With the 2007 Legislative session at a merciful end, it's time to start thinking about what comes next. It's clear that the 2008 election will go a long way towards determining who the Speaker is in 2009, and it's equally clear that for best results, the Democrats have to win as many seats as they can. Better to have enough votes to name your own Speaker than to hope there's a consensus among disgruntled Republicans for who should replace Tom Craddick.
So, with that in mind, here's a list of eight incumbent Republicans that I'd like to see the Democrats target. Not all of these folks are in obviously swing districts, and this is by no means an exhaustive list - I'll discuss some of the more clearcut targets in future segments - but if I had the power to pick and choose, and if I didn't have to worry too much about resource allocation, this would be the starting point for my to-do items.
1. Dwayne Bohac, HD138, Harris County.
The author of the noxious voter ID bill HD218, Bohac is in a district that has a fast-growing Hispanic population, which he knows full well augurs poorly for his electoral future. With the coordinated, Dallas-like campaign for Harris County Democrats in 2008, Bohac presents an appealing target. Though '06 opponent Mark McDavid ran on a shoestring, falling short of the countywide Democratic index in the process, Bohac spent much of his campaign warchest last year, and started out this year with very little in the bank, meaning that his next opponent won't begin the race in a hole. A strong voter registration effort in this district would go a long way towards bridging the gap here. Note that the District Election Analysis provided on his State House page doesn't list the top score attained by a Democrat there, which was Jim Sharp's 46.3%. Seven other countywide Dems out of 18 scored at least 43%.
Prognosis: Winnable. On the short list of must-have seats if the Dems hope to achieve a majority in 2008.
2. Linda Harper-Brown, HD105, Dallas County.
One of the least liked members of the House, who earned several enemies after endorsing Leininger-backed primary challengers to folks like Charlie Geren in 2006. One of about a half dozen Republican House incumbents in Dallas County who was re-elected with less than 60% of the vote in 2006. One of Tom Craddick's more vociferous defenders. Need I say more? If the blue tide that swamped Dallas County in 2006 leads to a stronger collection of State House challengers for unclaimed seats like this one, she could go down.
Prognosis: Winnable. Not quite on the short list of must-have seats if the Dems hope to achieve a majority in 2008, but close.
3. Will Hartnett, HD114, Dallas County.
Another diehard Craddickite, another Dallas rep with less than robust re-elect numbers in 2006. Unlike Harper-Brown, who ran about even with the countywide Republican index, Hartnett lagged his partymates; his 56.8% trails all other Republicans except open-seat judicial candidate Karen Willcutts, with the next worse score by an incumbent being 58.8%. While this makes his district tougher overall, the strong showing by 2006 opponent Philip Shinoda suggests there's room to win by persuasion in addition to boosting turnout.
Prognosis: More of a longshot, though not out of the question. If Dems win this race in 2008, it's been a very good year.
4. Charlie Howard, HD26, Fort Bend County.
I mostly include this to make my blogging colleague The Muse, who has the misfortune of living in Howard's district, smile. This is a Republican district - Bill Moody's 39.9% was the high water mark for Democrats - and while the Republicans there like Howard just fine, he's not much of a heavy lifter in the Lege. His pet bill on "voluntary student expression of religious viewpoints in public schools" needed a last-minute rescue to get passed. Howard's the kind of mostly undistinguished party-line guy who should be challenged as a matter of course. When the demographics of his district start to change, he'll start to become vulnerable.
Prognosis: No real chance of winning, but a decent campaign here can help countywide candidates, and can lay groundwork for the future.
5. Sid Miller, HD59, Central Texas.
A swing seat candidate in an otherwise solid red district. What can you say about a guy who ran a full seventeen points (!) behind ticket leader Kay Bailey Hutchison? Even Don Willett, the weakest statewide Republican on the ballot, did five points better than Miller. I don't know if Miller is that unloved by his constituents, or if '06 challenger Ernie Casbeer ran that strong a campaign, but when you see a guy do this poorly for what should be a gimme seat, you have to take notice. I just hope the HDCC has done so.
Prognosis: This should be a no-hoper, but with the right candidate and enough funding to get a message out, who knows? Depending on how candidate recruitment goes, could be a nailbiter, or could be he runs unopposed. As long as it's not the latter, keep an eye on this one.
6. Anna Mowery, HD97, Tarrant County
The first known-to-be-open seat of 2008, as Mowery announced her retirement shortly before sine die. Mowery was another underperformer relative to statewide Republicans, which may mean it'll be harder to win her seat now that she won't be on the ballot. But you can't think that way, and if the Tarrant Dems are serious about challenging Kim Brimer, this seat shoots up the priority charts.
Prognosis: Winnable, albeit a bit of a reach. Not a must-have, but definitely a nice-to-have.
7. Wayne Smith, HD128, Harris County.
One of only four Harris County Republicans to go unopposed in 2006 (and the only one of those four to have a 2004 challenger), Smith is not in a particularly purple district. I'd rank him fifth or sixth in terms of vulnerability, definitely beneath Bohac, Jim Murphy, Robet Talton, and John Davis, perhaps also beneath Joe Crabb. I see this as a longer-term project, maybe two or three election cycles out. But with Nick Lampson running for re-election in CD22, and with a strong challenger already lined up for SD11, I cannot fathom leaving the House sponsor of SB1317 uncontested. Call it a personal privilege choice, if you'd like. All I know is I'll be mad if Smith skates next year.
Prognosis: Like I said, more of a long-term project than realistically winnable. But you've got to start these projects sooner or later, and I can't think of a better time than 2008 for this one.
8. Bill Zedler, HD96, Tarrant County.
A two-time bad-bill author from this session, thanks to HBs 159 (for which he also gets plagiarism points), and 180, which was a failed effort at more governmental meddling in marriage. Zedler squeaked by with 54.2% of the vote in 2006 - Bill Moody got 47.2%, and local judicial candidate Brenda Cornish got 46.0% - so on a partisan performance basis, this district is about as purple as you could want. As with Anna Mowery's HD97, this district should be a key component to any effort to also knock off Kim Brimer.
Prognosis: Winnable. If it's not on the must-have list for 2008, it's the first one out on the bubble.
Who do you really want to see challenged next year? Leave a comment and let me know.Posted by Charles Kuffner on May 29, 2007 to Election 2008