January 17, 2006
Also appearing in this district: Tom DeLay

The Chron notes that Democrat David Murff will be talking about a familiar name in his campaign against Rep. John Culberson in CD07.

Murff is attempting to connect Culberson to DeLay, R-Sugar Land, who represents the nearby 22nd District and is under indictment on criminal charges relating to campaign fundraising. Democrats hope to use DeLay as a symbol of Republican political corruption.

"Culberson is tied in with DeLay, as close as he can get," said Murff, a lawyer in private practice.

"It's a matter of time before constituents see who he is and the cronyism he is related with. It's time that we bring integrity and competence back to Washington."

Seems only fair, since DeLay held a rally for himself in the 7th last year. Murff will not be the last candidate to invoke The Hammer as the 2006 campaign moves along. It's not like Culberson or any other Republican Congressional candidate is going to dissociate himself with DeLay, after all. If the news keeps getting worse for DeLay, then it will eventually be a problem for Culberson and his buddies, and Murff will be in a position to take whatever advantage of it there is to take. If not, Murff wasn't likely to win anyway. There's not much risk to this strategy.

Murff, an Army veteran, says he will focus on veterans' issues, citing the nearly 70,000 veterans who live in the district. And as a father of three young children, he also says he would devote time to education and health care.

Murff does not live in the district, although his business is there and he is in the process of finding a house there. U.S. representatives are not required to live in their districts, though most do.

Murff will face Lanier Middle School teacher Jim Henley in the March 7 Democratic primary.

Though the Chron covered Jim Henley's filing for CD07, this is their first mention of Murff, of whose existence they seemed blissfully ignorant at that time. I guess the secret to getting coverage is to talk about Tom DeLay.

Whoever wins the Democratic nomination will face an uphill battle in a district that has voted 2-1 Republican in recent elections.

The only recent election for which this version of CD07 existed was 2004, so there needs to be more context to this statement than that. Historically, Republican Congressional candidates won by 3-1 margins or better when running against a Democrat: Bill Archer got 81% in 1996, and Culberson beat Jeff Sell by a 73-24 score in 2000. This district is less monolithic now that it contains some fairly reliably Democratic turf inside Loop 610 that used to belong to CD25; accordingly, Culberson won by a 64-33 count over John Martinez in 2004. According to the Secretary of State's redistricting reports, which you can see by clicking here, choosing the "U.S. Congressional Districts, 109th Congress" link or clicking the "All Other Plans" button to choose the 108th Congress map, then selecting the "Population and Elections" report, the new CD07 had a GOP index of 70.2 in 2002, and 65.3 in 2004. What surprised me was that the previous version of CD07 came in at 69.2 and 63.2, respectively. I have no idea how to account for that blue shift, nor can I explain how the old district managed to clock in as less Republican than the new one, but there it is. Maybe I'll go through the precinct data myself at some point and see if I can figure it out.

In any event, I have believed for some time now that a concentrated GOTV effort inside 610 plus a Democratic candidate with at least a semi-adequate level of funding could bring this district to the edge of competitiveness. Perhaps this year with Tom DeLay being a special guest star on the campaign trail we'll see.

UPDATE: To demonstrate the point about DeLay being featured in campaigns elsewhere in Texas, I just got an email from a Democratic primary contender for a countywide position somewhere. I'm not going to include names because I don't know the players well enough, but consider this quote from the email:

The past in this race is represented by [Incumbent X] [...] whose failed record and old-style political patron style are bogged down cronyism, controversy, and corruption.

That's [Incumbent X]'s legacy -- [Nameless] County's very own version of Tom DeLay.

Like I said, you will be hearing a lot more of this.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on January 17, 2006 to Election 2006 | TrackBack

edge of competitiveness

How do you define that?

What percentage of the vote do you mean?

Posted by: kevin whited on January 17, 2006 12:33 PM

Less than 60-40. I think if one of the Democratic hopefuls were to hold Culberson to under 60%, the perception of this district would change from "solid red" to "potentially competitive". That in turn might attract more interest in running from someone who started out with a higher profile - say, a Gordon Quan - and better fundraising prospects. It's kind of like the way CD22 is viewed differently now, or the way HD149 was viewed in 2004 after Talmadge Heflin had scored only 55% against a relative no-name candidate in 2002.

Posted by: Charles Kuffner on January 17, 2006 1:56 PM

It is notable that the DCCC connects virtually every Republican incumbent to Tom Delay. Mr. Jim Henley has connected him to DeLay as well; if not so obviously.

The truth of the matter is that John Culberson is one of Mr. Delay's buddies, and that will always remain so. And for America, that isn't neccisarily a good thing.

Posted by: Michael Hurta on January 17, 2006 5:59 PM

As one of the Democrats that got thrown into Culberson's district, I really want to agree with you. Culberson is not just a Republican, but kind of flaky. He biggest concern seems to be a sort of state's rights theme of local control over all kinds of federal programs and even federal judges. He also is one of the ones that pushed to have Reagan put on the $10 bill. I just can't get my mind around the idea that this guy represents me or even all those memorial area Republicans. I think a Gordon Quan or any Democrat who won a city wide election, even Anise Parker, would have a real shot. A big hurdle, as always, is the straight ticket effect. 64% of harris county voters voted straight ticket in 2004. Culberson's vote total in 2004 was 175,000, which if the 64% number is good for CD-7 means he got about 112,000 by virtue of straight ticket voting. That alone is over 40% of the votes. A Democrat, to win, would have to win ticket splitters about 80-20, or be so attractive to make straight ticket voters ticket splitters.

Posted by: Doug on January 19, 2006 8:09 AM