January 11, 2008
Burka on the House races

Paul Burka gives an exhaustive rundown of the 89 contested House races that we will see this year. There's a boo-boo or two in there - as I noted in the comments, Democrat Kevin Murphy is running in HD29, and I have no idea where he got the name "Fred Roberts" for HD144 (the Democrat is Joel Redmond), but I didn't see that one till after I'd left my comment. All told, 39 Republicans and 32 Democrats (including open seats) have major-party opponents.

One general and two specific points to make:

The Republicans came out of filing deadline with an advantage. There are two main reasons for this. The Democrats' success since Craddick became speaker means that they have to defend a lot of seats in which they won close races. This is a problem, to be sure, but it is a problem that any political party would be happy to have. Republicans are contesting every seat that the Democrats have picked up in those years: the Talmadge Heflin, Jack Stick, and Ken Mercer seats in 2004; and the Todd Baxter, Terry Keel, Bill Keffer, Toby Goodman, Gene Seaman, and Martha Wong seats in 2006.

What's more, the Republicans recruited some very strong candidates in key races: Todd Hunter against Juan Garcia and Donna Keel against Valinda Bolton, to name a couple. Craddick nemeses Pat Haggerty and Charlie Geren have difficult Republican primary races. Many of the races are hard to evaluate, because the chances of success depend upon how much money Republican candidates will have available for candidates like Raul Torres, who is running against Solomon Ortiz. We'll know more after the January 15 reports come in.

The problem for Democrats is that they have already picked most of the low-hanging Republican fruit. A few Rs are vulnerable if the national mood is good for Democrats -- Tony Goolsby, Linda Harper-Brown, Robert Talton, Bill Zedler, Tuffy Hamilton -- but many more Democrats have precarious holds on their seats.

"If" the national mood is good for Democrats? Last I checked right track/wrong track numbers were something like 2-1 for wrong track. Given the way the economy is roiling right now, it's hard to see that get any better, and the current unpleasantness for Republicans in Harris County isn't helping the GOP any, either. I'd bet the mood is more favorable to Dems here in Texas in 2008 than it was in 2006. If nothing else, I recall what Rick Perry's strategist Ted Delisi said at a 2006 election postmortem (at which Burka was also a speaker) about Texas being two years behind the rest of the country in terms of political trends. Put it all together, and I think the Dems will have the wind more at their backs than in their faces. Standard disclaimers about November being a long way off inserted here.

This is not to say that I expect the Dems to run the table and not lose any seats as they did in 2006. There are some tough holds in there, and every extra seat the Dems win is one more place they'll have to play defense. All I can say is that the mood I feel, and that just about everyone on the Democratic side that I know of feels, is much brighter about the prospects for the House than what Burka portrays here. We optimists were right in 2006, when Burka thought Dems would do well to break even. We'll see if we're right again this year. EOW has more on this.

Dwayne Bohac (R) -- For some reason, Democrats think they can win this seat, even though Bohac polled 63% of the vote in 04 and 06. I don't get it. Virginia Stogner McDavid is the Democratic challenger.

Simple reason why Dems think they can win this seat: Downballot candidates did pretty well here. The average countywide Democrat got nearly 43% (almost 3 percentage points better than 06 candidate Mark McDavid, using two-party comparisons), with Jim Sharp topping out at 46.3%; Bill Moody got 45.1%. And for the record, Bohac got only 58.4% against McDavid, after getting 63.8% against Fred Ashmead in 2004.

Hubert Vo (D) -- HISD school board member Greg Myers is the Republican challenger. Vo won 54+% in 06, which is too close for comfort.

That was 54% after his 50.01% win in 2004, so it was a hell of a lot more comfortable this time around. I've expressed concern about Vo and his first post-Talmadge Heflin election to numerous people, including several inclined towards pessimism, and so far none have told me that they're worried about this race. Myers' school board district has only a small overlap with HD149. I'm told he's positioning himself for a future race, perhaps another shot at the Lege after the 2011 redistricting. Take all this scuttlebutt with as much salt as you deem necessary, but I don't think my sources are any less informed than Burka's on this one.

Finally, on a related note, State Rep. Lon Burnam has endorsed three challengers to Craddick Ds in the primaries: Brian Thompson (against Rep. Dawnna Dukes), Armando Walle (against Rep. Kevin Bailey), and Sandra Rodriguez (against Rep. Kino Flores). I'm glad to see that. Karen Brooks has more.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on January 11, 2008 to Election 2008

Vo can bring in a lot of national Asian American money

Posted by: Justin on January 11, 2008 9:37 AM

Burka also had misinformation about John Davis. I left this comment: Burka, you got John Davis wrong (Republican incumbent in HD129). He's got a primary challenger in Jon Keeney. The word in that district is that the more conservative Republicans are unhappy with Davis' ethics problems.

Posted by: Martha Griffin on January 11, 2008 9:43 AM