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Mike Martinez

First impressions of the 2014 results

My initial thoughts, for what they are worth.

– Let me begin by saying that for all the criticism I had of the UT/Texas Trib’s polling and the skepticism of Internet-sample methodology, they were fairly accurate in the end. In particular, the last YouGov result just about nailed it. I still think what they do is more alchemy than anything else, and their subsample results often look ridiculous, but however they did it, they got it right and they deserve credit for it.

– I’m sure we’re about to be deluged with critical stories about Battleground Texas and public doubts about their future viability – the Trib and the Observer are already on it – but I have to ask, given the way this election went nationally, why they are more deserving of scorn than anyone else. In particular, how did they do any worse than the DCCC, DSCC, and DGA? The DSCC’s fabled “Bannock Street Project”, which was supposed to save the Senate by increasing Democratic turnout in battleground states, was a spectacular dud. Democratic candidates for Governor lost in such deep red states as Illinois and Maryland. Hell, the chair of the DGA, Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin, who pooped on Wendy Davis’ campaign a few months ago, failed to get a majority of the votes in his own election. BGTX doesn’t have much to brag about today, and I have no doubt they could have done plenty of things better. But I know a lot of people – friends of mine – who worked their tails off for BGTX and the Davis campaign, and I will not demean the work they did. If you want to criticize them, go right ahead, but please be specific about your complaints. I’m not going to pay attention to any generalized rants.

– Davis didn’t come close to matching Bill White’s vote total, and no statewide Dem reached 40% of the vote. That’s the harsh truth, and there’s no sugarcoating it. The funny thing is, though, for all the talk about turnout being down, it wasn’t actually Democratic turnout that was down. Here’s a comparison of the vote totals for the Democrats running for the top four offices over the last four non-Presidential cycles:

2002 2006 2010 2014 ======================================================= Governor 1,819,798 1,310,337 2,106,395 1,832,254 Lt Gov 2,082,281 1,617,490 1,719,202 1,810,720 Atty Gen 1,841,359 1,599,069 1,655,859 1,769,943 Comptroller 1,476,976 1,585,362 N/A 1,739,308

Davis didn’t peel crossover votes away from Abbott the way White did from Rick Perry, but beyond that I don’t see a step back. If anything, it’s an inch or two forward, though of course that still leaves a thousand miles to go. Where turnout did decline was on the Republican side. Greg Abbott received about 360,000 fewer votes than he did in 2010. Given the whipping that Republicans were laying on Dems across the country, one might wonder how it is they didn’t do any better than they did here.

One thing I’m seeing, and I’ll have more to say about this tomorrow, is that some people seem to think that because Davis got about 265K fewer votes than Bill White that means that overall Democratic turnout was down by that amount. In a word, this is baloney. White drew the votes of some 300K people that otherwise voted Republican. Their presence in his tally was nice for him, and would have been critical in a different year, but they had nothing to do with Democratic turnout. I am at a loss for why people are making that claim, and why they are overlooking or ignoring the gains in the races just below the Governor’s race, where a coordinated turnout effort would have an effect. Like I said, more about this tomorrow.

– Harris County wasn’t any prettier than the state was, and here in Harris there were declines in the vote totals of both parties. I’ve been looking at the statewide results more closely to see where the gains and losses were, and my initial impression is that the other big counties did move forward in ways Harris did not. The mail program was a success, but it seems clear that it mostly shifted behavior. If there was a net gain, in terms of votes we wouldn’t have had at all without the mail program, it means that in person turnout efforts were that much less successful. If we’re going to be introspective, that’s the place to start.

– All that said, if I’m newly-elected Harris County DA Devon Anderson, I’d take a few minutes to be concerned about the fact that I have to be on the ballot again in 2016. Consider this: By my calculation, the average Republican judicial candidate who had a Democratic opponent received 359,759 votes. The average Dem judicial candidate got 297,311. Anderson received 354,098 while Kim Ogg got 311,094. To put it another way, Ogg got crossover votes, which stands both her and Anderson in contrast to Pat Lykos in 2008 and Mike Anderson in 2012. Frankly, if she’s up for it, I’d tell Kim Ogg to keep running and start fundraising now for 2016. Assuming the patterns from the last two Presidential years hold here, she’d have a real shot at it.

– Along the same lines, of the five legislative seats the Dems lost (three in the House, one each in Congress and the Senate), HDs 117 and 144 should flip back in 2016, and if I were Pete Gallego I’d keep running for CD23 as well. (If he doesn’t want to run any more, allow me to be the first to hop on the Mary González bandwagon.) If Susan Criss can’t win HD23, which had been trending red for some time, I doubt anyone can. As for SD10, it’s not up again till 2018, but for the record, Libby Willis basically hit the Bill White number, which suggests she drew a non-trivial number of crossovers. Someone ought to take another crack at that one next time around but bear in mind this was always going to be a tough hold. I strongly suspect that if Wendy Davis had decided to run for re-election instead that we’d still be mourning her defeat.

– One prize Dems did claim was knocking off longtime Bexar County DA Susan Reed. Republicans claimed a victory over DA Craig Watkins in Dallas, where he was his own worst enemy. I refer you to Grits for more on that.

– Other results of interest: You already know about the Denton fracking ban. The Katy and Lone Star College bond initiatives passed. Austin Council Member Council Member Mike Martinez and attorney Steve Adler are in a runoff for Mayor; other Council race results, the first single member district elections in Austin, are here. And finally, Old Town Tomball repealed its ban on alcohol sales. Pour one out, y’all.

– Finally, a word on the matter of the efficacy of campaign ads, in particular negative ads. Yesterday morning after we dropped off the kids at school, Tiffany mentioned to me that Olivia’s understanding of the Governor’s race was that if Abbott won, there would be more standardized tests, which did not please her. “He wants to test four-year-olds!” she said. “That’s just wack!” I will simply note that at no time this year did I ever discuss the Abbott and Davis pre-k plans with her, and leave it at that.

Two Dems file in SD10

May the best candidate win.

Libby Willis

After months of speculation, two Democratic candidates have emerged to campaign for the contested Senate District 10 seat that Sen. Wendy Davis has vacated to run for governor.

Fort Worth community leader Libby Willis and businessman Mike Martinez officially entered the race on Saturday. They will compete to keep the seat under Democratic control in a swing district that tends to lean Republican. Four Republicans have already entered the race and have been campaigning for months.

Willis, the daughter-in-law of former state lawmaker Doyle Willis, is running on a platform focused on public education, job creation and government transparency.

Willis said she wants to bring “neighborhood-level common sense to the Legislature.”

“I have worked with people of all political stripes and economic backgrounds to come up with practical solutions for local problems,” Willis said in a press release announcing her candidacy.

Willis is the former president of the Fort Worth League of Neighborhoods. She is also the former executive director of the Historic Fort Worth nonprofit, which helps preserve historical landmarks in the city.

Martinez is a founder of Edge Resources, an oil and gas operator in Fort Worth. He filed his candidacy Saturday at the Tarrant County Democratic Party headquarters.

The Star Telegram mentioned these two as possible candidates a few days ago. Here’s what they said about them at the time:

Mike Martinez: The energy executive said he received calls from people who have encouraged him to run. The Democrat last sought public office in 1998, when he ran for the Tarrant County Commissioners Court but dropped out after being arrested twice on suspicion of driving while intoxicated. He said he was twice convicted of DWI. “I started thinking about it, looking at the numbers, and looking at my true and sincere desire to serve my community,” he said. “I know my past will come up. It’s not about that. That is not who I am, that is not what I am about. I finally grew up and became the man I am today.”

Libby Willis: The Democrat and former president of the Fort Worth League of Neighborhoods — who has been active in historic preservation, community revitalization and city issues for years — is weighing a possible bid. She is the daughter-in-law of the late Doyle Willis, who represented Fort Worth in the House and Senate for decades. “People have definitely been talking to me,” she said. “The phone keeps ringing. I am really, really seriously considering it. … I’ve been looking for a place to serve for a while.”

Martinez clearly has a bit of baggage, but candidates have survived worse than that. This is what competitive primaries are for, to sort all that out. Quorum Report points us to Martinez’s company for more about him. The fact that he is a founder of a company that “has extensive leasing experience in the Barnett Shale” may be a bigger negative for him in a D primary than a couple of Clinton-era DWI arrests. QR has a copy of Willis’ press release here. Other Dems may jump in, and there are multiple Republicans fighting it out as well. It will be a tough job to hold this seat, but it would be very nice if we could.

Austin to ban texting while driving

After considering it for a long time, the city of Austin is set to ban texting while driving.

Council members Mike Martinez and Chris Riley and Mayor Lee Leffingwell are proposing to prohibit writing, sending or reading text messages, instant messages or e-mails or viewing the Internet on a cell phone or other portable electronic device while driving a vehicle or a bike.

I don’t really want to know how you can text while riding a bike, do I? I guess if you’re one of those people who can ride with no hands on the handlebars, it’s doable.

They also want to require a 3-foot distance between vehicles and other “vulnerable road users” on the roadside, including cyclists, pedestrians and people in wheelchairs. Either party — the driver or the other road user — could be ticketed for failing to keep that distance, Martinez said.

The Safe Passing bill lives, at least in Austin. Governor Perry can’t veto this one.

If council members vote in favor of the policy changes Thursday, city staffers would write ordinances that would come back to the council for a vote before they’re enacted, a process that could take at least two months, Martinez said.

This has been a work in process since at least November of 2008. You can’t say they’ve rushed this, that’s for sure.