How many Congressional seats are really in play for Texas Dems?

By one measure, more than you probably think. From Jonathan Tilove of the Statesman:

Last weekend, I read an interview in Salon with Rachel Bitecofer, a political scientist at Christopher Newport University in Newport News, Va.

She is also an election analyst whose forecast of big Democratic gains in the 2018 midterm election was uncannily, uniquely accurate. She is now using the same model to forecast that any Democratic presidential candidate will win a minimum of 278 electoral votes in 2020 against President Donald Trump, eight more than the 270 needed to win.

But even more interesting to me, she is predicting that, if the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee — the D-trip, as she and others commonly call it — applies resources generously and wisely, it could flip nine Texas House seats in 2020, half again as many as the six seats the DCCC is now targeting.

In addition to what will be open seats now held by Republicans in the 23rd Congressional District, where Will Hurd is not seeking reelection; the 22nd, where Pete Olson is retiring; and the 24th, where Kenny Marchant joined the Texodus; the DCCC is also setting its sights on the 21st, held by freshman Rep. Chip Roy; the 31st, held by veteran John Carter; and the 10th, which now belongs to Austin’s Michael McCaul.

But Bitecofer also includes three U.S. House districts on her list that are not now on the DCCC target list — the 25th Congressional District, where Democrat Julie Oliver is making a second run at incumbent Roger Williams, also of Austin; the 2nd, held by freshman Dan Crenshaw; and the 3rd, held by another freshman, Van Taylor, who I’ve never before heard mentioned as potential Democratic target of opportunity.

In fact, according to Bitecofer, nine of the Democrats’ 18 best chances for pickups in 2020 congressional races nationally are in Texas, which makes it, in her estimation, Ground Zero next year.

I interviewed Bitecofer on Monday and realized that it’s not so much that her analysis flies in the face of conventional wisdom about Texas politics, as it flies above it.


Under Bitecofer’s model, it doesn’t really matter if the Democratic congressional candidate is a fire-breathing progressive or a milquetoast moderate, as long as they remind voters that the election is all about Trump.

Bitecofer exudes confidence in her forecast.

Of McCaul, she said: “He’s a dead man walking if the DCCC drops money in that race, and then it doesn’t really matter who the Democrats nominate. Other handicappers will have it as `lean red’ when they do their races, and I will have it as ‘will flip’ if the DCCC has put it on its list.”

Bitecofer’s model is based on the number of college-educated voters in a given district, and it happens that Texas, being a mostly urban and suburban state, has a lot of them. You can read Tilove’s interview with her, or that Salon article, or listen to this interview she did on The Gist with Mike Pesca, but that’s the basic idea behind it.

Bitecofer’s model is alluring, but note the assumption of the DCCC targeting the district. That means pouring money into it, which also means that the Democratic nominee is already doing well in the fundraising department. By that reckoning, we need to dial back the enthusiasm a bit. CD03 has no candidate at this time now that Lorie Burch has ended her candidacy. CD31, which is on the DCCC list, doesn’t have a proven candidate yet. The two who filed Q2 finance reports have raised a few bucks, but the fact that freshman State Rep. James Talerico had been encouraged to run tells me this one is not at all settled. Elisa Cardnell in CD02 has raised some money and has been campaigning for months now, but Crenshaw has a national profile and a sheen from his Saturday Night Live appearance that he’s doing his best to tarnish but is still there. Julie Oliver is off to a nice start in CD25, but that’s the district of the nine with the weakest overall Dem performance from 2018. I’m still enough of a skeptic to think those numbers matter, too.

(Note also that Bitecofer does not include CD06 in her list. Beto did slightly better there than in CDs 03 and 25, and I personally would be inclined to think it’s a bit more reachable, but as of the Q2 reporting period there wasn’t a candidate yet. Minor details and all that.)

Anyway, I’d say that Dems are in a strong position in CDs 10, 21, 22, 23, and 24, and we’ll see what happens after that. For what it’s worth, just flipping those five seats – and can we take a moment to acknowledge how amazing it is that one can write such a thing and not feel ridiculous about it? – would make the Congressional caucus from Texas 18 Dems and 18 GOPers. That’s not too shabby.

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7 Responses to How many Congressional seats are really in play for Texas Dems?

  1. Manny says:

    The way things seem to be lining up, expect that the Democrats will take the senate and the White House, and keep Congress.

  2. blank says:

    Note also that Bitecofer does not include CD06 in her list.

    While CD-6 has some college educated residents, particularly in West Arlington and Dalworthington Gardens, most of its Democratic support comes from minorities in East Arlington. That’s likely why it didn’t make her list. The good news is that we now have two candidates in CD-6, Stephen Daniel ( and Imran Khan (

    As for CD-31, I read on Twitter (admittedly unreliable) yesterday, that the DCCC made an ad buy against Carter.

  3. SocraticGadfly says:

    Manny, odds are very against a Dem Senate, giving what seats are in play in various districts.

    On TX House seats, Dems are dumb if they don’t target Crenshaw. You never wanna let a House member get past the freshman re-election without a challenge.

  4. Mainstream says:

    Congressman Crenshaw’s star quality could probably survive a spirited challenge, but the Heights and Montrose portions of the district and the apartments in the north part of the district are fertile areas for a Democrat challenger to build from. There is a huge amount of flux, mobility, new residents throughout the area, who may take their cues from national politics.

  5. Manny says:

    Time will tell, let us come back after the elections next November, I did qualify my remark, things are lining up, having said that, I remember the odds of Trump winning were against him.

  6. blank says:

    Found the Roll Call story on the aforementioned DCCC ad buy via DKE:

    In addition to Carter, it also targets Roy and McCaul, as well as several other Congressmen outside of Texas.

  7. asmith says:

    I grew up in the Dallas part of CD3 in Collin county. I think 24, 10, 21 and 22, are better targets on paper, the 3rd may be in play in 2020 more than you think. The white college educated class 10 or 20 years ago was the backbone of the GOP base. The minority vote has increased big time, especially the asian Indian vote in the Richardson/Plano/Frisco area. The black and Hispanic voted has increased in those areas too. It’s hard to imagine this if you grew up near here or followed politics in this area but this is not your fathers Collin county. The dems have a great shot at shaheen and leach’s state house districts as both went for Beto and Phariss.

    Angela Paxton underperformed even in the Collin area of the district which may have been because of her husband. Mark Phariss would be a good candidate if Burch isn’t running again. Van is hoping he can eke out relection and then hope he goes into Grayson or Hunt counties in the next redistricting.

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