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Kenny Marchant

Who might be next to retire from Congress?

We may see some more exits in the coming years, some voluntary and some not.

Rep. Mac Thornberry

Retirement talk is generally speculative until an incumbent makes an official announcement.

But many Republican operatives bet that U.S. Rep. Mac Thornberry, the most senior Republican from Texas in Congress, could make the upcoming term his last. That’s because Thornberry, currently chairman of the Armed Services Committee, is term-limited out of being the top Republican on that committee, in 2021. Thornberry’s office did not respond to a request for comment for this story.

Beyond a severe loss of power in Washington, there are potentially bigger problems ahead for Texas Republicans. Every Republican incumbent from Texas who successfully ran for re-election saw his or her margins shrink over Democrats from contested 2016 races. Some of these numbers should not be troubling. For instance, U.S. Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Tyler, won his race this year by 46 points, rather than 50 points in the prior cycle.

But five GOP incumbents – [Mike] McCaul and U.S. Reps. John Carter of Round Rock, Kenny Marchant of Coppell, Pete Olson of Sugar Land and Roger Williams of Austin – saw their 2016 margins shrink this year to single digits. These members will likely have to work harder for re-election in 2020 than ever before, and those battles will take place in suburban stretches of Austin, Dallas-Fort Worth and Houston that have become increasingly hostile to the GOP.

[…]

The 2018 results could well prove to have been a fluke, brought on by the coattails of outgoing U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke who ran the best Democratic statewide campaign in a generation in his unsuccessful bid against U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas. But anxiety is high among members and their aides that Texas can no longer sustain so many GOP incumbents – particularly after political maps gets redrawn during redistricting in 2021. Members with an eye on retirement might well wait to see the outcome of the redraw before deciding whether to call it quits.

The East Texas seat of U.S. Rep. John Ratcliffe, R-Heath, is another possible vacancy to watch, though not related to his future re-election prospects. With an increasingly higher profile as a member of the U.S. House Judiciary Committee and a past career as a federal prosecutor, Ratcliffe has emerged as a contender to be Trump’s next U.S. attorney general to replace the current acting AG, Matthew Whitaker.

As the story notes, the delegation has been pretty stable. In 2012, after the last round of redistricting and with four new seats added, there were only eight new members. Three were in new seats, of which one (Roger Williams, CD25) was in the district Lloyd Doggett abandoned to run in the new CD35. Of the other four, two defeated incumbents: Pete Gallego knocked off Quico Canseco in CD23, Beto O’Rourke knocked off Silvestre Reyes in the Democratic primary for CD16. Only Randy Weber in CD14 and Joaquin Castro in CD20 succeeded members that had retired. Between then and this year, Reps. Ruben Hinojosa (CD15) and Randy Neugebauer (CD19) retired, and the now-convicted Steve Stockman (CD36) left to pursue a doomed primary against Sen. John Cornyn in 2014. This year was a bonanza for new faces, and there’s a decent chance we’ll have a few more over the next two cycles.

The next round of redistricting is going to be even more fun

Close races do complicate things.

Rep. Beto O’Rourke

Texas Republicans collected half of the votes statewide in congressional races this month. ­But even after Democrats flipped two districts, toppling GOP veterans in Dallas and Houston, Republicans will control 23 of the state’s 36 seats.

It’s the definition of gerrymandering.

“You wouldn’t expect perfect proportionality, but when something is really skewed, that’s probably a sign that something’s amiss,” said redistricting expert Michael Li.

Demographically and politically, the state is evolving — faster in some places than in others. Many Texas Republicans in Congress faced surprisingly close calls in the 2018 midterms.

Boundaries drawn early this decade to maximize GOP power blunted the damage. But the bulwarks built after the last census have begun to weaken. The midterms exposed unexpected shortcomings as college-educated white women — traditionally a major source of votes for the Texas GOP — abandoned the party.

Some were repelled by President Donald Trump and, at the same time, intrigued by Rep. Beto O’Rourke, the El Paso Democrat who offered a vision of less confrontational leadership, albeit with a liberal bent.

In Dallas, lawyer and former pro football player Colin Allred ousted Rep. Pete Sessions, a member of the GOP leadership. In Houston, lawyer Lizzie Pannill Fletcher unseated Rep. John Culberson, who led a subcommittee that controls billions in federal spending.

Both districts have seen some of the fastest demographic shifts in the state, with the nonwhite share of the electorate rapidly shrinking. They were stocked with high-income, highly-educated white voters long presumed to be Republican; many turned out to be swing voters under the right circumstances.

“These districts … weren’t built to elect Republicans in the age of Donald Trump,” said Li. “The Republican Party of today is almost unrecognizable to people of 2011.”

Independents in Texas have been in the habit of backing Republicans.

“But they can be re-educated to see Democrats as an option,” said Steve Bickerstaff, a retired University of Texas adjunct law professor whose books include Lines in the Sand, about the 2003 redistricting fight in Texas.

[…]

In two GOP-held districts that Trump carried, O’Rourke topped Cruz. That helped fellow Democrats come much closer than expected.

In the Dallas-area 24th District, Rep. Kenny Marchant, R-Coppell, survived with a margin of just 3 percentage points over a little-known challenger he outspent 11-1.

In suburban Houston’s 2nd District, Rep. Ted Poe notched 2-1 blowouts for years. He retired this year. Dan Crenshaw, a retired Navy SEAL who lost an eye in Afghanistan, won by 7 points. National Democrats might have paid attention to the race had they recognized the opportunity.

O’Rourke fought Cruz nearly to a draw in the 6th District, where Arlington Rep. Joe Barton’s retirement paved the way for his former chief of staff Ron Wright, the Tarrant County tax assessor-collector.

There, the map enacted by the Legislature after the 2010 census operated as intended: Democratic nominee Jana Lynne Sanchez ran up the score in Tarrant County precincts, but conservative voters in Ellis County put Wright over the top.

Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Austin, outspent his challenger 4-1 in a district that runs from the west side of Houston to the east side of Austin. The rural midsection kept the outgoing House Homeland Security chairman in his seat with a narrow, 4-point win.

Just north of Austin, Rep. John Carter, another senior Republican, beat M.J. Hegar by 3 points in a district that Trump carried by 13 points.

“Those districts were gerrymandered to absorb Democrats,” said Matt Angle, a veteran Democratic strategist who has been involved in Texas redistricting fights for two decades. “There are some of these congressional districts that Beto defined as more in play than any of us thought. … Those exurban areas are getting away from them.”

Turns out it’s a lot easier to draw yourself a bunch of “safe” districts when you’ve got a 15-20 point cushion in statewide voting. Also turns out an uncomfortable number of those districts aren’t so safe when the state as a whole becomes competitive. As Dave Wasserman notes, the GOP will probably have to draw another safe Dem Congressional district in Central Texas just to soak up Democratic votes that are now imperiling multiple incumbents. The 2020 election may complicate things further, especially if the Dems can demonstrate that this year was not a fluke but a step towards even higher ground. Regardless, the strategic question is going to be the main driver of the action. Do the Republicans aim for the maximum again, and risk a future wipeout should the tide rise again, or do they hunker down and shore up what they have at the expense of adding to it? I have a hard time seeing them be pragmatic, but you never know. In the meantime, let’s make that decision as hard as we can for them.

(Yes, I’m assuming the Republicans will have full control over the redistricting process. It’s possible the Dems could take over the State House in 2020, but the Senate is out of reach, as there aren’t enough competitive seats on the ballot then, and of course the statewides are in place through 2022. Whether via the Lege or the Legislative Redistricting Board, one way or another they’ll be drawing the maps.)

(Also, too: What are the two GOP-held districts that Trump carried but Beto won? Seems likely from context that one is CD24, but what’s the other? CD23 was carried by Hillary, so it’s not that. We’ll know once the statewide numbers are published, but I’m more than a little annoyed the story didn’t provide that tidbit.)

Someone other than me notices CD24

The closest race no one was paying attention to.

Rep. Kenny Marchant

Last week’s midterm elections showed that the Texas electorate is changing dramatically, and even Republicans who survived found themselves with surprisingly close calls after coasting to reelection for years.

One U.S. representative who saw the ground shift was Kenny Marchant. The Coppell Republican won his eighth term by 3.2 percentage points — about 8,400 votes out of 262,000 cast.

That’s a far cry from his landslide victories in the last three elections: a 61-36 margin in 2012, and 65-32 two years later. Against the same opponent in 2016, Democrat Jan McDowell, Marchant coasted to a 56-39 win.

For this year’s rematch, McDowell raised just $100,000 against the incumbent’s $1.1 million.

The contest was never on the radar as a potential toss-up, overlooked by independent congressional handicappers and both parties’ House campaign strategists.

“Kenny Marchant is one in a cast of thousands who saw margins shrink and should be alert to danger going forward,” said Cal Jillson, a political science professor at Southern Methodist University.

[…]

Marchant was elected to the Texas House in 1986 and rose to chairman of the Republican caucus before moving to Congress.

If he wants to keep that seat, Riddlesperger said, he’ll need to respond to changing demographics in the district and do more to connect with suburban voters. “He can read the numbers,” the professor said. “He is going to move a little more to the moderate side of things if he wants to be successful moving forward.”

Jillson said Republicans should look to the Sessions loss for lessons in staying in closer contact with constituents.

“It’s not so much they need to change their issues,” he said, but “whether that is being involved in Rotary Club or community Republican meetings, they need to assess their presence and what they are doing.”

See here for some background. As I recall, Tom DeLay basically drew this seat for Marchant back in 2003, and going all the way back to the first election in 2004, it’s never been remotely competitive. Demography and Donald Trump caught up with the district this year, and I have to think that one of the many candidates that raised a ton of money and generated an equivalent amount of excitement elsewhere might have had a real shot at winning CD24 this year. We’ll have another shot in 2020, though this time we won’t be sneaking up on anyone. Marchant is who he is at this point – I doubt any feints towards “moderation”, whatever that might even mean in this context, or attendance at local events will change the voters’ perception of him. Either the conditions and the opponent are sufficient to usher him back to the private sector, or they’re not. We have limited control over the former, but we can sure take care of the latter.

Filing roundup: Other Congressional races, part 1

We already knew this, but just a reminder there’s at least one Democratic candidate in all 36 Congressional districts in Texas.

In deep-red Texas, Republicans will have to fight for every congressional seat in next year’s midterm elections. For the first time in 25 years, Democrats are running in all of Texas’ 36 congressional districts, according to documents filed with the Texas Secretary of State’s office.

Mark Jones, political science fellow at Rice University’s Baker Institute, says those filings set a record for the number of Democratic challengers in an era of Republican dominance, and are a departure from 2016 – when eight Republican-held congressional seats went uncontested by Democrats.

“We are seeing a groundswell of unusually high support and mobilization among progressive Democrats who are really angered by the Trump administration,” Jones said.

[…]

“Outside of CD 23, held by Will Hurd, all of the Republican-held districts today, more likely than not, will stay Republican-held districts,” Jones said. “But they are not locks, and certainly we can’t consider them to be sure-things.”

Jones says it will take a perfect storm for Texas Democrats to make significant gains in Congress. He says Trump’s approval ratings will have to continue to decline, Democrats will have to continue to out-fundraise their Republican opponents, and Republican candidates will have to make a lot of mistakes.

We can and will discuss the prospects for winning various races as we go. For now, let’s talk about who the Democratic contenders are. I’ve put together another spreadsheet based on the SOS filings page for convenient reference. Some of these folks I’ve talked about a lot, others are new to me. I’m going to concentrate on the districts where Dems have a non-trivial chance of winning, on the races I haven’t previously covered in another filing roundup. Turns out there’s a lot of these candidates, so I’m splitting this into two posts, one for the top tier races and one for the ones a notch or two below that. We’ll begin with the latter group.

Lorie Burch

CD03

This district is in Collin County, and it is being vacated by longtime Rep. Sam Johnson. State Sen. Van Taylor is a leading contender for the Republican nomination. Decision Desk in November gave Democrats a 30% chance of taking it, with an expected performance of 46.9%.

Adam Bell
Lorie Burch
Medrick Yhap
Sam Johnson

Yes, there is a Democratic candidate named Sam Johnson who is running to succeed the retiring Republican Congressman Sam Johnson. He’s not afraid to make the obvious jokes about it, for which he has my respect. This Sam Johnson is an attorney and UT graduate who lives in Plano. Adam Bell was the candidate against the incumbent Sam Johnson in 2016. He doesn’t have much in the way of biographical information on his webpage, but he identifies himself as a small business owner. Lorie Burch is also an attorney in Plano, and I’m pleased to note a fellow graduate of my alma mater, Trinity University (we did not overlap and as far as I know I’ve never met her). She recently served on the Lambda Legal Leadership Committee, and as her bio notes, in her senior year at Trinity she interned for Judge Orlando Garcia, who issued the ruling that threw out Texas’ anti-same sex marriage law. Medrick Yhap doesn’t have a campaign Facebook page that I can find, and the only biographical information I discovered was that he works for a software company.

CD17

This is the district that former Rep. Chet Edwards once served. He hung on after the DeLay re-redistricting in 2004, then won two more terms before being wiped out in 2010. The district is more rural than anything else, so unlike the others on this list it hasn’t really trended blue. It’s on the far outer edges of competitiveness, and if it really is in play next fall then the question is not “will Dems take the House” but “how large will the Dem majority be”.

Rick Kennedy
Dale Mantey

Rick Kennedy is a software developer. Dale Mantey is working on a doctorate at the UT School of Public Health. Decision Desk put the odds in November at 5.7% for a pickup. I wish them both well.

Todd Allen

CD24

Former State Rep. Kenny Marchant has held this district since it was drawn, apparently with him in mind, in the 2003 DeLay re-redistricting. Longtime Democrat Martin Frost had been the incumbent here, but he chose to run in CD32 against Pete Sessions in 2004, coming up short in that race. The closest race Marchant has had was a 17-point win in 2016, as CD24 was one of several districts to see its Democratic performance increase from 2012 to 2016. Decision Desk projected 46.7% Democratic performance and a 24.9% chance of flipping in November.

Todd Allen
Jan McDowell
John Biggan
Josh Imhoff

Todd Allen is a high school government teacher and former football coach who like Lorie Burch is a Trinity University graduate. My cup runneth over here. Jan McDowell is a CPA with a degree in journalism; she was the Democratic candidate for CD24 in 2016. John Biggan is an Eagle Scout and slef-described “brain scientist”, with a doctorate from UT-Arlington. I could not find any web presence for Josh Imhoff’s campaign.

Chris Perri

CD25

CD25 is the district Rep. Lloyd Doggett moved into in 2004 post-DeLay; he had previously been in CD10. He then moved again to CD35 in 2012 as the Republicans tried and failed again to draw him out of a district he could win. Car salesman and former Secretary of State Roger Williams, who has Rick Perry-class hair, became the incumbent in this district that year. He has won by at least 20 points each time, with Decision Desk pegging the district at a 43.9% Democratic level and an 11.0% chance of turning over. I blogged about three of the five Democratic candidates in October.

Chetan Panda
Chris Perri
Julie Oliver
Kathi Thomas
West Hansen

Chetan Panda is a first generation American who grew up in Austin. He has a degree from the London School of Economics and was working as a retirement fund manager at a mutual fund before stepping down to run for Congress. Chris Perri is a defense attorney who serves as supervising attorney for UT Law’s pro bono Texas Expunction Project, which helps people clear wrongful arrests from their backgrounds. Julie Oliver describes herself as a healthcare advocate, tax policy expert, and community volunteer who serves on the board of Central Health in Austin. Kathi Thomas was the Democratic candidate for CD25 in 2016, and also ran for State Senate in 2006. She’s a small businesswoman, an education activist, a Democratic precinct chair, and a band geek, which is also something I respect. West Hansen is a psychologist whose great-grandparents settled in Texas in the 1800s.

CD27

Bye-bye, Blake. Smokey Joe Barton had a more sudden demise, but outgoing incumbent (*) Blake Farenthold had a pretty spectacular – and well-deserved – fall. Alas, unlike Smokey Joe’s departure in CD06, the odds of a Democratic takeover here are not improved much, and weren’t that good to begin with. Decision Desk puts the odds of flipping at 4.5%, the lowest of all the districts I’m looking at. But we’re thinking positive, right?

Eric Holguin
Raul “Roy” Barrera
Ronnie McDonald

Eric Holguin cites a family history of service and past experience with the New York City Comptroller and in an unnamed Congresswoman’s office, but I couldn’t tell what he was doing at the time of his candidacy. Roy Barrera was the Democratic candidate against Farenthold in 2016 – that’s his 2016 campaign Facebook page above, I couldn’t find a current version. Ronnie McDonald served as Bastrop County Judge for 14 years, and more recently worked with the directors of the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service and the Texas A&M Forest Service. He ran for CD27 in 2012 but did not win the primary.

MJ Hegar

CD31

Hey, a race where we have a specific poll result. A six-point lead by Rep. John Carter over one of his opponents isn’t much, though it is better than the situation some of his colleagues are in. This one has 11.3% odds of changing sides, with 44.0% Dem performance. It’s another mostly-suburban battleground, with most of the district in Williamson County. If there really is something to the well-educated suburbs getting turned off by Trump and Trumpish followers, this like several other districts listed here is the kind of place where we should see evidence of it.

Christine Eady Mann
Kent Lester
Mary Jennings “MJ” Hegar
Mike Clark

All four of these candidates have been running since at least July, so it’s a pretty stable field. Christine Eady Mann is a family practice physician who has had some experience in local politics, including a successful campaign to pass an indoor smoking ban in Round Rock and serving as the volunteer coordinator for a Georgetown City Council member’s re-election. Kent Lester is a West Point graduate and 20-year Army veteran who has also been an educator. MJ Hegar is an Air Force officer and Purple Heart recipient who led a 2012 lawsuit against the Defense Department over its now-repealed policy excluding women from ground combat positions and wrote a book about her experiences in the military that is being made into a movie. Mike Clark has Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees with a background in Geology and Geospatial technology and is currently employed in the technology sector.

So that’s a lot of districts and a lot of candidates, and we haven’t covered some of the most competitive November races, which I’ll get to next week. I strongly encourage everyone to get to know who is running to represent them in Congress and make an informed choice in March. I’ll have more tomorrow.

An early look at redistricting

The House Redistricting Committee is holding some hearings around the state in advance of the 2011 Census reports, and if there’s one thing we know already, it’s that West Texas will be losing influence next year.

The state population increased from 20.8 million in 2000 to an estimated 24.8 million in 2009, or 18.8 percent, but the Hispanic population grew at a faster rate, Jordan said. If the trend continues, as early as the next decade Hispanics will be the largest ethnic group in the state.

Though in more than a half-dozen counties in the Panhandle/South Plains region Latinos are now the majority, their population growth won’t compensate for the fact that the region stands to lose at least a Texas House seat and a congressional district when the Texas Legislature redraws the districts next year, some lawmakers said after the two-hour hearing ended.

“The Dallas area is going to gain some districts, but we are going to lose some,” state Rep. Delwin Jones, R-Lubbock, chairman of the Redistricting Committee, told reporters after the hearing. “Right now this is guesswork, or maybe I should say an estimate, because we won’t know for sure until December when we get the official figures.

“However, it doesn’t look good for us in West Texas,” Jones added. “We are going to lose representation.”

Other lawmakers reached the same conclusion.

“One way or another the Panhandle is going to be in trouble,” said Rep. Chente Quintanilla, D-Tornillo, in El Paso County.

[…]

At a hearing in February, members of the Redistricting Committee were told that the new congressional districts would represent 811,221 people compared to about 750,000 now, and Texas House districts would represent about 167,652 compared to about 140,000 now. This means the Panhandle/South Plains region would have to have at least one million people to keep all of its six House districts. Current estimates put the region’s population at about 800,000.

Three senior members of the Lege from West Texas won’t be back next year – Jones, who was defeated in the Republican primary; Carl Isett, and David Swinford, each of whom retired. It’s going to be a rough year for that part of the state next year. In addition to that, you have to wonder what will become of Rep. Michael Conaway’s district, which was created in 2003 at the insistence of then-Speaker Craddick, who wanted a Congressional seat for Midland. Objectively speaking, there was no real reason for that, and the Census data will make it even harder to justify. Without someone of influence pushing to protect it, who knows what will happen.

As the story notes, West Texas’ loss will likely be the Metroplex’s gain.

Rep. Roberto Alonzo, D-Dallas, said lawmakers next session will have a chance to create winnable districts for Hispanics in North Texas — not just in the Texas House, but state Senate and U.S. House.

“I would hope that everybody sees the light, that Texas has diversified,” Alonzo said.

He recalled it took a voting rights lawsuit for him to have a chance to win 17 years ago in House District 104, redrawn by the courts to enhance Mexican-American voters’ chances of electing one of their own.

“In Texas, we’ve had to go through litigation to make it happen,” Alonzo said. “I would hope we don’t have to go to that point.”

I wouldn’t count on that, but you never know. The more I think about it, the more I believe that the new Congressional district slated for the D/FW area will have to be a Democratic seat. The Congressional map up there is anything but representative right now. Of the 25 legislative members who represent Dallas and Tarrant counties, 13 are Democrats, yet only one member of Congress (Eddie Bernice Johnson) out of the nine whose districts include either Dallas or Tarrant is a Democrat. Among other things, the electoral trends are not sustainable for the Republican incumbents – Kenny Marchant and Pete Sessions need some help, with Sam Johnson and Michael Burgess not far behind them. Drawing a new seat to soak up some Democratic voters would benefit them.

Anyway. I believe a compromise at the Congressional level, one that aims to mostly protect incumbents, is still a viable possibility. The main reason for that not to happen is for someone with an interest in the outcome to push for a more partisan plan. As yet, I have not seen an indication of that, but it’s still early days. Legislative redistricting worries me more, especially if Rick Perry gets re-elected. We’ll see how it goes.

Presidential results by Congressional district

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

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

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

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

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

The Cook Political Report Partisan Voter Index (PVI) Explained

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

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

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

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

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

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

And here are the PVIs for the Texas districts:

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