November 05, 2008
Some early thoughts on what happened

Just some observations before I can get my hands on precinct data...

- First and foremost, let me say Congratulations to all the winners. This was a long and hard-fought campaign, and everyone involved deserves our praise and thanks for their involvement. Regardless of the outcomes, it's very good to see meaningful races with qualified and honorable candidates everywhere on the ballot. Thank you, all of you, for all of your dedication and effort.

- I'm sorry to see Rep. Nick Lampson was defeated by Pete Olson, in one of the bright spots for the GOP locally and nationally. Challengers Michael Skelly (on the low end of a 55.91-42.34 score) and Larry Joe Doherty (down 53.89-43.14) also fell short, while Reps. Ciro Rodriguez and Chet Edwards were easily re-elected. The latest word I have on Congress is a net gain of 17 seats for the Democrats, which is on the low end of the pregame estimates, but which will still give them over 250 seats. I have to wonder if any of these districts (besides Edwards' CD17, which will never be a cakewalk for him) will see strong opposition in 2010. If this wasn't the year for a Dem in CDs 07, 10, or 22, when would it be?

- Somewhat amazingly, it appears that convicted felon Sen. Ted Stevens won re-election in Alaska, confounding polls that had him trailing by double digits after the verdict came down. TPM suggests calling this the "Stevens Effect", to replace the should-be-retired "Bradley Effect".

- In a further sign of Dallas County's blue shift, GOP Rep. Kenny Marchant in CD24 won re-election with a relatively scant 55.91% of the vote. Marchant's share of the vote has declined from 64.0% in 2004 and 59.8% in 2006, in all cases against token opposition. He could be the Mike McCaul of 2010, or he could see a big change one way or another in his district for 2012.

- The Democrats did win one of the Appeals Court races that includes Harris County - Jim Sharp won the Court 1, Place 3 seat that Sam Nuchia lost in the GOP primary to Ed Hubbard by 50.57-49.42. All other Democratic challengers for the 1st and 14th Courts of Appeals lost by margins ranging from 20,000 to 50,000 votes, out of 1.5 million cast. They all carried Harris County, but only Sharp's 58,000-vote margin there was enough to make up for ground lost elsewhere. In the Austin area, Woodie Jones knocked off Chief Justice Ken Law, author of the infamous "checks aren't cash" decision in the Tom DeLay appeal, for the 3rd Court.

- Republicans managed to hold onto four judges in Harris County, with the Dems winning the other 23 judicial races. As was the case across the board, the GOP won on Election Day, which in those cases was enough to wipe out the Dems' lead in early voting.

- In the end, the straight-ticket advantage for the Dems in Harris was 390,284 to 342,974. About 62% of all votes were straight ticket, which is a slight drop from a bit more than 64% in 2004. The 47,000 vote Democratic lead is nearly the mirror image of the 45,000 vote Republican surplus from 2004.

- Turnout fell short of all of the optimistic projections. In Harris County, the total number of voters is given as 1,184,820, out of an also-lower-than-expected 1,892,656 registrations, for a 62.6% turnout. That represents 450,000 ballots cast yesterday after the 730,000 of early voting, so a bit less than 62% of all votes were cast in Harris during early voting. Statewide, the tally with a handful of precincts still out was 8,042,270 in the Presidential race, which is given as 59.24% turnout. Again, I have to wonder what might have happened had there been a concerted effort by the Obama campaign to organize and turn people out in Texas, rather than use Texas to turn out voters in other states. I plan to be a little bitter about this, which takes a wee bit of the joy out of the Presidential result from last night, and I daresay I will not be the only person to do so.

- A quick scan of county returns suggests Hispanic turnout wasn't all that. Places like Cameron (43.31%), El Paso (47.44%), Hidalgo (42.73%), Maverick (40.43), and Webb Counties (44.37%) were all well below the statewide level. Rick Noriega generally scored a higher percentage of the vote in those counties than Barack Obama, all of which were strongly Democratic, but not by very much. There needs to be a real strategy for getting these voters out to the polls going forward, because Democrats aren't going to win statewide without maximizing these counties.

- Fort Bend County wound up with a fairly modest 67.60% turnout, considerably lower than the 85% estimate I'd mentioned on Monday. A mere 48,000 votes were cast yesterday, meaning about 76% of the total were early votes. In the end, McCain won Fort Bend by 4000 votes out of 202,000, thus officially making Fort Bend a swing county. And in some good news, Richard Morrison won election to the Fort Bend County Commissioners Court with 50.93% of the vote. Congratulations, Richard! Dems wound up with a slight advantage in straight-ticket ballots here, 68,426 to 66,615.

- Looking ahead to 2010, I'll predict that Ken Legler, who won by 900 votes in HD144, and Kristi Thibaut, who won by 500 in HD133, are the big targets. Legler's district is trending away from the Republicans - I'll know how much once precinct data is available, but I'll bet at least a few countywide Dems carried it - while Thibaut received a nice boost from Presidential turnout, exactly the opposite from 2006. She will need 2010 to be more like 2008 to win re-election. Rep. Hubert Vo, who had been seen by some as vulnerable, won a fairly resounding 56.3-43.7 victory. I'll be a bit surprised if he gets a strong challenge in 2010. Freshman Rep. Ellen Cohen also cruised, winning 55.5-42.2 over the invisible Joe Agris. I'll want to see if either of those districts have turned blue overall, or if Cohen and Vo ran as far ahead of the pack as they'd done in 2006. Other districts where precinct data will tell an interesting story should be HDs 126 and 135, where incumbent Republicans Patricia Harless (59.40%) and Gary Elkins (58.39%) won with a smaller amount than you might expect, and 127, 129, and 138, where Joe Crabb (65.67%), John Davis (58.53%), and Dwayne Bohac (59.02%) had larger ones.

- You can also expect to see a full slate of Democratic judicial challengers in 2010, which will make this year's ballot seem compact in comparison. County Judge Ed Emmett and new District Clerk Loren Jackson will have to defend their seats, with County Clerk Beverly Kaufman and County Treasurer Orlando "I am too doing something!" Sanchez on the ballot as well.

- Finally, let me say again that I greatly enjoyed playing a pundit on TV last night. My counterpart David Benzion was a pleasure to work with, as was news anchor Len Cannon, Doug Miller, and the entire KHOU crew, all of whom did a great job. I just hope I was up to their standard. Oh, and Lucy Noland is taller than you think. At least, she was taller than I thought.

Much more to come later, when the numbers are out.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on November 05, 2008 to Election 2008

Harris Votes removed the links (and the files?)for the 2000-2006 election archives.

Contact if you want these links/files to be reposted.

Posted by: jboyd on November 5, 2008 7:24 AM

Not sure what you're seeing, because the links and files appear to be there now. Perhaps you caught them during a maintenance window.

Posted by: Charles Kuffner on November 5, 2008 8:53 AM

With regard to Alaska, I think there are 2 more factors that need to be considered - early voting and filibuster-proof margins.

Alaska had an early voting period that began on October 20, 7 days prior to Stevens' conviction.

Also I suspect there were a number of voters who were watching early returns with a number of Democratic pickups (Warner, Shaheen, Hagen) in the Senate and the talking heads discussing the importance of that 60 seat plateau may have headed to the poll, held their nose and picked Stevens to stave off the complete Democratic control of the Senate.

In a race which comes down to about 3500 votes any little push makes a big impact.

Posted by: Patrick on November 5, 2008 9:04 AM

On the matter of turnout in Harris County, our Democratic Party said it was using the high Democratic primary turnout as the strategy to get the vote out in the General Election.This is what was said in the Chronicle by the party chair. They just thought the votes would show.

Also, when I asked a high up official in the coordinated campaign about voter registration, he said it was not worthwhile to try to reach unregistered folks and that the focus would be on turning out the existing pool of voters. That is just what he said as sure as the Earth orbits the sun.

In my darker moments, which come often on the subject of the Democratic Party and urban voters, I felt they did not want to increase the voter pool to a degree where what was expected of the party would change. The focus of the Democratic campaigns I saw in Harris County was Republican misdeeds,traffic, and hurricane related issues. These topics had a measure of worth, but were not meant to increase the turnout of voters in a county like this which is loaded with poor folks and people who have needs far beyond what was being discussed.

The Obama people took folks who, I think, would not have been involved otherwise in the county. Though I can't know that for a fact, and they could have split any phone banking efforts within the county with some more local efforts. Though in any case, our county Democrats had a plan and it was a plan never geared to really reaching down into the county for people who, I admit, are often quite hard to reach.

Posted by: Texas Liberal on November 5, 2008 10:14 AM

Again, I have to wonder what might have happened had there been a concerted effort by the Obama campaign to organize and turn people out in Texas, rather than use Texas to turn out voters in other states. I plan to be a little bitter about this, which takes a wee bit of the joy out of the Presidential result from last night, and I daresay I will not be the only person to do so.

Agreed. It is time for the national Democratic Party to start putting some focus on Texas, rather than treating it as an eternal lost cause good only for providing funding and volunteers.

Posted by: Kenneth Fair on November 5, 2008 10:26 AM

I can now see those archives.

Posted by: jboyd on November 5, 2008 10:32 AM

I couldn't agree with you more on your thoughts. I would just add two more comments.

One, let's not ignore the importance of flipping Bexar. I believe that Moody was the only statewide to carry Bexar in 2006. By my quick glance, every statewide Democrat carried Bexar. That's a fantastic result.

My other comment, which I am sure will be the topic of several future posts, is that I hope we all get behind Chris Bell like we got behind Ciro in 2006. Let's beat them here.

Posted by: blank on November 5, 2008 10:52 AM

>>If this wasn't the year for a Dem in CDs 07, 10, or 22, when would it be?

Isn't CD 07 supposed to change after Texas gets 2-3 more reps in 2010? Last I heard, this would create a safe Dem seat in Dallas and one in Houston.

Posted by: Mike on November 5, 2008 1:10 PM

It was a pleasure working with you Kuff, and my thanks to everyone at KHOU as well.

Also, Lucy Noland is, indeed, shockingly tall.

Posted by: David Benzion on November 6, 2008 11:07 AM
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