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Election 2002

Some Garcia 2002 numbers

When I did an analysis of County Commissioner Precinct 2 for this year’s election, I said that I couldn’t include a comparison from 2002 because I didn’t have precinct-level data for that year. I got an email the other day from Robert Jara, in which he kindly included a spreadsheet of some of that 2002 data. You can see that here. It only has information about the Senate and Governor races, from which we can see that CC2 was two to three points more Democratic than Harris County as a whole, at least for those contests. My guess is that would be fairly consistent down the line, which would make CC2 in 2002 much like it was in 2006, maybe even a pinch more Democratic, likely the result of better turnout in base Democratic areas in 2002 thanks to the Tony Sanchez campaign. Garcia ran several points ahead of the Democratic norm – three points better than Ron Kirk, four points better than Sanchez, likely more than some other members of the ticket. Anyway, now you know. My thanks to Robert Jara for sending me the data.

Rick Perry and the Latino vote, part 3

Having looked at the 2002 election last week, I turn my attention now to 2006. This presents a number of challenges, thanks to the bizarre four-way contest that was the Governor’s race. In all my previous work on the 2006 elections, I’ve generally skipped over the Governor’s race because the numbers are so different from all the other races. Today it can’t be helped.

Let’s start with the basics. Here’s how the four candidates did in the 29 State Rep Districts (SRDs) in which the Spanish surname voter registration (SSRV) percentage was at least 50. Note that these are not the exact same SRDs as in 2002. SRD78 was a smidge over 50% in SSRV in 2002, but not in 2006, while SRD140 did not meet the threshhold in 2002 but did do so in 2006. All other SRDs are the same.

HD Perry Bell Kinky Strayhorn ======================================= 31 3,094 8,896 717 1,567 33 9,595 8,996 3,831 5,212 34 9,781 9,354 3,458 4,664 35 9,867 10,337 4,156 6,615 36 3,845 5,766 533 1,812 37 4,054 5,503 828 3,179 38 6,298 6,191 1,009 4,240 39 3,505 5,112 503 2,096 40 2,309 4,545 483 1,747 41 6,370 4,981 1,125 2,748 42 3,741 7,308 1,019 2,699 43 7,176 6,236 1,561 3,721 74 9,812 8,194 3,436 5,269 75 5,223 5,996 1,527 3,278 76 3,502 7,769 1,209 2,953 77 3,840 6,572 1,555 2,741 79 5,534 5,361 1,625 3,577 80 7,595 8,168 2,713 5,030 104 2,347 6,142 1,088 1,409 116 5,178 7,828 2,615 4,044 117 7,357 7,366 2,848 4,932 118 6,561 8,160 2,974 5,482 119 5,318 7,931 2,679 4,836 123 8,114 5,436 3,164 3,983 124 6,257 7,834 2,493 5,165 125 7,498 8,894 3,244 5,584 140 2,168 4,055 871 956 143 2,284 4,273 1,097 1,020 145 2,649 4,904 1,308 1,243 160,872 198,108 55,669 101,802 HD Perry% Bell% Kinky% CKS% ====================================== 31 21.68% 62.32% 5.02% 10.98% 33 34.72% 32.55% 13.86% 18.86% 34 35.88% 34.32% 12.69% 17.11% 35 31.85% 33.37% 13.42% 21.36% 36 32.16% 48.23% 4.46% 15.16% 37 29.89% 40.57% 6.10% 23.44% 38 35.51% 34.90% 5.69% 23.90% 39 31.25% 45.58% 4.48% 18.69% 40 25.42% 50.03% 5.32% 19.23% 41 41.84% 32.72% 7.39% 18.05% 42 25.33% 49.49% 6.90% 18.28% 43 38.39% 33.36% 8.35% 19.90% 74 36.73% 30.68% 12.86% 19.73% 75 32.59% 37.42% 9.53% 20.46% 76 22.69% 50.34% 7.83% 19.13% 77 26.11% 44.68% 10.57% 18.64% 79 34.38% 33.30% 10.10% 22.22% 80 32.31% 34.75% 11.54% 21.40% 104 21.36% 55.91% 9.90% 12.83% 116 26.33% 39.81% 13.30% 20.56% 117 32.69% 32.73% 12.66% 21.92% 118 28.31% 35.21% 12.83% 23.65% 119 25.61% 38.20% 12.90% 23.29% 123 39.20% 26.26% 15.29% 19.24% 124 28.77% 36.02% 11.46% 23.75% 125 29.73% 35.27% 12.86% 22.14% 140 26.93% 50.37% 10.82% 11.88% 143 26.33% 49.26% 12.65% 11.76% 145 26.22% 48.54% 12.95% 12.30% 31.15% 38.36% 10.78% 19.71%

Perry’s percentage drops a bit from 2002, while Bell’s percentage is dramatically lower than Sanchez’s. I’ll get into the details of that in a minute, but if you look carefully, you’ll see that there were two SRDs in which Perry received more votes in 2006 than in 2002, even though his overall total in these districts declined from 232,177 to 160,872. Those districts were SRDs 31 and 42, both of which include Sanchez’s home base of Webb County and which were easily his best-performing SRDs. They’re also the SRDs with the highest (SRD 31, 91.2%) and third-highest (SRD 42, 85.9%) SSRV. In the district with the second-highest SSRV (SRD40, 88%), Perry’s 2006 vote total was 81.6% of what it was in 2002, but given that his overall vote total was only 69.2% of what it was in 2002, that’s not bad at all.

As with 2002, I then compared Perry’s performance with four other Republican candidates. As before, I used the Senate and Lt. Gov. races, but this time I looked at the Agriculture Commissioner and Railroad Commissioner races for the other two, as the downballot races were where Democrats did the best. Here’s how that looked:

Race Candidate Votes Pct Ratio ================================================ Senate Hutchison 2,661,789 63.12 0.62 Lt. Governor Dewhurst 2,513,530 60.85 0.65 Ag Commish Staples 2,307,406 56.72 0.69 RR Commish Ames Jones 2,269,743 56.42 0.70 Governor Perry 1,716,792 39.37 1.00 Race Candidate Votes Pct Ratio State ======================================================= Senate Hutchison 243,158 49.20 0.63 0.62 Lt. Governor Dewhurst 211.977 43.28 0.72 0.65 Ag Commish Staples 187,330 39.39 0.79 0.69 RR Commish Ames Jones 188,359 40.68 0.77 0.70 Governor Perry 160,872 31.15 1.00 1.00

Unlike 2002, Perry performed better relative to other Republicans across the board in 2006. Since it would not necessarily be the case that Bell’s relative performance would be the inverse of Perry’s, I checked that as well:

Race Candidate Votes Pct Ratio ================================================ Senate Radnofsky 1,555,202 36.88 0.81 Lt. Governor Alvarado 1,617,490 39.15 0.77 Ag Commish Gilbert 1,760,402 43.28 0.69 RR Commish Henry 1,752,947 43.58 0.69 Governor Bell 1,310,337 29.97 1.00 Race Candidate Votes Pct Ratio State ======================================================= Senate Radnofsky 251,022 50.80 0.76 0.81 Lt. Governor Alvarado 277,788 56.72 0.72 0.77 Ag Commish Gilbert 288,303 60.61 0.63 0.69 RR Commish Henry 274,721 59.32 0.65 0.69 Governor Bell 198,108 38.36 1.00 1.00

Indeed, Bell did do worse relative to other Democrats. This suggests to me that he was hurt more by the presence of Kinky Friedman and Carole Keeton Rylander in these districts than Perry was. My guess is that the reverse may be true in red areas, but that’s a post for another time.

Finally, we have to consider turnout here, and the effect that the overall lesser turnout may have had on each side. I took the four non-Governor’s races from each year and compared the totals in each of the common SRDs:

HD R Tot D Tot R Avg D Avg 2002 R% 2002 D% 31 9,680 61,788 2,420 15,447 13.54% 86.46% 33 50,184 62,661 12,546 15,665 44.47% 55.53% 34 54,074 57,600 13,519 14,400 48.42% 51.58% 35 59,829 67,349 14,957 16,837 47.04% 52.96% 36 17,447 51,982 4,362 12,996 25.13% 74.87% 37 17,562 39,030 4,391 9,758 31.03% 68.97% 38 27,565 44,873 6,891 11,218 38.05% 61.95% 39 19,088 44,219 4,772 11,055 30.15% 69.85% 40 10,571 42,410 2,643 10,603 19.95% 80.05% 41 35,185 39,008 8,796 9,752 47.42% 52.58% 42 22,601 90,335 5,650 22,584 20.01% 79.99% 43 36,529 57,211 9,132 14,303 38.97% 61.03% 74 53,337 60,369 13,334 15,092 46.91% 53.09% 75 22,776 43,592 5,694 10,898 34.32% 65.68% 76 15,391 61,788 3,848 15,447 19.94% 80.06% 77 18,797 47,873 4,699 11,968 28.19% 71.81% 79 27,140 40,596 6,785 10,149 40.07% 59.93% 80 42,063 58,150 10,516 14,538 41.97% 58.03% 104 15,605 37,932 3,901 9,483 29.15% 70.85% 116 36,438 48,683 9,110 12,171 42.81% 57.19% 117 39,691 40,307 9,923 10,077 49.61% 50.39% 118 39,867 45,324 9,967 11,331 46.80% 53.20% 119 35,600 49,944 8,900 12,486 41.62% 58.38% 123 39,940 51,019 9,985 12,755 43.91% 56.09% 124 37,774 47,238 9,444 11,810 44.43% 55.57% 125 48,220 53,471 12,055 13,368 47.42% 52.58% 143 15,890 33,709 3,973 8,427 32.04% 67.96% 145 19,341 34,858 4,835 8,715 35.69% 64.31% 868,185 1,413,319 217,046 353,330 38.05% 61.95% HD R Tot D Tot R Avg D Avg 2006 R% 2006 D% 31 9,408 43,773 2,352 10,943 17.69% 82.31% 32 50,671 51,515 12,668 12,879 49.59% 50.41% 34 52,947 49,150 13,237 12,288 51.86% 48.14% 35 60,151 55,072 15,038 13,768 52.20% 47.80% 36 15,498 29,340 3,875 7,335 34.56% 65.44% 37 17,958 31,196 4,490 7,799 36.53% 63.47% 38 27,804 36,470 6,951 9,118 43.26% 56.74% 39 15,390 26,989 3,848 6,747 36.32% 63.68% 40 10,023 24,290 2,506 6,073 29.21% 70.79% 41 30,067 27,416 7,517 6,854 52.31% 47.69% 42 16,658 38,631 4,165 9,658 30.13% 69.87% 43 33,073 35,885 8,268 8,971 47.96% 52.04% 74 51,648 45,024 12,912 11,256 53.43% 46.57% 75 24,952 35,500 6,238 8,875 41.28% 58.72% 76 15,442 42,765 3,861 10,691 26.53% 73.47% 77 17,947 36,841 4,487 9,210 32.76% 67.24% 79 26,924 33,351 6,731 8,338 44.67% 55.33% 80 42,838 43,873 10,710 10,968 49.40% 50.60% 104 12,019 29,325 3,005 7,331 29.07% 70.93% 116 30,992 42,673 7,748 10,668 42.07% 57.93% 117 43,302 40,557 10,826 10,139 51.64% 48.36% 118 41,429 44,839 10,357 11,210 48.02% 51.98% 119 32,761 44,731 8,190 11,183 42.28% 57.72% 123 32,767 44,169 8,192 11,042 42.59% 57.41% 124 37,005 44,844 9,251 11,211 45.21% 54.79% 125 44,754 49,759 11,189 12,440 47.35% 52.65% 143 11,597 20,667 2,899 5,167 35.94% 64.06% 145 13,781 23,991 3,445 5,998 36.48% 63.52% 819,806 1,072,636 204,952 268,159 43.32% 56.68%

The third and fourth columns are the average vote totals in the four examined races for each SRD. Republicans did better overall in 2006 than in 2002. What’s clear is that the decrease in turnout from 2002 to 2006, which we have discussed before, affected Democrats more than it affected Republicans. The Democrats’ task in these areas isn’t as much persuasion as it is base turnout. If these folks come out to the ballot box, they’ll vote Democratic in large numbers. It’s just that they may or may not show up. The job for Bill White and every other Democrat on the ticket is to give them a reason to participate.

It’s also important to note that while Perry held onto a larger share of the vote in these SRDs than Bell did, it’s still the case that his support declined. Again, we can’t say for certain what proportion of the vote in these SRDs is Latino Perry voters, but it’s clear he didn’t get 35% in 2006, and if he didn’t do that in these SRDs, he didn’t do it overall, either. He has his work cut out for him just to match the 37% he rung up in 2002.

I have one more post for this series. I hope you’ve found it useful. Let me know if you have any questions.

Rick Perry and the Latino vote, part 2

On Tuesday, I took a look at how Rick Perry did in the 2002 election in the State Rep districts (SRDs) that have Spanish surname voter registration (SSRV) percentage of 50 or more in order to try to get a handle on the question of how well Perry performed with the Latino vote. Today I’m going to try to add some context to that by seeing how Perry’s performance in those districts compared to some other Republicans on the ballot that year. I performed the same calculation for the other top of the ticket races: John Cornyn versus Ron Kirk for Senate; David Dewhurst versus John Sharp for Lieutenant Governor; Greg Abbott versus Kirk Watson for Attorney General; and Carolyn Keeton Rylander versus Marty Akins for Comptroller. All but the latter feature candidates that were reasonably well matched in terms of ability and fundraising; the Rylander-Akins race is included to see what the outer limits of Republican performance were that year. Here’s the summary of how they did in these 29 SRDs:

Race Candidate Votes Pct ====================================== Comptroller Rylander 271,075 46.94 Atty General Abbott 223,085 37.48 Governor Perry 232,177 37.16 Lt Governor Dewhurst 217,896 36.08 Senate Cornyn 213,037 34.99

Rylander got over 65% of the vote against the hapless Akins, so her strong showing in these districts should not be a surprise. These numbers are interesting, but there’s still something missing. Just as Rylander lapped the field at the state level, Perry’s overall performance was better than some and worse than others. What we have here is a rough guide to how Republican candidates did in these SRDs in 2002. What we want to know is whether or not Rick Perry did any better or worse than he might have been expected to do, and for that we need a finer look at the numbers. Here’s how Perry did at the state level in comparison to these other candidates:

Race Candidate Votes Pct Ratio ================================================ Comptroller Rylander 2,878,732 66.09 0.89 Governor Perry 2,632,591 59.13 1.00 Atty General Abbott 2,542,184 57.99 1.02 Senate Cornyn 2,496,243 56.07 1.05 Lt Governor Dewhurst 2,341,875 52.93 1.12

“Ratio” is the ratio of Perry’s vote percentage to the other candidates. He got 89% of Rylander’s share, 102% of Abbott’s, 105% of Cornyn’s, and 112% of Dewhurst’s. Now let’s go back to the previous comparison and add in this calculation, so we can see if Perry performed relatively better or worse than his partymates in these parts of the state.

Race Candidate Votes Pct Ratio State ==================================================== Comptroller Rylander 271,075 46.94 0.79 0.89 Atty General Abbott 223,085 37.48 0.99 1.02 Governor Perry 232,177 37.16 1.00 1.00 Lt Governor Dewhurst 217,896 36.08 1.03 1.12 Senate Cornyn 213,037 34.99 1.06 1.05

“State” is the Ratio from the previous table. What this says is that while Perry got 89% of the vote share that Rylander did, he only got 79% of the share she received in these SRDs. By this measure, Rylander outperformed him, as did Abbott (99% of the vote share versus 102% overall) and Dewhurst (103% versus 112%). Only Cornyn failed to outdo him in these Latino-heavy districts.

As before, there are many caveats. First and foremost is the fact that only Perry had a Latino opponent, Tony Sanchez. As we’ve discussed before, whatever else you may say about the Sanchez campaign, it got people to the polls in a lot of these places, and while all Democrats benefited from that, Sanchez in particular reaped the bounty. You can see this the most clearly in the earlier post in SRD 42, which encompasses Webb County, which is Sanchez’s home of Laredo. The point I’m making is simply that Perry had a steeper hill to climb, and that should be taken into account when you judge his performance.

And as I said in the previous entry, this is a crude measure. Nearly half of these SRDs have less than 60% SSRV. It’s entirely possible that many of these districts had Anglo majorities voting in them, and it’s entirely possible that Perry did more poorly with a smaller number of Latino voters in these districts but made up much of that ground with the bigger Anglo voter bloc. You’d have to get to the precinct level to get a truly clear picture, and while I can get my hands on that data, I don’t know enough about these SRDs to know which precinct goes with which neighborhood. Marc Campos has some of that for Harris County precincts, and the picture that emerges there is not one of great attraction towards Rick Perry from Latino voters; I’d guess the effect is the same in these other races as well, but I haven’t taken the time to look for myself. At the very least, we’d need to get a handle on the relative levels of turnout among Latino, Anglo, and other voters. I don’t have that data, so I’m looking at what I do have and squinting. It’ll have to do for now. I’ll have more on this next week.

Rick Perry and the Latino vote, part 1

Say what you want about Rick Perry, he’s got a much firmer grasp of the changing demographics of Texas and their political implications than many of his partymates do. As such, he plans to compete vigorously for the Latino vote in Texas.

Perry campaign manager Rob Johnson said the campaign will try and improve upon the one-third of the Latino vote that the governor has won in past elections.

“We can do better,” he said.

And for the future of the party, it must do better, Johnson said, citing that Hispanics will make up 50 percent of the state’s population in 10 years. A party that only wins one-third of that vote will have an uphill election battle, he said.

I’ll leave it to others to judge the efficacy and likelihood of success for Perry’s strategy. What I want to do is check Rob Johnson’s math. I don’t have access to any exit polling data from 2002, so I’m going to do my best to take a rough guess at Perry’s support level among Latinos from 2002 by looking at State Rep district data. What I’ve done is pulled out all of the Governor’s race returns from the SRDs in which the percentage of Spanish surname voter registrations (SSRVs) is at least 50. Here’s what that data looks like:

HD Representative Perry Sanchez Perry% Sanchez% SSVR ========================================================== 031 Guillen 1,965 18,154 9.8 90.2 91.0 033 Luna 12,466 16,167 43.5 56.5 53.1 034 Capello 13,861 14,512 48.9 51.1 52.4 035 Canales 15,794 17,186 47.9 52.1 52.2 036 Flores 4,857 13,168 25.3 74.7 79.7 037 Oliveira 4,833 10,360 31.8 68.2 81.7 038 Solis 7,465 11,614 38.8 61.2 74.5 039 Wise 5,288 12,417 29.9 70.1 78.1 040 Pena 2,829 11,678 19.5 80.5 86.8 041 Gutierrez 9,137 10,516 46.5 53.5 62.6 042 Raymond 3,399 27,357 11.1 89.9 85.5 043 Herrero 9,615 14,975 39.1 60.9 68.2 074 Gallego 13,998 16,342 46.1 53.9 55.7 075 Quintanilla 5,541 11,940 31.7 68.3 77.7 076 Chavez 3,659 16,769 17.9 82.1 64.6 077 Moreno 4,640 13,191 26.0 74.0 69.9 078 Haggerty 14,662 12,041 54.9 45.1 51.6 079 Pickett 6,815 10,759 38.8 61.2 80.0 080 Garza 11,179 15,628 41.7 58.3 68.9 104 Alonzo 3,650 10,342 26.1 73.9 51.3 116 Mrtinez-Fischr 8,858 12,798 40.9 59.1 57.5 117 Mercer 9,748 10,621 47.9 52.1 56.7 118 Uresti 9,907 11,917 45.4 54.6 56.7 119 Puente 8,781 13,061 40.2 59.8 57.2 123 Villarreal 9,927 13,325 42.7 57.3 58.2 124 Menendez 9,052 12,551 41.9 58.1 57.0 125 Castro 11,861 13,973 45.9 54.1 58.0 143 Moreno 3,890 9,294 29.5 70.5 58.3 145 Noriega 4,500 9,921 31.2 68.8 60.4 Total 232,177 392,577 37.2 62.8

There are many caveats to keep in mind. Not everybody who has a Spanish surname is actually Latino, and not everyone who is Latino has a Spanish surname. The percentage of Spanish surname voter registration may or may not have any relation to the percentage of people with Spanish surnames who voted. And even if you assume that the share of Latino voters is more or less constant from county to county and district to district, there will still be fluctuations. Basically, we’re using a yardstick to measure molecules.

Having said all that, I don’t see anything in these numbers to contradict what Johnson said. I do want to note, however, that the more heavily Latino a district was, the worse Perry tended to perform. To put it another way, I added up the vote totals in all the districts where the SSRVs were in the 50’s, in the 60’s, in the 70’s, and 80 or above. Here’s what that looks like:

SSVR Pct Perry Sanchez Perry% Sanchez% ==================================================== 50-60 146,455 184,130 44.3 55.7 60-70 42,730 81,000 34.5 65.5 70-80 23,151 49,139 32.0 68.0 80+ 19,841 78,308 20.2 79.8

Again, this metric is too crude to make any strong conclusions, but the trend is clear enough. If I were Nate Silver I’d draw you a graph and throw some correlation coefficients at you, but let’s just pretend I did that for now.

I did not do the same analysis for the other statewide candidates, because there are only so many hours in the day. My eyeballing of the data suggests that in most places Perry did better than some of his ballotmates, like David Dewhurst, and worse than others, like Carole Keeton Rylander. In other words, with the exception of HD42, which is in Tony Sanchez’s home county (Webb), Perry’s relative position was about where it was overall. I did not see anything that suggested to me that he did better than you might expect. Maybe I’ll tackle that another day.

The conclusions I will draw are that Perry is certainly capable of getting a third or better of the vote in heavily Latino areas, and that if his efforts aren’t matched by something at least as strong, he will do well enough to make a Democratic victory all but unattainable. You’ll see more evidence of that in Part 2.

Five years ago

Last week, BOR took a couple of looks back at how things were five years ago in the aftermath of the 2002 election (short answer: it sucked), and compares to how things are now. I’ll give you one way in which things are different now – I believe the base Democratic level statewide is higher. Take a look at this spreadsheet, which compares the Congressional vote totals and percentages from 2002 through 2006. Note that in 2006, the Democrats won a slightly larger share of the Congressional vote than they did in 2002 (45.9 to 45.1) even though they had six more incumbents in 2002.

A couple of notes on this spreadsheet: I counted votes for Shelley Sekula Gibbs as Republican votes for the regular election (the meaningless special election was skipped). In the special elections for CDs 15, 21, 23, 25, and 28, I added up the votes for candidates who carried the DEM and REP labels; if you were listed as LIB, IND, GRN, or CON, you were skipped. The “Competitive” label removes all of the races in which one party did not field an opponent. As you can see, in 2002 and 2004 this was basically a wash; in 2006, it favored the Dems. If you assume the Republicans would have netted about another 100,000 votes with all of these races filled in, the Dem percentage goes down to 44.8, which is a bit less than 2002, but again, that’s working with six fewer incumbents.

What this suggests to me is that the partisan gap at the statewide level isn’t as great as it might appear, at least by looking at the 2006 statewide election results. Generally speaking, the Dem Congressional candidates outperformed their statewide colleagues, with Bill Moody being the only statewide who did as well or better than most. I believe the way to close the gap between the Congressionals and the statewides is with money, which is what the statewide Republicans who did the best had in abundance. It seems clear to me that people who would vote for a Democratic Congressional candidate, especially those who did so in a district held by a Republican incumbent, would be open to the idea of voting for a Democratic statewide candidate. It would help if they knew something about these candidates – at least, if they knew as much about them as they did their Republican opponents – so they could make a fully informed decision. No guarantees, of course, but it sure couldn’t hurt.

Now of course, we don’t know what will happen in 2008. As you can see, 2004 was a much stronger year for Republican Congressional candidates than either 2002 or 2006. One presumes having President Bush at the top of the ticket to drive turnout for them didn’t hurt; they obviously won’t have that next year, and no I don’t think having Hillary up there will help them, either. On the other hand, we’ve got a pretty sparse crop of Dem candidates so far, so this measure may not be that useful next year. But we’ll see.

Latino voting

Received a link to this interesting study of Latino voting patterns in my mailbox the other day. Here are the highlights:

* The Latino vote for GOP Senate candidates was similar to prior years, at about one-third; gubernatorial candidates fared better, at close to one-half.

* But Latinos who voted in 2002 had higher income and education levels than the Latino electorate as a whole. Turnout of lower and middle income Latinos was much lower in 2002 than in 2000.

* Latino voters who identify themselves as “independents” are, in fact, likely to vote Democratic. The fact that many of these independents stayed home in 2002 helped Republicans.

* There is no “Latino” voting bloc, as such — after controlling for party identification, income, and education, there is no difference between Latino voting and the voting pattern of non-Hispanic whites in either the Senate or gubernatorial races of 2002. This is not true of African Americans, who are a distinctive voting bloc even after controlling for education, income, and party identification.

Pretty interesting. The polling data comes from Fox News, for those who care. One subject of some controversy is how Latinos voted in the 2002 Texas elections:

What about the Florida and Texas governorships? Didn’t Hispanic Democrats surge into Republican ranks in these two states? Not according to the FOX News polls. In Texas, almost no Latinos who had supported Gore in 2000 cast votes for GOP Senate candidate John Cronyn. And in the governors’ races, about 8 percent of Latinos who had supported Al Gore cast votes for Rick Perry and Jeb Bush — a respectable improvement, but no evidence of a surge. In Florida, Jeb Bush polled much worse among Latinos in 2002 (57 percent) than he had in his narrow loss to Lawton Chiles in 1994 (71 percent). If I learned first grade mathematics correctly, these figures are headed in the wrong direction — surprising given that 2002 found the President’s brother a well-entrenched incumbent whereas 1994 found him a relative neophyte. Moreover, the Latino Democrats who voted for Perry and Bush look very much like Republicans, and most of them voted Republican in the 2000 election — so there is meager evidence of Latino political movement between 2000 and 2002. The consultants who consider themselves so adept at manipulating voters’ allegiances are living in a dream world. The evidence strongly supports the conventional view of political science — that partisan commitments and policy preferences are highly stable, and campaign messages matter much less than political consultants would have gullible politicians believe (Green, Palmquist, and Schickler 2002).

It still doesn’t settle the question of how many Latinos actually voted for Rick Perry, but I’ll take what information I can get.

New leader, new troubles

Harris County Democrats selected Gerry Birnberg as their interim party chair to fill out Sue Schecter’s unexpired term. Birnberg will have to run for reelection in the 2004 primary.

He promised to raise enough money to hire a full-time executive director. Birnberg said the current county party budget is about $60,000 and he hopes to raise an additional $150,00 this year.

He also promised to adopt a more traditional Democratic Party message and move away from the failed strategy among some Texas Democrats of running as “Bush lite” — trying to link themselves to the popular president from Texas.

The new focus, Birnberg said, will be on health care, jobs, environment and other issues that he said Republicans shy away from.

“The Democratic message is: People matter,” Birnberg said. “My honest belief is that that message resonates.”

We’ll see. How you say it is also important, and without some obvious and memorable values behind it, a message like that is just a meaningless slogan. We’ll need more than just a message to be a factor.

Meanwhile, there’s trouble brewing in the state party as some dissidents have taken aim at Molly Beth Malcolm, the chair of the Texas Democratic Party.

Malcolm malcontents characterize her as “Republican lite,” unwilling to push traditional Democratic positions after switching from the Republican Party in 1992.

Last year, Malcolm helped keep national Democratic leaders away from the party’s convention in El Paso. She said she wanted to keep the spotlight on Texas candidates, but Republican critics quickly charged that the state Democrats were trying to distance themselves from a more-liberal national party.

Malcolm’s critics also say she has become too Austin-centric, turning a deaf ear to grass-roots efforts in other parts of the state.

“She’s a nice lady, but we need to do something to shake up our system and light some fires,” said Pharr insurance agent Juan Maldonado, a state party vice chairman.

I didn’t know she used to bat for the other team, but given how many Republicans are former Democrats in this state, I don’t think it really matters. What I do know is that we deserved better in 2002, and its way past time for the state party to get its act together. Everything I said about Harris County Democrats is equally true for the state. Let’s get a move on.

Oh, and by the way: “Tart-tongued Texarkanan”? “Malcom malcontents”? Someone get me the Alliteration Police on the line. I need to report a felony.

Looking forward: Harris County Democrats

Seeing this article about the resignation of Harris County Democratic Party Chair Sue Schecter reminds me that I never did follow up on this post, which pointed to this article about the many things that the local party did wrong last year. I will now rectify that oversight, so if this sort of thing bores you, feel free to come back later.

Now then. There are three things that I think a party chair should be focusing on: Raising money, organizing, and crafting a message. All three are bread-and-butter tactics, and the Harris County GOP kicks our butt at each of them. The political machine built by conservative activist Steven Hotze is fearsome to behold and wildly successful. And there’s no reason why the Democrats can’t be better at it.

There’s no inherent party advantage to these things. The GOP may be able to raise more money, but I sometimes feel that the Democrats don’t really try all that hard. I’ve voted in every Democratic primary since 1992, yet I can’t recall ever being solicited by the local party to attend fundraisers or rallies. How hard is is to crosscheck my name against the property tax rolls and figure out that I’m the kind of prospect that the Dems should be eager to recruit? There’s no excuse for this.

For this reason, I’m already leaning towards Dalia Stokes, organizer of the River Oaks Area Democratic Women (ROADWomen), as the next chair. I think the whole county party has to be rebuilt, and I think someone who’s already built an organizaton is the best person for the job.

As for the message, we’ve certainly learned that We’re Just Like Republicans sucks as a campaign slogan. I don’t expect that to happen again, and just maybe the pain of that lesson will drive our efforts next time. I would suggest that there is a page in the local GOP playbook that we can steal, though. The local GOP has a pretty strong brand identity. When you see an ad for a Republican candidate, you will almost certainly hear a few key words: “Conservative values”, “fiscal restraint”, “low taxes”, and so on. I think they have a template somewhere and build their ads based on it. It’s effective – you know exactly what you’re getting with these guys. The Democrats lack such an identity, and I think it hurts them. If I were Democratic chair, I’d spend some time studying these ads and come up with a few key words of our own, words that would contrast us with them in a positive way, and encourage candidates to use them.

I would work on expanding the party base, both with voter drives and GOTV efforts, and also by making sure the message I craft will be reasonably appealing to non-Democrats. I don’t mean trying to peel away GOP voters – remember that painful lesson from last year? – I mean working to make our message broad and universal. I laid out a few such themes in the immediate aftermath of the election.

I would reach out to every already-existing progressive group, as these people are the party’s core. I would want them to feel like they are an integral part of our future success. We need them and we need to make them feel like they’re fully invested in us. I’d reach across county lines to groups in Fort Bend and Montgomery. We should share strategies and mailing lists where appropriate, and we should work together in races that cross county lines.

Finally, I would hire a couple of savvy web and database techs, and have them get to work on a web page and mail server that will have a steady flow of new information and will be used for our outreach projects. Again, there’s no excuse for not having the best tools at your disposal.

That’s what I’d do. I’d like to know what the three candidates plan to do. I’m going to try to find their email addresses and ask them, and if I hear back I’ll let you know what they say.

She’s back

By the way, in case there weren’t enough depressing news to go around, our new Senator John Cornyn has a seat on the Judiciary Committee, which means that the renomination of Priscilla Owen to the federal bench is pretty much a given. All you fans of judicial activism should be pleased as punch.

UPDATE: And she’s bringing Charles Pickering with her:

“This is not an issue like affirmative action where people of good faith can disagree,” said Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., and a member of the judiciary committee. “To renominate Judge Pickering, who has not built a distinguished record and is probably best known for intervening on behalf of a cross burner, shows that Nixon’s Southern strategy is alive and well in this White House.”

Among Pickering’s supporters is longtime friend Sen. Trent Lott of Mississippi, the former Senate majority leader forced to step down from his leadership position over racially insensitive remarks.

We can certainly argue over whether or not Judge Pickering is qualified, impartial, fair, whatever. Is it really smart politically for Bush to give the Democrats a Trent Lott-related talking point this soon after supposedly putting that embarrassing incident to bed?

A season for giving

Forty-eight families donated $34 million to the Texas GOP this year, more than half of the $64 million total that the state party raised.

I’m not going to act all shocked and indignant about this. “GOP gets big bucks from rich folks” is as much a secret as Trent Lott’s despicable racism. It isn’t even news any more.

So, I’m going to focus on a couple of interesting bits in this story. I’ll start by quoting Houston Texans owner Bob McNair, one of the five biggest GOP benefactors:

[McNair] said the way to improve the campaign finance system is to require greater transparency and timely reporting of who donates to political funds.

“That’s the answer, because you smoke everybody out and you know who is putting the money up,” he said. “If I’m in the construction business and there’s construction legislation up there, then it’s clear.”

I agree. It surely would have been nice for this story to have been written in October rather than December, for example. Consider this little nugget:

The second-largest donor to Texans for a Republican Majority was the Farmers Insurance employees committee, which gave $150,000.

Farmers’ threats to pull out of the Texas homeowners insurance market have led Gov. Perry to say he will declare insurance reform an emergency legislative issue in January.

I suspect that might have been a campaign issue had it been known before the election. It may not have made any difference, but it would have been nice to know.

Former #1 giver James Leininger was #2 this year, but he’s already had plenty of influence. Be sure to read the linked stories, or do a Google search on “James Leininger”. It’s an eye opener. One word of advice: If you’re a Democrat, don’t buy any products from Promised Land Dairy.

Then there’s Bo Pilgrim. What can you say about a man who once handed out $10,000 checks on the state Senate floor when a bill on workers’ compensation insurance was being discussed? Here’s what he says for himself:

Pilgrim now says that money was not donated for the good of his company but for the good of all Texas workers whose jobs might have moved out of state if the workers’ compensation system had not been overhauled.

“I’m a large contributor, but I have 24,500 employees,” Pilgrim said. “I’m contributing for them. I know they are not able to contribute, some of them.

“It’s my responsibility to support the right candidates for the right reasons. It’s not selfish. It’s interpreted that way by the individual who doesn’t have or can’t have the same input.”

Yes, that really was selfless of him. I should be ashamed of myself for being snarky about it. Maybe if I’d get off my butt and become a millionaire so I could do what he does I wouldn’t be such a crab.

The big winner this year was Houston’s own Bob Perry, the man behind the evil soulless townhome development company Perry Homes. The sidebar story gives some background on him. I have a strong dislike for Perry Homes because of what they’ve done to Montrose, the neighborhood I used to live in. Now I have even more reason to feel this way.

The last of the Top Five is a Dallas dusinessman named Wayne Huddleston. The article refers to hims as a “different kind of Republican”, and for once I actually agree with that assessment:

A resident of Highland Park, a Dallas enclave that is home to the state’s wealthiest school district, Huddleston wants to get rid of the “Robin Hood” school finance system that takes money from rich districts and gives to poor ones. But he also is willing to propose the usually unthinkable in Texas politics — a flat state income tax to pay for schools.

“Ultimately, no one can argue with educating every child in the state of Texas,” Huddleston said. “My goal is not to do it well in the short term but to put something into play in the long term that does the job.”

Anyone who’d advocate a state income tax is definitely not a conformist. I can’t say he’ll get much return on his investment, though.

Not Gore in 2004

Well, it’s official. We won’t have Al Gore to kick around in 2004, as he has announced that he is not a candidate for President. Part of me is sorry to see this, as I think he’s still the best person for the job, but more of me is glad that for this decision.

“I think the current policies have to be changed,” said Gore. “I think that my best way of contributing to that result may not be as a candidate this time around.”

A rematch with Bush, Gore said, “would inevitably involve a focus on the past that would in some measure distract from the focus on the future that I think all campaigns have to be about.”

He’s right. A rematch would inevitably focus on 2000, and I think Gore would get the same shabby treatment without the benefit of the is-Bush-fit-to-lead questions. Someone else can make the case that Bush has done a bad job without that baggage.

Despite Gore’s demurrals that his announcement “probably means that I will never have another opportunity to run for president”, I wouldn’t completely count him out. For one thing, if Bush does get reelected in 2004, Gore will be only 60 years old in 2008. He could run again if he wanted to. The main problem is that he won’t have much of a platform from which to be visible any more. If he doesn’t find something with a relatively high profile to do between now and then, he’ll be considered irrelevant.

So who do you like now that Gore is no more? Count me as an undecided. I’ll need to survive the Houston mayoral race in 2003 first.

Negative advertising works

Everyone who paid attention agrees that the Texas Governor’s race was very negative this year. A new poll suggests that Tony Sanchez got the brunt of the fallout from that:

On a scale of one to five with five being the most favorable, Perry’s average favorability rating among those blaming him for the negative campaign was 2.53, while Perry’s rating among those blaming Sanchez was 4.25.

In contrast, the average rating of Sanchez among those who blamed him for the negative campaign was 1.54 while Sanchez’s rating was 3.6 among those who blamed Perry for the negative campaign. Among those blaming both candidates equally, the average favorability rating for Sanchez was 2.65 while Perry’s average rating was 2.94.

Make of that what you will. It’d be interesting to see the numbers broken down by party as well – I suspect Republicans gave Sanchez low ratings whether they thought he was more negative or not, and the same is true for Dems and Perry. Nonetheless, this is something to file away for future reference.

David Rushing update

Well, the good news is that the Chron finally addressed the David Rushing issue. The bad news is that they did so in a completely candy-assed way.

What they did was print three letters to the editor which one assumes are supposed to give some “balance” to Rushing’s viewpoint. The letters themselves…well, see for yourself. Here’s Letter Number One:

Old politics won’t work

Regarding David Rushing’s Nov. 19 Outlook article, “Political Poison: How John Sharp killed the Texas Democratic Party”: Rushing must not have been paying attention during the last election because Ron Kirk and Tony Sanchez won their primaries.

Does he prefer a return to the old “Dixiecrat” Party of George Wallace, where only white Protestant males need apply? This thinly veiled racist appeal to the politics of old just won’t work. Here’s a novel approach: Why not change the message?

The concerns of conservative and moderate Democrats have been ignored and replaced by those of the radical left. It’s small wonder the Republicans continue to gain more votes in Texas.

David R. Martinez, Houston

Does anyone understand the point this guy is trying to make? He starts off disputing Rushing’s thesis, then he recapitulates it. And what’s up with this assertion that the state Democratic Party has been taken over by “the radical left”? Anyone who thinks John Sharp and Ron Kirk are radical anything probably thinks Tom DeLay is a mainstream moderate.

Moving on to Letter Number Two:

Not over white voters

David Rushing is misguided if he thinks Texas Democrats failed because they lost white voters. Remember college history: In wartime, a president’s party usually wins most elections. Saying that Texans will not support an inclusive party makes them appear racist.

Michael Whitlock, Stafford

Unfortunately, the Democrats did fail with white voters, and this was a major factor, probably the biggest factor, in their defeat. Only Sharp drew better than 30% of the Anglo vote. Back in March, after the primaries, the hope was that they could get at least 35% of the Anglo vote – they needed that much to be competitive. 35% of the white vote would probably have carried Ron Kirk to victory, and would have made the Sanchez-Perry race much closer.

There’s no question that the ticket did poorly with white voters. It was not, as Rushing contended, because the Democrats were “openly hostile” towards them. You can’t counter one wrong fact with another and hope to win the argument.

On to Letter Number Three:

His bias was obvious

When I looked up David Rushing’s credentials, I learned he is a long-time member of the Young Conservatives of Texas and that this organization is powerful in state universities and very influential with Gov. Rick Perry.

How many people read Rushing’s article and thought it was unbiased?

Geraldine Allen, Sugar Land

Finally, the crux of the matter – the fact that Rushing attempted to pass himself off as impartial or possibly sympathetic to the Democrats. He deliberately misrepresented himself in his byline, and in doing so gave a distorted picture of his perspective. This is the only letter that really matters, and it gets printed last. Jeebus.

It’s stuff like this that makes people across the political spectrum dislike and distrust our hometown paper.

Quixotic Quest Dept.

Four defeated state candidates in Texas are filing suit against the Texas Association of Business, claiming that money that the TAB spent in the campaigns constituted direct contributions, which are illegal under state law.

Okay, this is a little complicated. Let’s start with the story:

The TAB, in what it recently bragged was an “unprecedented show of muscle,” targeted 22 hotly contested races for the Texas House and two for the state Senate. Candidates supported by the group won 18 of the House races and one of the crucial Senate contests.

Overall, 100 of 104 House candidates and 22 of 23 Senate candidates endorsed by TAB’s political action committee won in an election that saw Republicans capture a majority of the House for the first time in 130 years.

TAB spent $2 million in the most competitive races. Only $100,000 of that amount came from its political action committee, which publicly identifies contributors.

The remainder was in direct corporate contributions for so-called issue advertising, which criticized the candidates it was trying to defeat but didn’t specifically tell voters how to cast their ballots. TAB contends the sources of those contributions are not subject to public disclosure.

State law prohibits direct corporate contributions to political races. But TAB believes it successfully skirted that ban by buying the issue ads.

In two separate lawsuits filed in state district court in Austin, the four defeated Democrats contend the corporate expenditures were illegal.

If I’m understanding this correctly, the plaintiffs are saying that TAB’s purchase of the “issues ads” is a direct contribution, and TAB says it isn’t.

Here’s what I think is the relevant law from the state elections code. I Am Not A Lawyer, so make of it what you will:

§ 253.091. Corporations Covered

This subchapter applies only to corporations that are organized under the Texas Business Corporation Act, the Texas Non-Profit Corporation Act, federal law, or law of another state or nation.

Amended by Acts 1987, 70th Leg., ch. 899, § 1, eff. Sept. 1, 1987.

§ 253.092. Treatment of Incorporated Political Committee

If a political committee the only principal purpose of which is accepting political contributions and making political expenditures incorporates for liability purposes only, the committee is not considered to be a corporation for purposes of this subchapter.

Amended by Acts 1987, 70th Leg., ch. 899, § 1, eff. Sept. 1, 1987.

§ 253.093. Certain Associations Covered

(a) For purposes of this subchapter, the following associations, whether incorporated or not, are considered to be corporations covered by this subchapter: banks, trust companies, savings and loan associations or companies, insurance companies, reciprocal or interinsurance exchanges, railroad companies, cemetery companies, government-regulated cooperatives, stock companies, and abstract and title insurance companies.

(b) For purposes of this subchapter, the members of the associations specified by Subsection (a) are considered to be stockholders.

Amended by Acts 1987, 70th Leg., ch. 899, § 1, eff. Sept. 1, 1987.

§ 253.094. Contributions and Expenditures Prohibited

(a) A corporation or labor organization may not make a political contribution or political expenditure that is not authorized by this subchapter.

(b) A corporation or labor organization may not make a political contribution or political expenditure in connection with a recall election, including the circulation and submission of a petition to call an election.

(c) A person who violates this section commits an offense. An offense under this section is a felony of the third degree.

Amended by Acts 1987, 70th Leg., ch. 899, § 1, eff. Sept. 1, 1987.

§ 253.095. Punishment of Agent

An officer, director, or other agent of a corporation or labor organization who commits an offense under this subchapter is punishable for the grade of offense applicable to the corporation or labor organization.

Amended by Acts 1987, 70th Leg., ch. 899, § 1, eff. Sept. 1, 1987.

§ 253.096. Contribution on Measure

A corporation or labor organization may make campaign contributions from its own property in connection with an election on a measure only to a political committee for supporting or opposing measures exclusively.

Amended by Acts 1987, 70th Leg., ch. 899, § 1, eff. Sept. 1, 1987.

§ 253.097. Direct Expenditure on Measure

A corporation or labor organization not acting in concert with another person may make one or more direct campaign expenditures from its own property in connection with an election on a measure if the corporation or labor organization makes the expenditures in accordance with Section 253.061 or 253.062 as if the corporation or labor organization were an individual.

Amended by Acts 1987, 70th Leg., ch. 899, § 1, eff. Sept. 1, 1987.

Sections 253.061 and and 253.062 cover contributions by individuals:

§ 253.061. Direct Expenditure of $100 or Less

Except as otherwise provided by law, an individual not acting in concert with another person may make one or more direct campaign expenditures in an election from the individual’s own property if:

(1) the total expenditures on any one or more candidates or measures do not exceed $100; and

(2) the individual receives no reimbursement for the expenditures.

Amended by Acts 1987, 70th Leg., ch. 899, § 1, eff. Sept. 1, 1987; Acts 1997, 75th Leg., ch. 864, § 243, eff. Sept. 1, 1997.

§ 253.062. Direct Expenditure Exceeding $100

(a) Except as otherwise provided by law, an individual not acting in concert with another person may make one or more direct campaign expenditures in an election from the individual’s own property that exceed $100 on any one or more candidates or measures if:

(1) the individual complies with Chapter 254 as if the individual were a campaign treasurer of a political committee; and

(2) the individual receives no reimbursement for the expenditures.

(b) An individual making expenditures under this section is not required to file a campaign treasurer appointment.

Amended by Acts 1987, 70th Leg., ch. 899, § 1, eff. Sept. 1, 1987; Acts 1997, 75th Leg., ch. 864, § 244, eff. Sept. 1, 1997.

If you understand all that, you’re a) a lawyer, b) smarter than me, or c) both. If so, feel free to enlighten me in the comments.

My ignorance of the legal nuances aside, I think there’s a better chance that I’ll be the starting quarterback for the Cowboys on Turkey Day than any relief being given to the plaintiffs in this suit. It’s pie-in-the-sky, it goes against the state’s unofficial motto (“Creating a Friendly Climate for Bidness Since We Kicked Santa Anna’s Ass All Them Years Ago”), and the state Supreme Court is full of Republicans who live on campaign contributions. It’s just not gonna happen.

But hey, as long as we’re dreaming, here’s what I’d like to see happen. I’ve seen this suggestion before, including in the blogosphere (can’t remember where, unfortunately), and I think it has merit: Let everyone contribute as much as they want, but all funds go into a blind trust and then dispersed anonymously to the candidates. If candidates don’t know who’s giving them the quid, they will have less incentive to give back the pro quo.

There are two main flaws with this approach – it requires a bureaucracy to handle the money, and politicians are never going to be truly in the dark about who their biggest supporters are. I don’t think the first objection is that big a deal. As for the second, I refuse to let the perfect kill the good.

That doesn’t address the “issues ads” that the plaintiffs in this suit are complaining about. I can’t think of any way to restrict them that doesn’t cause First Amendment concerns, so what I’d like to see is more stringent disclosure laws. If the Citizens For A Better Tomorrow want to run an ad asking why Candidate Johnson hates America, puppies, and motherhood, I think the ad should be proceeded by giving the contact information for CFABT, to wit

“The following ad was paid for by Citizens For A Better Tomorrow, PO Box 666, Boston, MA, 02134, 617-555-1234,, Jerome Horwitz (President)”

In addition, all officers of CFABT and everyone who contributes above a certain level (say $100) should be publicly available.

Like I said, all that is for the perfect world that I hope to live in some day. In the meantime, I’ll try to keep an eye on this case, but I fully expect it to go nowhere.

David Rushing update

No correction or letters-to-the-editor printed in the Chron as of today regarding David Rushing. I’ll be keeping an eye on it.

On a slightly egotistical note, this site is higher result in a Google search for “David Rushing” than any of his Houston Review articles. That oughta frost him.

David Rushing update

Yesterday, after Mark Yzaguirre tipped me off to David Rushing’s more accurate byline, I sent the following email to the Chron:

In Sunday’s edition, you printed an opinion piece called “How John Sharp Killed the Texas Democratic Party” ( The author is David Rushing, whose byline says “Rushing, a Houstonian, is a first-year law student at Southern Methodist University”. Are you aware that this same piece appears in the Houston Review, a publication that calls itself “an independent, conservative, student-run journal of news and opinion serving the Houston area”? Are you aware that David Rushing’s byline in the Review version of this piece lists him as ” a first year law student at Southern Methodist University and state Vice Chairman for Internal Affairs of the Young Conservatives of Texas”?

What I want to know is did you leave out this last bit of his bio, or did he? In either case, I believe a disservice was done to the readers. Knowing Rushing’s bias greatly changes one’s perception of this piece. I believe that a correction should be printed to this effect.

Thank you very much.

Today there was a message on my answering machine from David Langworthy, a member of the Chron‘s editorial board and the editor of the Outlook page. He told me that Rushing sent the piece to them with the shorter bio, and that the ed board was not very happy about it. He said they will print some sort of correction, possibly in the form of the letters they received (they got at least one more besides mine), and that there will probably be a piece that “balances” Rushing’s at some point as well. He thanked me for my “close reading” of the article. I thanked him for calling me and told him I appreciated his followup.

Interestingly, Langworthy mentioned that he wondered at first if Rushing was a really disguntled liberal or a conservative stirring things up. They decided to print his piece because they thought it would stimulate discussion. Looks like they got what they wanted.

Given the earlier example of less-than-forthright behavior by members of the Houston Review, I have to wonder why some of them feel the need to act this way. Maybe Bill Clinton broke their moral compasses, too.

Sometimes you’re not paranoid enough

While writing the article below critiquing David Rushing’s op-ed in today’s Chron, I was tempted to include a line saying something like “This article is so ridiculous and slanted, I’d almost swear it was written by a Republican posing as a Democrat”. I finally took it out because it just seemed too paranoid.

Well, shame on me. Reader Mark Yzaguirre wrote to tip me to the fact that this same piece appeared in the Houston Review, which according to its masthead is “an independent, conservative, student-run journal of news and opinion serving the Houston area.” The byline on Rushing’s piece here is slightly more informative – “David Rushing is a first year law student at Southern Methodist University and state Vice Chairman for Internal Affairs of the Young Conservatives of Texas”. Which leads me to wonder – did Rushing leave out that last bit when he submitted his piece to the Chron, or did the Chron‘s op-ed page editor excise it? And whichever is the case, why?

On a slightly odd side note, some time after I started writing this weblog I began receiving mail from the affiliated Austin Review at my work address. I have no idea how they found me (especially since my work address has never appeared on this site or my old Blogspot site) or why they thought I’d be a receptive audience. Very strange.

UPDATE: Kevin reminds me in the comments that the Houston Review has a colorful history.

Race, politics, and stupidity

When I saw the above-the-fold headline in the Sunday op-ed section entitled How John Sharp Killed the Texas Democratic Party, I expected a discussion of things like how all three top ticket candidates ran as Rpublican Lites, how Sharp kept the national Democratic Party at arm’s length, even how Sharp put all of the party’s eggs in the Tony Sanchez basket without giving him a sufficient checking out, but I got none of that. What I got from author David Rushing, listed as a “Houstonian and first-year law student at SMU”, was a bizarre diatribe about racial politics. After reading it I have to wonder which campaign this guy was actually watching.

First, let’s deal with a few fuzzy facts:

The problem for Sharp and Texas Democrats is that the Democratic Party has wedded itself to racial preferences, a practice that Sharp highlighted by his brazen endorsement of racial preferences for the top three seats. This iron-clad commitment to racial quotas was reinforced when Sharp and Sanchez both backed Kirk against Victor Morales in the Democratic Party run-off for nomination to the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Phil Gramm in order to ensure a black on the top of the ticket. (Victor) Morales, the Democrats’ 1996 nominee against Gramm, won a higher percentage of the general election vote in 1996 than Kirk did in 2002 against the less-formidable John Cornyn.

Unfortunately, the Election Returns page on the Secretary of State website is acting wonky, so I can’t get the exact numbers right now. Victor Morales got 44% of the vote, about what Kirk got. Morales was likely helped by the Presidential election that year – he got roughly the same number of votes as Bill Clinton did. Kirk had a popular President from Texas actively campaigning against him.

What’s so wrong with the idea that Ron Kirk was the better, more qualified candidate? He had a bipartisan record of success as mayor of Dallas. Victor Morales had one quirky run for office that generated a lot of favorable publicity for its novelty. He was never elected to anything, having failed in a similar campaign for the 5th Congressional District in 1998. Kirk was a good candidate with a shot at winning. Morales was a one-trick pony whose time had passed.

The choice of Tony Sanchez in particular killed Sharp and the Democrats. There was another Hispanic available, and running hard, for the Democratic nomination. And if Dan Morales (no relation to Victor), a highly qualified, experienced Hispanic with a history of opposition to racial preferences had been the Democratic nominee, the entire fall campaign could have gone differently. The party would have taken down the “No Anglos” sign by publicly repudiating its most divisive policy position. Instead, the Democrats amplified their allegiance to racial preferences.

This is just plain inaccurate. Dan Morales filed for the governor’s race at the last minute. Speculation had been that he’d try for Senate up until then. This is not “running hard” for the nomination. Morales barely spent any money during the primary, probably in part because all the support had already lined up behind Sanchez, whose commitment to the candidacy had been known for months, and he got crushed.

I was happy to see Dan Morales run for the nomination. I voted for him in the primary. I do think he’d have been a better candidate, but if there’s any blame to lay for his not being on the ticket, it’s all on him.

Rushing spends the rest of the article railing against racial politics and quoting GOP politicians accusing the Democrats of playing the race card. I honestly don’t know where to begin to respond to him. Race was an aspect of this campaign. How could it not be? But to say that the Senate and Governor’s elections were all or mostly about race is to deny reality. The ads I saw on TV were occasionally about issues – mostly about insurance in the governor’s race – and a lot about attacks. Rick Perry gained a lot of traction with his ads linking Tony Sanchez’s bank to drug money. Sanchez accused Perry of being a special interests tool. Cornyn played the Bush card for all it was worth. Kirk ran warm and fuzzy ads proclaiming himself a moderate who works well with others. What frequencies does Rushing’s TV pick up?

I’m just at a loss to understand where Rushing is coming from. I agree that the ticket did a poor job of appealing to white voters. I don’t agree that it’s because the candidates were openly hostile to white voters.

UPDATE: Greg Wythe unloads on David Rushing as well.

The old switcheroo

Before November 5, there was speculation that if the Republicans gained a 50-49-1 majority in the Senate that Lincoln Chafee would switch parties to leave the Senate in Democratic control. Switch talk is still alive, only now there are more names being tossed about. The lefty site Working for Change is trying to lobby Senators Olympia Snowe and Arlen Specter along with Chafee, a move that I consider a bit quixotic (not that I object, mind you).

A more interesting scenario, predicated on Mary Landrieu retaining her seat in the Louisiana runoff, is this one, which not only suggests John McCain as an ace in the hole, but that there could be a bigger picture involved:

Prediction: There is a 50-50 chance that McCain and Chaffee will switch parties and a similar chance that McCain will become the Democratic standard bearer in 2004. The odds of a Landrieu victory in Louisiana are much higher.

Via the newly Movable Typed Tom Tomorrow.

I’m still a bit shell shocked from November 5 to have given this much thought, but it strikes me as a bit farfetched. I think I’ll stay skeptical, which at least gives me the chance to be pleasantly surprised.

More on Libertarians and the GOP

Walter in Denver, a Libertarian Party member, has some thoughts on the recent election:

So, why do I, a partisan Libertarian, see a positive in Republican victory? After all, gridlock is the next best thing to libertarian government. It’s because the minarchists in the Republican Party have nowhere to hide. They’ll have to put up or shut up.

I’ll make a few easy predictions; under Republican rule, the federal government will continue to grow, probably at a faster pace than ever. Government intrusions on a personal level will become more egregious. Small government advocates will have no place in the Republican Party.

Coming elections will provide fertile ground for libertarians of both the large and small ‘L’ varieties.

Like I said, this is an opportunity for the Democrats. The stars are perfectly aligned: the Christian Coalition will be presenting a bill for its services to the GOP any day now, John Ashcroft is making waste paper out of the Constitution, a movement to regain civil rights is surely in our near future, and the Dems can blame the Republicans for everything that goes wrong.

Walter also disputes the notion that Libertarian voters siphon votes from the GOP (a notion Mac agrees with, at least as far as Alabama goes). Apparently, his wife is Miss December in the Ladies of Liberty pinup calendar, which makes him all right in my book.

Link via Talk Left.

Looking forward: Libertarians

Jim Henley has some sharp words for libertarians regarding the Homeland Security Act and the Information Awareness Office.

If you imagine yourselves as part of some coalition, ask yourself what you’re getting for your trouble. You lost HSD. You lost USA-PATRIOT. You get IAO. An independent 9/11 commission? Gone. A lot of you favor liberal rules on therapeutic cloning. Think you’ll get that from this Congress? Is there anything whatsoever that neolibertarians favor that the rest of the Republican coalition does not where you have gotten or expect to get your way? Any case where the Administration said “We’ve got to give the libertarians this?” Or where you can imagine them saying it? Remember, the war doesn’t count. The neocons want it and the Christian Coalition wants it. They matter. Ditto for the tax cut. I’m talking about something that neolibertarians hold dear that neocons and/or the Christian Right oppose, where the will of the neolibertarians prevails.

I’m here every day. You can get back to me.

A proposition: Neolibertarians are to the Republican Party what African-Americans are to the Democratic Party – taken for granted because they have nowhere else to go.

I’d argue that African-Americans get a lot more out of the Democrats than neolibs get out of the GOP – if nothing else, there’s a lot more black Democratic officeholders than there are neolib Republican officeholders (my personal count of the latter starts and ends with Ron Paul) – but that’s a quibble. My purpose here is to suggest that it’s high time the Democrats offered a legitimate alternative to the Republicans for people like Jim.

We can start right here with Homeland Security and the IAO. I believe there’s going to eventually be a backlash against the curtailment of civil rights that has gone part and parcel with the War of Terror. Sooner or later, people are going to start to ask if the security they’ve supposedly gained in trade for their freedoms is really worth it. If there’s one thing I want the Democrats to learn from Election 2002, it’s that if you want credibility on an issue you have to get out in front of that issue. You know, lead. Let’s start by calling HSD and the IAO the abominations that they are.

(What’s that you say? The Democrats originally proposed HSD over Team Bush’s objections? So what? The hallmark of George W. Bush’s political career has been to initially oppose something, then take credit for it when it happens anyway. He got the credit for HSD. Go ahead and hand him the bill for it. He’s earned it.)

Once the Dems have started bashing HSD, there are other issues on which they can not only be on the side of the angels but also on the side of the libertarians. Take stem-cell research, which can easily be cast in terms of heroic doctors battling deadly diseases. Or take digital rights management and the CBDTPA. Surely a party that claims to represent “the people” should be able to oppose a law that would allow large corporations to rummage around your personal computer.

The beauty of this approach is that it gives the Dems some appeal to a group that has all but abandoned them – white males – without lurching towards the right. Combine this with an increased focus on the looming budget deficit, and I think you just might have a winner.

And you thought the national Democrats were rudderless

Tim Fleck has a pretty damning article about the haplessness of the Harris County Democratic Party, which is basically 0 for the last three elections. It’s pretty ugly.

I’m up to my ass in alligators right now, but rest assured I will have plenty of things to say shortly.

Hispanic voting

This AP article says Hispanics generally voted Democratic in 2002, but the GOP got a decent share of the votes in New York, Florida, and possibly Colorado. It’s also a reminder that Hispanic voters are not monolithic – those of Mexican ancestry voted heavily for the Democrats, while Cuban-Americans and Puerto Ricans went more for the GOP.

The question of how Governor Goodhair did with Hispanics is still being argued:

In Texas, the Velasquez study showed Democratic candidate for governor Tony Sanchez with 87 percent of the Hispanic vote and Republican Gov. Rick Perry with 10 percent. Perry won the election by a 58-40 margin overall and Republicans say his share of the Hispanic vote was probably closer to a third, based on his performance in heavily Hispanic regions of the state.

Given how poorly Tony Sanchez did with Anglo voters and how disappointing Hispanic turnout was in the end, I’d tend towards the 87% number. I think if Perry had gotten one-third of the Hispanic votes he’d have won by a 2-1 margin instead of 3-2.

Another contender

Ohio Rep. Marcy Kaptur is now in the running to be House Minority Leader. I’ll say it again: Whoever can best upgrade him or herself to be Majority Leader in 2004 is the one I want.

More turnout issues

Ruy Teixera has a Prospect article that covers the familiar ground of why Election Day was carried by the GOP this year. He spends a few paragraphs on turnout, which should sound familiar:

Looking inside some of the Senate states the Democrats lost, preliminary analysis suggests that a couple of things were going on. First, while turnout across the United States was up from 1998 — from 37.6 percent to 39.3 percent of the voting-age population, according to the Committee for the Study of the American Electorate — it appears to be the case that in strongly Democratic large cities the increase in turnout was less than in strongly Republican areas in cities’ outer suburbs or in rural areas. For example, in Missouri, the increase in votes cast from 1998 to 2002 was less in strongly Democratic St. Louis than in the strongly Republican suburb of St. Charles County or, especially, in rural and fervently Republican Cape Girardeau County. The same pattern can be seen in Minnesota where many of the more rural counties cast almost as many votes in 2002 as in 2000, while the more urban counties lagged behind.

But the other, and perhaps more important, part of the story was the reduction of Democratic support in Democratic-leaning suburban or mixed suburban-urban counties, where Republican success in picking off swing voters was likely to manifest itself. For example, in St. Louis County in Missouri, Jean Carnahan’s margin over Jim Talent was only 3 points, down from the 8 points her late husband carried the county by in 2000. And in Hennepin and Ramsay counties in Minnesota, Walter Mondale’s margins over Norm Coleman were substantially less than Mark Dayton’s over Rod Grams in 2000 (11 and 10 points less, respectively). But in completely urban St. Louis city in Missouri, the Democratic margin was much the same as in 2000.

So it seems likely that a failure of core Democratic areas to match turnout increases in heavily Republican areas — plus a shift away from the Democrats in Democratic-leaning suburbs — were the factors responsible for many of the Democrats’ key losses. Taken together, these trends meant that Democrats could not prevent highly-mobilized Republican areas from dominating these electoral contests.

The differences are greater in Texas, but the idea is the same.

Looking forward: Turnout

I have to tell you, I really thought turnout was going to carry at least some of the statewide Democratic ticket to victory this year. I just knew it.

I made several bad assumptions. One, I believed my own hype. Two, I extrapolated from limited data, namely my experiences calling voters before the election. And three, I assumed that the 40% turnout predicted would not only materialize (we actually got 36% in the Governor’s race, slightly less in the others) but be driven by long-lost Democratic voters coming back to the polls because they finally had something worth voting for.

Reality’s a bitch, ain’t it?

Still, though, in looking at the county by county results for the Senate race between John Cornyn and Ron Kirk, I’m struck by the comparatively poor turnout in some of the bigger counties that Kirk carried. For example:

County    Cornyn    Kirk  Voters Turnout
EL PASO	  28,642  69,490 355,201  28.08%
CAMERON   14,834  28,902 154,193  28.80%
JEFFERSON 23,216  31,272 164,006  33.22%
NUECES    29,313  38,183 200,322  34.10%
TRAVIS    90,814 121,102 555,065  39.30%

Now, I’m not going to make up the 500,000 votes that separate Kirk from Cornyn by playing the turnout game, but you can’t be competitive, let alone win, if only one of your best counties is better than average in tournout. Let’s see how this compares to the large counties that Cornyn won handily:

County      Cornyn    Kirk  Voters Turnout
MONTGOMERY  56,068  16,748 196,250  37.65%
COLLIN      88,136  36,750 319,236  39.51%
SMITH       32,537  13,984 107,976  43.49%
LUBBOCK     38,217  16,245 152,442  36.24%
DENTON      70,681  32,930 306,174  34.26%
BRAZORIA    33,644  18,329 152,721  34.62%
WILLIAMSON  47,303  26,306 177,935  42.22%
BELL        25,642  16,939 144,805  29.77%
TARRANT    198,504 141,505 876,576  39.18%
FORT BEND   49,456  37,319 224,551  39.01%

All but three above average, with only Bell County having truly poor turnout. These are mainly wealthy counties (Montgomery, Collin, Denton, Williamson and Fort Bend are all suburbs) while only Travis on Kirk’s side is well-to-do, but still, one side got their supporters to the polls and the other side didn’t. Step Number One, therefore, is to concentrate more on those counties that actually vote Democratic. Boosting El Paso and Cameron Counties into the 40% range would have cut Kirk’s deficit by about 25,000 votes. (Note: I’m assuming the extra turnout would have voted in the same manner as the rest of their counties. Obviously, a more targeted turnout effort would do more.)

Like I said, this alone is nowhere near enough to make it a true race. But another thing that leaps out at me is how many counties Cornyn carried with over 60% of the vote. Many of those are suburban, as noted. Step Two has to be to not give up on these places for the simple reason that getting stomped in them adds enormously to your deficit. Montgomery County is a bit more than one-third the size of Travis, and yet if you counted just those two counties’ votes Cornyn would have won.

Not giving up on the suburbs means three things: One, encourage any grassroots effort, no matter how small, by progressives in the suburbs. It’s gotta be lonely and depressing to be a Democrat in Montgomery County, but those folks’ votes matter just as much as they do Montrose. Two, whatever Hispanic future Texas may have, white voters are very much the majority now and will be so for some time to come. The next Dream Team has to have some appeal to white voters or they’ll get creamed in the suburbs again. Three, the suburbs aren’t as white as they once were. Fort Bend county is Tom DeLay’s turf and solidly Republican overall, but Kirk did surprisingly well there:

While the county has a diverse ethnic population, party lines are drawn heavily on the Republican side, with the GOP holding a sizable edge in voting.

“Republicans make up about 54 percent of the voters, Democrats 35 percent, with the remaining 11 percent being ticket splitters,” [Fort Bend Republican Party Chairman Eric] Thode said.

The Republican advantage makes is almost impossible for a Democrat to garner enough votes to win a countywide position, Thode said.

But the Precinct 2 portion of the eastern edge of the county has a large African-American population that delivers a Democratic vote and the single-member district offices of constable, justice of the peace and county commissioner are held by Democrats.

The split in Fort bend was 56.5% for Cornyn and 42.6% for Kirk. If the breakdown really is 54-35-11, then Kirk got all of the Democratic vote and almost all of the independents. That’s encouraging.

Finally, there’s the big urban areas. Here’s one more chart:

County   Cornyn    Kirk     Voters Turnout
HARRIS  329,383 291,177  1,902,561  33.05%
DALLAS  217,902 224,695  1,208,201  37.01%
BEXAR   138,887 128,556    884,103  30.73%
TARRANT 198,504 141,505    876,576  39.18%
TRAVIS   90,814 121,102    555,065  39.30%
EL PASO  28,642  69,490    355,201  28.08%

Democrats do pretty well here, though not nearly well enough to overcome the suburban disadvantage. Targeted turnout here is the key again.

I should note that turnout is really important in Harris County, where the local GOP machine is very well organized and funded, resulting in dominance in countywide races. The thing is, while Harris County has been solidly Republican lately, the city of Houston is still Democratic; Lee Brown couldn’t have beaten off two heavily backed Republican challengers in his three terms otherwise. Harris County (and Bexar County as well) contains several small cities within the larger city (Bellaire, West U., Hedwig Village, Spring Valley, etc) that are GOP strongholds and that do a lot of voting. Houston itself has a lot of potential Democrats, but until they get to the polls at the same rate as the rest of the county, the future will be much like the present.

All county data in the Senate race comes from here. I created a spreadsheet to do the percentages and sorting, which can be found here. Font problems prevented me from showing vote percentages for each candidate, but you can see it in the spreadsheet.

“Like the dog chasing the pickup”

As I alluded to yesterday, the state GOP realizes that it is taking control at a tough time:

After years of good times and budget surpluses, the now GOP-controlled House, Senate and Governor’s Mansion will be forced to tackle multiple major crises, any one of which could cause a backlash.

“It’s kind of like the dog chasing the pickup. What happens if the dog catches the pickup?” quipped Sen. Robert Duncan, R-Lubbock. “Does he get run over?”

The road promises a bumpy ride, anyway:

· Homeowners have either lost their insurance or feel they are being robbed by policy premium hikes.

· The budget shortfall could hit $12 billion, but new taxes are taboo.

· The “Robin Hood” school finance system is stressing out more school districts and property taxpayers alike, but lawmakers never seem to agree on the solution.

“Yes, we’re nervous, and rightly so. It’s a very difficult time to take over,” said Rep. Beverly Woolley, R-Houston. “Some things you aren’t given the choice on. You just bite the bullet and do the best you can.”

While I do believe that it will be important for Democrats to hold the Republicans responsible for the inevitable pain of next year’s session, I don’t expect there to be all that much fallout (though of course I’ll be hoping). The Republicans have two big things in their favor: One is the nature of Texas’ legislature, which meets every other year. Whatever rending of garments and gnashing of teeth results from the budget, it will all happen in 2003. A full year will pass before the next election, which will give people time to get used to it. They may resent and they may want revenge, but more likely they won’t remember the details.

Second, of course, is the redistricting itself, which helped give the GOP such a wide advantage in each chamber. Debra Danburg may have been a sore loser (scroll down to the bottom), but she really did get screwed, going from a district in which she won reelection in 2000 with 67% of the vote to one that was majority Republican.

I’m sure there’ll be opportunities for the Dems to bounce back in 2004. I can’t say for sure where the most tempting targets will be yet, but it’s too early for that. Get the message ready first. Everything else will follow.

The message and the messenger

O-Dub has his doubts about Nancy Pelosi, the new House Minority Leader. He thinks she won’t be as effective as Martin Frost or Harold Ford would have been because she’s sufficiently in touch with American opinion.

That may be, but I don’t think it matters. Whoever the lead Democrat in the House is, he or she is going to have to deliver a message to the public for all of them. It’s not going to be about what Nancy Pelosi stands for, it’s going to be about what Democrats stand for. It will have to be big picture stuff, aimed at a large audience.

The point of most Democrats’ anger isn’t that the message in 2002 was too far left or too far right. It’s that there was no coherent message. You can’t fight something with nothing, and you can’t get elected simply by saying “I’m not my opponent” (just ask Doug Forrester).

Nancy Pelosi is not going to go off into a room by herself and come out with the Official Message Of The Democratic Party. Martin Frost and Harold Ford aren’t going anywhere – in fact, I expect Frost to be Minority Whip and Ford to be the Caucus Chair. I guarantee their thumbprints will be all over whatever mantra Nancy Pelosi chants.

I can see Oliver’s point, and I’ve no doubt that the right-wing attack machine is licking its chops over Nancy Pelosi. But let’s face it: They’d be doing the same thing to Frost or Ford. Rush and Hannity and Coulter don’t care about the subtle distinctions between them. They’ve already got their scripts written, with blanks to be filled in with the appropriate name.

In the item below, I note that any message has a better chance of being received if the messenger is the right person. The reverse is also true: A really compelling message can be successfully delivered by just about anyone. For the national Democrats, what’s being said is going to be more important than who’s saying it.

Looking forward: The message

Texas is a conservative state. That was the case when the Democrats ruled the land, and it’s the case now that the GOP is in control.

That doesn’t mean that a progressive candidate can’t be successful at the state level. People like Ann Richards and Jim Hightower have been elected in still-recent memory, after all.

It helped, of course, that Richards and Hightower are Texan through and through. They look, sound, and act like natives who hold their home state in high esteem, which is exactly what they are. The first rule of statewide politics is simple: Whatever your message is, it has a much better chance of getting through if most people think you’re one of us.

Still, many issues near and dear to liberal hearts are big fat losers on a statewide level. Gay rights, affirmative action, reproductive choice – in most cases if it plays well in New York and California, it won’t play well here. Unless you’re in a super-safe district like Sheila Jackson Lee, don’t even think about the death penalty or gun control.

We’re not going to elect any champions of these causes, but if we play it carefully we can at least elect people who won’t be enemies of them. What I have in mind is to emphasize an area where I believe the Republicans will be vulnerable. This will help provide cover for candidates whose views on social issues would might otherwise be a liability for them.

The key to success lies in bread and butter issues. Pretty much all of it flows from the budget and the multibillion dollar deficit that looms for next year’s legislative session. Progressives need to make the case that the Republicans have been anything but conservative on financial matters. New ideas and forward thinking are needed to get us out of this mess.

The Republicans have all of the statewide offices, and thanks to their redistricting efforts, control of both state houses, including the Speaker of the State House. They will have little wriggle room, as the state constitution requires a balanced budget.

In short, any fallout resulting from the upcoming budget battle must be made to fall on their shoulders. Remind everyone that when times were good, Governor Bush pushed through a large tax cut instead of making any allowances for lean times in the future. Governor Perry has done nothing to change this.

Of course, as we know, it’s not enough to point out the other guy’s shortcomings. You need to have a positive plan to go along with the criticism. With one exception (more on that in a minute), the Texas budget is already bare bones. There’s hardly anyplace to cut, certainly no place that won’t be extremely painful and even dangerous. Someone needs to bite the bullet and call for at least a partial repeal of the tax cuts that Bush made in 1997 and 1999.

That may sound suicidal, but outgoing Republican Lt. Governor Bill Ratliff (who is returning to his Senate post) has already warned about the possible need to raise taxes. It’s on the table, despite its pointed absence from the governor’s race. If the Democrats are smart, they will spin this as an inevitable consequence of irresponsible fiscal behavior on the part of the GOP.

There is one place where Texas spends more money than the average state, and it gives rise to a different opportunity for progressives. Here’s a chart that was in a Chron article (now archived) from October 14:

State budget experts warn that it’s difficult to scrub a bare-bones budget. Slashing the Texas budget could produce dramatic cuts in services. Texas’ national ranking in 10 categories:

Category .. Rank

Overall spending per capita .. 50

Mental health .. 47

Cash welfare .. 48

Corrections .. 17

Highways .. 42

Public health .. 45

Parks and Recreation .. 48

State employee wages .. 50

Education .. 37

Public welfare and Medicaid .. 46

Only in corrections is Texas above average in spending. I would strongly push for reform of sentencing laws for nonviolent and drug offenders. I would push treatment and counseling as a cheaper and more effective option. I would even advocate the release of many such inmates on the grounds that it would enable cuts in the corrections budget without endangering employees who also have to deal with the violent offenders.

The key here is to make this a financial argument. We can deal with drug users in a less expensive and more efficient way by not incarcerating most of them. This in turn will help us avoid cuts in services we really need. This case has to be made on fiscal grounds or else you will be tarred as soft on crime.

For future Congressional candidates, the message about finances and the budget should be paramount. Make the charge that the Republicans have abandoned any claim to being the party of fiscal responsibility. Make the point that President Bush’s vaunted tax cut won’t make any difference to most people, and thus repealing most or all of it in order to help balance the budget again won’t hurt them. The budget deficit is likely to be an Achilles heel to Republicans around here. Remember Ross Perot and the crazy aunt that no one talks about? Two more years of deficits will make this a hot issue again.

Clay Robison talks a little about this today. The only comment I can make about his backhanded slap at Bill Clinton in the last paragraph is that it’s consistent with the Chron‘s editorial policy of never saying anything unequivocally positive about the man.

In summary, the message is getting our finances in order. We must ensure an appropriate level of revenue to pay for the government’s obligations. We must spend the money that we are obligated to spend wisely. We believe that people with a progressive and forward-thinking outlook are best suited to do this.

Looking forward: The outline

This is the first of several articles that will talk about how the Democrats can fight their way back to relevance in Texas. Though this is intended as being tailored for Texas, quite a bit of it will have relevance for the rest of the country.

In writing these articles, I’m making several assumptions:

1. That things will not get appreciably better by the time the next election rolls around. The reason for this is simple: If I thought things were going to improve under Republican control, I’d have voted for the Republicans. I don’t believe that they will, and I want to be able to take advantage of that.

2. That the voters will be responsive to a message that resonates with them. Texas is a Republican-dominated state, but they’re not a majority. A significant number of voters still identify as independent, enough to ensure that plurality is the best either party can do. Texas is an open primary state, so you can’t count party registrations.

3. That this whole exercise isn’t hopeless. ‘Nuff said.

The first article will talk about what kind of progressive message could work with voters in this mostly conservative state. The second will talk about turnount. The third will talk about some specific targets to aim for.

It’s Pelosi

Nancy Pelosi appears to be the new House minority leader as Martin Frost has dropped out and announced his support for her. Harold Ford is still in the race, but Pelosi claims to have more than half the votes already.

I don’t really care who becomes the minority leader. I want a cohesive message, no more appeasement of the President, and an upgrade to majority leader in 2004. I’ll be watching you, Nancy Pelosi. Don’t screw it up.

Looking forward and inward

Andrew Northrup has a long list of questions for Democrats to ask themselves. Matt Yglesias has a similar list. Both are worth looking at and thinking about.

I’m working on my own pieces, concentrating more on Texas. How can Democrats succeed in this conservative state? I’ve got two posts in mind, one that will talk about what kind of progressive message could be successful, and one that will talk about tactics. With luck, I can knock them out over the weekend.

All done

They finally finished counting the votes in Bexar County, a mere 30 hours after polls closed. Looks like the local elections administrator there can say sayonara to his job as a result. I’m just mad that the delay caused me to get my hopes up about Henry Cuellar.

Ah, well. At least they didn’t misplace any ballots – that we know of…

Sifting through the rubble

Well, damn. Not only was there no Fort Worth miracle for John Sharp, the late ballots in San Antonio wound up pushing Henry Bonilla over the top in the 23rd CD. Can’t even get a consolation prize around here.

What next? I’m certainly disappointed with the results. I was excited about the Democratic slate of candidates, I was encouraged by the effort that I saw, and in the end I got nothing for it. It’s pretty painful.

I hate to admit it, but it probably won’t get better soon. There is reason for optimism, but it’s farther off than I wanted to believe.

I believe the “Dream Team” ticket was the right idea, and I believe it’s a step in the right direction. The candidates were solid, though in the end Tony Sanchez had too much baggage. One of the objectives of the Dream Team was to help broaden the Democratic Party’s base. That objective wasn’t fully met – Hispanic turnout wasn’t as good as hoped. Both sides are claiming they got more of the Hispanic vote than they were expected to. I’ll need to see some objective polling first.

The path forward, as they say, is to continue to build on the base without alienating the existing base. Sylvia Garcia’s historic election to the County Commissioner’s Court is a good start on the former. The latter is problematic. The Republicans thoroughly dominated the Anglo vote, getting over 70% of it. That’s way too much. Some of that can be attributed to the first-minority-candidate factor, but there’s a lot of work to be done here.

I’m going to take a short break from all this political stuff so I don’t burn myself out on blogging. I plan on participating in Kos’ Political State Report when it begins, and I’ve already got a couple of ideas to explore for it. So please stay tuned.