I had thought that John Kerry would do better in all three of the big urban counties - Bexar, Dallas, and Harris - than Al Gore did. (That he was going to kick butt in Travis County was never a stretch to imagine.) That was only the case for Dallas County, which Bush carried by the tiny margin of 50.4 - 49.0, but a closer look at those counties shows that Democratic progress is indeed being made.
To see what I mean, I'm going to compare how Bush and Kerry did in these counties to how the three statewide races stacked up. Let's start with Harris County, which is sadly still the least Democratic-leaning of the three.
George W. Bush/ Dick Cheney - Incumbent REP 580,553 54.85%
John F. Kerry/ John Edwards DEM 472,320 44.63%
Victor G. Carrillo - Incumbent REP 540,937 52.85%
Bob Scarborough DEM 456,230 44.57%
Scott Brister - Incumbent REP 551,990 54.42%
David Van Os DEM 462,212 45.57%
Michael E. Keasler - Incumbent REP 537,234 53.25%
J.R. Molina DEM 471,630 46.74%
George W. Bush/ Dick Cheney - Incumbent REP 259,762 54.88%
John F. Kerry/ John Edwards DEM 210,354 44.44%
Victor G. Carrillo - Incumbent REP 226,019 50.00%
Bob Scarborough DEM 205,103 45.37%
Scott Brister - Incumbent REP 234,085 52.47%
David Van Os DEM 212,041 47.52%
Michael E. Keasler - Incumbent REP 224,549 50.47%
J.R. Molina DEM 220,337 49.52%
George W. Bush/ Dick Cheney - Incumbent REP 345,482 50.43%
John F. Kerry/ John Edwards DEM 335,871 49.03%
Victor G. Carrillo - Incumbent REP 317,609 48.41%
Bob Scarborough DEM 313,707 47.81%
Scott Brister - Incumbent REP 328,007 50.35%
David Van Os DEM 323,404 49.64%
Michael E. Keasler - Incumbent REP 319,209 49.26%
J.R. Molina DEM 328,726 50.73%
Winning the big urban counties will certainly help in statewide races in the long run, though there's a large counterbalancing force in the big suburbs, a subject I'll get to later. Where it can pay immediate dividends is in the State House and in countywide races, where a party's bench gets built. Dallas Democrats are already winning countywide races, with Lupe Valdez's victory being a true watershed. We already knew that Ray Allen was facing a stiff challenge, but who had the Tony Goolsby/Harriet Miller race on their radar? HD102, and perhaps Linda Harper-Brown's HD105, will bear watching alongside HD106 in two years.
With David Leibowitz's apparent win in HD 117, there's less fruit to pick in Bexar County, as the Dems took every competitive State House race there. I do note that Lamar Smith barely carried his portion of Travis County, so perhaps a strong San Antonio-based Democrat like current Mayor Ed Garza could make the Bexar portion of CD21 competitive in 2006. And though he's a relative moderate, I wouldn't object to someone taking on State Sen. Jeff Wentworth.
As for Harris, if Vo's win stands up the GOP will have 13 of the 25 State Reps from this county, meaning that among other things, there will be plenty of opportunities for pickups. Martha Wong did a percentage point better this year than 2002, but as long as she draws in the 52-53% range, she'll be a prime target. A stronger Democrat running in CD07, which encompasses much of HD134, might well swamp her boat in 2006. Joe Nixon, who really should have been challenged this year, ought to be in someone's sights in 2006, while Dwayne Bohac, Wayne Smith, and Peggy Hamric might sweat some tougher opposition.
One more thing to consider:
George W. Bush/ Dick Cheney - Incumbent REP 93,554 57.38%
John F. Kerry/ John Edwards DEM 68,655 42.11%
Tom DeLay - Incumbent REP 58,399 53.21%
Richard R. Morrison DEM 46,114 42.01%