The race for Congressional District 7 was one of the top campaigns in Harris County this cycle. It attracted a lot of local and national interest, various polls showed it to be competitive, and there was a boatload of money spent on TV ads. In the end, the race was closer than it had been in previous years, but was still a double-digit win for incumbent John Culberson over challenger Michael Skelly, 56.95 to 43.05 in the straight-up R-versus-D matchup.
A lot of people thought Skelly would do better than this - I know I thought the final result would be closer. It's important to remember, however, that CD07 was nobody's idea of an even potentially competitive district four years ago, and that even in losing a lot of progress can be made. Let's take a look at the numbers. Here's how Skelly did in comparison to Barack Obama, Rick Noriega, Adrian Garcia, Jim Henley (who was on the ballot this time in a successful bid for HCDE Trustee), the average Democratic judicial candidate, and the Democratic State Rep candidate for the relevant districts:
Dist Obama Noriega Skelly Garcia Henley County StRep
CD07 41.11 40.05 43.05 45.55 41.07 38.32 n/a
126 33.49 33.24 35.44 39.21 34.16 32.49 30.61
130 36.01 36.25 38.13 42.22 37.28 35.56 n/a
132 42.49 42.18 43.78 47.58 43.73 42.01 n/a
133 40.00 38.77 40.40 44.28 39.59 37.13 36.58
134 49.35 46.90 52.19 52.06 48.38 43.94 56.67
135 38.70 38.87 40.49 44.78 39.80 37.94 37.82
136 32.14 30.27 34.44 35.61 30.62 28.32 n/a
137 60.13 59.21 61.77 62.61 60.78 58.78 n/a
138 37.65 38.59 38.99 45.25 39.23 36.78 34.56
146 48.52 48.80 51.30 54.62 50.93 46.43 n/a
147 66.03 64.19 67.31 67.65 65.39 63.15 n/a
149 42.41 41.18 41.94 46.06 42.49 39.89 39.05
Another way of looking at this is to map the way CD07 has evolved since 2004. Here's Skelly against his predecessors:
Dist Martinez Henley Skelly
CD07 34.19 39.36 43.05
134 43.03 52.06 52.19
Not134 31.30 34.72 40.24
(In case you're curious, by the way, the average Democratic judicial candidate got 43.60% in HD134. That puts a slightly different spin on this year's judicial results than I had suggested before, as John Kerry got 45.01%. It may just be that the voters there lean more Republican at the local level than they do at the top of the ticket. If so, the difference this year was profound.)
By the way, since there's been so much fixation on straight-ticket voting since the election, Culberson beat Skelly in the straight ticket votes, 103,445 to 63,826. Skelly beat Culberson among those who voted individual races, 59,729 to 58,652. Not that it really means anything, since despite all the aversions cast on them for the judicial races, straight-ticket voters are still voters. But I thought I'd point it out.
[He] told me yesterday that he sees the District 7 race as a "Firewall" for county wide Republicans. "I believe that if we don't get my re-election numbers into the 60s percentage, then every Republican in Harris County could lose." Culberson says that's why the Democratic party is running such a rich guy, basically to beat him down.. and bring the Repub party along. In essence, he says he can still win his seat, while Harris County Repubs lose all of theirs.
What will happen next in CD07? Alan Bernstein suggested that since Culberson (and Mike McCaul in CD10) faced his toughest challenge yet successfully, he may get a breather:
Seeing that the Obama push and the Democratic money was not enough to turn those districts the other way, potential Democratic challengers for 2010 may balk at taking on these House members.
Finally, a word about HD134, which is a key part of this district. I knew HD134 was mostly Republican in 2006, and I expected it to be at best 50-50 this time around. I was surprised to see how relatively red it turned out to be. Which is why it continues to amaze me that the Republicans totally punted on giving Cohen a serious challenge. They had a candidate who was attractive on paper, but he never did a thing, and wound up running more than ten points behind the GOP average in the district. I remember Bill Kelly, who had been Cohen's campaign manager in 2006, telling me early on that Cohen would work the district as hard as she'd done before, because there were a lot of voters there who had not yet ever cast a ballot for her, and they were not going to take any of them for granted. To say the least, he was right about that. My guess is that things are more like 2006 than 2008 in 2010, but I bet Team Cohen won't take that for granted, either.Posted by Charles Kuffner on November 19, 2008 to Election 2008