Big news today: Bastrop County Judge Ronnie McDonald is stepping down from his position. At a press conference today, he announced today that he will either run for the 17th Legislative District, anchored in Bastrop and currently held by Republican Tim Kleinschmidt, or for the 27th Congressional District, currently held by Republican Blake “Ducky Pajamas” Farenthold.
Running for CD-27 would be somewhat surprising decision given that the maps drawn by the San Antonio panel make the district R+19. Obama would have gotten 40% in the district in 2008 to McCain’s 59%. The previous incarnation that accidentally elected Farenthold in 2010 was D+7. However, the district changed so dramatically in redistricting, one can argue that there isn’t any huge benefit of incumbency here. But, make no mistake, it’s still an uphill climb for any Democrat.
House District 17, on the other hand, would be a much easier pick-up opportunity for Democrats. The district, pictured at left, encompasses Lee, Bastrop, Caldwell, Gonzales, and Karnes County. McDonald has the clear advantage in Bastrop, and Caldwell is a majority-minority county that has gone Democratic in downballot races in Presidential election cycles. Furthermore, since part of Caldwell is in the new CD-35, you can bet that whatever Democrat wins the primary will be beating the bushes hard to turn out votes in November. (Plus, you get to represent Lockhart, which, I mean, come on!) There’s also some good data to back this up — the 2008 Democratic candidate for Court of Criminal Appeals Susan Strawn narrowly won in the district 48-47, and Democrats Mark Thompson (Railroad Commish) and Sam Houston (SCOTX) lost by less than 2 points in what is the new 17th House District. If McDonald makes a go for it, wins big in Bastrop and turns out Caldwell, he can win this thing.
I’d think HD17 would be the better choice. Among other things, I will not be surprised if the DC court finds significant further problems with the legislative map, which may well lead to something more like the original interim map for the 2014 elections. (Assuming the Voting Rights Act hasn’t been gutted by SCOTUS, in which case all bets are off.) HD17 is more attainable, and less likely to be significantly changed between now and then. But either way, it’s a good bit of recruitment news for the Democrats. Postcards has more.
Which helps somewhat to balance out the bad news.
Rep. J. M. Lozano (D – Alice) has decided to switch to the Republican Party and will file for reelection as a Republican in HD 43 this week. George P. Bush was instrumental in his recruitment, and Governor Perry, Speaker Straus, and other GOP officials have contacted him and welcomed him to the party. A press conference is in the works for this week.
Lozano’s HD43 was redrawn by the court as a tossup/lean Dem district:
McCain Obama Cornyn Noriega Wainwright Houston
51.45 47.94 46.90 50.69 42.24 54.68
Lozano has since confirmed Miller’s scoop. Not clear to me that he’s any better off as an R than as a D, but one would think that as an incumbent he’s better placed than anyone else. Lozano was unopposed in the 2010 general election after knocking off the scandal-plagued Tara Rios Ybarra in the primary; Ybarra had in turn defeated Juan Escobar in 2008, with some help from the Craddick machine. All I can say is that if this report is true, I hope someone is on the phone talking to Escobar about taking another run at his old office.