Some opening thoughts on the 2022 election

Done in the traditional bullet-point style. There may or may not be a part 2 to this, depending on the usual factors.

– Obviously the overall result was disappointing. It was harder to see a Beto victory this year from the polling data than it was in 2018, but that doesn’t lessen the sting. There were polls that had the race at about five or six points and there were polls that had it at about 11 to 13. One of those groups was going to be more right than the other, and unfortunately it was the latter.

– I’m not prepared to say that turnout was disappointing. I mean sure, Beto didn’t get the margins he had gotten four years ago in the big urban counties, and that was partly due to lower turnout. But look, turnout was over 8 million, which up until the 2020 election would have been considered Presidential level. Indeed, more votes were cast in this year’s Governor’s race than in the 2012 Presidential race. We didn’t build on 2018, certainly not as we wanted to, and turnout as a percentage of registered voters is down from 2018, but this was still by far the second highest vote total in an off year election, not too far from being the first highest. There’s still plenty to build on. And for what it’s worth, election losers of all stripes often complain about turnout.

– That said, I think any objective look at the data will suggest that more Dems than we’d have liked stayed home. I don’t know why, but I sure hope someone with access to better data than I have spends some time trying to figure it out. How is it that in a year where Dems nationally outperformed expectations the same didn’t happen here? I wish I knew.

– Turnout in Harris County was 1,100,979, according to the very latest report, for 43.21% of registered voters. A total of 349,025 votes were cast on Election Day, or 31.7% of the total. That made the pattern for 2022 more like 2018 than 2014, and the final tally came in at the lower end of the spectrum as well.

– For what it’s worth, predictions of a redder Election Day than Early Voting turned out to be false, at least when compared to in person early voting; Dems did indeed dominate the mail ballots, with statewide and countywide candidates generally topping 60%. Those five judicial candidates who lost only got about 55-56% of the mail vote, and did worse with early in person voting than their winning peers. On Election Day, most Dems did about as well or a little better than early in person voting. The Dems who fell a bit short of that on Election Day were generally the statewides, and it was because the third party candidates did their best on Election Day; this had the effect of lowering the Republican E-Day percentages as well. Go figure.

– In answer to this question, no I don’t think we’ll see Beto O’Rourke run for anything statewide again. If he wants to run for, like Mayor of El Paso, I doubt anyone would stake their own campaign on calling him a loser. But his statewide days are almost surely over, which means we better start looking around for someone to run against Ted Cruz in 2024. We know he’s beatable.

– Before I let this go, and before the narratives get all hardened in place, one could argue that Beto O’Rourke was the most successful Democratic candidate for Governor since Ann Richards. Consider:

Year  Candidate       Votes    Deficit    Pct   Diff
2002    Sanchez   1,819,798    812,793  39.96  17.85
2006       Bell   1,310,337    406,455  29.79   9.24
2010      White   2,106,395    631,086  42.30  12.67
2014      Davis   1,835,596    960,951  38.90  20.37
2018     Valdez   3,546,615  1,109,581  42.51  13.30
2022   O'Rourke   3,535,621    889,155  43.80  11.01

He got more votes than anyone except (just barely) Lupe Valdez, but he came closer to winning than she did. He got a better percentage of the vote than anyone else, and trailed by less than everyone except for Chris Bell in that bizarre four-way race. Like Joe Biden in 2020, the topline result fell short of expectations, but compared to his peers he generally outperformed them and you can see some progress. It will take someone else to move to the next steps.

– I’ll take a closer look at the State House data when it’s more fully available, but overall I’d say Republicans did pretty well compared to the 2020 baseline. That said, there are some seats that they will have a hard time holding onto. Getting to 75 will probably take continued demographic change and the continuation of the 2016-2020 suburban trends, and a lot of work keeping up with population growth. All that will take money and wise investment. That’s above my pay grade.

– In Harris County, I was swinging back and forth between confidence and panic before Tuesday. In the end, I’m pretty happy. Getting to that 4-1 margin on Commissioners Court is huge, and that’s before savoring the end of Jack Cagle’s time in power and the enormous piles of money that were set on fire to oust Judge Hidalgo. I may have made a few rude hand gestures at some houses with Mealer signs in my neighborhood as I walked the dog on Wednesday. One of the pollsters that was close to the target statewide was the UH Hobby Center poll, but they botched their read on the Harris County Judge race, finding Mealer in the lead and underestimating Hidalgo by six points. Hope y’all figure that one out.

– In the end there were 59,186 mail ballots counted, after 57,871 mail ballots were returned at the end of early voting. These took awhile to be fully counted – as of the 5 AM tally, only 55,393 mail ballots had been tabulated in the Governor’s race, with fewer in the others. In the past, we have seen the mail ballot total go up by quite a bit more in the days between the end of early voting and the Tuesday results – for example, in 2018 there were 89,098 ballots returned as of the end of the EV period and 97,509 mail ballots tabulated. I have to assume this is about the rejection rate, which if so I’ll see it in the post-canvass election report. If not, I’ll try to ask about it.

– By the way, since there were more mail ballots counted at the end, they had the effect of giving a small boost to Democratic performance. There was a slight chance that could have tipped one or more of the closest judicial races where a Republican had been leading, but that did not happen. It almost did in the 180th Criminal District Court, where incumbent Dasean Jones trails by 465 votes – 0.04 percentage points – out of over a million votes cast. If there are any recounts, I’d expect that to be one. Unless there are a ton of provisional ballots and they go very strongly Democratic it won’t change anything, so just consider this your annual reminder that every vote does indeed matter.

I do have some further thoughts about Harris County, but I’ll save them for another post. What are your initial impressions of the election?

UPDATE: There were still votes being counted when I wrote this. I think they’re done now. Turnout is just over 1.1 million as of this update.

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10 Responses to Some opening thoughts on the 2022 election

  1. Manny says:

    Democrats lost five-judge positions.

    “There was certainly a lot of money spent to reinforce the crime message,” Nancy Sims, a University of Houston political science lecturer, said. “It was reduced to a soundbite of Democrats aren’t tough on crime. Given the amount of money that was spent, it wasn’t a very effective campaign.”

    And she believes there may have been something else at play. With such a long ballot and no straight-ticket voting, names mattered.
    “If you’re just reading the names, there was an indication that African American names were not as successful on the ballot in these five races as they were in other races,” Sims said. “My initial perception on these five races is that their feeling was that an African American judicial candidate might be softer on crime.”

    Kim Ogg and John Whitmire can take credit for Democrats losing those positions, as they saw fit to jump on the Democrats are soft on crime and are defunding police.

    For the extreme right-wing blog:

    Jane Fonda 1
    Furniture salesman 0

    For the paid troll, Bill: Doraaaaaaaa is back.

  2. David Fagan says:

    21 days and counting………….

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  4. Mainstream says:

    I am startled to learn that Lupe Valdez got more votes in 2018 than Beto in 2022.

    GOP sources claim that their voters did not turn out strongly. Maybe some voters on both side of the political divide are just turned off this year, or distracted by other concerns.

  5. D.R. says:

    I noticed the democrat judges who lost had obviously black names — however one of them, G Haynes, is actually from the DA office as felony prosecutor and put up to run by Ogg. So in a way she own-goaled herself as people are dumb/racist and voted assuming all black judge candidates are soft on crime and didn’t consider the merits or who was actually backing them.

  6. SocraticGadfly says:

    One could also argue that Beat-0 was, statistically as bad as Loopy Lupe (or White), that Wendy Davis was an outlier, and that Texas Dems haven’t made any progress in over a decade.

    And, yes, Beat-0.

  7. SocraticGadfly says:

    Doing comments in separate posts in case Kuff’s WordPress settings hold hostage links with multiple comments.

    Per what I said above? The Captain of SS Texas Democrats remains the person who hasn’t raised the ship’s tide in over a decade, yet was re-elected this summer.

  8. SocraticGadfly says:

    Finally, Texas Dems, stop assuming that non-voters are all “sekrut Democrats.” They’re not, and the assumption is as fallacious as “demography is destiny,” which first took off when? About the same idea that Gilligan Hinojosa was selected to skipper the Minnow.

  9. Locally Democrats squeaked by except for some a few Black female judges and one J. P..
    It also looks like nationally D’s have the Senate and the House is within 6. Better than the media and pollsters were predicting thanks to the young voters turning out.

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