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The Frost effect

One of the things that was hotly debated in the aftermath of the 2004 elections was whether Martin Frost’s campaign for the 32nd CD had a positive effect on downballot races, or if the resources he expended only benefitted his own totals. I think I have some data that may help answer this question.

What makes this tough to answer is finding an appropriate basis for comparison. Looking at turnout in a given precinct, even in a strongly Democratic precinct, isn’t enough, since you can’t say for certain based on higher than usual numbers who those people were actually voting for. Similarly, you can’t just look at returns in a given precinct, since you don’t know what the baseline performance would have been. What you need is to compare returns in precincts where Frost was on the ballot to those without him, and you’ve got to compare the results for a downballot candidate to a baseline result for each.

I got an inkling for how to do this while doing an analysis of Chris Harris’ SD9, which was requested of me awhile back. What gave me the idea was noticing that within SD9 there were four contested Congressional races, and that there was a wide spread in performance among the four Democratic candidates.

Results in SD9 CD26 - Michael Burgess versus Lico Reyes Candidate Votes Vote Pct Vote Diff Pct Diff ======================================================== Burgess 38,709 78.90 +833 +4.45 Reyes 10,353 21.10 -2,643 -4.45 Bush 37,876 74.45 Kerry 12,996 25.55 CD06 - Joe Barton versus Morris Meyer Candidate Votes Vote Pct Vote Diff Pct Diff ======================================================== Barton 22,824 52.54 -893 +0.03 Meyer 20,618 47.46 -780 -0.03 Bush 23,717 52.57 Kerry 21,398 47.43 CD24 - Kenny Marchant versus Gary Page Candidate Votes Vote Pct Vote Diff Pct Diff ======================================================== Marchant 56,759 61.67 -3,210 -0.35 Page 35,278 38.33 -1,440 +0.35 Bush 59,969 62.02 Kerry 36,718 37.98 CD32 - Pete Sessions versus Martin Frost Candidate Votes Vote Pct Vote Diff Pct Diff ======================================================== Sessions 13,104 52.87 -2,111 -6.65 Frost 11,680 47.13 +1,333 +6.65 Bush 15,215 59.52 Kerry 10,347 40.48

“Vote diff”, in case you can’t tell, is the difference between that candidate’s total and the corresponding total in the Presidential race. “Pct diff” is the same for the two-party vote percentage. An eleven point range between Frost, who got more votes than John Kerry, and Reyes, whose opponent got more votes than Bush. Clearly, Frost’s campaign made a difference for himself. How can we translate this to other races?

What I decided to do what this: Within SD9, there were two Dallas County races, one of which you may have heard about. Those races were for Judge of the 303rd District Court, between Beth Maultsby (R) and Dennise Garcia (D), and for Sheriff, between Danny Chandler (R) and Lupe Valdez (D). Did Martin Frost help either of those two Democratic candidates get more votes than they otherwise would have?

The method I chose was this: Compare the performance of Garcia and Valdez to that of John Kerry in the precincts where Frost was on the ballot to those where he wasn’t. The theory here is that since there was essentially no campaigning by Kerry in Texas, his performance could be considered a baseline, a minimum of what a Democrats should get (it’s probably a little higher than that since there was some campaigning by Bush, but that’s not really important for these purposes.) Only the Marchant-Page race covered any significant part of Dallas County in SD9 (there were two precincts in the Burgess/Reyes race, totalling about 50 votes), so we’ve got a fairly straightforward basis for comparison. Looking at the less-heralded judge’s race as well helps us to filter out whether any differences are due to Valdez’ well-known effort.

With that in mind, here’s what we get:

Dallas County portion of SD9 Candidate Votes Vote Pct ================================= Bush 43,097 60.66 Kerry 27,950 39.34 Maultsby 38,867 57.59 Garcia 28,627 42.41 Chandler 39,113 57.29 Valdez 29,159 42.71 Sessions/Frost precincts Candidate Votes Vote Pct ================================= Bush 15,215 59.52 Kerry 10,347 40.48 Sessions 13,104 52.87 Frost 11,680 47.13 Maultsby 13,680 56.35 Garcia 10,597 43.65 Chandler 13,865 56.41 Valdez 10,714 43.59 Marchant/Page precincts Candidate Votes Vote Pct ================================= Bush 27,846 61.28 Kerry 17,591 38.72 Marchant 25,820 59.75 Page 17,397 40.25 Maultsby 25,149 58.26 Garcia 18,021 41.74 Chandler 25,211 57.77 Valdez 18,432 42.23

Both Garcia and Valdez clearly did better overall in the Frost precincts, but looking at how they did relative to Kerry in each area, there doesn’t appear to be much difference – indeed, if there is anything significant, it’s in Page’s favor.

Differences in Sessions/Frost to Bush/Kerry Candidate Votes Vote Pct Pct Ratio ============================================ Sessions -2,111 -6.65 0.89 Frost +1,333 +6.65 1.16 Maultsby -1,535 -3.17 0.95 Garcia +250 +3.17 1.08 Chandler -1,350 -3.11 0.95 Valdez +934 +3.11 1.08 Differences in Marchant/Page to Bush/Kerry Candidate Votes Vote Pct Pct Ratio ============================================ Marchant -2,026 -1.53 0.98 Page -194 +1.53 1.04 Maultsby -2,697 -3.02 0.95 Garcia +430 +3.02 1.08 Chandler -2,635 -3.51 0.94 Valdez +1,035 +3.51 1.09

“Pct ratio” is the ratio of the given candidate’s vote percentage to that of the corresponding Presidential candidate for those precincts. Another way of putting this is that Frost did 16% better than Kerry, while Garcia and Valdez each did 8% better in his districts; Page did 4% better than Kerry while Garcia was again 8% better and Valdez 9% better in Page’s districts.

From this, it would seem fair to conclude that on a performance basis, it didn’t matter to Garcia and Valdez if they were in Page’s precincts or Frost’s – they each did about as well relative to the national ticket in each. Therefore, if there was any Frost effect at all, it would have to come from turnout alone.

I didn’t know what I was going to find going in to this. I do not consider this to be fully conclusive. For one thing, I’ve not looked at all of Dallas County; in particular, I’ve not looked at any of the other Congressional races there, including the precincts in which Eddie Bernice Johnson ran unopposed. More importantly, we only looked at some turf that was pretty hostile overall to Democrats; we’ll need to see how things shake out in the more Democratic areas in these districts. I also don’t have the relative turnout numbers at hand, so I can’t say if there was a real benefit from an absolute vote total perspective in Frost’s district. At the very least, however, this should cast doubt on the notion that Frost’s tide lifted all boats. There’s still more work to be done, but it doesn’t look good at this point.

The full spreadsheet is available here if anyone wants to check my math.

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  1. Jim Dallas says:

    Kuff —

    Has there been any talk about Morris Meyer running again? Given the spread was about five points (I thought it was much bigger, actually) and that 2006 is likely to be a bad year for the GOP (Bush isn’t on the ballot, etc.), a candidate like Meyer who already has name recognition may be able to win.

  2. Jim D says:

    Oops, ignore that last comment. For some reason I confused these numbers with the district wide totals (which went 2 to 1 for Barton).

  3. ttyler5 says:

    Charles, that’s a good approach.

    A couple of fine-tuning suggestions:

    — Your figures are at least indicating that Garcia and Valdez may have got a nice little bump in their percentages over Kerry from Hispanic voters. This may have nothing to do with Frost (unless of course these campaigns were directly cross-marketing to Hispanics), so you might want to investigate this area of the campaigning and voting pattern.

    — Also, this is the famous campaign where Frost ran as Chet Edwards. Have you checked out to what extent there was a disconnect between Frost’s message and the down-ballot guys? Did they all try the Chet Edwards approach to some extent, or were they off message with Frost?

  4. rwi says:

    a) “this is the famous campaign where Frost ran as Chet Edwards.” — I hope that’s not a criticism. Seeing as Edwards was the only redistircted D to survive (not counting Doggett in a primary. His general was a joke.), and Frost outperformed his district’s DPI by like, 10 points, maybe more Democrats need to run like Chet.

    b) Kuff — did you look at the turnout in those Frost/Valdez precints in 98, 00, 02 and compare them to 04 turnout? It’s possible that’s where the “Frost effect” made a difference.

  5. RWI – No, I did not. I hope to come back at this at a later time, and will try to answer that question then.

  6. ttyler5 says:

    rwi, no it was not a criticism, I was asking our host if he had checked a factor which could help explain the difference between Frosts’ vote in that election and some of the downballot dems in different areas of the district.

  7. Cincinnatus says:


    I’m also curious as to how turnout looks relative to ’00 and ’02. One other thing, it’d be interesing to see how all three races look besides Bush-Gore and Dewhurst-Sharp results. Are these precincts trending Dem like Dallas county as a whole is? And were Sharp’s numbers closer to Frost’s or Valdez’ in these precincts?

    Something else to note about the ‘Frost effect’. There’s an awful lot of Dem activists who cut their teeth, so to speak, working for Frost in Tarrant and Dallas counties. It you wanna take a long-term view of this, you could argue that Frost and co. are partially responsible for turning Dallas county a light shade of blue. Not as responsible as demographics, but still.


    Expound on how Frost ran like/as Chet.

  8. ttyler5 says:

    Cincinnatus, just caught your post here.

    Frost ran to the right, stressed a working relationship with president Bush to the point that Bush had to come to town for a big event and give Sessions a blessing, courted conservative indies and even GOP voters, etc etc. A lot of people think this may have cost Frost the national chair…

  9. Frost Effect?

    Much debated here at BOR in the past has been the efforts of Martin Frost on other candidates in his losing race against Pete Sessions last fall up in Dallas. Charles Kuffner has done some more analysis on the race…

  10. Byron L says:

    Charles – I haven’t had a chance to really analyse this very much. I’m not sure exactly what this really measures – except for a very small portion of the potential “Frost effect” since SD9 and CD32 have a relatively small overlap. The analysis by Gary Fitzsimmons is available here (PowerPoint File). Gary looked at the overlaps in all of the CD’s and SD’s in Dallas County and compared the results to previous elections. I’ll try and compare your analysis to Gary’s when I have the chance, but you may want to take a look as well. Gary’s analysis is what I had previously based my conclusions upon.

  11. Byron – I agree this is an incomplete analysis, as I said at the end of the post. It’s my intention to do the same metric on the rest of CD32 and see what that tells me – I may very well get a different answer. I’ll take a look at your PPT file at home tonight. Thanks!