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Libertarian Party

I’m not that worried about the Green Party effect in Texas

It’s not nothing, but it’s unlikely to be much.

Texas House Bill 2504, passed along party lines by the state’s Republican-controlled Legislature in May and signed into law by Republican Gov. Greg Abbott in June, lowers the threshold that minor political parties — defined in the law as parties that nominate by convention, as opposed to by primary — must meet to have their candidates appear on the ballot.

Under the new law, a third party’s candidates can qualify to appear on the ballot if any one of them got 2 percent of the vote in a statewide race in the last five elections. Previously, a third party’s candidates earned a spot on the ballot if any one of them won 5 percent of the vote in any of the most recent statewide elections.

The law also requires minor parties to pay a filing fee to ensure their candidate actually appears on the ballot — or collect the required amount of signatures under existing Texas ballot access laws within a certain amount of time. (For 2020, under state statute, the number of signatures would be more than 83,000, the equivalent of 1 percent of the total votes cast in the last governor’s race). Previously, filing fees had only been required for the two major political parties.

Republican supporters of HB 2504 say it bolsters the electoral system by both making it easier for smaller parties to have access to the ballot and by evening the playing field for such access.

But a far greater number of critics — including political scientists, Democratic Party and progressive strategists, as well as the two most prominent third parties in Texas — say the bill is designed to pull votes from Democratic candidates by making it easier for Green Party candidates, who are more likely to attract disaffected Democratic voters, to appear on the ballot.

The result could prove to make a defining difference in a handful of closely watched races in an increasingly purple Texas, including its U.S. Senate race where Sen. John Cornyn is up for re-election, a number of state House races and possibly even the presidential race — although Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein won 0.8 percent of the vote in 2016 and only 0.3 percent in 2012.

“When you hear about Republicans trying to get Green Party candidates on the ballot, it really makes you wonder what’s going on. Because, obviously, they’re not aligned — today’s GOP is not engaged at all with issues dear to the Green Party,” said Paul Brace, a political science professor at Rice University, in Houston, who specializes in state politics. “And the reality is that allowing the Greens on the ballot helps Republicans, and so there’s good reason to be cynical about this.”

Most of what I would have to say in response to this I said in this piece, where I discussed HB2504. I’ll add two things to that here. One is that third party voters in a given race have, I believe, an assortment of reasons for doing what they did. One conclusion I drew from that is that downballot statewide candidates – both Republicans and Democrats – would probably benefit from more resources being invested in their races. Republicans have had a very strong brand in Texas this century, though there are signs it is weakening. Democrats have a chance to improve their brand, and if they do I believe they’ll be better positioned to retain voters who might have strayed to a Libertarian or Green candidate in previous elections.

The other thing is that the real issue with third party candidates – and independents, and to a much smaller degree write-ins, too – is that they enable a situation where someone can win with less than a majority of the vote. If someone can get to the magical fifty percent plus one, then who cares if the ballot also included Libertarians, Greens, Bull Mooses, or the Very Silly Party. When a candidate does win with just a plurality, as I said above it’s often hard to determine what the “other” voters were thinking, or what they might have done in a two-person race. I get the conventional wisdom that making it easier for Greens to qualify is likely to benefit Republicans, if it benefits anyone. I certainly believe that the Republicans believe that, and passed this bill for that reason. We are in a situation where control of the State House could come down to one race, and there are certainly going to be plenty of close ones this cycle. I don’t dismiss the possibility that we’ll all be cursing the fates and the Greens next November. But I’m also not going to over-value it, either. If we Dems do our jobs, we’ll maximize our returns. That’s the best way to think about it.

Libertarians and Greens sue over the petition process for ballot access

We’ll see about this.

Mark Miller

Ahead of the 2020 election cycle, a group of Texans, along with a number of nonmajor political parties, have sued the secretary of state’s office, alleging that Texas election law discriminates against third-party and independent candidates vying for a spot on the general election ballot.

In a lawsuit filed Thursday in Austin, plaintiffs argued that current state law would give nonmajor political parties in 2020 just 75 days to obtain over 80,000 valid signatures to gain ballot access — and that the cost of doing so could cost more than $600,000.

Currently, third parties like the Green Party and the Libertarian Party can secure a spot on the general election ballot by either having at least one candidate who wins more than 5% of the vote in a statewide race during the previous election cycle, or by collecting a certain number of required signatures. That 5% threshold will soon be lowered to 2% of the vote in one of the past five general elections once a measure that passed the Texas Legislature this year takes effect Sept. 1.

Candidates unaffiliated with a political party, meanwhile, are allowed access to the general election ballot as long as they file the required paperwork and gather a certain number of signatures, which depends on which office they’re seeking.

For both third-party and independent candidates, signatures must come from registered voters who did not vote in either the Republican or Democratic primaries or participate in another party’s convention that year.

“Collecting signatures by hand is inherently time-consuming, labor-intensive and expensive,” Mark Miller, a plaintiff in the case and a two-time Libertarian candidate for Texas Railroad Commission, said in a news release. “And collecting 80,000-plus valid signatures in the limited time allowed under Texas law is all but impossible without spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to hire paid petition circulators.”

In the lawsuit, plaintiffs suggested that Texas could modernize its signature petition procedure to help alleviate the burden they say has been placed on them. Plaintiffs pointed to Arizona, which they said has a secretary of state who recently implemented an online platform to allow voters to sign nomination petitions electronically — instead of in person and on paper.

Let me start by saying that if the minor parties win the right to collect electronic petition signatures so their candidates can get on the ballot in a state where electronic voter registration is illegal, that will be infuriating. The latter is by far the bigger affront to democracy.

Before I get to the main part of my analysis, let me add some more details about this from the Statesman.

State law offers three paths for candidates to land on the general election ballot:

Political parties that received at least 20 percent of the vote in the previous election for governor nominate their candidates for state and county office and the U.S. Congress via primary elections, with the winners advancing to the general election. “Since at least 1900, only the Democratic Party and Republican Party have qualified,” the lawsuit said.

Major-party candidates pay filing fees ranging from $75 to $5,000 or by submitting petitions with 5,000 signatures for statewide office. The law does not set a time limit on when they can begin collecting those signatures, the lawsuit said. Minor parties must nominate general-election candidates at a convention where participants equal at least 1% of the number of Texans who voted for governor in the prior election, or 83,717 participants in 2020. No minor party has met the 1% requirement in at least 50 years, the lawsuit said, but Texas law allows candidates to collect voter signatures within a 75-day window to make up the difference.

The tight deadline and limits on who may sign the petitions – registered voters cannot sign if they voted in a recent primary, attended another party’s convention or signed another party’s nominating petition for the same election – put minor-party candidates at a significant disadvantage, the lawsuit said.

Independent candidates are allowed on the general election ballot if they collect petition signatures equal to 1% of the voters in the previous gubernatorial election. Petitions cannot be circulated until after the major parties hold a primary or primary runoff election, meaning candidates could have 114 days, or as little as 30 days, to collect signatures, the lawsuit said. “This uncertainty alone imposes a significant burden that chills potential candidacies,” the lawsuit said.

Having to collect about 80,000 valid signatures by hand can cost $600,000, largely to hire people to circulate petitions, the lawsuit said. The result is an election scheme that makes it difficult, if not impossible, for candidates who are not wealthy to participate in the political arena, said Oliver Hall, a lawyer with the nonprofit Center for Competitive Democracy, which worked on the lawsuit without charge along with the Shearman & Sterling law firm, which has an office in Austin. “We think the federal courts will recognize that Supreme Court precedent prohibits Texas from limiting participation in its electoral process to those with financial means,” Hall said.

So the first thing to realize is that this cycle is an especially challenging one for parties or candidates who need to go the petition route to get on the ballot. That includes the Libertarians, whose best performance in 2018 was 3.42% in the Comptroller’s race. The Libertarians and to a lesser extent the Greens have benefited in the past from the Democrats not competing in all of the statewide judicial races, leaving at least one slot with a Republican running against an L and a G, with the two of them combining for 20% or so of the vote; there were two such races in 2014. In 2018 Dems had candidates in all of the judicial races, and that left the Libertarians (the Greens were not on the ballot because none of their candidates got to five percent in 2016) out in the cold. The other thing about 2018, you might recall, is that it shattered records for off-year turnout, which is why that “one percent of the Governor’s race” (*) requirement is as high as it is. Had the Ls and Gs needed petition signatures for 2016, they’d have only needed about 47,000 of them based on gubernatorial turnout from 2014. In addition, primary turnout, especially on the Dem side, is going to be through the roof, meaning that the pool of eligible petition-signers will be that much smaller. However you feel about the plight of the minor parties and would-be independents, this is a bad year to have to collect petition signatures.

The other fact to reckon with is that this isn’t the first time a federal lawsuit (which this one is, according to the Statesman) has been filed over this requirement. Back in 2004, after Ralph Nader tried and failed to get enough signatures to be on the ballot as an independent Presidential candidate, he sued and ultimately lost; his subsequent appeal was rejected. Federal judge Lee Yeakel ruled at the time that Texas’ ballot access laws did not create an unconstitutional burden. I’m not exactly sure what is different this time, other than the number of plaintiffs, but who knows. This is the main question, at least as far as I’m concerned, that will need to be addressed. I’ll be keeping an eye on it.

For what it’s worth, while I have no warmth for the third parties, I’d be all right with a petition process that gave them more time, and even that allowed them to solicit any voter, not just non-primary voters. If and when we get electronic voter registration, I’d concede on the electronic petition gathering item. Beyond that, I don’t see much of a problem. We’ll see what the judge says.

(*) There were 8,343,443 votes cast in the 2018 Governor’s race, one percent of which is 83,434. I have no idea where that 83,717 figure comes from, unless it’s some kind of weird typo.

A strange way to improve ballot access

Hard not to see partisan motives in this.

Rep. Drew Springer

A bill on track to reach Gov. Greg Abbott’s desk appears designed to make it easier for Green Party candidates and harder for Libertarian candidates to get on the Texas ballot in 2020. Democrats say House Bill 2504 is a ploy by Republicans to boost their reelection bids while siphoning off votes from Democrats.

The bill from state Rep. Drew Springer, R-Muenster, would make two major changes to how candidates with non-major parties run for office in Texas. The bill would require those candidates to either pay filing fees or secure a certain number of signatures to get on a November ballot. It also changes the threshold for guaranteeing a party a place on the ballot. The former provision could lead to fewer Libertarians running in 2020. The latter would mean the Green Party would likely earn a spot on the November ballot that year.

The bill tentatively passed the Senate on Sunday on a party-line 19-12 vote. If the chamber gives it final approval, it will head to the governor’s desk.

Currently in Texas, Democrats and Republicans have to either pay a filing fee or secure a certain number of signatures to get on their party’s primary ballot. Texas filing fees for a candidate range from $75 for county surveyor to $5,000 for U.S. senator.

The Libertarian Party, meanwhile, has avoided those requirements while routinely gaining a spot on the general election ballot by meeting a different threshold: at least one of its candidates has managed to win more than 5% of the vote in a statewide race during the previous election cycle.

Springer’s bill would lower that ballot-access threshold for third parties to 2% of the vote in one of the last five general elections — a bar that the Green Party could also clear. In 2010, the Green Party candidate for comptroller drew 6% of the vote.

[…]

An earlier version of the bill only had the filing fee provision. When the bill reached the House floor earlier this month, Springer proposed an amendment that added the new ballot threshold language. The amendment passed after less than a minute of discussion, catching some House Democrats off guard amid an intense evening session of the House in which dozens of bills were heard.

Springer told The Texas Tribune that he added the floor amendment because the current threshold for parties to gain ballot access “protects the two-party system too much.” It isn’t specifically targeting the Green Party, he said.

“Republicans are not afraid to give Texans more choice,” he added.

Pat Dixon, former state chair of the Texas Libertarian Party, testified against the bill last week at a Senate State Affairs Committee hearing. Dixon said the bill would unfairly force Libertarians to pay filing fees in addition to the cost of their nominating convention.

When Democratic and Republican candidates pay filing fees to run for an office, the money helps pay for the election. Under HB 2504, third-party candidates would pay the same filing fees, but the money would go toward state or local funds, but not funds specifically devoted to running elections.

The obvious partisan motive here is that Green candidates are widely believed to siphon votes away from Democrats, while Libertarians are believed to do the same to Republicans. I have little use for third parties, but the basic principle that ballot access should not be needlessly burdensome is one I support. That said, if the actual Libertarian Party says that this bill will hurt them rather than help them, I think it’s a little difficult to say that the bill is a principled effort to be more inclusive to third parties. I mean, the Libertarians were doing just fine getting their candidates on the ballot under the existing system. Just leave them alone and do no harm, you know?

By the way, when I say that Ls and Gs are “widely believed” to take away votes from Rs and Ds, I mean that’s the accepted wisdom but I’m not aware of any hard research that puts a formula to it. I have my own theories about third party voters, which you can agree with or argue with as you see fit. I do think there’s room for Democrats to minimize the vote share they lose to third parties in statewide races – not just Greens – and it will take one part better candidates, one part better party branding, and one part better outreach, which is another way of saying that they’ll need to have enough resources to ensure that their intended voters have sufficient information about all the candidates on their statewide ballot. It’s possible that in the long run this could lead to fewer votes for Greens statewide, as Dems will be better positioned in the coming years to compete in the downballot races as well as at the top of the ticket. For sure, this bill should be at least as much of an incentive to work harder for the Dems as it is for any other party. And you can be sure that when the votes are all counted in 2020, I’ll look to see what if any effects of this bill I can find.

No Greens

Can’t honestly say I’m sorry.

Jan Richards

When Texans head to the ballot box this November, they’ll be able to vote for Republicans, Democrats or Libertarians.

If they want to choose a candidate affiliated with another political group, they might have to write in the name of their chosen candidate. That’s because five other political parties seeking to get on the ballot — America’s Party of Texas, the Christian Party of Texas, the Green Party of Texas, None of the Above and the Texas Independent Party — didn’t secure the 47,183 valid signatures needed for ballot access this fall.

“We only got like 400 or 500 signatures out of the 50,000 that we need,” said Jan Richards, a Green Party of Texas candidate who’s running for governor.

“It’s a challenge. There’s really no other way to describe it — and they definitely don’t make it easy,” said Andy Prior, the former state chairman for America’s Party of Texas who’s also the party’s nominee for land commissioner. According to its website, America’s Party supports a pro-life and pro-liberty platform. It collected less than 250 signatures.

All five of the parties that missed out filed the necessary paperwork with the Texas Secretary of State’s office in order to gain ballot access this November, spokesman Sam Taylor said. That kicked off a 75-day period that began March 13 to get the signatures needed. But the deadline passed at midnight on Wednesday, and none collected enough.

[…]

In order to get their candidates on the general election ballot without a petition, parties must have at least one candidate win more than 5 percent of the vote in a statewide race during the previous election cycle. Libertarian petroleum engineer Mark Miller barely cleared that hurdle for his party in 2016, winning 5.3 percent of the vote in the race against Railroad Commissioner Wayne Christian.

The two parties other than the Democrats and Republicans that often collect enough votes in the previous election to secure ballot access for the following cycle are the Libertarians and the Greens.

But the Green Party, which runs on a liberal platform and is sometimes blamed for siphoning off votes from Democratic candidates, fell short in 2016 after Democrats fielded candidates in every statewide judicial race for the first time since 2010. The Green Party typically has relied on judicial races that lack Democratic candidates to reach the 5 percent threshold.

Yeah, darn those dirty Democrats and their dastardly tactic of running candidates in every race. The Greens were not on the ballot in 2006 and 2008 and were heading to be in the same position in 2010 when they got a bing financial boost from a Republican backer, followed by a favorable ruling from the Supreme Court. Not happening this time, I guess. Which among other things is a missed opportunity for them, as the Dems did not field a candidate in one Court of Criminal Appeals race this year. Better luck next time, y’all.

Note that this is just for statewide ballot access. The Greens and the Libertarians can still nominate candidates for Congress, the Lege, county offices, and so forth. If you want to know who they are and what they’re running for, well, the Texas Green Party website lists three would-have-been statewide contenders and one candidate for a school board, while the Harris County Green Party has bupkis. I don’t know what their plans are, and as you might surmise I don’t really care, but you may see a Greenie or two on your ballot in November anyway. Just not for a statewide race.

Don’t expect the Kathie Glass effect to be much

Seems like every four years we talk about the possible effect of third party candidates on various races. Usually, it’s in the context of legislative races, where some candidates have won with less than 50% in recent years and one could make a case that the presence of a (usually) Libertarian candidate might have had an effect on the outcome. The subject came up for the Governor’s race a little while back, and I’m here to tamp down on any irrational exuberance.

Hop on the bus, Gus. Or don’t. Your call.

Don’t forget 1990.

That was the year a third-party candidate made a potentially game-changing difference in the Texas governor’s race, drawing slightly more than the number of votes separating Democratic winner Ann Richards from Republican Clayton Williams.

And while third-party gubernatorial candidates did not participate in Friday’s debate between Greg Abbott and Wendy Davis, they could help decide who will be the next governor of Texas.

“Third-party candidates can mean a big difference in close elections,” said Allan Saxe, an associate political science professor at the University of Texas at Arlington. “Third parties can rarely win. Generally, [they] play a spoiler role.”

[…]

Observers say this year’s Nov. 4 general election could provide a number of close races where a third-party candidate might change the entire dynamics of a race.

“In these contests there exists the possibility that were one or more third-party candidates not on the ballot … the outcome of the election would [be] different,” said Mark P. Jones, a political science professor at Rice University in Houston.

[…]

Political analysts say third-party candidates could make a difference in the governor’s race.

Abbott, the state’s attorney general and GOP nominee, squares off against Davis, a state senator from Fort Worth and Democratic nominee. Libertarian Kathie Glass and Green Party candidate Brandon Parmer are in the race as well.

If the race tightens up, Glass and Parmer combined could draw as little as 4 percent of the vote and impact the result.

“That could mean the difference in a very close election,” Saxe said.

After all, in 1990, Richards won by claiming 99,239 more votes than Williams, and Libertarian Jeff Daiell earned 129,128 votes.

“Overall, the principal impact of the Libertarian Party and Green Party candidates this fall will be to provide voters with a different perspective on how to address many of the key challenges facing the state today,” Jones said.

A key example, he said, is Glass, “who is far and away running the most visible and vibrant campaign of any third-party candidate in Texas.”

I will admit, I saw the Kathie Glass Bus on the side of the road as we were heading back from Austin on 290 a couple of weeks ago. I was tempted to take a picture of it, but I was driving at the time, and I didn’t think Tiffany would have appreciated me hauling out my cellphone at that moment. Maybe some other time. In any event, I will admit that as far as that goes, Glass’ campaign has been more visible than some other Libertarian campaigns of recent years.

Nonetheless, I’m going to play spoiler as well. Here’s a compilation of all third-party candidate performances in Texas gubernatorial races since 1990. See if you can spot the problem.

Year Lib Green Other Total Win % ======================================== 1990 3.32 0 0.30 3.62 48.19 1994 0.64 0 0 0.64 49.68 1998 0.55 0 0.02 0.57 49.72 2002 1.46 0.70 0.05 2.21 48.90 2006 0.60 0 0.01 0.61 49.69 2010 2.19 0.39 0.14 2.72 48.64

Notice how in none of these six elections how the combined Lib and Green (and write-in, which is what the Other above represents) total has reached four percent? In fact, outside of 1990, it’s never reached three percent? This could be the year that it happens – the Kathie Glass Bus is quite impressive, after all – but if you’re going to write this story, you ought to acknowledge the history. Don’t get our hopes up without justification.

It’s my opinion from looking at as many election results as I’ve seen over the years that the higher the profile the race, the lower the ceiling for third party candidates, our wacky 2006 Governor’s race excepted. Honestly, outside of the hardest of the hardcore political junkies and members of the third parties themselves, I doubt more than a handful of people even know who the L and G nominees are. With all due respect to Kathie Glass and her bus, the people that will be voting for her are basically the people that always vote Libertarian and the people that for whatever the reason didn’t like the nominee from the party that they tend to vote for no matter how much they protest their “independence”. Frankly, if the base party vote is reasonably close to even overall – which at this point I don’t think is likely, but I could be wrong – the place where an L and/or G candidate could affect the outcome is down ballot. I went through this exercise before, to show that one doesn’t need to get 50% of the vote to win most statewide races in Texas due to the presence of other candidates, and as you can see the higher totals for third party candidates tend to be in the lower profile races. I’m not saying that Kathie Glass and Brandon Parmer can’t have an effect on the outcome of the Governor’s race. I am saying that if I had to pick one race where there might be an effect, I’d probably pick Railroad Commissioner or Supreme Court justice. I promise to look at this again after the election.

Precinct analysis: Third parties revisited

Politico has a question.

Is Austin’s Travis County the nation’s Libertarian Party stronghold?

The co-founders of a Libertarian political action committee based there make that case, arguing that the Texas locale is the “most Libertarian large county in America.”

Wes Benedict and Arthur DiBianca of Libertarian Booster PAC note that 31 Libertarian candidates were on the Travis County ballot this year, more than any other county in America. Among the other stats they cite:

  • Libertarian presidential nominee Gary Johnson won 2.7% there, his highest percentage nationwide for large counties outside his home state of New Mexico.
  • Four Libertarians got over 40% of the vote for the portion of their district within Travis County
  • The current chairman of the national party, Geoffrey Neale, lives in Travis County, and 2004 Libertarian presidential nominee Michael Badnarik had previously run for office as a Libertarian in Travis County, and his presidential campaign headquarters were located in Travis County.

Their argument makes some sense – certainly there’s a strong libertarian bent in tech-heavy communities like Travis County.

We reviewed this before, and indeed Travis was the best county in the state for Johnson. It was also the second-Greenest county in the state, so I think it’s more a matter of iconoclasm than Libertarianism. For the record, those four Libertarians with over 40% of the vote were the candidate in CD17, plus three statewide judicial candidates. All were the sole opponents to Republicans, and I say that’s more about anti-Republicanism than pro-Libertarianism. Besides, as we’ve also seen, Libertarian Railroad Commissioner candidate Jaime Perez did better than that in several Latino-heavy counties, winning a majority of the vote in Maverick and Webb even though he also had a Green opponent. The simple fact is that in areas that are dominated by one party, Ls and Gs serve as the default option in races where that party isn’t represented. This doesn’t detract from the claim that Travis County has a large number of people willing to push the L button – relatively speaking, anyway – just that one needs to be aware of the qualifications.

Reading that story made me decide to go back to the Harris County precinct data to see where the Lib and Green friendly areas were. I broke this down into three sets of races, since obviously not every race featured an L and/or a G. The first set is the top of the ticket, the Presidential race and the Senate race. Here’s how the L and G candidates did in those races in each State Rep district:

Dist Johnson Stein J Pct S Pct Myers Collins M Pct C Pct ================================================================ 126 531 160 0.92% 0.28% 903 424 1.58% 0.74% 127 587 208 0.88% 0.31% 977 491 1.48% 0.74% 128 450 129 0.80% 0.23% 791 325 1.43% 0.59% 129 781 284 1.21% 0.44% 1,216 582 1.90% 0.91% 130 693 199 0.99% 0.29% 1,143 480 1.65% 0.69% 131 196 93 0.45% 0.21% 384 297 0.89% 0.69% 132 549 151 1.03% 0.28% 908 405 1.72% 0.77% 133 815 241 1.12% 0.33% 1,187 561 1.65% 0.78% 134 1,114 436 1.34% 0.53% 1,697 898 2.08% 1.10% 135 548 162 1.01% 0.30% 881 447 1.63% 0.83% 137 289 113 1.17% 0.46% 486 322 2.01% 1.33% 138 540 161 1.17% 0.35% 795 403 1.73% 0.88% 139 260 132 0.51% 0.26% 513 392 1.01% 0.77% 140 152 66 0.64% 0.28% 223 215 0.96% 0.92% 141 142 56 0.37% 0.15% 282 169 0.74% 0.45% 142 166 93 0.40% 0.22% 352 271 0.85% 0.66% 143 189 104 0.62% 0.34% 336 304 1.11% 1.01% 144 238 90 0.98% 0.37% 371 241 1.55% 1.01% 145 273 161 0.92% 0.54% 481 342 1.65% 1.17% 146 376 190 0.74% 0.38% 624 438 1.25% 0.88% 147 583 304 1.06% 0.56% 944 685 1.75% 1.27% 148 640 282 1.62% 0.71% 947 553 2.43% 1.42% 149 347 131 0.80% 0.30% 594 358 1.40% 0.84% 150 598 157 0.92% 0.24% 976 478 1.51% 0.74%

The percentages here are calculated from the four-candidate totals. For comparison purposes, Libertarian Gary Johnson had 0.93% overall in Harris County, and Green Jill Stein had 0.35%; in the Senate races, John Jay Myers had 1.54% and David Collins had 0.86%. Everyone who had HD148 as the most third-party-friendly district in Harris County, come forward and collect your winnings. You would have guessed HD134, am I right? That district isn’t as Montrose-y as it used to be, which I suspect is the reason for its runnerup status. At the other end of the scale, note how third-party-resistant the African-American districts were – all but HD147 were well below the countywide levels of L and G support. Republican districts in general were also third-party-averse, with only HDs 134 and 129 overperforming for them. This is what you should expect for Presidential and Senate races – as the highest-profile races, and the ones that tend to have the fewest undervotes, people are going to stick with their home teams unless they’re crossing over for a specific reason. Once we get past these races, however, it’s a different story. There were two other statewide races that had an R, a D, an L, and a G – the Railroad Commissioner race that featured Christi Craddick, Dale Henry, Vivekananda (Vik) Wall, and Chris Kennedy; and the Supreme Court race between Nathan Hecht, Michele Petty, Mark Ash, and Jim Chisholm. Here’s how that played out for the L and G candidates.

Dist Wall Kennedy W Pct K Pct Ash Chisholm A Pct C Pct ================================================================ 126 951 758 1.69% 1.35% 1,240 530 2.22% 0.95% 127 1,060 922 1.63% 1.42% 1,438 620 2.22% 0.96% 128 785 757 1.44% 1.39% 1,117 512 2.05% 0.94% 129 1,387 1,174 2.21% 1.87% 1,677 727 2.69% 1.17% 130 1,183 861 1.74% 1.26% 1,668 607 2.46% 0.89% 131 354 550 0.83% 1.28% 452 298 1.06% 0.70% 132 906 751 1.73% 1.44% 1,207 495 2.32% 0.95% 133 1,307 1,036 1.85% 1.47% 1,674 676 2.40% 0.97% 134 1,937 1,784 2.46% 2.27% 2,373 973 3.04% 1.24% 135 964 724 1.81% 1.36% 1,187 473 2.25% 0.90% 137 494 525 2.07% 2.20% 578 317 2.44% 1.34% 138 884 748 1.96% 1.66% 1,082 490 2.42% 1.09% 139 518 744 1.03% 1.47% 676 527 1.34% 1.05% 140 213 447 0.92% 1.94% 318 307 1.38% 1.34% 141 250 362 0.66% 0.96% 332 253 0.88% 0.67% 142 347 405 0.85% 0.99% 442 297 1.08% 0.73% 143 287 611 0.96% 2.05% 448 419 1.51% 1.42% 144 361 556 1.53% 2.35% 502 345 2.13% 1.46% 145 501 795 1.74% 2.77% 690 515 2.41% 1.80% 146 626 810 1.27% 1.65% 748 433 1.53% 0.88% 147 1,022 1,197 1.92% 2.25% 1,229 719 2.32% 1.36% 148 941 1,319 2.47% 3.47% 1,319 798 3.49% 2.11% 149 607 637 1.44% 1.51% 725 353 1.74% 0.85% 150 1,093 904 1.71% 1.42% 1,475 613 2.32% 0.97%

These results just fascinate me. The total number of L and G votes in each race was nearly the same – 38,476 in the RRC race, 36,993 in the Supreme Court race – but the distribution was completely different. Wall (19,036 for 1.65%) and Kennedy (19,440 for 1.68%) basically tied, while Ash (24,665 for 2.14%) doubled up Chisholm (12.328 for 1.07%). Look in each district, and you can basically see some number of people who voted for Kennedy in one race voting for Ash in the other? You may wonder why this is. It’s possible that Christi Craddick was more acceptable, and Dale Henry less so, to the “swing” third-party voters that otherwise vote R and D, with the reverse being true for Nathan Hecht and Michele Petty. There is something to that – Henry is on the verge of morphing into Gene Kelly, while Nathan Hecht has ethical baggage and nearly foisted Harriet Miers onto an unsuspecting US Supreme Court. The total number of voters involved here is tiny enough to include the possibility that they’re sophisticated enough to make such judgments. Personally, I think it’s more likely that we’re looking at roughly the same voters in each race, and that people picked Chris Kennedy over Vik Wall as their “none of the above” choice because Wall had a funny-sounding name. What do you think?

At the county level there were no four-way races, but there was a Green candidate running for Sheriff (Remington Alessi) and a Libertarian candidate running for Tax Assessor (Jesse Hopson). Here’s how they did in their respective races.

Dist Alessi A Pct Hopson H Pct =================================== 126 866 1.54% 1,291 2.30% 127 1,180 1.82% 1,632 2.51% 128 851 1.55% 1,156 2.12% 129 1,428 2.27% 1,866 2.98% 130 1,027 1.50% 1,695 2.50% 131 603 1.41% 534 1.25% 132 903 1.73% 1,294 2.49% 133 1,317 1.88% 1,804 2.58% 134 1,952 2.49% 2,458 3.15% 135 894 1.68% 1,279 2.42% 137 622 2.61% 695 2.93% 138 868 1.92% 1,225 2.73% 139 801 1.58% 844 1.68% 140 300 1.28% 357 1.55% 141 373 0.99% 366 0.97% 142 478 1.16% 497 1.21% 143 450 1.49% 488 1.64% 144 435 1.83% 524 2.22% 145 697 2.40% 777 2.71% 146 927 1.89% 895 1.83% 147 1,383 2.60% 1,369 2.58% 148 1,226 3.19% 1,437 3.79% 149 671 1.60% 834 1.99% 150 1,070 1.68% 1,547 2.44%

These are two different races, so Alessi and Hopson’s numbers aren’t directly comparable, but it’s still interesting to see them side by side. I take this as a data point in favor of the hypothesis that Libertarian candidates tend to draw support from Republicans; based on these numbers, they do so in somewhat greater quantity than Greens do from Dems. I wouldn’t draw too broad a conclusion from this sample – there was a lot of money in the Sheriff’s race, and that tends to minimize third party support. Then again, Alessi did actually campaign – if Hopson did, it was invisible to me – and there was some criticism of Sheriff Garcia from the left, so one might expect him to do better than a generic “none of the above” candidate. Make of it what you will.

I think that about runs me out of ideas for precinct analyses. One never knows where inspiration may strike, though, so don’t quote me on that. And there’s always next year, which is to say this year now. Until then, or until I come up with another angle at which to examine the data, we’ll call it a wrap on 2012.

The third parties

While I work my way through the precinct data in Harris County, we can keep looking at the county data for Texas from last week’s election. Here are the top and bottom ten counties by percentage of the vote for Libertarian Presidential candidate Gary Johnson:

County Johnson % County Johnson % ============================================== Travis 2.72% Throckmorton 0.00% Hays 2.46% Brooks 0.25% Brewster 2.35% Kimble 0.32% Williamson 2.22% Lipscomb 0.34% Jeff Davis 2.02% Parmer 0.35% Bastrop 1.90% Refugio 0.37% Brazos 1.87% Bailey 0.39% Caldwell 1.84% Zapata 0.40% Terrell 1.80% Dimmit 0.41% Blanco 1.71% Deaf Smith 0.42%

Travis County is a hotbed for third-party voting, and apparently that fever has spread to some of its neighbors. My guess is that more people there consider their Presidential vote to be meaningless, so they feel freer to use it for personal expression. I will add that the #12 county on the “most Libertarian” list is Loving County, where Johnson collected 1.56% of the vote. Of course, there were only 64 total votes cast in Loving County (2010 population: 82 residents), so that 1.56% represents exactly one voter. How would you like to say that you’re the only voter of your kind in your entire county? For what it’s worth, Travis was the only blue county in the top ten, while Brooks, Zapata, and Dimmit are all deep-blue Rio Grande counties. Only Blanco County was more than 70% red, while five of the top ten counties were between 50% and 60% Republican; of the bottom ten counties, all but Refugio among the Republican counties were at least 70% so.

By the way, Johnson did something that no other Libertarian Presidential candidate had ever done in Texas: He got more than 1% of the vote, 1.10% to be exact.

Here are the same lists for Green Party candidate Jill Stein:

County Stein % County Stein % ============================================== Brewster 0.91% Loving 0.00% Travis 0.87% Hudspeth 0.00% Borden 0.83% Hemphill 0.00% Foard 0.81% McMullen 0.00% Presidio 0.66% Oldham 0.00% Dallam 0.65% Sherman 0.00% Kinney 0.63% King 0.00% Delta 0.59% Kenedy 0.00% Jeff Davis 0.59% Floyd 0.00% Blanco 0.58% Martin 0.00%

Note: that’s “Dallam” County in Stein’s top ten list, not “Dallas”. There is Travis again, giving Stein not just a relatively high percentage but also a huge share of her total vote: The 3,360 Greenies in Travis County represented nearly one-seventh of Stein’s final total of 24,450 votes. Only three other counties appeared on both Stein and Johnson’s lists, and outside of Travis they’re all small to tiny; besides Brewster (35 votes for Stein) and Blanco (29 votes), none provided more than 12 Green votes. Serendipitously, there were exactly ten counties that pitched a Green shutout. Hays (0.57%, #11 on the list) and Jefferson (0.13%) were the high and low Green scorers among counties with at least 100,000 registered voters, while El Paso (0.37%) and Fort Bend (0.21%) were at the top and bottom of counties where at least 100,000 votes were cast.

And finally, the same lists for John Jay Myers and David Collins, the Libertarian and Green candidates for Senate, respectively.

County Myers % County Myers % ============================================== Cottle 4.67% Glasscock 0.55% Brewster 4.62% Brooks 0.64% Travis 4.30% Sutton 0.70% Hays 4.21% Martin 0.71% Williamson 4.09% Jim Hogg 0.81% Hudspeth 3.96% King 0.82% Terrell 3.75% Dickens 0.83% Bastrop 3.53% Wheeler 0.83% Culberson 3.42% Rusk 0.85% Kenedy 3.29% Jefferson 0.96% County Collins % County Collins % ============================================== Maverick 2.34% Glasscock 0.00% Johnson 2.27% King 0.00% Presidio 2.09% Floyd 0.24% Jeff Davis 1.95% Borden 0.29% Brewster 1.87% Hartley 0.32% Culberson 1.85% Madison 0.32% Webb 1.84% Garza 0.34% Willacy 1.71% Hemphill 0.34% Loving 1.67% Lamb 0.35% Zapata 1.65% Camp 0.37%

There’s a lot of overlap between Johnson and Myers’ top lists – Hudspeth was #11 for Johnson, and Culberson was #26. Cottle and Kenedy are both tiny counties, and the differences are small but pronounced given the minimal number of voters. 31 people in Cottle votes Myers, but only 5 for Johnson, while in Kenedy it was 5 for Myers and 1 for Johnson. As for Collins, just as there was one Libertarian in Loving County, so is there one Green there. I wonder if they know each other.

Courting the Ron Paul voters

Good luck with that.

Libertarian presidential candidate and would-be spoiler Gary Johnson smoked out new campaign cash here this week.

But his hopes are just a pipe dream unless he wins over Republican voters loyal to never-say-quit candidate Ron Paul.

“Hundreds” of Republicans have promised Johnson they will switch his way if the Republican National Convention nominates Mitt Romney on Aug. 30, Johnson said Thursday.

“That’s hundreds telling me personally, which means how many more?” Johnson said during a six-day Texas campaign swing.

He predicted a “gigantic influx” of support after Romney is nominated.

[…]

Yet even before any Paul voters switch, his current 8 to 13 percent of the vote in Western states might be enough to tip pivotal Electoral College votes for or against Romney or President Barack Obama.

If Johnson takes away a swing state Romney badly needs — “then let me be the spoiler,” Johnson said.

This story is actually from two weeks ago. I’d forgotten that I’d drafted something, then had my memory jogged after the Ron Paulrelated kerfuffles this week. To put some context on Johnson’s numbers, there were 174,207 votes cast for Ron Paul in this year’s GOP Presidential primary. That would have represented 2.15% of the 8 million plus votes cast in 2008. That’s not very much, and that’s assuming every known Ron Paul supporter in May did in fact vote for Johnson in November. But even that paltry total towers over the past performances of Libertarian Presidential candidates in Texas:

Year Libertarians Pct =============================== 1992 Marrou/Lord 0.32% 1996 Browne/Jorgenson 0.36% 2000 Browne/Olivier 0.36% 2004 Badnarik/Campagna 0.52% 2008 Barr/Root 0.69%

The Secretary of State data don’t go back any farther than that, but thanks to Dave Liep’s Election Atlas, I can bring you the other two results:

Year Libertarians Pct =============================== 1980 Clark/Koch 0.83% 1988 Paul/Marrou 0.56%

I suppose you can look at Bob Barr’s 2008 performance as having doubled the Libertarian total in only eight years, or as finally getting back towards the high-water mark of 1980. Either way, I’ll bet the under on that 2.15% mark.

From the “Grant me the grace to accept the things I cannot change” department

What’s that old saying? “Could be worse. Could be raining.”

As Democrats around the country girded for a midterm GOP tsunami, Bill White and his down-ballot Democratic cohorts spent the weekend tacking up political plywood and looking for signs, any signs, that the storm would not be as severe as the prognosticators were predicting.

One of those signs in Harris County, said Gerry Birnberg, Harris County Democratic Party chairman, was that early vote totals turned out to be “pretty much a dead heat” after an initial surge from enthusiastic Republicans.

Still there were storm clouds looming for local Democratic candidates, Birnberg noted on Sunday. And he meant real storm clouds.

“The wild card in the deck is the weather,” Birnberg said. Forecasters are predicting Election Day thunderstorms for the Houston area, and that might make it difficult for a party that needs a large turnout to make up the Republican advantage in mail-in and early voting ballots.

SciGuy suggests the weather ought to be pretty good during voting hours today. You can verify or falsify that yourself by just looking out your window.

As far as the differences between early voting and Election Day are concerned, a survey of the 2002 and 2006 results shows that Democrats have done about three points better on Election Day than before it. Of course, with a handful of exceptions Republican candidates still won on Election Day in those years. Still, the difference moved the needle a point or two in the Democratic direction, which may be enough if the vote tallies are fairly even to begin with.

That has to be qualified by noting that in those elections, the vast bulk of votes were cast on Election Day, which will surely not be the case this year. However, if the surge in Early Voting is similar in nature to what we saw in 2008, when scads of people who had formerly voted on Election Day changed their behavior, then we could see a much bigger difference in performance. In 2008, when many more Democrats voted early, Republicans gained between six and eight points on Election Day. I doubt we’ll see anything that dramatic, but I do believe the Republican well isn’t as deep today.

Finally, I should note that in all three years, including 2008, Libertarian candidates did better, by about a point in 2008 and a half a point in 2002 and 2006, on Election Day. I’m sure there’s a slacker joke in there somewhere, but I’m not feeling it right now. Green candidates did a smidge better on Election Day in 2002, in case you were wondering. Make of that what you will.

Still not mentioning the Libertarian numbers

Here’s one Trib story about their most recent poll (summary here, crosstabs here), that barely mentions the most remarkable numbers from it.

The voters who identify with the Tea Party overwhelmingly favor Republicans in statewide races, with more than 80 percent of them in each race favoring the Republican over the Democrat. In the governor’s race, 84 percent of the Tea Partiers favor Perry, 5 percent are for Democrat Bill White, 8 percent go with Libertarian Kathie Glass and 2 percent back Deb Shafto of the Green Party.

And here’s another:

The Perry-White result includes the responses to a follow-up question posed to those who responded “don’t know” about their preference for governor. This was a different approach from the September UT/Tribune poll, conducted at a time when we thought many voters had yet to turn their attention to the election. About 15 percent of the October sample said they were undecided in their initial response. When pressed respondents to express a preference, equal numbers chose Perry and White, adding 5.4 percent to each candidate’s totals. Libertarian Kathie Glass gained an additional 2 percent from these “pushed” undecided respondents, and Deb Shafto, the Green candidate, gained another point. This left the undecided number at less than half a percentage point.

That second one was written by the pollsters themselves, but there’s still no discussion of the fact that the level of Libertarian Party support they are projecting in the Governor’s race and in all of the other races is both unprecedented and not seen in other concurrent polls. As I noted before, they are showing Libertarian support levels that would be double to triple the highest amount we’ve seen in contested races over the last eight elections, going back to 1994, and they have yet to offer a hypothesis as to why that might be. I find that puzzling and neglectful. If the PECOTA projections for the 2011 baseball season claimed that five guys would bat .400 and three pitchers would win 30 games, I’d expect to see some detailed explanations for why those predictions are justified. To do otherwise would make me question the fundamental structure of the system. I’m feeling the same way about this poll right now.

Once again, I’ll take the under

There’s a bizarre new UT/Texas Trib poll that’s so odd I can’t even come up with a good introduction for it, so I’m just going to jump straight to the weirdness:

Republican Gov. Rick Perry leads his Democratic challenger, Bill White by 10 points — 50 percent to 40 percent — in the latest University of Texas/Texas Tribune poll, which was conducted in the days leading up to early voting. Libertarian Kathie Glass has the support of 8 percent of respondents; Deb Shafto of the Green Party gets 2 percent.

[…]

• In the race for lieutenant governor, David Dewhurst is leading Democrat Linda Chavez-Thompson 51 percent to 38 percent. Libertarian Scott Jameson has 9 percent, while the Green Party’s Herb Gonzales Jr. has 2 percent.

• Attorney General Greg Abbott leads Democrat Barbara Ann Radnofsky 55 percent to 35 percent. Libertarian Jon Roland has 11 percent (when the total here and elsewhere doesn’t add up to 100 percent, rounding is the culprit).

• Comptroller of Public Accounts Susan Combs, the only major-party candidate in her race, has the support of 51 percent, while Libertarian Mary Ruwart pulls 11 percent and Ed Lindsay of the Green Party has 9 percent. This is the only contest in the poll in which undecided voters were not pushed to make a choice; as such, 29 percent of respondents identified themselves as undecided.

• Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson is leading Democrat Hector Uribe 50 percent to 37 percent in his bid for re-election, with Libertarian James Holdar garnering 12 percent.

• Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples leads Democrat Hank Gilbert by the same margin: 50 percent to 37 percent. Libertarian Rick Donaldson has 12 percent.

• In the race for a slot on the Railroad Commission that is the only open seat on the statewide ballot, Republican David Porter leads Democrat Jeff Weems 50 percent to 34 percent, with Libertarian Roger Gary at 10 percent and Art Browning of the Green Party at 5 percent.

I’m not sure what is more surprising, the numbers received by the Libertarian candidates in these polls, or (as one commenter said) the fact that Ross Ramsey could write this story without once making note of them. How out of the ordinary are the Libertarian numbers? I went through every statewide election result on the Secretary of State webpage going back to 1992. Here are the best performances by year of a Libertarian candidate in contested statewide races:

Year Race Candidate Pct ========================================= 2008 RRC David Lloyd 3.51 2006 Lt Gov Judy Baker 4.35 2004 RRC Anthony Garcia 3.59 2002 Land Comm Barbara Hernandez 4.12 2000 Senate Mary Ruwart 1.15 1998 Land Comm Monte Montez 2.72 1996 Sup Ct Eileen Flume 3.64 1994 RRC Buster Crabb 3.15 1992 RRC Richard Draheim 6.98

A couple of notes: The Senate race in 2000 was the only non-Presidential contest that had an R and a D in it at the state level. 1996 featured the only appearance of the Natural Law Party; they were in three state races, including the Presidential race, and topped out at 0.75%, though they did break 1% in some Congressional contests.

And then there’s 1992, which features the number that most likely jumps out at you, Richard Draheim’s 6.98%. That race featured Democratic incumbent Lena Guerrero, who had been appointed to the Railroad Commission by then-Governor Ann Richards. During the election campaign it was revealed that she had lied about getting a degree from UT, which turned into a huge scandal that sent her campaign into a ditch. I’ve no doubt that this was the main contributor to Draheim’s unparalleled performance. Yet even under those circumstances, it’s not in the 8 to 12 percent range that UT/TT is crediting this year’s crop of Ls with.

You can, I trust, see why I’m skeptical. If that’s not enough, note that in the past four Governor’s races, the best any Libertarian candidate has done is 1.46%, considerably less than what UT/TT claims Glass to be polling at. I’d set the over/under in all of these races at 4%, and I’d take the under on all of them. No other poll has shown anything like this, including the two previous results from UT/TT. How they could fail to remark on these highly remarkable numbers is a mystery to me. BOR has more.

Will there be a Libertarian effect in the Governor’s race?

Hard to say, but the odds that there would be at least one article about the possibility of a Libertarian effect in the Governor’s race were pretty close to 100%.

[Kathie] Glass, 56, is a Houston civil lawyer and Libertarian candidate for governor who is trying to pick up the frustrated right’s mantel where Debra Medina dropped it off.

While winning would be a long shot for Glass, her appeal to frustrated conservatives could draw enough votes to put a real kink into Perry’s lead over Democrat Bill White.

While Green Party candidate Deb Shafto has put her campaign into a website and a few public appearances, Glass and her husband, Tom, are criss-crossing the state in a motor home to espouse her views via a variety of talk radio programs. She also is buying radio ads to promote her appearances at Tea Party and activist group gatherings.

“I have an uphill battle, but in a three-way race, 34 percent can take this thing,” Glass told a San Antonio-based Texans United for Reform and Freedom meeting recently.

The odds against winning are huge, but Medina jumped from almost nonexistent in the polls to about 20 percent in the March GOP primary after she won a spot in a statewide debate. Medina’s campaign ultimately stumbled with a gaffe.

The real potential for Glass is that her message of stark government downsizing will steal votes from Perry.

In the 1990 governor’s race, where many voters were disgusted with the Republican candidates, Libertarian Jeff Daiell won almost 4 percent of the ballots. Daiell received enough votes to have given Republican Clayton Williams a victory over Democrat Ann Richards.

Let’s be clear about one thing: The difference between Debra Medina’s performance in the primary and Kathie Glass’ potential performance in November comes down to one thing, and that’s straight party voting. I surveyed straight ticket voting patterns back in 2006 when some polls showed Chris Bell barely breaking 10%. At that time, I concluded that a bit less than half of all votes cast in non-Presidential year races were straight party votes, meaning that the worst any Democratic candidate could possibly do was about 20%. I’ve checked some numbers for the 2006 election, and they clearly show just how hard it would be for anyone outside of the two-party system to make headway. Here are the straight ticket voting totals for some of Texas’ more populous counties:

County Straight Governor Pct ==================================== Harris 283,528 589,348 48.1 Dallas 232,136 406,325 57.1 Tarrant 160,352 326,337 49.1 Bexar 110,606 273,780 40.4 Travis 83,788 226,346 37.0 Collin 65,329 138,159 47.3 Denton 51,377 108,513 47.3 Fort Bend 48,816 98,667 49.5 El Paso 37,762 90,764 41.6 Williamson 31,681 84,085 37.7 Hidalgo 25,079 47,827 52.4 Nueces 23,892 67,623 35.3 Lubbock 22,113 53,564 41.3 Jefferson 21,858 46,775 46.7 Brazoria 20,584 58,441 35.2 Montgomery 16,051 31,510 50.9 Midland 11,538 24,769 46.6 Webb 8,002 18,391 43.5 Rockwall 7,070 15,625 45.2 Total 1,261,562 2,706,849 46.6

“Straight” is the sum of the Republican and Democratic straight ticket votes for each county. “Governor” is the total number of votes cast for all candidates, including write-ins, for the Governor’s race. As was the case in 2002, nearly half of all votes cast were straight party R or D votes. To get to 34% of the total in these counties, a Libertarian candidate would have needed to get more than 900,000 of the 1.44 million remaining votes, or about 64% of the non-straight vote total. What do you suppose are the chances of that happening? Even to match Medina’s 20%, she’d need 38% of the remainders. And remember, that would have been in a year with that bizarre four-way Governor’s race, which must have had a negative effect on normal straight-voting patterns. I fully expect straight ticket trends to be up this year compared to 2006. If you want to suggest that Kathie Glass could somehow repeat Debra Medina’s performance, you need to tell me how the math works for her.

This Politico story produces a different misleading statistic to bolster its claims about Glass’ potential effect on the race:

Perry received only 39 percent of the vote in his reelection in 2006, and Libertarians consistently draw between 3 and 5 percent of the vote. In an anti-establishment year, a compelling candidate like Glass “could easily get up to 7 [percent],” [Phil] Martin [who works for the Texas Democratic Trust] said.

I hate to disagree with my good friend Phil, but it’s not in the Governor’s race where Libertarian candidates have drawn that 3 to 5 percent, it’s in the other statewide races, usually the ones that are the most lightly contested. While the 1990 Governor’s race is interesting, and does demonstrate what can happen when you’ve got a candidate that is disliked by a non-trivial number of members of that candidate’s party, since then no Libertarian gubernatorial candidate has done anywhere near that well:

Year Lib % ============ 1994 0.64 1998 0.55 2002 1.46 2006 0.60

You’d have to have a mighty tight race for those numbers to make a difference. The last time a statewide candidate won with less than 50% was in 1998, when Carole Keeton Rylander captured the Comptroller’s office with 49.54% to Paul Hobby’s 48.99%; Libertarian Alex Monchak collected 1.45%. My observation is that Libertarian candidates fare especially poorly in the highest-profile races, when the Republican and Democratic candidates have sufficient resources to run real campaigns and are well known to the voters. If I had a lot more time and the statistical chops, I’d build a mathematical model to try to predict Libertarian performance in a given race. My guess for this race is that the over/under for Glass is 2%, and I feel that’s being generous. But we’ll see.

Now, even 2% could be a game changer, especially if Glass succeeds at taking more votes from Rick Perry than from Bill White. And hey, I could be wrong, and Glass could get the four percent that Daiell got in 1990. But as I’ve said before in the context of articles about how Libertarian candidates might have an effect on this race or that, let’s try to maintain some perspective. The hype is almost always bigger than the actual numbers turn out to be.

Revisiting the Libertarian effect

While we still don’t know what the deal will be with the Green Party, we may wonder what of that other third party on the ballot? Ross Ramsey takes a look at the Libertarian Party and the effect its candidates have on legislative races.

It’s impossible to know just which races will be close in November. But more than a dozen House races that are on the target lists of either the Republicans or the Democrats have Libertarians in them. Republicans have set their sites on state Reps. Mark Homer of Paris, Donna Howard of Austin, Diana Maldonado of Round Rock, Joe Moody of El Paso, Joe Heflin of Crosbyton, Chris Turner of Burleson, Allen Vaught of Dallas, Ellen Cohen of Houston and Hubert Vo of Houston, among others. Democrats are gunning for state Reps. Tim Kleinschmidt of Lexington, Charles “Doc” Anderson of Waco, Linda Harper-Brown of Irving, Joe Driver of Garland, Dwayne Bohac of Houston and Ken Legler of Pasadena. That’s not the entire target list for either party, but those are the races that could be close — and that have Libertarians on the ballot. Libertarian candidates signed up for the two Texas congressional seats on the GOP’s national target list, those held by U.S. Reps. Chet Edwards of Waco and Ciro Rodriguez of San Antonio. And they’ve got statewide candidates all lined up, too.

“In a year like this, I would do anything I could to make it a one-person race,” says Todd Olsen, a consultant working with Associated Republicans of Texas, a political action committee trying to preserve and increase GOP majorities in the statehouse. “If I could get the Libertarian to drop out and support me, I’d do it. The Green? I’d do it.”

I took a look at this in 2008, both before and after the election that year. My conclusion is that while there is an effect in the occasional race, the absolute number of races in which you could reasonably say there was an effect is really small. Of course, it’s a huge deal when it does happen – a win is a win, after all – so it’s worth keeping an eye on the races where it’s possible to occur, and it’s worth it to push things one way or the other if you’re involved in such a race. Just keep it in perspective, that’s all I’m saying.

Hey, remember when Kinky Friedman wanted you to believe he was a Democrat?

There’s a reason why some of us never believed a word he said. I figure he’ll reinvent himself again in 2012 as a Green, thus completing his tour of the Texas political world. Some people just don’t know when to leave.

Another step forward for a statewide smoking ban

The statewide smoking ban proposals picked up the endorsement of the state restaurant association.

On Monday, the Texas Restaurant Association voted to support the measure – one they say would “level the playing field” for establishments across Texas.

“With 28 Texas cities and 24 states now smoke-free, it’s just a win-win for that industry,” said state Rep. Myra Crownover, the Denton Republican carrying the House bill to ban smoking in all the state’s public places.

“What people forget is that for every one person who wants to smoke at a restaurant or bar, there are six or seven people who don’t go to that establishment because they allow it.”

One group unconvinced? Civil libertarians – who say it’s inappropriate for the government to intrude on private property or take away personal freedoms.

They’re joined by the tobacco lobby, which has contributed more than $112,000 to the campaigns of Texas lawmakers in the last two years, according to Dallas Morning News research.

“A restaurant, a bar, is private property, and you the customer have the choice of whether you go in or you don’t,” said Patrick Dixon, chairman of the Texas Libertarian Party. If you’re a nonsmoker, “there are other places that will cater to you.”

All due respect here, but if you’ve got to go to the chair of the Texas Libertarian Party for an anti quote, the pro position is probably in pretty good shape.

The proposed state ban, which is being championed by cyclist and cancer survivor Lance Armstrong, would outlaw smoking in bars, restaurants and all indoor public places across Texas, including offices, convention centers and bus stations. It would also ban smoking in the bleachers of outdoor sporting or music events, and anywhere within 15 feet of a doorway to a public building.

A statewide smoking ban, which failed in the 2007 legislative session, would supersede less-stringent laws in Texas cities. Smoking would still be permitted in specially marked hotel rooms, private rooms at nursing homes and outdoor patios connected to restaurants or bars.

Depending on circumstances, the patio allowance is either a deal-maker or a deal-breaker for bar and restaurant owners. Some establishments say it’s the only way they’ll be able to retain their smoking customers.

I’ve noted Armstrong’s involvement before. I don’t really have an opinion on the patio allowance provision. It’s fine by me if there is one, but it won’t break my heart if there isn’t.

Gov. Rick Perry said that while he fully understands the health concerns of cigarette smoke, he likes the idea of local control and wants to find a way to walk the line that protects individual rights.

So there’s still the chance of a veto, or a back-alley bill-killing, if the Governor gets a wild hair about it. But overall, the odds of this happening look good.