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Taj Clayton

The farm team

Roll Call takes a look at the Texas Democrats of the future.

Rep. Joaquin Castro

Rep. Joaquin Castro

Democrats rarely fielded competitive Senate candidates over the past two decades — the party’s three best performers in that time span received 44 percent, 43 percent and 43 percent — but that may change by the next midterm cycle. State and national Democrats are gearing up for a competitive Senate bid as early as 2018, when Republican Sen. Ted Cruz is up.

The first potential candidate names out of the mouths of most operatives are the Castro twins, San Antonio Mayor Julián Castro and freshman Rep. Joaquin Castro — though there are mixed opinions about which one is more likely to jump. Wendy Davis’ name comes up as well, should she comes up short in this year’s gubernatorial race, and the buzz in some Democratic circles is that Davis’ running mate, state Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, has as promising a political future as Davis.

Beyond those four, there is a second tier of candidates who could possibly run statewide but don’t quite yet have the same star power. It includes freshman Rep. Beto O’Rourke, who ousted eight-term Rep. Silvestre Reyes in 2012. He is young and attractive, but his geographic base is weak — El Paso is remote and actually closer to the Pacific Ocean than it is to the Louisiana border.

Democrats also named state Reps. Trey Martinez Fischer and Chris Turner as possible statewide contenders and pointed to Houston Mayor Annise Parker, albeit with caution. Parker is openly gay, and some say that while Texas is evolving on a number of issues, gay rights is not likely to be one of them in the immediate future.

We’ve discussed the 2018 election before. Based on her comments so far, I don’t see Mayor Parker as a potential candidate for the US Senate. I see her as a candidate for Governor or Comptroller, assuming those offices are not occupied by Democrats.

Among the future contenders for [Rep. Gene] Green’s seat, Democrats identified state Reps. Armando Walle, Carol Alvarado and Ana Hernandez, plus Harris County Sheriff Adrian Garcia.

There is perpetual scuttlebutt in the state that [Rep. Lloyd] Doggett is vulnerable to a Hispanic primary challenge. Other Democratic strategists discount that line of thinking, citing Doggett’s war chest and ability to weather whatever lines he’s drawn into.

Whenever he leaves office, Democrats named Martinez Fischer and state Rep. Mike Villarreal as likely contenders. Martinez Fischer could also run in Joaquin Castro’s 20th District if he seeks higher office.

As for Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee’s Houston-based 18th District, state operatives pointed to state Reps. Sylvester Turner and Garnet F. Coleman, who could also run for Rep. Al Green’s seat.

Working backwards, Rep. Sylvester Turner is running for Mayor in 2015. That would not preclude a future run for Congress, of course, but I doubt it’s on his mind right now. I love Rep. Garnet Coleman, but I’ve never really gotten the impression that he has his eye on Washington, DC. Among other things, he has school-age kids at home, and I’m not sure how much the idea of commuting to DC appeals to him. The same is true for Sen. Rodney Ellis, whose district has a lot of overlap with Rep. Al Green’s CD09. Ellis has by far the biggest campaign warchest among them, which is one reason why I had once suggested he run statewide this year. Beyond them, there’s a long list of current and former elected officials – Ronald Green, Brad Bradford, Jolanda Jones, Wanda Adams, Carroll Robinson, etc etc etc – that would surely express interest in either CD09 or CD18 if it became open. About the only thing that might alter this dynamic is if County Commissioner El Franco Lee decided to retire; the line for that office is longer than I-10.

As for Rep. Gene Green, I’d add Rep. Carol Alvarado and James Rodriguez to the list of people who’d at least consider a run to replace him. I’m less sure about Sheriff Garcia. I think everyone expects him to run for something else someday – he’s starting to get the John Sharp Obligatory Mention treatment – but I have no idea if he has any interest in Congress. And as for Rep. Doggett, all I’ll say is that he’s shown himself to be pretty hard to beat in a primary.

Texas’ 23rd, which includes much of the state’s border with Texas, is the only competitive district in the state and turns over regularly. If Democratic Rep. Pete Gallego lost re-election and Democrats were on the hunt for a new recruit, one could be state Rep. Mary González.

Should 11-term Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson retire, Democrats said attorney Taj Clayton, along with state Reps. Yvonne Davis and Eric Johnson would be likely contenders for her Dallas-based 30th District.

State Rep. Armando “Mando” Martinez is also a rising star. But his local seat in the Brownsville-based 34th District is unlikely to open up any time soon — Rep. Filemon Vela, from a well-known family in South Texas, was elected in 2012.

The great hope for Democrats is that continued Texas redistricting litigation will provide an additional majority Hispanic district based in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. State Rep. Rafael Anchia is the obvious choice for that hypothetical seat, along with Tarrant County Justice of the Peace Sergio L. De Leon.

And then there are a handful of Texas Democrats who stir up chatter but have no obvious place to run for federal office. Democrats put former state Rep. Mark Strama and Jane Hamilton, the current chief of staff to Rep. Marc Veasey, in this category.

Democratic National Committee spokeswoman Lily Adams, granddaughter of Ann Richards, is a respected political operative in Washington, D.C., and recently earned attention as a possible candidate talent.

I’m rooting for Rep. Gallego to win re-election this fall, but no question I’d love to see Rep. González run for higher office at some point. Taj Clayton ran against Rep. Johnson in 2012, getting support from the Campaign for Primary Accountability (which appears to be in a resting state now), along with Rep. Beto O’Rourke, who also appears in this story as someone to watch. Rep. Anchia is someone I’ve been rooting for and would love to see get a promotion. Mark Strama is off doing Google Fiber in Austin. I have no idea if he’d want to get back in the game – like several other folks I’ve mentioned, he has young kids – but he’s been mentioned as a possible candidate for Mayor in Austin before; if he does re-enter politics, and if he has an eye on something bigger down the line, that would be a good way to go for it. Lily Adams is 27 years old and has never run for any office before, but she’s got an excellent pedigree and has apparently impressed some folks. In baseball terms, she’s tearing up it in short season A ball, but needs to show what she can do on a bigger stage before anyone gets carried away.

Anyway. Stuff like this is necessarily speculative, and that speculation about 2018 is necessarily dependent on what happens this year. If Democrats manage to beat expectations and score some wins, statewide hopefuls may find themselves waiting longer than they might have thought. If Democrats have a crappy year, by which one in which no measurable progress in getting out the vote and narrowing the gap is made, some of these folks may decide they have better things to do in 2018. As for the Congressional understudies, unless they want to go the Beto O’Rourke route and mount a primary challenge to someone, who knows how long they may have to wait. It’s entirely possible all this talk will look silly four years from now. We’ll just have to wait and see.

March fundraising reports for Congressional candidates

Here’s a roundup of campaign finance reports for Congressional races and candidates of interest. I’ve been collecting links to the reports for contested Democratic races on my 2012 primary pages.

Area races

Nick Lampson had a typically strong fundraising report, which brings him up to parity with most of his potential Republican rivals. James Old, Michael Truncale, and Randy Weber (by the way, welcome to the district, Randy) have raised more in total – they’ve also been in the race longer – but only Old has more cash on hand, and that’s likely to change by the time the primary rolls around. Lampson should be in good shape to take on whoever emerges from that cattle call.

Is it just me, or does anyone else think that Mike Jackson‘s fundraising in CD36 has been less than impressive? Just over $200K total, with $50K of that being loans, and $75K on hand, for a veteran legislator who’s been running since the beginning and is the consensus favorite? Sure, he’s got a clear path to the seat in November once he vanquishes his unheralded primary opponents, but that’s my point: The guy who’s gonna win generally has no trouble raking in the dough. Anyone want to venture a theory about this?

Along the same lines, what in the world is John Culberson spending all that money on? He’s got no primary opponent, a district that’s drawn for him to win, Democratic opponents who haven’t raised any money, yet he has a paltry $62K on hand, which is actually an improvement over the December report. He’s spending it as fast as he’s collecting it, and I have no idea why.

UPDATE: As Mainstream notes in the comments, Culberson does have a primary opponent, Bill Tofte. My confusion on that point stemmed from the fact that the FEC shows Tofte in CD36. Of course, they also show Ciro Rodriguez in CD35, plus a few other misplaced people. I presume Tofte re-filed in February and I missed it. My apologies for the confusion. At least now Culberson’s spending makes sense to me.

Elsewhere

Beto O’Rourke now has more cash on hand than incumbent Rep. Silvestre Reyes, but Reyes has raised more than twice as much, spent almost five times as much, and recently received the endorsement of President Obama and former President Clinton. I don’t know offhand how much the Campaign for Primary Accountability may be spending against Reyes.

It’s basically a two-person affair in CD30, at least if you go by the fundraising reports. Incumbent Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson and challenger Taj Clayton have far outraised challenger Barbara Mallory Caraway; Johnson holds a better than two-to-one lead over Clayton in cash on hand. This is another race in which President Obama is supporting the incumbent, and it’s one in which things have gotten a little personal.

Pete Gallego has raised $590K, more than double the haul of former Rep. Ciro Rodriguez, who is still shown as running in CD35; several candidates who are now in CD34 are still shown in CD27 as well. Gallego has a ways to go to catch up to Rep. Quico Canseco, whose buddies are well aware he’s in for a fight this November. As far as I know neither Obama nor Clinton have weighed in on this race, but the League of Conservation voters endorsed Gallego recently.

Rep. Lloyd Doggett is again a million-dollar man and surely holds a wide lead in every financial category in his race. I can’t say exactly how wide because as of this posting, the March 31 report for Sylvia Romo has not been posted, but Postcards says Romo raised $52K between January 1 and March 31; add that to the $35K reported in her December report, and you get that Doggett has raised more than ten times as Romo. While the President has not offered an opinion on this race, however, Romo has the backing of most of the San Antonio political establishment and may wind up garnering some support in Austin after Statesman columnist Ken Herman wrote about her age in a way that probably won’t endear himself to some voters.

There’s a lot of money in the open seat cattle call of CD33, with a good chunk of it coming from the candidates themselves. David Alameel, who started in CD06 before the San Antonio court redrew its interim map, has loaned himself over $2 million so far. I have to say, that’s just nuts. I don’t know that it’s even possible to spend that much money in a Congressional primary; if it is, I’m not sure it’s advisable. The record of zillionaire first time candidates in Congressional races is not enviable. Former State Rep. Domingo Garcia wrote a $300K check for his campaign, and Chrysta Castaneda gave herself $65K. State Rep. Marc Veasey had the best non-self-funded haul at $177K, followed by former Dallas City Council member Steve Salazar at $77K. There are a couple of reports still outstanding. The Lone Star Project has an analysis of the candidates, though I’m pretty sure they’re not an unbiased source on this.

Joaquin Castro isn’t in a primary, but he sure continues to bring in the donations, a development that will undoubtedly make eyes twinkle at the DCCC. I could compare his performance to that of Mike Jackson, but it’s not really fair to do so, as Castro was going to be in a smoking hot primary for much of the cycle, and much of his total is the result of that. I still think Jackson is underperforming, though.

Ronnie McDonald made a big splash when he announced he was leaving his post as Bastrop County Judge to pursue a seat in either the Texas Lege or Congress, but so far his choice to go for CD27 hasn’t translated to fundraising success. Rose Meza Harrison, who was in the race before he was, has outraised him so far and has more cash on hand, though neither is remotely in Rep. Blake Farenthold‘s neighborhood. I hope McDonald responds to my email requesting an interview, I’d love to ask him why he chose this race, which always seemed objectively less winnable to me.

Republican Reps. Ralph Hall and Smokey Joe Barton have been targeted by the Campaign for Primary Accountability, but it’s not clear to me they have much to worry about. Hall isn’t exactly swimming in cash, but his main opponent has collected less than $10K of other people’s money. Of Barton’s opponents, Joe Chow has raised a respectable $162K, but he’s got a high burn rate and has only $28K on hand. Itamar Gelbman‘s $185K is almost entirely his own money, but he’s hardly spent any of it. CPA has its work cut out for it.

To put this in some perspective, Barton has $1.3 million on hand after having raised $976K and spent $1.1 million. CPA has raised $1.8 million and spent $1.2 million, leaving it with $588K on hand; their totals are through February 29, not March 31. They do have a stable of well-heeled donors, though curiously enough none of the $100K+ club has given anything in 2012. That could have changed since March 1, or could change any day, of course, but my point is that some targets are softer than others.

Finally, in CD34 Filemon Vela reported $245K total, of which $150K was his own. That leaves Armando Villalobos with the biggest actual haul at $157K. Ramiro Garza ($138K, including $58K in loans), Denise Saenz Blanchard ($104K, $10K in loans), and Anthony Troiani ($56K) followed behind.

The Congressional Geezer Caucus

The DMN notices that a sizable portion of Texas’ Congressional delegation is, um, old.

Of the most populous states, Texas has the oldest congressional delegation, averaging nearly 63 years old, while the average for Congress as a whole is about 58.

North Texas accounts for a big slice of that, paced by Hall, a Republican who is the House’s oldest member; Rep. Sam Johnson, 81, R-Plano ; Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, 76, D-Dallas; Rep. Kay Granger, 69, R-Fort Worth; and GOP Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, 68, of Dallas.

It’s a record of longevity, solidified by one-sided districts, smart hometown politics and relatively satisfied voters who don’t often kick out incumbents.

That the state sends an older group to Congress is especially striking because Texas has the nation’s second-youngest population, with a median age of 33.6.

[…]

Moving forward, it doesn’t seem likely that the Texas delegation will get much younger any time soon.

Most of the older representatives are in safe seats. And several of the more prominent members — including Sen. John Cornyn, and Dallas Reps. Jeb Hensarling and Pete Sessions — are only in their mid-50s to early 60s — prime years by congressional standards.

Still, the 2012 races may knock Texas off the top of the gray-hair rankings, because it is gaining four new House seats, giving the state 36.

And three of its oldest members — Paul, Hutchison and Rep. Charlie Gonzalez, 66, of San Antonio — are not seeking re-election, although the front-runner for Hutchison’s seat, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, would be 67 if he wins.

Being in a safe seat makes partisan turnover unlikely, but it does nothing to protect an incumbent from a primary challenge. Take a look at the list of Teaxs’ oldest Congressional members, included at the end of the story:

AT A GLANCE: Oldest Texans in Congress

Rep. Ralph Hall, 88, R-Rockwall
Rep. Sam Johnson, 81, R-Plano
Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, 76, D-Dallas
Rep. Ron Paul, 76, R-Lake Jackson
Rep. Rubén Hinojosa, 71, D-Mercedes
Rep. John Carter, 70, R-Round Rock
Rep. Kay Granger, 69, R-Fort Worth
Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, 68, R-Dallas
Rep. Silvestre Reyes, 67, D-El Paso
Rep. Charlie Gonzalez, 66, D-San Antonio

As noted, Paul, KBH, and Gonzalez are retiring. As with KBH and Dewhurst, the leading contender for Paul’s seat, Nick Lampson, is someone who won’t bring the average age down that much. But with Joaquin Castro set to step in for Gonzalez, there’s at least some movement in the youth direction.

What the story did not note was that every single non-retiring incumbent on that list has at least one primary challenger. Two of them, Reps. Reyes and EB Johnson, have challengers who have a big money PAC supporting them; the challengers in those cases, Beto O’Rourke and Taj Clayton, are both 40 and under. You can see who the Democratic challengers are here, and who the Republicans are here. I don’t know anything about these folks, including how old they are, and a quick check on the FEC campaign finance reports page suggests that none of the others have any juice, but you never know. There’s more potential for change now than you might think, and projecting forward I’d say it’s a safe bet that the delegation will look a lot different after the 2021 reapportionment and the 2022 election that follows it.

Mighty pricey Main Street you’ve got there

My Irony-O-Meter goes to eleven.

Can I be your sugar daddy?

A Houston-based super PAC is targeting a dozen Democratic and Republican incumbents to reshape the political landscape in five states, including Texas where critics say an election law loophole is being used by a wealthy family to buy a seat in Congress.

The Campaign for Primary Accountability, a conservative political action committee whose largest donor is Houston builder Leo Linbeck III, is working to defeat Rep. Sylvestre Reyes, D-El Paso, and Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, D-Dallas.

The PAC is funding challenges to Reyes and Johnson and congressional Democrats in Ohio deemed entrenched and vulnerable to strong challengers.

[…]

The Super PAC has raised $1.8 million to aid challengers in contested primaries where incumbents hold an advantage because of seniority and backing from special interests and Washington lobbyists.

Ellis said the PAC is helping strong challengers against incumbents by leveling the playing field and dilute the power of special interests.

“It’s not about party, it’s about process,” Ellis said. “We want the people of Congress to fear Main Street, not K Street.

“The insiders, the lobbyists, give the incumbents the advantage. We want to equalize that,” Ellis said.

And the way they want to do that is by giving challengers their own obscenely wealthy benefactor:

The largest donor to the Campaign for Primary Accountability, Linbeck, gave $775,000. He is a staunch advocate for tax reform and smaller government.

“We are not funding parties and we are not funding incumbents,” Ellis said. “We are using the power of the system the way it has been adjudicated at the Supreme Court level.”

Well, I can’t argue with that, though I do hope that SCOTUS will rethink the wisdom of that decision. I just can’t say I know anyone on my street who can afford to drop $775K on political campaigns. Forget Main Street, my problem is that I don’t live on Linbeck Street. Leo Linbeck III is the son of Leo Linbeck, Jr, who is one of the founders of Texans for Lawsuit Reform and one of the longtime occupiers of a seat in the owners’ box at the Texas Lege. Always nice to see a son follow in his daddy’s footsteps, isn’t it?

The Super PAC supports Dallas lawyer Taj Clayton in a crowded Democratic primary.

They also support Beto O’Rourke in El Paso. Both Clayton and O’Rourke did very well in the last quarter’s fundraising report, and no doubt some Linbeck love helped them considerably. As ludicrous and distasteful as I find this, I don’t consider this to be a disqualifier for either candidate. O’Rourke has some solid progressive credentials; I don’t know much about Clayton but in general I’m supportive of new young faces on the scene. Ideally, if either or both were to win, I’d hope they spend their careers pushing legislation that the Leo Linbecks of the world abhor. But folks usually do dance with them that brung ’em, and I certainly won’t argue against anyone who would oppose them for taking Leo Linbeck’s money. In the meantime, consider this Exhibit 459,831 for Why We Need Real Campaign Finance Reform.

Third quarter Congressional fundraising

The Trib has the highlights from some of the contested Congressional primaries that are shaping up.

Texas congressional incumbents raised more than $4.7 million during the third quarter of the year, but some of them face challengers who also displayed a knack for raising political cash. New fundraising reports show what’s in the war chests of Texans vying for seats in the U.S. House of Representatives, giving definition to some of the state’s most closely watched races.

State Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-San Antonio, wowed by bringing in more than $500,000 for his challenge to U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Austin. Doggett raised $377,000 by comparison – but he reported millions more in cash on hand, $3.3 million to Castro’s $389,000.

U.S. Rep. Silvestre Reyes, D-El Paso, raised almost $290,000 in the third quarter, far outpacing his first serious challenger, Beto O’Rourke. The former El Paso City Council member raised almost $26,000 and ended the quarter with about $12,000 on hand to Reyes’s $276,000.

State Rep. Pete Gallego, D-Alpine, reported another of the top challenger fundraising numbers – about $137,500 – in his contest with U.S. Rep. Francisco “Quico” Canseco, R-San Antonio, who raised slightly less. The incumbent reported about $460,000 in cash on hand to Gallego’s nearly $136,000.

You should read that linked story about Beto O’Rourke, which I saw at the time but didn’t get a chance to write about. I don’t have anything in particular against Rep. Silvestre Reyes, but a young, aggressive progressive like O’Rourke is exactly the kind of person I want to see succeed in politics. O’Rourke has no money to speak of yet, but if you look at his campaign finance report, you see that he only filed his initial paperwork on August 26, so there wasn’t much time to raise money for this period. We’ll see how he does in the next quarter.

I should note that State Rep. Pete Gallego, whose report is here, also didn’t file paperwork until late in the quarter. He did pretty well for himself, which is very encouraging, as Rep. Gallego is another person I’d like to see succeed.

That covers three of the four contested Dem primaries that I know of for this cycle. The fourth is in CD30, where Rep. Eddie Berniece Johnson already has one opponent in State Rep. Barbara Mallory Caraway and may soon have another in businessman Taj Clayton. Rep. Johnson raised $82K for the period and has $223K on hand, not great but probably okay for a longtime incumbent who is well known. Rep. Caraway does not have a report visible through the search facility, but she does have a report. It’s here, and it was done by hand. No, I don’t understand why anyone would do it that way if they didn’t have to, either. In any event, she raised $13K and has $7K on hand, all from the month of September; note that in addition to the old-school handwriting, the form was filed for 2010 and not 2011. Hopefully, she’ll get her act together for the next quarterly filing. Thanks to DavidNYC for pointing this out to me.

I should note that the Trib provides a handy app that summarizes all candidates’ totals. I was a bit confused at first by the differences between their numbers and what you see in the FEC reports, but eventually it dawned on me that the totals the FEC gives for receipts are cumulative for the cycle, and not just the amouint raised in the given period. This is not how the state and city reports are done, which is why I was thrown off. In any event, the Trib’s app lets you know how much was raised over the past three months, which would be hard to do otherwide unless you had saved a query result from July.

Two other numbers of interest to note. Freshman Rep. Blake Farenthold was cited by Politico as an underperformer for this period, having raised a mere $102K. He does have $277K on hand, which isn’t nothing but also isn’t exactly insurmountable. You can see his FEC report here. Farenthold was by no means the low scorer – by my count, ten incumbents raised less, and eleven others have less cash. Fellow freshman Quico Canseco, in what is now a swingier district, raised $112K, but has $460K on hand.

And finally, a number to make you shake your head.

Seeking to gin up enthusiasm about an expanding the 2012 Senate map, national Democrats touted the candidacy of retired Army Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez when he entered the Texas Senate race in the spring. But Sanchez has maintained a low profile so far and his latest fundraising numbers aren’t impressive.

In the third quarter, Sanchez brought in just $83,000, spending over $112,000 and finishing the quarter with about $119,000 in the bank.

Yeah, that’s what I call a truly crappy report. I hope it’s because he has not been fully engaged in fundraising yet and not because no one is giving anything. At least there’s no place to go from here but up.