Beto O’Rourke has a year-old, well-funded campaign for US Senate. Lupe Valdez doesn’t have anything like those advantages in her campaign for Governor. Will her lower profile effort have a negative effect on his higher profile one?
The race for governor is often the biggest spectacle in Texas politics, and the governor’s mansion the biggest prize.
But the contest between incumbent Republican Greg Abbott and Democratic nominee Lupe Valdez is forecast to be not much of a contest at all. Abbott, who in 2014 beat former state Sen. Wendy Davis by 20 percentage points, looms like Goliath on the political landscape, with Valdez lacking the weaponry to take him down. She needs more than five smooth stones.
Democrats have focused much of their attention on the remarkable campaign of Beto O’Rourke, the El Paso congressman who’s challenging incumbent Ted Cruz for Senate.
The Cruz-O’Rourke showdown is the marquee race of the season, and could change the fortunes of Democrats and Republicans alike.
With Abbott poised to spend more than $40 million to turn out the Republican vote and in the process help Cruz, the question becomes: does Valdez’s presence on the ticket hurt or help O’Rourke?
“Compared to nothing, she helps,” said Mark Jones, a political scientist at Rice University.
Paul Quinn President Michael Sorrell, who Democrats recruited to run for governor, said Valdez’s presence on the ticket will have little impact on O’Rourke’s efforts.
“I don’t think Lupe makes a difference to this race,” Sorrell said. “People view Beto’s race as a separate entity from Lupe’s race.”
Veteran Republican consultant Bill Miller said Valdez could be a problem for O’Rourke and other Democrats because her campaign is so irrelevant.
“The Democrats believe she helps, but in my opinion she hurts,” Miller said. “She’s not going to be a strong candidate and her race is not a hot race. She’s going to be discounted early on and that won’t help O’Rourke.”
My inclination is to agree with Michael Sorrell. We haven’t had a situation like this in recent memory. In the recent years where we have had concurrent races for Senate and Governor:
– Wendy Davis’s gubernatorial campaign was much higher profile than David Alameel’s Senate campaign in 2014. Not that any of it made much difference.
– The four-way Governor’s race in 2006 defies comparison to anything else.
– Both Tony Sanchez and Ron Kirk had well-funded campaigns in 2002, with Kirk doing a few points better in the end.
Honestly, the real factor here is Greg Abbott and his gazillions of dollars, which would be a major concern no matter who was his opponent. Valdez has improved as a candidate after a rough start, and in the end I think she’ll raise a million or two bucks, which is a water balloon against Abbott’s fire hose but will at least allow for some kind of campaign activity. The main way Abbott can use his money to affect other races is by spending a ton on GOTV stuff, which again he’d do if he were running instead against Andrew White or Julian Castro or whoever your fantasy alternative candidate might be. He still has to contend with whatever chaos Donald Trump unleashes, whatever discontent the electorate may feel about Hurricane Harvey and gun violence, and other things that money may not be able to ameliorate. All things considered, I think Valdez’s campaign will have little effect on Beto’s. It’s unlikely to be of any help, but it probably won’t hurt, either.
(Yes, I wrote this before the property tax story came out. I still don’t think one campaign will have much effect on the other.)