February 14, 2006
CD10 misconception

The Austin Chronicle, which is usually pretty sharp about political matters, is propagating a myth here in its preview of the Democratic primary for CD10:

In 2004, the Tom DeLay-designed CD 10 was so overwhelmingly tilted toward the GOP that no Dem from North Austin to the suburbs of Houston even bothered to file in the primary. For the general election, Democrat and UT math Prof. Lorenzo Sadun made a valiant write-in effort to get the donkeys back in the game, but the result was brutal – he took only 6% of the vote, finishing even behind the (listed) Libertarian candidate. Austinite Michael McCaul, the least reactionary of a nine-way GOP primary field, joined Congress in a 79% landslide.

The prospect of unseating McCaul, even tainted with the stench of Tom DeLay, is dim. All four of the Dem hopefuls are political novices, and none has the kind of campaign machine needed for this race. The biggest fundraisers, as of Dec. 31, were retired NASA official Ted Ankrum of Cypress, who reported collecting $6,181, mostly from himself, followed by retired nurse Pat Mynatt of Spring with $5,982, again mostly from her own checkbook. Austinites Paul Foreman and 95-year-old Sid Smith have yet to file a finance report. In interviews, the first three admitted they would be relying more on face-to-face campaigning and word-of-mouth than advertising.

By contrast, McCaul has nearly half a million raised, with $151,165 still in the bank. And as he's son-in-law to Clear Channel CEO Lowry Mays' broadcasting fortune, one suspects landing advertising won't be an obstacle. Heck, the Dems could even run behind the Libertarian again: This time, the third party will be represented by Michael Badnarik, the Austinite who ran for president in 2004. Badnarik has raised $85,598, although he only has $8,090 on hand.

The myth in question is that CD10 is "overwhelmingly tilted toward the GOP". It's a red district, no question about it, but don't be fooled by Mike McCaul's 79% showing. When the only listed opponent is a Libertarian, the real points of comparison are with other Republican/Libertarian matchups and with Republicans who run unopposed. Here's that data, starting with the three R-L contests:

Candidate Votes Pct
Cheryl Johnson 181,705 82.3
Larry Meyers 179,901 81.4
Mike McCaul 182,113 78.6

McCaul got more votes than Court of Criminal Appeals justices Johnson and Meyers despite his smaller percentage, but that's mostly because there were fewer undervotes in his race. Now let's compare his vote totals to the two Republicans who actually were unopposed:

Candidate Votes
Harriet O'Neill 192,733
Paul Green 191,366
Mike McCaul 182,113

McCaul didn't quite match the truly unopposed candidates, who always seem to outpace everyone else. My assumption there is that some number of people can't stand to skip a race, and that there's more of them than there are top-ticket-only people.

Finally, the real comparison: to the four statewide Republicans who faced a Democrat in CD10:

Candidate Votes Pct
Mike McCaul 182,113 78.6
George Bush 177,361 61.9
Scott Brister 169,003 61.5
Mike Keasler 166,090 60.7
Victor Carrillo 162,044 60.7

Victor Carrillo of course also faced a Libertarian candidate, who apparently cost him and Dem Bob Scarborough an equally proportionate number of votes. The bottom line here is that at a smidge more than 61% for the statewides, this is actually one of the less Republican districts that Tom DeLay drew. (Don't take my word for it - go to the SOS redistricting reports page and compare for yourself.) I wouldn't have expected a serious and reasonably well-funded candidate - say, former Austin Mayor Gus Garcia, who briefly flirted with this race in 2004 - to have done much better than 40%, but don't let McCaul's showing against the Libertarian Robert Fritsche and write-in Lorenzo Sadun fool you into thinking this district compares to the one Mike Conaway got.

Funding of course is a big issue, and I doubt any of the Dem contenders will have anywhere near enough to compete. Maybe Ankrum can leverage his Band of Brothers connection for a few bucks, but in this two-major-media-markets district, anything less than a million or so isn't going to cut it. At least this time we'll have a name on the ballot, so maybe we can at least get an idea of what the baseline vote is. And I guarantee it will be better than whatever Mike Badnarik gets, which isn't saying much - Badnarik got 38,000 votes in all of Texas as the Lib Presidential candidate. That's about 3000 more than Fritsche got, and less than what Quanah Parker and Tom Oxford got from CD10 in their judicial races. Badnarik will get the usual Libertarian quota of 2 to 5%, mark my words.

One last thing: This district may be primarily composed of Travis and Harris Counties, but those two ends of the place are not the same. The average countywide Dem candidate got 58% of the vote in the Travis precincts of CD10. The countywide Dems in Harris averaged 24%. That will be the single most difficult thing to overcome, and with 96,881 of the 231,643 votes cast there (90,558 were cast in Travis), it's got to be overcome. Having a name on the ballot is a necessary first step, but there's a ways to go from there.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on February 14, 2006 to Election 2006 | TrackBack

Are you serious? The Austin Chronicle is propagating a MYTH about the fact that Dems have no chance in CD-10?

Come on Chuck. You must have gotten your holidays confused. Its Valentine's Day, not April Fools.

Have you ever SEEN Ted "the Mensa" Ankrum's website? If not, here's a quick synopsis you should read...


Posted by: Chris Elam on February 14, 2006 12:28 PM