State and county election result relationships, part 3: Other county races

Part One
Part Two

Last time we looked at judicial races, which for all of the complaints about not knowing the candidates and just going by partisan labels have produced a consistent range of outcomes over the years. Some people are picking and choosing among judicial candidates – it’s not a huge number, and there doesn’t appear to be any rhyme or reason to it, but it’s happening. With candidates for county offices, especially higher profile ones like County Judge, District Attorney, and Sheriff, there’s even more of a range of outcomes, as these candidates are better known and the reasons for crossing over are clearer. Let’s get to the data.

2006          2008          2010          2012	
CJ      N/A   DA    49.79   CJ    39.40   DA    47.66
DC    46.09   CJ    46.85   DC    46.15   CA    51.48
CC    44.69   CA    51.39   CC    44.58   Sh    52.95
CT    48.34   DC    51.06   TA    45.27   TA    48.73
HCDE  48.63   TA    46.18   CT    43.01   HCDE  51.34
              Sh    56.28							
              HCDE  52.51								
              HCDE  52.58								

2014          2016          2018          2020	
DA    46.78   DA    54.22   CJ    49.78   DA    53.89
CJ      N/A   CA    53.72   DC    55.09   CA    54.66
DC    44.82   Sh    52.84   CC    54.60   Sh    57.46
CC    45.71   TA    50.31   CT    54.21   TA    53.07
CT    44.95	            HCDE  56.71   CC    53.76
HCDE  46.85                               HCDE  55.64
HCDE  46.79                               HCDE  54.65


CJ = County Judge
DC = District Clerk
CC = County Clerk
CT = County Treasurer
DA = District Attorney
CA = County Attorney
TA = Tax Assessor
Sh = Sheriff
HCDE = At Large HCDE Trustee

Note that in some years, like 2008 for County Judge, 2010 for Tax Assessor, and 2014 for District Attorney, there were special elections due to the death or resignation of a previously-elected official. There are three At Large HCDE Trustees, they all serve 6-year terms, and in a given election there may be zero, one, or two of them on the ballot. All of the numbers are the percentages achieved by the Democratic candidate for that office. In 2006 and 2014, there was no Democrat running for County Judge.

The first thing to note is that in all but two years, the Dem disaster year of 2014 and the Dem sweep year of 2020, the range of outcomes was at least four points. In four of the eight years, the range was at least five points. Beverly Kaufmann was a trusted long-serving name brand in 2006, the last year she ran for re-election. Adrian Garcia destroyed scandal-plagued incumbent Sheriff Tommy Thomas in 2008, while Ed Emmett rode his performance during Hurricane Ike to a chart-topping Republican vote total. (There was a Libertarian candidate in the Tax Assessor race that year, so the percentages for Paul Bettencourt and Diane Trautman were lower than they would have been otherwise.) Emmett continued to overperform in subsequent years, though it wasn’t quite enough for him in the 2018 blue landslide. The late Mike Anderson got to run against the idiot Lloyd Oliver in the 2012 DA race; four years later Kim Ogg won in a second try against Devon Anderson after her office imploded. Candidates and circumstances do matter in these races in a way that they don’t quite do in judicial races.

I find it fascinating that the At Large HCDE Trustees are consistent top performers for Dems, year in and year out. Note that this remained the case in 2020, following the abolition of straight ticket voting. The Republicans have run some lousy candidates in those races – their precinct HCDE trustee candidates have generally been stronger – but I doubt that accounts for too much. Honestly, I’d probably chalk that up to the Democratic brand, especially given that it says “Education” right there in the position’s name.

Minus the outliers, and I will have one more post in this series to take a closer look at them, the ranges for the county executive office candidates are basically in line with those of the judicial candidates, and as such are usually ahead of the statewides. As with the judicial candidates, there were mixed results in the close years of 2008 and 2012, and sweeps one way or the other otherwise. While the potential is there for an exceptional result – which in the context of statewide candidates still carrying Harris County means “a Democrat unexpectedly losing” – the conditions to avoid that are clear. If Beto is getting to 54% or better, I’ll be surprised if it’s not another Dem sweep.

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6 Responses to State and county election result relationships, part 3: Other county races

  1. David Fagan says:

    40 days and counting………….

  2. Alex Bunin says:

    It is great to see some actual statistical history, instead of the usual media punditry about who appears to be winning and by how much. If someone is running for a low ballot position like judge, it appears to matter little how many lawn signs they put out or how much block walking they do, because those at the top of the ticket in their party control the margin. They may be three points off, but if the candidate at the top carries the county by at least 54%, all of the party’s smaller boats are lifted too.

  3. Pingback: UT/Texas Politics Project: Abbott 54, Beto 43 – Off the Kuff

  4. Kuff, thanks for pulling and posting the historical statistics. This year, however, I think Judge Hidalgo and our incumbent criminal court judges are going to significantly underperform the top of the ticket (Beto). The crime wave, reckless bail bond practices, broken criminal justice system, corruption scandal, attacks against Crime Stoppers of Houston, attacks on our law enforcement agencies (seized roll-over funds), attacks against the D.A.’s Office, wasteful spending practices, incompetent appointments, intense media scrutiny, etc. have all cumulatively taken their toll on Hidalgo. It is no fluke that Mattress Mack, Dave Ward, all the police unions, and even the Houston Chronicle have endorsed Alexandra Mealer for Harris County Judge. While Beto’s support in Harris County should “lift all boats”, I think Hidalgo’s fiascos and the crime wave are going to weigh on all our local Democratic candidates. Whether you guys agree with me or not, we will have our answer on November 8th.

  5. mollusk says:

    There’s an old, short document called the Constitution that gives everyone accused of a crime a right to a jury trial, the right to be released on a reasonable bail unless they are a flight risk, and the requirement that people actually be convicted of something before being considered guilty.

    One of the biggest reasons for the dysfunction in the criminal courts is the CJC (Criminal Justice Center – their building). Poorly designed (under a fully R commissioners court) and inefficient to begin with, it was pretty much destroyed by Harvey along with the underground jury assembly facility (also an R design). As a result the criminal courts had to double up with the civil courts in the civil courthouse while the majority R commissioners court dithered about what to do. Then came covid, putting another wrench into the ability to have trials – which have only really begun cranking up this year, five years after Harvey. That’s a big danged rodent to push through the proverbial snake. And the jail (designed and built by R commissioners) is well beyond capacity, so yes, people awaiting their long delayed trials are getting released.

    “Under the threat of indictment” (and being under indictment for years) don’t seem to be much of a disqualification if you’ve got an R behind your name. Neither Mattress Mac, Dave Ward, nor cops have any reputation whatsoever for even the vaguest hint of being liberal. And if you actually read the fishwrap’s “endorsement,” you could be excused for wondering if they put the wrong person’s name on the headline. So spare us your pearl clutching.

  6. While it’s convenient to blame old R’s, Harvey, and the pandemic for everything that’s broken, at some point Hidalgo should be held accountable for her mismanagement, incompetence, and poor leadership. Hidalgo has been in Office for almost four years now and things are getting worse, not better. Rather than bring people together to address our critical issues (like Ed Emmett used to do), Hidalgo just flounders, makes poor decisions, wastes money, and, above all else, engages in partisan politics. Harris County has already received almost $1.7 billion dollars in federal relief funds to help address Harvey and the pandemic, but Hidalgo, Garcia, and Ellis just waste a lot of that money on low-priority (or unnecessary) projects and programs.

    When Hidalgo took Office, she was inexperienced but promised a new era of transparency. Instead, we got a new era of incompetence, and the backroom deals seem to be more the norm now than the exception. Tens of millions of dollars have been wasted on no-bid, unnecessary consultant reports and on outside legal firms. Also, Hidalgo doesn’t even appear able to learn from her mistakes. For example, after the Elevate Strategies corruption scandal, Hidalgo still decided to award two expensive, no-bid contracts for her personal security (at taxpayer expense). That backroom, no-bid process definitely did not pass the smell test.

    Anyway, the above is my opinion (we all have one). I believe it’s time for a change, and I think the majority of Harris County voters agree. We shall see…

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