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Jesse Ybanez

Initial thoughts: Harris County

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I’m still not quite ready to resume regular blogging. I’ve got a few things drafted from before the election, several of which are non-political, that I’ll begin to put in the queue, and a couple of ones that were political that may need to be amended now. For the time being, I’ve got some initial thoughts on the county and statewide races. This is the first of those.

You can see the election night returns for Harris County here; at some point, presumably after the results are officially canvassed, these will go into the Election Archives with a date-based URL. But for now, click that link and scroll through if you want to see what I’m talking about.

So Hillary Clinton led Harris County by 100,000 votes and ten points after early voting, but while nearly every Democratic countywide candidate (all but Ann Harris Bennett) also led as of 7 PM on Tuesday, they all had much smaller margins, and could have wound up losing if the Election Day turnout had favored Republicans. That was not the case – other than Tax Assessor Mike Sullivan, who led well into the night, and a couple of judicial incumbents who had small leads in absentee balloting, Democrats won each phase, with Election Day being the best of the three, in percentages if not always in absolute votes. It was clear from Clinton’s dominating performance in Harris County – she carried the county by over 12 points and 160,000 votes – that she got some Republican crossovers. Here’s a quick comparison:

Trump = 544,960 votes
Clinton = 706,471 votes

Avg R countywide judicial candidate = 605,112 votes
Avg D countywide judicial candidate = 661,403 votes

There was a fair amount of variance from race to race, the R statewide candidates did a little better, and some Republican voters clearly went for Gary Johnson, who collected 3.04% of the total. Putting it all together, I’d estimate that 30,000 to 40,000 people who generally voted Republican downballot voted for Hillary Clinton.

Now, the judicial candidates improved their performance as well. In 2008, the average Democratic judicial candidate got about 590,000 votes. In 2012, it was in the low 570’s – sorry, I’m too lazy to go back and recalculate it – with the high score being about 581,000. That’s about 90,000 more votes than 2012, with the Republican judicials (who averaged in the 560’s in 2012) improving by about 40,000 votes. If Harris County was like a swing state in 2012, it was more like a light blue state this year.

What does that mean going forward? Well, it’s now the Republicans who have been shut out in the Presidential year cycle, and that’s going to be a problem for them in 2020 unless something changes. For 2018, Democrats still have to solve the turnout issue, but 1) it’s hard to argue the proposition that there are just more Dems in Harris County than ever before, and 2) with Democrats being the out party nationally, one would think the off-year turnout dynamic might be a bit different than it was in 2010 and 2014. That’s getting way ahead of ourselves, but the bottom line is that I see no reason why Dems can’t break through in two years. Which is not the same as saying that they will, but they can and in some sense they should. Ask me again when 2018 rolls around.

All that said, it should be noted that while turnout was at a record level in absolute terms – 1,336,985 total ballots cast – it was down from 2012 in percentage terms, 61.25% this year versus 61.99% in 2012. There’s still work to be done and room for improvement.

Other thoughts, in no particular order:

– I figured Sarah Davis would hold on in HD134, and she did indeed, winning by ten points and 9,000 votes. It was closer after early voting – she basically doubled her lead on Election Day. My guess when I get the canvass report is that Hillary Clinton carried HD134 by a narrow margin.

– Maybe HD144 isn’t such a swing district after all, as Mary Ann Perez romped to an easy win with 60.23% of the vote. Holding that seat in 2018 needs to be a top priority, and addressing the off-year turnout issue as noted above would go a very long way towards achieving that.

– HD135 needs to be on the radar in 2018, too. With basically no money or attention, Jesse Ybanez got 45.14% of the vote, which was better than Adrian Garcia did in HD135 in 2012, and nearly five points better than President Obama did in that district that year. I don’t know yet how things looked in HD132, the other district where Dem performance improved in 2012 over 2008 as there was no Democratic candidate for that seat, but right now I’d classify HD135 as a better pickup opportunity in 2018 than HD134 is.

– Another main target for 2018 needs to be Jack Morman’s seat on Commissioners Court. The HCDE Trustee race in Precinct 2 was my proxy for this. Alas, Sherrie Matula fell just short – I mean, she lost by 587 votes out of 247,773 total – but I think it’s fair to say that a strong candidate and progress on turnout could do it. You know who I want to see run here, so we’ll just leave it at that.

– As noted yesterday, Anne Sung will face John Luman in the runoff for HISD Trustee in District VII. Sung received 46.80% of the vote to Luman’s 29.25%; Victoria Bryant was in third with 17.03%, so Sung was a smidgeon ahead of the two top Republicans. I can’t wait to see the canvass data for this one, but there are two things to keep in mind. One, the universe of voters will be much smaller in December, and two, there were 35,819 votes cast in this race with 25,230 undervotes. That is, over 40% of the people who had this race on their ballot did not vote in it, most likely because they didn’t know anything about it or because they voted straight ticket and didn’t scroll down the ballot from there. That won’t be the case in December. If a precinct analysis shows that Hillary Clinto carried that district, it will be hard to see those undervotes as anything but a missed opportunity; Sung fell short of a majority by about 1200 votes, so it wouldn’t have taken much to push her across the finish line.

That’s it for the county. I’ll look at the state in the next post. Stace has more.

Chron overview of HD135

One more look at a local legislative race.

Rep. Gary Elkins

Rep. Gary Elkins

Novice political candidate Jesse A. Ybañez believes his focus on the people of the increasingly diverse Texas House District 135 makes him a better choice than longtime state Rep. Gary Elkins.

Ybañez, 70, is the Democratic candidate in the Nov. 8 general election challenging the incumbent to represent parts of northwest Harris County, including Jersey Village and subdivisions near the intersections of U.S. 290 with Texas 6 and Beltway 8.

The retiree said he was urged to run because of his experience as a volunteer in political organizations and community causes.

“We need to fix a lot of things in Austin,” Ybañez said. “If I win, I can be the voice of the people.”

[…]

Jesse Ybanez

Jesse Ybanez

Ybañez named education, health care, immigration, the environment and human trafficking as his priorities, if elected.

He said he would fight to restore some of the $5 billion in education funding cut during the 2011 legislative session and try to override the Republican firewall that has rejected calls to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act.

Ybañez said the 287(g) program, in which local jailers identify inmates in this country illegally for transfer to federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement, “criminalizes immigrants” who are “doing work that people from the United States don’t want to do.”

Ybañez, who ran unopposed in the Democratic primary, also would advocate for tougher regulations on industrial plants and support efforts to help people trapped in modern-day slavery or the forced sex trade.

Texas 135 is a district where voters chose Republican candidates in federal, statewide and local races two-to-one in 2014. They have sent Elkins back to Austin every two years for the last two decades.

Still, the first-time politician thinks a Democrat can claim the seat, depending on turnout among more diverse voters.

“When I first got here, this was pretty much a Republican area. We’ve had a lot of people come in from New York and California and Florida and we have a lot of African-Americans and Latinos who are more likely to vote Democrat,” said Ybañez, who has been block-walking since June. “I think I have a reasonable chance of winning.”

There are two reasons why I’m interested in this particular race. One is because incumbent Rep. Gary Elkins is so bad, beginning with but hardly being limited to his unwavering defense of payday lenders, a group to which he himself belongs. Some legislators recuse themselves from debates and votes on bills that directly affect them. Gary Elkins is not one of those legislators.

The other reason is that HD135 is one of two Harris County districts that were won by Republicans in 2012 that were less Republican that year than they were in 2008 (HD132 is the other, but sadly no Democrat is running there this year). John McCain beat Barack Obama there 60.6% to 38.7% in 2008, but Mitt Romney only carried it 58.8% to 39.8% in 2012. I’ve been waiting to see what would happen there this year ever since. Even with the Trump effect I don’t think we can quite call this district competitive, but it’s definitely the case that it’s more so than before. No matter what happens this year, HD135 needs to be on the radar going forward.