June 15, 2005
A laundry list from Cap Inside

Capitol Inside has a big overview of many potential state house races, some of which we're now familiar with and some of which are new to me. Here's the meat of it, with some comments at the end:

Dallas Democrat Harriet Miller, who's planning a rematch against [Tony] Goolsby, gave the veteran lawmaker an unexpected scare last year in a general election race that her party had not targeted. Lubbock City Councilwoman and former school board member Linda Deleon has been encouraged by Democrats to seek [Carl] Isett's seat and is reportedly taking a serious look at running. Democrats also think they have a potential winner in Ellen Cohen, who's prepared to take a leave of absence from her job as president of the Houston Area Women's Center in order to campaign full-time for [Martha] Wong's seat in west Houston.

Former College Republicans of Texas president Andy Smith is weighing a possible campaign as a Democrat against Republican State Rep. Bill Keffer of Dallas. Refugio City Councilman Rene Mascorro may seek the Democratic nomination for the right to challenge State Rep. Geanie Morrison of Victoria in the fall of 2006. Democrat Morris Meyer, an Arlington high tech engineer, might seek his party's nomination in hopes of taking on State Rep. Bill Zedler of Arlington in an attempted comeback from a 2004 defeat at the hands of powerful Republican U.S. Rep. Joe Barton. Nacona Mayor Paul Gibbs might shift his sights to the House in a possible campaign for the seat held by Republican State Rep. Rick Hardcastle of Vernon after losing last year in a race against State Senator Craig Estes.

Karen Felthauser, a Round Rock educator who ran against State Rep. Mike Krusee as a write-in candidate last fall, plans to try again in 2006 as a candidate for the Democratic Party. In another potential Williamson County race, Democrat Jim Stauber of Liberty Hill is considering a possible rematch against Republican State Rep. Dan Gattis of Georgetown.

Democratic strategists consider Goolsby and Wong to be among the top five Republican incumbents on their list of targets in 2006. The Democrats also list State Reps. Joe Nixon of Houston and Todd Baxter of Austin among Republican House members they believe to be most vulnerable in next year's general election. An Austin House seat represented by Republican State Rep. Terry Keel has also been declared a major priority for Democrats in the wake of the incumbent's announcement last week that he plans to run for a seat on an appellate court instead. The names of a half-dozen Democrats - including the sons of well-known fathers, Jason Earle and J. Pete Laney - have been tossed in the ring of possible candidates for Keel's seat. Jimmy Evans, the son of a former legislator and high-profile lobbyist, and real estate developer Bill Welch are among the Republicans with eyes on the open House seat in Austin.

Democrats have high hopes for Deleon in Lubbock if she decides to challenge Isett. Deleon, a concrete company owner who spent 30 years working for Southwestern Bell in Lubbock, is serving her first term on the city council after 18 years as a school district trustee. To have a shot at the five-term incumbent, Deleon would have to fare exceptionally well among minority voters in a district where about 44 percent of the voters are either Hispanic or African-American. But she would also have to attract a significant number of Anglo voters to have a chance against Isett, a CPA who has done reasonably well with minority voters and hasn't been held below 66 percent by Democratic challengers since his initial race for the seat in 1996. While the Hispanic population has been growing in Isett's district, Republican statewide candidates have still won two out of every three votes in the past two elections.

Goolsby and Wong, however, might have more cause for concern. Miller held Goolsby, a 16-year House veteran, to about 53 percent of the general election vote in 2004 without substantial help from the party machinery. An infusion of resources might help her narrow the gap even more in a district that's voted about 60 percent Republican in the past two statewide elections. In Houston, Cohen might have an even better chance against Wong in a district with the state's highest concentration of gay and lesbian voters. Wong, a former city council member, had a mixed record during the regular session on votes affecting that segment of the population.

Democrats also have fielded a potential candidate against one of their own - Houston State Rep. Al Edwards - who angered other Democratic legislators as the only member of the minority party to vote with Republicans on the school finance and tax bills this year. Edwards, who's been a member of the Legislature for 26 years, could face primary opposition from Houston businessman Boris Miles.

While potential Democratic challengers appear to have a head-start in House races, Republicans say they will have viable candidates in races against several Democratic House incumbents including three freshmen - State Reps. Hubert Vo of Houston, Mark Strama of Austin and David Leibowitz of San Antonio - who knocked off GOP incumbents last year. Republicans also expect to have well-armed candidates for several seats held by Democrats in East Texas as well.

My thoughts:

- Any Democrat who can win in Lubbock County (75% for GWB in 2004) is a star in my book. Isett won with 68% last time, so this is a steep hill to climb, but one that's worth trying to climb, especially if it's an increasingly non-Anglo district.

- If Goolsby's district really went 60% GOP in November, then I need to put it on my list for precinct data analysis. Whatever Harriet Miller did last time, I hope she can do it again.

- Speaking of analyses, I did one at Morris Meyer's request for Bill Zedler's district. You can see the spreadsheet here. Short version: This will be another tough challenge, as the district is at best 60/40, much as it was in 2002, with a lot less variance in performance levels for different candidates. On the other hand, Meyer now has campaign experience, good name recognition, and a much lower fundraising target. With a little luck and some shoe leather, this one can be competitive.

- Not mentioned here as they were before are some of the reps who are on Tom Craddick's leadership team. This may be because (other than Geanie Morrison) they don't have prospective opponents yet, or it may be because the Dems' focus has altered, I'm not sure. Morrison's district is pretty strongly Republican (70% for GWB in Victoria County, 61% GOP statewides in District 30 in 2002) and she hasn't had a Democratic challenger in the last two cycles, but hometown boy John Sharp won 56% there in 2002, so it's at least possible that someone could make a race of this.

- I feel pretty good about the three Democratic freshmen's chances in 2006. The East Texas reps, some of whom had close calls last year, are more of a concern to me. If things continue as they have been, I fear some of them may be the last Dem to hold those seats for awhile.

- No mention of Robert Pham, the purported challenger to Joe Nixon. I'm not sure what's up with that.

- According to the business card he gave me last Friday, there are two Rs in Borris Miles' first name.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on June 15, 2005 to Election 2006 | TrackBack

What about Vilma Luna?
Won't she be a Target as well... the Dems want her out bad and looks like Solomon Ortiz Jr. (Nueces Co Demo Chair & Son of Cong. Ortiz) will be takeing her on. She has made many ememys here and the Leadership sure won't help her nor look good on her resume in S. Texas.

Posted by: Kingsville guy on June 15, 2005 12:07 PM

One R incumbent the piece left out is Ray Allen in Grand Prairie. He defeated Katie Heubner by just 1800 votes last time. He's also got a big bullseye on his back.

Posted by: houtopia on June 15, 2005 12:42 PM

The Texas GOP wishes that Goolsby's district was 60% Republican. It's one of the rare districts that Bush did NOT lead Republican candidates in as Bush got 53% to the rest getting 56-7%. Goolsby's 53%, no doubt, was attributed to more dropoff of GOP votes down the ballot, but this is still a battleground district no matter how you slice and dice it.

Posted by: Greg Wythe on June 15, 2005 2:22 PM

You're being VERY charitable to Martha Wong when you say she "had a mixed record during the regular session on votes affecting" the gays in her district. The truth is, she lied to them and then sold them down the river hoping to position herself for a candidacy for higher office. Learn to represent the people who elect you first, Martha!

Posted by: Boddhisattva on June 16, 2005 12:18 AM

Boddhisattva - That's not me being generous to Martha Wong, that's a quote from the Cap Inside piece. I agree with your interpretation.

Posted by: Charles Kuffner on June 16, 2005 8:34 AM

Did Goolsby actually say he was running again? He's getting on up there in age. Harriet Miller had the help of Martin Frost and he trained us volunteers real good. Miller's resume was outstanding, even if she does ramble in her speeches. She's very photogenic too. I think she could take Goolsby, but not in this district if someone stepped in on the R side besides Goolsby.

Posted by: Irky on June 16, 2005 9:22 AM

Running all these suicide jockeys in hopelessly Republican seats just helps drive up Republican turnout, which in turn helps the statewide Republicans.

It's just stupid.

Posted by: Aaron on June 16, 2005 9:51 AM

Aaron, you are completely wrong. State House Districts that had Democratic opposition in 2004 saw a 5% increase in Democratic performance while districts without opposition had none. Running candidates in every single district is the secret to winning statewide.

But even if it were true what would your answer be? To not run Democrats in races with Republican incumbents? We'll never win anything again if we do that.

Posted by: Andrew Dobbs on June 16, 2005 11:03 AM