Off the Kuff Rotating Header Image

Looking ahead in CD07

This story is primarily about the Republican primary in CD07. I don’t care about that race or those candidates, but there’s some good stuff at the end that I wanted to comment on.

Rep. Lizzie Fletcher

Since she’s taken office, some Houston Republicans — old school, Bush-acolyte types — concede [Rep. Lizzie Fletcher is] an on-the-ground presence and a force to be reckoned with for whoever the Republicans nominate.

That assessment is, in part, thanks to her fundraising. She is the top Democratic fundraiser in the Texas delegation and only lags behind Crenshaw among U.S. House members from Texas. And while the Republican primary is expected to drag on into a runoff in May, Fletcher can watch from the sidelines while banking her money for the coming general election television ad wars.

Because of those factors, non-partisan campaign handicappers at Inside Elections rate the 7th Congressional District as “Lean Democratic.”

“She is formidable, as evidenced by nobody on the Democratic side running against her,” said Jason Westin, a rival from her 2018 primary fight who has donated to her campaign this time around. “She’s done an excellent job … and I think she’s been checking boxes and basically doing what she said she was going to do, which is what got her elected over an incumbent the first time.”

And there’s an urgency in GOP circles that if they are to defeat Fletcher, it must be this cycle. Incumbents are traditionally at their weakest during their first term.

But also, the next cycle will take place after redistricting. Even if Republicans hold the map-drawing power in the state Legislature, it will be difficult to shore up the 7th District into their favor this time around. Any attempt to draw nearby Republican voters into the district could risk destabilizing the other Republican-held districts in the Houston metropolitan area.

In the here and now, members of both parties privately acknowledge that for all the fundraising, campaigning and strategizing, the 7th Congressional district is likely to be the Texas seat most susceptible to national winds.

After all, it is Trump who is most credited with pushing this district into the Democratic column. In 2012, Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney carried the district by 21 percentage points. But in 2016, Trump lost the district by one percentage point, giving Democrats the impetus to compete in West Houston.

As I’ve said before, I consider CD07 to be Lean Dem. Rep. Fletcher could certainly lose, but she hasn’t done anything to make her position any more vulnerable. She’s done the things she campaigned on, she’s raised a ton of money, she’s not committed any gaffes, and she’s been very visible in the district. As the story notes, she won by five points in a race that was expected to be a photo finish, and in which the polling we had tended to show John Culberson up by a small margin. Don’t underestimate her, is what I’m saying.

If there’s one thing that gives me a little bit of pause, it’s that while Democrats in 2018 exceeded their countywide totals from 2016, Republicans lagged theirs, by 70 to 100K votes. Their turnout will be up from 2018, and so it’s a question of how much Dems can increase theirs. I expect it to be up to the task, but it is a factor. I mean, Culberson got 143K votes in 2016 but only 116K in 2018, while Fletcher got 128K. I expect she will need more than that to win this year.

Of course, some of those votes Fletcher got were from people who had previously voted mostly Republican. It was those people, who voted for Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump while otherwise voting GOP in 2016, that out CD07 on the map in the first place. These people voted for more Democrats in 2018, as precinct analysis makes clear, but they still voted for some Republicans. My sense is that those people will mostly stick with Dems in 2020 – if being anti-Trump drove their behavior in 2016 and 2018, it’s hard to see why it wouldn’t drive their behavior in 2020 – but that is a variable. And as for what happens in 2022 when we are post-Trump (please, please, please), that’s anyone’s guess at this point.

As for redistricting, I don’t know what the Republicans will want to do with CD07. First, it matters whether they have control over the process or if they have to deal with House Democrats, and second it matters if they’re seeking to protect a new incumbent or enact a strategic retreat, in which case they can use CD07 as a Democratic vote sink and shore up all three of CDs 02, 10, and 22. Or, you know, try to win back one or more of them – if Dems take at least one of those seats, they’ll need to figure out how to protect those new incumbents, too. I know that redistricting is at a basic level a zero-sum partisan game, but it’s also more than two-dimensional. There are a lot of interests to balance, and it’s not always obvious what the best move is. I mean, who would have ever expected that we’d be talking about this back in 2011, right?

Related Posts:

7 Comments

  1. brad says:

    Too bad that those “some Houston Republicans — old school, Bush-acolyte types ” probably numbers about a dozen people.

    I see too many fire-breathing MAGA types around the district.

  2. Bill Daniels says:

    ” ….I think she’s been checking boxes and basically doing what she said she was going to do, which is what got her elected….”

    This is just flat out wrong. She ran on being an independent voice that was NOT beholden to Nancy Pelosi. Well…..she lied, bigly. Her very first vote was for Nancy as Speaker, and she hasn’t looked back. She’s been in lock step all the way, including lock stepping for the impeachment, which seems to be backfiring.

    I’m sure her white collar energy workers, blue collar workers, and basically every other constituent who has benefited from the Trump economy, are not thrilled with her trying to depose the guy who brought the prosperity.

    She hasn’t reached across the aisle to get anything done, she isn’t independent of Nancy, and she hasn’t lived up to any of her campaign promises. I’d expect her R challenger to point all this out. She’s a strong Democrat, so she should bring out the loyal base, but I don’t see the independents that swept her into office repeating that mistake. I could be wrong, of course.

  3. Bill Daniels says:

    Too bad that those “some Houston Republicans — old school, Bush-acolyte types ” probably numbers about a dozen people.

    @ Brad:

    That’s good, let’s hope the Bush/McCain/Romney globalist war hawk wing is finally and fully defeated. No more useless wars. No more nation building. America First!

  4. Manny says:

    Worked across the isle, what do they give you all that you come with so much bull. The deplorable white racists don’t want to work across the isle. I am sure that there some exceptions.

  5. Mike says:

    I was blocked from commenting on Cindy Siegel’s campaign Facebook group and most of my comments deleted.

    All I did to deserve this was say that her campaign was racist, sad, fear-mongering, and pointless and that she would almost certainly loose the general election. And also that she’s wrong about basically everything, in point by point detail.

    I guess you could call me a liberal troll but the difference compared to Trump trolls is that I’m a real person and sincere. And my comments aren’t moronic like the republicans calling Fletcher a “pelosibot”.

    I’m not sure blocking me is legal. I know there are court rulings about officeholders not blocking on social media. I think that should extend to candidates but it looks to be a grey area.

  6. blank says:

    As for redistricting, I don’t know what the Republicans will want to do with CD07. First, it matters whether they have control over the process or if they have to deal with House Democrats, and second it matters if they’re seeking to protect a new incumbent or enact a strategic retreat, in which case they can use CD07 as a Democratic vote sink and shore up all three of CDs 02, 10, and 22.

    I feel pretty comfortable predicting that CD07 will be a fourth Democratic vote sink in the Houston region. I see only 1 of 4 outcomes where this isn’t the case, but it’s even better. Here are the four potential outcomes.

    Republicans sweep CDs 02, 10, and 22 and draw the new map in the Legislature. Even in the most ridiculous Republican gerrymanders, there is still a fourth Democratic vote sink in Houston. Afterall, there are still likely to be 3 new seats in Texas.

    Republicans sweep CDs 02, 10, and 22, but a federal court draws the new map. The feds still draw a fourth Democratic vote sink in Houston. My guess is the court will also add a Democratic seat in Austin and rightfully dissolve CD I-can’t-believe-a-functioning-democracy-would-consider-this-legel 10, which can be used to shore up incumbents in CDs 02 and 22.

    Democrats win at least one of CDs 02, 10, or 22, but Republicans draw the new map in the Legislature. Similar to the previous case, I think Republicans will probably set up a new Democratic voter sink in Austin, which will shore up enough Republican precincts in CD 10 to force the new Democrat and Lizzie into a primary battle in the new Houston-based Democratic voter sink.

    Democrats win at least one of CDs 02, 10, or 22 and a federal court draws the new map. In this scenario, Lizzie wins comfortably too. The federal court then will draw an incumbent protection map that will put the new Democrat and Lizzie in two lean/likely Democratic seats. It might be tough to keep both of these seats for the entire decade, but there will be 5, not 4 Houston-based Democrats most of time.

  7. Mainstream says:

    Mike-

    Calling Cindy Siegel racist is nutty. Just because she has a black opponent and makes attacks on him for not voting regularly, and not voting in Republican primaries, and skipping the Flood Bond vote does not make those attacks racial in character.

    I think both Siegel and Hunt can make good arguments about why they would be the stronger GOP candidate to face Fletcher. Mike, your efforts to tear down Siegel makes me think you really think she would be more of a threat to a fellow female.