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Chet Edwards

October 2019 campaign finance reports: Congress

Moving on to the Q3 FEC reports, we again have new candidates making their appearance. The January roundup is here, which closed out the 2017-18 election cycle, the April report is here, and the July report is here. For comparison, the October 2017 report is here. The FEC summary page for Congress is here and for the Senate is here.

MJ Hegar – Senate
Chris Bell – Senate
Amanda Edwards – Senate
Royce West – Senate
Cristina Tzintzun Ramirez – Senate
Sema Hernandez – Senate
Adrian Ocegueda – Senate
Michael Cooper – Senate

Lizzie Fletcher – CD07
Colin Allred – CD32

Henry Cuellar – CD28
Jessia Cisneros – CD28

Hank Gilbert – CD01
Elisa Cardnell – CD02
Sean McCaffity – CD03
Tanner Do – CD03
Stephen Daniel – CD06
Mike Siegel – CD10
Pritesh Gandhi – CD10
Shannon Hutcheson – CD10
Rick Kennedy – CD17
Jennie Lou Leeder – CD21
Wendy Davis – CD21
Sri Kulkarni – CD22
Nyanza Moore – CD22
Derrick Reed – CD22
Gina Ortiz Jones – CD23
Liz Wahl – CD23
Rosey Ramos Abuabara – CD23
Jan McDowell – CD24
Kim Olson – CD24
Candace Valenzuela – CD24
Crystal Lee Fletcher – CD24
John Biggan – CD24
Julie Oliver – CD25
Heidi Sloan – CD25
Carol Ianuzzi – CD26
Christine Eady Mann – CD31
Murray Holcomb – CD31
Dan Jangigian – CD31
Eric Hanke – CD31
Donna Imam – CD31


Dist  Name             Raised      Spent    Loans    On Hand
============================================================
Sen   Hegar         2,058,080  1,211,904        0    893,657       
Sen   Bell            206,629     94,894   10,000    111,734
Sen   Edwards         557,430    219,645        0    337,785
Sen   West            347,546    172,926  202,162    376,782
Sen   T-Ramirez       459,442    233,953        0    225,489
Sen   Hernandez         7,551      7,295        0      3,891
Sen   Ocegueda          1,048        262      900        786
Sen   Cooper

07    Fletcher      1,789,359    391,448        0  1,439,978
32    Allred        1,705,723    355,711        0  1,453,457  

28    Cuellar       1,099,758    400,328        0  3,244,434
28    Cisneros        465,026    173,329        0    291,697

02    Cardnell        177,733    115,886        0     61,847
03    McCaffity       155,404      7,080        0    148,324
03    Do               16,947     15,725        0      1,221
06    Daniel          111,009     70,409        0     40,600
10    Siegel          355,691    207,532   20,000    161,650
10    Gandhi          527,967    209,989        0    317,978
10    Hutcheson       534,515    161,665    4,000    372,850
17    Kennedy          31,298     15,079   11,953     17,646
21    Leeder           15,697     14,509        0      1,188
21    Davis           940,581    336,645    8,863    603,936
22    Kulkarni        817,139    299,219        0    545,687
22    Moore           112,311    102,863   12,915      9,447
22    Reed            114,137     60,268        0     53,868
23    Ortiz Jones   1,652,739    303,861        0  1,440,396
23    Wahl              9,000      6,521    1,000      2,478
23    Abuabara
24    McDowell         57,515     52,519        0     18,316
24    Olson           567,394    241,708   20,000    325,685
24    Valenzuela      201,377     92,814        0    108,563
24    Fletcher        122,427     35,099      823     87,327
24    Biggan           45,893     35,999   13,834      9,894
25    Oliver          223,417     75,836    2,644    147,580
25    Sloan            56,043     23,125        0     32,918
26    Ianuzzi          67,828     35,539   47,604     32,288
31    Mann             95,449     58,685        0     38,200
31    Holcomb          66,610     57,770        0      8,840
31    Jangigian        23,265      2,248    1,500     21,016
31    Hanke            18,302      9,098        0      9,203
31    Imam             60,441      7,088        0     53,353

There’s a lot here – so much that it’s taken me this long to post, and so much that I thought about splitting this into two separate posts – but let’s start with the Senate candidates. MJ Hegar has been in the race the longest, and she has raised the most, matching her performance from the previous quarter. All the other candidates (save for the low-profile no-hope types, and hey isn’t it nice to finally see Sema Hernandez file a finance report?) entered during Q3 and their finance reports can be graded on a curve as a result. That said, time keeps on ticking, ticking, ticking, and John Cornyn keeps on raising piles of money, so everyone needs to kick it up a notch or two. It was nice that every candidate at the Texas Signal candidate forum was asked about their path to victory, but raising money is a key part of that, even if it is a tacky subject to bring up. We’re going to need to see a lot more in the January reports.

Incumbents Lizzie Fletcher and Colin Allred are doing what they need to do. Their potential Republican opponents are raising a bunch of money, but they’re staying ahead of them, which they need to keep doing. Jessica Cisneros has done well in her challenge to Henry Cuellar, who is made of money, and she is getting some national press for her efforts. I still don’t know how much either money or national attention will mean in this race, but I do know that if she does win, it will be a very big deal and will make a lot of Dem incumbents look over their shoulders.

There are a number of new names on this report. Hank Gilbert is not going to win in CD01 because it’s a 70%+ Trump district, but Hank is a mensch and Louie Gohmert is a death eater from a hell dimension, so the least I can do is note that Hank is taking on the thankless task of challenging Gohmert. We noted last time that Lorie Burch has ended her campaign in CD03, and now several others have stepped in. Sean McCaffity, who is off to a strong fundraising start, and Tanner Do have reports for this quarter, and they will have company next time. Chris Suprun, whom you may remember as one of the wannabe faithless electors from 2016, has entered the race. He had also run in the CD27 special election last year, and had a brush with the voter ID law before that. Plano attorney Lulu Seikaly is also in the race, and I apologize to her for making her follow that.

Elsewhere in new candidates, Heidi Sloan has entered the race in CD25. Julie Oliver, the nominee from 2018, is well ahead of her fundraising pace from that year, so we’ll see how that goes. There are now a bunch of candidates in CD31, though I can tell you now that that article from August is out of date. I’ll have more on that in a separate post. Among the newcomers here are Dan Jangigian, Eric Hanke, and Donna Imam. Jangigian may have the most interesting resume of any Congressional candidate in recent memory – he’s a onetime Olympic bobsledder, and acted in the legendary bad movie The Room. He was subsequently portrayed in the movie The Disaster Artist, the movie about the guy who made The Room, by Zac Efron. And now he’s running for Congress. What have you done with your life?

A more familiar candidate making her first appearance here is Wendy Davis, who took in nearly a million bucks for CD21. That’s one of several top target races where there’s a clear frontrunner, at least as far as fundraising goes, which is a change from 2018 when most of the hotter primaries had the money more widely dispersed. Gina Ortiz Jones did even better, topping $1.6 million already. Rosey Abubara, who I thought might give her a challenge, has not filed a report. Candace Valenzuela and Crystal Fletcher have raised a few bucks in CD24, but Kim Olson is well ahead of them both, while Sri Kulkarni is lapping the field in CD22. The exception is in CD10, where all three candidates are doing well, but 2018 nominee Mike Siegel is a step behind Pritesh Gandhi and Shannon Hutcheson.

Rounding up the rest, Elisa Cardnell stepped it up in CD02, but faces a steep challenge as Dan Crenshaw is one of the biggest fundraisers in Congress now. Stephen Daniel is doing all right in CD06. I know their totals don’t look like that much compared to some of these other folks, but remember how much time we spent in 2018 talking about how rare it was for any Democratic challenger to raise as much as $100K for an entire cycle? We’ve come a long way. And I’m still hoping for either Rick Kennedy to start doing more in CD17 or for someone else to jump in, even if that race is a big longshot. The Quorum Report made my heart flutter with a teaser about a poll testing former CD17 Rep. Chet Edwards against carpetbagger Pete Sessions. I don’t know if this is a real thing or just someone’s idea of a cool thought experiment, but I’d be all in on another run by Edwards. We’ll see if there’s anything to it.

A look at CD16 and CD03

As one might expect, the primary race for Beto O’Rourke’s soon-to-be-former Congressional seat is compettiive and < and getting a little salty.

Rep. Beto O’Rourke

[Now-former El Paso COunty Judge Veronica] Escobar is running, in part, on her experience as a former leader of a county government that fought corruption and is touting how her progressive ideals helped shape policy. Escobar voted to sue the state after the Legislature passed Senate Bill 4, the state’s anti-“sanctuary city” law, and she’s been an outspoken advocate for the LGBT community.

But the issue of her husband, Michael Pleters, and his job as a federal immigration judge, is one her opponents are latching onto tightly. [El Paso ISD TrusteeDori] Fenenbock, who describes herself as the moderate in the race and who’s been dinged on the campaign trail for garnering financial support from Republicans, is quick to highlight what she says is the hypocrisy of Escobar’s campaign.

“[Pleters] is currently employed by the Trump administration and he’s currently following orders by the Trump administration, which is to deport,” Fenenbock said during a recent interview at her office. “He could find another job; he can become an immigration attorney, [but] he has built a career around deporting immigrants.”

But Escobar said last week at her campaign office that her husband was first approached for the job by the Obama administration.

“My husband is not a political appointee … it is a merit-based position,” she said. “He got offered the position last year while Obama happened to be president. But because of the time that the background check took, and it overlapped with the election and everything kind of came to a halt … he didn’t take the bench until this past summer.”

She added that Pleters is a lifetime Democrat and an “impartial arbiter of the law.”

“I’ve never been in a campaign where my family has been attacked until now,” she said. “And I think that it says more about those doing the attacking than it does about me. But I also wonder, when did an honorable profession such as being a jurist become a bad thing?”

The pack of candidates hopes that Fenenbock’s embrace of the term “moderate” proves to be her Achilles’ heel. The Escobar campaign points to a July story in the El Paso Times that shows Fenenbock received almost half of her initial financial support from El Pasoans who voted in the 2016 GOP primary. She also voted in the GOP primary in 2008 and 2010.

Fenenbock said she is a proud Democrat but notes that both parties have become too extreme and that, as a moderate, she can get things accomplished.

“Progressives have moved further to left, and the alt-right has moved further to right,” she said. She notes that though El Paso is a Democratic stronghold, it’s also somewhat “socially conservative.”

There are other candidates in the race, including former State Rep. Norma Chavez, and they get some time in the story as well. After reading it, my impression is that I’d vote for Escobar if I were in CD16. After reading so many articles that declared one or the other of Escobar and Sylvia Garcia as having a chance to be “the first Latina elected to Congress from Texas”, I’m rooting for both of them to get there so we can debate over which one was technically “the first” or if we get to designate them as co-firsts. Leave your hot take on that in the comments.

Also interesting in its own way is the races in CD03.

All eyes are on the GOP primary race where Van Taylor, who decided against running a second time for his safe state senate seat, will face off against the lesser-known Alex Donkervoet and David Niederkorn.

Taylor, 45, is widely seen as Johnson’s successor and has racked up the endorsements and cash in the red district that stretches from Plano to Blue Ridge, encompassing much of Collin County.

Gov. Greg Abbott, former Gov. Rick Perry and Sen. Ted Cruz are among Taylor’s big-name supporters. He’s also backed by conservative groups like the Plano-based First Liberty Institute, Texas Right to Life and Michael Quinn Sullivan’s Texans for Fiscal Responsibility. And Taylor has the most cash of any candidate in the race — $1.7 million.

But Donkervoet, an insurance company actuary from Dallas, said Taylor’s endorsements and money are exactly why he chose to run against him.

“That’s just wrong,” Donkervoet said of the amount of local and state endorsements that poured in for Taylor in the days after the legislator announced that he’d run for Congress. “The Republican Party is pretty much hand-selecting somebody to represent (the district).”

Donkervoet, 34, didn’t vote for Trump in the election, and he sets himself apart from conservatives on a number of issues. He’s a “big believer in net neutrality,” social issues like gay marriage and expanding background checks for semi-automatic rifles.

“I’m a very big underdog,” Donkervoet admits, but he wants to push the district away from the partisan divides that plague Congress. “Just because that’s the way it is doesn’t mean that’s right.”

Taylor, who ran for Congress against Chet Edwards in 2006, has been the heir apparent to Johnson for some time now. He does have a bipartisan credit or two to tout from the Lege – he and Rep. Senfronia Thompson sponsored the long-overdue bill to outlaw child marriages in Texas, and good on him for that – while Donkervoet is an obvious heretic and third candidate David Niederkorn is a full-on Trump chump who’s attacking Taylor for being the ambitious ladder-climber that he is. I’ll put my money on Taylor to win, but it’s possible he may have to go to overtime to get there.

One the Democratic side:

Adam Bell, Lorie Burch, Medrick Yhap and Sam Johnson — not to be confused with the retiring GOP congressman — are hopeful they can turn the district blue for the first time in decades.

Voters may be familiar with Bell, a title company owner who ran unsuccessfully for the seat in 2016. He received 34.6 percent of the vote against incumbent Rep. Sam Johnson, but Bell predicts this time will be different.

“When we got into the race, we knew that we didn’t have the bandwidth, didn’t have the power to pull something off in that cycle,” Bell, 40, said about his 2016 run. “The eye was always on the 2018 cycle because of the need to build.”

Burch, 41, is well-known lawyer, gay rights activist and Democrat from the area. She’s raised more than $60,000, and said she wants to make a difference for the “unseen and unheard.”

“What we need right now is a unifying voice,” she said.

The “divisiveness” of the last election cycle inspired Burch to run for the seat. She had made up her mind even before Rep. Sam Johnson announced he would not be running again.

I like Lorie Burch out of this group, but all four have their merits and would be fine if they win. CD03 is in a lower tier of takeover prospects, with odds of flipping in the 25-30% range by the Crosstab metric. It would take more than a regular-sized wave to go blue, but the fact that it’s in the conversation at all is encouraging. The longer-term prospects in Collin County for Dems are brightening, so if it doesn’t fall this year it ought to be on the list for 2020.

Two more campaigns launched in CD07

Two from the inbox. First, from Tuesday:

Laura Moser

Laura Moser, writer and founder of the resistance tool Daily Action, formally launched her congressional campaign for District 7 at a happy hour on Monday in Houston, Texas.

“It’s time to send someone to Washington who knows how it works and wants to use that knowledge to serve the people of Houston — who actually cares about the people who live here,” Moser told the crowd.

In the aftermath of this year’s presidential election, Moser founded Daily Action, a text-messaging service that sends users an alert every weekday with a simple, curated action to resist the Trump agenda. Through Daily Action, over 250,000 subscribers have made over 778,000 calls totaling nearly 2.5 million minutes since its launch in mid-December. Moser’s experience organizing a mobile resistance inspired her to move back to Houston to engage directly in her hometown’s local politics.

“As Daily Action continued to grow, I couldn’t stop wondering what else I could do to fight the reckless, dangerous people who had taken charge of our country,” Moser said. “Making phone calls was great—but it would be even better if the people answering the phones were actually listening. In too many places around the country, including this one, that just wasn’t happening.”

Armed with the lessons afforded by her “close-up observation of DC dysfunction for the past eight years” and her on-the-ground organizing experience, Moser has come back home to Houston to fight for the people of District 7.

To learn more, you can follow Laura’s Facebook page here.

And second, from Thursday:

Lizzie Fletcher

Houston lawyer Lizzie Pannill Fletcher announced today that she will run for Texas’ 7th Congressional District seat, pledging to build on her history of advocating for Houstonians and focusing on real solutions to their shared challenges. If elected, Fletcher would be the first woman to represent the district, which has been represented by Republican Congressman John Culberson since 2001.

“Every day, I work for real Houstonians, with real problems, who need real solutions – not platitudes, theories, or empty promises,” said Fletcher. “I have been talking to Houstonians from across the district, and they agree it is time to replace John Culberson in Congress with someone who represents the Houston we all know: a city that welcomes newcomers from around the world, that prides itself on scientific discovery, that serves as a hub for innovation, and that takes care of its neighbors. We need a partner in Washington who will listen to us and who will fight for us.”

A fifth-generation Houstonian, Fletcher is a partner at Ahmad, Zavitsanos, Anaipakos, Alavi & Mensing P.C. (AZA), a Houston-based law firm with a formidable track record. Fletcher has been recognized by attorneys across the country as one of the Best Lawyers in America for commercial litigation and has been included on the 2016 Texas Super Lawyers list and the 2012-2016 Texas Rising Stars lists.

Fletcher said her priorities if elected would be upholding the rule of law by holding President Donald Trump accountable, making government more responsive to the people it serves, and addressing Houston’s critical infrastructure needs, especially transportation.

“John Culberson has not only failed to fight for us – he has actively worked against us, voting time and again to block transportation and infrastructure funding we need,” said Fletcher. “That failure is apparent now more than ever as he prioritizes politics over people by voting 100 percent of the time with President Trump.”

In addition to her work fighting for her clients, Fletcher co-founded Planned Parenthood Young Leaders and currently serves on the boards of Writers in the Schools (WITS) and Open Dance Project, which empower young Houstonians to express themselves. As a volunteer lawyer, she interviewed stakeholders as part of Texas Appleseed’s effort to dismantle the school-to-prison pipeline.

Fletcher graduated from Kenyon College in 1997, where she was elected to Phi Beta Kappa, and from the School of Law at The College of William & Mary in Virginia in 2006, where she was Editor-in-Chief of the William and Mary Law Review.

Fletcher and her husband Scott live in the district where they enjoy taking advantage of all Houston has to offer and spending time with their family and friends.

In the 2016 presidential election, Hillary Clinton narrowly carried the 7th district, which includes western parts of central Houston and a portion of western Harris County.

Learn more about Lizzie and her candidacy at www.LizzieFletcher.com

Moser and Fletcher were mentioned in my earlier post about the already-crowded field in CD07. They hadn’t officially announced anything at that time, but now they have and they join a field that includes Jason Westin, Alex Triantaphyllis, Debra Kerner, Joshua Butler, and James Cargas. I’m a little tired just typing that list out.

So that’s seven Democratic candidates for a longtime Republican seat. If you’re thinking that’s a lot of candidates, I’m thinking the same thing. Here are a few more things I’m thinking:

– I have to assume the DCCC’s interest in CD07 is driving not just the size of the field but also the early rush to the starting line. There hasn’t been national focus on CD07 since 2008, and probably not any time in recent memory before then. It’s a rare opportunity, and with Congressional campaigns being expensive, the promise of this kind of help is attractive.

– That said, 2018 ought to be a very different campaign than 2008 was. Michael Skelley was a good candidate who ran a strong race that generally outperformed other Democrats in the district, but he ran a very old school “centrist” campaign that sought out crossover voters. He took a swipe at MoveOn after some ginned-up controversy over a crowdsourced at contest they ran (I don’t remember the details because the whole thing is too stupid to waste brain cells on) that lost him some support among liberals and I doubt gained him much among Republicans. I’d like to think any and all of the candidates in this race would avoid that kind of misstep on the grounds that Democratic voters today will have no patience for that nonsense and any campaign adviser who counseled such an action would be committing malpractice. Still, with seven candidates vying for a spot on the ballot, there will be some effort made to differentiate themselves, and there is room for people to stake out the “moderate” end of the spectrum. We’ll see who ends up where.

– We may scoff an Skelley’s strategy now, but it’s important to remember that in 2008 there were still a lot of Democrats winning in heavily Republican districts, mostly long-term incumbents who were being re-elected perhaps more out of habit by then than anything else. Former US Rep. Chet Edwards was headed for a third win in his DeLay-gerrymandered district, for instance. All of those people got wiped out in 2010, and examples of candidates of either party winning in districts that have a majority from the other party are much rarer these days.

– Another key difference is that 2008 was a Presidential year, so turnout was already going to be maximized. That’s another reason why it made sense for Skelley to hunt for potential ticket-splitters. 2018 is an off year, and as we well know, solving the Democratic turnout problem is the huge pressing question of our time. For a variety of reasons, it seems likely Democratic turnout will be better next year than we have seen in an off-year in a long time, but the first priority for whoever wins this nomination – and all other Dems running against Republican incumbents – will be to get Democratic Presidential year voters out to the polls. There’s literally no crossover strategy that can work without getting sufficient base turnout first. I mean, this is easily a 60-40 seat in 2014 conditions. If we’re not boosting the base level, we don’t have any shot at this. It’s as simple as that.

– Overall, I’m really impressed with the quality of the candidates running, and I’m excited to see so many newcomers and people younger than I am. I don’t envy the Democrats of CD07 the choice they will have to make, in March and again in May for the runoff. I’d like to remind all of the candidates that whatever happens, this doesn’t have to be an end if you are not the one that gets to challenge Culberson. There will be other opportunities in other years. Anyone who runs a positive campaign that energizes people without tearing down their fellow candidates will surely find further opportunities open to them.

Neugebauer to step down in CD19

At least one Congressional seat will have a new person sitting in it next year.

Rep. Randy Neugebauer

U.S. Rep. Randy Neugebauer, R-Lubbock, announced Thursday that he would not seek re-election in 2016.

Neugebauer, who has represented his West Texas district in Congress since 2003, plans to finish his current term.

“To say that this has been an honor would be an understatement,” Neugebauer said in a statement. “Representing the citizens of the Big Country and West Texas has been one of the most rewarding times in my life.”

[…]

Buzz had been mounting in recent months that Neugebauer was planning to retire. Texas’ Congressional District 19 is expected to stay in Republican hands, and the primary will all but determine who will follow Neugebauer in Congress.

Immediate speculation for possible successors centered on state Sen. Charles Perry and state Rep. Dustin Burrows — both Lubbock Republicans — as well as Lubbock attorney Allen Adkins. Other names include Lubbock Mayor Glen Robertson; Tom Sell, the managing partner of Combest, Sell and Associates; and former Texas Tech Vice Chancellor Jodey Arrington.

Perry does not plan to run for the seat, according to Jordan Berry, his political consultant.

Asked about his interest in the seat, Burrows issued a statement that did not rule out a run.

“Today is Congressman Neugebauer’s day to enjoy the knowledge that he’ll no longer need to commute to Washington, D.C., and to revel in a career protecting West Texas from an overreaching federal government,” Burrows said. “On behalf of West Texans and the Burrows family, we thank him for his service to our nation.”

[…]

Tea Party groups have struggled to oust federal incumbents in Texas, and organizations like the Madison Project say they see an opportunity in open-seat races like this one now is, setting up a potential clash between the Tea Party and an establishment candidate.

“I think the Washington establishment is always going to get want who they think they can get, and the local establishment is going to want who they want, and it will not always gel with the Washington establishment,” Berry said.

“The conservative base may want something completely different,” he added. “This could go several different ways.”

This primary will also take place on March 1, when U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, a conservative favorite, is poised to be on the ballot in the presidential race. Neugebauer’s son Toby has emerged as one of the top donors to Cruz’s presidential effort, giving $10 million to a super PAC supporting the senator. Toby Neugebauer, co-founder of the Houston private-equity firm Quantum Energy Partners, was recently replaced by evangelical leader David Barton as the head of a cluster of pro-Cruz groups.

Yeah, I think we see how this is likely to go. Neugebauer wasn’t exactly the brightest light out there, but it seems fair to say that our Congressional delegation is about to get dimmer. And louder.

This may have the effect of creating another vacancy in the House – it would appear unlikely to create on in the Senate as well, as Sen. Perry would have to give up his seat to try for CD19, and it looks like he’s not interested in that – but the vacancy it’s creating in Congress is a relative rarity in Texas. Here’s a list of the members of Congress as of January, 2005, and the same list as of January, 2015:

Dist 2005 2015 ============================ 01 Gohmert Gohmert 02 Poe Poe 03 Johnson Johnson 04 Hall Ratcliffe 05 Hensarling Hensarling 06 Barton Barton 07 Culberson Culberson 08 Brady Brady 09 Green Green 10 McCall McCall 11 Conaway Conaway 12 Granger Granger 13 Thornberry Thornberry 14 Paul Weber 15 Hinojosa Hinojosa 16 Reyes O'Rourke 17 Edwards Flores 18 Jackson Lee Jackson Lee 19 Neugebauer Neugebauer 20 Gonzalez Castro 21 Smith Smith 22 DeLay Olson 23 Bonilla Hurd 24 Marchant Marchant 25 Doggett Williams 26 Burgess Burgess 27 Ortiz Farenthold 28 Cuellar Cuellar 29 Green Green 30 Johnson Johnson 31 Carter Carter 32 Sessions Sessions

Of the 32 seats that existed in 2005, 23 have the same incumbent now, with one of those incumbents from 2005 (Rep. Lloyd Doggett) moving to a different district thanks to redistricting. Of the eight who are no longer in Congress, only Ron Paul, who stepped down in 2012 to run for President, and Charlie Gonzalez, who retired in 2012, left on their own terms. Tom DeLay resigned in 2006 under the cloud of indictment. Ralph Hall (2014) and Silvestre Reyes (2012) lost in primaries, while Henry Bonilla (2006), Chet Edwards (2010), and Solomon Ortiz (2010) lost in general elections. We’ve seen a lot of turnover in recent years in the State House, but the US House in Texas is a different story. Trail Blazers and Juanita have more.

Sizing up the opportunities

This Chron story about the new Congressional map and who’s looking at what (which ran in the Express News last week) has a lot of things we’ve been discussing, and a couple of things to point out. First, a theme that I’ve harped on more than once:

The 33rd District in North Texas was transformed from an Anglo-majority, heavily Republican district into one with a 66 percent minority population that cast more than 62 percent of its votes for President Barack Obama in 2008.

The 35th District, as drawn by Republicans, would have forced Austin Rep. Lloyd Doggett into a potentially messy Democratic primary battle. But the courts created a safe 25th District for Doggett anchored in Travis County by eviscerating the Legislature’s heavily Republican 25th District. Meanwhile, the revised San Antonio-based 35th District almost certainly will elect a Latino Democrat.

The 27th District, currently represented by Republican freshman Blake Farenthold, has been redrawn to become more heavily Hispanic and strongly Democratic. Farenthold’s home is in the new 34th District, where he is likely to run.

But even with those three gains, some Democratic partisans worry that they may not be able to maximize their opportunities in a year when Obama is likely to lose the state by a wide margin.

First, of those three districts, only the 35th is reasonably competitive, and with Rep. Joaquin Castro having announced for it, I’m not terribly worried about Democratic prospects there. Second, Obama lost Texas in 2008 by a “wide margin” as well, and the limited polling data we have so far indicates that 2012 looks a lot like 2008. Things can certainly change, and there’s hardly any guarantee that the models pollsters are currently using will be reflective of reality next November, but unless you’re arguing that Obama will lose significant ground from 2008, let’s keep things in perspective.

Among the races Democrats are eyeing:

The 23rd District, stretching from San Antonio to El Paso, became more Democratic in the court-ordered plan, endangering the re-election of freshman Republican Francisco “Quico” Canseco, R-San Antonio. Democrats have recruited a well-known challenger in state Rep. Pete Gallego, D-Alpine.

The 14th District, currently represented by retiring Republican Ron Paul, will shift eastward into Jefferson County and has a minority population of about 35 percent. Former Rep. Nick Lampson, D-Beaumont, who has represented much of the district over the past two decades, is considering another run. The early favorite on the GOP side is state Rep. Randy Weber, R-Pearland.

The 10th District, which rambles from Austin to the outskirts of Houston, loses three-fourths of its heavily Republican Harris County population and becomes a swing district. While Republican Rep. Michael McCaul has turned back expensive challenges in the past, Democrats being mentioned include previous congressional hopefuls Larry Joe Doherty and Michael Skelly of Houston, and Dan Grant of Austin.

The 6th District, long represented by Joe Barton, R-Ennis, has been shifted into heavily minority sections of Dallas County. Democrats think they have a chance to unseat the 14-term incumbent if they can recruit a strong challenger such as former Rep. Chet Edwards, former state Rep. Chris Turner, a longtime Edwards aide, or former state Rep. Allen Vaught, a Purple Heart recipient.

Rep. Gallego has filed for the 23rd. Nick Lampson is still being drafted, though I hear there are other potential candidates out there as well. I have no idea where they got Mike Skelly’s name for CD10. He doesn’t live in the district, not that one is required to do so, and I at least have not heard any chatter about him being interested in a campaign. Dan Grant is known to be interested, I do not know about anyone else, though David Nir wonders about one-time 2010 candidate Jack McDonald. As for CD06, Chet Edwards would indeed be a coup, but again as yet I have not heard anything to that effect. Chris Turner is running for the new State House seat in Tarrant County, so he’s off the list. Oh, and as far as I know John Sharp is not running for any of these seats. I don’t feel whole until he gets mentioned.

Anyway. There are always last minute surprises at filing time, and I daresay this year that will be even more so than usual. Don’t believe anything until it’s official. Oh, and as of last night there was still no word from SCOTUS on the stay request. We’re almost halfway through the filing period.

Filing season opens today

It’s supposed to open today, anyway. It may get pushed back a day or two until the remaining legal actions get sorted out. As we know, after being turned down by the San Antonio federal Court, AG Greg Abbott is filing a request for a stay of the election with the Supreme Court. If it gets denied, things will proceed quickly; if it gets referred to the full Court it could take a bit longer, perhaps a week or so; if it gets granted, God only knows what happens next. Basically, at this point we’re still in limbo. Oh, if things are allowed to go forward, Plan C220 was approved by the three-court panel for the Congressional map.

Assuming things are allowed to go forward, I expect we’ll be buried under an avalanche of candidate filing announcements. I’ll try to keep track of them as best I can. Among the races I’ll be looking for:

CD06 – Chet Edwards, anyone? Ol’ Smokey Joe Barton is in a fairly competitive district, all things considered, but he has a boatload of money. Someone with experience and fundraising chops would need to get in to make this worth watching.

CD10 – Former candidate Dan Grant has expressed some interest.

CD14 – Everyone is still waiting for former Rep. Nick Lampson to say something. Here’s an alternate suggestion in the event Lampson declines to get in. Take a look at the 2008 electoral data for the new CD14. In particular, have a gander at this result:


SBOE 7

Bradley - R 105,472 47.5 %
Ewing   - D 110,265 49.7 %
Johnson - L   6,339  2.9 %

Based on the vote totals, I think there was a small piece of CD14 that did not overlap this SBOE district, but probably 95% of CD14 was covered. Laura Ewing was the one Democrat to get more votes than the Republican in any comparable race. Maybe we should be drafting Laura Ewing to run here.

HDs 26, 33, 34, 35, 40, 45, 54, 78, 105, 106, 107, 108, 113, 117, 134, and 144: These are all of the Dem-favored and Dem-attainable districts for which I am not currently aware of a candidate. (HD93 in Tarrant County has former Reps. Paula Pierson and Chris Turner already in.) Every last one of these had better have a good candidate in it.

SD09: The one Democratic State Senate district that can be remotely seen as a pickup opportunity. Sam Houston got 45.1% of the vote in 2008 for the Dem high water mark. It’s an uphill battle, but it’s an open seat, and those don’t come around very often.

Harris County Tax Assessor: Sylvia Garcia isn’t interested despite my best efforts, and Diane Trautman is running for HCDE Trustee. Someone needs to step up and run against the buffoonish Don Sumners.

Harris County District Attorney: Pat Lykos has made herself more vulnerable with the BAT van stuff. Surely someone senses an opportunity.

I’m pleased to note that there is apparently a candidate for SBOE in my District 6. I saw and signed a petition for someone at an event last week. I don’t remember the candidate’s name because he or she was not there, but I saw the name of the office. I also saw a number of petitions for positions on Appeals Courts #1 and 14. I have no idea if anyone is gearing up for a Supreme Court or CCA run yet, however.

In the meantime, we wait for SCOTUS. What filings are you eagerly awaiting? The Trib has more.

UPDATE: Further analysis from Michael Li.

Another look ahead at redistricting

The short version of this Chron story is basically “Republicans would like to control every aspect of the redistricting process, while Democrats would at least like to win the Governor’s office and maintain some semblance of parity in the House”. A few points:

“The governor’s race is critical to redistricting,” declares U.S. Rep. Kevin Brady, R-The Woodlands, a former state legislator whose district is one of the fastest-growing in the nation. “A Republican governor increases the likelihood that the final map will be drawn by elected state representatives. A Democratic governor who vetoes the GOP Legislature’s plan ensures the federal courts will draw the final congressional map for Texas.”

That’s what happened in 2001, when the Democrats still had a majority in the House and Pete Laney was Speaker. The House and Senate could not agree on a redistricting bill, and the Congressional map was ultimately drawn by a three-judge federal panel in Dallas. That was the flimsy justification that Tom DeLay then used to force his re-redistricting scheme in 2003, that since the map wasn’t drawn by the Lege it wasn’t legitimate. A Republican triumvirate would ensure a Lege-drawn map; a Democratic Governor and/or House would likely mean another map job for the judges. This time, a do-over in 2013 would almost certainly not happen, as there isn’t really anyone in the Texas Congressional delegation who would have the juice to make it happen.

Without White in the governor’s chair, the Democrats’ only leverage would be the Justice Department, which has reviewed Texas districts for the past four decades as part of a “pre-clearance” process required in states with legacies of institutionalized racial discrimination.

For the first time since the Voting Rights Act was passed in 1965, the Justice Department is controlled by Democrats – something that makes Texas Republicans a bit nervous.

The GOP’s suspicion of the Obama administration has given birth to a novel legal strategy: Republican leaders in Austin are privately discussing the possibility of bypassing the Justice Department and filing any redistricting plan directly with the U.S. District Court in Washington.

This has come up before, and I confess I’m fuzzy on the details. It would have been nice for the story to explain it a bit more. The bottom line is that the GOP would prefer to take its chances with some activist judges than with a Justice Department that actually takes civil rights enforcement seriously.

Back in Texas, both parties have been gearing up for political combat for a year. Party leaders have convened training sessions for their operatives, legislative redistricting committees have begun holding hearings and congressional Republicans have chosen Rep. Lamar Smith, R-San Antonio, as their point person in the process. The Democratic delegation has not yet picked its redistricting leaders.

But the political calculations are complicated by demographic realities. West Texas, a region dominated by Democrats, is likely to lose power in the legislative and congressional redistricting processes because of the concentration of population growth in the Houston area and along the I-35 corridor from Denton to Laredo.

What’s more, redistricting is just one of the hot-button items on the legislative agenda for 2011, along with a state budget dripping with red ink, education policy and funding, border security, the future of the Texas Department of Transportation and much more.

Here I will note again that the Trib floated the possibility of a redistricting compromise, agreed to in advance, which I believe the Lege would take if it were offered to them. Whether that’s still a live possibility at this point or not, I have no idea. I do know that the Republicans have to be at least a little careful, lest they do to their Congressional delegation what they did to their State House membership, which is to say lose a bunch of ground after initially overreaching. How they try to save Mike Conaway, in a district that was barely justifiable in 2003 and which owes its existence entirely to Tom Craddick’s insistence on separating Midland/Odessa from Abilene and Lubbock will be worth watching in itself. I feel quite confident that the electorate in 2012 will be more Democratic than it was in 2002, which complicates things further for them. Especially if Chet Edwards loses, holding serve and protecting their incumbents may look pretty good to them. But who knows? As Molly Ivins once said, our state motto ought to be “Too much is never enough, and wretched excess is even more fun.” Why should this be any different?

Will they or won’t they field a challenger to Birdwell?

That’s the question for Democratic Part chairs in SD22.

According to several Democratic consultants and officials knowledgeable about strategic discussions, a number of factors are being considered.

These include the political makeup of the district, the cost of running a viable campaign and the impact a race could have on Democratic U. S. Rep. Chet Edwards’ re-election efforts.

[…]

Several Democrats noted there was a chance a state Senate contest could boost turnout in the conservative northern pocket of Edwards’ district, where Birdwell lives. That potentially could hurt Edwards in what’s predicted to be a close race against Bill Flores, R-Bryan.

However Jeff Rotkoff, an Austin-based Democratic consultant who has worked on a number of Central Texas campaigns, said he thought that argument was sometimes overstated.

“I understand why that’s a calculation people make, but when there have been particularly strong or weak candidates up and down the ballot, it’s never prevented Chet from being re-elected,” said Rotkoff, who works on Democratic state House races.

I’m with Jeff Rotkoff on this. Open Senate seats don’t come along every day. This one may be a longshot, but when you add in the possibility of Birdwell being knocked off the ballot for failing to meet residency requirements, the odds improve considerably. First, though, you need a Democratic challenger, then you file the lawsuit, and you see what happens. I see the risk of stirring up people who wouldn’t have otherwise voted by challenging Birdwell, on the ballot and in the courtroom, as being marginal. Go for it, y’all.

Census forms start arriving next week

Fill out those forms and send them back, because redistricting and all that it entails will follow close behind.

Experts’ early looks at Census estimates point to a potential new congressional district in northwest Harris County. That could be alluring to state Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, who represents the area in the Legislature.

A new Hispanic-majority congressional district is likely to find a home along Interstate 35 between San Antonio and Austin.

Another Hispanic-majority district probably will land in Dallas County. But because of population shifts to the suburbs, Dallas likely will lose a seat in the Texas House of Representatives.

The location of a fourth congressional district for Texas will be the subject of political debate a year from now.

I had always been under the impression that the fourth seat would be down along the Rio Grande. If you take a look at Steve Murdock’s map of where the population growth has been in Texas, it’s pretty obvious, as the four locations correspond to the three places mentioned in the Chron story, plus the southernmost border counties. That would very likely be a Democratic seat, which won’t go over too well with the Republicans, who will as the story notes try to make up for it by taking aim once again at Rep. Chet Edwards. Obviously, there are far too many factors involved here to give any kind of accurate projection of what will happen, but some things you can see coming from miles away.

Of course, for South Texas to have any hope of getting a new Congressional seat, there has to be a thorough count. The State of Texas hasn’t exactly been out in front of the issue.

With Census Day just a few weeks away, Texas finally has a point person to coordinate the state’s push for complete participation by its residents in the project.

On Tuesday, Gov. Rick Perry named Secretary of State Hope Andrade the Texas Census Ambassador.

[…]

For months, Hispanic civil rights groups, border city and county officials and state legislators have been urging Perry to get involved in Census 2010 by forming a statewide Complete Census Count Committee. Groups like the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund have argued that Perry could have been better utilizing the enormous resources state agencies have to promote full participation in the Census. Up until now Perry has resisted such calls.

MALDEF staff attorney Luis Figueroa pointed out that more than 35 states have so far set up Complete Census Count Committees. “Obviously, with all the obstacles that we have, such as the hard to count communities and the colonias, Texas is really a state that needs to be proactive with the census,” Figueroa said.

State Rep. Mike Villarreal, D-San Antonio, was the first elected official in Texas to call on Perry to set up a statewide Complete Census Count Committee.

“The stakes are high,” Villarreal said, in a letter to Perry last October. “Promoting participation in the census will improve our state’s chances of attaining the federal funding and political representation that our growing population deserves. If we succeed, we will receive more of our own tax dollars back from the federal government, easing our ability to meet our needs in transportation, education, health and human services and other ideas.”

Villarreal’s letter prompted calls in the Guardian in November for Perry to set up a statewide Complete Count Committee. The calls came from Edinburg Mayor Richard Garcia, McAllen Mayor Richard Cortez, state Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen, and McAllen Economic Development Corporation President and CEO Keith Patridge.

Here’s a copy of the letter Villarreal sent to Perry back in October, and here’s a story from February in which Villarreal called on Perry again to take this step. I know Perry’s been busy lately fighting off the depredations of the federal government single-handedly, but if he had the time to do this now, he had the time to do it six months ago. It just wasn’t a priority for him. A release from Villarreal about Perry’s appointment of Andrade is beneath the fold, and Texas Politics has more.

(more…)

BAE Systems

I have four things to say about this story, concerning Sealy-based SAE Systems and the $2.6 billion contract with the Defense Department to build Army trucks that it’s on the verge of losing after 17 years. We first heard about this in September; BAE Systems has been appealing the decision since then.

Texas Republican Gov. Rick Perry and the 34-member Senate-House delegation are rallying to salvage a deal for BAE Systems that could be worth $2.6 billion and sustain 10,000 direct and indirect jobs around the sprawling truck manufacturing plant in Sealy.

[…]

The setback for Texas illustrates just how far the state’s political leverage has plummeted since Sen. Lloyd Bentsen, D-Houston, helped BAE’s predecessor win the initial contract in 1991 under President George H.W. Bush, and Sens. Phil Gramm, R-College Station, and Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Dallas, helped the company retain the contract in 2001 under President George W. Bush.

“We never saw this coming — we were completely blindsided,” says a top aide to Sen. John Cornyn, R-San Antonio, a former member of the Senate Armed Services Committee panel with jurisdiction over military vehicles.

Lawmakers and BAE officials alike felt “sucker punched,” added David Davis, a top Hutchison aide. “ ‘Shocked’ doesn’t begin to describe it.”

Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Austin, whose Austin-to-Houston district includes the plant, learned of the Army’s decision while driving to an appearance in his district in late August.

1. Funny, isn’t it, how the federal government is evil and fascistic and doesn’t create any jobs by spending money, except for stuff like this.

2. Am I the only one who thinks that Rick Perry, John Cornyn, and Kay Bailey Hutchison maybe aren’t the best possible representatives to intercede with the Obama administration on BAE’s behalf? I mean, call me crazy, but I don’t think there’s a whole lot of goodwill built up to call on. If I were them, I’d beg Chet Edwards to take the point on this.

3. The story touches on Texas’ loss of clout, but fails to explore the reason for it: the 2003 Tom DeLay-engineered re-redistricting, one result of which was the cashiering of 80+ years of Democratic Congressional seniority. It sure would be nice to have someone like Martin Frost at Rep. Edwards’ side working on this, wouldn’t it?

4. How exactly is it that none of McCaul, Cornyn, and Hutchison had any idea this was coming? I have a hard time believing these processes are so leakproof that there was no advance warning of it. Were there really no little birdies whispering anything into these guys’ ears that something bad was about to happen to their district or state?

I feel like there’s more to this than what’s been reported so far. What do you think? PDiddie has more.

Challenging Chet

Via Eye on Williamson, I see the national GOP is once again looking to try to beat Rep. Chet Edwards in CD17.

There’s little question Republicans are looking to target Rep. Chet Edwards (D-Texas), who could face yet another tough re-election in his solidly conservative Waco-based seat. The question is who his opponent will be.

Both experienced and inexperienced Republicans are preparing their Federal Election Commission forms in Texas’ 17th district, encouraged by a strong showing by poorly funded 2008 nominee Rob Curnock.

Curnock held Edwards to 53 percent of the vote, despite receiving almost no support from the national party. Curnock, a small-business owner from Waco, plans to run again and hopes this time he’ll receive more support from national and local party leaders.

I think the key here is to compare Edwards’ 2004 performance with his 2008 performance, since I believe the non-Presidential year will be more favorable to him as it was in 2006. Here’s a Google spreadsheet that compares Edwards’ performance in each of CD17’s counties to John Kerry in 2004 and to Barack Obama in 2008. What I did in each was compare Edwards’ performance to that of the Democratic presidential candidate, and then compared the ratio from 2004 to that of 2008.

I think the story of these two elections is in the three biggest counties: Brazos, Johnson, and McClennan. In 2004, Edwards barely eked out a plurality in Brazos, got clobbered in Johnson, and won big in McClennan. In 2008, Edwards won a solid majority in Brazos, improved noticeably in Johnson, and won a smaller majority in McClennan.

His improvement in Brazos, I believe, can be largely attributed to an overall improvement in Democratic performance there. John McCain got almost exactly as many votes as George Bush did, while Barack Obama added over 4000 votes to John Kerry’s tally; meanwhile, Curnock did almost as well as Arlene Wohlgemuth while Edwards increased his total by 5000 votes. While there were probably a few Wohlgemuth voters who switched to Edwards in 2008, for the most part there were just a lot more people voting Democratic.

By contrast, Edwards’ improvement in Johnson is all him. McCain gained 1800 votes over Bush, and Obama added 600 to Kerry’s total, leaving their percentage almost identical to 2004, while Curnock lost 1500 votes and Edwards added 4200. Clearly, Curnock was a weaker candidate than Wohlgemuth, who was also from Johnson County and surely benefited from being a hometown girl, but Edwards did more than just take advantage of that difference.

Finally, McClennan presents an interesting case. Edwards won it by 23,000 votes in 2004, and was in net negative territory everywhere else. In 2008, he would have won even if all of McClennan’s votes were thrown out, but he only carried McClennan by 16,000 votes, and that was with Obama getting 37% to Kerry’s 33%. Here, Curnock’s residency in Waco likely helped him. Similarly, a local issue having to do with water rights that Edwards tied around Wohlgemuth’s neck back in 2004 was not on the table this time around. Unlike Johnson County, not being Arlene Wohlgemuth, especially not being Arlene Wohlgemuth in 2004, worked to the GOP’s advantage.

Based on all this, I’d venture that Edwards will likely do fine in 2010, barring any national headwinds against the Dems. If the NRCC dream candidate of State Sen. Steve Ogden jumps in, that would make for a hell of a race, but Ogden is up for re-election himself in 2010, so he’d have to give up his Senate seat and his powerful spot as chair of the Finance Committee to do that. I don’t know that a chance to maybe be in the House minority is worth that, but we’ll see.

That other budget

I’ve spent a lot of time lately talking about the state budget – more than the Lege has spent, I daresay – but while this is happening there’s also the federal budget, the first one President Obama has proposed, to be debated and amended and eventually passed. I’m not going to get into the details of it, because there’s about a zillion other blogs that follow the national stuff more closely than I do and you’d be better served going to them for the nitty gritty, but I do want to say a couple of things about the process.

The first step in the process is the House Budget Committee, on which Texas Rep. and Vice Presidential contender Chet Edwards sits. My main hope here is that every Democrat on that committee, especially those who wear the “moderate” or “centrist” labels (whether they are self-defined or media-bestowed), has learned something about the Republicans from the stimulus debate. In particular, what I hope they’ve learned is that the Republicans don’t have any actual interest in passing a good budget. They’re in full-on opposition mode, bound and determined to say “No!” more often than Audrey does these days, and at the end of the day unless the budget eliminates spending and taxes altogether, they’re going to vote against it, most likely in unanimous fashion as they did with the stimulus package despite President Obama’s much-touted efforts to reach out to them. That’s perfectly logical as a political strategy, and everybody should be able to see this coming a mile away, but I fear that it won’t stop the “moderates” from trying to placate them to some degree, in the inevitably vain hope that they can buy some crossover support. I’m sorry, but that just ain’t gonna happen. We’ve seen their dance moves before: Scream about anything that can be turned into a sound bite in order to press for its removal, vote against the final bill regardless of how successful they are in altering it to their liking, then claim credit for any benefit it brings to their district while simultaneously slamming it for being wasteful. It’s as predictable as a slasher movie, yet the temptation to open that door anyway persists.

This doesn’t mean you can’t engage with the Republicans. If against all odds they offer up a good amendment on something, go ahead and consider it on its merits, and vote for or against it as you see fit. As long as you recognize that the outcome of that vote is independent of the outcome of the final vote, it’s all good. Similarly, by all means voice whatever objections you have to the bill, and work to make it better in whatever way you see fit. (Assuming it really is about making it better, and not about making headlines.) Again, just remember that there is no Republican support to be had in the end.

I know, I know – fish gotta swim, birds gotta fly, Democrats gotta bend and cajole and give. It’s the natural order of things. But hey, I can hope. And as long as I’m wishing for ponies, let me throw in a plea to avoid the pointless kabuki-ing about earmarks and “pork”. Let’s put aside the fact that earmarks constitute a tiny percentage of the budget, and that if these bellyachers were serious about “waste, fraud, and abuse” they’d turn their sights on the defense budget. The fact is that it’s very easy to play dumb about any number of line items in a budget and ignorantly pretend that because it sounds a little funny it must be wasteful. Republicans are a master of that, and they often get gullible mainstream journalists and pundits to play along – see, for example, Lisa Falkenberg and her silly remark about “the porkiest of pork projects, a study on why pigs smell“. (Hey, Lisa, let me Google that for you. I know how busy you must be churning out two columns a week. You’re welcome.) To paraphrase Colonel Flagg, don’t play dumb on this. They’re better at it than you are.

So anyway. There’s a lot to be hopeful about in the budget process, as we have the opportunity to change directions in a significant way after nearly thirty years. As Matt Yglesias observes, Democrats and progressives don’t get this kind of opportunity very often, but when they do they can have a profound and long-lasting effect. It’s up to them to take advantage, and up to those of us who want that to happen to remind them of that.