I spend a lot of time analyzing different types of races, for State House, for Congress, and for countywide offices. I do this because it's where most of the action is. Since I first started to really follow this stuff in 2002, I can't think of a single general election State Senate race that was particularly compelling or competitive.
I'm hoping that 2008 will be very different. For one thing, if we've learned anything from the past few sessions, it's that the Democrats in the Senate have no margin for error. The eleven votes they have now are a much more solid bloc than the twelve they had in 2003 and 2005, but with one member forced to stay home most of this session due to health issues, the Dems may find themselves in a position where they can't block a bill they really want to. Even with all eleven present, they're still at the mercy of a single turncoat. The only cushion for this will be to elect more Democrats.
Fortunately, it looks like the Dems will have some chances to do just exactly that in 2008. Before I begin, let me say that I'm indebted to a reader who goes by the handle "blank", who sent me some numbers that make the case for State Senate action clear, and who identified a top target that had been completely beneath my radar. "Blank" did the heavy lifting on this one, I'm just putting some polish on it.
Based on 2006 performance in their districts, there are four Republican Senators who should draw strong challenges this year, if the Democrats are serious about making inroads in the Lege. Here they are, based on the numbers in the Moody/Willett Supreme Court race:
Dist Senator Dem GOP KBH BAR Jones Henry Willett Moody
10 Kim Brimer 43.3 56.7 61.7 38.3 55.2 44.8 52.7 47.3
16 John Carona 41.5 58.5 62.1 37.9 57.7 42.3 53.4 46.6
9 Chris Harris 40.0 60.0 64.6 35.4 58.8 41.2 55.8 44.2
11 Mike Jackson 38.5 61.5 65.5 34.5 59.2 40.8 56.7 43.3
The one who surprised me, as much by his mere inclusion as by his placement atop the list, is Kim Brimer. His district is entirely within Tarrant County, which is the one major urban county to remain a Republican stronghold (though that's gradually weakening), so it hadn't occurred to me to look there. But by every measure, Brimer is the Republican Senator in the bluest district.
Part of this is electoral drift. Compare how various State Rep and Congressional Democratic candidates did in
the parts of their districts that overlap Brimer's SD10 Tarrant County in 2006 and 2004:
CD 2004 Dem Votes Pct 2006 Dem Votes Pct Change
6 Meyer 58,507 35.22 Harris 37,864 40.33 5.11
12 Alvarado 55,186 30.76 Morris 36,672 33.92 3.16
24 Page 26,573 28.86 Page 17,880 32.72 3.86
26 Reyes 49,764 45.90 Barnwell 30,088 47.72 1.82
Total 190,030 34.80 122,504 38.32 3.52
HD 2004 Dem Votes Pct 2006 Dem Votes Pct Change
90 Burnam 14,841 65.22 Burnam 9,647 73.00 7.78
93 Gregory 17,924 43.94 Pierson 10,761 49.35 5.41
94 Woolridge 21,262 36.89 Pillow 11,145 32.49 -4.39
96 Cox 26,447 39.67 Youngblood 16,475 44.29 4.62
97 Stevens 23,425 36.76 Barrett 16,900 40.82 4.07
99 Popp 17,602 30.33 Ford 12,279 33.83 3.50
Total 121,501 39.24 77,207 41.91 2.67
And that's critical, because the situation is even closer to a tipping point than these numbers indicate. In 2006, there was one high-profile countywide race in Tarrant, for District Attorney. Democratic challenger Terri Moore got 46.84% of the vote, easily making her the best-performing Democrat in the county. As you can see from this spreadsheet, she came even closer to winning a majority of the vote in SD10 - she wound up with 49.22% of the vote there. Yet in doing so, she had fewer votes than incumbents Burnam and Veasey, while running even with Hightower Pierson; she did do better than the other Democratic challengers. In other words, there's still room for growth.
Now of course the Democrats have to actually nominate someone who can give Kim Brimer a run for his money. I'm told they're working on that, but until then this is all theoretical. And for sure, it's a lot easier to make this case on the Internet than it is in real life. Brimer isn't a particularly distinguished Senator - considering that the Metroplex contingent includes the likes of Jane Nelson, Florence Shapiro, and Royce West, plus Harris and Carona, he's practically invisible - but he's still an incumbent, and he'll surely have whatever resources he'll need. The point I'm making is that you can't win if you don't try, and this is a race that needs trying. I'll keep an eye on this one to see what develops. Thanks again to "blank" for the inspiration and the data.
UPDATE: Correction noted per blank's comment. I'll try to dig through the precinct numbers and come up with the actual SD10 totals.Posted by Charles Kuffner on May 02, 2007 to Election 2008