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Joe Barton

Filing roundup: Other Congressional races, part 2

See part 1 here, and the spreadsheet with all the Democratic Congressional filings here. These are the races that are objectively most likely to produce a flip, so there are fewer of them. Let’s dive right in.

Jana Lynne Sanchez

CD06

So long, Smokey Joe. Hope to see a whole lot less of you from here on out. There are, I kid you not, eleven Republican candidates vying for this seat, and it could have been thirteen but two hopefuls had their applications rejected. Lord only knows what will happen on that side. I have mentioned the five Democratic candidates before, back when we were first learning about Smokey Joe’s peccadilloes. Decision Desk had this as only a 15% chance of a pickup in November, but that was pre-scandal and retirement. Those odds are better now.

Jana Lynne Sanchez
Ruby Faye Woolridge
Levii Shocklee
Justin Snider
John Duncan

Jana Lynne Sanchez has been a political consultant and fundraiser, and worked as a journalist after that. She’s a Rice graduate and an aspiring country singer. If she makes it to Congress, maybe she can collaborate with Sen. Orrin Hatch. Ruby Faye Woolridge is a retired educator who has run for office several times, including for CD06 in 2016. Levii Shocklee is a Navy veteran who doesn’t tell us much else about his biography. Justin Snider is a locksmith and served as a national delegate for the Bernie Sanders campaign in 2016. John Duncan works for the largest local non-profit HIV/AIDS service organization in North Texas.

Joseph Kopser

CD21

Boy, you only think there’s a cattle call for the Republican nomination in CD06. There are eighteen – EIGHTEEN! – Republicans that have filed to fill Lamar Smith’s pollution-loving immigrant-hating shoes. They include Chip Roy, former Chief of Staff to Ted Cruz; Jason Isaac, the State Rep. in HD25; Quico Canseco, who lucked into a term as Congressman in CD23 in the 2010 wave; Susan Narvaiz, a three-time loser to Rep. Lloyd Doggett in CD35, and fourteen more. One way to look at this is that is the vote were to be split evenly among all the contenders, they’d each get about 5.6%. Fifteen percent may well be enough to make it to the runoff. There’s a non-zero chance that the nominee could be some random nobody. Which makes it all the more important that the Democratic candidate is someone who has an A game to bring in a district pegged at a 43.4% win chance and 49.0% performance.

Joseph Kopser
Derrick Crowe
Elliott McFadden
Mary Wilson

This race is interesting and worth watching on just about every level, and that begins with the primary. Joseph Kopser is an Army veteran and businessman who made news for out-fundraising Lamar Smith back in Q2. He’s also racking up endorsements – Garry Mauro, House Democratic Whip Rep. Steny Hoyer, Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff, as well as nonprofit STEM organization 314 Action – and can fairly be characterized as the establishment candidate. Derrick Crowe, who has been a senior staffer on Capitol Hill and now works in the nonprofit sector, also has an impressive array of endorsements including Our Revolution, Democracy for America, and the UT University Democrats. He was the first Democrat I heard of in this race, citing Smith’s terrible environmental record as his inspiration to run. And then there’s Elliott McFadden, the Executive Director of Austin B-Cycle and past Executive Director of the Travis County Democratic Party, who has his own set of endorsements, and Mary Wilson, a math teacher and minister. They all look like terrific candidates, so my main hope at this point is that the primary doesn’t get too nasty.

Gina Ortiz Jones

CD23

Here’s a list of Congressmen from CD23 since 2002:

Henry Bonilla (R)
Ciro Rodriguez (D, elected in 2006)
Quico Canseco (R, elected in 2010)
Pete Gallego (D, elected in 2012)
Will Hurd (R, elected in 2014)

And there’s a 69.2% chance (according to Decision Desk as of November) that we’ll have another person in there next year. After that who knows – this district was ruled illegal by the federal district court and could be redrawn for 2020, and regardless of that it will be redrawn again for 2022. You know what they say about change being the only constant? This district is the poster child for that.

Angela Villescaz
Gina Ortiz Jones
Jay Hulings
Judy Canales
Rick Trevino

Gina Ortiz Jones served in Iraq as an Air Force intelligence officer, and continues to work in national security, intelligence, and defense. She’s one of several female veterans running for Congress as Democrats this cycle – note that article doesn’t appear to count MJ Hegar, so it is necessarily incomplete – and has racked up an impressive array of endorsements, from Emily’s List and Vote Vets to the Asian American Action Fund and the Victory Fund. Jay Hulings is a former federal prosecutor and has served in the House as Counsel to the House Intelligence Committee and Legislative Director to former Rep. Jane Harman. Judy Canales was appointed by President Obama in 2013 to be the Texas State Executive Director for the USDA Farm Service Agency. Rick Trevino is a teacher and Secretary of the Bexar County Democratic Party who served as a national delegate for Bernie Sanders in 2016.

I’ve covered other Congressional races in the Harris County and surrounding county writeups, and of course there’s great interest in CD16 to succeed Beto O’Rourke, but that race will be decided when the primary winner emerges. I’m busy doing interviews in CDs 07 and 02, and we’ll see how much more I wind up doing. Again, it is important for all of us to know who our candidates are and to pick the best one to represent us, on the ballot and hopefully in Washington. I hope this has been useful for you.

Smokey Joe will not run for re-election

Another one bites the dust.

Rep. Joe Barton

Embattled U.S. Rep. Joe Barton, R-Ennis, announced his retirement from Congress on Thursday.

“I am very proud of my public record and the many accomplishments of my office. It has been a tremendous honor to represent the 6th District of Texas for over three decades, but now it is time to step aside and let there be a new voice.”

“I am announcing today that I will not seek reelection in 2018,” he said. “To the people of the 6th District, thank you for your support and friendship.”

Barton’s decision was first announced by The Dallas Morning News.

The decision came after a tumultuous week for the congressman, after a nude photo of Barton surfaced on social media.

The drumbeat for Barton’s exit came from local officials, including state Sen. Konni Burton, R-Colleyville, and Tarrant County GOP Chairman Tim O’Hare.

His retirement sets off a race to replace him, a race that is all but certain to be determined in the GOP primary.

Two Republicans, perennial candidate Monte Mitchell and former Navy pilot Jake Ellzey, entered the race in recent days. As Barton’s problems mounted, a movement got underway to draft Tarrant County Tax Assessor-Collector Ron Wright, a former Barton staffer. He did not immediately return a call after Barton’s announcement.

See here and here for the background. A subsequent report about pervy text messages sent by Barton to a local Republican activist probably pushed him in the direction of this decision. I quibble with the Trib’s “all but certain to be determined in the GOP primary” characterization. I’d classify CD06 as Strong Republican, but not Safe Republican. The GOP will be a big favorite, but they can’t take this one for granted, especially in a year as bad as 2018 is threatening to be.

It should be noted that Barton is not resigning. Unless he has a further announcement to make, he’ll serve out the rest of his term. Nonetheless, the fact that he felt compelled to step down causes Think Progress to castigate national Democrats for their failure to put the same kind of pressure on Sen. Al Franken and Rep. John Conyers. It’s entirely possible there’s more to the Barton story than what we know now, just as it turned out there was more to the Franken story than what first came out, but they make a good point. At the very least, all of these incidents, and no doubt more of them to come, show just how badly Congress needs a sexual harassment policy and process in place that works for the victims.

(And just as a reminder: Donald Trump is still President, Roy Moore is likely to be elected Senator, and Clarence Thomas, who is oddly overlooked in the ongoing conversation about sexual assault and harassment, remains on the Supreme Court, having been appointed by a President who turned out to have his own gropiness issues. It’s harassment all the way down.)

As for the field in CD06, the Star-Telegram updates us:

Republican Tarrant County Tax Assessor-Collector Ron Wright — a former chief of staff and district director for Barton — said he will file to run for the 6th Congressional District, which includes most of Arlington and Mansfield and all of Ellis and Navarro counties.

[…]

Republican J.K. “Jake” Ellzey, a Texas Veterans Commission member who lives in Midlothian, also has filed to run for the post.

Several Democrats are in the race, including Ruby Faye Woolridge of Arlington, who ran against Barton in 2016; Jana Lynne Sanchez, a public relations specialist from Arlington; Levii R. Shocklee of Arlington; and John W. Duncan.

As I noted before, there are a couple of other Dems who have filed finance reports for CD06 and have campaign webpages up. On the Republican side, State Sen. Konni Burton, who is up for re-election but hasn’t filed yet, could jump over to this race. Nothing like a fleet of Congressional retirements to shake things up at the lower levels. RG Ratcliffe and Daily Kos have more.

Nobody likes Smokey Joe any more

Pobrecito.

Rep. Joe Barton

One day after a group of local Republicans met privately with U.S. Rep. Joe Barton about a nude photo of him that ended up online — and his political future — a number of Tarrant County Republicans are calling on the longtime congressman to not seek re-election.

“Since Mr. Barton’s highly-publicized issues have come to light, I have talked to numerous Republican activists, leaders, voters and elected officials about this situation — not a single one of them thinks he should run again,” said Tim O’Hare, who heads the Tarrant County Republican Party. “I personally hope he learns from this and tries to be a better father and man.”

Last week, the 68-year-old Barton issued an apology for the sexually explicit photo he took and texted to a woman he was in a consensual relationship with years ago.

“…I, along with thousands of other Tarrant County Republicans, call on Mr. Barton to not seek re-election and to retire from Congress by the end of this year,” O’Hare said in a statement. “We are at a critical point in our nation’s history.

“It is my hope Mr. Barton will place his constituents, Tarrant County Republicans and our nation above his personal desires to make way for a candidate who better embodies our values and who will ensure Congressional District 6 remains in Republican hands.”

Around 20 Republican leaders, mostly women, met with Barton at an Arlington home Monday night to share concerns about his potential re-election bid. Barton, R-Ennis, has filed for re-election but could choose to withdraw from the race.

The consensus from many at the meeting is that Barton’s past service was greatly appreciated, but they didn’t feel he should run for another term.

See here for the background. Why this is an uncrossable bridge and not, say, molesting teenagers or admitting to sexual assault is left as an exercise for the reader. The Star-Telegram editorial board would also like for Smokey Joe to take a seat, not that any Republican voter cares what a newspaper thinks. Whether Barton steps aside on his own or not, there’s already another Republican candidate looking to take his position.

Jake Ellzey, a retired U.S. Navy pilot and commissioner on the Texas Veterans Commission, is the first Republican to challenge Barton this cycle — a sign that at least some GOP’ers view the longtime congressman as vulnerable after intimate images he sent to a former lover were mysteriously released online.

Reached by phone, Ellzey, of Midlothian, said he was pondering a run against Barton long before the sexting issue emerged.

He said he differs with the congressman on issues related to immigration and that, after Barton’s three decades in Congress, it’s time for “fresh blood.”

He also pledged that, if elected, he would serve no more than five terms in office.

Ellzey, 47, said he commissioned a poll about his chances, and the results came out the same day as Barton’s acknowledgement of the infidelity and lewd photos.

Good timing, I guess. Ellzey ran for State House in HD10, which is primarily in Ellis County, in 2014 after Rep. Jim Pitts retired, but finished third in a field of four in the GOP primary. I have no idea how good a candidate he might be against Barton, but then all he may need is good timing.

Barton, or perhaps Ellzey or someone else, also has several Democrats vying to take him on, and this story has been a boost for them as well.

For nearly a year, Democrat and public relations consultant Jana Lynne Sanchez has been begging people to pay attention to her bid to represent Texas’s 6th Congressional District.

Now, thanks to viral nude photos of Rep. Joe Barton, the Republican she hopes to challenge for the seat, she’s landed a publicity boost PR people only dream about.

Days after the photos focused an intense spotlight on the 17-term congressman, Sanchez said she’s raised $100,000 for the race — more than any Democrat who has run against Barton since he took office more than three decades ago. She’s received 450 new contributions over the weekend, and added more than 1,000 Twitter followers.

Also hoping to benefit is Ruby Woolridge, who ran in 2016 and got 39 percent, the most any Democrat has ever taken against Barton. She maintains a strong following among the district’s African American community and the Democratic grassroots. She was recently in Washington meeting with the Congressional Black Caucus.

[…]

Though raised in Ellis County, Sanchez spent her post-college career as a political fundraiser in California, then as a journalist in Baltimore and Amsterdam. In 2005 she co-founded a public relations agency based in London and Amsterdam, before moving home in 2015 to help her aging parents.

She’s not shy about using that experience to draw attention to the race.

Sanchez keeps a running a list of articles mentioning her, which now includes the New York Times, thanks to Barton’s video. She’s been endorsed by several national groups, including the New Democrat Coalition and the environmental group Climate Hawks Vote.

Sanchez hired a California-based consultant, SKDKnickerbocker’s Bill Burton, who worked on President Barack Obama’s first campaign. She also has a Washington-based consultant, Chuck Rocha, to do digital campaign work.

The self-described “redneck Latina” regularly shows up at Barton’s town halls to hand out flyers, dressed in cowboy boots with Texas flags on them. She’s attracted the attention of a documentary film crew, which could feature her campaign in episodes aired before Election Day.

That approach has drawn criticism from some local Democrats, who say national strategists are discounting Woolridge.

“Ruby has a lot of support here in Arlington,” said Merlene Walker, a leader in the Progressive Women of Arlington group, who helped Woolridge’s 2016 campaign. She and her husband considered supporting Sanchez, if she were the stronger candidate, but felt Woolridge would give Barton the tougher race.

You can learn more about Sanchez here and about Woolridge here. As the first story above notes, there is at least one other Dem in the race, Levii Shocklee. All three have filed, according to the SOS candidate page. Sanchez had raised $75K through October, while Woolridge and Shocklee had raised about $7K each. If what Sanchez says about her fundraising since the nekkid pics of Barton came out is true, we’ll see a much higher total for her in January. There are two other people who have filed finance reports, Justin Snider (Facebook page here) and John Duncan (Facebook page here). Basically, CD06 looks like the CD07 of the Tarrant County area, though so far with a lot less money. We’ll see if that changes, for anyone other than Sanchez.

You’ve never seen Smokey Joe quite like this before

Oh my bleeping God.

Rep. Joe Barton

U.S. Rep. Joe Barton, R-Ennis, released a statement on Wednesday apologizing for a graphic nude photo of him that circulated on social media earlier this week.

“While separated from my second wife, prior to the divorce, I had sexual relationships with other mature adult women,” he said. “Each was consensual. Those relationships have ended. I am sorry I did not use better judgment during those days. I am sorry that I let my constituents down.”

It is still unclear how the photo got onto social media, who put it there, or whether its posting would constitute revenge porn, which is illegal under Texas law.

Barton, who announced his re-election bid earlier this month, is navigating in a political environment charged with emerging stories of sexual misbehavior in politics, in business and in the media. The photo, which appeared on an anonymous Twitter account, set off speculation within Texas GOP circles about his political future.

In a phone interview with The Texas Tribune on Tuesday, Barton said he was deliberating that.

“You’re as aware of what was posted as I am,” he said. “I am talking to a number of people, all of whom I have faith in and am deciding how to respond, quite frankly.”

A spokeswoman for Barton said Wednesday that he had no plans to resign and had filed for re-election.

If for some reason you have to know more about this, there’s a censored image at Juanita‘s place. I warn you, censored or not, you will never be able to un-see it.

There’s an infinite number of jokes waiting to be made about this, and Barton will hear all of them for the rest of his life. That said, I don’t believe anyone should be shamed simply for having had nude photos taken of themselves or for sharing them in a consensual manner. That first story clearly paints Barton as a victim. This followup story muddies the water a little.

U.S. Rep. Joe Barton, who apologized Wednesday for a lewd photo of him that circulated on the Internet, told a woman to whom he had sent sexually explicit photos, videos and messages that he would report her to the Capitol Police if she exposed his behavior, according to a recording reviewed by The Washington Post.

The woman spoke to The Post after the lewd photo was published Tuesday by an anonymous Twitter account. She shared a secretly recorded phone conversation she had with Barton in 2015 in which he warned her against using the explicit materials “in a way that would negatively affect my career.”

The woman described encounters and contact spanning a five-year period that began online after she posted a message on Barton’s Facebook page in 2011, leading to the sexually explicit exchanges and ultimately a pair of physical sexual encounters in Washington and Texas. Over time, she said, she became aware of and corresponded with multiple other women who engaged in relationships with Barton, who represents a suburban Dallas district and is one of the most senior Republicans in the House.

The woman, who is not married, spoke on the condition of anonymity to protect her privacy.

In the 2015 phone call, Barton confronted the woman over her communications with the other women, including her decision to share explicit materials he had sent. In that context, he mentioned the Capitol Police, a comment the woman interpreted as an attempt to intimidate her.

“I want your word that this ends,” he said, according to the recording, adding: “I will be completely straight with you. I am ready if I have to, I don’t want to, but I should take all this crap to the Capitol Hill Police and have them launch an investigation. And if I do that, that hurts me potentially big time.”

“Why would you even say that to me?” the woman responded. “… The Capitol Hill police? And what would you tell them, sir?”

Said Barton: “I would tell them that I had a three-year undercover relationship with you over the Internet that was heavily sexual and that I had met you twice while married and had sex with you on two different occasions and that I exchanged inappropriate photographs and videos with you that I wouldn’t like to be seen made public, that you still apparently had all of those and were in position to use them in a way that would negatively affect my career. That’s the truth.”

In a statement late Wednesday, Barton said a transcript of the recording provided by The Post may be “evidence” of a “potential crime against me.”

He said that he received word Wednesday that the Capitol Police are opening an inquiry. While there is no federal law prohibiting the disclosure of intimate photos of adults without consent, the Dallas Morning News on Wednesday reported that the Twitter photo of Barton could violate a 2015 Texas law banning so-called “revenge porn,” which is the portrayal of another person’s intimate body parts and distributing the images without consent.

“This woman admitted that we had a consensual relationship,” Barton said. “When I ended that relationship, she threatened to publicly share my private photographs and intimate correspondence in retaliation. As the transcript reflects, I offered to take the matter to the Capitol Hill Police to open an investigation. Today, the Capitol Police reached out to me and offered to launch an investigation and I have accepted. Because of the pending investigation, we will have no further comment.”

The woman said she never had any intention to use the materials to retaliate against Barton.

At this point, I’m going to wait and see what if anything else comes out about this. Barton is a terrible Congressman, but so far it doesn’t look like he’s done anything wrong. It’s embarrassing, sure, but it’s embarrassing because the photos were released without Barton’s knowledge or consent. That’s wrong when it happens to anyone, including Joe Barton.

Last word, from the first story:

Jana Lynne Sanchez, a Democrat running for Barton’s seat, said in a statement that there was a “larger issue” than Barton’s personal life at play.

“Texans, just like all American people, are tired of poor behavior of elected officials distracting us from the real issues affecting us – the unbearable cost of healthcare, the poor and sliding quality of public education and the lack of good jobs for our high school graduates,” Sanchez said. “No matter who the Republican nominee is, I look forward to a civil and respectful campaign on the issues – not one sullied by personal attacks.”

Amen to that. You can learn more about Jana Lynne Sanchez here. The DMN, the Current, RG Ratcliffe, and Daily Kos have more.

A big ask for hurricane recovery

Good luck with that. I mean that mostly sincerely.

Texas needs an additional $61 billion in federal disaster recovery money for infrastructure alone after Hurricane Harvey’s devastation, according to a report from the Governor’s Commission to Rebuild Texas that was delivered to members of Congress Tuesday.

Compiled at Gov. Greg Abbott’s request, the report was released on the day the governor traveled to the U.S. Capitol to talk Hurricane Harvey relief with congressional leaders.

Speaking with reporters in the hallways of the Capitol Tuesday afternoon, Abbott said he’d had a “well-reasoned discussion” where he stressed that rebuilding the state’s Gulf coast was in the country’s best national security and economic interests.

“We are asking not for any handouts or for anything unusual, but we are asking for funding that will flood the entire region that was impacted so that the federal government, the state government, and the local government are not going to be facing these ongoing out-of-pocket costs,” Abbott said as he held a binder containing the 301-page report.

The $61 billion is in addition to money the state already anticipates receiving from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and from the federal housing department, which distributes disaster recovery grants aimed at long-term rebuilding.

[…]

The requests include:

  • $12 billion for the Galveston County Coastal Spine, part of the larger “Ike Dike,” a barrier aimed at protecting coastal areas from hurricane storm surge.
  • $9 billion for housing assistance in the City of Houston, which would help rebuild 85,000 single and multi-family housing units damaged by Harvey.
  • $6 billion to buy land, easements, and rights-of-way around Buffalo Bayou and the Addicks and Barker reservoirs.
  • $2 billion for “coast-wide critical infrastructure protection,” described as flood control and other mitigation projects around critical public infrastructure such as “power plants, communication networks, prison systems, etc.”
  • $466 million for the Port of Houston to “create resiliency” and harden the Houston Ship Channel.
  • $115 million to repair 113 county buildings in Harris County.

Abbott appointed [John] Sharp, who is the chancellor of Texas A&M University and a former legislator, railroad commissioner and state comptroller, to oversee the commission in early September.

So far, Congress has agreed to spend more than $51 billion on disaster relief in the past two months. But it is unclear what Texas’s share of that money will be, because it will be divided between the states and territories devastated by three deadly hurricanes and fatal wildfires.

It’s not that I disagree with any of this – in particular, I’m rooting for Ike Dike money to be appropriated – but that’s a lot of money, there are a lot of Republican Congressfolk who really don’t like spending money, there are even more Congressfolk who are still mad at some of their Texas colleagues for voting against Superstorm Sandy recovery money, and there’s a lot of money that will need to be spent in Puerto Rico, Florida, and California. Texas’ original ask for Harvey recovery money was a lot less than this, and even that caused some friction from within the Texas caucus when Greg Abbott got a little shirty with his fellow Republicans. Oh, and there’s also the Republican Congress’ track record of not being able to tie their own shoes. So, you know, don’t go using this as collateral just yet.

Speaking of the Texas caucus, their reaction to this was muted.

The initial reaction from Washington officials to the request: Surprise at its size and scope.

That could mean approval of the full amount will be a tough sell with Congress and the White House, coming at a time when hurricane damages to Puerto Rico and Florida, and losses in California to wildfires, are also in line for billions more in federal disaster funding.

But Rep. Randy Weber, R-Friendswood, was hopeful. “Just like the Astros, we’re going to get ‘er done,” Weber said in a reference to the World Series.

U.S. Rep. Brian Babin, R-Woodville, whose district was hit hard by Harvey, agreed.

“Yeah, it’s a lot of money,” he said, “but it was a lot of storm.”

[…]

U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, gave little indication of the prospects for the governor’s request. As for the $61 billion figure, Cornyn said, “We’re working on a number. We don’t have a number.”

Later, Cornyn said in a statement “it’s really important for us to remember that there’s a lot of work that we need to do in responding to some of the unmet disaster needs around the country, starting with Hurricane Harvey in my state.”

Added Cornyn: “The reason I bring that up today is because Governor Abbott of Texas is up meeting with the entire Texas delegation to make sure that we continue to make the case and make sure that Texans are not forgotten as we get to work on these other important matters as well.”

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz was also circumspect about the prospects for Abbott’s request, though he emphasized that the Texas delegation will remain united with the governor in getting the Gulf region all the aid it can from Washington.

“Repeatedly, projections have shown that Harvey is likely to prove to be the costliest natural disaster in U.S. history,” he said. “The president has repeatedly made direct assurances to me that the administration will stand by the people of Texas.”

As to whether the government might raise or borrow the money, Cruz said, “those discussions will be ongoing.”

Like I said, there are some obstacles. And I have to wonder, how might this conversation be going if Hillary Clinton were President? Harvey or no Harvey, I have a hard time picturing Greg Abbott asking President Hillary Clinton for billions of dollars for our state. I’d make him sign a pledge to quit suing the feds over every damn thing now that he’s come to town with his hat in his hand. Not that any of this matters now, I just marvel at the capacity some of us have for cognitive dissonance. We’ll see how this goes.

Precinct analysis: Congressional districts

The Texas Legislative Council now has full data from the 2016 elections on its site, so this seemed like as good a time as any to take a look at the data from Congressional districts. I’m much more limited in what I can do when I have to rely on precinct data from counties because most of Texas’ Congressional districts span multiple counties. But now statewide data is available, so here we go. I’m just going to look at districts where the Presidential numbers were interesting.


Dist  Clinton  Trump  Obama  Romney
===================================
02      42.8%  52.0%  35.6%   62.9%
03      39.9%  53.8%  34.1%   64.2%
06      41.6%  53.8%  40.7%   57.9%
07      48.2%  46.8%  38.6%   59.9%
10      42.8%  51.9%  38.8%   59.1%
21      42.1%  51.9%  37.9%   59.8%
22      43.9%  51.7%  36.7%   62.1%
23      49.4%  45.9%  48.0%   50.7%
24      44.3%  50.5%  38.0%   60.4%
31      40.1%  52.6%  38.1%   59.4%
32      48.4%  46.6%  41.5%   57.0%

Some of this we’ve covered before – CDs 07, 23, and 32 are well-known and are on the national radar for next year. CD03 will be open following the retirement of Rep. Sam Johnson. CDs 24, which is mostly in Dallas County, and 22, which is of course Tom DeLay’s old district, deserve a bit more attention and would fall into the next tier below the top three, with CDs 02 and 10 right behind them. And as a matter of personal pleading, I’d really really love to see strong challenges to Lamar Smith in CD21 and Smokey Joe Barton in CD06, two of the worst anti-science and pro-pollution members of Congress.

Now as we know, the Presidential numbers only tell us so much. So as I have done before, here’s a look at the Court of Criminal Appeals races in these districts – just the one in each year that had three candidates, for apples-to-apples purposes – and for this chart I’m going to chow number of votes, to give a feel for how big the gap that needs to be closed is.


Dist    Burns   Keasler  Hampton   Keller  D Gain
=================================================
02    106,167   157,226   84,547  149,242  13,636
03    109,738   187,916   84,352  163,247     717
06    108,272   151,766   98,393  139,344  -2,043
07    107,250   136,246   88,992  134,699  16,711
10    122,499   172,155  100,660  149,355    -961
21    133,428   198,190  110,841  177,330   1,827
22    123,063   171,694   89,624  152,471  14,216
23    105,145   106,067   86,991   92,805   4,892
24    107,986   152,545   87,300  143,217  11,424
31    104,601   159,173   85,689  134,433  -5,828
32    113,659   146,526   99,453  136,691   4,371

A bit more daunting when looked at this way, isn’t it? The “D Gain” column is the net change in the difference between the Republican and Democratic candidates’ vote totals each year. In 2012 in CD02, Sharon Keller beat Keith Hampton by 64,695 votes, but in 2016 Mike Keasler beat Robert Burns by “only” 51,059 votes, for a net Democratic gain of 13,636. This is intended to give a rough guide to what the partisan shift in each district was, and as you can see it was much bigger in some than in others, with there being a net loss in CDs 06, 10, and 31. I have to pause for a moment here to tip my cap to Rep. Will Hurd in CD23, who held his seat in a much less Republican-friendly environment that elected Pete Gallego in 2012. No one in CD23 will ever have an easy election, and 2018 may well be more challenging for Hurd than 2016 was, my point here is simply to say that we should not underestimate this guy. He’s already shown he can win in adverse conditions.

Still, sufficient Democratic turnout could swamp Hurd’s boat, as has happened to other strong candidates of both parties in the past. (A less-Republican redrawn map could also do him in.) The Keasler/Burns numbers suggest that the other two on-the-radar districts (CDs 07 and 32) are also good targets for concentrated turnout efforts. In all cases, though, I believe a key component to any winning strategy will be to make a vote for Congress as much about “sending a message” to an unpopular and incompetent President as anything else. The more Rs you can flip, and the more who decide to stay home, the lower your turnout-boost goals need to be. I don’t know what the conditions will be like in a year and a half, but I do know that energy spent between now and then in these districts to register new voters (and re-register those who have fallen off the rolls) will be energy well utilized.

I will close by noting that there is in fact a candidate for CD21 at this time, Derrick Crowe, who has a pretty good looking background for a first-time candidate. We’ll see how he does in fundraising and other metrics, but for those of you in the district or who are looking for someone to support against the odious Lamar Smith, check him out. It’s never too early to get off to a good start.

A really dumb “Trump and the train” article

Ugh.

Texas is closer than ever to building the first high-speed train in the United States, thanks to President Donald Trump’s fascination with these transportation projects and a well-timed pitch to his administration.

Now developers nationwide are looking to the privately owned Texas Central Railway as a test case of what can get done with Trump in the White House.

Former Houston Astros owner Drayton McLane Jr., a member of the company’s board of directors, met recently with Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao in Washington. He wasn’t seeking any of the taxpayer-funded grants sought by high-speed rail projects in California and the Northeast.

What the $10 billion Texas Central Railway really needs is a green light from the agency Chao oversees.

“It was an opportunity to make a first impression,” said Tim Keith, president of Texas Central Railway.

The meeting clearly stuck. Soon after, Chao mentioned the Texas Central Railway at the National Governors Association winter conference as an example of the kind of “very impressive” project the administration is interested in.

The question now is whether private investment — coupled with regulatory relief — is a model the Trump administration could use to finance and expedite his promised $1 trillion infrastructure push, and not just in Texas.

[…]

California is building a 220-mph high-speed rail system, but that project has been delayed by political opposition. Its trains also have to meet more rigorous federal standards for crash protection because they will share tracks with commuter trains, Amtrak and some freight.

By building a self-contained system where trains will not intersect with street traffic or encounter slower trains, the Texas project can employ off-the-shelf technology in use in Japan for more than 50 years.

“It’s going to be a lot easier than the California project,” said Peter LeCody, president of Texas Rail Advocates and chairman of the National Association of Railroad Passengers, both advocacy groups that support the Texas project. “They’ll have a little harder way to go in California than in Texas.”

[…]

High-speed rail has been a topic in Texas for 30 years, but Keith thinks its moment has come.

“What’s happening in Texas is private entrepreneurs are saying, look there’s demand, there’s pent-up demand,” he said. “We can meet the demand.”

The biggest obstacles for the railway could be back home in Texas. Some landowners along the route want to derail the project, and they have help from allies in the state Legislature.

“You’re talking about property rights. In Texas, we love our land,” said LeCody with Texas Rail Advocates.

LeCody said Texas was changing and needed a transportation system that addressed road congestion and population growth.

“We’re such a growing state,” he said. “We’ve got to learn how to move people from point A to point B without highways.”

See here for previous Trump-and-the-train coverage. Where to begin with this article?

1. The article makes it sound like interest in high speed rail is something unique to Dear Leader Trump. In fact, President Obama had national high speed rail ambitions, which included plans for Texas that unfortunately didn’t pan out due to our own lack of initiative. To be sure, that was government funding for high speed rail, while Texas Central is all about private funding. I’m just saying that the idea of high speed rail here did not originate with Trump.

2. The opposition to Texas Central is barely acknowledged in this story, much less analyzed. There’s a full court press in the Legislature, which Texas Central itself acknowledges as an existential threat. I’ve always been somewhat skeptical of the likelihood of success for the Texas Central opponents, mostly because they don’t appear to have grown their base beyond the mostly rural counties in East and Central Texas, but they are working hard at this and they have some powerful and influential Senators on their side. Not talking to a Brandon Creighton or Lois Kolkhorst about Texas Central is at the least a disservice to the readers. For crying out loud, the story uses a Texas Central booster to discuss the opposition. Even as a Texas Central supporter myself, I say that’s just lousy journalism.

3. Outside the Legislature, there is a fervent grassroots opposition to Texas Central as well, with a lot of that coming from county and municipal governments in the affected areas as well as from private citizens. There’s already been litigation over access to the land needed for the TCR right of way, and there will surely be more for as long as this project is in its planning and construction phase. One might also note that this opposition comes from places in the state that voted heavily for Trump. Maybe this isn’t the sort of thing that might get a voter to change their mind about a President, but again, not at least acknowledging this leaves the reader with a false impression.

4. Finally, the opposition to TCR includes two powerful Republican Congressmen from Texas, one of whom chairs the House Ways and Means Committee. If you don’t think it’s possible that Rep. Kevin Brady could slip a rider into the budget that guts Texas Central, much like Rep. John Culberson did to Metro and the Universities line, you’ve got an insufficiently active imagination.

Other than that, it was a fine article.

And as if to prove my point, we have this.

The Texas Senate’s chief budget writers Wednesday added a provision to its proposed state budget aimed at limiting state assistance in a private firm’s efforts to build a Dallas-Houston bullet train.

The budget rider approved by the Senate Finance Committee would prohibit the Texas Department of Transportation from spending funds to help plan, build or operate a high-speed train.

The company developing a 205-mph bullet train between Dallas and Houston called the language a “job killer.” Texas Central Partners has vowed it won’t take any state funds to develop the 240-mile line between Texas’ two largest metropolitan areas. But, the company said, it still needs to work with state transportation officials.

“Texas Central engineers and employees need to be able to coordinate with TxDOT on the planning, engineering and construction of the high-speed train to accommodate the state’s growth,” said in a statement released by the company Wednesday.

State Sen. Charles Schwertner, R-Georgetown, denied that the budget rider he wrote was meant to kill the project.

“If we are being told that this is never going to take any bailouts, they need to put their money where their mouth is,” he said.

A similar amendment nearly killed the project two years ago, but was eventually omitted from the state’s final budget.

See here and here for the background. Note that it was Sen. Schwertner who tried this trick in 2015 as well. We’ll see what happens with it. I trust you see my point about why this article sucked.

Trump and the train

This could be interesting.

A privately-funded bullet train between Dallas and Houston and a passenger rail line connecting suburban North Texas are among a litany of transportation projects considered priorities by President Donald Trump’s administration, according to The Kansas City Star.

But what that means for the projects either financially or in a regulatory sense wasn’t immediately clear Tuesday.

The Star reported that the document doesn’t detail how the listed projects “would be funded, how the federal government prioritized these projects or any timeline for completion.” It is not known if the document is finalized or a draft, according to The Star.

Trump earlier in the day signed an executive order that aims to expedite the environmental review process of infrastructure projects, something that can often take years and cost millions of dollars.

[…]

In a statement, Texas Central said it was “pleased” to be considered a priority.

“Texans are looking for safe, reliable and productive transportation options,” the statement said. “The high-speed train answers that call for the region, state and country. We look forward to working with the new administration, moving ahead with the project’s free-market approach.”

To the extent that one believes Trump actually intends to push for an infrastructure bill (*), this is the sort of thing that would be appealing to him, and independent of that scaling back on environmental regulations may well help speed this along. That said, one should remember that Texas Central has some high profile opponents among Texas’ Republican caucus, and I doubt that they will be swayed by any of this. That said, TCR can use and will be happy to have all the help it can get. We’ll see what comes of it. The Press has more.

(*) – For what it’s worth, Democrats have their own infrastructure proposal, which differs in a few key respects from the as-yet-unspecific Trump plan. I don’t know how or if Texas Central would fit into that, and there’s a zero percent chance that it gets taken up for a vote in Congress, but it’s there if you want an eventual point of comparison.

The high-speed rail fight has officially shifted to Congress

Nothing like a little eminent domain action to spur some people on.

In the four years Texas Central Railway unveiled plans to link Dallas and Houston with the country’s first bullet train, officials with the private company have talked a lot about how quickly the line will whisk travelers between two of the country’s largest, fastest-growing urban areas, about how darn Texan the early investors are, about the stellar safety record of the Japanese rail technology they’ll be using.

By contrast, the company has talked very little about its planned use of eminent domain, which is the legal term for when a government, or frequently a private company that has the government’s endorsement, takes someone’s land. When the topic has come up, the company has typically responded by stressing its strong preference for negotiating with landowners to find a mutually agreeable price for their land.

The problem with that response is that it fails to acknowledge some fundamental truths about human beings in general and landowners in the rural areas along the bullet train’s proposed route in particular. People, as a rule, don’t like having their property sliced in two by large infrastructure projects. People in places like Ellis and Grimes counties really, really don’t like having their property sliced in two by a private, Japanese-backed venture whose only benefit for them will be the privilege of marveling at the wondrous bullet-train technology as it zooms by atop a 14-foot berm. If the line is ever going to get built, Texas Central will have to use eminent domain against hundreds, maybe thousands, of landowners.

Texas Central now admits as much. In filings last month with the federal Surface Transportation Board, which regulates the operations of the freight and passenger rail market, the company indicated that it’s ready to start acquiring right-of-way for its track.

“In many cases, that involves negotiating agreements with landowners who are willing sellers,” the company wrote. “Texas Central is already beginning those negotiations. Inevitably, however, some landowners along the route will not be willing to sell, or even negotiate. If some of those negotiations reach an impasse, Texas Central plans to use its statutory eminent domain powers to establish the properties’ condemnation value.”

In the weeks since the filling, the Surface Transportation Board has become the site of a pitched battle between Texas Central and its opponents, with powerful surrogates on both sides. Several members of Texas’ congressional delegation, and about a dozen state legislators, have waded into the debate. Congressmen Joe Barton of Ennis and Kevin Bradyof suburban Houston have filed letters opposing Texas Central while Dallas’Eddie Bernice Johnson and Corpus Christi’s Blake Farenthold offering statements of support.

The stakes are high. Texas Central says it needs Surface Transportation Board approval in order to begin using eminent domain under Texas law, an obvious prerequisite for actually building and operating a railroad.That means the Surface Transportation Board represents a regulatory choke point, a rare point where opponents can conceivably derail the project in one fell swoop.

See here for some background. If you look at Rep. Johnson’s letter, you will see that it was also signed by Rep. Gene Green of Houston. No surprise, since urban Democrats have been big supporters of the rail line so far. The surprise was Rep. Farenthold, as his district isn’t in the path of the train and is more rural than urban. Gotta give him credit for that – he didn’t have to get involved, and having at least one Republican in their corner will help TCR make its case. I don’t know what the timeine is for the Surface Transportation Board, but I agree that this is a potential choke point, and it could have a disproportionate effect on the ultimate outcome. I’ll keep an eye on that.

High speed rail opponents pick up another Congressional ally

Welcome aboard, Smokey Joe.

In a filing with the Surface Transportation Board, North Texas Congressman Joe Barton (R) Arlington has come out against a high speed rail project between Dallas and Houston.

Barton, whose district encompasses parts of Tarrant County and the city of Arlington that supports Texas Central Railway’s high speed rail line, claims that Ellis and Navarro counties in his district will be dissected.

Barton, who in the filing dated May 9, 2016 said that while he generally supports private investment in high speed rail projects, voiced that the project would not be economically feasible or necessary. He claims that inexpensive air travel is available between Dallas and Houston and there are few delays on I-45 between the two major regions.

In his letter to the STB Congressman Barton said that county and state roads would be closed off if the rail line is built and that few jobs would be created in construction of the 240 mile rail line.

“Congressman Barton obviously has been getting bad information from his staff on this project because the Texas Central website has a whole different story,” according to Texas Rail Advocates President Peter LeCody. “It’s a shame that a Congressman who champions private investment would be so misinformed.”

You can see Barton’s letter here. Barton is not the first member of Congress to come out against the high speed rail line; Rep. Kevin Brady was already there. And if you’re wondering what the Surface Transportation Board is, there you go.

Barton’s letter came a couple of days after TCR formally asked the STB to get involved.

Developers of Texas’ high-speed train have asked the federal Surface Transportation Board (STB) to confirm it has oversight of the project, bringing it in line with the nation’s other major passenger and freight railroads.

Texas Central recently filed a formal petition to the STB, asking that the agency affirm its jurisdiction over the project and to weigh in on critical next steps that will include construction and operation of the passenger link between North Texas and Houston, with a midway stop in the Brazos Valley.

Texas Central is required to seek STB certification of the project, thus complying with the federal regulatory process that all newly constructed rail lines must follow. Links here and here to the two STB filings.

This request does not seek to remove protections afforded to landowners under Texas law. It merely clarifies the STB procedures that Texas Central must follow and does not change or override any state landowner protections.

The STB will not issue a final decision until the environmental review is completed but Texas Central asked the board to issue an interim order as soon as practicable.

[…]

The STB requires a project to outline its goals and objectives so that the agency can consider its role. Texas Central’s petition explains that Texas high-speed rail meets the conditions needed to gain STB jurisdiction, similar to other passenger and freight railroads in the country. Among the factors supporting Texas Central:

* It is a transportation infrastructure project of national importance, providing “a safe, reliable, convenient and environmentally friendly travel option.”

* The Texas route – between two major commercial hubs – fills a gap in existing passenger service and significantly adds to the country’s general passenger railway network.

* Its planned passenger stations – in Dallas, Houston and Grimes County – are designed to enhance local and interstate transportation connections.

A draft environmental impact statement from the FRA, which began work on that last year, is expected this summer. There will be more hearings on the proposed routes after that, with construction aimed to begin in late 2017, although Texas Central has suggested the timeline may slip into 2018. Assuming this happens at all, which if the opponents keep piling up powerful allies may be in doubt. I’m still mostly optimistic, but there sure are a lot of obstacles out there, and in the end it may only take one.

Steve Brown confirms he’s in for RRC

It’s official.

Steve Brown

Late Thursday, Steve Brown, the former chairman of the Fort Bend County Democrats, announced his candidacy to join the three-member Railroad Commission, the powerful agency that regulates the oil and gas industry, pipelines and natural gas utilities. He is vying for the seat now held by Barry Smitherman, who is running for Texas attorney general.

Brown said that, if elected, he would look for ways to keep Texas’ oil and gas sector growing while managing its less desirable impacts. “It’s important that we do all that we can to continue the abundant growth of our energy industry, as it is the engine of our state’s economy,” he said in a statement. “It’s equally important that this agency has the resources to quickly respond to everyday Texans’ concerns about safety, private property rights, and the environment.”

According to his Facebook page, Brown has worked on campaigns and in legislative offices of several public officials, including U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee, D-Houston; state Rep. Sylvester Turner, D-Houston; and former U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk.

Brown said he wants to transform the commission into a “functional, twenty-first century state agency,” likely alluding to the agency’s decades-old computer and software systems that have strained its capabilities. The Legislature recently gave the agency permission to use millions of dollars in fees to begin an upgrade.

His website is here. Stace was first with the news, though we had a preview two weeks ago, and a hint before that. The filing period officially opens today, so expect to hear a bunch of candidate announcements over the next 30 days. Texas on the Potomac lists a few Democratic challengers to Republican members of Congress; note that Smokey Joe Barton is in CD06, so either they got the district wrong or the Dem in question is running against Kay Granger. I’ll be keeping an eye on all the filings going forward. One person who apparently will not be running, much to the disappointment of some observers, is wingnut “historian” David Barton. I’m sure there will be plenty of crazy to go around in other races. Please leave any reports or rumors of interesting candidacies that you know of in the comments.

Precinct analysis: Congressional overs and unders

To wrap up my look at 2012 versus 2008 results for all the new districts, here’s how the 36 Congressional districts compared.

Dist McCain Pct Obama08 Pct Romney Pct Obama12 Pct RIdx DIdx ============================================================================== 01 178,520 68.85% 78,918 30.44% 181,833 71.49% 69,857 27.47% 1.04 0.90 02 150,665 61.78% 91,087 37.35% 157,094 62.93% 88,751 35.55% 1.02 0.95 03 165,158 61.46% 100,440 37.37% 175,383 64.16% 93,290 34.13% 1.04 0.91 04 180,772 69.71% 75,910 29.27% 189,455 73.95% 63,521 24.79% 1.06 0.85 05 137,698 61.79% 83,216 37.34% 137,239 64.49% 73,085 34.35% 1.04 0.92 06 148,503 57.03% 109,854 42.19% 146,985 57.87% 103,444 40.72% 1.01 0.97 07 140,692 58.73% 96,866 40.44% 143,631 59.89% 92,499 38.57% 1.02 0.95 08 171,408 73.02% 61,357 26.14% 195,735 76.97% 55,271 21.74% 1.05 0.83 09 44,520 23.42% 144,707 76.12% 39,392 21.15% 145,332 78.01% 0.90 1.02 10 148,867 56.17% 112,866 42.59% 159,714 59.06% 104,839 38.77% 1.05 0.91 11 184,238 75.90% 56,145 23.13% 182,403 79.10% 45,081 19.55% 1.04 0.85 12 161,030 63.61% 89,718 35.44% 166,992 66.77% 79,147 31.65% 1.05 0.89 13 189,600 76.88% 54,855 22.24% 184,090 80.16% 42,518 18.51% 1.04 0.83 14 139,304 57.03% 102,902 42.12% 147,151 59.32% 97,824 39.44% 1.04 0.94 15 61,282 41.84% 83,924 57.3% 62,883 41.48% 86,940 57.35% 0.99 1.00 16 58,764 34.59% 109,387 64.39% 54,315 34.44% 100,993 64.03% 1.00 0.99 17 135,738 57.95% 95,884 40.94% 134,521 60.29% 84,243 37.76% 1.04 0.92 18 45,069 22.89% 150,733 76.57% 44,991 22.81% 150,129 76.11% 1.00 0.99 19 168,553 71.22% 66,122 27.94% 160,060 73.55% 54,451 25.02% 1.03 0.90 20 80,667 40.64% 115,579 58.23% 74,540 39.59% 110,663 58.77% 0.97 1.01 21 178,531 56.42% 133,581 42.21% 188,240 59.76% 119,220 37.85% 1.06 0.90 22 142,073 60.45% 91,137 38.78% 158,452 62.11% 93,582 36.68% 1.03 0.95 23 95,679 49.27% 96,871 49.88% 99,654 50.67% 94,386 47.99% 1.03 0.96 24 152,453 58.41% 105,822 40.54% 150,547 60.42% 94,634 37.98% 1.03 0.94 25 153,998 56.05% 117,402 42.73% 162,278 59.89% 102,433 37.80% 1.07 0.88 26 166,877 64.18% 90,791 34.92% 177,941 67.59% 80,828 30.70% 1.05 0.88 27 133,839 58.95% 91,083 40.12% 131,800 60.46% 83,156 38.15% 1.03 0.95 28 65,066 40.97% 92,557 58.28% 65,372 38.65% 101,843 60.21% 0.94 1.03 29 41,843 37.04% 70,286 62.22% 37,909 32.99% 75,720 65.89% 0.89 1.06 30 47,144 21.07% 175,237 78.33% 43,333 19.64% 175,637 79.61% 0.93 1.02 31 135,601 55.80% 103,359 42.54% 144,634 59.36% 92,842 38.11% 1.06 0.90 32 147,226 55.05% 117,231 43.83% 146,420 56.97% 106,563 41.46% 1.03 0.95 33 40,290 30.64% 90,180 68.57% 32,641 27.09% 86,686 71.93% 0.88 1.05 34 58,707 39.06% 90,178 60.00% 57,303 38.28% 90,885 60.71% 0.98 1.01 35 62,764 35.47% 111,790 63.18% 58,007 34.59% 105,550 62.94% 0.98 1.00 36 165,899 69.45% 70,543 29.53% 175,850 73.05% 61,766 25.66% 1.05 0.87

The main thing that stands out is CD23, which went from plurality Obama in 2008 to a slight majority for Romney in 2012. That means that Rep. Pete Gallego joins State Rep. Craig Eiland and State Sen. Wendy Davis in the exclusive club of candidates who won in a district that their Presidential candidate lost. Not surprisingly, Rep. Gallego is a marked man for 2014. CD23 was one of the more strongly contested districts in the litigation as well as in the election, and it is likely to be modified further no matter what happens to the Voting Rights Act, so Rep. Gallego’s challenge next year may be different than it was this year. He’s clearly up to it, whatever it winds up being. Beyond that, the pattern witnessed elsewhere held here, as blue districts were generally bluer than before, while red districts were redder. Dems can still hope for (eventually) competitive races in CDs 06, 10, and 32, but the task is harder now than it would have been in 2008. As for CD14, you can see that the hurdle was just too high for Nick Lampson. Barring anything improbable, that district is unlikely to repeat as one featuring a race to watch.

One other thing I did in these races was compare the performances of the Congressional candidates with the Presidential candidates in their districts. Here are some of the more interesting results I found:

Dist Romney Pct Obama12 Pct R Cong Pct% D Cong Pct Winner ============================================================================== 02 157,094 62.93% 88,751 35.55% 159,664 64.81% 80,512 32.68% Poe 06 146,985 57.87% 103,444 40.72% 145,019 58.02% 98,053 39.23% Barton 07 143,631 59.89% 92,499 38.57% 142,793 60.80% 85,553 36.43% Culberson 10 159,714 59.06% 104,839 38.77% 159,783 60.51% 95,710 36.25% McCaul 14 147,151 59.32% 97,824 39.44% 131,460 53.47% 109,697 44.62% Weber 20 74,540 39.59% 110,663 58.77% 62,376 33.50% 119,032 63.93% Castro 21 188,240 59.76% 119,220 37.85% 187,015 60.54% 109,326 35.39% L Smith 22 158,452 62.11% 93,582 36.68% 160,668 64.03% 80,203 31.96% Olson 23 99,654 50.67% 94,386 47.99% 87,547 45.55% 96,676 50.30% Gallego 25 162,278 59.89% 102,433 37.80% 154,245 58.44% 98,827 37.44% R Williams 27 131,800 60.46% 83,156 38.15% 120,684 56.75% 83,395 39.21% Farenthold 28 65,372 38.65% 101,843 60.21% 49,309 29.76% 112,456 67.88% Cuellar 31 144,634 59.36% 92,842 38.11% 145,348 61.27% 82,977 34.98% Carter 32 146,420 56.97% 106,563 41.46% 146,653 58.27% 99,288 39.45% Sessions 35 58,007 34.59% 105,550 62.94% 52,894 32.02% 105,626 63.94% Doggett 36 175,850 73.05% 61,766 25.66% 165,405 70.73% 62,143 26.57% Stockman

You can mostly break this down into three groups. The first is the Overacheivers, the Congressional candidates that clearly drew at least some crossover votes. On that list are Reps. Ted Poe, Joaquin Castro, Pete Olson, Pete Gallego, and Henry Cuellar. Olson, one presumes, benefited from being opposed by LaRouchie nutcase Keisha Rogers. We’ll have to wait to see how he’ll do against a normal opponent, which one hopes will be this time around. Castro and Cuellas can point to their numbers as evidence for statewide viability someday, if and when they choose to make such a run. Gallego obviously had to be on this list, or he wouldn’t be Rep. Gallego. I guess the Republicans knew what their were doing when they tried to pull all those shenanigans to protect Quico Canseco, because he really did need the help. As for Ted Poe, I got nothing. He’s not a “moderate”, and he’s not a heavyweight on policy or in bringing home the bacon as far as I know, so I don’t have a ready explanation for his success here. Feel free to share your opinion in the comments.

The second group is what I’d call Tougher Than They Look. Notice how Republican incumbents in the least-red districts suffered no dropoff in support from Romney, while their Democratic opponents did? I’m talking about Reps. Joe Barton, John Culberson, Mike McCaul, Lamar Smith, John Carter, and Pete Sessions; you can also throw Democrat Lloyd Doggett onto the list. Whether by accident or design, these Republicans may be harder to knock off down the line if and when their districts get bluer. Culberson is the oddball in this group, because he greatly underperformed in 2006 and 2008. I suspect he benefited from redistricting, in particular from losing some inner Loop precincts, as well as the general trend away from crossover voting, but we’ll see if this was a one-time thing or not.

Finally, there’s the Underachievers, who lost crossover votes to their opponents. Ex-Rep Quico Canseco is the poster child, but Reps. Randy Weber, Blake Farenthold, and Steve Stockman keep him company. Weber may get a mulligan, since he’s unlikely to face an opponent like Lampson again. Farenthold’s presence is intriguing. He’s a ridiculous person, who won in a fluke year and who needed a lot of help in redistricting, but a look at this result suggests that he just might be vulnerable to the right opponent. If the Battlegound Texas folks want to try some things out on a smaller scale, let me suggest CD27 as a proving ground. Finally, Stockman shows that even in a deep red district, nuttiness has some limits. Too bad it’s not enough to affect a November election, but maybe there’s a chance that a slightly less mortifying Republican could win next March.

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.

Campaign for Primary Accountability aims at Republicans

Interesting.

A Houston-based super PAC aiming to unseat long-time congressional incumbents added Reps. Joe Barton of Arlington and Ralph Hall of Rockwall to its hit list [last week].

The two Republicans join Democrats Eddie Bernice Johnson of Dallas and Silvestre Reyes of El Paso as targets of the Campaign for Primary Accountability, which promises to spend money attacking incumbents and boosting challengers in primary races across the country.

“Our polling shows that people are ready for change, they’re not satisfied” with Barton and Hall, said Curtis Ellis, a spokesman for the organization.

Ellis said the campaign only targets incumbents who have dissatisfied voters – as determined by their own polling – and a credible primary threat.

Barton, a 14-term incumbent, drew three challengers for the May 29 primary: former Addison Mayor Joe Chow, former Israeli soldier Itamar Gelbman and accountant Frank Kuchar. Hall, seeking his 16th term, is up against former NASCAR driver Lou Gigliotti and former AT&T executive Steve Clark.

Ellis declined to say whether the organization has decided to back any of those challengers in particular or to just spend money attacking the incumbents.

That would be these guys. On the one hand, I have no sympathy for Smokey Joe Barton or the dinosaur Hall. On the other hand, I have no particular reason to believe that anyone who might be able to beat them in a primary would be any less offensive. Sadly, neither of these districts is remotely competitive, so there’s no partisan advantage to be gained by CPA offing one or both of them. I’ll just note that Barton is a big moneybags, so if they want to take him down they’re going to have to dig deep to do so. Hall, on the other hand, is not swimming in campaign cash, but as the Trib notes, he’s survived many challenges before now. It’s likely to take more than just money to unseat him. Which makes me wonder about those polls they claim to have, but whatever. CPA is also now considering expanding their target list even more in Texas, apparently to possibly include every primary-challenged incumbent in the state. One presumes they’ll be ramping up their fundraising even more. Campaign season has been pretty quiet up till now, but it’s about to get a lot less so.

Weekend redistricting update

One more plaintiff has signed on to the Abbott map deal.

The Mexican American Legislative Caucus is now joining the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund in saying that the state-backed Congressional District 35, a proposed new district that runs from Austin to San Antonio, is “constitutionally permissible,” according to the caucus’s chairman, state Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer, D-San Antonio.

The proposed District 35 does not have the backing of other plaintiff groups that have sued the state over its three redistricting maps, nor has it been sanctioned by the federal court in San Antonio that is hearing one of the redistricting cases. The court had asked the groups to work together to create a set of compromise maps.

[…]

The Mexican American Legislative Caucus on Friday also agreed on the constitutionality of a proposed congressional district in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, District 33.

BOR clarifies what this means.

[I]t is not true that MALC endorsed the version of CD-35 that MALDEF supports — rather, MALC’s lawyers asserted that the MALDEF-supported version of CD-35 is not unconstitutional. They are not officially endorsing this version of the map at this time, merely stating that legally, they do not view CD-35 in the Abbott/MALDEF incarnation to be unconstitutional. That’s a big difference than what was widely reported earlier today — that MALC is endorsing this version of CD-35.

The Travis County Plaintiffs and NAACP understandably still oppose this version of CD-35 given its impact on CD-25. Their argument is that the coalition of minority voters and white voters who also choose the minority voters’ candidate form a legally protected cross-over district, and can’t be split apart. This is the the same argument that led to a settlement over SD-10, so ideally any Congressional settlement should in turn restore CD-25 to an Austin cross-over district.

I’m not sure how much difference that makes in practice, but there it is. In the meantime, there are more briefs on those contested Congressional districts, and another Congressional map proposal from the Quesada plaintiffs. CDs 23 and 27 are also still in dispute.

The State House map remains in complete disarray. MALC said that the state is no longer negotiating with them as of Wednesday. BOR has a comprehensive look at the many points of contention, along with a plaintiffs’ exhibit that lays out where minority communities were fractured and spread among Anglo-dominated districts, mostly in urban counties like Harris and Dallas but also in Fort Bend and Bell. The Perez plaintiffs have further objections as well. Harold Cook sums it all up.

Pretty much out of lame map-related puns at this time

[Wednesday] a couple of the (probably exhausted and flabbergasted) judges wondered aloud if the bulk of the courtroom squabbling regarding the map for the state House of Representatives is only about a couple of districts.

Well, no. It’s not about whether there are 50 or 52 solidly minority districts. It’s about minority Texans continuing to have a voice in the districts beyond the hard core 50. It’s about the state’s efforts to silence those voices in many more than two chunks of geography. And that, in turn, is about whether legislators who represent those minorities are able to participate in meaningful dialog on legislation, or whether those legislators, like in the most recent legislative session, merely look on as witnesses, as an artificially-inflated majority assaults their constituents by cutting public education by billions, harassing them with voter photo I.D. laws, or ignoring attempts to make health care affordable to folks in their neighborhoods.

Texas has a majority minority population. There are 150 seats in the state House. The squabbling in court should not be about whether 52(ish) of those 150 districts should be the geography in which minority voices are heard.

If you’re the “quantify it” type, in addition to those 52(ish) seats, minority citizens were also decisive in electing their candidates of choice in House districts 57, 93, 96, 101, 102, 107, and 133. Minority citizens are also naturally emerging as effective deciders of their own fate in districts 26, 105, 132, and 138.

So if the remaining argument is about “just a couple of state House districts,” it’s only because lawyers cleverly, or foolishly, narrowed the focus. It’s not because minority voters in many, many other areas of Texas evaporated, were raptured, or suddenly moved to Detroit after Clint Eastwood inspired them during the Superbowl. And while the priorities of those Texans are just as real as the priorities of those living in Wendy Davis’ district, or the proposed new metroplex Congressional district, their communities are being fragmented in the exact same way, and for the same purpose: to silence their voices.

Late Friday, the San Antonio court ordered briefings on the Abbott plan (Plan H303) for the State House, due on Tuesday.

The court’s order said that it wanted briefing on any district that was different from the plan enacted by the Texas Legislature (H283).

There’s still a lot of work to be done. The Senate map agreement felt like progress, but we’re still miles away from the finish line.

Interim map hearing tomorrow

Big day in San Antonio tomorrow.

Mapmaker, mapmaker, make me a map

Groups involved in the state’s redistricting fight were ordered by a San Antonio federal court Friday to continue negotiations through the weekend over interim redistricting maps for the 2012 election.

The court order comes before a key Tuesday hearing when the three-judge panel will hear arguments about how the state’s interim maps should be redrawn.

If the groups can’t reach a deal before the hearing, they’ll continue negotiations in the courtroom.

The order also contained a footnote that may indicate the judges are interested in hearing arguments on whether the Voting Rights Act was violated when the Republican-dominated Legislature altered the Austin-based congressional district of Democratic U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett.

“They want to know why Doggett’s district is protected,” said Michael Li, an elections law attorney, who has paid close attention to the redistricting battle.

He said the footnote could mean trouble for a coalition congressional district in the Fort Worth area that was created by the San Antonio court.

That hearing was originally scheduled for Wednesday, but was moved up a day, with the possibility that it could continue on Wednesday. The court had issued an order on Friday urging the parties to keep talking, saying it not had ruled out any compromise yet, including the Abbott map. You can see all of the parties’ briefs regarding the interim maps here. This Statesman story gives you a good idea why consensus is so hard to find.

In other developments related to that map, the Perez plaintiffs said that they too had been excluded from the negotiations that Abbott had, apparently with just the MALDEF plaintiffs. The Justice Department lays out its problems with the existing maps, noting that the DC court found evidence of discriminatory intent with several districts, and said that the San Antonio court cannot waive the requirement that counties obtain preclearance for new precinct boundaries, but that an expedited review could still allow an April primary. Rep. Henry Cuellar, who was criticized by his Democratic colleagues for signing off on the Abbott map, filed an advisory saying he thinks a deal that protects Rep. Lloyd Doggett is still possible. Rep. Joe Barton filed his own advisory, which included a new Congressional map proposal, telling the San Antonio court it needs to wait till the DC court issues its ruling. Barring a settlement to which all parties agree, I think this is the right thing for the San Antonio court to do as well. You can kiss an April primary good-bye in that case, so maybe that’s an incentive for Abbott to actually listen to the other plaintiffs and work something out that truly is fair and acceptable. If Abbott wants to give Rick Santorum a chance to surge across Texas in a meaningful way, he knows who to call.

Environmental report card for Congressional Texas

From the Inbox:

The Texas League of Conservation Voters highlighted Texas’ leadership and failures on national environmental issues, based on today’s release of the League of Conservation Voters 2011 National Environmental Scorecard.

The 2011 National Environmental Scorecard grades Congress’ work as the ‘most anti-environmental session of the U.S. House of Representatives in history.’

“We’re fortunate to have a great champion for the environment in Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-Austin). Sadly, the same cannot be said for Rep. Cuellar (D-Laredo) who far too often sided against the environment and against public health.  His votes on global warming, pesticide pollution and offshore drilling safety placed Rep. Cuellar much more in line with the Republican House majority and corporate polluters than for the constituents who elected him,” said David Weinberg, Executive Director of the Texas League of Conservation Voters.

The 2011 National Environmental Scorecard includes 11 Senate and a record 35 House votes on issues ranging from public health protections to clean energy to land and wildlife conservation.

This year, 31 senators earned a perfect 100 percent score, while in the House 24 members earned a perfect 100 percent score.  Rep. Doggett notched the highest score in the Texas delegation with 97 percent.  Rep. Cuellar earned the lowest score among the Texas Democratic delegation with 51 percent.  The average Texas House Republican score was 7 percent.

In the Senate, 13 senators earned an appalling 0 percent score, while in the House four members earned a 0 percent score. The Texas Senate delegation rounded out the bottom of the barrel among Senate delegations by state with an abysmal 9 percent score; only four other states’ Senate delegation scored lower.

For over 40 years, the National Environmental Scorecard issued by LCV has been the nationally accepted yardstick used to rate members of Congress on environmental, public health and energy issues. The full 2011 National Environmental Scorecard can be found at www.lcv.org/scorecard.

The Texas League of Conservation Voters issues its own scorecard on state lawmakers. Its 2011 scorecard can be found online at www.tlcv.org/scorecards.

The scorecard itself can be found here. In fairness to Rep. Cuellar, his 2011 score was an 88, though his lifetime mark of 57 is the lowest among the Democrats from Texas. It must also be noted that 20 of the 23 Texas Republicans in Congress scored lower than 10. The great irony is that one of the three Congressional Rs to score above 10% was none other than Smokey Joe Barton. He, along with Reps. Kay Granger and Bill Flores, achieved the lofty score of 11% by voting correctly on four of the 35 bills the LCV tracked. I never thought I’d see the day when Smokey Joe would be the greenest Republican in Texas. Anyway, go read the report to see what the bills of interest were and who did what. Forrest Wilder has more.

While we wait for another deal, if there is one

Michael Li reminds us what comes next.

Waiting for a map like you, to come into my life

The San Antonio court has scheduled a hearing on interim maps and the election schedule for next Wednesday, February 15, with briefs on a broad range of issues due this Friday.

That gives the parties a week to continue talking, and it is possible further consensus could be reached. If there isn’t a consensus, the court will begin the process of drawing interim maps.

The state and the Republican Party of Texas have said that they think matters are far along enough that the court should be able to complete maps by February 20 and allow a primary to go forward on April 10 or April 17. However, there are some legal and logistical issues that still might prevent that (more here).

The RPT also has suggested April 24 as a primary date but, at the last hearing, there was some concern that day would prove to be unworkable because of the need to prepare for early voting in municipal and school board elections, which begins the following week.

If April doesn’t work, the most viable dates after that are May 29 and June 26.

You should of course be reading Texas Redistricting, but in case you’re not for some reason, here’s some additional reactions to the “deal”, from Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, the NAACP, MALC, and the Republican Party, which is clearly trying to sell it to its members. Here also are the post-trial briefs from the preclearance trial, for which we’re all waiting on a ruling.

Elsewhere on the interwebs, Politico reports that some of Rep. Henry Cuellar’s colleagues aren’t too happy with him for his endorsement of the Abbott “deal”.

Democrats are stunned that Cuellar would negotiate with Republicans, let alone agree to a map they argue would cost the party several seats and rob minorities of the chance to maximize their gains in the House of Representatives.

“He’s a deplorable, dishonest person. He’s proven it time and time again in redistricting,” said Matt Angle, founder of the Lone Star Project, a group aimed at supporting Democratic candidates in Texas. “I know it sounds over the top, but it’s true.”

The compromise map that Abbott and Cuellar agreed to is very similar to one that the Republican-controlled Texas Legislature approved last year, which would have positioned Democrats to win only 11 of the state’s 36 congressional seats.

Democrats had objected to the Legislature-drawn map, arguing in federal court that it doesn’t sufficiently recognize the state’s booming minority population. Democrats want an interim plan that more closely resembles one drawn by a San Antonio-based court that would have made it likely for the party to hold 13 of the 36 seats. The Supreme Court struck down the interim plan last month.

Let me interrupt here to say that I don’t know what numbers Politico is going by. By my count, the legislatively-drawn map, was 26-10 GOP, with CD23 being lean GOP and CD14 being potentially competitive, while the Abbott map was likely to have at least 11 Dem seats, with CD23 being tossup/lean Dem, and CD14 being lean GOP, though that may be more the influence of the declared candidate than the map itself. If all you knew were the straight R and D numbers, it’s better than what the Dems started with, albeit not quite as good as what they almost had. Obviously, there’s more to it than that, and I don’t care for this deal because I think it’s the low end of what is possible, but it’s not the worst thing in the world.

It hasn’t been unusual for Democrats to partner with Republicans on redistricting. With the GOP controlling much of line-drawing this go-around, Democrats across the country have forged alliances with Republicans to ensure they get favorable treatment in the redistricting process, which can make or break a member’s political fortunes.

Mexican American Legislative Caucus Chairman Trey Martinez Fischer called Cuellar’s agreement an effort by the congressman to finalize a rock-solid, South Central Texas-based district for himself to run in. But he argued it would have little impact on the final lines.

“I take Henry’s actions at face value,” said Fischer, who called Cuellar a friend. “The consequences of this agreement really don’t go beyond the confines of his district.”

Cuellar disputed the idea that he’s looking out for himself at others’ expense, pointing out that he’s been well-positioned to win reelection in each of the proposed maps. He said he felt no need to promote one plan over another to get a leg up.

Rather, he said he aimed to advance a plan that would help solidify a set of minority-held seats. On Monday, his office released a lengthy statement detailing how the plan would advance the interests of Hispanic and black candidates seeking House seats.

“To say I did this for my own interests is absolutely crazy,” Cuellar told POLITICO. “This has nothing to do with self-promotion. Anyone who says anything else is being dishonest with you.”

Rep. Cuellar has filed an advisory with the court, urging it to adopt the Abbott map. For what it’s worth, Smokey Joe Barton filed his own advisory saying that he “strongly objects to this proposed settlement”. So the bipartisanship goes both ways.

Anyway. BOR speculates why Abbott is pushing for a deal. I think there’s a lot of pressure on him, but it’s not clear to me that it’s all or even primarily in one direction. At the end of the day, redistricting is always more multidimensional than just R versus D. Prof. Murray provides some historical context to what’s going on. Finally, I got a request after the previous numbers post to include results from the 2008 Court of Criminal Appeals race for Position 3, in which Susan Strawn was the Democratic candidate. As this post is long enough already, I’ve put those numbers, which include a couple of State Rep districts I didn’t list before, beneath the fold.

UPDATE: Stace has a guest post from Joe Cardenas of Texas LULAC on why the Texas Latino Redistricting Task Force likes the Abbott maps.

(more…)

January finance reports: Congress and Senate

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Update on the redistricting settlement possibility

Late Friday we heard about the possibility of a settlement agreement in the redistricting lawsuit in San Antonio, with the idea of coming up with an interim map in time to keep the primaries on April 6. Here’s an update on that from the Chron.

Under the arrangement outlined during the hearing, the parties would negotiate each of the challenged districts separately and the court would draw the boundaries for districts where an agreement could not be reached.

[Assistant Attorney General David] Mattax said they could announce agreements on some of the districts as soon as Sunday or Monday.

“If it’s possible to have a primary in April, why don’t we at least set that as a goal to do that?” asked Texas Republican Party Chairman Steve Munisteri, who said it is still in the “realm of possibility” to have an April primary.

He acknowledged that the court could give the state some flexibility in dealing with the MOVE Act, which requires ballots to be sent to troops and citizens abroad at least 45 days before an election.

The Justice Department objected to that request, so it’s no sure thing. In any event, the San Antonio court told both sides to get a move on if they want a chance to salvage the April primary date.

Is there an end in sight?

U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia told an attorney for the state that the parties should try to agree “to as many districts as possible” by early next week “if you want to have an election in April.”

He also said the parties should agree to an election date in case the maps can’t be done in time for an April election.

Assistant Attorney General David Mattax said the state wants to have a unified primary, and they want to have it in April. He said the state hasn’t appropriated the money for extra elections. That’s a new position. In hearings last month about moving the primaries, the state didn’t take a position on whether the primaries should be split or not.

The judges are concerned about the timetable. Election administrators across the state have said they need 60 to 80 days after maps are completed to pull an election together. To hold an election on April 3, they’ve told the court that they need maps by the end of the month. “How are we supposed to get all of this done by the 1st?” asked an obviously frustrated [Judge Xavier] Rodriguez.

“It can’t be done,” Garza answered. He reads the Supreme Court’s recent decision to mean the worries of the state parties are “secondary” to the need to hold fair elections. The parties hold their state conventions in early June and must hold primaries in advance as part of their nominating process.

“Those are party issues,” Garza said, in response to a question from [Judge Jerry] Smith. “I’m not saying they’re not important … but they must take a back seat.”

[…]

Garcia said the lawyers should meet over the weekend to figure out what they can agree upon. “Monday or Tuesday, you tell us the districts you’ve agreed upon or you’ll tell us the date you’ve agreed upon if it’s not going to be April,” he said.

Judge Garcia later said basically that they either have a map by February 6 or they can kiss the April 3 primary good-bye.

Michael Li sums it all up.

Settlement discussions

The other big development of the day (maybe the biggest) was the emergence of serious discussions about a settlement on the maps, with intense negotiations expected to continue this weekend.

David Mattax, the state’s lawyer, explained that what the state was proposing was a deal on interim maps, not permanent maps.

Mattax said that under the deal he was trying to work out, if redistricting plaintiffs proposed maps in areas where the state agreed that there were legitimate issues of dispute, the state would not object. Mattax conceded, though, that other parties (such as Congressman Barton) might object. Mattax also recognized that complete agreement with redistricting plaintiffs might not be possible. But Mattax said he hoped to at least be able to narrow the issues for the court before February 6 in an effort to facilitate getting maps by mid-February.

If this sounds like a significant sea change from the state’s prior position, it certainly seems to be. And at least some reports are that Republicans are willing to make significant concessions.

_____

Drawing new maps

If the parties are not able to agree on interim maps, or substantially narrow issues, the court did not indicate when it expected to be able to complete maps.

However, the judges repeatedly raised questions about how they would be able to draw maps quickly in that instance, with Judge Rodriguez noting that they had even yet received the record and transcript from the D.C. case.

There also were questions about whether to wait for a ruling in the preclearance case from the D.C. court. In middle of the hearing, the court took a recess to call the D.C. court to discuss timing with Judge Collyer, though the judges were mum about what they learned.

While the state said it thought the court could move quickly, plaintiffs disagreed noting that the record in the D.C. case was different than in the case tried before the San Antonio court. They also said they thought the burden imposed by the Supreme Court’s ruling was more complicated than the state suggested. That position was supported, in part, by lawyers for Joe Barton who argued that the court would benefit from evidence about section 5 issues before making any significant changes to the map.

Emphasis mine. That sure sounds like a big effin’ deal to me. Obviously, the plaintiffs, whose interests are mostly but not entirely aligned, would have to come up with something – remember, there are three maps in dispute here – and there would have to be no objections from other intervenors such as Congressmen Barton and Canseco, but I would think the plaintiffs would have strong incentive to work something out. I’m very hopeful, that’s for sure. The other news of interest is that the previous court order that included things like a secondary filing deadline of February 1 has been suspended pending the outcome here. There will still be a second filing period, we just don’t know when it will be yet. Stay tuned.

Filing season opens today

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

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

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

CD10 – Former candidate Dan Grant has expressed some interest.

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


SBOE 7

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

UPDATE: Further analysis from Michael Li.

House Redistricting committee approves modified Congressional map

Even quicker than the Senate committee.

The Texas House Redistricting Committee approved a new version of the Congressional map that makes a few tweaks, mainly in North and South Texas. But the overall goal remains the same: Maintain and expand Republican power in Washington.

The map was approved on an 11-5 party line vote in the committee, sending it to the full House. The map looks very much like the one that sailed out of the Senate Monday. But this new version would slightly reduce Hispanic voting strength in the district represented by Republican U.S. Rep. Francisco “Quico” Canseco, who faces a potentially stiff re-match in 2012 from former Rep. Ciro Rodriguez, a Democrat.

The author of the map, Rep. Burt Solomons, R-Carrollton, said the change was a response to “concerns of the San Antonio Hispanic community” and is meant to shore up Latino voting strength in the district held by Rep. Charlie Gonzalez, D-San Antonio. It does that by taking Latinos from surrounding districts, including District 23 held by Canseco and a newly proposed District 35.

State Rep. Marc Veasey, D-Fort Worth, said the changes were designed to protect Canseco, easily the most vulnerable Republican in the Congressional delegation.

“They switched some Hispanic and Anglo voters around to make the district safer for Canseco, and make it easier for Anglo voters to control the district,” Veasey said.

The House version of the map would also switch around some precincts in Tarrant and Denton Counties, changes that Veasey said would help shore up the re-election prospects of U.S. Rep. Kay Granger, R-Fort Worth.

Postcards has more. I guess I was expecting them to hold a public hearing with testimony or something before they actually voted. Silly me. The new plan is C149. Here’s what the partisan numbers look like now, with comparisons to the original plan and the one that the Senate approved:

C125 C130 C149 C125 C130 C149 Dist Obama Obama Obama Houston Houston Houston ==================================================== 01 30.40 30.47 30.47 37.01 36.39 36.39 02 35.39 35.86 35.86 38.14 36.65 36.65 03 37.37 37.37 37.37 36.79 36.79 36.79 04 29.28 29.28 29.28 37.55 37.55 37.55 05 37.31 37.28 37.21 42.07 42.05 42.01 07 39.32 39.08 39.08 38.10 37.83 37.83 08 25.43 26.08 26.14 28.59 29.40 29.44 11 23.42 23.13 23.13 28.44 28.29 28.29 13 22.24 22.24 22.24 27.48 27.48 27.48 14 34.30 41.96 41.96 39.69 47.31 47.31 19 27.94 27.94 27.94 32.32 32.32 32.32 22 35.80 37.65 37.65 36.92 38.32 38.32 26 39.44 39.33 39.33 39.64 39.64 39.55 06 41.67 41.67 42.51 44.29 44.28 45.44 10 43.81 42.77 42.59 44.14 43.41 43.23 12 42.50 42.50 43.53 43.10 43.10 44.13 17 40.71 40.94 40.94 43.98 44.08 44.08 21 42.51 42.67 42.25 40.48 40.61 40.26 24 40.55 40.54 40.54 39.91 39.91 39.91 25 42.40 42.83 42.73 43.63 43.95 43.54 27 40.78 40.31 40.12 46.28 45.85 45.75 31 42.61 42.61 42.54 42.47 42.47 42.40 32 43.79 43.79 43.80 43.63 43.63 43.67 33 42.64 42.64 41.74 43.90 43.90 42.96 36 41.02 29.58 29.58 47.46 39.30 39.30 23 47.19 47.19 47.14 49.27 49.27 49.18 15 59.15 58.43 56.36 61.90 61.19 58.91 20 58.40 58.47 58.40 58.15 58.34 58.71 34 59.11 60.29 60.52 62.85 63.87 64.10 09 76.42 76.49 76.49 76.77 76.85 76.85 16 66.44 66.44 66.44 68.68 68.68 68.68 18 79.48 79.24 79.57 78.71 78.47 78.73 28 60.40 60.91 62.09 63.33 63.82 65.12 29 65.18 65.40 64.63 70.09 70.29 69.70 30 81.87 81.89 81.89 82.08 82.10 82.10 35 60.70 60.61 61.59 61.16 60.98 61.47

Doesn’t look like Granger got much help to me. Joe Barton’s district also got a little bluer, while Blake Farenthold and Ruben Hinojosa’s got a touch redder. Quico Canseco’s CD23 got just a pinch redder – now only Linda Yanez achieved a majority there for the Dems; Susan Strawn fell short by a handful of votes – but it remains the case that every downballot Dem other than Jim Jordan got at least a plurality. CD23’s SSVR dropped a bit, from 53.65% to 53.40%, while CD20’s Charlie Gonzalez saw his go up from 50.8% to 53.64%. You can see all of the district data here, and of course Greg liveblogged the committee hearing, with salient analysis about how it all ties into the forthcoming litigation. On to the full House from here.

More on the Seliger-Solomons plan

Rick Dunham has a nice analysis of the proposed Congressional map that’s worth your time to read. I disagree with him on two related points.

Republicans successfully shored up three districts they captured from Democrats in the past two election cycles — those held by Pete Olson of Sugar Land, Blake Farenthold of Corpus Christi and Francisco “Quico” Canseco of San Antonio.

[…]

Rep. Joe Barton is the only Republican to be put in jeopardy by the GOP line-drawers. His Dallas-area district becomes more Hispanic and is probably a political toss-up. Barton decided to take the high road when I sought his reaction: “I think this map is a great starting point,” he said. “And it is positive that the House and Senate redistricting chairmen joined together and put forth a public map. Now open debate can begin.”

To see where I disagree, let’s look at a breakdown of the districts by 2008 electoral results. I’m using the Obama and Sam Houston numbers to divide these districts into different groups. First, the Safe Republicans:


Dist Obama Houston ======================= 01 30.40 37.01 02 35.39 38.14 03 37.37 36.79 04 29.28 37.55 05 37.31 42.07 07 39.32 38.10 08 25.43 28.59 11 23.42 28.44 13 22.24 27.48 14 34.30 39.69 19 27.94 32.32 22 35.80 36.92 26 39.44 39.64

Some of these are likely to move into the next category over time. Keep an eye on districts 7, 22, and 26, as I think they’re the best bets to be affected by demographic change over the next decade. All this is assuming this is the map we get, of course, which is no sure bet, but we do have to start the conversation somewhere. Next is what I’d call the Likely Republicans:

Dist Obama Houston ======================= 06 41.67 44.29 10 43.81 44.14 12 42.50 43.10 17 40.71 43.98 21 42.51 40.48 24 40.55 39.91 25 42.40 43.63 27 40.78 46.28 31 42.61 42.47 32 43.79 43.63 33 42.64 43.90 36 41.02 47.46

Some of these are likelier than others. Despite the high Sam Houston numbers, I don’t really think that either CDs 27 or 36 are going to be seriously in play. They just have too much rural turf. Same for CDs 17 and 33. The ones I’d keep my eye on are CDs 32, 31, 21, 12, and yes, 06. But while Smokey Joe may have a slightly more purple district in this map, he’s not the GOPer on the most shaky ground. That goes to the one Lean Republican district:

Dist Obama Houston ======================= 23 47.19 49.27

I should note that both Linda Yanez and Susan Strawn won a majority in CD23, while all downballot Dems other than Jim Jordan had pluralities. It’s redder than it was before, but it sure as heck isn’t safe.

On the Democratic side, there’s not much to see:

Dist Obama Houston ======================= 15 59.15 61.90 20 58.40 58.15 34 59.11 62.85 09 76.42 76.77 16 66.44 68.68 18 79.48 78.71 28 60.40 63.33 29 65.18 70.09 30 81.87 82.08 35 60.70 61.16

For the sake of consistency, I’d call the first three Likely Dem and the latter seven Safe Dem. I don’t really think Congressmen Hinojosa or Gonzalez has much to fear, and whether it’s a Lucio or someone else I figure the Democratic nominee in CD34 would win easily.

So as drawn, this map would elect 10 or 11 Democrats, depending on how things broke in CD23, and 25 or 26 Republicans, though I would expect several Republican held districts to become more competitive over time. Again, all of this assumes that the final map is more or less the same as this one. Even without lawsuits and a Justice Department review, surely some aspects of this map will change. For those of you in Austin or who can get there today or tomorrow, the House Redistricting Committee will have a hearing this morning at 10:45, and the Senate will have a hearing Friday at 9. Be there if you can. A statement about the proposed map from the Texas Democratic Congressional delegation is beneath the fold, and an analysis of the plan plus a statement from the Lone Star Project is here.

(more…)

Will Perry call a special session to force the Lege to draw a Congressional map?

Maybe.

Gov. Rick Perry today said state lawmakers should be the ones to draw new congressional districts, not judges.

“I do think that the responsibility is with the members of the Legislature,” Perry said this morning. “To allow the courts to do that is not in the best interest of the people.”

[…]

There are six days left in the legislative session, and while Perry says he hopes lawmakers will get the job done, there is virtually no way that lawmakers can still tackle the task of congressional redistricting.

And here is the problem for Perry: The 2001 Legislature did not draw a new congressional map, leaving that job to federal courts. In 2003, Perry called lawmakers into repeated special sessions to do so.

So will he do that again? Numerous people close to Perry have said he will not.

I’m a little surprised by this. Greg has a theory (see second comment) that Perry is looking to get something from the Congressional delegation and will act when he has it. I think he may not want to get in the way of an intra-Republican pissing contest, between Lamar Smith and Joe Barton, and may just not care to have any distractions as he tries to get himself drafted to run for President. He’s usually pretty clear about what he wants and what he’ll do to get it, so it shouldn’t be too hard to tell. If the ongoing school finance negotiations fail to bear fruit and a special is needed to sort that mess out, then I don’t see how he avoids adding Congressional redistricting to the call. Will he do it just for that? So far I have no reason to believe he will, but that could change.

What’s different between now and 2001, when the Congressional map was also judicially drawn? (I seem to recall it’s been that way every time since 1971, the difference being that now Republicans have the control over the process.) In 2001, the House was still majority Democrat, and the two chambers could not agree on a bill. In addition, the Texas Congressional delegation was 17-15 D (though one of those Ds was Ralph Hall, who doesn’t count and who later switched to keep his seat), so the Republicans had a reasonable argument that the districts did not reflect the state’s political reality. (Much like Latinos have a decent argument now, not that it’s gotten them anywhere.) They also had a backup plan, which was to dominate the 2002 elections and redraw the map at that time to their preferences in the 2003 session.

The history of the 2003 legislative sessions is told as best I could at the time in my Killer D’s archive. Late in the session, some maps began to emerge, and though it wasn’t clear that anything could pass the Senate, House Democrats decided to take no chances and broke quorum on May 12, departing the state for Ardmore, OK, where they stayed for five days, returning after the House deadline for passing new bills had passed. After a number of redistricting hearings were held around the state, a special session was called to try again. After the House passed a map, everything came to a screeching halt as ten Senate Democrats plus Republican Bill Ratliff signed a letter saying they would not vote to suspend the rules and allow a redistricting bill to come to the floor. With the Senate’s two thirds rule in effect, that meant redistricting was dead for the session.

And that’s when it got even stranger. A second special session was called immediately after the first one ended, only this time with no “blocker bill”, meaning that the Senate’s two thirds rule was not in effect. This time, Senate Democrats took a powder, having previously announced their intent to do so under these conditions. They headed west to New Mexico and stayed there through the end of the second session. Two weeks after that, Sen. John Whitmire returned to Houston and announced his intent to attend Session #3; his comrades followed him home shortly thereafter and the next session was called. Finally, as time was running out in the third overtime, Tom DeLay swept into town, cracked a few heads, and got a deal done.

I give all that history to say that I can’t really think of a good reason why Rick Perry wouldn’t call a special session on Congressional redistricting. The two thirds rule in the Senate is hardly an obstacle, as they have demonstrated numerous times. There’s no way that a court will draw a friendlier map for Republicans than the Republicans themselves can. The only thing that makes sense to me is that he’s just biding his time, for whatever purpose. He waited 30 days before calling the first special session in 2003, so who’s to say he needs to act now. All I know is that if we go into 2012 with a map drawn by a three-judge panel or the like, it’ll be the biggest political mystery of recent years.

Finally, I should note that while the Senate Redistricting Committee may be fallow, other folks are taking on the map-drawing task. State Rep. Marc Veasey released a statement saying he “will present a statewide congressional redistricting map that provides the opportunity for Latino and African-American Texans to elect their candidate of choice as required by the Voting Rights Act, in recognition of the fact that minority population growth is the only reason Texas is receiving four additional congressional districts”. That’s happening at 9AM in the Speaker’s room at the Capitol. I can’t wait to see what he comes up with.

UPDATE: Welcome Kos Elections readers, and thanks very much to David Nir for the kind words. Roll Call suggests another possible reason why Perry isn’t motivated to call a special session on redistricting this time around:

If state lawmakers pass a map during special session, Perry will ultimately have control over it — and it’s likely the delegation won’t love the result. There’s still bad blood between Perry and the Texas delegation, which largely supported Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison’s (R) bid against the governor in 2010.

“If Perry takes control of the process, then at least you know that it will be a Republican-friendly map. It may not be a delegation-friendly map,” said one Texas GOP source close to the redistricting process. “He’s essentially let the Texas delegation know, ‘Don’t come to me with any favors.’ Read between the lines: The Congressional delegation, at least two-thirds of them, endorsed KBH in the primary.”

Never underestimate the power of spite, especially where Rick Perry is concerned.

Lege officially punts on Congressional redistricting

If you had told me at the beginning of the session that this would happen, I would not have believed you.

The chair of the Senate Redistricting Committee, Kel Seliger, R-Amarillo, just confirmed to LegeLand that it won’t happen this session.

“It’s too late to get a map through the process,” Seliger said. “The federal courts will decide [how to draw the lines]. Or if a special session is called on any subject, we will ask to have it added to the agenda.”

Unlike redistricting of the House or Senate, which go to the Legislative Redistricting Board if maps aren’t passed by the Lege, state law says failure to pass a congressional map must be settled in special session or in state or federal court.

Other media sources have reported that Gov. Rick Perry is unlikely to call a special specifically for redistricting, but specials on other issues look likely.

I could have believed that they’d run out of time, but to not even present a map? That blows me away. I think that Greg is right and that this does no favors to freshman Reps. Quico Canseco and Blake Farenthold, and I imagine that the Todd Hunters of the world are none too pleased to be cut out of the loop, either. Still, with a school finance deal looking increasingly questionable, a special session is a real possibility, and if you’re going to have one anyway, you may as well take advantage of it and have another crack at producing a map. Assuming the Republicans can work out their own disagreements over it, of course.

Along those lines, here’s more on Smokey Joe Barton’s lawsuit to force the Lege to do something about Congressional redistricting.

With the Legislature apparently out of time to produce a congressional redistricting plan before the session ends Monday, U.S. Rep. Joe Barton has filed a lawsuit asking a state court in Corsicana to do the job.

Barton, R-Arlington, filed the suit at 12:01 a.m. Sunday in Navarro County District Court, according to his spokesman and an Austin attorney representing Barton in congressional redistricting matters.

“We’re in a situation where the Legislature can’t draw a map and so from our standpoint we filed a lawsuit to ask the court to draw a map,” said attorney Trey Trainor of the Beirne, Maynard & Parsons firm.

[…]

Trainor said Barton’s suit asks the court to draw a new map with “input from both ourselves and the attorney general,” who will represent the Texas Sectary of State in any legal action over redistricting.

Barton’s congressional spokesman, Sean Brown, said Barton sent e-mails to the other 22 Texas Republicans informing them of the lawsuit. “He wanted to be the first on one in that legal arena to make sure he was able to propose a solution for congressional redistricting,” he said.

Translation: He wants to make sure his preferences take precedence over those of Lamar Smith. It’s always a dick-measuring contest when you get right down to it.

Smith v. Barton on redistricting

From Politico:

A bitter, behind-the-scenes fight has broken out among Texas Republicans over redistricting, pitting Rep. Lamar Smith against longtime colleague Rep. Joe Barton.

The dispute is over the makeup of four new congressional districts for the Lone Star State, and centers on the racial balance — including the controversial issue of “bleaching,” or including more white voters in a district — of the new political map for Texas.

Smith, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee and the point man on redistricting for Texas Republicans, is pushing to evenly split four new districts between Republicans and Democrats, acknowledging that Texas’s surging Hispanic population will gain minority-majority seats in the Dallas and Houston areas. According to 2010 Census data, Texas is now home to 9.5 million Hispanics, 38 percent of the state’s overall population, yet only six members of the congressional delegation are Hispanic, including freshman GOP Reps. Francisco Canseco and Bill Flores.

Smith, described by fellow Republicans as being driven more by political pragmatism than by partisanship, has been quietly huddling with Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas) to work out a bipartisan compromise on the new districts.

And with concerns over the Voting Rights Act — which bars congressional districts from being drawn in a way that dilutes minority voting power — coming into play, Smith brought in an official from the Texas Supreme Court last week to tell GOP lawmakers that there is no way to craft solid GOP districts that would meet Justice Department or federal court approval. Under the Voting Rights Act, Texas is one of 16 states that needs outside approval to implement new state and federal districts.

But Barton, who was passed over in January by House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) for the the powerful Energy and Commerce Committee’s gavel, has pushed to make three, or possibly all four, of the new districts Republican-favored, potentially shutting out Hispanic hopefuls from the new seats. Barton has harshly criticized Smith during Texas GOP delegation meetings, launching a profanity-laced tirade at Smith during one session early last month, and he’s privately tried to oust Smith as the lead Republican negotiator on redistricting.

Three points to make. One, it feels icky to side with Lamar Smith on just about anything, but at least I can say I’m opposing Joe Barton. Two, “acknowledging that Texas’s surging Hispanic population will gain minority-majority seats in the Dallas and Houston areas” is not quite the same as saying that these will be Democratic seats. As Greg has shown, any new “Houston-area” Congressional seat will be drawn from surrounding areas like Montgomery and Fort Bend counties. Putting Gene Green into a district in which Sylvia Garcia could successfully primary him would meet the goal of adding a Hispanic seat. Finally, if Barton gets his wish he may find it to be a Pyrrhic victory, in that several GOP Congressmen are currently in seats that are becoming more competitive every cycle, and could easily be washed out in a future good Democratic year. Among those incumbents who failed to crack 60% in 2008 despite facing weak competition: Joe Barton. If you’re a Republican and you’re thinking beyond the next election, Smith’s approach is much less risky. But hey, to each his own. Greg has more.

The war on lightbulbs

I don’t even know where to begin with this.

Light bulbs – the universal icon of a bright idea – have become for conservative politicians and activists a symbol for something much more nefarious: Big Brother.

Gov. Rick Perry writes in his new book that the federal government is “telling us what kind of light bulb we can use.” U.S. Rep. Joe Barton, R-Arlington, says American policy on light bulbs defies “market forces.” Rush Limbaugh warns of “nannyism” and “statism.”

The source of their ire is a 3-year-old federal provision, co-sponsored by a Republican lawmaker and signed into law by President George W. Bush, that promotes energy efficiency by gradually phasing out old-fashioned incandescent light bulbs.

That may irk shoppers who prefer the look, light and lower price tag of a pear-shaped bulb over a coiled fluorescent one. But for detractors, it is something more – a “symbol of the mindless intrusion of government,” said Bill Wilson, president of the conservative think tank Americans for Limited Government.

“It isn’t just about light bulbs,” Wilson added. “It’s the mindset that says the government is going to come in and arbitrarily ban something that every single person in the United States uses.”

I guess I could start with this bit from Politifact that shows that at best (and as usual) these guys are being casual with the facts. Beyond that, I can only marvel at the mindset that there’s something sinister about the government providing incentives for socially beneficial behavior, and mandating (however slowly) the obsolescence of a technology that needs to be replaced. Basically, it all comes down to the idea that there’s no such thing as an externality. I just don’t get it.

Sometimes the headline tells you all you need to know

Rep. Joe Barton celebrates Waxahachie clinic, which is expanding with stimulus he opposed. Actually, this one does have a bit more to it than that:

“There were two pieces of legislation that helped bring this about,” Joseph Gallegos, senior vice president of the National Association of Community Health Centers, said at Wednesday’s groundbreaking. “Part of this was economic stimulus funding, and the other was in the Affordable Care Act.”

The second is the federal health insurance overhaul, which Barton also opposed.

Way to jump in front of the parade, Smokey Joe! Link via South Texas Chisme.

This is why we call him “Smokey Joe”

You’ve probably seen it by now, but feast your eyes anyway on Rep. Joe Barton apologizing to BP for that mean ol’ government making them pay for their mess in the Gulf.

He’s since apologized for the apology, but given that he was basically parroting the Republican party line, it’s clear he meant what he said and said what he meant the first time. He’s really just sorry people got mad at him for it.

More names surfacing for statewide runs

Via Greg, it appears that Smokey Joe Barton may want to party like it’s 1993.

No one seems to be mentioning U.S. Rep. Joe Barton, R-Arlington, as a candidate to replace outgoing Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas.

Turns out that Barton — who came in third in the 1993 special election that Hutchison won in a runoff — is indeed thinking about running.

“Congressman Barton continues to watch the developments in Texas politics with an interested eye,” spokesman Sean Brown said. “He believes serving the entire state of Texas as their next senator would be an honor. If and when an opportunity presents itself, he will discuss it with his wife, family and supporters before making any decision.”

If he runs, Barton, a congressman since 1985, will not have to give up his seat, but he will have to do something pretty quickly about an awkward situation.

His longtime campaign consultant and spokesman, Craig Murphy, is also the spokesman for Roger Williams, the Weatherford auto dealer and former secretary of state who — oops — is running for Senate.

Barton drew a shade under 14% of the vote in the 24-candidate field, good for third place and a smidgeon ahead of former Republican Congressman Jack Fields. He wasn’t anywhere close to finishing in the money, however, as KBH and appointed Sen. Bob Krueger each received 29%. I have no idea why he thinks he might do any better this time around, but hey, dream big. And I’ll somewhat churlishly note that it’s only a free shot if KBH does in fact resign, which I’ll believe when it actually happens. Burka, who notes that Barton has a decent chunk of change in his campaign coffers, suggests the possibility of Barton being Perry’s appointee to the seat. I dunno about that, but as he says, stranger things have happened.

Meanwhile, via Marc Campos, this Statesman article is mostly about the Governor’s race and the top Democratic contenders (Tom Schieffer) and potential contenders (State Sen. Kirk Watson, Ronnie Earle) for it, but the interesting bit in the story to me was this paragraph:

Barbara Ann Radnofsky, the Democrats’ 2006 U.S. Senate nominee, has announced she’ll run for state attorney general. Others who have run before (Hank Gilbert, agriculture commissioner; Sam Houston, Texas Supreme Court; William Moody, Texas Supreme Court; Richard Raymond, land commissioner; Nick Lampson, U.S. House) are described by party leaders as weighing or intending statewide bids.

I can confirm that Hank Gilbert is running. Moody and Houston are great names to hear, as they were the Democratic frontrunners in 2006 and 2008, respectively. Having them both on the ticket – I’m hoping they’re not each eyeing Harriet O’Neill’s open seat – would be an asset. I know Rep. Raymond has had ambitions for another statewide run, but this is the first I’ve heard of it. As for former Rep. Lampson, I know he mulled a Senate run in 2008 before deciding to try for re-election in CD22. I’ve no idea offhand what office he might have in mind – the Senate special election field is pretty crowded – so I don’t know what to say about this other than it’s the first I’ve heard of it as well.

One more thing from the Statesman piece:

Earle, who earlier said he might run for attorney general, said that he’s no longer eyeing that possibility; he’s had a law enforcement post.

So it’s presumably Governor or nothing for Earle, unless he’s open to the Lite Guv position; I’m assuming he’s not interested in running for Comptroller or Land Commissioner or something like that. But AG is out, so that’s good news for Radnofsky.

More heat on the BCS

I realize there are about a billion higher priorities for the President and the Congress to be dealing with these days, but I still really enjoy watching these guys squirm.

At a hearing Friday before the House subcommittee on commerce, trade and consumer protection, three members of Congress decried the manner in which college football decides its national champion and warned government action could be implemented should changes not be made voluntarily by the sport’s administrators.

Texas Rep. Joe L. Barton, who has introduced legislation that would prohibit the NCAA from advertising its national champion in football as such unless it was produced via a playoff system, levied the most pointed criticisms of his peers toward the Bowl Championship Series.

“It’s interesting that people of good will keep trying to tinker with the current system, and to my mind it’s a little bit like — and I don’t mean this directly — but it’s like communism,” Barton said in his opening statement. “You can’t fix it. It will not be fixable. Sooner or later, you’re going to have to try a new model, and that’s why we’re here today.”

I can’t say I endorse Smokey Joe’s rhetoric, but I stand with him on the nature of the problem and the need for a real solution. And hey, better he focus on something he has some hope of actually understanding.

Four high-ranking college football officials testified before the subcommittee. Proponents of the current BCS system predicted that renowned bowl games would become endangered if a playoff system was initiated.

“It will be very difficult for any bowl, including the current BCS bowls, which are among the oldest and most established in the game’s history, to survive” because sponsorships and television revenue would go toward playoff games, BCS coordinator and ACC Commissioner John Swofford said. “Certainly the 29 games that are not part of the BCS would be in peril.”

Okay, first of all new bowl games have been popping up like weeds even though none of them have any hope of ever having anything to do with a national championship. I don’t see why a transition to a playoff system would imperil such games. Hell, there are now three postseason men’s basketball tournaments that are not the NCAA championships. I see no reason why there could not continue to be ancillary postseason events in football; it’s not like the demand for more football is going to go down, after all. Finally, the “oldest and most established” bowls are ginormous boondoggles that drain money away from the universities and conferences that participate in them; they are long overdue for extinction. We may or may not be able to fix global warming and the financial crisis, but we can damn sure do something about that.

The Lege versus the BCS

It’s always heartwarming to see the Lege pay attention to the really important stuff. Take a look at HCR35, for the purpose of “Urging the institution of a playoff system to decide the NCAA football national championship in place of the current Bowl Championship Series.” According to the text of the resolution – note that this is not a bill, it’s a resolution, for things like proclamations and honoring people and whatnot – once you get past all of the “whereas”es:

RESOLVED, That the 81st Legislature of the State of Texas hereby respectfully urge the presidents of the public universities in Texas and the Big 12 Conference commissioner to work to promote the institution of a playoff system to decide the national championship in college football in place of the current Bowl Championship Series; and, be it further

RESOLVED, That the Texas secretary of state forward official copies of this resolution to the presidents of the public universities in Texas and to the Big 12 commissioner.

Boy, that oughta frost ’em. How can they resist the might of Smoky Joe Barton, the attorney general of Utah, and now the Texas Lege? We’ll have a playoff system yet.