Despite the fact that they left her basically unchallenged in 2008, I get the impression that local Republicans are excited about the possibility of defeating two-term State Rep. Ellen Cohen this year. Certainly, she will face a stronger challenge from a more active candidate. To get an early feel for what the landscape looks like, here’s a polling memo sent to me by Annie’s List, which has been a supporter of Cohen’s since she first ran.
Partisan Atmosphere. Over the past three cycles, HD 134 has gone from a Republican-held seat to a relatively secure Democratic-leaning district. In party identification, Democrats have moved from a six point deficit to a 31% – 25% advantage. And that small advantage in partisanship is likely to be magnified at the polls with the Democratic ticket led by former Houston mayor Bill White. The current trial heat in the Governor’s race in this district shows White with a 60% to 31% margin over Rick Perry. Perry has a 64% negative job rating and 54% Unfavorable image rating in this district.
Candidates. Ellen Cohen is remarkably well-known for an urban State Representative. She has a 49% Favorable image rating with very few negatives, and also enjoys a 49% positive job rating. Her “re-elect” margin is 52% to 18% – about three-to-one. All of those numbers are strong ones in a down-ballot race. Republican Sarah Davis is, of course, an unknown; 82% have never heard of her, and only 7% offer a Favorable rating.
Trial Heat. The initial (uninformed) trial heat in the HD 134 race shows Cohen with a 58% – 22% margin, trailing Bill White by only a couple of percentage points, and polling a majority in every demographic group. Various issue tests demonstrate that Cohen has a number of accomplishments on which to build a positive campaign, and that she is unscathed by the traditional Republican attacks.
Crosstabs and question composition were not made available to me, so I can’t give you a detailed analysis of this. I can tell you that Cohen’s re-elect and trial heat numbers are right in line with her 2008 performance, and offhand I can’t think of anything she’s done or not done that might have voters mad at her. I guess we’ll get some idea of that when Davis’ campaign gears up. I’m a bit dubious of the partisan makeup cited in this poll, given that Cohen and CD07’s Michael Skelley were the only Democrats to win in HD134, but it may just be that a significant number of the respondents who didn’t claim a party label tend to vote Republican. HD134 was more Republican in 2008 than it was in 2006, when six other Democrats carried the district (they were Jim Henley, Bill Moody, Jim Sharp, Mary Kay Green, Richard Garcia, and Andrew Burks, who was Roy Morales’ opponent for HCDE Trustee, if you’re curious), after two cycles of it becoming bluer. That may be because it’s redder in Presidential years, or it may be because it’s bucking the overall trend in Harris County, I couldn’t say for sure. If 2010 is more like 2006 than 2008, Cohen’s task is a bit easier.
Anyway, there’s a data point for you. I hope you noticed the Bill White/Rick Perry numbers in there, too. You can be sure that every poll conducted in any given district this year will include a question about the Governor’s race as well, whether they publicize it or not.