mirabal’s performance had no effect.

Looking at these numbers, it strikes me that there’s nothing about Judge Davidson’s metric to invalidate the point I’ve been making. Since low-profile, low-information races like most judicial races are generally considered barometers of partisan preference, the STJV can be seen as a measure of how many people are voting for a party rather than a candidate in a judicial race. You can see why a lower number would generally be preferable. The thing is, though, that there’s not that much difference between the STJV scores in the years where Republicans were sweeping the judicial races and the two recent years in which both parties claimed victories. Indeed, it’s the year 2004 that had the highest STJV score, just as 2004 had a higher rate of straight-ticket voting than 2008, even though it was the latter year that started all this hand-wringing and pearl-clutching about the arbitrariness of straight-ticket voting, as if it had never been an issue in years before. That more than anything is what chaps me about the pious “reforms” being proffered by the likes of Sen. Patrick and the enabling he’s getting from the media. Where was all this concern between 1998 and 2006?

To be clear, despite my sniping in that earlier post, Judge Davidson does get this. Here’s more of what he said, after I responded to his initial email. I suggested that one might conclude from what he has been saying that an appointment system would be better than our partisan election system for judges:

I am against an appointment system. Always have been. Always will be.

What I told the Chron is that our system works just great in counties with a population under about 60,000. In, say, San Angelo, if there is a bad judge, everyone in the county knows about it. A bad judge in San Angelo will lose regardless of party affiliation.

The answer is more voter information about the judges. We had that back in the late eighties and early nineties, when the DJVs were in the mid teens. If the % of people voting a SPJV were to go from 97% to 85% again, the chances of a bozo of either party getting elected diminishes greatly. The last few cycles, the judicial candidates of both parties spent all of their money, not into educating the public about themselves, but on party material. This is, in part, the problem. I concede that where you have 40 judicial races on a ballot it is difficult for any one to stand out. To a limited but critical extent, that is what was going on in the late eighties. The voters’ guides then were printed by both newspapers. There are none today.

You are right that I cannot expect a million voters to be made aware of the qualifications of all judicial candidates. But the number should be more than 29,000! If the number of voters casting a two party judicial ballot could go back to, say, 100,000, there would not be a problem.

I agree that it’s harder to get away with being a bozo in a smaller electorate, though the extreme partisan split of Tom Green County, where San Angelo is the county seat, might be too high a wall a Democrat to scale, even against a Republican bozo. Be that as it may, I take his point, and absolutely agree with the idea of more publicly available information about judges and judicial candidates as the best way forward. Again, one of the strange things about this debate is that it’s happening at a time when we actually have members of both parties winning judicial races in Harris County. Before 2008, the last time that happened was Kennedy’s win in 1996. I’ll stipulate that split partisan results do not necessarily equate to optimally meritorious results, but I continue to be amazed by the fact that only now that Democrats are winning most of these races is it a political problem to be dealt with by such famous non-partisans as Dan Patrick.

Of course, getting good, objective information out to the voters is easier said than done. Back in 1988, there were only so many ways to spread news. Put a story in the Chron and the Post and you were good. Nowadays, well, you know what the scene is like. Even if you could be confident in your distribution channels, ensuring that the data is objective, and more importantly is seen as objective by the audience, will be a big challenge. I’m open to suggestion if anyone has any thoughts on this.

Anyway. Whatever you think the problems are with our system of making judges, the points I’m trying to make are 1) they didn’t just magically appear beginning in 2008, when the Democrats first started winning judicial races again; by every measure I can come up with, it had been like this for at least a decade, and 2) fixing these shortfalls will require more than simple, bumper-sticker solutions. Every approach has its pros and cons, and we can’t fix anything unless we really understand what it is we’re trying to fix and why our proposed alternative gains more than it loses. I promise, I’ll quit complaining about this if we ever get to that. My thanks to Judge Davidson for the feedback and the opportunity to explore this from another angle.

Pity the poor judges

It’s hard out here on a judge.

For longer than anyone remembers, you had to be a Democrat to be a district judge in Texas – or just about any other political office. When the Democratic Party split apart in the South over civil rights, Republicans gained the upper hand, so much so that by 1998 you had to have an “R” next to your name to have a shot at statewide office.

Recent election results show little change overall for the Lone Star State, still known as the reddest of the red. But in its largest metropolitan area, a new look is emerging. If the latest general election is fair measure, Harris County today is a brilliant, deep purple, almost evenly split between the two major parties.

And nowhere does that cause more discomfort than the county courthouse, where judges suddenly find themselves with none of the job security that has often accompanied the job. Partisan dominance meant that if you reached the bench – often via political appointment – you had a reasonable chance of staying there for awhile. Now local judges are buffeted by political winds beyond their control, and they face the distinct possibility of losing their job just as they have figured out how to do it.

Former Judge Mark Davidson, who often ranked at or near the top in local judicial polls, lost his bench in the Barack Obama tidal wave of 2008. He does not like what he sees now, with a polarized electorate voting along party lines, and he has no intention of running again soon.

“To run and know it doesn’t matter anything about my or my opponent’s qualifications – that the outcome may be determined by who is on the top of the ticket and people will vote on criteria other than my service as a trial judge – is not something I choose to do,” Davidson said.

[…]

What that means for the future is unclear, in part because it’s unfamiliar territory. Former Texas Supreme Court Justice Scott Brister, who spent more than a decade as a district judge in Harris County, predicts it will be harder to recruit good potential judges because of the uncertainty factor. If races are going to be narrowly decided and influenced heavily by the names at the top of the ticket, why would a successful, talented lawyer give up a comfortable practice for less pay and more risk?

“In a close county like Harris County is now, being an incumbent doesn’t help you,” Brister said. “The odds are 50-50. You leave your practice and will be making less money, and you have to be constantly worried whether you will keep the job. If you lose after one term, all your clients are gone to somewhere else and you have to build your practice all over again. That makes it real difficult to convince someone to run.”

Of course, one way to solve this would be to go back to the good old days of one-party dominance in Harris County. I sure don’t remember all this hand-wringing about how hard it was to be a judge, never knowing what the voters might do to you, back when the November elections were pre-determined. If nothing changes about how we make judges and the Democrats sweep the judiciary in 2016, thus providing a third term to all those judges that were re-elected this year, will that make Mark Davidson and Scott Brister happy? Mark Bennett makes hash of Davidson’s complaint.

The story then predictably goes into straight-ticket voting and Sen. Dan Patrick’s bill to eliminate it for judicial races, which has the hearts of people like Patti Hart and the Chron’s editorial board going pitter-pat. One of the many ironies of all this is that of the 32 district and civil court judicial races in which the Chron made an endorsement this year, 25 of their preferred candidates won. That’s a 78% success rate, which ain’t too shabby for a bunch of lazy, ignorant voters, as they so nicely characterized the straight-ticket people.

Another irony for you: As Mark noted in his post, the straight ticket vote for each party this year basically canceled each other out. Indeed, the Democratic advantage from straight ticket voting in 2012 was a paltry 2,836 votes – 406,991 to 404,165 in favor of the Democrats. Would you like to know how many Democratic judges won re-election by 2,836 votes or less? Exactly one: Kyle Carter of the 125th District Court, who remained a judge by 1,694 votes. Every other winning Democratic judge had a margin that exceeded the straight-ticket margin: Michael Gomez, the next closest winner, won by 4,071 votes, Jaclanel McFarland won by 5,083, and Ruben Guerrero, Mark Bennett’s least favorite judge, won by 9,015. Every other victorious Democrat won by a five-figure margin, so if you accept the premise that only the non-straight-ticket voters really know what they’re doing, then you should be glad, because they decided all but one of the judicial races. Dan Patrick’s bill is basically about Kyle Carter.

But wait, there’s more. In those halcyon days of Republican hegemony for which Mark Davidson and Scott Brister pine, surely they were aided by straight-ticket voting dominance as well, right? Well, thanks to the magic of the Internet, we can check. Election results on the County Clerk webpage go back through 1996. Here’s how those elections went.

In 1996, straight ticket voting was as follows:

STR – 200,731
STD – 211,533

So Democrats had a 10,802 vote advantage, which did them exactly no good: The only judicial race won by a Democrat was that of Katie Kennedy, whose margin of victory was over 66,000 votes. Republicans won all the other races.

Here’s 1998:

STR – 157,516
STD – 143,783

Now the Rs have the advantage, of just under 14,000 votes. Their smallest margin of victory in a judicial race was about 23,000 votes, meaning that again, straight-ticket voting made no difference to the outcomes.

How about 2000?

STR – 260,705
STD – 264,747

Yes, believe it or not, Democrats had the straight-ticket advantage, even with George Bush at the top of the ticket. And again, it mattered not at all. There were exactly 2 contested judicial races – 337th and County Court At Law #1, both of which the Dems lost. Boy, were these the days or what?

On to 2002:

STR – 185,606
STD – 171,594

The Rs regain the advantage, and again it’s meaningless, as the closest judicial race was decided by 41,000 votes. Will straight-ticket voting ever matter?

The answer is yes, it does, in 2004:

STR – 370,455
STD – 325,097

You would think that with a 45,000 vote advantage in straight-ticket voting, that would be critical to overall Republican success. But it only mattered in one judicial race, the 334th, where Sharon McCally defeated Kathy Stone by 41,813 votes. Republicans won every other judicial race by at least 60,000 votes.

Here’s 2006:

STR – 137,663
STD – 145,865

Another Democratic advantage that amounts to diddly squat, as the Rs once again sweep the judicial races. I suppose you could put an asterisk next to Jim Sharp, who carried Harris County by 1,291 votes in his race for the First Court of Appeals, but since he lost that race it hardly seems worth the effort.

Finally, we come to the two years that everyone agrees is where straight ticket voting was the deal-sealer for the Ds and the Rs, respectively. It’s true that in 2008, the Democratic advantage in straight-ticket voting – 391,488 to 343,919 – is larger than the margin of victory for all victorious Democratic judicial candidate. But look, Democrats didn’t nearly sweep the judiciary in 2008 because of straight-ticket voting, they won all those races because more Democrats voted in Harris County than ever before, and it was that combination of juiced turnout and long-awaited demographic change that did it for them. I suppose you could argue that had the straight-ticket option been outlawed that enough Democratic voters might have quit voting before making it all the way to the end of the ballot to have let some number of Republican judges survive, but if you do make that argument can you really also claim it was because of their merit as judges that saved them? Besides, in the absence of straight-ticket voting its entirely plausible that enough Republican voters would have failed to complete the ballot to cancel things out, and we’d have had approximately the same results as we actually did. We’ll never know, and it’s presumptuous to think we do. Remember, as I’ve noted many times, there was a lot more Republican undervoting in 2004 downballot than there was Democratic undervoting. We just don’t know what might have happened.

You may be thinking at this point “But isn’t the issue that so many more votes are being cast as straight-ticket these days”? It’s true that the trend is upward, but it’s less than you might think. And despite the wailing over 2008, it wasn’t a high-water mark for straight tickets. In 2004, 64.22% of all ballots cast were straight-ticket, 698,895 of 1,088,793. In 2008, the share of straight-ticket ballots dropped to 62.20%, as 739,424 of 1,188,731 were so cast. Did you know that there were more straight-ticket votes cast as a percentage of turnout in 2004 than in 2008, the year in which straight-ticket voting suddenly became this massive problem that had to be solved? I didn’t until I did the research for this post. I’ll bet you $10,000 of Mitt Romney’s money that no one at the Chron knew it, either. As for 2012, the share was 67.91%, 817,692 out of 1,204,167. My guess is that just as there appears to be a limit to how many people will vote early, there’s likely also a limit to how many people will push the straight-ticket button, and we’re probably pretty close to it.

Oh, and in 2010, the year that straight-ticket voting supposedly gave the Republicans back the bench? They did have a huge advantage in straight ticket votes – 290,355 to 240,479 – but as it happens, their closest victory in a judicial race was just over 57,000 votes, with most races being decided by 80,000 or more. Republicans won in 2010 because they turned out at historic, unprecedented levels, plain and simple. The belief that straight-ticket voting is the key to victory is a myth, a shibboleth, and if it’s not clear by now that this is all about the 2008 results, then it’s not the straight-ticket voters who are lazy and ignorant.

I have more to say on this subject, but this post is long enough. Again, I agree that our system of making judges is problematic, but straight-ticket voting is not the problem, and eliminating it is not a solution. It’s a feel-good measure cloaking a partisan intention, and it should be seen as such.

Meyers to challenge Keller in GOP primary

There will be a little hot judge on judge action in next March’s Republican primary.

Court of Criminal Appeals Judge Lawrence “Larry” Meyers has told colleagues that he will challenge fellow jurist Sharon Keller in the Republican primary for the court’s presiding judge position.

Keller famously fought and ultimately won a legal battle against the state Commission on Judicial Conduct last year after it issued a “public warning” for her saying, “We close at 5,” when asked about holding the court open for last-minute death row appeal. She has said she felt vindicated when no wrongdoing was assessed.

In a memo Meyers gave to the other eight members of the court on Tuesday, he never mentioned Keller’s legal fight, but instead stated that all federal appellate courts and several state Supreme Courts rotate their chief justice position.

Keller has been presiding judge for the past decade.

“Therefore, I have decided to seek my party’s nomination for this position in next year’s election — I will make a formal announcement to this effect later this week,” he said.

Meyers was elected to another full term in 2010, so this is basically a free shot for him. Win, and he inherits Keller’s position. Lose, and he stays where he is. I presume if he wins there will then be an appointment to fill his seat, with a subsequent election for the unexpired term in 2014. Before you get too excited about the possibility of Keller being taken out this way, Meyers is not the first of her colleagues to give it a try.

Tom Price, currently the court’s third most senior member after Keller and Meyers, unsuccessfully ran against her in the Republican primary in 2000 and 2006.

“I’m used to people on my court running against me,” she said.

All I know is that the Democrats better have a decent candidate lined up to take her on. Another non-campaign from JR Molina isn’t going to cut it. Grits has more.

Maybe Perry for President would be good for us

When George W. Bush began being talked about as a Presidential candidate, the story line on him was that he was a well-liked, popular Governor who had bipartisan appeal and support in the state. Outgoing Democratic Lt. Gov. Bob Bullock supported him. Democratic House Speaker Pete Laney supported him. Numerous Democratic officeholders in Texas supported him. On the strength of all that, he went on to win Texas by 20 or more points in 2000 and 2004.

Now consider Rick Perry. “Well-liked” and “bipartisan appeal” are not words you would ever associate with him. As for “popular”, it’s true that he has strong support within the Republican Party, which would certainly be an asset in another primary, and it’s true that he won big against a strong, well-funded Democratic opponent this past year. But consider how he did compared to other Republicans on the ballot:

Candidate Votes Pct ============================ Perry 2,737,481 54.97% Porter 2,880,765 59.40% Green 2,903,359 60.02% Keasler 2,906,012 60.48% Lehrmann 2,907,796 59.87% Guzman 2,919,054 60.34% Staples 2,953,775 60.82% Patterson 3,001,736 61.66% Dewhurst 3,049,109 61.78% Abbott 3,151,064 64.05%

Perry received 200,000 to 400,000 fewer votes than other Republicans at the top of the ticket. Those votes went to Democrat Bill White, who got more than 300,000 more votes than the next best Dem on the ticket. He ran six to nine points behind his ballot mates. Compare this to Bush’s gubernatorial re-election in 1998:

Candidate Votes Pct ============================ Bush 2,550,821 68.23% Perry 1,858,837 50.04% Cornyn 2,002,794 54.25% Rylander 1,821,231 49.54% Dewhurst 2,072,604 57.42% Combs 2,021,385 56.29% Garza 2,051,253 56.92% Enoch 2,049,640 58.18% O'Neill 1,891,339 53.52% Abbott 2,104,828 60.10% Hankinson 1,995,811 56.90% Keasler 1,889,069 53.96% Johnson 2,013,959 57.78%

The contrast couldn’t be clearer. A significant number of Democrats voted for Bush in 1998. A significant number of Republicans did not vote for Perry in 2010. And before you ask, no these wayward Republicans did not choose Libertarian Kathie Glass instead. In fact, Glass did worse than every other Lib in a three-way or more race, both in terms of vote total and percentage:

Candidate Votes Pct ============================ Glass 109,211 2.19% Jameson 122,142 2.47% Roland 112,118 2.27% Holdar 148,271 3.04% Donaldson 164,035 3.37% Gary 138,978 2.86% Strange 138,857 2.85% Oxford 144,306 2.98% Armstrong 195,234 4.03% Virasin 139,299 2.89%

So what does this have to do with a Presidential campaign? Well, Perry has no crossover appeal – he has anti-appeal, as a non-trivial number of Republicans won’t vote for him. A six point swing in 2008, about the difference between Perry and Todd Staples from last year, would have been enough to put Barack Obama ahead of John McCain in 2008. To put it another way, having Rick Perry at the top of the ticket next year could do more to make Texas a swing state than anything anyone else has ever done.

Now obviously not all of those Republicans who voted for Bill White instead of Rick Perry last year would vote for Barack Obama. Some would, but many – likely most – would not. But even a three point swing would make things a lot closer; it would have been enough to elect Sam Houston, and would have brought Susan Strawn within a tenth of a percent. Obama still has room to grow among Democrats in Texas, both in terms of better turnout among registered voters, and as we’ll see later holding onto Democratic voters in some parts of the state. How much room do you think Rick Perry has to grow?

Of course there are plenty of other factors to consider here, the economy being first and foremost. If we learned one thing from the 2010 experience, it’s that where you start out and where you end up can be very different, and no one can say what will happen till the campaigning actually begins. As we’ve discussed, Obama consistently polled between eight and 12 points behind McCain in 2008. Wouldn’t you love to see a poll of Texas that matches up Perry and Obama? (Rasmussen has a national poll that shows Obama leading Perry 45-28, but that’s a function of name recognition.) I don’t think Perry does any better in Texas than McCain did against Obama. Maybe I’m wrong and Perry would have a comfortable double-digit lead in a poll that has a reasonable model for a Presidential year. And maybe I’m right and Perry is unable to top 50% and up by only a few. How do you suppose that might change the narrative of this little buzzlet?

Like I said, just a thought. I could very easily be wrong. But either way, I hope that a PPP or someone like them puts a poll in the field, just for grins. Who knows, maybe the result might surprise us.

Yeah, it is too early to be polling for 2012

But that won’t stop anyone from doing them.

2012 could be the year Democrats are finally competitive for President in Texas…but only if the Republicans nominate Sarah Palin.

There are vast differences in how the various different potential GOP contenders fare against Barack Obama in Texas. Mike Huckabee is very popular in the state and would defeat Obama by 16 points, a more lopsided victory than John McCain had there in 2008. Mitt Romney is also pretty well liked and has a 7 point advantage over the President in an early hypothetical contest, a closer margin than the state had last time around but still a pretty healthy lead. A plurality of voters have an unfavorable opinion of Newt Gingrich but he would lead Obama by a 5 point margin nonetheless. It’s a whole different story with Palin though. A majority of Texas voters have an unfavorable opinion of her and she leads the President by just a single point in a hypothetical contest.

Part of the reason Obama looks like he could be competitive against the right Republican opponent is that his position in the state has improved. 42% of voters approve of the job he’s doing to 55% who disapprove. His average approval rating in 4 surveys conducted in PPP over the course of 2010 was 38% so he’s seeing the same sort of uptick in his numbers there that he’s seeing nationally right now.

The other reason for Obama’s closeness is the weakness of the Republican candidate field. He’d have no shot against a GOP nominee that voters in the state like. Huckabee’s favorability rating is a 51/30 spread and he blows Obama out of the water. But none of the other GOP hopefuls come close to matching that appeal. Romney’s favorability is narrowly in positive territory at 40/37, but Gingrich’s is negative at 38/44, and Palin’s is even worse at 42/53. Texas voters certainly don’t like Obama but for the most part they don’t see the current Republican front runners as particularly great alternatives.

What’s maybe most striking about Obama’s competitiveness in these numbers is that they’re from the same sample that showed Democrats had virtually no chance of picking up Kay Bailey Hutchison’s Senate seat earlier this week, trailing all 12 match ups we tested by double digit margins.

The previous poll results are here. I’m going to disagree with the analysis in that I think it really is all about name recognition. In the end, Obama may or may not perform better than whoever the Democratic candidate for Senate is – I’ll take the over if it’s Gene Kelly, the under if it’s John Sharp, and would consider it a tossup otherwise – but he isn’t about to perform 10 to 15 points better than any of them. The level of support Obama gets is roughly going to be the base Democratic performance level.

Yeah, sure, candidates and campaigns and fundraising matter, but only so much in a Presidential year. John Cornyn had Senate incumbency, several terms as a statewide officeholder, and something like a 3-1 financial advantage over Rick Noriega, yet he finished behind John McCain in both total votes and vote percentage, and did only one to three points better than downballot Republicans. Barring a Gene Kelly situation, I expect all the Democratic statewide candidates in 2012 to be within a few points of each other.

The question is what is the ceiling for Democrats in 2012. About a million more people voted in Texas in 2004 than in 2000, and at both the Presidential level and downballot, the Republicans got about 70% of those votes. About 900,000 more people voted in 2008 than in 2004, and again at all levels the Democrats got about 90% of those votes. There are a number of reasons for this, but one factor I’d point to is Latino support. Obama did more than ten points better among Latino voters than John Kerry did, and that was a big part of it. Call me crazy, but I don’t think any Republican Presidential candidate is going to appeal to Latinos like George W. Bush did in 2004. Given that our state, and our electorate, isn’t getting any whiter, I like those odds.

I’ll say this much, if Team Obama actually spends some money in Texas, it would make a difference. If they consider the 2010 results in a vacuum, they’ll run screaming in the other direction, but this was a tough year all over, and one presumes they’re smart enough to realize that the 2012 electorate will be very different, here and elsewhere. Even if they (quite reasonably) think our electoral votes are out of reach, there’s still an excellent reason to play here, and that’s for the Congressional races. Two Republicans won in 2010 with less than 50% – Blake Farenthold and Quico Canseco – and of course there will be four new seats to fight over. Winning back CDs 23 and 27, and taking two of the four new seats, would mean a net +2 for Dems in Texas. If Obama hopes to start his second term with a Democratic (or at least a more Democratic) Congress, that sure would help.

All right, I don’t really plan to talk about this much between now and the end of the year, so file this away for later. We’ve seen how quickly and significantly the winds can change over a few months, so we’ll see where things stand once the Republicans begin to coalesce around a single contender.

Once again, I’ll take the under

There’s a bizarre new UT/Texas Trib poll that’s so odd I can’t even come up with a good introduction for it, so I’m just going to jump straight to the weirdness:

Republican Gov. Rick Perry leads his Democratic challenger, Bill White by 10 points — 50 percent to 40 percent — in the latest University of Texas/Texas Tribune poll, which was conducted in the days leading up to early voting. Libertarian Kathie Glass has the support of 8 percent of respondents; Deb Shafto of the Green Party gets 2 percent.

[…]

• In the race for lieutenant governor, David Dewhurst is leading Democrat Linda Chavez-Thompson 51 percent to 38 percent. Libertarian Scott Jameson has 9 percent, while the Green Party’s Herb Gonzales Jr. has 2 percent.

• Attorney General Greg Abbott leads Democrat Barbara Ann Radnofsky 55 percent to 35 percent. Libertarian Jon Roland has 11 percent (when the total here and elsewhere doesn’t add up to 100 percent, rounding is the culprit).

• Comptroller of Public Accounts Susan Combs, the only major-party candidate in her race, has the support of 51 percent, while Libertarian Mary Ruwart pulls 11 percent and Ed Lindsay of the Green Party has 9 percent. This is the only contest in the poll in which undecided voters were not pushed to make a choice; as such, 29 percent of respondents identified themselves as undecided.

• Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson is leading Democrat Hector Uribe 50 percent to 37 percent in his bid for re-election, with Libertarian James Holdar garnering 12 percent.

• Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples leads Democrat Hank Gilbert by the same margin: 50 percent to 37 percent. Libertarian Rick Donaldson has 12 percent.

• In the race for a slot on the Railroad Commission that is the only open seat on the statewide ballot, Republican David Porter leads Democrat Jeff Weems 50 percent to 34 percent, with Libertarian Roger Gary at 10 percent and Art Browning of the Green Party at 5 percent.

I’m not sure what is more surprising, the numbers received by the Libertarian candidates in these polls, or (as one commenter said) the fact that Ross Ramsey could write this story without once making note of them. How out of the ordinary are the Libertarian numbers? I went through every statewide election result on the Secretary of State webpage going back to 1992. Here are the best performances by year of a Libertarian candidate in contested statewide races:

Year Race Candidate Pct ========================================= 2008 RRC David Lloyd 3.51 2006 Lt Gov Judy Baker 4.35 2004 RRC Anthony Garcia 3.59 2002 Land Comm Barbara Hernandez 4.12 2000 Senate Mary Ruwart 1.15 1998 Land Comm Monte Montez 2.72 1996 Sup Ct Eileen Flume 3.64 1994 RRC Buster Crabb 3.15 1992 RRC Richard Draheim 6.98

A couple of notes: The Senate race in 2000 was the only non-Presidential contest that had an R and a D in it at the state level. 1996 featured the only appearance of the Natural Law Party; they were in three state races, including the Presidential race, and topped out at 0.75%, though they did break 1% in some Congressional contests.

And then there’s 1992, which features the number that most likely jumps out at you, Richard Draheim’s 6.98%. That race featured Democratic incumbent Lena Guerrero, who had been appointed to the Railroad Commission by then-Governor Ann Richards. During the election campaign it was revealed that she had lied about getting a degree from UT, which turned into a huge scandal that sent her campaign into a ditch. I’ve no doubt that this was the main contributor to Draheim’s unparalleled performance. Yet even under those circumstances, it’s not in the 8 to 12 percent range that UT/TT is crediting this year’s crop of Ls with.

You can, I trust, see why I’m skeptical. If that’s not enough, note that in the past four Governor’s races, the best any Libertarian candidate has done is 1.46%, considerably less than what UT/TT claims Glass to be polling at. I’d set the over/under in all of these races at 4%, and I’d take the under on all of them. No other poll has shown anything like this, including the two previous results from UT/TT. How they could fail to remark on these highly remarkable numbers is a mystery to me. BOR has more.

Here come the Greens

As Perry noted the other day, the Green Party of Texas submitted petitions to the Secretary of State to get on the ballot in certain races in Texas. They failed to do so in 2006, so this will be the first time in eight years that you will see them on your eSlate machine, assuming nothing goes wrong for them from here. As I have heard some concerns about Green candidates potentially siphoning votes away from Democratic candidates, let’s take a look at the 2002 races that featured Greens and see how they did.

Below are all the races that included a Democrat, a Republican, and a Green. Note that in almost every case, there was a Libertarian as well. In 16 races in which there was both a Libertarian candidate and a Green candidate, the Libertarian averaged 1.43%, while the Green averaged 1.03%. In 13 of the 16 races, the Libertarian finished ahead of the Green candidate. The exceptions were in the races for Comptroller (Bowie Ibarra (L), 1.19%; Ruben Reyes (G), 1.72%); Ag Commissioner (Vincent May (L), 1.17%; Jane Elioseff (G), 1.46%); and Congress in (pre-DeLay redistricting) District 25 (Guy McClendon (L), 0.94%; George Reiter (G), 1.20%). Though the latter was won by a Democrat (Chris Bell), I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the two statewide races in which the Green outdrew the Lib featured the two worst-performing Democrats in Marty Akins and Tom Ramsay.

There were two statewide races, one for the Supreme Court and one for the CCA, that had a Green but no Lib. In those races, the Green did better than average, scoring 1.75% and 1.73%, respectively. Note, however, that there were also two statewide races (not listed below) that featured a Lib but no Green, and in those races (also one for Supreme Court and one for the CCA), the Libertarian got 1.83% and 2.23%. Downballot, there were three such races, for SBOE District 5, and for State House districts 45 and 47. Here is where the Greens did their best, getting 3.21% in SBOE5, 3.24% in HD45, and 4.13% in HD47. (I did not survey downballot races with just a Libertarian, but I did notice that the SBOE race was a three-way in which the Lib got 5.80%.) The middle one, for HD45, was the only close race in the entire list, and the only one in which the Green candidate might have had an effect on the outcome, as Democratic candidate Patrick Rose won a squeaker with less than 49% of the vote. In the other two races, neither Dem cracked 40%.

Now, 2010 is a different environment than 2002, and I wouldn’t want to draw too broad an inference from these limited data points. My very tentative conclusions are that at the statewide and Congressional level, Green candidates are unlikely to have much effect. In nine of the sixteen races, the Green received less than one percent of the vote. If as many people believe, Libertarians tend to draw their votes away from Republican candidates, they will take more votes away than Greens will from Dems. Again, it could be different this year, but that’s how it looked in 2002. The effect may be greater in local races, such as for State Rep, and if I were to be concerned about an outcome being affected, that’s one place I’d worry about.

It’s also possible the effect could be greater at the county level. There was one race in Harris County that featured a Green and a Libertarian, and that was for County Judge. In that race, the Green candidate, Deborah Shafto (who ran for City Council last year as a member of the Progressive Coalition), did better than the Libertarian candidate, getting 2.06% to his 1.21%. Given that the Republican was incumbent Robert Eckels and the Democrat was some guy I’ve never heard of, candidate quality for the Ds and Rs may have been a factor, I don’t know. This year, there will also be one such race, for County Clerk, where Shafto’s fellow Progressive Coalition candidate from 2009 Don Cook will be on the ballot. Like Perry, I’m a bit concerned about the possibility that the presence of a Green candidate could give the Republican candidate an edge, but there’s nothing to be done other than to urge support of the Democratic candidate, Ann Harris Bennett. We’ll see how it goes.

One last thing: As noted by Ballot Access News, if a Green candidate gets 5% in any statewide race, or 2% in the Governor’s race, they will automatically qualify for the ballot in 2012, with the latter getting them on through 2014. I think there’s very little chance of that happening based on what we saw in 2002, where that 1.75% I cited earlier was the best any Green did, but given the lack of a Democrat in the Comptroller’s race, the odds of them qualifying for 2012 are excellent.

Anyway. Click on to see all the races that included a Green Party candidate from 2002.

(more…)

Silvia Mintz

Another thing I need to do now that the filing deadline has passed is try to learn about some of the late entrants. It turns out that Silvia Mintz, who filed to run in HD132, has a heck of a story to tell.

Twelve years ago, Silvia Mintz came to America with little more than a dream and the desire to earn a living and support her family. She worked minimum-wage jobs as a janitor and nanny just to make ends meet. But to see her today, you would never guess she started out from such humble beginnings.

That’s because over the course of these past 12 years, Mintz has created an entirely new life for herself. She earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of St. Thomas, graduated from law school, passed the bar exam and co-founded her own law firm in Houston, Plake & Mintz, PLLC.

Read it and be impressed. I look forward to meeting her during the campaign. Thanks in part to a large influx of new residents out in the western part of Harris County HD132 was a lot less red than it has been in the past in 2008 – Adrian Garcia got nearly 46% there – and incumbent Bill Callegari hasn’t had a Democratic opponent since 2000, when he was in HD130, so he may be a wee bit out of practice on the campaign trail. If she can raise some money and get some grassroots support going, this race could be a sleeper.

Another Democratic gubernatorial hopeful

Well, you can’t say that the Democratic cast of characters for Governor lacks characters.

Rick Perry might not be the only candidate in the 2010 race for Texas governor who is known for great hair.

As the Republican governor with famously spiffy locks seeks re-election, the head of a Houston hair products company that Perry recently touted says he might be running for governor — as a Democrat.

Farouk Shami, 66 , founder and board chairman of Faorouk Systems Inc., hosted Perry at his company’s headquarters in July for a news conference announcing the company’s decision to move manufacturing facilities from South Korea and China to Texas, bringing 1,200 jobs to Houston. Perry called Shami, who was born in what was then Palestine, someone “who pretty much embodies the American dream.”

“Inspired by the freedoms we enjoy, he was drawn to this state,” Perry said at the news conference, a video of which is posted on the governor’s Web site. “He’s built a life of significance and an organization that is respected around the world. His is the story of Texas.”

Now, Shami, who has never run for office, is pondering a run to replace Perry, though their philosophies sound similar. Shami says he wants to bring jobs to Texas and avoid raising taxes. He said Perry “is a wonderful person” but lacks business experience.

“I have the capability to run the state as a business,” said Shami, whose shampoos, hair dryers and flat irons are sold around the world under the BioSilk and CHI brands. “People are tired of politicians.”

Yeah, the name “Tony Sanchez” is popping into my head, too. Given what Perry said about Sanchez during that campaign, one can only wonder what he might say about Farouk Shami in this one.

Shami donated more than $24,000 to [Kinky] Friedman’s independent campaign for governor in 2006, when Friedman referred to Shami as his Palestinian barber. Now, Shami said Friedman doesn’t seem serious.

Well, I can’t argue with that last part. At least he’s able to learn from his mistakes.

On a much less colorful note, Burka touts former Speaker Pete Laney as the Democrats’ best hope in the Governor’s race. I have a lot of respect for Pete Laney, and if he got into the race I’d certainly consider him. It’s not clear to me why Burka thinks Laney’s support for George W. Bush in the 2000 election would be any less a problem for him than Tom Schieffer’s Bush connection, but I suppose Burka was addressing the general election and not the primary. I’m far from sold on the need or the wisdom of having a rural candidate as the nominee – I think the marginal gains in rural counties may not be enough to overcome a lack of enthusiasm for a rural white guy in the urban, heavily non-Anglo Democratic base, and I tend to agree with Greg that the place to be looking for persuadable voters is the suburbs. I also take issue with Burka’s assertion that Laney isn’t just the Dems’ best hope, he’s the only hope. Among other things, I’m hearing from more and more people who think KBH may back out of the Governor’s race, in which case you’d have Bill White and John Sharp in a non-existent Senate campaign; surely White would represent a stronger hope than Laney, or anyone else for that matter, and I’d rank Sharp above Laney as well. Be that as it may, if this is more than wishcasting, I’m certainly open to hearing more. But get back to me after I’ve heard it.

Perry walks back secession talk

As the sun rises in the east, so do politicians who say stupid things revise and extend those remarks afterward when people start asking them questions about what they really meant. And so it was the case with Rick Perry, who insisted to reporters that he didn’t actually mean it when he said that Texas might look to secede if we got fed up enough with Washington, whatever that means. It might have been nice if the reporters had pressed him a bit more about the crowd to whom he made his initial statements, who were chanting “Secede! Secede!” in agreement with what they sure as heck thought he was saying, but I suppose you can’t have everything. Regardless, Democratic leaders such as Jim Dunnam and Rodney Ellis and gubernatorial candidate Tom Schieffer have rightly jumped on Perry for his idiocy, and I hope more will join in. (Anyone heard from Kinky Friedman on this?) It’d be nice if a few Republicans expressed some concern about making such intemperate statements, at least the ones who haven’t been busy making their own. Needless to say, I’m not holding my breath.

Of the many things that bother me about this, I think it’s the fact that once again a Texas Republican has made national news in a way that disgraces the state and makes us look like a bunch of rubes and fools. It’s been a nonstop parade of idiocy this year – Sharon Keller, the SBOE clown show, Louie Gohmert, Betty Brown, and now Rick Perry. I realize that there’s a lot of people who don’t care what others think about us, indeed who consider it a badge of honor to be looked down upon by the rest of the country and the world, but nothing good can come out of this. We can be as business-friendly a state as we want to be, but if people don’t want to relocate here because they’ve had such a negative impression of the place because of stunts like these it won’t do us any good. Exceptionalism isn’t necessarily an asset.

Most of all, I can’t believe I have to say any of this. Secession, for Christ’s sake. Because some people are unhappy that they lost an election. Remember how a bunch of celebrities whined to the press in 2000 and again in 2004 that they’d leave the country if Bush won? Remember how we all thought they were jackasses for saying that? Remember how Republicans in particular piled on them for their knavery? Boy, those sure were the days.

Presidential results by Congressional district

Swing State Project has compiled a list of Presidential results by Congressional district, for all 435 DCs around the country. I’ve pulled out the Texas numbers and put them in a Google spreadsheet for ease of viewing. Here are a few notable ones:

CD Incumbent Obama Kerry Gore =================================== 03 Johnson 42 33 30 07 Culberson 41 36 31 10 McCaul 44 38 34 21 Smith 41 34 31 22 Olson 41 36 33 24 Marchant 44 35 32 26 Burgess 42 35 38 31 Carter 42 33 32 32 Sessions 46 40 36

The numbers represent the percentage of the vote the Democratic Presidential nominee got in that district in that year. I believe this is a two-party comparison, so Nader votes were excluded; in other years, the third-party Presidential vote is small enough to not matter much. “Incumbent” refers to the 2008 officeholder.

(By the way, my assumption is that the 2000 results are derived from taking the data from the existing precincts for that year, regardless of which actual CD they were in at that time. That must be the case, because CDs 31 and 32 didn’t exist in 2000.)

You can also now see similar figures from the Cook Political Report, which just released its updated PVIs to reflect the 2008 Presidential cycle. What does this mean?

The Cook Political Report Partisan Voter Index (PVI) Explained

In August of 1997, The Cook Political Report introduced the Partisan Voting Index (PVI) as a means of providing a more accurate picture of the competitiveness of each of the 435 congressional districts. Using the 1992 and 1996 major-party Presidential voting results, the PVI measured how each congressional district performed compared to the nation as a whole.

Using the results of the 2004 and 2008 elections, we have updated these PVI ratings and have even more information to draw upon to understand the congressional level trends and tilts that will help to define upcoming elections.

Developed for The Cook Political Report by Polidata, the index is an attempt to find an objective measurement of each congressional district that allows comparisons between states and districts, thereby making it relevant in both mid-term and presidential election years.

While other data such as the results of senatorial, gubernatorial, congressional and other local races can help fine tune the exact partisan tilt of a particular district, those kinds of results don’t allow a comparison of districts across state lines. Only Presidential results allow for total comparability.

A Partisan Voting Index score of D+2, for example, means that in the 2004 and 2008 presidential elections, that district performed an average of two points more Democratic than the nation did as a whole, while an R+4 means the district performed four points more Republican than the national average. If a district performed within half a point of the national average in either direction, we assign it a score of EVEN.

To determine the national average for these latest ratings, we have taken the average Democratic share of the two-party presidential vote for 2004 and 2008, which is roughly 51.3 percent, and that of Republicans, which is roughly 48.7 percent. So, if John Kerry captured 55 percent of the vote in a district and Barack Obama carried 57 percent in the district four years later, the district would have a PVI score of roughly D+5.

And here are the PVIs for the Texas districts:

(more…)

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.

Schieffer jumps in

We have a candidate, one not named Kinky.

Former U.S. Ambassador Tom Schieffer of Fort Worth has just announced he is taking his first formal step toward seeking the Democratic nomination for governor during a Texas Independence Day press conference in the State Capitol.

“At the very time when Texas desperately needs leadership, people worry that we are experiencing a crisis of leadership,” said Schieffer, the younger brother of CBS newsman Bob Schieffer.

Schieffer, who was still overcoming a bout with laryngitis, said he and his wife, Susanne Silber Schieffer, made a final decision about the race on Sunday.

Schieffer, 61, has been moving toward becoming a candidate since returning to Texas at the end of the Bush Administration in January after serving as Bush’s ambassador to Australia and Japan. The Schieffers traveled more than 4,000 miles around the perimeter of Texas in a homecoming road trip that reacquainted them with potential voters.

[…]

Before becoming a diplomat in the Bush administration, Schieffer was an investor in the partnership that bought the Texas Rangers baseball team in 1989, with Bush and Edward W. “Rusty” Rose. Schieffer served as team president for eight years, running the club’s day-to-day operations and overseeing the building of the Rangers’ ballpark in Arlington.

Politically, Schieffer, a Fort Worth attorney, was identified with the conservative-moderate wing of the Texas Democratic Party during the 1970s and 1980s and was active in the campaigns of such high-profile Democrats as U.S. Sen. Lloyd Bentsen, Gov. Mark White and Fort Worth Congressman Pete Geren. He was elected to the State Legtislature in 1972, at the age of 25, and served three terms.

OK, technically, Schieffer is still exploring, and won’t officially make up his mind for another two or three months. My guess is that unless someone who can lure away much of his financial support comes along, he’s in for real. You can read Schieffer’s prepared remarks here (PDF). Glenn Smith reacts favorably. McBlogger was already on board – he sees Sen. Van de Putte as a better fit at Lt. Guv. I can certainly see the merit in that, though if she decides to go for the top spot it certainly won’t break my heart. EoW is still skeptical, but willing to hear what Schieffer has to say. Vince is more skeptical.

I think LizeB summarizes the issue with Schieffer as succinctly as possible:

I’m having a tough time getting my mind around not regretting voting for Bush 4 times and wanting to be Dem candidate for guv.

I suspect we’ll hear the name “Tony Sanchez” a lot in the coming weeks. I can deal with Schieffer’s Bush associations – as McB says, there’s a lot of Dems out there who have them, and we need to come to terms with it. I’m pretty open-minded on this – I’ve advocated welcoming exiles (self-imposed and otherwise) from the Republican Party to our ranks, including as candidates. Schieffer’s much less of a concern on that score. What does concern me is that Schieffer is a man from a different era, coming home at a time when the state and the Democratic Party don’t look anything like his heyday. I want to know what Schieffer has to say about today’s issues, today’s direction of each party, and today’s solutions. I once said that I couldn’t “shake the feeling that [John] Sharp is a 1990 candidate wanting to run in 2010”, but at least he’s run for office in this century. I need to know Schieffer isn’t an oldies act, because that just isn’t going to do the job. He’s got the Lone Star Project on his side, and that will help address some of these issues, but that’s just a start. I look forward to hearing more, and the sooner the better.

UPDATE: BOR has video.