On a Gulfgate-area side street lined with union halls, Hillary Clinton’s Houston field office and U.S. Rep. Gene Green’s congressional re-election outfit sit mere doors apart, a coincidental marker of the anticipated link between their races.
Green is squaring off against former Harris County Sheriff Adrian Garcia in the region’s marquee congressional primary, the outcome of which is expected to be swayed by the strength of the Democratic presidential fight in Texas.
The increasingly competitive contest between Clinton and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders stands to boost turnout in the 77-percent Latino 29th Congressional District, political observers said, likely shifting the electorate more Hispanic.
“Typically in Democratic primaries, the vote is only about 45 percent Hispanic,” local Democratic strategist Keir Murray said of the 29th District. “However, if you have something, an external factor like a hot presidential race that increases the overall turnout … because of the makeup of the population and the list of registered voters, the percentage of Hispanic voters is going to go up. There’s almost no way it can’t.”
Such a boost in Hispanic voting is expected to help Garcia.
“If this were a nonpresidential cycle, the advantage would clearly be with Green because of the historical turnout in the district,” Texas Southern University political scientist Jay Aiyer said.
However, he said, “The increased turnout is disproportionately low-propensity Latino voters. … And so that benefits Garcia over Green.”
Democratic participation in the 29th District, which curls around eastern Houston, hit a high-water mark in 2008, when nearly 54,000 voters cast a primary ballot, up from 5,000 two years earlier.
Few expect this year’s turnout to be quite as high.
Green’s campaign is anticipating between 35,000 and 50,000 Democratic primary voters, while Garcia’s expects between 12,000 and 54,000, the turnouts in 2012 and 2008, respectively.
We can’t have all this talk about turnout without looking at some numbers, right? I was curious what the relationship was between turnout in CD29 and turnout overall in Harris County. Here’s what it looks like:
Year CD29 Harris Pct ============================== 2002 11,891 95,396 12.46% 2004 10,682 78,692 13.57% 2006 5,037 35,447 14.21% 2008 53,855 410,908 13.11% 2010 11,777 101,263 11.63% 2012 12,194 76,486 15.94% 2014 6,808 53,788 12.66%
With the exception of 2002, the “CD29” number represents total ballots cast in CD29 in that year; in 2002, the County Clerk only reported ballots cast for the candidates, so undervotes weren’t included. “Harris” is the total turnout for the Democratic primary in Harris County that year, and “Pct” is the percentage of the total vote that came from CD29. Given that Gene Green was unopposed in each of those years, it’s reasonable to assume that his share of the total vote will creep up a bit. Let’s say it’s 15% of the overall total. If so, then Green’s team is projecting countywide turnout at between 233,000 and 333,000, while Garcia’s people have the much wider spread of 80,000 to 360,000. You can fiddle around with the numbers a bit, but I’d say the range that Team Green is predicting is likely to be on the mark. The early voting returns we’re about to start seeing will tell us much more. What’s your turnout guess?