April 20, 2006
On the second tier

Swing State Project and Chuck Todd are talking about how strong the Democrats have been nationally in recruiting second-tier candidates for Congress, which is to say those candidates who will be in a position to ride any kind of national wave that favors the Dems into office. I've mentioned a couple of races here in Texas that I think qualify as second-tier, but after looking at the latest FEC filings, I think I've overlooked one. It's in the district I just mentioned, the one currently held by Rep. Pete Sessions. Here's a list of the top five Democratic challengers for Congress, sorted by fundraising:

Candidate name Dist Total raised Cash on hand
Nick Lampson 22 $2,299,555 $1,761,433
Will Pryor 32 $169,791 $107,443
Shane Sklar 14 $137,242 $56,885
John Courage 21 $113,791 $63,387
Mary Beth Harrell 31 $73,948 $18,914

Lampson, of course, is in a galaxy all his own. Harrell comes with an asterisk, as her fundraising total includes a $36,000 loan to the campaign. One candidate for whom I cannot find any information on is Rick Bolanos; I wouldn't expect him to have raised that much, but I'd still like to know what his total is.

Maybe it's just because I've not heard much of anything from his campaign so far, but I did not expect to see Will Pryor up there. MyDD classifies CD32 as "a very tough district for a Democrat." That's certainly true for any district not currently held by a Democrat in Texas, but according to the SOS redistricting page, its partisan index was 60.3 GOP/39.7 Dem in 2004, which not only ties it with CD21 as the least red of the GOP-drawn districts, it's also four full points bluer than it was in 2002. I'm certainly not going to claim that Pryor has a better chance of winning than Martin Frost did, but this district is far from hopeless, and given the overall trends in Dallas County may be seen as genuinely flippable in 2008 or 2010.

So make that three second-tier races here. Courage has been getting some national grassroots buzz and should some better fundraising numbers to report next quarter, as should Sklar, who has reportedly outraised incumbent Ron Paul since the March 7 primary. If he can keep that up and do better than Paul for this quarter, that would be huge.

(Side note: Take a look at the individual contributors to Sklar's campaign, and compare to Ron Paul's individual contributors. Every single one of Sklar's is from Texas, mostly from within CD14, while more than 70% of Paul's come from elsewhere, and even quite a few of the Texans are from outside CD14. Having contributors from outside one's district is nothing unusual, but the sheer number of them in Paul's case struck me as being pretty remarkable. Compare Paul to Lamar Smith, for example, and you'll see what I mean. Even Tom DeLay, whom I only spot-checked, had a healthy number of Houston and Sugar Land contributors in there.)

Anyway. Based on fundraising alone, those are the next three races to watch. There are plenty of other criteria, of course, and I'm not suggesting that this makes these three candidates "better" than any other, but if you want to guess which races are the most likely to get mainstream media coverage, that's where you start.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on April 20, 2006 to Election 2006 | TrackBack