Precinct analysis: Beto in the city

Last week I got an email from Christopher Busby, who is a regular commenter here. He had previously asked about doing an analysis of Beto O’Rourke’s performance in Houston by City Council district. I told him that the canvass data I had did not include City Council district information, but that one could ask the County Clerk for it. He went and did exactly that, and sent me the result of his work. Here’s what he said:

The numbers as represented are ESTIMATES of the performance of the US Senate races in the City of Houston Council Districts. Many precincts are split among city and non-city portions of Harris County and though I made effort to recheck my work I still do allow that their might be some human error. Without better information as to which voters in represented precincts were city of Houston voters I am unable to give the most precise possible estimates. Regardless I feel comfortable that the below figures are within a decent ballpark of representing the districts.

Dist    Cruz    Beto  Dike  Cruz %  Beto %
A     21,716  30,773   447   41.0%   58.1%
B      5,707  42,951   245   11.7%   87.8%
C     35,622  68,794   988   33.7%   65.3%
D     10,370  55,702   352   15.6%   83.9%
E     37,769  30,564   584   54.8%   44.3%
F     12,501  27,958   284   30.7%   68.6%
G     42,720  42,137   698   49.9%   49.2%
H      7,618  29,290   286   20.5%   78.7%
I      7,373  27,002   202   21.3%   78.1%
J      5,711  15,298   159   27.0%   72.3%
K      9,082  35,144   283   20.4%   79.0%

Tot  196,189 378,611 4,528   33.9%   65.4%

I have a couple of things to add here. First, again, the work above was done by Christopher Busby, and I am using it with his permission. Second, do take heed of what he says about these numbers being estimates. I know from experience that it’s not easy to tease out city numbers from county canvasses, precisely for the reason given. There are just a lot of split precincts, for reasons that are not totally clear to me. You can’t do the usual method of identifying all the precincts in a given district and then adding up the votes in them for whatever other race you want to compare, because there are precincts in city districts that have far fewer votes than the precinct as a whole.

I did basically what Christopher did for the 2008 election. I had citywide data as part of the 2012 election thanks to the bond referenda, but didn’t have Council data so I did an aggregate summary. Note that 2008 was with the old Council map, so the districts there are not directly comparable. By my earlier calculations, Adrian Garcia in 2008 is still the reigning champion of Houston, just edging out Beto with 65.6% of the vote. Truthfully, the two are basically tied, since we’re doing our best guesses of fuzzy data. But that’s the ballpark Beto is in.

As for the results in 2018, don’t be too mesmerized by any individual district for the simple reason that turnout in 2018 is likely to be between double and triple what we should expect for 2019, and this is one of those times where the missing voters will be heavily Democratic. District A is open and I’m sure we’ll have a good Dem or two running in it, and I’d love to see a more moderate person take on Greg Travis in District G, while District C may now be legitimately a Dem district – remember, though, Bill King carried it in November and December of 2015 – and District F has a lot of potential if someone can put together a decent ground game. Point being, and this is something Greg Wythe says at every opportunity, the partisan lean of City Council districts depends very much on the turnout context. In the context we usually get, they’re a lot less Democratic than they could be. (Even in this election, note the extreme disparity in turnout between C and J.) This is very much an opportunity, but one of the lessons we should take from 2018 is that this is hard work, and can take a set of circumstances we’re not used to seeing. If you’re looking to make a difference in 2019, look at data from past city elections before you draw any conclusions about what it possible and what is probable in 2019.

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9 Responses to Precinct analysis: Beto in the city

  1. Greg Wythe says:

    I like that I’m becoming a one-trick pony. It’s a darn fine pony I’m riding.

  2. Pingback: The Week Before Christmas | Camposcommunications' Blog

  3. chris daniel says:

    if Greg or someone like him gets ahold of the voter contact data of the Beto team, especially the text message data, voter turnout could be greatly increased in all those districts. Making district G possibly the only republican seat left on city council.

  4. chris daniel says:

    oh and district E

  5. Mainstream says:

    An Anne Clutterbuck/Steven Costello/Sarah Davis sort of Republican could win District C, and a Brenda Stardig Republican shows that District A can also support a more conservative candidate in city elections.

  6. Greg Wythe says:

    It takes a lot more than a political operative to gin up turnout.

  7. Maria Gonzalez says:

    While turn-out continues to be the fundamental challenge for Democrats in any city election, the Republican challenge is just being out-numbered inside the city. Thanks to Busby, we have some numbers that show where the future might be heading in this city.

  8. Christopher Busby says:

    Thanks Kuff for posting these numbers up!

    As for my commentary on the significance of these numbers. They are definietly a high water mark for Democrats in their respective districts. Given that city council races are non-partisan and in lower turnout years it leaves open the possibility of unlikely political victories depending on who is more energized and the strengths of individual candidates. A strong Sarah Davis like Republican candidate could win in district C against a very weak Democratic candidate. That is however a lot less likely than it traditionally has been. Republcians should be worried for the open A race and Steve Le in F which Democrats would be politically negligent to fail to target. I think Travis is probably fine for reelection in G but a strong, well funded, moderate D or moderate R could potentially make it competitive. Republicans could potentially make the open J race competitve given only the fact that turnout is likely to be abysmal and low turnout elections yield funky results.

  9. voter_worker says:

    As to your question about split City of Houston voting precincts, the majority would be those with special/limited purpose Houston annexations within their boundaries. The remainder are those around the main perimeter of Houston, with a few containing territory of Houston and another incorporated municipality. Jurisdictional splits within precincts are managed by the Voter Registrar’s office.

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