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UT/TT poll: We need more context

Time for another UT/Texas Trib poll, in which the pollsters do a mighty fine job of failing to find anything interesting about their data.

Donald Trump remains highly popular with Texas Republicans nearly a year after his election as the 45th president, according to the latest University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll.

“Trump’s overall job approval numbers continue to look good with Republicans,” said Jim Henson, co-director of the poll and head of the Texas Politics Project at the University of Texas at Austin. “His base is still very secure.”

His popularity with Texas Democrats, on the other hand, is remarkably low. While 79 percent of Republicans said they approve of the job the president is doing, 92 percent of Democrats disapprove. Among independent voters, 55 percent handed Trump good marks, while 35 gave him bad ones.

The president got better marks from men (52 percent favorable) than from women (39 percent); and from white voters (55 percent) than from black (14 percent) or Hispanic voters (34 percent).

Overall, Trump remains popular with Republicans in a state that hasn’t shown a preference for a Democratic presidential candidate in four decades. “There’s no slippage here in intensity,” said Josh Blank, manager of polling research at the Texas Politics Project at UT-Austin. “There is some in the national numbers, but it’s not happening in Texas.”

The first thought I have when presented with data is “Compared to what?” In this case, how do these Trump approval numbers compare to other Trump approval numbers? And guess what? We have such numbers, from the previous UT/Trib poll. To summarize:

Approval                       Disapproval

Month  Overall  GOP  Ind  Dem  Overall  GOP  Ind  Dem
Feb         46   81   39    8       44   10   36   83
Oct         45   79   55    4       49   15   35   92

So Trump’s numbers are a teeny bit softer now than they were in February. Approval is down a point, disapproval is up five. More interesting is that while Dems are now nearly unanimous in their disapproval, Republicans are a bit less favorable to him as well. I’m curious at what level Henson and Blank will describe Trump’s Republican support as something other than “very secure”. The big shift here is with independents, whom I suspect are mostly conservatives who are disgruntled for one reason or another with the Republican Party. They stand out here are being much more amenable to Trump. Seems to me that would be something to explore in more depth, if anyone over there ever gets a bit curious.

The other way to approach this is to compare Trump’s numbers to Obama’s. It took me longer to find what I was looking for, partly because the stories about these numbers don’t always break them down in the same way, but the crosstabs to the October 2013 poll gave me what I was looking for:

Obama, October 2013:

Dems – 77 approve, 11 disapprove
Reps – 4 approve, 92 disapprove
Inds – 19 approve, 66 disapprove

Trump, October 2017

Dems – 4 approve, 92 disapprove
Reps – 79 approve, 15 disapprove
Inds – 55 approve, 35 disapprove

Again, the big difference is in independents. Trump has slightly higher approval but also higher disapproval from his own party, while both are equally reviled by the other party. I look at this, and I wonder about that assertion about intensity. From a strict R/D perspective, Trump is an almost exact mirror image of fifth-year Obama, at the same point in the election cycle. Do we think this means anything going into the ensuing midterm election? I think one can make a decent argument that Dems have the intensity advantage right now. I don’t think anyone knows whether than may have an effect on the turnout patterns we have seen in recent years. But the conditions look quite different, and if one is going to claim that the outcome will be the same as before, I’d like to understand the reason why. If one is going to ignore the question, or fail to notice that there is a question in the first place, I’d like to understand that reason, too.

By the way, on a side note, how can Trump have four percent approval among Democrats, but 14% approval among blacks and 34% approval among Hispanics? Are there that many black and Hispanic Republicans and/or Independents in this sample? There are no crosstabs, so I can’t answer that question on my own.

The big race so far on the 2018 ballot is the Senate race, and we have some polling data for that as well.

Republican U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz is much better known among Texas voters than his best-known political rival, Democratic U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke of El Paso, according to the latest University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll.

The incumbent faces some headwinds: 38 percent of voters said they have favorable opinions of Cruz, while 45 percent have unfavorable opinions of him. In O’Rourke’s case, 16 percent have favorable views and 13 percent have unfavorable views.

“Ted Cruz’s greatest asset — his strong support among the Republican base — remains pretty intact,” said Jim Henson, co-director of the poll and head of the Texas Politics Project at the University of Texas at Austin.

But it’s in the no-views-at-all numbers that Cruz has an advantage: only 17 percent said they have either neutral or no opinion of the incumbent, while 69 percent registered neither positive nor negative opinions of the challenger. More than half had no opinion of O’Rourke at all — an opportunity and a danger for a new statewide candidate who is racing to describe himself to voters before Cruz does it for him.

“Beto O’Rourke does not appear to have done much to improve his standing or, perhaps more importantly, to soften up Ted Cruz,” said Daron Shaw, a professor at UT-Austin and co-director of the poll. “This is the problem Democrats face in Texas — you have to grab the attention of voters and drive the issue agenda, but doing so requires a demonstration of strength that is almost impossible. Absent some substantial change in the issue environment, O’Rourke is on the same path as Paul Sadler and Rick Noriega,” two Democrats and former legislators who fell well short of defeating Republicans in statewide races.

Here’s a fun fact for you: In the entire 2007-08 election cycle, Rick Noriega raised about $4.1 million for his bid for Senate. Paul Sadler raised less than $700K in 2012. With a full year to go, Beto O’Rourke has already raised over $3.8 million, with $2.1 million in Q2 and $1.7 million in Q3. One of these things is not like the others. Maybe that will matter and maybe it won’t, I don’t know. O’Rourke does clearly have a ways to go to raise his profile, despite all the national press he’s received. It sure would be nice for the fancy professionals to acknowledge this sort of thing when throwing out analogies, that’s all I’m saying.

Now then, let’s look at Ted Cruz. Here were his numbers in March of 2013, shortly after he took office:

Cruz, in his first two months as a U.S. senator, is more familiar in his home state than Dewhurst, Abbott or John Cornyn, the senior senator from the state. He is viewed favorably by 39 percent and unfavorably by 28 percent, and only 17 percent have no opinion of him.

“Exactly what you would expect for someone who has been high profile and taken strong positions,” Shaw said. “Liberal Democrats have seen him and don’t like him. Conservative Republicans have seen him and like him. This is a decent indication of the spread of partisanship in Texas.

“He’s playing pretty well with the voters he cares about — the conservatives in Texas,” Shaw said.

And here we are in November of 2013:

Cruz’s unfavorable rankings increased by 6 percentage points since June, and his favorable rankings fell by 2; 38 percent of Texas registered voters had a favorable opinion of him, while 37 percent gave him unfavorable marks.

There may be more recent numbers, but that’s as far as I went looking. Short story, Cruz’s favorables are steady at 38 or 39%, while his unfavorables have gone from 28 to 37 to 45. I’ve no doubt this is due to the consolidation of Democratic disapproval, though I lack the crosstabs to confirm that. I’m sure he does have strong numbers among Republicans, but how strong are they compared to past results? I don’t expect more than a handful of Republicans to cross over to Beto next November, but staying home or skipping the race are also options, and if they’re less enthusiastic about their choice, that may be the choice for more of them. The one factor that can put the likes of Cruz in jeopardy is a depressed level of Republican turnout. Is there anything in the numbers to suggest that is a possibility? I think there is, though it’s early to say anything that isn’t pure speculation. If we want to say anything more substantive in later months, we need to know what the trends are. That’s what this data is good for now.

O’Rourke sure sounds like a candidate for Senate

Sure feels like it’s a matter of when and not if Rep. Beto O’Rourke announces his candidacy for US Senate.

Re. Beto O’Rourke

U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke, D-El Paso, is sailing toward a 2018 Senate campaign — an uphill battle that would pit the little-known congressman against one of the state’s most prominent Republicans in the unpredictable era of President Donald Trump.

“I really want to do this,” O’Rourke said in an interview Saturday in which he also promised to run a positive campaign against U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas — no matter how much animus the incumbent inspires among Texas Democrats.

“Being against Ted Cruz is not a strategy,” O’Rourke said. “It might motivate some folks and might make the election of a Democrat for the first time in 30 years more likely, but it in itself is not a strategy, and so I’m really putting my time and my efforts and my thinking into what makes Texas a better place and what makes the lives of the people who live in this state better, and so I’m just going to stay focused on that.”

O’Rourke has said for weeks that he is likely to take on Cruz but has not set a timeline for an official announcement. He said Saturday he wants to make sure he is mindful of his current constituents and that “I’m thoughtful in how I make this decision and keep El Paso, my family, foremost in mind.”

“I don’t want to run unless we’re going to win, and I’m confident we can,” O’Rourke said. “I just want to make sure the way we do this, we set ourselves up for victory.”


If O’Rourke runs for Senate, fundraising would likely be one of his biggest challenges. While he was the underdog in his 2012 Senate campaign, Cruz has since built a national fundraising network, partly through his 2016 presidential bid.

O’Rourke has already made clear he plans not to accept PAC money in a potential Senate campaign. Asked Saturday if that would apply to money from national Democratic groups who may want to help him out, O’Rourke held firm that he “won’t take money from political action committees — and that’s across the spectrum.”

“I think folks just need to know that, clean and simple,” O’Rourke said. “When you start picking and choosing then, you know, it becomes a slippery slope and you just start doing what everyone else is doing, what everyone is so sick of and what has made Washington so dysfunctional and corporate.”

See here, here, and here for some background. As noted before, we are probably not going to get any kind of positive announcement until after the March 31 campaign finance deadline for the first quarter. I will say again, I really hope Rep. O’Rourke has a plan to achieve the kind of grassroots fundraising success he talks about, because it ain’t easy to do. Neither is running for Senate with less than a full complement of resources, as Paul Sadler and Rick Noriega and Barbara Radnofsky could tell you. Believe me, I’m rooting for Rep. O’Rourke, and I’ll chip in when the time comes, I’m just trying to be clear-headed about the road ahead.

On the matter of whether or not his colleague Rep. Joaquin Castro will join him in this quest, Rep. O’Rourke says that while Rep. Castro is his friend and he’d be a great Senator himself, he can’t and won’t wait to see what someone else does to make his own decision. Fair enough. I still don’t believe the two of them will square off in a primary, but 2018 is going to be a weird year, so who knows what might happen.

Precinct analysis: Brazoria County

I had some time to spare, so I spent it with the canvass reports from Brazoria County. You know, like you do. Here’s what I was able to learn.

        Trump   Clinton   R Avg   D Avg   Weber    Cole
Votes  36,572    15,127  37,036  14,996  37,917  14,678
Pct    68.58%    28.23%  71.18%  28.82%  72.09%  27.91%

        Trump   Clinton   R Avg   D Avg   Olson  Gibson
Votes  36,219    28,073  39,026  26,713  40,179  26,178
Pct    54.08%    41.92%  59.37%  40.63%  60.55%  39.45%

        Trump   Clinton   R Avg   D Avg   Thomp   Floyd
Votes  40,666    30,564  43,599  29,181  44,713  28,505
Pct    54.83%    41.21%  59.95%  40.05%  61.07%  38.93%

Votes  32,125    12,636  32,462  12,528
Pct    69.23%    27.23%  72.15%  27.85%

Brazoria County is part of two Congressional districts, CDs 14 and 22, and two State Rep districts, HDs 25 and 29. The latter two are entirely within Brazoria, so the numbers you see for them are for the whole districts, while the CDs include parts of other counties as well. The first table splits Brazoria by its two CDs, while the second table is for the two HDs. Incumbent Republican Randy Weber was challenged by Democrat Michael Cole in CD14, while Republican Pete Olsen was unopposed in CD22. The second group of numbers in the first table are the relevant ones for CD22; I didn’t include Olsen because there was no point (*). There were no contested District or County Court races, so the “R Avg” and “D Avg” above are for the four contested district Appeals Court races; these are the 1st and 14th Courts of Appeals, which as you know includes Harris County.

The second table is for the State Rep districts. In HD29, incumbent Republican Ed Thompson faced Democrat John Floyd, while Republican Dennis Bonnen was unchallenged in HD25. You can sort of tell from the tables and I can confirm from the raw data that HD29 mostly overlapped CD22, and HD25 mostly overlapped CD14. As I have done before, the percentages for the Presidential races are calculated including the vote totals for Gary Johnson and Jill Stein, which is why they don’t add to 100%. The other contested races all had only two candidates.

Still with me? If so, you can see that HD29 was much more interesting than HD25, and was where basically all of the crossover Presidential votes were. Trump lagged the Republican baseline in HD25, but those voters mostly either skipped the race or voted third party. Viewed through the Presidential race, HD29 looks like a potentially competitive district, but if you pull the lens back a bit you can see that it is less so outside that, and that Thompson exceeded the Republican baseline on top of that. It would be nice to point to this district as a clear opportunity, but we’re not quite there. There is another dimension to consider here, however, and that is a comparison with the 2012 results:

       Romney     Obama    Cruz  Sadler   R Avg   D Avg   Weber Lampson
Votes  35,571    13,940  34,618  13,865  33,931  14,444  33,116  14,398
Pct    70.82%    27.75%  69.34%  27.77%  70.14%  29.86%  69.70%  30.30%

       Romney     Obama    Cruz  Sadler   R Avg   D Avg   Olsen  Rogers
Votes  35,291    20,481  34,879  19,879  34,466  20,164  35,997  17,842
Pct    62.49%    36.27%  62.14%  35.42%  63.09%  36.91%  66.86%  33.14%

       Romney     Obama    Cruz  Sadler   R Avg   D Avg   Thomp   Blatt
Votes  40,170    22,480  39,657  21,866  39,203  22,204  40,642  21,388
Pct    63.32%    35.44%  62.86%  34.66%  63.84%  36.16%  65.52%  34.48%

Votes  30,692    11,941  29,840  11,878  29,194  12,404
Pct    70.95%    27.60%  69.45%  27.64%  70.18%  29.82%

In 2012, Randy Weber was running to succeed Ron Paul in the redrawn CD14, which had a nontrivial amount of resemblance to the old CD02 of the 90s, which is how former Congressman Nick Lampson came to be running there. He ran ahead of the pack, but the district was too red for him to overcome. Pete Olsen was challenged by LaRouchie wacko Keisha Rogers, Ed Thompson faced Doug Blatt, and Dennis Bonnen was again unopposed. I threw in the numbers from the Ted Cruz-Paul Sadler Senate race in these tables for the heck of it.

The main thing to note here is that HD29 was a lot more Republican in 2012 than it was in 2016. Ed Thompson went from winning by 31 points in 2012 to winning by 22 in 2016, with the judicial average going from nearly a 28 point advantage for Republicans to just under a 20 point advantage. Total turnout in the district was up by about 11,000 votes, with 7K going to the Dems and 4K going to the Republicans. That still leaves a wide gap – 14K in the judicial races, 16K for Ed Thompson – but it’s progress, and it happened as far as I know without any big organized effort.

And that’s the thing. If Democrats are ever going to really close the gap in Texas, they’re going to have to do it by making places like HD29, and HD26 in Fort Bend and the districts we’ve talked about in Harris County and other districts in the suburbs, more competitive. If you look at the map Greg Wythe kindly provided, you can see that some of the blue in Brazoria is adjacent to blue precincts in Fort Bend and Harris Counties, but not all of it. Some of it is in Pearland, but some of it is out along the border with Fort Bend. I’m not an expert on the geography here so I can’t really say why some of these precincts are blue or why they flipped from red to blue in the four years since 2012, but I can say that they represent an opportunity and a starting point. This is what we need to figure out and build on.

(Since I initially drafted this, Greg provided me two more maps, with a closer view to the blue areas, to get a better feel for what’s in and around them. Here’s the North Brazoria map and the South Brazoria map. Thanks, Greg!)

(*) – As noted in the comments, I missed that Pete Olsen did have an opponent in 2016, Mark Gibson. I have added the numbers for that race. My apologies for the oversight.)

The UT/TT poll’s track record in past Democratic primaries

The one result in that UT/TT poll from Monday that has people freaking out is the one that shows nutball LaRouchie Kesha Rogers leading the Senate race with 35%, followed by David Alameel with 27%. I expressed my skepticism of that result at the time, because among other things I have my doubts that their sample is truly representative of the Democratic primary electorate, but I thought it might be worthwhile to take a look at the Trib’s previous efforts at polling Democratic primaries and see how they’ve done in the past. There are two elections to study. First, let’s go back to 2010 when all of the statewide offices were up for grabs. Democrats had three contested primaries that the Trib polled: Governor, Lt. Governor, and Ag Commissioner. Here are the results.

In the Democratic primary race, former Houston Mayor Bill White has a huge lead over his next closest challenger, businessman Farouk Shami, pulling 50 percent to Shami’s 11 percent. Five other candidates are in the running for the Democratic nomination; the survey found that only 9 percent of those polled prefer someone other than the two frontrunners.

Undecided voters are still significant in both gubernatorial primaries. On the Republican side, 16 percent said they hadn’t made up their minds. Pressed for a preference, 51 percent chose Perry, 34 percent chose Hutchison, and 15 percent chose Medina — an indication that Perry could win without a runoff if he can attract those voters into his camp. Among Democratic voters, 30 percent were undecided, and of those, 48 percent, when pressed, said they lean toward White. With White already at 50 percent, that means Shami would have to strip votes away from him in order to force a runoff or to claim a win.


Democratic primary voters have a couple of other statewide races to decide. In the contest for lieutenant governor — the winner will face Republican incumbent David Dewhurst in November — labor leader Linda Chavez-Thompson took 18 percent of those polled, former Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle got 16 percent, and restaurateur Marc Katz had 3 percent. Five percent of voters said they wanted “somebody else,” and a whopping 58 percent remain undecided on the eve of early voting, which begins on Tuesday. Kinky Friedman and Hank Gilbert — two refugees from the governor’s race now running for agriculture commissioner — are locked in a tight race, 32 percent to 27 percent. While Friedman’s ahead, the difference is within the poll’s margin of error. And, as with the Lite Guv race, “undecided” is actually leading, at 41 percent. The winner will face incumbent Republican Todd Staples in November.

And here’s the reality:

Governor Alma Aguado 2.83% Felix Alvarado 4.95% Bill Dear 0.96% Clement Glenn 1.44% Star Locke 0.92% Farouk Shami 12.84% Bill White 76.03% Lieutenant Governor Linda C-T 53.13% Ronnie Earle 34.67% Marc Katz 12.18% Commissioner of Agriculture Kinky Friedman 47.69% Hank Gilbert 52.30%

So White did have a big lead on Shami, but it was much bigger than they indicated. Linda Chavez-Thompson was indeed leading Ronnie Earle, but by a significant amount, more than enough to avoid a runoff. And Hank Gilbert defeated Kinky Friedman, despite the UT/TT poll showing Friedman in the lead.

How about the 2012 Senate primary, which is a reasonably decent facsimile of this one, as it’s a large field of mostly unknown candidates? Here’s the poll:

The Democrats, too, could be building to a July finish, probably between former state Rep. Paul Sadler and Sean Hubbard, according to the poll.

Sadler led the Democrats with 29 percent, but was followed closely — and within the poll’s margin of error — by Hubbard. Two other candidates — Addie Dainell Allen and Grady Yarbrough — also registered double-digit support.

And the actual result:

U. S. Senator Addie Allen 22.90% Sean Hubbard 16.08% Paul Sadler 35.13% Grady Yarbrough 25.87%

Sadler did in fact lead the field, but Hubbard came in fourth, well behind eventual second-place finisher Grady Yarbrough, whom the Trib pegged for fourth.

So what conclusions can we draw from this? Mostly that we don’t have enough data to be able to evaluate the Trib’s ability to poll Democratic primaries. To be fair to them, they were quite accurate in the corresponding GOP races. They had Rick Perry winning in 2010, though not quite over 50%, with Debra Medina’s level nailed exactly, and they had David Dewhurst with a lead over Ted Cruz with Tom Leppert in third, but with the Dew falling short of a majority. As such, I’d put some faith in their GOP polling, at least until we see how they actually did. But I would not put much faith in their Dem results. They clearly pushed people to pick someone – anyone! – in the Senate race, they polled before David Alameel dropped a bunch of mail, which they themselves said (but didn’t acknowledge in their writeup) is exactly the sort of thing that could enable someone to win that race, and as I said I just don’t believe they’ve got a representative sample of the Dem primary electorate. I’ll be more than a little shocked if it turns out they got this one right.

One more thing: What if they are right about Rogers leading? Well, as long as she doesn’t crack 50%, I’d suggest we all remain calm. For all its constraints and limitations, the state Democratic Party has managed to get the nominees it has wanted in the last three Senate primaries. Rick Noriega cleared 50% in round one in 2008, and Sadler in 2012 and Barbara Radnofsky in 2006 both won their runoffs – Radnofsky has said that her overtime race against the now apparently dormant Gene Kelly was the best thing that happened to her, as it boosted her fundraising and made people actually pay attention to that race. I feel reasonably confident that if Rogers is in a runoff with anyone, everyone else in the party will fall as loudly and visibly as they can behind her opponent, whoever that winds up being. It’s already happening to a large degree – the TDP, the HCDP, and the Fort Bend Democratic Party have put out messages condemning Rogers and urging Democrats not to vote for her. I’d have preferred to see that happen earlier than this, and I’d much rather it not come to banding together to beat her in a runoff, but I’m not going to fall into a spiral of self-loathing over this one poll result. Do your part to help people make a good decision in this race, and be prepared to support someone other than Kesha in a runoff if it comes to that.

Yet another wacky poll about Latino voting in Texas

Just when I thought I was out…they pull me back in.

Not Ted Cruz

Not Ted Cruz

Sen. Ted Cruz lost the Hispanic vote in Texas by about 20 percentage points, but out-performed GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney, according to post-2012 election polling shared with the Washington Examiner.

Cruz defeated Democrat Paul Sadler last November by nearly 16 percentage points on his way to garnering 56.5 percent of the vote. Romney bested Obama by nearly 17 percentage points while garnering 57.2 percent of the vote. But a survey taken about six weeks after the election and made available by the Republican senator’s political team, shows Hispanics favored Sadler over Cruz 60 percent to 40 percent and Obama over Romney 59 percent to 33 percent.

The survey offers a unique window into voting patterns of Hispanics, the nation’s fastest growing voting bloc, in conservative-leaning Texas, where exit polling is hard to come by given its reliable Republican voting record in statewide races and the high cost of gathering data in such a large state. With Cruz, son of a Cuban immigrant, exploring a 2016 presidential run, the poll could shed light on how the senator compares with other Republicans when it comes to winning Hispanic votes.


The poll, conducted by Cruz pollster Wilson Perkins Allen Opinion Research, surveyed 601 Texas Hispanics who voted in the 2012 general election, and has an margin of error of 4 percentage points.

I don’t know if this horse is dead yet, but if it isn’t it’s definitely in the ICU. A few basic observations, which I will try to keep fresh, since even I’m getting tired of this:

– There’s no polling data available for inspection, so it’s that much harder to do any intelligent analysis of this. Wilson Perkins did a Presidential poll in September and released all their data for it, so it’s not like they have a track record of secrecy. Yes, I know, polls commissioned by candidates/officeholders often have proprietary information in them, but they’re also often released in this manner to advance an argument. Mike Baselice does this a lot. I’m not saying this makes a poll automatically suspect, but you are ultimately taking the pollster’s word for it, and when a pollster has been hired by a partisan, that partisan has an interest in what is taken away from the information provided. Caveat emptor, is what I’m saying.

– That claim that the Latino vote divided 60-40 between Cruz and Sadler is suspicious for several reasons. For one, I’ve never seen a poll result where the totals for two candidates added up to 100%. Even in a runoff situation, there will be some “don’t know” and “refused/no answer” type responses. In addition, as we have seen many times before, the percentage of people who have expressed a preference in the Cruz/Sadler race was considerably less than the percentage that expressed a preference in Romney/Obama. It beggars belief that literally everyone picked either Cruz or Sadler. This number alone makes me want to disregard the entire poll.

– As I have pointed out before, claims about Latino voting in Texas can be checked against actual results, and deviations from the Latino Decisions poll last November can generally be shown to be suspect based on that. It’s also worth noting that claims about a certain level of preference for Latino voters affects what the numbers would have to be for Anglo voters as well. For example, if you assume that the racial/ethnic breakdown in Texas was 70% Anglo, 20% Latino, and 10% African-American, then to say Ted Cruz got 40% of the Latino vote implies he must have gotten about 68% of the Anglo vote in order to get 56.5% of the vote overall. Note that back in September, Wilson Perkins claimed that Mitt Romney was polling at 77% among Anglo voters in Texas. How do they explain that disparity? Everyone agrees that Cruz did a little better than Romney did among Latino voters in Texas, which therefore implies that Romney did a little better than Cruz among Anglo voters – you can see that in the data if you compare the county by county results for each – but not nine points better. Which one of their polls would Wilson Perkins say was inaccurate?

– It’s not quite as easy to draw conclusions about the Anglo vote in Texas from precinct or county results, but a look at the most Anglo State Rep districts in Texas suggests that Cruz did better than 68% overall among that demographic:

Dist Anglo% Cruz Sadler Cruz% Sadler% ================================================ 2 81.4 43,359 13,782 73.9% 23.5% 19 80.7 48,200 15,964 73.4% 24.3% 21 80.0 46,050 17,057 71.5% 26.5% 58 80.4 41,720 12,225 75.0% 22.2% 60 84.7 51,821 11,081 80.1% 17.1% 61 85.8 54,602 11,591 80.2% 17.0% 62 82.2 38,182 14,041 70.8% 26.1% 98 80.9 56,907 17,802 73.9% 23.1%

You get into fuzzy math very quickly, so I don’t want to spend much time on this. The Anglo% is Voting Age Population, which is likely to be less than Citizen Voting Age Population, and is also likely to be less than the share of the actual electorate. Unlike Latinos, who voted fairly consistently for Democrats, there are a couple of places in the state that are heavily Anglo but not very Republican – specifically, much of Austin and some place in Houston like Montrose and The Heights. HD48, for example, is 69.5% Anglo VAP, but voted only 37.9% for Cruz. (See the election numbers here and population figures here.) There’s also a lot more Anglo voters than there are Latino voters, so you can’t get nearly as big a total by looking at the most heavily Anglo districts. All that said, there’s nothing here to suggest Cruz got only 68% of the Anglo vote, and as such there’s nothing here to suggest he got as much as 40% of the Latino vote.

– Along the same lines as above, the cited figure of 32% Latino support for Romney is reasonably in line with other data, and implies a level of Anglo support in the 71-72% range, which strikes me as being plausible. I could buy 35% for Cruz – bearing in mind that some number of people thought Cruz was the Democrat in the race – but 40% is just a stretch. I’ll say it again: Show me the math if you want me to believe. Link via Burka.

PAC Plus polls Latinos in Texas

BOR reported last week on a poll of Texas Latinos conducted by PAC Plus. They zeroed in on the questions that had to do with Latinos’ impressions of Republicans and Democrats.

For the survey PAC+ interviewed 2,685 randomly selected registered Hispanic voters in Texas counties with the highest number of Latino eligible voters: Bexar, Dallas, Tarrant, El Paso and Harris. The findings give support to a major part of Democrats plan to take back Texas — register and turnout Latino voters. According to pollster Dr. Julie Martinez Ortega, “Latino voters make up 43% of the ‘Texas Blue’ vote,”.

Republicans most straightforward pitch to Hispanics has been to try and co-identify as “conservative” and play up shared family values. It appears that whatever assumptions about shared values Republicans made were incorrect. When asked, “When it comes to social issues — such as religion, abortion and same-sex marriage — which party do you generally think does the best job of representing your views? Democrats or Republicans?”, 58% said Democrats and only 24% identified with Republicans. This backs up other recent polls that show Hispanics by large margins support a woman’s right to end her pregnancy. Adriana Maestas, of the National Latina Institute of Reproductive Health, gave an early warning to Republicans over their “conventional wisdom” on Hispanics and social issues prior to the 2012 election when she said, “…if the GOP continues to reach out to Latino voters based on the perceived social agenda. These kinds of messages may not be well received this election year.” She was correct as 58% of those survey by PAC+ supported Obama and only 24% supported Romney.

On economic issues, “like jobs, the economy, and immigration”, Hispanics still identified most with Democrats at 57%. One of the most successful tools Republicans have used is recruiting Hispanic candidates. A majority of respondents said they were more likely to vote for a candidate because they were “Hispanic”, with 44% saying they would be much more likely. Senator Ted Cruz accordingly got 32% of the Hispanic vote, but 21% of those surveyed actually thought he was a Democrat.

Emphasis in the original. I want to dig into that last data point a bit. The question about how much Latino support Cruz has received – specifically, how much of a boost he got in heavily Democratic Latino areas – has been a frequent topic of discussion since his election last November. I’ve written several posts on the subject. Here are the relevant numbers from the PAC Plus poll:

What did you do in the 2012 contest for President?

Obama      58%
Romney     24%
Neither    19%

What did you do in the contest for Senate?

Sadler     27%
Cruz       32%
Neither    41%

To the best of your knowledge, is Senator Ted Cruz a Democrat or a Republican? If you’re not sure, just make your best guess.

Democrat   21%
Republican 61%
Not sure   18%

Would you be more likely to support a candidate who is Hispanic than one who is not?

Much       25%
Somewhat   20%
Not        22%
Not sure   33%

Full toplines are here. If you take the “Neither”s at their word in the Presidential question, Obama got about 70% of the Latinos who did vote, which is entirely in agreement with the Latino Decisions exit poll of Texas. The Sadler/Cruz numbers, needless to say, stick out like a sore thumb. My explanation for the huge disparity is that the 2012 Senate race was basically indistinguishable from any other statewide downballot race, at least once the GOP primary was over. I can’t honestly say I ever saw a Ted Cruz ad on TV, and as we know Paul Sadler didn’t have two dimes to rub together. I strongly suspect a large number of people polled simply didn’t recognize Sadler’s name and thus said they didn’t vote, while some other said they voted for Cruz because of their mistaken belief that he’s a Democrat or because if all else were equal they preferred a Latino to a non-Latino. We know that while there was some dropoff in voting in the Sadler/Cruz race, it wasn’t that much – both candidates got over 97% of the total vote as their party’s Presidential candidate, a figure that holds consistent through each of the State Rep districts, so the much larger “Neither” answer here is unlikely to be accurate. If you go to the House members’ page and click on an individual Member, you can now see the election data for each of the State Rep districts. A check of the most heavily Latino State Rep districts shows clearly the disparity between the poll result and the actual election numbers:

Dist SSRV Obama Sadler Diff Romney Cruz Diff ==================================================== 35 76.7 66.3 61.4 -4.9 32.7 36.0 +3.3 36 85.4 74.6 70.8 -3.8 24.4 27.0 +2.6 37 80.0 69.2 60.8 -8.4 29.7 35.0 +5.3 38 79.9 66.1 58.4 -7.7 32.9 38.1 +5.2 39 83.9 73.9 69.6 -4.3 25.1 28.1 +3.0 40 87.5 75.2 70.9 -4.3 23.7 26.6 +2.9 42 88.4 75.5 63.3 -12.2 23.4 32.5 +8.9 75 82.8 72.2 66.9 -5.3 26.6 29.7 +3.1 76 82.9 76.8 71.5 -5.3 21.8 25.7 +3.8 79 71.3 64.6 60.1 -4.5 34.1 36.9 +2.8 80 80.4 68.4 60.5 -7.9 30.7 35.6 +4.9

SSVR = Spanish Surname Registered Voters; the number given is a percentage. In most districts, Sadler had a modest decrease in vote percentage compared to President Obama, while Cruz gained a smaller number of points on Mitt Romney. Only in four of the 11 districts is the dropoff from Obama to Sadler significant. Cruz benefited from being a Latino candidate running against a non-Latino candidate in a race where neither candidate was well known. As I’ve shown before, this was true for other Latino candidates – Democratic, Republican, and Libertarian – in similar contests. Democrats get the bulk of Latino votes, but in the absence of information about the candidates they will lose a few votes to Latino candidates from other parties. When you get right down to it, this is yet another commercial for Battleground Texas and their neighbor-to-neighbor model for getting out the vote. Latinos vastly prefer the Democratic position on the issues. Like all voters, they need to have accurate information about the candidates to ensure they make the choice that best reflects their values, and they need a reason to go to the polls to express those values. No matter how we study this issue, or how much evidence we amass on it, the same conclusions remain valid.

Precinct analysis: A closer look at the Latino districts

Here’s a more in-depth look at the Latino districts in Harris County. I’m particularly interested in the question of how President Obama did in comparison to the other Dems on the ballot, since as we know he lagged behind them in 2008, but we’ll see what else the data tells us.

CD29 Votes Pct ======================== Green 85,920 73.40 Garcia 81,353 73.29 Ryan 76,188 69.01 Trautman 75,904 68.97 Obama 75,464 66.60 Bennett 74,691 68.48 Petty 74,275 69.19 Hampton 73,917 67.97 Oliver 72,971 66.19 Henry 72,581 67.46 Sadler 71,382 64.73 08Obama 70,286 62.20 08Noriega 75,881 68.30 08Houston 73,493 67.70 SD06 Votes Pct ======================== Garcia 95,602 73.28 Gallegos 93,136 70.94 Ryan 90,047 69.29 Trautman 89,853 69.31 Obama 89,584 67.14 Bennett 88,289 68.78 Petty 87,920 69.55 Hampton 87,456 68.37 Oliver 86,390 66.56 Henry 85,891 67.84 Sadler 84,671 65.26 08Obama 85,445 63.50 08Noriega 91,173 68.80 08Houston 88,565 68.30 HD140 Votes Pct ======================== Garcia 17,674 76.57 Walle 18,297 75.67 Ryan 16,719 70.92 Trautman 16,653 72.89 Obama 16,548 70.74 Bennett 16,481 72.57 Petty 16,341 73.07 Hampton 16,225 71.63 Oliver 16,184 70.75 Henry 16,131 71.96 Sadler 15,668 68.64 08Obama 15,399 66.20 08Noriega 16,209 71.00 08Houston 15,967 71.00 HD143 Votes Pct ======================== Garcia 22,258 74.89 Luna 21,844 72.94 Ryan 20,902 70.92 Trautman 20,731 70.57 Obama 20,597 67.82 Bennett 20,580 70.51 Petty 20,377 70.97 Hampton 20,335 69.97 Oliver 20,077 68.19 Henry 19,971 69.18 Sadler 19,597 66.40 08Obama 20,070 64.10 08Noriega 21,525 70.10 08Houston 21,130 70.20 HD144 Votes Pct ======================== Garcia 13,555 57.96 Ryan 12,668 53.96 Trautman 12,663 54.18 Perez 12,425 53.35 Bennett 12,382 53.63 Petty 12,328 54.27 Obama 12,281 51.47 Hampton 12,226 53.24 Oliver 11,966 51.07 Henry 11,919 52.49 Sadler 11,761 50.50 08Obama 11,983 48.00 08Noriega 13,197 53.60 08Houston 13,129 54.50 HD145 Votes Pct ======================== Alvarado 20,829 68.86 Garcia 19,180 67.67 Ryan 17,860 63.04 Trautman 17,886 63.30 Petty 17,254 63.03 Bennett 17,252 61.90 Hampton 17,154 61.85 Obama 17,890 61.13 Henry 16,624 60.63 Oliver 16,778 59.22 Sadler 16,655 58.79 08Obama 16,749 57.10 08Noriega 18,427 63.70 08Houston 17,315 61.70 HD148 Votes Pct ======================== Farrar 25,921 64.56 Garcia 23,776 63.87 Ryan 22,413 59.91 Trautman 22,199 59.77 Petty 21,013 58.89 Hampton 21,219 58.49 Obama 22,393 57.92 Bennett 21,061 57.80 Sadler 21,210 56.51 Henry 19,888 55.55 Oliver 19,848 53.34 08Obama 22,338 57.50 08Noriega 22,949 60.10 08Houston 21,887 59.20

My thoughts:

– First, a point of clarification: Reps. Armando Walle and Carol Alvarado were unopposed, while Rep. Jessica Farrar had only a Green Party opponent. In those cases, I used their percentage of the total vote. Also the 2008 vote percentages on the Texas Legislative Council site are only given to one decimal place, so I added the extra zero at the end to make everything line up.

– In 2008, there was a noticeable difference between the performance of Barack Obama and the rest of the Democratic ticket in Latino districts. Obama underperformed the Democratic average by several points, as you can see from the above totals. This year, in addition to the overall improvement that I’ve noted before, President Obama’s performance is more or less in line with his overall standing at the countywide level. Generally speaking, those who did better than he did overall also did better in these districts. Obama’s vote percentage is still a notch lower in general, but this is mostly a function of undervoting or third-party voting downballot. What all this suggests to me is that whatever issues Obama had with Latino voters in 2008, he did not have them in 2012. This is consistent with everything else we’d seen and been told up till now, but it’s still nice to have hard numbers to back it up.

– Paul Sadler’s issues, on the other hand, come into sharper relief here. We know that Ted Cruz got some crossover votes in Latino areas, though the total number of such votes was fairly small. I continue to believe that this has as much to do with Sadler’s lack of resources as anything, but if you want an even more in-depth look at the question, go read Greg.

It’s still Gene Green’s world. That’s all that needs to be said about that.

– I have to think that Mike Anderson left some votes on the table here. Some targeted mailers into these areas that highlighted some of Lloyd Oliver’s, ah, eccentricities, would likely have paid dividends. Didn’t matter in the end, but if it had you’d have to look at this as a missed opportunity.

Precinct analysis: City and county

If you know a little something about Excel (or in my case, OpenOffice Calc, which has the same basic functionality), it’s fairly straightforward to calculate the vote totals and percentages for various candidates in various county, state, or federal districts. These districts are well-defined, and by that I mean they contain a certain number of precincts in their entirity, and two districts of the same classification (i.e., two State Rep districts) have no overlap between them. (That actually isn’t exactly right, but it’s close enough to not worry about.) It’s not the same for determining the vote in the city of Houston versus the rest of Harris County. City boundaries do not conform to precinct boundaries. There are numerous precincts that are part Houston and part not-Houston. When I first tried to do this, after the 2008 election, I wound up counting a number of non-Houston votes as being from the city, which had the effect of underestimating the Democratic percentage by two or three points. After getting some feedback on this, I refined my methodology and got a result that I thought was more accurate. It’s definitely an estimate, but I’m confident it’s in the ballpark.

This year, I have the benefit of the city of Houston bonds and charter amendments on the ballot, which identify all of the precincts that contain city of Houston voters. Obviously, I don’t want to count all of the votes in each of those precincts as being city of Houston, for the reasons given above. You can look at the individual precincts and see a handful of bond votes but hundreds or thousands of Presidential votes, so you know you can’t count the whole precincts. What I wound up doing was counting the votes in any precinct that had at least ten Yes votes for Proposition B, the parks bond that was the biggest winner among the bonds, as Houston precincts. It’s not exact, but it’s close enough. Here’s what I got from doing that:

Candidate Votes R Votes Pct ===================================== Garcia 381,103 211,886 64.3% Obama 371,755 242,953 60.7% Ryan 370,181 225,952 62.1% Trautman 367,587 226,185 61.9% Hampton 359,110 227,134 61.2% Sadler 356,630 242,658 59.5% Petty 356,110 225,061 61.3% Bennett 353,317 234,256 60.5% Henry 342,986 240,103 58.8% Oliver 342,701 252,168 57.6%

By this calculation, which remember is as much approximation as anything else, Obama lost 0.3 percentage points from 2008, while Adrian Garcia lost about a point and a half. This is consistent with the amount they lost overall from 2008, so again I feel pretty confident. You can see that Garcia, Vince Ryan, and Diane Trautman all attracted some Republican support, while Mike Anderson, Christi Craddick, and Mike Sullivan all drew Democratic support.

Here’s the flipside, non-Houston Harris County, which is simply the totals above subtracted from the overalls:

Candidate Votes R Votes Pct ===================================== Garcia 230,860 310,551 42.6% Ryan 215,781 326,609 39.8% Trautman 214,896 326,012 39.7% Obama 213,696 341,913 38.5% Petty 208,702 321,146 39.4% Hampton 207,229 326,415 38.1% Bennett 206,689 328,248 38.6% Sadler 206,325 338,539 37.9% Oliver 199,443 343,351 36.7% Henry 198,206 334,588 37.2%

Pretty much what you’d expect based on the first set of results, with the exception of Paul Sadler sliding down a few spots, for which I’d blame – again – his lack of resources. I read these amazing stories about the turnout effort in Ohio, and I ask myself again what that might look like if it were ever tried here. I don’t really have anything more to add to this, so I’ll leave it here and we’ll continue with more analysis later.

Precinct analysis: Sadler v Noriega and Sadler v Obama

Day Two of precinct analysis, in which we take a look at the Senate results. As I did with the Presidential results, I’m going to compare the candidates from this year to the candidates from 2008.

Dist Cruz Sadler Cornyn Noriega ======================================== HD126 63.86% 36.14% 62.26% 37.74% HD127 70.57% 29.43% 67.93% 32.07% HD128 72.95% 27.05% 66.87% 33.13% HD129 65.92% 34.08% 61.64% 38.36% HD130 77.23% 22.77% 74.54% 26.46% HD131 16.84% 83.16% 17.37% 82.63% HD132 60.83% 39.17% 60.02% 39.98% HD133 68.91% 31.09% 67.19% 32.81% HD134 57.28% 42.72% 55.21% 44.79% HD135 60.51% 39.49% 61.04% 38.99% HD137 36.31% 63.69% 36.85% 63.15% HD138 61.32% 38.68% 59.72% 40.28% HD139 24.74% 75.26% 23.36% 76.64% HD140 31.36% 68.64% 28.00% 72.00% HD141 13.22% 86.78% 14.11% 85.89% HD142 23.00% 77.00% 20.27% 79.73% HD143 33.60% 66.40% 28.89% 71.11% HD144 49.50% 50.50% 45.22% 54.78% HD145 41.21% 58.79% 34.99% 65.01% HD146 21.07% 78.93% 21.56% 78.44% HD147 21.64% 78.36% 18.50% 81.50% HD148 43.49% 56.51% 38.34% 61.66% HD149 43.47% 56.53% 43.88% 56.12% HD150 69.92% 30.08% 67.33% 32.67%

As before, I’m omitting the third party candidates and just giving the two-party percentages. Even with that, this isn’t a perfect comparison, since the candidates are different. Rick Noriega, running in a year with maximal Democratic turnout, scored a majority of the vote in the county, while Paul Sadler trailed Ted Cruz. Also, while Noriega wasn’t exactly swimming in campaign cash, he did raise over $4 million in his race, or about ten times what Sadler collected. Noriega had actual staffers on his campaign, Sadler was basically a one-man show. As such, one should expect better performance from Noriega overall; among other things, Noriega only lost about 7000 votes from Obama’s total, while the lesser-known Sadler dropped 23,000 votes from Obama. Still, it’s interesting to see the range of percentages in the Latino districts, to compare the two Latino candidates, one from each party. All things considered, Cruz didn’t do that much better than John Cornyn. His name may have given him a boost in the Latino areas, but the overall decline in Latino support for Republicans was a drag on that.

But how much of a boost did Cruz get? The number we’ve heard tossed around is six percent, so let’s compare Sadler’s share of the Obama vote to Cruz’s share of the Romney vote:

Dist Sadler Obama Ratio ================================ CD29 64.73% 66.60% 0.97 SD06 65.26% 67.14% 0.97 HD140 68.64% 70.74% 0.97 HD143 66.40% 67.82% 0.98 HD144 50.50% 51.47% 0.98 HD145 58.79% 61.13% 0.96 HD148 56.51% 57.92% 0.98 Dist Cruz Romney Ratio ================================ CD29 35.27% 33.40% 1.06 SD06 34.74% 32.86% 1.06 HD140 31.36% 29.26% 1.07 HD143 33.60% 32.18% 1.04 HD144 49.50% 48.53% 1.02 HD145 41.21% 38.87% 1.06 HD148 43.49% 42.08% 1.03

So Sadler got between 96 and 98 percent of Obama’s vote, while Cruz improved on Romney by two to seven percent. A six percent boost is therefore plausible, but notice what I’ve done here: I’ve compared percentages, not raw vote totals. This actually makes it look better for Cruz, for two reasons. One is that the sheer number of votes is fairly small. Add up all the votes in the five State Rep districts above (CD29 and SD06 largely overlap those districts, so including them would double- and triple-count a lot of votes) and you get the following:

Romney 55,839 votes, Obama 89,709 votes, meaning Romney got 38.36% of the vote overall.
Cruz 56,605 votes, Sadler 84,891 voters, which is 40.00% for Cruz.

Putting it another way, Cruz’s percentage was 4.29% better than Romney’s, but his vote total was only 1.37% better. While Cruz clearly picked up some Obama voters, what largely drove his improvement over Romney in percentage of the vote was undervoting on the Democratic side. It’s fair to blame some of this on Sadler’s lack of finances, though how much is hard to say. Still, my point is that depending on how you look at it, Cruz’s improvement on Romney is pretty modest, at least in Harris County.

You may be looking at those percentages above and thinking “Hey, these guys did pretty well in Latino areas. I thought Republicans were supposed to have sucked wind this cycle with Latinos.” Remember that this kind of analysis is a very blunt instrument. There’s still a lot of non-Latino voters in these districts, and for what it’s worth the most heavily Latino district (HD140) is the one where Cruz and Romney did the worst. You can see population and voting age population (VAP) totals for each district here, but even that only tells you so much since it doesn’t say what the citizen voting age population (CVAP) is, and of course we don’t know what the Latino versus non-Latino turnout in each district was. This is what I’ve got to work with, so this is what I can tell you.

One last point to make is that Cruz actually got more votes than Romney in nearly all of the Democratic state rep districts:

Dist Cruz Romney Ratio ================================ HD131 7,144 6,851 1.04 HD137 8,488 8,468 1.00 HD139 12,382 12,138 1.02 HD140 7,160 6,846 1.05 HD141 4,949 4,617 1.07 HD142 9,366 9,194 1.02 HD143 9,916 9,771 1.01 HD145 11,674 11,374 1.03 HD146 10,261 10,112 1.01 HD147 11,340 11,107 1.02 HD148 16,325 16,268 1.00 Total 109,005 106,746 1.02

Cruz trailed Romney in vote totals in HDs 144 and 149. Overall, Cruz got 2.11% more votes than Romney in these Democratic districts. He did not lead Romney in any Republican district. It should be noted that while the others listed here aren’t officially “Latino” districts, Latinos comprise a majority of the VAP in HD137 and a significant minority in all the others, at least 27% in each case. Again, though, we’re talking VAP and not CVAP, so tread carefully. We can only guess about who the Obama/Cruz voters were and why they chose to split the ticket in that fashion.

That’s all for today. More on these and other races next week and after Thanksgiving.

Did Ted Cruz do better in Latino areas than other Republicans?

Lisa Falkenberg drops the following tidbit in her post-election column on why the GOP in general and in Texas needs to figure out how to appeal to Latino voters.

In Texas, the best data so far show a 70-30 split for Obama among Hispanic voters, according to Rice University political science chairman Mark Jones. Romney performed several points worse than Sen. John McCain did in 2008. At the same time, Jones points out, Hispanics became a larger share of the vote in Texas, going from 20 percent in 2008 to 25 percent in 2012.

Republican Ted Cruz, who will become the first Hispanic U.S. senator from Texas, may have received a boost linked to his surname. Exit polling showed he outperformed Romney and Republican congressional candidates by 6 percent.

In the long run, Republicans can’t rely on surnames to appeal to Hispanics, although a few more on the ballot wouldn’t hurt.

“They’re going to have to reach out and do more than say that ‘Hispanics have values that are similar to ours.’ That’s an old refrain, which apparently is not bearing any fruit with the Hispanic population,” says Tatcho Mindiola, associate sociology professor and director of the Center for Mexican American Studies at the University of Houston.

Falkenberg doesn’t say what exit polls she was looking at. The Latino Decisions poll of Texas only asked about the Presidential race and Democrats in general, so it’s of no help here. Be that as it may, we can approach this question by comparing how Cruz did in heavily Latino counties to how Romney did. Here’s how he fared in the five counties I looked at last week.

County Obama Romney Sadler Cruz ========================================== Cameron 49,159 24,955 41,930 27,881 El Paso 112,273 56,517 101,467 59,237 Hidalgo 97,879 39,786 88,316 41,591 Maverick 8,302 2,171 6,550 2,674 Webb 37,592 11,074 30,431 14,943

Some of Paul Sadler’s dropoff in votes from President Obama can be attributed to the usual downballot effect, but clearly Cruz outperformed Romney, and given his higher vote totals there had to be some Obama/Cruz voters in each of these counties. In fact, if you look at all of the counties in Texas where Cruz received more votes than Romney, you get the following list: Webb, Cameron, Ellis, Hidalgo, Maverick, Willacy, Starr, Zapata, Zavala, Dimmit, Kleberg, Jim Hogg, Brooks, Jim Wells, Frio, Culberson. So yes, he did do better in heavily Latino areas, and I’m sure I’ll find the same effect in Harris County when I get precinct data.

There’s a bit more to this, however. It wasn’t just Cruz who benefited from being Latino and having a non-Latino opponent in these counties. For example, the Libertarian candidate running against Railroad Commissioner Barry Smitherman was a Latino. Take a look at how he did versus how other non-Latino Libertarians did in statewide races where the Republican had no Democratic opponent. Here’s Cameron County, for example.

Railroad Commissioner - Unexpired Term Barry Smitherman REP 25,866 48.72% Jaime O. Perez LIB 23,875 44.97% Josh Wendel GRN 3,347 6.30% Justice, Supreme Court, Place 2 Don Willett REP 32,963 62.76% Roberto Koelsch LIB 19,555 37.23% Justice, Supreme Court, Place 4 John Devine REP 30,797 58.42% Tom Oxford LIB 17,212 32.65% Charles Waterbury GRN 4,707 8.92% Judge, Court of Criminal Appeals Place 7 Barbara Hervey REP 32,107 61.09% Mark W. Bennett LIB 20,448 38.90% Judge, Court of Criminal Appeals Place 8 Elsa Alcala REP 36,619 68.72% William Strange LIB 16,664 31.27%

The same pattern holds for El Paso, Hidalgo, Maverick, and Webb counties. In the latter two, Libertarian candidate Perez scored a majority of the vote against Smitherman, which just blows my mind, and you will see the same effect for Latino Democratic candidates for the Fourth Court of Appeals, all of whom wound up winning. These were all low-profile, low-information races – even the Senate race was mostly below the radar, with Cruz avoiding debates and not running many ads, while Sadler barely had the money to do any advertising – so it’s not too shocking. Because of all this, I’d be careful about drawing any firm conclusions regarding Cruz and Latino voters. Latino voters have a stronger belief in the role of government and by a sizable majority support the Affordable Care Act and believe that the federal government should ensure that all people have access to health insurance. Needless to say, these views are incompatible with those of Ted Cruz. Unfortunately, we’ll have to wait till 2018 to see how these voters will behave when they have a fuller understanding of what Ted Cruz is about.

UPDATE: Latino Decisions did ask about the Senate race specifically, and you can see the result here, which shows Sadler leading Cruz 65-35. I didn’t see that at the time I wrote this post.

Obama leads in poll of Harris County

More polling goodness for you.

The poll conducted for KHOU 11 News and KUHF Houston Public Radio indicates Obama leads Romney in Harris County, but not by much. That gives some indication how election night might go for politicians running for offices that are down the ballot.

The poll shows the president leading in Harris County with the support of 46 percent of surveyed voters, compared to Romney’s 42 percent. Libertarian Gary Johnson cracked the survey with 2 percent.

In the U.S. Senate race, Democrat Paul Sadler’s 44 percent leads Republican Ted Cruz with 42 percent in Harris County. With a 3.5 percent margin of error, that’s a statistical dead heat in the largest county in Texas.


Republican crossover voters are helping push Democratic Sheriff Adrian Garcia to 51 percent in this survey, compared to Republican challenger Louis Guthrie’s 32 percent. Another 13 percent were undecided.

On the other hand, many Democrats told pollsters they’re voting for Republican district attorney candidate Mike Anderson, who’s polling at 41 percent. Nonetheless, Democrat Lloyd Oliver is close behind with 35 percent. Another 19 percent are undecided. That number is especially striking because Democratic Party leaders were so embarrassed by Oliver’s candidacy they tried to remove him from the ballot.

“What we’re seeing is a much more significant ticket-splitting among Republicans than Democrats,” said Bob Stein, the Rice University political scientist and KHOU analyst who supervised the poll. “I don’t know if that’s because they’re more bipartisan, or they simply are more capable and more likely to make that choice, which is not easy to do on an e-slate ballot.”

Or maybe Sheriff Garcia has done a better job of making the case for himself than Mike Anderson has. Prof. Stein was kind enough to share the topline data and the poll questions with responses, and I’ll note that there were considerably more “don’t know” answers in the DA race than in the Sheriff’s. Perhaps that’s the difference.

You can also find basic poll data here, though for some odd reason there’s no breakdown of the Senate race on that page. There are also results for the five City of Houston bond proposals, the HCC and HISD bond proposals, all of which have majority support and in some cases large majorities. There’s no result for the Metro referendum, but I infer from the teaser at the end of this KUHF story on the poll that that result may be released separately. Released by KHOU and KUHF, anyway – if you go back and look at those docs I linked above, you’ll see the Metro referendum result from this poll. It has plurality support, but that makes it the only one not to have a majority. Make of that what you will.

For what it’s worth, there was a Zogby poll of the Presidential race in Harris County in 2008, which showed a 7-point lead for Obama over McCain. Oddly, as I look back at it, the story never mentioned the actual numbers, just the margin; the links for the poll data and crosstabs are now broken, so I can’t check them. (The story did say that Rick Noriega had a 47-40 lead over John Cornyn for Senate in Harris County.) A separate poll of county and judicial races showed similar results, though it did correctly call Ed Emmett the leader in the County Judge race. Democrats did win most of those races, and both Obama and Noriega carried Harris County, though by smaller margins than the poll predicted. As I noted at the time, Zogby (the pollster) showed Dems with an eight-point advantage in party ID, which largely explained the poll numbers. This poll shows roughly the same partisan ID numbers, which could mean some Democratic slippage from 2008, or could just be random. As Greg says, what we very likely have here is a swing county where GOTV will make the difference. We’ll know soon enough.

Endorsement watch: The scoreboard for Sadler

More endorsements for Paul Sadler from the past week. Here’s the El Paso Times:

Paul Sadler

We need a U.S. senator who will work on border issues with our members of Congress in Dists. 16 and 23. We are endorsing Democrats Beto O’Rourke and Pete Gallego in those districts, respectively.

We like that Sadler, since leaving the Texas Legislature in 2002, has worked to promote clean and affordable energy. In our case, that would be solar energy. We have more than 300 days of bright sunlight each year and should be one of the nation’s hot spots for developing new methods to create the renewable energy that can be harnessed from the sun.

Sadler is a strong advocate for U.S. military veterans, of which there are some 70,000 in this immediate area.

We believe Sadler will work with our elected congressmen to bring a full-fledged VA hospital to El Paso. Sadler advocates increased VA funding.

We also like Sadler’s views on health care. He staunchly opposes efforts to allow insurance companies to deny coverage based on pre-existing conditions and to drop policy holders who get sick. He says politicians should stay out of women’s health care.

A strong El Paso vote for Paul Sadler will be a loud vote heard throughout Texas.

We are an important part of this large state, and we believe Paul Sadler is the best choice to carry our message in the U.S. Senate.

And the San Angelo Standard-Times:

If there was a “golden era” of Texas politics, it was the 1990s, when the two major political parties shared power and smart, competent leaders worked cooperatively to solve problems.

One of the key players of that time was Paul Sadler. A Democrat from Henderson, in East Texas, he joined former San Angelo state Rep. Rob Junell and other lawmakers who set aside party and ideological chest-beating and tackled big issues in serious fashion. They were equally committed under Democratic Gov. Ann Richards and Republican Gov. George W. Bush.

That record leads the Standard-Times editorial board to recommend Sadler as the next U.S. senator from Texas.

We are impressed with Republican Ted Cruz’s rise to prominence and count his primary win over Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst as one of the most remarkable upsets in Texas political history. However, the tone of his campaign has been combative and divisive, and precisely the opposite is needed now in the U.S. Senate.

I’m not quite that misty-eyed about the 90s in Texas politics, but whatever works for you. The EPT endorsement was noted by Texas Monthly, which observed that Sadler was defeating Cruz in newspaper endorsements around the state; they quoted this post of mine in making that observation. The San Angelo endorsement came after they posted, as did another ringing recommendation of Sadler by the better-late-than-never Austin American-Statesman.

Since his primary runoff victory over Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, Republicans have considered Ted Cruz a rising star in national politics. With the growing adoration have come guest spots on news talk shows and a prime-time speech at the Republican National Convention.

This is all well and good for Cruz, but Texas needs a capable legislator. And in the race to replace retiring Republican Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, Democrat Paul Sadler is the candidate with the impressive legislative record. He’s our choice for U.S. Senate.


We endorsed Cruz over Dewhurst in the Republican primary because we found his passion for policy and his willingness to engage on the issues refreshing. Cruz is sharp; he keeps you on your toes. We respect his role in the debate over the size and power of the federal government. But we disagree with him on many issues.

And Cruz, the state’s former solicitor general who served in the George W. Bush administration, has no experience as a legislator. Unlike Sadler, Cruz knows little about the nuts and bolts of writing and negotiating legislation. Sadler, however, understands that reaching compromise on bills involves difficult give-and-take work. If Washington is to move past the obstruction of the past several years, compromise cannot take place when it is defined as Cruz defines it: only when the other side sees things your way.

Cruz is ambitious. There is nothing wrong with ambition, but Texas doesn’t need a senator who will stick to extremes to win invitations to the Sunday morning talk shows. We need a senator whose best work takes place on Capitol Hill paying attention to the hard details that go into representing the needs of a growing state and strengthening our nation’s future. We need a legislator with experience and skill, one who will seek out responsible, pragmatic solutions to the state’s and nation’s problems.

We therefore recommend Paul Sadler for U.S. Senate.

Not too shabby. All this stands in sharp contrast to the Chron’s limp and misguided endorsement of Cruz, which they base on the hope he will be transformed by the Magic Bipartisanship Fairy into something he isn’t. I’ll say again, all things considered, this is a strong statement of just how outside the mainstream Cruz really is.

Endorsement watch: Three out of four ain’t bad

The Star-Telegram becomes the third of the four major papers to endorse Paul Sadler for Senate.

Paul Sadler

Sadler can be aggressive, even abrasive, as he demonstrated in an early-October debate with Cruz. But Sadler has specific, practical notions about improving how the federal government functions for Texans. He also understands how policies translate into reality.

For instance, where Cruz would abolish the U.S. Education Department and disburse federal funds to states through block grants, Sadler said that fixed-sum grants shortchange growing states like Texas and that doling out federal money without sufficient controls would diminish state and local accountability.

Where Cruz has made repealing the entire Affordable Care Act a prominent part of his message, Sadler said wiping the slate clean would erase good parts of the law and remove lawmakers’ leverage in dealing with insurance companies.

Cruz says more competition in the marketplace will improve the healthcare system. Sadler understands that Texas’ Republican leaders’ stubborn resistance to the law’s Medicaid expansion could end up shifting more costs for indigent care onto local taxpayers and jeopardize rural hospitals.

Where Cruz has criticized President Barack Obama’s directive allowing certain young illegal immigrants to seek temporary work authorization instead of being deported, Sadler supports a reasonable temporary work-permit program and a “reasonable path to citizenship.”

Both men support improved border security, but Sadler’s approach shows a firmer grasp of Texas’ trade relations with Mexico and the human dimension of reforming the immigration system.

Had it not been for that pathetic Chron endorsement of Cruz, Sadler would have gotten the same sweep as Keith Hampton. (At this point, I’m assuming that the Statesman isn’t bothering to endorse this year.) Given how everyone expects Cruz to win easily, it strikes me as a pretty strong statement of just how outside the mainstream Cruz is. The choice we have here is to prevent an error from happening, or to have to wait till 2018 to fix it. That seems like it ought to be a pretty easy call to me.

All the interviews for 2012

As we begin early voting for the November election, here are all the interviews I conducted for candidates who are on the ballot as well as for the referenda. These include interviews that were done for the primary as well as the ones done after the primary. I hope you found them useful.

Senate: Paul SadlerWebMP3

CD02: Jim DoughertyWebMP3

CD07: James CargasWebMP3

CD10 – Tawana CadienWebMP3

CD14: Nick LampsonWebMP3

CD20: Joaquin CastroWebMP3

CD21: Candace DuvalWebMP3

CD23: Pete GallegoWebMP3

CD27: Rose Meza HarrisonWebMP3

CD29: Rep. Gene GreenWebMP3

CD33: Marc VeaseyWebMP3

CD36: Max MartinWebMP3

SBOE6: Traci JensenWebMP3

SD10: Sen. Wendy DavisWebMP3

SD25: John CourageWebMP3

HD23: Rep. Craig EilandWebMP3

HD26: Vy NguyenWebMP3

HD127: Cody PogueWebMP3

HD131: Rep. Alma AllenWebMP3

HD134: Ann JohnsonWebMP3

HD137: Gene WuWebMP3

HD144: Mary Ann PerezWebMP3

HD146: Rep. Borris MilesWebMP3

HD147: Rep. Garnet ColemanWebMP3

HD150: Brad NealWebMP3

Harris County Sheriff: Sheriff Adrian GarciaWebMP3

Harris County District Attorney: Mike AndersonWebMP3

Harris County Attorney: Vince RyanWebMP3

Harris County Tax Assessor: Ann Harris BennettWebMP3

HCDE Position 3, At Large: Diane TrautmanWebMP3

HCDE Position 6, Precinct 1: Erica LeeWebMP3

Harris County Commissioner, Precinct 4: Sean HammerleWebMP3

Constable, Precinct 1: Alan RosenWebMP3

HISD Bond Referendum: Interview with Terry GrierMP3

City of Houston Bond and Charter Referenda: Interview with Mayor Annise ParkerMP3

HCC Bond Referendum: Interview with Richard SchechterMP3

Metro Referendum: Interviews with David Crossley, Gilbert Garcia and Christof Spieler, Sue Lovell, and County Commissioner Steve Radack

Endorsement watch: DMN for Sadler

It’s a strange endorsement, at least from my perspective, but it’ll do.

Paul Sadler

Texans face a decision in this election that has come before them only twice over the last four decades: How to fill a Senate seat that has carried with it a proud lineage of service to the state and nation.

Republican Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison is stepping down after almost 20 years in Washington, where she made it a top priority to look out for Texans’ national, state and even personal needs. She first won her post in 1993, succeeding Democrat Lloyd Bentsen, who served for 22 years. Like Hutchison, he provided consistent constituent aid as well as leadership on national and state matters.

The committed work of these two bipartisan leaders to their state creates an impressive, demanding legacy for their successor. Recommending the right candidate to follow in the Hutchison-Bentsen tradition is a responsibility this newspaper takes seriously. That’s why we’ve interviewed both candidates multiple times, examined their public careers, reviewed their answers to our questionnaire, spoken with others who know them well and followed their activities on the campaign trail.

After that thorough examination, we believe Democrat Paul Sadler, 57, is the best person to uphold this legacy of service to Texas and to keep our state relevant where it matters most.


Sadler also is more in tune with our state’s needs. The moderate Democrat speaks knowledgeably about water challenges, the border and defense facilities. He has praised Hutchison for Texas-specific efforts, such as helping El Paso secure a water desalination facility.

Cruz says he’ll fight for Texas projects “if it’s legitimate expenditures.” When asked to elaborate, he didn’t mention specifics beyond assuring that Washington properly funds “roads, freeways and ports.” He’s more focused on interpreting constitutional principles and applying them generally.

The Republican candidate has gained nationwide attention for articulating his beliefs. Since capturing the nomination, the Houston attorney has appeared on numerous talk shows and addressed the GOP convention. If he wins, he will be a rising star in national Republican politics. This newspaper is left with the feeling that he is pushing his personal star more than the star of Texas.

It’s a bit of a surreal experience reading this editorial, as the DMN comes from the perspective of a bizarro fantasy world in which President Obama is an unbending partisan warrior and the biggest problem in Washington is a lack of good manners. Whatever it is they’re smoking, it’s premium stuff. Still, I’ll take the DMN’s delusions over those of the Chron, who seem to think that after arriving in Washington Cruz will shed his ideological trappings and morph into the second coming of Kay Bailey Hutchison. It was exactly the belief that Cruz is unlikely to do so that led the DMN to join the Express News in making the pragmatic choice of Sadler. At least, the Chron is hoping Cruz will morph into KBH; it’s not clear to me that they actually believe it. The Chron also cites Sadler’s lack of financial resources as a reason for picking Cruz, which is just sad on so many levels. Anyway, that makes the endorsement scoreboard 2-1 in Sadler’s favor for now, with the Statesman and the Star-Telegram still to go.

Endorsement watch: E-N for Sadler, Parent PAC for Ann Johnson

Having made a good choice for the State Senate, the Express News follows it up with a good choice for US Senate.

Paul Sadler

Former state Rep. Paul Sadler is unequivocally the right choice on the Nov. 6 ballot to represent Texas in the U.S. Senate.

Sadler has a strong record as an effective legislator who understands the need to work with both sides of the aisle.

The Democrat is best known for his impressive work teaming up with former Republican state Sen. Bill Ratliff to rewrite the state’s education code in 1995 in a bipartisan effort.

A legislator for six terms from 1991-2003, Sadler rose in the Texas House to be chairman of the House Public Education Committee and was named one of Texas Monthly’s 10 best legislators four times.

Sadler is a pragmatic problem-solver, who advocates a balanced approach to ending the national deficit and comprehensive immigration reform that includes a pathway to citizenship for law-abiding immigrants, a work visa program and the DREAM Act.

Republican nominee Ted Cruz, a tea party favorite and a former state solicitor general, is touting troubling policy proposals that would not serve the state well.

If a grasp of policy is a factor in these editorial board interviews, Sadler ought to sweep the endorsements, much like Keith Hampton deserves to do. Cruz lives in a fantasy world, with a fairy-tale understanding of economics, foreign policy, and government in general. Assuming he wins, and he is certainly the overwhelming favorite to do so, you have to figure there are two ways for his term in office to go. One, he comes to learn the facts of life, and puts himself in position to be labeled just another sellout RINO by the ever-insatiable GOP primary base, or he remains steadfast in his delusions, and becomes the Senate version of someone like Michelle Bachmann, a sideshow freak who eventually exits elected office with few if any actual accomplishments to show for it. One wonders what his 2018 re-election campaign might look like under the latter scenario. Will whatever remains of the GOP establishment that actually likes getting stuff done – you know, building roads, steering defense contracts to the state’s military bases, that sort of thing – do something to derail him, or will they just accept their fate and bend over when called upon? I’d rather not find out, but I suspect it’ll be the latter if it comes down to it.

Meanwhile, the Texas Parent PAC, which has now begun making additional endorsements for the November election, announced that Ann Johnson was one of the first recipients of their recommendation. From their press release:

Ann Johnson

“Ann Johnson is a proven and effective advocate for children and families, and she will be a respected leader at the state Capitol,” said Darci Hubbard of Houston, a member of the Texas Parent PAC board of directors. “Ann will put kids before politics.” Hubbard said Johnson will seek permanent solutions for public school finance and work for meaningful tax relief for property owners.

Texas Parent PAC was created in 2005 by parents who joined together to elect state legislators who will stand up for schoolchildren. It is recognized as one of the state’s most successful political action committees.

Johnson is an attorney in private practice who represents children, including child victims of harassment and bullying in schools. Her practice includes representation in the newly created alternative courts: Growing Independence Restoring Lives (GIRLS) Court and the Harris County Mental Health Court. In addition, Johnson has been an adjunct professor at South Texas College of Law for 10 years. Earlier in her career, she was a Harris County prosecutor.

Johnson grew up in Houston, and she is carrying on her family’s tradition of public service. Her father, attorney Jake Johnson, was formerly a state representative, U.S. Marine Corps pilot, and teacher at Jones High School. Her mother, former Civil District Judge Carolyn Marks Johnson, taught at Alvin Community College, the University of Houston, and South Texas College of Law.

“Houston families deserve a legislator of Ann Johnson’s caliber,” said Texas Parent PAC Chair Carolyn Boyle. “She is an authentic leader with a unique combination of knowledge, experience, and personal gifts unmatched in the legislature.”

And unlike her opponent, who voted for the House budget that would have cut $10 billion from public education, Ann Johnson is a genuine advocate for public ed. So it all makes sense. In the meantime, take a look at what her former colleague with the Harris County DA’s office, Murray Newman has to say about her.

YouGov: Romney 52, Obama 41

Another new poll of Texas, from YouGov:

Republican Presidential hopeful Mitt Romney holds a solid, eleven-point lead over Democratic President Barack Obama in Texas, 52% Romney to 41% Obama, in a poll of 1,254 registered voters statewide, conducted by YouGov.

In the race for Senate, Republican Ted Cruz holds a 50%-31% over Democratic candidate Paul Sadler in the race to replace the retiring Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison.


Sampling method: Respondents were selected from the YouGov’s panel using sample matching. A random sample (stratified by age, gender, race, education, and region) was selected from the 2005–2007 American Community Study. Voter registration, turnout, religion, news interest, minor party identification, and non-placement on an ideology scale, were imputed from the 2008 Current Population Survey Registration and Voting supplement and the Pew Religion in American Life Survey. Matching respondents were selected from the YouGov panel, an opt-in Internet panel.

Weighting: The sample was weighted using propensity scores based on age, gender, race, education, news interest, voter registration, and non-placement on an ideology scale.

Number of respondents: 1,254 registered voters statewide.

Their poll data are here. For those of you thinking that Internet-based polls are necessarily bogus, let me refer you to Steve Singiser:

It would seem appropriate, given that they were solely responsible for half of the data collected today, to say a few words about YouGov. The firm is a British firm, that moved into the American market in 2007 when they bought out Polimetrix, a California-based firm that had done a lot of internet-based polling in 2006 in an arrangement with Stanford University.

Their polling is based on internet samples, a method which some find problematic (some aggregators of polling, indeed, refuse to utilize their data). It is a methodology that I also confess to qualms about, because when you have a sample that is essentially volunteering to participate, and a smaller universe from which to draw from, the potential pitfalls are pretty self-evident.

However, the true measure is performance. Some internet-based polling has a track record of missing the fairways. Indeed, the only poll that is specifically barred from inclusion in the Wrap is an internet-based survey: polls from JZ Analytics (once called “Zogby Interactive”). John Zogby is an established veteran who has some impressive hits on his resumé, but his foray into internet polling was pretty awful. 2006 was a particular low water mark, whether it was the insistence that Democrat Bill Ritter was enmeshed in a coin flip for the Colorado governor’s race (he won by 17), or that Herb Kohl was being hard-pressed for re-election (he wound up winning by 38). The lack of movement in the polls also made clear that Zogby was trying to make do with what were very small collections of voters in each state.

YouGov, however, has earned at least a cycle’s worth of benefit of the doubt. Their 2010 track record was more than reasonable. Indeed, of the 18 pollsters that offered up a substantive number of polls, YouGov came in fourth place in terms of their accuracy (defined as the percentage of races where they came within three percent of the final margin).

So we’ll see how we do. It would be nice to have another outfit regularly polling Texas, if they’re halfway decent at it.

My thoughts on the poll data:

– Because of their weighting, I can’t say for sure what they project the racial makeup of the electorate to be. Whites make up 74% of their actual sample, and I’m pretty sure no one expects that. I fiddled around with the numbers a bit, and if I set the white share of the vote to be about 67% and distributed the difference to black and Hispanic voters in proportion to their actual shares, I get pretty close to their totals. All pollsters make guesses about the makeup of an electorate, so there’s nothing particularly odd about this exercise.

– White voters go for Romney by a 66-26 margin. Assuming the 3% of “not sure” voters are unlikely to vote, and that the “other” vote is probably overstated at 5%, that puts Romney close to 70% of white voters once you reallocate. That’s higher than what pollsters other than Wilson Perkins have found, and if true it puts the GOP in the safe zone for continuing to win statewide.

– Obama leads among Hispanic voters by a 58-36 margin. That’s a smaller lead than what other pollsters have found, and it feels understated to me. One reason why I think this is that the poll sample is heavily female (55%), and Hispanic women are among the strongest supporters of President Obama nationwide. Perhaps they’ve weighted out the gender disparity, and perhaps Texas Latinas aren’t like their sisters elsewhere, but still, this feels understated to me.

– The results by age are almost the complete opposite of the Wilson Perkins poll, which had Obama doing best (though still losing) among respondents 55-64 while getting stomped among younger voters. In the YouGov sample, Obama wins the 18-29 and 30-44 age groups, but gets creamed among older voters. Make of all that what you will.

– The Senate result is nearly identical to the poll released by the Sadler campaign, though obviously without the push component. I strongly suspect that a lot of the “don’t knows” in this result are Democratic voters who just don’t know much about Sadler but will ultimately vote for him. 23% of black respondents and 32% of Hispanic respondents were “don’t knows”. In the end, I suspect Sadler’s percentage will mirror Obama’s fairly closely. Ted Cruz didn’t do any better among Hispanic voters than Mitt Romney did, by the way – Sadler led him by a 36-31 margin.

That’s all I’ve got. I’m a bit dubious of this poll, but as Singiser said, they’ve earned some benefit of the doubt based on their 2010 track record. I’m glad we’re getting more data. We’ll see how good it turns out to be.

If you knew Paul Sadler

If you knew Paul Sadler, you’d probably think he was an experienced, well-qualified candidate for the US Senate. And you’d be right. Unfortunately, not enough people know Paul Sadler well enough to know this.

Paul Sadler

In 2002, state Rep. Paul Sadler of Henderson, was one of the most powerful Democrats in the Texas Legislature when he announced he was not running for re-election.

At the time, he was the chairman of the House Public Education Committee and a force that even the state’s governor had learned to be mindful of when it came to anything involving schools.

Ten years later, Sadler, 57, is the unequivocal underdog in his bid for U.S. Senate against Ted Cruz, a rising national star in the Republican Party. As he crisscrosses the state, Sadler is learning firsthand that before he can persuade voters to view him as a serious contender, he must first remind them of the power player whom he once was.

“We have the qualified candidate. They do not,” Sadler recently told a crowd of Democrats in Seguin. “I am the one that served in the Legislature. I am the one that chaired committees. I am the one that built a school system. I am the one that helped you build schools and educate your children.”


Sadler was chairing a committee hearing on teacher health insurance one evening in 2001 when he received word that his 10-year-old son, Sam, had been in a car accident. Sadler rushed to a Tyler hospital. Sam spent four days in a coma. A brain injury would necessitate years of physical, occupational and speech therapy.

Later that year, Sam expressed interest in playing baseball again. Sadler took his son to their backyard and ventured a game of catch. His son could catch a ball coming toward his left or right. When Sadler softly tossed a ball over his son’s head, Sam let it pass by.

“So I put a helmet on his head, and every night we would toss the ball,” Sadler said.

His son played baseball again and later took up golf, feats Sadler viewed as “an absolute miracle.” Sam Sadler is now a senior in the PGA golf management program at Mississippi State University.

Sadler was on the phone with Sam in 2010 as Congress passed the Affordable Care Act. Both father and son had long worried about whether Sam’s brain injury would prevent him from securing health insurance once he aged out of his parents’ plan. The new law bans health insurers from denying coverage because of pre-existing conditions.

“We watched the vote together and he said, ‘Dad, I’ve got tears in my eyes. This is probably the most important day of my life,’” Sadler said.

It’s interesting to speculate what might have happened if Sadler had not stepped down from the Lege after 2001. In 2000, he was unopposed for election in a district (HD08) that consisted of Henderson, Panola, and Rusk Counties. In the 2002 election, after redistricting, Henderson was in HD05, which was narrowly won by Republican Bob Glaze, and Panola and Rusk were in HD11, which was won by then-Democrat Chuck Hopson. It’s not hard to imagine that Sadler, like Hopson, could have held on to that seat through 2008; assuming so, if he had been opposed by any Republican in 2010, he would have lost that year. All three counties are also in CD01 and SD01, so it’s possible Sadler could have taken a shot at Crazy Louie Gohmert in 2006 or 2008, or could have done what he did anyway as a former Rep and run to succeed Bill Ratliff, with whom he collaborated on the education reform bill of 1995 that is his signature achievement in the Lege, in the 2004 special election after Ratliff resigned. If he remained in the Lege beyond 2001, perhaps he’d have an easier time raising money, or perhaps he’d have no interest in running again so soon after what surely would have been a wrenching loss in 2010. Who knows? Like I said, it’s interesting to speculate.

What we do know is that Sadler is knowledgeable and experienced and has skin in the game, but has barely raised enough money to be competitive in a State House race. What’s particularly unfortunate about that is that he polls pretty decently once people hear a bit about him and his opponent. The Chron reports on an internal poll released by the Sadler campaign, but they don’t go past the opening line, in which Sadler trails Cruz by a 49-32 margin. The same sample has Romney up on Obama by 52-40, so this is not an especially Democratic-friendly sample. They then go through a series of questions describing Sadler and Crux and various issues – it’s a basic push poll – and the surprise isn’t so much that in the end Sadler actually leads Cruz 42-41 but that the respondents were a lot less favorable to Republican ideology than you might think. For example, a candidate who supported replacing Medicare with vouchers was opposed 61-27, and a candidate who supported turning down federal money to expand Medicaid was opposed 59-31, even though a candidate who supported repealing “Obamacare” was supported 49-42, and the Medicaid question specifically mentioned that it was part of “Obamacare”. Particularly near and dear to my heart, a candidate who opposed abortion in all cases was opposed 63-27, and a candidate who opposed making contraceptive coverage available to all women was opposed 64-27. Not all of Sadler’s attack lines against Cruz had majority or plurality support, and of course that final “now that you’ve heard all this bad stuff about Ted Cruz” question just nudged him into a one-point lead with plenty of undecideds, but still. The needle can be moved, and the terrain ain’t as hostile as you might have been led to believe.

But again, people have to know who Paul Sadler is to want to vote for him, or at least to consider it. Sadler will now have at least two opportunities to debate Cruz, and hopefully earn himself a little media and exposure as a result. Beyond that, you can help him out next Monday at the Continental Club if you’re so inclined. We know he’s the best choice. We just need more people to know it.

New pollster says Romney leads 55-40 in Texas

It would figure that the day after I complain about a lack of polling data in Texas we get a fresh poll result for the state.

Thanks to a lopsided lead among white voters, Romney is leading President Barack Obama 55-40, according to a poll from Wilson Perkins Allen Opinion Research, which carries out surveys for GOP candidates. That’s even higher than John McCain scored against Obama in 2008.

Chris Perkins, who is a partner at the research firm and served as the pollster for U.S. Senate hopeful Ted Cruz in his Republican primary victory over Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, said he expected a better showing for Obama after the Democratic National Convention.

The three-day telephone poll of likely Texas voters was conducted Sunday through Tuesday, plenty of time for any post-convention glow to reach the electorate.

“I thought the Obama number would be a little bit better,” Perkins said. “It wasn’t there. It’s kind of lining up to what 2008 did — if not better — for McCain.” McCain beat Obama 55-44 in Texas in 2008.

The survey showed Romney with 32 percent of the Hispanic vote, which mirrors national Latino numbers for the Republican candidate in the wake of his party’s convention in Tampa, according to a recent poll. Romney got only 6 percent of the African American vote in Texas, compared with 90 percent who favor Obama.

But Romney’s lead over Obama among white voters in Texas is nothing short of overwhelming — 77-17 percent in the survey — which helps to explain why Republican candidates are maintaining their electoral advantage here even as the minority population explodes.

The full poll data can be found here. This is the first general election poll result from this outfit that I’ve seen, so I don’t know what their overall track record looks like. I will say that I don’t have any particular criticisms of their methodology. Their partisan and racial splits look reasonable – if anything, they slightly oversampled Latinos, at 26% of the total – and their sample voted for McCain over Obama by 55-44, also perfectly reasonable. The difference maker isn’t so much the white vote as it is the change from the 2008 vote. Page 4 of that crosstabs file tells the story. Of 552 McCain voters, 511 were voting for Romney, 20 for Obama, and 21 were neither. Of 442 people who said they voted for Obama in 2008, 380 said they were voting for him again, but 40 were voting for Romney, and 22 were neither. It’s those 40 switchers that depress Obama’s numbers; if he had the same 20 lost voters as Romney had, the result would be 53-42 instead.

So the question is whether this is a fluke or a real thing. To take a genuine stab at answering that we’d need – you guessed it – more data. I can tell you that in that May UT/Texas Trib poll, Romney led Obama among white voters by a 65-24 margin, and in that April PPP poll, he led 61-33 among whites (scroll to page 19), which was the best showing among Republican candidates (Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum, and Ron Paul were also tested) and was in line with Obama’s 33-62 approval rating among whites. Is it possible that Obama’s support among Anglo voters could have collapsed that much since then? Sure. Is it likely? I’m always suspicious of results that stand out that much from others in the absence of an easily identifiable cause. I don’t reject this out of hand, but I am dubious.

Another way to look at this is to observe that if Romney were leading among white voters by a margin of 65-29, which is in between the UT/TT and PPP results, this race becomes a near dead heat: Romney drops to 48.4%, versus Obama’s 46.9%. Imagine the headline with that result. Even if he wins whites in this sample by 70-24, his lead is a mere 51.2-44.0, which is almost exactly the same margin that PPP found back in April. That would make the remarkably large Latino share of their sample all the more vital. If Republicans really do have to run up the score that much among white voters, you have to wonder how sustainable their edge will be.

What tf this result is indeed accurate? Does that portend doom for downballot Democrats? I’m sure it’s not good for Paul Sadler and the other statewides in that case – I checked, they either didn’t ask about the Senate race or they did not include those results if they did ask – but beyond that it’s not clear. It seems to me that the two most likely parts of the state where Obama might have lost white voters are the rural areas, and some of the suburbs. In the rural areas, Obama generally underperformed the rest of the Democratic ticket in 2008. The easiest way to see this is to scroll through the 2008 Senate results by district. If Obama has fallen further among these voters – there’s only so much more he can go down – then he probably is dragging other Democrats with him, but outside of the statewides and maybe Nick Lampson, there’s hardly anyone else for him to affect. In the suburbs – and here I mostly speak of Collin, Denton, and Williamson Counties – Obama ran ahead of the other Democrats. If he’s lost support here, he’s lost it among people who mostly voted Republican otherwise. One place where that could have an effect is in Wiliamson County’s HD136. In 2008, Diana Maldonado also ran ahead of other Dems as she scored a historic win in HD52 (see page 41 here). As we saw, Obama did better in the new HD136 than other Dems in 2008. It will undoubtedly be to Matt Stillwell’s advantage if Obama hasn’t lost his touch there.

Anyway, as noted it’s one result, and it would be nice for there to be something contemporary to which to compare it. A few other observations from the poll:

– The poll has a breakdown by voting history, and somewhat unexpectedly Obama does better among those who say they have voted in all of the last four elections than the other three subgroups, trailing by a 54-43 margin.

– Going by age groups, Obama does best among those aged 55-64, trailing 52-46. He wins among all women 55 and older, 51-46. He does worst among voters 18-34, losing them 58-35. Color me dubious of that one as well.

– Geographically, Obama wins “Austin” 58-40, loses “San Antonio” 60-38, loses “Houston” 51-42, and loses “Forth Worth” 52-44. I put them in quotes because these are clearly shorthand for the greater metro regions of each – “Houston” accounts for 23% of the sample, which would be a vast overstatement otherwise, as Harris County accounted for less than 15% of the total vote in 2008. “Fort Worth” was 30% of the sample, so this is clearly the entire Metroplex. “Austin” and “San Antonio” were an identical 80 voters each, or a smidge less than 8% of the sample each. Obama carried Bexar County in 2008, so I’ll chalk that up to small sample size weirdness.

Finally, on a tangential note, on the same day this came out I received a campaign email from Paul Sadler announcing that a “new poll” showed a “path to victory” against Ted Cruz. This was a campaign fundraising email, not a press release, so I have no useful numbers to share, but the clear message was that Sadler was competitive among voters who heard his message. Of course, the problem all along is how to get that message out to the voters. You can help by attending our fundraiser on Monday the 24th. It’s big hill to climb but there’s no reason not to try.

Waiting for an investment

Some day, the national Democratic Party will make an investment in Texas rather than just use us as a glorified ATM. Just don’t ask me when that day will be.

Texans have become accustomed to occupying the nosebleed seats at the Democratic National Convention, extras in a production that favors states that are solidly blue or liable to swing that way. But this year, even the most cynical Texas Democrats say they sense a tangible shift — a feeling that that they’re being positioned to be closer to the front row.

There was the selection of San Antonio Mayor Julián Castro, an ambitious young Latino with deep Texas roots, to give the convention’s Tuesday night keynote speech.

There’s the palpable energy behind several up-and-coming Texas Democrats running in key congressional races, a couple of them competitive enough to draw out-of-state dollars.

And there’s the sense, especially among longtime Democratic operatives, that there’s a new sheriff in town — a Texas Democratic Party chairman who has no qualms about asking the national party organization to make a serious investment in Texas, or else stop monopolizing the state’s biggest Democratic donors.

“I don’t want to overstate this,” Austin-based Democratic consultant Harold Cook said. “But they are suddenly showing some fight, some signs of life, which is a lot better than a quiet, sleepy little party.”


“The Texas Democratic Party has always strained to not complain about the extent to which the national party takes more than it returns,” said Jim Henson, a University of Texas political science professor and Texas Tribune pollster.

No longer. Party insiders say they’ve reached a breaking point: They can’t sit by, losing “winnable” local races for lack of funding while they watch Texas donors fill national coffers. Former Cameron County Judge Gilberto Hinojosa, who took the helm at the TDP this summer, said his goal at the national convention is to “impress upon the leadership that Texas could be blue if we just got a little lovin’ from the national party.”

“Texas is the only state in the union that is majority-minority but doesn’t have a Democratic statewide elected official,” he said. “That’s something that needs to be talked about.”

I consider this to be a sort of companion piece to that story about Paul Sadler, because they both boil down to the same thing. No one thinks Texas is ready to be competitive for Democrats at the statewide level, so nobody is willing to fund statewide candidates. Bill White in 2010 was the first adequately funded statewide Democrat since 2002, and he picked the wrong year to run. But the lack of funding makes being competitive at a statewide level that much less likely and more difficult. I have no idea how Paul Sadler plus ten or fifteen million dollars would be polling against Ted Cruz right now, but I’ll bet it would be closer than people think. I often think Texas will go blue in a downballot race or two before anyone believes it could. This was the case in Harris County in 2006, when Jim Sharp carried the county in his race for the 1st Court of Appeals, and Mary Kay Green – who had a majority of the vote on Election Day – missed being elected to a Family Court bench by 7000 votes out of 550,000 cast. It wouldn’t have taken much to swing that one race and change everybody’s perception going into 2008, but it wasn’t seen as possible. But demographic change and a depressed year for turnout nearly made it happen. You just never know.

My point is simply this. We don’t know what the competitive landscape would look like in a state where the two parties were closer to financial parity. Dems did very well in legislative races in 2006 and 2008, and even did pretty well in 2004, netting a seat in an otherwise pretty red year. In those races they did have the funds to go toe to toe. Doing so at the state level is obviously a tall order, but we won’t know till we try. Unless we find out in a year where we’re not expecting it, of course. I’d rather be prepared for success than find it accidentally. The Democrats here are ready. When will the national party do its part?

Sadler’s challenge

Democratic Senate hopeful Paul Sadler is a strong candidate with limited resources. Where have I heard that before?

Paul Sadler

In Victoria on a recent Saturday afternoon, the candidate for the U.S. Senate had the crowd on its feet, the shouts and applause washing over the meeting room like waves on the nearby Gulf. As he wrapped up his 15-minute jeremiad warning of the havoc his opponent would wreak on the Lone Star State and, as he began making his way to the back of the room, shaking hands and posing for photos along the way, an older woman in a red pantsuit sought to recapture the crowd’s attention.

“This campaign costs money,” she shouted into the microphone several times, but only those within a few feet of her were listening. One of them eventually doffed his straw hat, which became a makeshift collection basket for a statewide campaign tossing nickels and dimes at an opponent awash in money and nationwide ardor.

The Victoria experience represents the Paul Sadler campaign in miniature. Little-known statewide and underfunded, the lawyer and former state representative from Henderson is a capable campaigner, an experienced lawmaker and a credible candidate for a party desperately in need of new faces and arresting ideas.

Sadler’s problem, of course, is that his GOP opponent, tea party darling Ted Cruz, has been all but anointed the successor to retiring U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas. Cruz has money, star power and the overwhelming advantage of being a Republican in the most fervid of red states. In last month’s Senate runoffs, 1.1 million Texas Republicans cast a ballot, compared to 235,000 Democrats.

I’m going to begin by going off on a tangent here. I don’t know exactly how one defines fervidness in this context, but at least by 2008 results, Texas isn’t the reddest of red states. It’s not even in the top half, if one uses margin of victory as the metric. Here are the 2008 results by state. I’ve helpfully plucked out the states carried by John McCain and sorted them by margin of victory below:

State Obama McCain Margin ================================= Wyoming 32.54 64.78 32.24 Oklahoma 34.35 65.65 31.29 Utah 34.22 62.24 28.02 Idaho 35.91 61.21 25.30 Alabama 38.74 60.32 21.58 Alaska 37.89 59.42 21.54 Arkansas 38.86 58.72 19.85 Louisiana 39.93 58.86 18.63 Kentuky 41.15 57.37 16.22 Tennessee 41.79 56.85 15.06 Nebraska 41.60 56.53 14.93 Kansas 41.55 57.37 14.92 Mississippi 43.00 56.17 13.17 W Virginia 42.51 55.60 13.09 Texas 43.63 55.39 11.76 S Carolina 44.90 53.87 8.98 N Dakota 44.50 53.15 8.65 Arizona 44.91 53.39 8.48 S Dakota 44.75 53.16 8.41 Georgia 46.90 52.10 5.20 Montana 47.11 49.49 2.38 Missouri 49.23 49.36 0.13

Fourteen states were redder than Texas in 2008. Even in 2004, when George W. Bush was running for re-election and beat John Kerry by 22 points here, Texas was only the tenth-reddest state. Now I admit that even an 11.76 point margin is still daunting, and if you go by vote margin instead of percentage margin Texas was indeed the reddest state in 2008 – McCain got 950,000 more votes than Obama; only Oklahoma and Alabama had margins greater than 450,000 – but that’s a function of population, not popularity. I mean, Alabama and Oklahoma had barely more total votes for both candidates combined than Texas had for just Obama. If fervidness is a synonym for intensity, then Texas was at best #15 for the GOP in the last Presidential election.

But numbers are one thing, perception is another, and the perception that Texas is as red as it gets is a big factor working against candidates like Sadler and other Democratic statewides. Fundraising is obviously affected by this – it’s one thing to give to an underdog, another to a hopeless cause. I believe Sadler is the former, and I’m putting my money where my mouth is by cohosting a fundraiser for him on Monday, September 24 at the Continental Club. There obviously isn’t much time for fundraising at this point, and I don’t even know what a realistic target that can make a meaningful difference might be, but I do believe a difference can be made. If you think so as well, come out and help the cause and meet the candidate on the 24th at the Continental Club. Thanks very much.

Fall interview season begins tomorrow

I know that we just finished the primary runoffs, but we’re also now more than halfway through August, so it’s time to start doing interviews with candidates for the fall. I’ll be up candid, I don’t know exactly how many interviews I plan to do. For the most part, I don’t anticipate re-interviewing candidates that I spoke to for the May election – I’m already too far behind even if I did want to do that. I’m mostly going to concentrate on area races, but as always things can and do change, so don’t hold me to that. In the meantime, here’s a list of the interviews I did earlier with candidates who will be on the ballot in November:

Senate: Paul SadlerWebMP3

CD07: James CargasWebMP3

CD14: Nick LampsonWebMP3

CD20: Joaquin CastroWebMP3

CD23: Pete GallegoWebMP3

CD27: Rose Meza HarrisonWebMP3

CD33: Marc VeaseyWebMP3

SBOE6: Traci JensenWebMP3

SD10: Sen. Wendy DavisWebMP3

HD131: Rep. Alma AllenWebMP3

HD137: Gene WuWebMP3

HD144: Mary Ann PerezWebMP3

HD146: Rep. Borris MilesWebMP3

HD147: Rep. Garnet ColemanWebMP3

Harris County Sheriff: Sheriff Adrian GarciaWebMP3

HCDE Position 3, At Large: Diane TrautmanWebMP3

HCDE Position 6, Precinct 1: Erica LeeWebMP3

Harris County Commissioner, Precinct 4: Sean HammerleWebMP3

Constable, Precinct 1: Alan RosenWebMP3

You may notice if you click on the Web links above that the embedded audio player no longer works. The code comes from Google, and they unfortunately appear to have disabled it. I should have an alternate solution in place going forward, but just clicking on the MP3 file ought to work for you as well. And of course you can always download it for your iPod or whatever.

I am going to try again to reach Beto O’Rourke and Filemon Vela, but you know how that goes. I’ve given up on Rep. Lloyd Doggett; though I did finally make contact with a staffer before the primary, at this point I doubt there’s any interest on his end. There was a contested primary in CD10, but both candidates were late filers. I am trying to reach Tawana Cadien, who won the nomination, but she has no phone number that I can find and she has not as yet responded to an email I sent. If anyone knows how to reach her, please ask her to drop me a note: kuff – at – offthekuff – dot – com.

Two suggestions for better elections

Ed Kilgore writes that Tennessee Democrats shot themselves in the foot with the winner of their low-information, low-profile Senate primary.

[F]acing incumbent Sen. Bob Corker will be some obscure dude named Mark Clayton, who won a plurality of the vote in a large field of unknowns via the inestimable advantage of appearing at the top of the ballot thanks to his alphabetically superior surname. Turns out Clayton is an enthusiast for homophobia along with various classic conservative extremist memes, including the “NAFTA Super-Highway” and “FEMA Concentration Camps For Patriots.” The Tennessee Democratic Party quickly disowned Clayton, but the damage to the state ticket is already done.

I’d say the situation provides some empirical evidence relevant to two issues of how states conduct elections. Tennessee is one of the relatively few southern states without a threshold requirement of the percentage of votes needed to secure a party nomination. Requiring runoffs can have pernicious effects, but on the other hand, it’s a good way to avoid deeply embarrassing accidental nominations, as Texas Democrats showed earlier this week by nominating former state senator Paul Sadler for the Senate instead of perennial candidate (sometimes as a Republican) Grady Yarbrough, whose first place finish in the primary seems to have been primarily a matter of voters confusing him with the late liberal Sen. Ralph Yarborough.

As for the alphabetical ballot listing issue, it’s long past time for every state to list non-incumbent candidates randomly. Otherwise Tennessee primary ballots may regularly feature crazy-person candidates with names like Aaron Aardvark, and Democrats may fondly remember the days when they worried Bob Corker’s last opponent, Harold Ford, Jr., was not sufficiently progressive.

We do have runoffs here, and as was the case in 2006 with Barbara Radnofsky versus Gene Kelly, I think that helped the voters figure out who the candidates were and why one was such an obviously better choice than the other. In our case at least, Paul Sadler would have been the nominee anyway under Tennessee’s system, as he finished first among the four candidates in May. One possible reason why Sadler did so much better in the runoff may be the email sent by the TDP highlighting the differences between his record and that of his runoff opponent’s. Some people disliked that action as you can see from the comments on that post, but I’m not one of them. I do think it’s appropriate and increasingly necessary for the party to play at least an informational role in primary elections. I don’t want to see smoke-filled-room shenanigans of the old days, but I do want to see the party – state or county as appropriate – put together and disseminate basic factual data about candidates in its primaries for the benefit of the voters. Stuff like primary voting history, political contributions, previous candidacies, that sort of thing. Sure, that would normally be the province of a candidate’s campaign, but I see this as being as much in the interest of the party whose banner is going to be carried by the winners of these races. This isn’t foolproof, as there are people who change their minds about which party best represents them and we want to be welcoming to them, but on the whole I think it will do a lot of good. If nothing else, if it forces parties to do a better job of maintaining contact information for its members, it will be a win.

As for randomizing ballot order, that’s a longtime hobbyhorse of mine. I do not understand why in this age of electronic voting machines that isn’t standard practice by now. As far as I’m concerned, every election in Texas that requires a majority of the vote to win – primaries, special elections, local and city elections, pretty much everything except the even-year November generals – should always have randomized ballot ordering. No one should be at an advantage or a disadvantage because of the luck of a ballot draw. I can’t even begin to think of an argument against this.

Some coverage for Sadler

It’s a start.

Paul Sadler

The Tea Party has toppled another mainstream Republican, this time in Texas. Lost in much of the coverage of the primary contest between Houston attorney Ted Cruz and Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst was the November general election, which will feature a real, live Democrat. The assumption behind the media oversight, of course, is that with Texas about the reddest of the crimson states, a Democrat running for national office had better just do it as cheaply and as graciously as possible before his inevitable loss, given the party’s 18-year losing record in elections for statewide offices.

Paul Sadler, the oilman’s son who is opposing Cruz in November, wants to hear none of that talk. “It’s not as long-shot as people think,” Sadler said Wednesday from his office in Austin, the day after his own primary victory. “My phone has been ringing off the hook. A lot of those calls were from Republicans and independents saying, ‘We’re not going there,’ and there are a lot of them.” “There” being the Tea Party.

We know it’s possible for Democrats running statewide to attract Republican votes. We know this because two years ago Bill White got between 200,000 and 400,000 votes from people who otherwise mostly or exclusively voted Republican. Had the last gubernatorial election been in 2008 instead of the debacle that was 2010, Rick Perry would be just another idiot Fox News correspondent today. How Sadler communicates to these people – how he lets the Kay Bailey Hutchison wing of the state GOP in on the fact that he has a lot more in common with KBH than a conspiracy theorist like Ted Cruz does – without any money and in such a way that it does not cause base Democratic voters to revolt is a question I can’t answer. But if he can do that then yes, I think there’s the potential for a more competitive race than anyone would have you believe.

2012 Democratic primary runoffs

All state results here. Best news of the night was Paul Sadler‘s easy win. Can we please raise some money for this guy?

Congressional results: James Cargas in CD07, Pete Gallego in CD23, Rose Meza Harrison in CD27, Marc Veasey in CD33, and Filemon Vela in CD34. I’m delighted that three quality members of the Texas Democratic legislative caucus will have a shot at serving in Congress next year. As for Filemon Vela, I’m still suspicious of the guy, but we’ll see how it goes.

In the Lege, Gene Wu had another strong showing in HD137, and I feel very good about his chances to win this Dem-favored-but-not-a-lock seat in November. Parent PAC didn’t have any skin in the runoffs, but Annie’s List did, and they went one for two, as Nicole Collier will succeed Veasey in HD95, but Tina Torres lost to Phillip Cortez for the nomination in HD117. That’s a critical race in November.

The biggest surprise of the night was also some good news, as Erica Lee romped to a huge win in the HCDE Position 6, Precinct 1 runoff. She won with close to 75% of the vote, so maybe, just maybe, that will be enough to convince anyone who might file another lawsuit that they’d be wasting their time. I truly hope this is the end of it, because this is by far the best possible outcome. Congrats to Erica Lee, to Alan Rosen in Constable Precinct 1, to Zerick Guinn in Constable Precinct 2, and to all the other winners last night. Onward to November, y’all.

UPDATE: Litigation is coming for the HCDE election.

The Department of Education has filed a federal lawsuit seeking to void the May primary and Tuesday’s runoff. Lee, Harris County and both political parties want to dismiss the case, which is ongoing.

Johnson said he had planned legal action on behalf of the 1,400 excluded voters whether he won the runoff or not.

“The whole point of this was to make sure the disenfranchised voters had a voice,” Johnson said.”

I guess it was too much to hope for otherwise.

UPDATE: When I went to bed last night, Zerick Guinn was leading by what I thought was a safe margin. Apparently, not safe enough as today Chris Diaz is shown as the winner by 3 votes. I smell a recount coming.

UPDATE: The plot thickens. Here’s the 10:12 PM update from the County Clerk website, which the last update I saw before I went to bed. See how Zerick Guinn has 2695 votes? Now here is the 12:43 AM update in which Guinn has mysteriously dropped to 2061 votes, which puts him behind Diaz and his 2064. How does that happen?

Election night returns

For your convenience:

Statewide Democratic results

Looks good for Paul Sadler. Going to be a long night in CDs 23 and 33.

Statewide Republican results

Ted Cruz has a modest early lead. Wackjob John Devine is leading Supreme Court Justice David Medina. Steve Stockman is leading in CD36, and Donna Campbell is crushing Jeff Wentworth. The crazy flag is flying high.

Harris County Democratic results

Looking good for Gene Wu, Alan Rosen, and especially Erica Lee, who has over 70% in the disputed HCDE runoff.

Harris County GOP results

Louis Guthrie will get to oppose Sheriff Adrian Garcia.

I’ll post full results in the morning.

Runoff Day

At long last, the 2012 primary season is about to be over in Texas, other than perhaps the HCDE race. To say the least, it’s been a long, strange trip, one that I hope goes down in the books as a bizarre aberration, never to be repeated or approximated. If you have not voted yet in Harris County, you can find all the information you will need here. PLEASE be aware that only a handful of locations will be open, and they are not guaranteed to have both primaries at them. Check your location before you head out and avoid any needlessly unpleasant surprises.

As far as turnout goes, recent runoff history suggests that most of the votes have already been cast:

Year Mail Mail % Early Early % E-Day E-Day % ======================================================== 2006 D 2,920 21.3% 4,296 31.3% 6,510 47.4% 2006 R 5,432 51.6% 2,019 19.2% 3,077 29.2% 2008 D 4,568 47.4% 3,045 31.5% 2,056 21.3% 2008 R 11,373 28.0% 14,912 36.8% 14,262 35.2% 2010 D 5,885 38.7% 5,122 33.6% 4,218 27.8% 2010 R 12,220 28.4% 14,769 34.3% 16,025 37.3% 2012 D 7,304 11,715 2012 R 17,441 53,043

Final EV turnout numbers for this year are here. As there were no statewide Democratic primary runoffs in 2010, I had forgotten there were Harris County countywide runoffs that year. I have added in those numbers to my earlier post to complete the picture on that. My apologies for the oversight. Anyway, what we learn from this, other than the need for a good absentee ballot program, is that in each primary runoff of the past three cycles more than half the ballots were cast before Runoff Day. In fact, outside of the 2006 Democratic primary runoff, more than 60% of the ballots were cast before Runoff Day. Given that, don’t expect too much to be added to the vigorous early turnout so far. It could happen that the final total will be more than double what it is now for either primary, but history suggests otherwise.

Of course, we’ve never really had anything like the GOP Senate primary and runoff, so if there’s going to be another aberration, that would be where and why. I’m not dumb enough to try to guess who will win that race, but I will say that anyone who had made a prediction based on turnout level ought to be giving the matter more thought. It would also seem that Sarah Palin and Rick Perry are no longer BFFs. High school sure can be rough, can’t it?

The other GOP runoffs of interest to me are in SD25 and HD43. In the former, generally sane if occasionally eccentric Sen. Jeff Wentworth is trying to hang on against the decidedly crazy Donna Campbell, whose election would be another big step in the stupidification of the Senate, as well as a clean sweep for the teabaggers in the legislative primaries. HD43 is where turncoat Dem Rep. JM Lozano is hoping to not be yet another Latino Republican knocked off in a primary by a white guy. Expect some narrative-related punditry on that race no matter who wins.

On the Democratic side, obviously I’m rooting for Paul Sadler to carry the banner in the Senate race in the fall. Like EoW, I don’t know if a Cruz-Sadler matchup will be the definitive test of the myth/hypothesis that moderate Republicans may finally be willing to cross over and support a mainstream Dem over a nutty Republican – I’d argue that Bill White already provided some evidence to that, he just picked the wrong year to do it in – but if you want to start your speculation engines, Burka quoted a “nationally known Republican consultant” who said that “if Ted Cruz wins the Senate race, Texas will be a purple state in four years.” Campose says, why wait?

Why not accelerate things starting Wednesday morning?

A little over a million GOPers will cast votes in the GOP runoff tomorrow. In the 2008 General Election in the Lone Star State, eight million of us cast votes. That’s seven million voters that aren’t participating in the GOP mudfest. A lot of voters across the state have been turned off by the onslaught of negative ads that now have a mom blaming her kid’s suicide on Ted Cruz.

I think if Cruz wins he is damaged goods that Dems can seize upon over the next 99 days.


If Cruz does pull it off tomorrow we need to immediately paint him and the rest of the GOP ballot as too extreme for the Lone Star State and Harris County. Commentary has said it before that in order for Dems to grow here in Harris County we have to head northwest. Commentary is also partial to my client, State Board of Education, District 6 candidate Traci Jensen. Traci’s GOP opponent Donna Bahorich is State Senator Dan Patrick’s former district director and every bit as scary as Ted Cruz. The showcasing of Traci Jensen, Rep. Sadler, and Sheriff Adrian Garcia against extremist candidates in that part of the county will result in more Dem votes up and down the ballot countywide.

Sometimes unexpected opportunities just show up at your doorstep. If Cruz wins, an opportunity is at our doorstep.

If the Dems in charge just shrug it off and go on about business as usual and cede the state to Cruz, the Tea Baggers, and extremism, then a “shame on you” would be letting them off too lightly.

Well, it sure would be nice if Sadler had 45 million bucks to spend to remind everyone of all the awful things Dewhurst and Cruz have been saying about each other, but I don’t think that’s going to happen. But Campos is right, there’s no time like the present, and there’s no place like our own back yard to get started. What are we waiting for?

Beyond that, there are three Congressional runoffs that are big. It’s been clear for a few years now that the future of the Texas Democratic Party has been in the State House, and depending on how things go we could have as many as three former members of last year’s delegation on the November ballot (Joaquin Castro, who is already the CD20 nominee; Marc Veasey in CD33; Pete Gallego in CD23), with two of them all but guaranteed a win in November. I’d consider that a down payment on future state races. In addition, the woefully under-reported CD34 primary will determine whether or not the husband of a Republican judge will be the Democratic nominee for that newly created Congressional district. I have a hard time believing that, too, but here we are. There are numerous State House races of interest as well, with HD137 being the focal point for me. On the GOP side, seven House runoffs plus the Wentworth race feature Parent PAC candidates, so those are worth keeping an eye on, too. What races are you watching today?

Early runoff voting in perspective

Here are four numbers for your consideration:

Year Total votes =================== 2006 13,726 2008 9,670 2010 15,225 2012 14,778

The first three numbers are the complete final turnout figures for the last three Democratic primary runoffs in Harris County. The fourth number is the turnout for early voting through four days for this year’s Democratic primary runoff. We still have today’s early voting, plus Runoff Day on Tuesday, and any straggling absentee ballots that make it to the County Clerk between today and Tuesday. I’m posting these numbers (which you can see for yourself here, here, here, and here) because I’ve seen a fair amount of wailing and gnashing of teeth about the supposedly abysmal level of turnout for this runoff. I’m not going to claim that the turnout so far has been anything to write home about, nor will I claim that it’s anything but puny compared to the GOP total. What I am saying is that it’s far from historically abysmal, and in fact when you consider the unusual date, the lack of funding for the Senate race (the sole statewide race), the lack of countywide races, and the disproportionately small amount of media attention being paid to anything but the Senate GOP runoff, it ain’t too shabby. I’d certainly like to see more Dems do their duty, and if you haven’t cast your ballot yet for Paul Sadler and Erica Lee, I urge you to do so today or Tuesday. But don’t panic, and don’t despair. There’s no need for either.

UPDATE: As there were no statewide Democratic primary runoffs in 2010, I had forgotten there were Harris County countywide runoffs that year. I have added in those numbers to complete the picture. My apologies for the oversight.

Runoff turnout

Who knows what to expect?

Texans are voting in July for the first time in decades, the result of a lengthy federal court battle over new political districts that delayed the primary from March 6 to May 29. The unusual timing of the runoff in the middle of the summer — when many people are on vacation or not thinking about politics — will likely drive down turnout.

High turnout [in the GOP runoff] could favor [Lt Gov David] Dewhurst, who began the campaign with more money and name recognition. But the delayed primary gave [Ted] Cruz a chance to catch up in both areas, leading to Dewhurst leading in the primary 44.6 percent to 34 percent, but not breaking the 50 percent mark needed to clinch the nomination.

Cruz had always said his goal was to force a runoff, where he felt his tea party base would give him the edge. Activist voters are more likely to vote in the runoffs and recent polls indicate the Senate race is neck-and-neck.

In the Democratic race, [Paul] Sadler was forced into a runoff, despite [Grady] Yarbrough failing to mount a statewide campaign. The results showed Yarbrough performing well in the Houston-Galveston region, the home of a famous but unrelated Democratic family named Yarborough. Sadler has yet to raise enough money to buy television ads and is relying on personal appearances to rally voters. Yarbrough recently failed to appear at a scheduled joint appearance in Austin.

This year’s runoff also includes an unusual number of additional statewide races. There are two Republican races for the Texas Railroad Commission and incumbent Republican Supreme Court Judge David Medina faces challenger John Devine. Those races should bring more Republican voters to the polls.

I’m not going to make any guesses about GOP runoff turnout or who it may or may not benefit. Burka drew a line at 825,000 votes – above that he thinks Dewhurst wins, below that he thinks Cruz has the advantage. All I know is that the longer this goes on the more ridiculous and awful the two of them sound. I don’t just mean awful to me, Democrat that I am, I mean awful in the way that a high-dollar fight between two candidates who don’t really have that many differences between them on policy matters and whose campaigns are stocked with people who have grudges against the other guy’s staff always is. Believe me, I’ve been there, I know how soul-crushing it can be. Good luck getting the taste of this one out of your mouths, Republicans.

Paul Sadler

On the Democratic side, my prediction is for something like 150,000 to 200,000 votes, which would be in line with the 2006 and 2008 runoffs. What raised my eyebrows yesterday was an email sent out by the TDP that was a comparison between Sadler and Yarbrough and made it perfectly clear without ever explicitly saying the words that the party was endorsing Sadler as the better choice. It’s highly unusual to see this, but I’m perfectly happy with it in a case like this where one candidate really is objectively a better choice. I mean, outside the case of someone who publicly switches parties, it should be non-remarkable for a party to support someone with a long and well-established history with that party over a gadfly who ran on the other team’s banner in the past. This is a race to represent a party; history, affinity, and involvement should mean something. Not everything, of course, but when one candidate doesn’t measure up at all on that score, what else do you need? Frankly, I hope the HCDP takes a hard look at the result from this year’s DA primary and gives some thought to taking similar action in the future where warranted. You may look foolish if it doesn’t work, but no more foolish than having a lemon on the ballot in the first place.

Here’s the Day One early voting totals from the Harris County Clerk. Republicans have accounted for about 75% of the total vote so far, and over 80% of the in person vote. I’m not going to make any projections based on this, and with only five days of early voting we’ll know soon enough how this goes. Leave a comment if you’ve already voted or plan to do so soon.

Your vote is worth 30 times what it usually is

A little runoff math from the Trib.

It is easy to lament low voter turnout. Only 11 percent of the state’s voting age adults showed up for the May primaries.

But look at their clout: Every actual voter was making a decision on behalf of nine people. In the runoff voting that starts next week and ends on July 31, those voters will probably have even greater power.

The Republican primary, with 25 races from the United States Senate to the Statehouse, is bigger than the Democratic runoff, with 12. Both have Senate runoffs — Ted Cruz and David Dewhurst on the Republican side, and Paul Sadler and Grady Yarbrough on the Democratic side.


Combined, almost 2 million people voted in the two Texas primaries this year. On average, one in three will come back for the runoff; if it is a good year, nearly 1 million will show.

Shake it all out and it is likely that it will require fewer than 300,000 people to choose the winner in the Republican primary. And if that is the primary that chooses the next senator — it looks like a reasonable bet, given recent history — that is the number of Texans it will take to choose the next senator.

Think of it: If everyone who is eligible voted, it would take more than 9 million votes to become a senator from Texas. Instead, every vote cast for the winner of the Republican primary effectively represents the power of 30 adults going to the polls.

The math is simple: At some point, votes begin to count.

I’m not one to concede the election to the GOP nominee. Dewhurst and Cruz have spent zillions of dollars beating each other up and saying stupid things, and while I don’t expect that to have any effect on rank and file GOP voters it’s not impossible to imagine some less hardcore ones deciding to opt out. I mean, if KBH was your kind of Republican, it’s certainly fair to say that the eventual nominee is promising to be very much unlike her. As EoW notes, we may finally find out if it’s possible to nominate someone too extreme in Texas.

Whatever turnout in the runoff is for Republicans, it’ll surely be lower on the Democratic side. Based on recent history – 207,252 primary runoff votes in 2006; 187,708 in 2008; there was no statewide runoff in 2010 – I’ll peg this year’s runoff turnout in the 150,000 to 200,000 range. That’s comparable to a city of Houston election. No matter how you look at it, your vote is going to count for a lot in the Democratic Senate runoff.

Paul Sadler

Democrat Paul Sadler, the only U.S. Senate candidate to show up at a gathering of hundreds of educators Monday, told them that they could control the election if only they voted.

“I’m going to ask you to stand up for the children of this state,” Sadler, a former state lawmaker who headed the House Public Education Committee, told the Association of Texas Professional Educators summit.

“If the teachers of this state stood up together with one voice and said we’re not going to tolerate cutting $5.2 billion out of public education … your numbers alone, with your family members, would control the election,” he said. Those taking candidates’ attendance might get an idea about how likely the political world thinks that is.

The Republicans competing in the July 31 runoff for their party’s nomination for U.S. Senate — Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and former state solicitor general Ted Cruz — declined invitations to the event, citing schedule conflicts, the education association said.

Sadler’s opponent in the Democratic runoff, retired educator Grady Yarbrough, didn’t show up after saying he would, the association said. Yarbrough didn’t return a telephone call from the San Antonio Express-News/Houston Chronicle.

“Aren’t you kind of sick and tired of people that say they’ll show up and then they don’t?” asked Sadler, to applause. “Or a little tired of people that make promises to you and then don’t follow through?”

Your vote only counts if you show up and use it, of course. My advice is to vote early, which you can starting today and going through Friday this week. Greg has a nice Google map of the early voting locations. If you wait till Runoff Day on the 31st, be sure to check the County Clerk’s webpage for voting locations that day, as they will be greatly consolidated, and not all locations will have both primaries at them. Vote early, and vote carefully. If we haven’t figured out by now how much that matters, we never will. A press release from County Clerk Stan Stanart about the runoff is beneath the fold.


Paul Sadler: How would you spend $25 million?

The following is from a series of guest posts that I will be presenting over the next few weeks.

Paul Sadler

For $25 million you could buy a seriously luxurious private jet – in fact, you could buy a small fleet of them. You could travel the world many times or you could put over 100 young people through four years of college including room and board and spending money. As a state, we could hire almost 800 new teachers for our classrooms. We could purchase over 4 million laptops – one for almost every student in kindergarten through twelfth grade in Texas. It is really all about priorities, I guess.

What would you do? Well, if you are one of the Republican candidates for the United States Senate in Texas, combined you have spent over $25 million on your campaigns. If you ask most Texans, they can tell you that one of the candidates is a lawyer involved in a lawsuit involving tires and China, while the other is described as weak, timid and not a real conservative – whatever that means.

I think we have all been ripped off. Surely, if you had $25 million to spend on the United States Senate race you would have more to talk about than this nonsense.

So far they have spent approximately $18 for every vote cast in the primary. I think if I were a Republican voter I would rather have my twenty bucks.

But, the skeptics would say the Democratic candidates would run the same kind of campaign – you know, talk about stuff that just does not matter. One thing is for sure – as of right now, we will never know. As some have suggested maybe, in this state today, the other side doesn’t matter.

There is an old baseball saying that goes like this – you can’t lose if the other side never gets to bat. Maybe that is the new Texas.

Of course there are the issues that matter, like Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, health care, women’s health care, education, immigration, the Dream Act, the national debt, foreign affairs, jobs, but they just aren’t as interesting as the negative name calling, I guess.

Good thing they are “conservative.” Lord knows how a “democrat” would waste those contributions. If a million of you would donate that same twenty bucks each, we might be able to find out.

Paul Sadler is a former five-term member of the Texas House who is in the runoff for the Democratic nomination for the US Senate.

Precinct analysis: Democratic Senate primary

After the May 29 primary, runnerup Senate candidate Grady Yarbrough said he did as well as he had because he “went directly” to counties where there is “a heavy Hispanic and African American population”. I don’t remember him ever being in Harris County, but let’s see how he did here anyway.

Dist Sadler Hubbard Yarb Allen Yarb % ============================================== 126 407 230 334 260 27.13% 127 390 350 330 324 23.67% 128 575 262 449 253 29.17% 129 846 390 499 387 23.52% 130 383 185 208 197 21.38% 131 981 1073 1611 2000 28.44% 132 327 233 263 231 24.95% 133 855 314 303 261 17.48% 134 2179 680 686 400 17.39% 135 401 243 301 258 25.02% 137 473 302 373 307 25.64% 138 432 238 297 239 24.63% 139 818 974 2027 922 42.75% 140 375 212 584 279 40.28% 141 573 504 1313 1098 37.64% 142 822 592 1745 1122 40.76% 143 1004 479 1090 669 33.62% 144 637 230 543 327 31.26% 145 661 302 547 338 29.60% 146 1358 1287 1854 1930 28.84% 147 1473 1282 1981 1787 30.37% 148 960 433 657 366 27.19% 149 392 297 364 360 25.76% 150 387 243 261 225 23.39%

Yarbrough did do well in the six African-American districts, but not by much over Addie Allen. He won two districts handily (139 and 142), won two by smaller margins (141 and 147), and lost one by a small margin (146) and one by a larger margin (131, where I presume being named “Addie Allen” was advantageous). In the Latino districts, he won 140 by a decent margin, 143 by a small margin, and lost in 144, 145, and 148. I don’t know that that says anything about Yarbrough’s claimed outreach. He surely benefited from the contested primaries in 131, 146, and 147, but there are no runoffs in any of them. Sadler ought to do better in Harris in the runoff; he will need to if he wants to win.

How about around the state? Here are the ten counties in which each candidate performed the best, limited to counties in which at least 1000 votes were cast. You can see the full results in this spreadsheet. First, Addie Allen:

County Allen Sadler Yarb Hubbard ============================================= Orange 37.87% 23.54% 29.93% 8.66% Jefferson 34.79% 23.82% 22.03% 19.35% Dallas 33.38% 29.41% 20.10% 17.11% Webb 30.43% 27.93% 21.82% 19.82% Bell 29.72% 23.38% 24.42% 22.47% El Paso 28.95% 29.84% 26.11% 15.10% Zapata 27.91% 28.92% 21.54% 21.64% Maverick 26.76% 40.27% 16.57% 16.40% Starr 26.16% 33.86% 23.59% 16.40% Cameron 25.64% 35.16% 22.34% 16.86%

Allen is from Beaumont, so her good showing in Orange and Jefferson Counties are not unexpected. Note that in half of these counties she still finished second to Paul Sadler. Speaking of which, here are Sadler’s best counties:

County Allen Sadler Yarb Hubbard ============================================= Gregg 13.37% 67.33% 11.91% 7.38% Cass 10.17% 59.84% 19.45% 10.54% Travis 17.74% 53.26% 19.24% 9.75% Bowie 11.84% 50.13% 17.01% 21.02% Angelina 16.13% 48.97% 24.36% 10.53% McLennan 14.52% 47.76% 24.69% 13.04% Williamson 16.55% 46.87% 20.48% 16.10% Montgomery 15.37% 42.12% 26.71% 15.37% Frio 16.03% 41.99% 30.24% 11.75% Jasper 17.02% 41.99% 25.90% 15.10%

Sadler won a majority in 24 counties, and did pretty well in his back yard of East Texas. I don’t know how many votes there will be in some of those counties in July, though. He’ll surely want to focus on the big urban counties. He’s got a good head start in Travis, and he did finish second in Dallas, well ahead of Yarbrough. Here’s Yarbrough:

County Allen Sadler Yarb Hubbard ============================================= Victoria 14.56% 21.90% 53.65% 9.89% Bee 17.07% 21.86% 50.40% 10.68% San Jacinto 13.33% 24.73% 49.62% 12.32% Jim Hogg 16.28% 19.03% 45.88% 18.81% Galveston 14.76% 22.06% 44.62% 18.56% Willacy 24.83% 23.98% 37.18% 14.00% Smith 10.71% 41.96% 36.32% 11.02% Brewster 18.31% 30.60% 35.83% 15.26% Calhoun 17.05% 34.63% 35.10% 13.21% Matagorda 21.89% 24.18% 34.52% 19.41%

Yarbrough is also from East Texas, though he lives in San Antonio now. He did all right there, though as you can see he still finished behind Sadler in Smith County and just held him off in Calhoun. If I thought he was actually running a campaign, I’d advise him to fight it out with Sadler in the big urban counties. I don’t really expect him to do anything, which is fine by me. Finally, here are Sean Hubbard’s best counties:

County Allen Sadler Yarb Hubbard ============================================= Guadalupe 18.83% 27.31% 24.81% 29.05% Denton 21.48% 38.70% 14.81% 25.01% Bastrop 14.91% 36.81% 24.14% 24.14% Jim Wells 15.98% 29.75% 30.59% 23.68% Brooks 21.59% 23.55% 31.48% 23.38% Bell 29.72% 23.38% 24.42% 22.47% Uvalde 13.66% 31.38% 32.92% 22.03% Zapata 27.91% 28.92% 21.54% 21.64% Collin 20.54% 40.64% 17.70% 21.12% Bowie 11.84% 50.13% 17.01% 21.02%

Hooray for Guadalupe County! Of interest is that Hubbard did well in Denton and Collin, his home area, and that Sadler did well along with him. With Hubbard endorsing Sadler, that may be a boost for him in the runoff. There were a bit more than 200,000 votes cast in the 2006 Democratic primary runoff, a bit less than that in the 2008 runoff, so my guess is there will be about that many votes cast in this July’s election. First candidate to 100,000 votes wins. See the Trib’s interactive map for more.

Sadler and the Senate runoff

One of the two candidates in the Democratic runoff for US Senate was at the TDP convention last week.

Paul Sadler

U.S. Senate candidate Paul Sadler, who still faces a runoff fight with a candidate who’s a complete unknown, told reporters on Saturday that he’s used his three days at the convention to meet with as many delegates as possible and that the expressions of financial support have been almost constant.

He said it didn’t matter to him which Republican he faced, assuming he prevails in the runoff, although he noted that the most passionate voters participate in runoffs. That would seem to favor Ted Cruz, the fervent tea party favorite.


Sadler, a former state representative from East Texas known for his school finance expertise, said he was concerned about his runoff with retired San Antonio educator Grady Yarbrough, who reportedly was as surprised as any Democrat that he finished second in primary voting. Sadler, a Henderson attorney, vowed to travel the state and meet with as many Democrats as possible to make sure that Yarbrough, something of a hobby candidate, didn’t spring any more surprises.

I don’t claim to know what Republicans are thinking about for their Senate runoff, but I figure getting booed by attendees at the GOP convention doesn’t bode well for David Dewhurst. As far as our runoff goes, I look at it this way. It’s highly unlikely that too many people will show up to vote on July 31 who don’t have a good idea of who all the candidates are and why they support this one over that one. I figure that gives Sadler, who has been by far the more active campaigner and who has the endorsement of Sean Hubbard, the advantage in the race. I sure hope it does, anyway.

That other guy in the Senate runoff

Meet Grady Yarbrough.

Grady Yarbrough

At 75, retired educator Grady Yarbrough finally has achieved some statewide notoriety.

With a low-budget campaign targeting Hispanics and fellow African Americans, Yarbrough finished second in the Democratic primary race for U.S. senator, qualifying for a July 31 runoff.

Next comes the hard part for Yarbrough, an East Texas native who’s lived in San Antonio since 2000: Trying to outpoll hard-charging lawyer Paul Sadler from Henderson, who served in the Texas House from 1991 to 2003.

But Yarbrough sees no disadvantage in possibly being a newcomer to elected office.

“It’s people with legislative experience who got us in this predicament we’re in financially. Experience is not always the key,” Yarbrough said Thursday.


Yarbrough got 127,971 votes on Tuesday, compared to 173,947 for Sadler; 113,412 for Addie Dainell Allen and 79,981 for Sean Hubbard. It was the fourth statewide race for Yarbrough, a Tyler County product who ran unsuccessfully in 1986 and 1990 for the GOP nomination for land commissioner, and in 1994 as a Democrat for state treasurer.

Yarbrough bristles at any suggestion that he’s capitalized on his familiar surname, similar to that of two statewide office-holders decades ago and one frequent candidate.

“They equate my familiar name to someone who was a senator 30-40 years ago. That’s the mainstream media trying to sabotage my campaign,” Yarbrough said.

Gene Kelly hasn’t run for anything since 2008, but his legacy lives on. I have no idea if anyone might have mistaken this guy for Ralph Yarborough or anyone else. My contention is that in a race of mostly unknowns you’re likely to get a random result, and that’s what we have here. And I personally would say that it’s the Republicans who got us into this financial predicament. What exactly would Grady Yarbrough do to help fix that predicament? I wish I could tell you, but he doesn’t say. There is no discussion of his position on any issue in this story, and Yarbrough doesn’t have a web page, so you’re kind of on your own. Thankfully, the Texas Trib posted a copy of a TV ad that apparently ran once in the Waco area, in which Yarbrough says he supports the DREAM Act and favors forgiving part of the interest on student loans, and also vows to never support cuts for Medicare, Medicaid or Social Security. So at least now we know that much.

Having eyed the Senate seat for several years, Yarbrough paid a $5,000 filing fee to join this year’s fray. Eschewing contributions, he said he’s spent about $20,000 in retirement savings on billboards, mail and travel — mainly to target minority voters.

Through April, Sadler raised about $90,000 and spent about $69,000, according to the Federal Election Commission.

With the two-month runoff campaign, “I’m going to have to invest quite a bit more,” he said. “I do it all myself,” without consultants or volunteers, he added.

“I am doing selective campaigning. When there is a heavy Hispanic and African American population in those counties, I go directly to those places. That’s how I’ve gotten to where I am now,” he said, adding that he’s campaigned in Kingsville, Laredo and Brownsville.

You’re not going to be able to reach many voters with twenty grand. I mean, a State Rep candidate would have a hard time getting his or her name out on that kind of budget. As for Yarbrough’s contention that he did well in Cameron (Brownsville), Kleberg (Kingsville), and Webb (Laredo) Counties because he selectively campaigned there, let’s check the numbers and see:

Cameron County

Candidate               Votes      Pct
Addie Dainell Allen     4,587   25.63%
Sean Hubbard            3,016   16.85%
Paul Sadler             6,292   35.16%
Grady Yarbrough         3,998   22.34%

Kleberg County

Candidate               Votes      Pct
Addie Dainell Allen       347   21.34%
Sean Hubbard              210   12.91%
Paul Sadler               579   35.60%
Grady Yarbrough           490   30.13%

Webb County

Candidate               Votes      Pct
Addie Dainell Allen     5,445   30.43%
Sean Hubbard            3,547   19.82%
Paul Sadler             4,997	27.92%
Grady Yarbrough         3,904   21.81%

Yarbrough got 25.83% statewide, to Sadler’s 35.11%. As such, we see that he did do better than his baseline in Kleberg, but did worse in Cameron and Webb. Indeed, had he done as well statewide as he did in those two counties, Sadler would be running off against Addie Dainell Allen. Maybe sticking a bit more closely to the Gene Kelly playbook would be the better choice. As for me, my choice remains Paul Sadler.

(In case you’re wondering, here also are the results for Bell, Coryell, and McLennan counties, which is my interpretation of “the Waco area”, where that ad ran once. Yarbrough didn’t mention that in the story, and I didn’t come across that link till after I’d written this entry, so I didn’t work these results into the ones above. Not that it really matters, I don’t see any evidence it made a difference, but I’m including this afternote here for completeness.)