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$15K in 14 days

The State Democratic Party is attempting to raise $15K over the next two weeks in order to get a copy of the DNC’s “Demzilla” file for State House candidates.

Democrats who say their No. 1 goal is to take back the state House are launching a “$15k in 14 Days” campaign to help pay for a new Web-based information system to target voters.

A Republican consultant said there’s no way the Democrats can reverse the GOP’s 88-62 House advantage this year.

“The odds are zero. As far as I can tell, at the absolute best, they could pick up maybe two seats,” said Royal Masset, consultant to several GOP House candidates.

But Democratic Party Chairman Charles Soechting held out hope of a takeover in a Wednesday e-mail solicitation to Democrats, writing, “With just a few more resources, we will be the majority party again!”


The party wants to raise $15,000 to help pay for “the Cadillac of information files” it has purchased to turn out voters, Democratic Party spokesman Mike Lavigne said.

He said the files, with detailed information such as voting history, likelihood of voting, gender and age, will be Web-based and thus available to Democratic organizers at every level.

“It’s accessible, and we’re going to be providing it at no cost,” Lavigne said.

Among races “we’re looking at real hard” as potential winners, Lavigne said, is the Democratic challenge by David Leibowitz against Rep. Ken Mercer, R-San Antonio. The seat is one of two also identified by Masset as vulnerable.

Mercer said his race, in a district divided between Democrats and Republicans, has been dubbed “the hottest race in Texas.”

I’ll get back to the issue of control of the House in a second. For now, Andrew D has some more background on this, and you can make your donation here.

Now then. I’ve said before that I don’t think the Dems can take control of the State House this year. They need a net 14 seat pickup, and I just don’t see them getting there from here. Too many uncompetitive seats, too many of their own incumbents who will be in tough reelection battles. On the other hand, I think Royal Masset is royally lowballing them. I see their ceiling as being in the 6-8 seat range. I’ll actually be a little disappointed if a two seat gain is all we get.

The Austin Chronicle, continuing its excellent election coverage, gives a few reasons why the Dems have a shot at some real gains.

If Austin state Reps. Jack Stick and Todd Baxter ever suspected they’d be vulnerable targets by the end of their freshman terms, they sure didn’t act like it. But two Democratic challengers to their House seats have by now shaken any sense of security the GOP incumbents may have had – dollar for dollar.

In two of the most closely watched races in the state, Democratic challengers Mark Strama and Kelly White are proving themselves formidable fundraisers on the trail, bringing in more campaign cash than any other first-time Democratic House candidates in the state. Meanwhile, Stick’s office says, the District 50 incumbent chose on principle not to accept campaign contributions during the special session this spring, even with an election just months away. What was he thinking? He was thinking, says one state Democratic pundit, that he’d have time to catch some R&R over the summer before coasting to re-election on Nov. 2.

His opponent Strama, an entrepreneurial techie with a political bent, would soon change Stick’s point of view with the release of his July 15 campaign finance report, which arrived thick with contributions totaling $225,826 raised since January. More than $38,000 of that amount came from online donors. Stick – whose own report took nearly a week to show up on the Ethics Commission Web site – collected $121,450 during the same period.


The Democratic resurgence played well in Travis Co., where in the March primary Dems outnumbered Republicans at the polls by more than 2-1. “White and Strama are in the very top tier of the Democrats’ hopes for gaining back the state House,” said Mark Nathan, whose political consulting firm (with Christian Archer) provided some initial consulting work for White’s campaign. “There are a lot of hopes and dreams pinned on these two faces.”

Other House races of note include San Antonio’s District 117, where freshman state Rep. Ken Mercer, a Republican in an otherwise Democratic district (his 2002 Dem opponent was entangled in San Antonio’s recent City Hall scandals) is trying to fend off Democratic challenger David Leibowitz. Houston GOP Rep. Talmadge Heflin, a powerful member of the new regime, is facing off against Democrat Hubert Vo in District 149. And in the southeast corner of the state, freshman GOP Rep. Mike “Tuffy” Hamilton faces a tough race in District 19 against Democrat Rex Peveto. Meanwhile, three potentially vulnerable Democratic incumbents – Houston’s Scott Hochberg (District 137), Wichita Falls’ David Farabee (District 69), and Livingston’s Dan Ellis (District 18) – are facing serious GOP challengers.

Here at home, White is giving Baxter a run for his money, taking in more than twice as much as Baxter in the first half of the year. White, who like Strama is a first-time candidate, is drawing on her dollar sensibilities as the former executive of SafePlace (since renamed Kelly White Family Shelter), a nonprofit that she is credited with growing substantially during her tenure. What White’s campaign may lack in political experience it makes up for in financial success. The candidate’s July report shows big donations from the likes of businesswoman Bettye Nowlin, who kicked in $10,000; Luci Baines Johnson, in for more than $5,700; and the Annie’s List PAC, $15,000 with another $3,500 pledged.

Texas Tuesdays has of course already profiled Mark Strama (here, here, and here) and Kelly White (here and here), and you’ll hear more about Hubert Vo and David Leibowitz in August.

There’s a reason why Charles Soechting and the Texas delegates have been insisting that Texas is not a solid red state for President Bush, and that reason is that they want every Democrat in the state to feel like it’s really important for them to turn out in November. The Murray Memo talks about the benefit to Congressional candidates if the Kerry/Edwards team pays some attention to Texas, but I believe and I think Charles Soechting would agree, that State Rep candidates would do at least as well.

So anyway. $15K in 14 days. You want to make a difference and you have a little spare change lying around, there you go.

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  1. Dennis says:

    Of course, in order to win seats, Democrats must actually run in the districts. We gave Rep. Larry Taylor a free pass this time around in the 24th.

  2. Zangwell Arrow says:

    Excellent look at the “$15K in 14 Days” campaign and the Democratic chances of restoring balance and integrity to the Texas House this November.

    In fact, that process began this spring when Democrats defeated a number of incumbent “enablers” of the Craddick Cartel in primary races.

    Republicans didn;t take total control of state government overnight, and Democrats won;t win back state government that quickly, either. But it’s good to see Texas Democrats developing and implementing a strategic plan to pull the state government taxpayers pay for back to the mainstream middle where most taxpayers live.