October 21, 2008
Will someone please poll Harris County?

So the Republicans are offically worried about a Dallas-style sweep of the local elections, especially the judiciary, but they're doing their best to maintain a stiff upper lip.

That fear is reinforced by local Democrats vetting and policing their candidates this year, resulting in a full, diverse-looking slate of opponents. Then there's the possibility that Barack Obama could win the presidency and have coattails long enough to shatter the local Republican judicial monolith.

Coattails and parties matter a lot in the 26 races for family, civil and criminal district courts. Judicial candidates cannot discuss specific cases, which makes campaigning generalized and vague. Few voters have the time or means to investigate each judicial race.

"The reality is that in down-ballot races, people don't know who the candidates are," said Jared Woodfill, chairman of the Harris County Republican Party.

It seemed to be about party affiliation in November 2006, when more than 40 Republican judges in Dallas County were evicted from their benches. Now, some Republican jurists there are switching party affiliation before they run for office in 2010.

I've heard a fair amount of grapevine chatter than the sitting judges who are up for election are pessimistic about their chances. I don't hang around the courthouses myself, but I hang around people who do, so take it for what it's worth. There have also been persistent rumors about Republican party switchers in 2010 for months. The truth value of that will be directly proportional to the number of Republican former judges after this election.

I don't know if you noticed, and I don't intend this as a criticism of story reporter Mary Flood, but there's a critical piece of information missing from this article: Polling data. With all these high-profile countywide races going on, in a year where Democrats have expressed confidence in their ability to break the longstanding Republican hegemony, with all the expectations of an Obama surge in turnout, and with all the spending and advertising and organizing in the county, you would think someone would want to be able to objectively measure where things stand right about now.

So I have to ask: How is it that two weeks before Election Day we haven't had one single public poll of Harris County? Of course, we really haven't had all that much polling of Texas in general, so I suppose I shouldn't wonder about this. But really, how is this possible? Is there nobody who wants to know about this?

Actually, I'm sure that there have been polls taken, by various campaigns. I've heard of one recently, which was favorable for the Democrats. But it's not for public consumption, and I know nothing more about it than its existence, so I can't even offer a novice level critique of it. Usually, when I post an item like this, someone who has this kind of information available will email me to tell me about it, usually off the record. So I may wind up getting some answers to my questions, even if I can't share them. I hope that won't be all that there is, but I fear that it will.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on October 21, 2008 to Election 2008

Neither party wants to know where things stand at this time because even if they did have reliable polling data they would not know what to do to keep that trend in place (or to reverse it if it is not in their favor). Dems need to keep pushing at the grassroots level to get people to the polls and vote the whole ballot. Now is not the time to sit back and think "job well done."

Posted by: cb on October 21, 2008 4:29 PM

I agree wholeheartedly. I've heard plenty of chatter about Republican judicial pessimism, but I've seen absolutely no hard numbers to indicate where the electorate might stand at this point.

Posted by: Kenneth Fair on October 21, 2008 5:13 PM
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