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JR Molina

On challenging Ron Paul in CD14

Jason Stanford has a question.

So why aren’t we targeting Ron Paul again? The Texas legislature drew him the reapportionment equivalent of a target on his back. They took away some of his red meat territory and gave him Galveston and Jefferson counties, something which failed to raise Kuff’s spirits.

[…]

Kuff’s not the only one to think this is a non-starter. Everyone in Austin is waiting for relief from the courts or from Obama’s DoJ, and rumor is that the DCCC doesn’t even consider targeting Ron Paul a remote possibility. And yes, though unpopular Ron Paul does have name ID, and he can raise millions at the click of a mouse. And Obama only got 42% in 2008 in this district.

I think all of the arguments against targeting Ron Paul can be chalked up to entrenched pessimism. As I pointed out before, Democrats routinely win these kinds of seats nationwide.

But to really make a case, we’re going to have to see a path to victory in the numbers. First, the placeholder Democrats. Can your average numbnuts candidate do well? Luckily, we have a healthy sample of those, and Kuff breaks down the numbers.

Toss out the 2010 results. We can’t plan for a 100-year-flood every two years. And if 2010 is the new paradigm, we should all quit and sell gold. Those results are pointless either way. Moving on.

The apples to apples argument is statewide judicial candidate Sam Houston, who got 47.3% in the new CD14 in 2008, the last presidential year. Houston didn’t have much cash, was working against years of salesmanship about tort reform, and suffered, at least in the new CD 14, of the effects of a hurricane in Galveston, and he still came pretty close.

It is certainly not my intention to discourage anyone from taking on Ron Paul. I’d be delighted if someone did. My point in the writings Stanford cites is to provide some context, as I believe the partisan numbers in the new CD14 look better than they really are. My basis for this comes down to the trends in Galveston and Jefferson Counties, both of which are entirely within the new CD14, and which are about 75% of its total population. Take a look at how Bill Moody and JR Molina did in consecutive Presidential year and non-Presidential year elections:

County 04 Molina 08 Molina Change 02 Moody 06 Moody Change ================================================================== Galveston 46,065 41,996 -4,069 27,390 29,811 +1,421 Jefferson 48,351 46,024 -2,327 30,805 24,553 -6,252

Like I said, the trends are in the wrong direction. Moody was on the ballot last year as well, and his numbers (26,162 in Galveston; 24,539 in Jefferson) continue that trend. Galveston is a growing county, where most of the growth is coming from the northern, Republican suburbs like Friendswood and League City. Jefferson is a stagnant county made up of staunchly Democratic African-Americans and formerly Democratic Anglos, the latter of which are the bulk of the population and growing less Democratic every day. I hate to be a wet blanket, but I have higher hopes going forward for CDs like 06, 12, 31, and 32, where you can see the population trends be more favorable.

Again, I don’t want to write off any reasonable district. This one absolutely deserves attention, especially given its very different nature from the previous map. Looking beyond 2012, Paul won’t be around forever – he turns 76 this August – so regardless of what the past numbers look like, someone needs to be thinking about the future in CD14. I just want to be realistic about what we’ll be getting into.

New map, new opportunities: Harris County

For our last stop on this tour we look at Harris County, which provided several pickup opportunities for Democrats last decade. How will they fare this time around?

Harris County's new districts

Republicans started the last decade with a 14-11 advantage – they intended it to be 15-10 after drawing Scott Hochberg out of his seat, but he moved into HD137, drawn at the time to be a 50-50 district, won it, and watched it grow more Democratic with each election. Democrats picked up seats in 2004, 2006, and 2008, then lost two of them in 2010, ending the decade at a 13-12 disadvantage. This map shrinks the Harris delegation to 24 seats and in doing so forces the only Dem-on-Dem pairing, as Hochberg and Hubert Vo were thrown together. At this point I don’t know who is going to do what. I’ve heard rumors about Hochberg moving to 134, which includes a fair amount of turf from his pre-2001 district, but that’s all they are. We won’t know till much later, and I doubt anyone will commit to a course of action until the Justice Department has weighed in.

Assuming there are no changes, the Republicans had some work to do to shore up their members. With the current map, Jim Murphy in 133 and Sarah Davis in 134 would be heavily targeted, with Dwayne Bohac in 138 and Ken Legler in 144 also likely to face stiff competition. By virtue of shifting districts west, where the population has grown and where the Republicans have more strength, they bought themselves some time. Here’s a look at the 2004 Molina numbers for the old districts versus the 2008 Sam Houston numbers in both the old and the new ones.

Dist 04 Molina Old Houston New Houston ======================================== 126 32.9 42.0 37.9 127 28.3 33.3 32.4 128 35.5 38.9 38.0 129 33.4 36.8 38.6 130 23.6 29.5 26.4 132 30.3 41.4 40.6 133 44.0 51.2 41.6 134 43.3 44.7 42.6 135 35.5 42.1 39.5 136 28.1 31.7 40.0 138 41.1 44.8 40.3 144 39.9 45.1 42.1 150 28.4 36.4 33.0

A couple of massive shifts, in 133 to protect Murphy, and in 136 where Beverly Woolley gave up some turf to help out Bohac and Davis. Some Democratic districts got even bluer, though not all of them; losing a district allowed voters of all stripes to be spread around more. Woolley and Davis’ districts cover neighborhoods that are unlikely to change much, so what you see there is likely to be what you’ll get. Everywhere else, especially in the western territories – 132, 133, 135, and 138 – are likely to see change similar to what we saw last decade. I wouldn’t be surprised if their partisan numbers are already different. The question is how much time have the Republicans bought themselves, and how much effort and resources the Democrats will put into reaching the new residents out there; not much had been done in the past. Other than perhaps Davis, who will surely be attacked for voting mostly in lockstep with the rest of the Republicans, it’s not clear that any of these seats are winnable next year, but the results we get at that time may tell us when they’ll be ripe for the picking. I expect we’ll see some turnover over time, but I don’t know how much.

New map, new opportunities: The Metroplex

Dallas and Tarrant Counties will each have eight districts drawn to elect Republicans in them. For this entry, I’m going to look at each of these districts.

Dallas and Tarrant Counties

First up is Tarrant County, which gains a district (HD101) for a total of eleven. HD101 was drawn to elect a Democrat – Barack Obama received 61.59% of the vote, and no Democrat received less than 60%. The interesting question is what kind of Democrat it will elect. According to the district information, HD101 has a voting age population of 29.5% Anglo, 27.0% African-American, 32.5% Hispanic, and 11.6% Other. (Yes, I know that doesn’t add to 100%. I’m just telling you what it says.) VAP is not the same as Citizen Voting Age Population, however, and in general the Hispanic number will drop a lot more for that than other demographic groups. As such, if I were a betting man, I’d wager on African-American. But don’t be surprised if he or she gets a primary challenge from a Hispanic candidate before the decade is over.

So chalk up one sure gain for the Dems. For the eight Republican districts in Tarrant County, here’s the tale of the tape:

Dist Incumbent Elected 08 Dem High Score ============================================ 091 K Hancock 2006 Houston, 35.10 092 T Smith 1996 Houston, 39.76 093 B Nash 2010 Obama, 41.60 094 D Patrick 2006 Houston, 39.63 096 B Zedler 2010 Houston, 42.35 097 M Shelton 2008 Obama, 41.41 098 V Truitt 1998 Obama, 28.12 099 C Geren 2000 Houston, 38.38

None of these stand out as obvious pickup opportunities. Both HDs 93, which had been won by a Democrat in 2006, and 96, won be a Dem in 2008, were made redder to protect their new and recycled incumbents. I suspect that what looks safe now may not be in a couple of cycles. As Tarrant County got less white over the past decade, it also got less red. I don’t think either of those trends are likely to reverse themselves. It’ll be very interesting to see what the landscape looks like for the 2016 election.

Along those lines, I thought it would be worthwhile to compare the new districts to the old ones, to see who got what kind of protection. Here’s a look at the 2004 numbers in the old district for JR Molina, who was generally the high scoring Democrat that year, with the 2008 Sam Houston numbers in the new district:

Dist 04 Molina 08 Houston ============================== 091 34.1 35.1 092 33.2 39.8 093 46.0 41.5 094 34.1 39.6 096 40.0 42.3 097 36.9 41.3 098 36.9 26.7 099 23.9 38.4

I’m not sure what the deal is with the Truitt and Geren districts, but those numbers sure do stand out. Both districts 93 and 96 were made redder, though the latter only in comparison to what it would have been with no changes. Basically, the creation of a 60%+ Dem district in the county gave mapmakers a lot of room to spread the Republican population around enough to make sure no one was in any imminent danger. You can’t fight demography, but you can delay it a bit.

That will become more clear as we look over in Dallas County. First, the numbers for the eight remaining Republican-drawn districts:

Dist Incumbent Elected 08 Dem High Score ============================================ 102 S Carter 2010 Houston, 46.75 105 * L H-Brown 2002 Houston, 48.18 107 K Sheets 2010 Houston, 48.46 108 D Branch 2002 Obama, 44.88 112 A Button 2008 Houston, 45.68 113 * J Driver 1992 Houston, 47.87 114 W Hartnett 1990 Houston, 45.66 115 J Jackson 2004 Houston, 43.24

Driver was paired with freshman Cindy Burkett (HD101), and Harper-Brown with freshman Rodney Anderson (HD106). Here in a county that’s ten to fifteen points bluer to begin with, the most Republican district is bluer than the swingiest district in Tarrant. It ain’t easy making 57% of the legislative seats Republican in a county that’s 57% Democratic. Here the question isn’t if some of these seats will be ripe for the taking but when. Anywhere from two to six seats could be vulnerable right away, and for sure all of them need to be strongly challenged. While we have seen individual districts that are bluer, there’s no one place that has as many opportunities for gain as Dallas.

Here’s the same Molina/Houston comparison for Dallas:

Dist 04 Molina 08 Houston ============================== 102 43.3 46.7 105 42.8 48.2 107 43.0 48.5 108 39.8 42.2 112 36.0 45.7 113 37.4 47.9 114 38.1 45.7 115 32.7 43.2

Every district is bluer than it once was, some by ten points. Some day Dallas County will look like Travis. It’s already most of the way there. Next up, Harris County.

Population and voting trends: 2002 and 2006 judicial elections, Part II

In the previous entry, I said there was another way we could compare the 2002 and 2006 statewide judicial elections to get a feel for how partisan voting patterns changed at the county level. Turns out that the two Democratic candidates for statewide judicial office in 2006, Bill Moody and JR Molina, were also candidates in 2006. Let’s see how they did in each year.

County Jefferson Willett Change Moody2 Moody6 Change Dem Net =================================================================== Webb 6,557 3,588 -2,969 29,653 13,295 -16,358 -13,389 Hidalgo 19,517 15,739 -3,778 43,163 28,576 -14,587 -10,809 El Paso 27,602 24,960 -2,642 69,700 60,271 -9,429 -6,787 Jefferson 21,574 18,747 -2,827 30,805 24,553 -6,252 -3,425 Maverick 1,085 800 -285 4,699 2,736 -1,963 -1,678 Cameron 15,315 13,633 -1,682 26,239 22,977 -3,262 -1,580 Willacy 845 593 -252 2,530 1,234 -1,296 -1,044 Brooks 349 207 -142 1,828 891 -937 -795 Zapata 393 237 -156 1,786 845 -941 -785 Angelina 9,838 11,161 1,323 8,260 8,866 606 -717 County Jefferson Willett Change Moody2 Moody6 Change Dem Net ================================================================== Montgomery 55,526 54,018 -1,508 15,711 20,632 4,921 6,429 Fort Bend 49,406 49,953 547 34,660 42,890 8,230 7,683 Williamson 48,389 43,193 -5,196 22,913 31,466 8,553 13,749 Denton 72,040 63,475 -8,565 28,145 35,905 7,760 16,325 Collin 92,093 82,834 -9,259 30,313 42,514 12,201 21,460 Bexar 137,679 117,031 -20,648 124,500 134,383 9,883 30,531 Tarrant 195,001 166,293 -28,708 128,590 133,600 5,010 33,718 Travis 98,489 73,382 -25,107 110,926 130,546 19,620 44,727 Dallas 217,489 168,162 -49,327 205,742 204,310 -1,432 47,895 Harris 336,493 275,807 -60,686 280,739 271,021 -9,718 50,968 County Cochran Keller Change Molina2 Molina6 Change Dem net ================================================================== Webb 5,117 3,575 -1,542 30,982 14,135 -16,847 -15,305 Hidalgo 19,267 16,124 -3,143 44,009 29,133 -14,876 -11,733 El Paso 34,133 32,492 -1,641 60,608 54,028 -6,580 -4,939 Jefferson 21,786 19,747 -2,039 29,687 24,046 -5,641 -3,602 Cameron 15,383 14,924 -459 26,519 23,444 -3,075 -2,616 Maverick 980 862 -118 4,810 2,805 -2,005 -1,887 Angelina 10,267 12,216 1,949 7,662 8,280 618 -1,331 Willacy 868 659 -209 2,538 1,258 -1,280 -1,071 Dawson 766 1,755 989 1,289 1,227 -62 -1,051 Jim Wells 2,517 2,314 -203 6,023 4,839 -1,184 -981 County Cochran Keller Change Molina2 Molina6 Change Dem net ================================================================== Montgomery 56,686 57,502 816 13,683 19,490 5,807 4,991 Fort Bend 49,567 52,085 2,518 33,157 42,670 9,513 6,995 Williamso 50,071 48,599 -1,472 19,859 30,545 10,686 12,158 Bexar 136,742 133,090 -3,652 118,952 127,905 8,953 12,605 Denton 73,752 68,435 -5,317 24,636 34,432 9,796 15,113 Collin 93,516 88,847 -4,669 27,634 41,003 13,369 18,038 Tarrant 199,542 180,813 -18,729 119,562 128,575 9,013 27,742 Dallas 221,884 186,960 -34,924 194,803 195,356 553 35,477 Harris 339,473 295,795 -43,678 267,941 262,496 -5,445 38,233 Travis 99,173 83,346 -15,827 99,833 131,035 31,202 47,029

Note again that each 2006 race also featured a Libertarian candidate; the 2002 race between Molina and Cathy Cochran included a Green Party candidate.

The list of counties and the reasons for the changes in their performance are familiar by now, and I don’t have any new insights to add. The reason why Moody and Molina each did better in this comparison is simple: The previous comparison matched them up with the top performing Democrat in 2002 for each court. As it happens, they were each the second-best performing Democrat; there were five contested Supreme Court races, with Moody doing better than three others and worse than one, and three contested CCA races, with Molina doing better than one and worse than one. They were the only Democratic challengers in 2006, so the comparisons can only get more favorable from here. As you can see, their percentage and total votes improved even though turnout was down by 100,000 to 300,000 votes. I don’t know how many ways there are for me to say that the trend has been decidedly Democratic, but I guess I need to find one more, because there it is again.

I had thought this would be the last thing to say about this subject, but since I started writing this entry I thought of one more comparison to make, which I’ll publish next week. As always, let me know what you think.

Population and voting trends: 2002 and 2006 judicial elections, Part I

For the next entry in this series, we’re going to look at how county returns changed from 2002 to 2006 in statewide judicial races in Texas. Again, I’m using judicial races here because they tend to reflect straight partisan preference a bit more closely. It might have been nice to compare Senate races or Governor’s races, but those contests were too different in each year to really tell us much. As with the previous entry, I’m comparing one Supreme Court race – Steven Wayne Smith versus Margaret Mirabal in 2002, and Don Willett versus Bill Moody in 2006 – and one Court of Criminal Appeals race – Paul Womack versus Pat Montgomery in 2002, and Sharon Keller versus JR Molina in 2006. Here are my observations:

– Right off the bat, the main difference between this comparison and 2004-2008 comparisons is with turnout. Where 2008 saw 650,000 more voters than 2004, 2006 saw a decline from 2002. In the Governor’s race, for example, there were 4,553,987 votes cast in 2002, but only 4,399,116 in 2006. I attribute this to there being fewer high profile races – in 2006, about all that people were really paying attention to was the Governor’s race, and that was more for the wackiness factor, while 2002 had high-profile, big-dollar races for the Senate and Lite Guv as well. In addition, the lack of a Democratic “ticket” meant there was basically no statewide GOTV effort. You’ll clearly see the effect of this in some counties.

– In the races we’re actually considering, Willett/Moody drew 295,700 fewer votes than Smith/Mirabal, while Keller/Molina attracted 149,880 fewer than Womack/Montgomery. It should be noted that there was a Libertarian candidate in the Willett/Moody race; that was the only such contest with a third candidate. As always, only the R and D vote totals are considered.

– As such, in the end everyone lost votes from 2002 to 2006. The Republicans lost more votes, however, so the Democrats had a net gain in each race. Smith got 2,331,140 votes, Willett got 2,135,612, for a drop of 195,528. Mirabal received 1,978,081 votes to Moody’s 1,877,909, a decline of 100,182 but a net reduction of the Dems’ deficit of 95,356, from -353,059 to -257,703. On the CCA side, it was Womack 2,463,069 and Keller 2,346,204, a dip of 116,865, and Montgomery 1,828,431, Molina 1,795,416, a drop of 33,015 but a net pickup on the deficit of 83,850 as it reduced from -634,638 to -550,788.

– In the Supreme Court race, Democrats lost ground in 90 counties, gained in 163, and stayed even in one, Freestone, where the deficit was exactly 432 votes each time. In nine of the ten counties where the Dems took the biggest step backwards, both parties lost votes from 2002 but the Democrats lost more. A look at these ten counties will give you the reason why:

County Smith Willett Loss Mirabal Moody Loss Dem Net =================================================================== Webb 5,723 3,588 -2,135 30,712 13,295 -17,417 -15,282 Hidalgo 18,523 15,739 -2,784 44,133 28,576 -15,557 -12,773 Harris 308,107 275,807 -32,300 309,802 271,021 -38,871 -6,481 Jefferson 20,775 18,747 -2,028 31,564 24,553 -7,011 -4,983 Cameron 14,953 13,633 -1,320 26,804 22,977 -3,827 -2,507 Bexar 121,614 117,031 -4,583 141,088 134,383 -6,705 -2,122 Maverick 1,048 800 -248 4,742 2,736 -2,006 -1,758 Smith 30,053 28,469 -1,584 15,124 11,931 -3,193 -1,609 Angelina 9,485 11,161 1,676 8,704 8,866 162 -1,514 Nueces 29,099 27,979 -1,120 35,969 33,417 -2,552 -1,432

Say what you want about Tony Sanchez and his Titanic campaign, but he helped bring a huge number of Democratic voters out to the polls. Just look at the huge dropoffs in 2006 in Webb (Sanchez’s home base), Hidalgo, and Maverick. If we were to continue down this list, we’d see similar declines. Willacy, Jim Wells, Brooks, Zapata, Frio, Zavala, Jim Hogg, and Dimmitt – all of them saw their Democratic turnout drop by as much as 50% or more. To a lesser degree, it was the same effect in Cameron, Nueces, and Bexar. When you hear people talk about the Democrats’ strategy or lack of same for the Valley and South Texas, this is their Exhibit A. We know about Jefferson and Angelina, which were moving away from the Democrats from 2004 to 2008; this is just a part of that trend, with Jefferson also being at the bottom of a population dip in 2006. Smith is also a county that is moving away from the Democrats, though that effect was masked in 2008 due in part to its higher than average African-American population. As for Harris, I’d attribute the downer to there being basically no Democratic ground game in 2006. I can say with confidence that will not be the case this year.

You may also note that Mirabal won a majority in Harris County, making her the only Democrat to do so that year. If we swap out Willett/Moody for the one race in which a Democrat won a majority in Harris in 2006, that of Elsie Alcala versus Jim Sharp, we get the following:

County Smith Alcala Loss Mirabal Sharp Loss Dem Net =================================================================== Harris 308,107 276,529 -31,578 309,802 277,820 -31,982 -404

Hold that thought, because we’ll eventually come back to it. The story is more than a little different when we look at the CCA races:

County Womack Keller Change Mntgmry Molina Change Dem net =================================================================== Webb 6,121 3,575 -2,546 30,116 14,135 -15,981 -13,435 Hidalgo 19,306 16,124 -3,182 43,563 29,133 -14,430 -11,248 El Paso 34,007 32,492 -1,515 62,196 54,028 -8,168 -6,653 Jefferson 22,190 19,747 -2,443 29,993 24,046 -5,947 -3,504 Nueces 31,311 32,235 924 33,076 31,479 -1,597 -2,521 Cameron 15,562 14,924 -638 26,442 23,444 -2,998 -2,360 Angelina 10,070 12,216 2,146 8,072 8,280 208 -1,938 Maverick 1,074 862 -212 4,754 2,805 -1,949 -1,737 Medina 5,590 6,073 483 3,597 2,978 -619 -1,102 Wilson 4,999 6,312 1,313 3,483 3,744 261 -1,052

Webb, Hidalgo, Maverick, Cameron, and Nueces are all still there, with their issues of depressed Democratic turnout from 2002. Note, however, that JR Molina failed to win Nueces while Moody, who ran an actual campaign, carried it. Angelina and Jefferson, with their increasingly red (and in Jefferson’s case, shrinking overall) populations are there as well. El Paso had the same turnout issues as the first five counties, with about 10,000 fewer voters showing up in 2006, but it’s also Bill Moody’s home turf, and he killed there, getting over 70% of the vote and more than 6,000 more tallies than Molina, giving him a net gain over Mirabal.

The other two new counties here are small ones. Moody lost ground in Medina and Wilson counties, he just lost less than Molina did, with -1850 in Medina and -750 in Wilson. What’s more interesting is the counties they replaced: Harris and Bexar. Margaret Mirabal ran very strongly in Harris in 2002, just a wee bit better than Bill Moody, but enough to represent a big drop in net margin. Montgomery and Molina were more representative of average performance in each year, so Molina wound up with a net gain. Same story with Bexar, though Moody won it as Mirabal had, just by a smaller margin. Again, we’ll revisit all this later.

Here’s where Moody and Molina saw their biggest gains:

County Smith Willett Change Mirabal Moody Change Dem net =================================================================== Travis 87,540 73,382 -14,158 122,214 130,546 8,332 22,490 Dallas 204,686 168,162 -36,524 219,999 204,310 -15,689 20,835 Tarrant 186,595 166,293 -20,302 136,564 133,600 -2,964 17,338 Collin 88,762 82,834 -5,928 33,893 42,514 8,621 14,549 Denton 69,899 63,475 -6,424 30,361 35,905 5,544 11,968 Williamson 46,480 43,193 -3,287 25,501 31,466 5,965 9,252 Montgomery 53,977 54,018 41 17,451 20,632 3,181 3,140 Hays 14,238 13,644 -594 11,891 14,131 2,240 2,834 Fort Bend 47,008 49,953 2,945 37,145 42,890 5,745 2,800 McLennan 27,860 26,554 -1,306 22,211 23,005 794 2,100 County Womack Keller Change Mntgmry Molina Change Dem net ================================================================= Travis 95,152 83,346 -11,806 112,709 131,035 18,326 30,132 Harris 337,368 295,795 -41,573 277,639 262,496 -15,143 26,430 Dallas 215,763 186,960 -28,803 205,495 195,356 -10,139 18,664 Tarrant 196,164 180,813 -15,351 126,457 128,575 2,118 17,469 Collin 91,795 88,847 -2,948 30,228 41,003 10,775 13,723 Denton 72,230 68,435 -3,795 27,549 34,432 6,883 10,678 Williamson 48,838 48,599 -239 22,728 30,545 7,817 8,056 Fort Bend 49,783 52,085 2,302 33,904 42,670 8,766 6,464 Lubbock 38,458 35,657 -2,801 14,976 15,913 937 3,738 Hays 14,887 15,330 443 10,955 14,046 3,091 2,648

Most of this you’re already familiar with, so I won’t belabor it. Note that Harris went from one of Moody’s biggest net losses to one of Molina’s biggest net gains; that says more about Margaret Mirabal than anything else. Note also that the Dallas Democratic sweep of 2006 was happening even as Democratic turnout from 2002 was down. That says more about the demographics of that area than anything else, and it’s one reason why I believe suggestions of a Republican comeback there, outside of perhaps the District Attorney’s race and its unique dynamics, are farfetched.

So that’s our first look at the 2002 and 2006 judicial elections. There’s one more way to look at them, and that’s what we’ll do in the last entry of this series.

Population and voting trends: 2004 and 2008 judicial elections

So we’ve seen how county returns changed in the Presidential election between 2004 and 2008. Obviously, there are many factors that can affect a Presidential election, even when there’s not really an active campaign going on in the state. How do things look at the judicial level, which is probably a closer reflection of party ID? To try to answer that, I compared two races for the Supreme Court, and two for the Court of Criminal Appeals: Scott Brister versus David Van Os in 2004 and Dale Wainwright versus Sam Houston in 2008; Mike Keasler versus JR Molina in 2004 and Tom Price versus Susan Strawn in 2008. My observations:

– Houston improved on Van Os’ percentage by six and a half points, going from 40.76% to 47.31%; Strawn did a bit less than five points better than Molina, 42.14% to 46.86%. (Note that both 2008 races included a Libertarian candidate, while neither 2004 race did. All percentages are based strictly on R/D vote totals only.) In doing so, Houston cut the 2004 deficit by 875,000 votes, while Strawn improved by 616,000 votes over 2004.

– One corollary to that is that Houston gained in more counties than Strawn did. There were only 28 counties in which Houston’s deficit was greater than Van Os’, with Montgomery and Parker being the places he moved backwards the most. Strawn did worse in 69 counties, adding Orange and Jefferson to the biggest loser list. Recall that there were 107 counties in which Barack Obama lost ground compared to John Kerry.

– The 20 counties in which Obama lost the most ground from Kerry differed somewhat from the counties in which Houston and Strawn combined did worse than Van Os and Molina. Counties that appeared in the former list but not the latter were:

Bowie: Obama’s deficit increased by 3436 votes; Houston gained 1303 while Strawn lost 867.
Galveston: -3082 for Obama, +2720 for Houston, and -1307 for Strawn.
Jasper: -1488 for Obama, +866 for Houston, and -656 for Strawn.
Liberty: -1416 for Obama, +1185 for Houston, and +155 for Strawn.
Harrison: -1385 for Obama, +530 for Houston, and -11 for Strawn.
Johnson: -1280 for Obama, +2745 for Houston, and +2005 for Strawn.
Henderson: -1239 for Obama, +1076 for Houston, and +427 for Strawn.
Tyler: -1094 for Obama, +501 for Houston, and -260 for Strawn.
Van Zandt: -1075 for Obama, +656 for Houston, and +178 for Strawn.
Lamar: -993 for Obama, +2185 for Houston, and +1208 for Strawn.

Obviously, the worst 20 counties for Houston and Strawn were not identical to those for Obama, but I did not find any examples where Houston and Strawn combined to lose votes while Obama gained them.

The ten best counties for Houston and Strawn:

County Brister W'wright Change Van Os Houston Change Dem net ================================================================== FORT BEND 87,872 96,887 9,015 66,748 95,069 28,321 19,306 DENTON 132,244 138,359 6,115 56,112 86,738 30,626 24,511 COLLIN 165,017 167,840 2,823 64,159 100,302 36,143 33,320 HIDALGO 39,076 32,270 -6,806 60,122 87,197 27,075 33,881 EL PASO 62,780 50,627 -12,153 93,239 118,844 25,605 37,758 TRAVIS 142,841 127,796 -15,045 190,168 228,493 38,325 53,370 BEXAR 234,526 222,471 -12,055 212,415 260,152 47,737 59,792 TARRANT 327,136 320,585 -6,551 201,026 266,375 65,349 71,900 DALLAS 328,697 280,688 -48,009 324,165 406,857 82,692 130,701 HARRIS 555,454 523,101 -32,353 464,815 577,134 112,319 144,672 County Keasler Price Change Molina Strawn Change Dem net ================================================================== WILLIAMSON 77,666 80,967 3,301 42,377 61,373 18,996 15,695 DENTON 130,850 139,868 9,018 57,294 83,774 26,480 17,462 EL PASO 58,240 53,893 -4,347 99,152 115,154 16,002 20,349 HIDALGO 35,930 33,109 -2,821 64,087 86,441 22,354 25,175 COLLIN 164,805 169,377 4,572 64,188 96,476 32,288 27,716 TRAVIS 140,473 125,335 -15,138 190,769 228,492 37,723 52,861 TARRANT 321,497 322,531 1,034 206,841 263,585 56,744 55,710 BEXAR 224,983 215,807 -9,176 220,717 267,444 46,727 55,903 DALLAS 319,890 283,343 -36,547 329,484 402,483 72,999 109,546 HARRIS 540,632 521,753 -18,879 474,278 574,945 100,667 119,546

Williamson was Houston’s eleventh-best county, with a net gain of 18,502, while Fort Bend was Strawn’s eleventh-best county, with a net gain of 13,574. Not much variance on this end, in other words.

– Finally, I said in my previous entry that if 2012 is to 2008 as 2008 was to 2004, Texas would be a tossup state at the Presidential level. That’s true, but all else being equal, the Republican candidate would still win Texas by a bit more than 200,000 votes. That same level of improvement would be more than enough to win both of these judicial races, however. Sam Houston would win by more votes in 2012 than he lost by in 2008, while Strawn would win by about 150,000 votes. Given that even Republicans think the political landscape in Texas could be quite favorable to Democratic candidates, we may see as much interest in Supreme Court and CCA nominations as we saw in Harris County this year for district and county benches. All standard disclaimers apply, of course, but keep that in the back of your mind.

Next in the series will be a closer look at the 2002 and 2006 judicial elections, which will be done in two parts. As always, your feedback is appreciated.

How about that CCA’s reputation for fairness?

This is just precious.

The longest serving Judge on the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, Lawrence “Larry” Meyers, has announced he is seeking re-election in 2010. The Court has been called a national laughingstock by one of its other members because of the actions of Sharon Keller and that was years before Keller made it even more of a laughingstock by closing the court in 2007 and refusing to accept a legal appeal from a person about to be executed.

[…]

Despite the poor reputation of the Court of Criminal Appeals, Meyers said in his press release, “I am seeking re-election to the Court to continue to be an objective voice and ensure that we maintain our reputation for delivering fair and just opinions,” said Meyers in announcing his candidacy for re-election.

Yes, the CCA’s well-known reputation for fairness and justice, which is somewhat like Wall Street’s reputation for transparency and honest accounting. As Michael Landauer suggests, it is to laugh.

Link via Grits, who notes that Justices Michael Keasler and and Cheryl Johnson will also be on the ballot next year. Only Keasler had a Democratic opponent in 2004, and that was JR Molina, so it really doesn’t count. Last year, the Dems left on CCA judge unchallenged, ran Molina against another, and a good candidate in Susan Strawn against the third. Strawn lost by six points 51.64 to 45.53, in the best showing for a Democratic CCA candidate since then-incumbent Charlie Baird lost with 46.03% in 1998. The Dems have been slowly but steadily gaining ground in these statewide judicial races – Supreme Court candidate Sam Houston did even better last year, getting 45.88% and losing by five points – and it’s not unreasonable to think that some good quality CCA candidates next year could score an upset or two. They’ll have Sharon Keller as an issue whether or not the State Commission on Judicial Conduct boots her off the bench. Grits has suggested before that judicial races will be the spearhead of a Democratic renaissance in statewide elections, and while I don’t necessarily agree with that – I think any reasonably well-funded Dem will have a fighter’s chance in the Governor’s race if Rick Perry survives the primary – I certainly do think that these races are vital and must be taken seriously. The last time the Dems ran three non-Molina candidates for the CCA was 1996. That can’t happen again.