The Battleground effect in legislative races

So here’s a crazy idea. Rather than judge Battleground Texas by our own beliefs about how things should have gone, what say we take a look at the actual numbers of a few races and see what they tell us? In particular, let’s look at the numbers in the Blue Star Project races, which were legislative elections in which BGTX engaged directly. There was SD10 and eight State House races; I’m going to throw in CD23 as well even though BGTX did not specifically get involved there. I’m going to compare the performance of the Democratic candidates with those of Bill White, since everyone is obsessing about the White numbers even though about 15% of his vote total came from Republicans, and with Lt. Gov. candidate Linda Chavez-Thompson, since I believe her totals are a more accurate reflection of what the base Democratic turnout was in 2010. Here’s what I’ve got:

Dist Candidate Votes Pct White Pct LCT Pct Needed ================================================================== CD23 Gallego 55,436 47.7 55,762 45.6 47,950 40.2 57,902 SD10 Willis 80,806 44.7 76,920 44.6 66,783 38.8 95,485 023 Criss 14,716 45.4 19,224 50.1 15,866 41.8 17,703 043 Gonzalez 10,847 38.6 14,049 45.8 12,635 41.7 17,274 105 Motley 10,469 42.7 11,766 43.8 9,793 36.7 13,588 107 Donovan 13,803 45.0 14,878 46.3 11,936 37.5 16,880 108 Bailey 16,170 39.3 17,401 42.0 12,859 31.3 24,954 113 Whitley 12,044 40.6 13,483 44.8 11,575 38.7 17,639 117 Cortez 11,519 47.3 10,247 48.0 8,829 42.2 12,832 144 Perez 5,854 49.3 8,411 52.7 7,273 46.0 6,010

It’s a mixed bag. The best performances came from Libby Willis in SD10 and Phillip Cortez (one of two incumbents on BGTX’s list) in HD117. Both exceeded White’s totals and far surpassed Chavez-Thompson’s. This is partly a reflection of what happened in Tarrant and Bexar Counties, respectively. In Tarrant, not only did Wendy Davis beat Bill White’s numbers in her backyard, so too did Leticia Van de Putte and Sam Houston, with Mike Collier just behind. White and Van de Putte were the only ones to carry Bexar for the Dems, with VdP being the high scorer, but Davis came close to White’s number and downballot Dems improved by about 20,000 votes. Willis and Cortez both beat the spread, but not by enough.

Gallego, who again was not directly assisted by BGTX, and the four Dallas County candidates all fell short of White but exceeded, in some cases by a lot, Chavez-Thompson. As I said above, I think topping LCT’s totals represents an improvement in base turnout from 2010, and again that’s consistent with what we saw in Dallas overall, as White was the standard-bearer while the top four Dems all surpassed Chavez-Thompson. Gallego did about as well in Bexar as Ciro Rodriguez did in 2010, and there’s no one place where he did worse, though he could have used more turnout in Maverick County.

The other three results are just bad. Turncoat Dem Lozano carried Jim Wells and Kleberg counties even as all the statewide Dems won in Jim Wells and most of them carried Kleberg despite generally losing it in 2010. Davis didn’t win Kleberg, and she scored lower in Jim Wells than several other Dems. That may have been a contributing factor, but on the whole it was fairly marginal. Still, that needs to be understood more fully, and someone needs to come up with a strategy to keep Dems from crossing over for Lozano if we want to make that seat competitive again.

Criss had a tough assignment, as HD23 has been trending away as places like Friendswood have made Galveston County and that district more Republican. Unlike the other two Dem-held State Rep seats that were lost, HD23 isn’t going to flip to “lean Dem” in 2016. Turnout by both parties was down in HD23 from 2010, and it’s probably the case that White was a boost there four years ago. Better turnout could have gotten her closer, but Susan Criss was always going to have to persuade some Rs to support her to win. I will be very interested to see what the Legislative Council report on this one looks like when it comes out.

The loss by Mary Ann Perez was the worst of the bunch, partly because it looked like she was up in early voting and partly because Harris was alone among the five largest counties in not improving Dem turnout. You can ding BGTX or whoever you like as much as you want for the latter, but the candidate herself has to take some responsibility, too. Winning this seat back needs to be a priority in 2016, and making sure it stays won needs to be a bigger priority after that.

So like I said, a mixed bag. The 2010 numbers were pretty brutal overall in these districts, and where there were improvements it was encouraging, and offers hope for 2016. Where there wasn’t improvement was disappointing, and needs to be examined thoroughly to understand what happened. I’d give the project a final grade of C – there’s some promise going forward and some lessons to be learned, but while improvements are nice, results are necessary.

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10 Responses to The Battleground effect in legislative races

  1. John says:

    The real question is will Mostyn and others will keep funding BGTX? Kuff I still think focusing on house races (when D’s are such in the minority) is seeing the tress and not the forest. They are supposed to turn the state blue not one or two HD. The fact is in all statewide races nobody broke 40%, when was the last time that happened in every Dem statewide race? If you think that is a C+, you must be using a heck of a curve.

  2. Adam Smith says:

    I think Mostyn has to keep this thing going because he knows this was not a short term project and donors in Texas need to lead the pack. keep in mind that except for Gallego, the rep candidates were outspent big time. I think SD10 is competitive but almost out of reach due to the northeast tarrant portions. I think 105, 107, and 113 can be won with Hillary leading the ticket.

  3. Burt Levine says:

    Friendswood and especially Leauge City are now suburban Houston strong holds that have doubled in population since Hurricane Ike and huge reasons why Galveston County as a whole is more Republican than Harris County but not related to Rep.-Elect Wayne Faircloth’s success. Those two formerly small southern towns are in Rep. Greg Bonnen’s district and are not part of what happened and was expected to happen this past Tuesday.

  4. Mainstream says:

    HD 144 is likely to be like CD 23, a district which swings back and forth from cycle to cycle. No GOP activists I have spoken to expect Gilbert Pena to be able to hold the seat in 2016, but several thought a GOP candidate could be competitive there in 2018 again.

  5. Take a look at Leticia Van De Putte’s improvement for Lt. Governor. She received 100,000 more votes in 2014 than the Democrat did in 2010.

  6. Manuel Barrera says:

    It is a little early to be predicting the dynamics for 2016. GOP activist did not expect Pena to win this time. I did and have been stating so for over one year. If I remember correctly, you (Mainstream) corrected me when I misidentified the district by number several months ago. Some of us worked to make sure that it could happen as she does not represent the Latino community, plus we had some getting even with her.

    When my buddy George Barnstone told me he was running this cycle, I told him it was not a good idea. Hopefully Kim did not burn herself too badly as she has a good chance to knock out Devon Anderson in 2016.

    Since you (Mainstream) seem to have a lot of knowledge, when will the Democrats get some balls to run someone against Mormon? When will the back deals with Republicans stop?

    Next election cycle we will target another Latino or Latina that is like Maryann Perez, but will probably do it during the primaries.

  7. Mainstream says:

    Mr. Berrera, I like you am startled that no strong Democrat challenged Morman. The district this election cycle probably would not have flipped, but an active campaign in the east side of Harris County might have helped countywide D candidates, or even Perez to amass greater vote totals. It also would require the GOP to spend resources there rather than picking off D incumbents elsewhere. And in politics, you just never know what might happen in a close contest.

    I do think Morman is getting good reviews for his attention to the community’s concerns, and after he has been in place for another few years, I think it becomes even more difficult to credibly oppose him.

    I suspect the GOP could have fielded candidates in some of the east side JP contests and come close or won, but I don’t know the east side of the county that well. The GOP had good candidates in Morad Fiki and Chris Carmona, but tough districts. If David Pineda had taken on Mary Ann Perez this cycle, not only would he have won, but he might be positioned to hold the seat in 2016. I have been wrong before, but I just cannot see perennial candidate Pena surviving in a presidential year.

  8. Manuel Barrera says:

    Good reviews means that certain people are getting taken care off, no different than what Gene Green and others have done for years.

    I, also, also think that Pena will not survive in 2016. You are probably correct that Pineda could have positioned himself to keep the seat. A good Democrat that represented and worked the district would not have lost it this time around.

    Reisner would have been vulnerable, but those paid signature gathers messed that up. Rodriguez and Vara have always been vulnerable, primaries, but have never gotten any serious competition. Trevino’s seat will have quite a few people running.

    From people who reside in 148, Carmona did not work the district. As to Latinos in the East End and North Side, two races have motivated them to vote, Reyes v Green, and Lanier v Turner. More Latinos came out to vote for the run off in both elections. While Campos and Maldonado took credit for that victory in the Latino community they got paid but others worked it.

    Immigration is big with many Latinos for the Democratic party to run away from. They should look at the potential and what they can lose by not getting in front of that wave.

    Thank you for responding, you are one smart person.

  9. Yvonne Larsen says:

    If David Pineda runs for office again I will be one of many who will vigorously campaign for his opponent. If you want to know why, many of you on this thread know how to reach me.

  10. Irving Democrat says:

    Kuff, a point about the Dallas County state House seats. The Dallas County Democratic Party targeted state House seats 105, 107, and 113 through its Coordinated Campaign and achieved real results. I can’t say for sure what happened in 107 and 113 but BGTX had major problems in 105 recruiting enough volunteers and never finished their first pass through their universe, apparently. I was told they divided voters into 10 tiers and they were still calling Tiers 6 and 7 on Election Day trying to make IDs–not GOTV of identified supporters, actual ID calls. On the weekend before election day (when the weather in Irving and Grand Prairie was quite pretty) the Grand Prairie 105 team had 26 volunteers signed up and not a single one showed up. Not. A. Single. One. I would recommend you look at the numbers in HD 108 and 115 to see the true BGTX effect–the Coordinated Campaign did not focus on them but BGTX did. Also, I would hesitate to use Linda Chavez Thompson as the 2010 base standard bearer. Hispanic candidates typically poll one to three points lower than non-Hispanic candidates and that might artificially inflate the improvement in 2014.

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