Texas will never turn blue

At least not in this political reality. I know, it’s a rather evocative headline, but the charts and stats I show below will hopefully convince you that the only thing that would guide Texas toward the left is huge national trends. As I have said before, I strongly believe that the Republican Party will go the way of the dodo in about 20 years or so, leaving behind a Democratic Party that gets so all-encompassing that it splits in two. Short of that, the GOP could realign in just as much of a substantial way. The great step to the right of the 1980s would be superseded by a step to the left in the 2030s, like the previous leftward step a century previous. The horrendous midterm results for Democrats have not shaken my belief that the Republicans are on a destruction course; in fact, it has only strengthened my resolve. However, the results specifically in Texas have lead me to believe that all the work of groups such as Battleground Texas has been in vain. There is little left to do now, for progressives, than to work together with moderate Republicans to elect pragmatic conservative candidates and to wait for the rising tides to guide Texas away from the rocks. I only wish it will not be too late by then.

State Senator Wendy Davis (D-Tarrant County), the Democratic candidate for Governor, lost her race by twenty points, 39-59. Governor-elect Greg Abbott performed better than Governor Rick Perry in all three of his elections. For the downballot elections, all the other Republicans won by comparably margins. The Lieutenant Governor’s race was the closest, with the Democrat losing by just more than 19 points, and the US Senate race being the biggest blowout, with Senator John Cornyn being re-elected by more than 27 points. The Republicans re-took the US Senate, meaning that — all other things being equal — Cornyn will now be the Majority Whip of the Senate.

Locally, Harris County went straight Republican, whereas Bexar County was a reddish shade of purple. Neither showed any improvement from 2010 (I didn’t realize how many judgeships the Democrats won in Bexar in 2010), though, with the big exception being that Nico LaHood (D) defeated Susan Reed (R) and was elected District Attorney in Bexar County. In Harris County, the GOP slate generally beat the Democratic one by about 10 points, though certain races were closer. DA Devon Anderson defeated her Democratic challenger, Kim Ogg, by only about six points. Though it is important to note this was just a special election for the post, and it will be right back on the ballot in just two years.

Davis’ State Senate also fell to the Republicans, specifically a woman named Konni Burton. This puts the party in control of 20/31 seats, just shy of the coveted 2/3rds needed to ramrod legislation through. However, Lieutenant Governor-elect Dan Patrick will likely disassemble that rule anyways. In the State House, the Republicans picked up three seats. State Representative-elect Wayne Faircloth (R-Galveston County) prevailed in the district currently held by retiring Democrat Craig Eiland. Meanwhile, State Representative Philip Cortez (D-Bexar County) was defeated by Rick Galinda and State Representative Mary Ann Perez (D-Harris County) was defeated by Gilbert Pena.

Also around the state, voters in Denton approved a measure to ban hydraulic fracturing (fracking) within the city limits. This has prompted the Oil & Gas Associated, as well as the General Land Office, to file suit against the city. Watch out for the Legislature passing a law disallowing these types of referendums next session.

Now, I’ve put together a few charts. First up, I compared the counties won by the gubernatorial candidates in 2010 (top) to those won in 2014 (bottom). Obviously, blue for the Democrat and red for the Republican.

Governor10

Governor14

Obviously, Davis won fewer counties than Bill White, the 2010 Democratic candidate. Most notably, she didn’t win Harris County, although it is important to note that White was a former Mayor of Houston and that Abbott is also a Houstonian. But Abbott also won three southern counties that White triumphed in. I don’t know if you could call locales like Kleberg County (fourth from the bottom on the coast) part of the Valley, but it is more than 70% Hispanic.

Davis did worse than White, worse than Chris Bell (2006 Dem nominee) and worse than Tony Sanchez (2002 Dem nominee). In fact, if you look at the margins of victory in recent gubernatorial elections, it appears as though the trend is for Democrats to do worse as time goes on –quite different than what common knowledge would have you believe.

Next, the same comparison for Lieutenant Governor:

Lt Gov10

Lt Gov14

Now, in 2010, the Democrats had a rather unremarkable candidate for Lieutenant Governor: Linda Chavez-Thompson. With only slightly more resources than Jim Hogan, she ran a truly awful campaign. And when she went up against Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst, she did even worse than the Democratic nominee this year. State Senator Leticia Van de Putte, the Democratic candidate, did win a net 2 more counties in the south, including Kleberg.

Moving onto Attorney General:

Attorney General10

Attorney General14

Sam Houston, the Democratic candidate for Attorney Genera, won a few more southern counties. He carried Jefferson County, the home of Beaumont (that blue speck in the right corner), the only Democrat by my calculations to do so.

Last, and probably least, the US Senate election:

Senate12

Senate14

Granted, this map compares David Alameel’s, the Democratic Senate candidate, performance to the 2012 election, but it is still striking. Alameel was the worst contender of all the Democratic ticket, and for good reason.

All in all, the Democrats did worse than four years ago. Downballot, they didn’t necessarily do as bad as some are claiming, mainly because Bill White outperformed the Democratic ticket in 2010 by A LOT. Davis outperformed them by a statistically insignificant amount, in comparison. Below, I have attached a line graph demonstrating the margins with which Republicans have won the non-Judicial statewide offices since 1998. I have omitted the 2000 Railroad Commission race and the 2010 Comptroller race because they lacked Democratic candidates and the 60 or 70-something margins would have skewered the graph:

Ranges

The other major point is that ticket-splitting has decreased rapidly. The range of the losses was about 37 points in 1998, decreased to about 25 points in 2002, 16 points in 2006, 17 points in 2010 and only 8 points last Tuesday. Like I have opined in the past, this is likely because of the growing stupidity of the average Texan, and the rise of “FOUR LEGS GOOD, TWO LEGS BAD” style straight-ticket voting.

Finally, I wanted to look into how much Democrats have improved in Bexar and Harris counties. Unfortunately, there is no silver bullet for finding just how Republican an election is in these counties before 2010, back when ticket-splitting was still commonplace. Ultimately, I settled on straight party voting, which is a rather bad barometer, but it beats nothing.

Bexar County

Harris County

These are bad measurements for a couple of reasons, namely that they overstate Democratic support. While Democrats received more straight ticket votes than Republicans in 2006 in Harris County, they still loss the whole county and all the positions. And 2000 wasn’t a close election either. But these graphs should just illustrate, rather unscientifically, that there is no meaningful improvement for Democrats in either county in midterm elections. If I have an abundance of time, I will average the margins of victory for all the countywide elections in a given election year to find a more accurate number.

As I have opined before, since Davis and the pack did not crack the 40% mark and did convincingly worse than 2010, Battleground Texas will be no more. Snuffed in its infancy. Either it will just fold in the next few weeks or its budget will be slashed so significantly that it will become a non-entity in practice. Most of the people running that rolling calamity will likely be out of a job. I’m going to leave my rationale for why the Democrats got whupped so monstrously to a latter post, but let’s just say there are quite a few reasons.

The most important reason, however, is that the average Texan is evidently both too stupid and too lazy to be bothered to participate in the political process. A pitiful 1/3 registered voters participated. Campaigns can do what they want to drive turnout, but until young people put down the blunt and the funyuns long enough to “occupy” a voting booth, nothing will get any better for the Democrats. Until other non-voters get up off their butts and stop being worthless, ‘poor and puny anonymities,’ politics will continue being dominated by the far-right. At the end of the day, however, in a democracy, people get the government they deserve. Lazy Texans will get that government many times over in the succeeding years.

Big Jolly Politics, Brains & Eggs (Parts I, II, III, IV), Eye on Williamson, Off the Kuff and Texas Leftist all have more.

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A few initial thoughts

Just to sum up the results for those of y’all who have not been paying much attention to things, I will recap some of the big things that have happened. First, the expected winners were, by and large, the winners on Tuesday night in Statewide elections. Greg Abbott and Wendy Davis won their respective bids for Governor, John Cornyn easily beat back challengers for another nomination to the Senate, George P. Bush got the GOP nod for Land Commissioner and Stephen Brown got the Democrat nod for Railroad Commissioner. All three incumbent Supreme Court Justices who saw right-wing primary opponent were able to easily prevail.

In a few other races, the expected result happened, but in a very different manner. This was largely due to the fact that the Texas Tribune poll released about a week ago was total garbage. It was not worth the fictional paper it wasn’t printed on, to quote a friend. In these races, David Alameel and Kesha Rogers indeed will proceed into a runoff for the US Senate Democrat primary, as will David Dewhurst and Dan Patrick for the Lieutenant Governor Republican primary. However, the Tribune poll seriously miscalculated who would come in first and by how much. Instead of Rogers holding a commanding plurality lead, she hovered near 20% while Alameel was just a few perilous points so close to winning outright. Instead of the preconceived notion that Dewhurst would receive 40-something percent compared to Patrick’s 20-something, the roles were reversed.

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Predictions and hopes

Longtime readers of this blog will recall that I am not much for predictions. Well, to be fair, I used to predict things all the time, but I was notoriously wrong too many times to count. Accordingly, in an effort to save face, I will  not field my own electoral predictions, which are only slightly less reliable than the Tribune polls.

Rather, I want to note what I am looking for and what I am hoping for; admittedly, they are nearly mutual exclusive categories. Within those categories, I would like to look most specifically at both the Republican & Democratic primaries, as well as both Statewide races and those in Harris County. Within these four categories, there are quite a few overlapping key points, however.

1. HOW BIG IS THE STUPID VOTE?

This is one for the Democratic primary. I am using the official academic term, of course, to describe these so-called stupid voters. They are the voters who will cast their lots for Kesha Rogers (US Senate), Lloyd Wayne Oliver (District Attorney) and Lori Gray (115th District Court), in that order. Albeit, plenty of otherwise unintelligent voters may coincidentally vote for the non-egregious candidates, but there is no way to discern them from Adam.

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Washington on the Ethics commission?

The Houston Chronicle reports that Craig Washington, a former Congressman and State Legislator, is being discussed for an appointment to the State Ethics Commission. The commission, which by law must include a certain number of Democrats (including the position currently being discussed), has recently received an opening after former Commissioner Paul Mendoza was appointed to the University of Houston Board of Regents.

This specific appointment is the responsibility of Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst, and the Chronicle notes that other candidates such as soon-to-be-former State Representative Craig Eiland and former Congressman Charlie Gonzalez will be considered. The Texas Ethics Commission is a bipartisan body comprised of appointees of the Governor, Lieutenant Governor and Speaker of the House. It is charged with such tasks as determining the salaries of State officeholders and maintaining the general sense of transparency and openness from public servants. The Texas State Historical Association sums it up somewhat well:

“The commission may recommend salary increases for members of the legislature, the lieutenant governor, and the speaker, but the increase must be approved by the voters. It also sets per diem for state officials, requires financial disclosure from public officials, and publishes recommendations and rules for public officials. It assumed the secretary of state’s duties on advisory opinions, lobbyist registration and expenditures, and review of campaign spending and contributions…The commission was given power to investigate and penalize ethics violations. Conduct in the race for speaker of the House is also overseen by the Ethics Commission.”

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Criss to run for HD23

The Houston Chronicle reports that Susan Criss, a longtime District Judge and Democrat from Galveston, will resign her bench in order to run for the State Legislature. The astute will recall that in May, amidst my coverage of the mishegas in the Galveston court system (i.e., Christopher Dupuy), I noted that longtime State Representative Craig Eiland would be retiring. Eiland, a Democrat, represents a nominally Republican district that includes the arch-conservative Chambers County as well as parts of Galveston County. While the island itself and most the coastal mainland is still deep blue, more and more of the County has turned bright red as a result of being assimilated into Houston’s suburban community. Accordingly, this seat provides a pickup opportunity for Republicans that was not even in play in 2010.

Criss is a political celebrity in Galveston, being the next-in-line of a politically aristocratic family. He father, Lloyd Criss, is the longtime Chairman of the Galveston County Democratic Party and previously served as the Representative in the same Galveston district from 1979 to 1991. The younger Criss, to my knowledge, is the only Democrat running for the post and the Chronicle article notes that they could not find any Republicans either. The filing deadline is on Monday.

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A basic recap of Legislative retirements

The Texas Tribune reports that yet another longtime Republcan State Representative, Bill Callegari of Katy, will not seek re-election in 2014. Callegari, who has been in office since 2001, is not by any means one of the most moderate of Representatives, though he is still far more pragmatic than most members of the Tea Party caucus.

Among the other retirements from the lower chamber among the Republican caucus are technocrats, pragmatists and longtime representatives. These include Harvey Hilderbran (who is running for Comptroller), Tyron Lewis, Rob Orr and Jim Pitts, among other names. Further Republicans, not necessarily more moderate, such as Dan Branch, Stefani Carter and Van Taylor, are forgoing re-election to the House in order to run for higher office.

Among Democrats, Craig Eiland is probably the only Democrat retiring whose district has been put in jeopardy (this is assisted by the fact that the Democrats, holding a pitiful 55 seats, have already been reduced to the studs. Eiland’s district, consisting of most of Galveston, has eyed a few hopeful Democrats, including District Judge Susan Criss & former Galveston Mayor Joe Jaworski.

From what I understand, about half the Legislature has announced intention to run for re-election, with another big share of the lower house still assumed to do so.

A larger share of the State House’s Republican caucus that is filled with far-right reactionaries is bound to be a brutal result for the Democrats. The most odious quality of this increased polarization is that it is not easily fixed. Jim Pitts’ successor, for example, will most likely be a Tea Party favorite out of Waxahachie. His constituents in Waxahachie will not be inclined to dump a Tea Party representative any time soon, because for the forseeable future, Republican primaries in Ellis County will be tantamount to election.

Another issue with all these retirements is that Joe Straus’ days as Speaker may be numbered. Paul Burka first prophesied this conclusion about a month ago, well before the cards of retirement started falling.

51 current Republicans were elected in the post-Tea Party era (2010 or 2012). This is added to the six currently retiring Representatives who did not take office in one of those years. After that point, only 19 of the 44 remaining Republicans are needed to oust Straus. The math does not look good for him if an organized opposition effort actually comes to pass.

What’s going on in Galveston?

A few months ago, I was surfing YouTube, watching a plethora of random videos. One of the advertisements that popped up before the videos was a political insurgency campaign of some sorts by someone named “Don Tequila.” The video, which was set to Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep,” played a montage of newspaper headlines outlining the many controversies a Galveston County Court at Law Judge, Christopher Dupuy, had found himself in since taking office in early 2011.

The case involving Judge Dupuy has officially blown up in the last week (I have been putting off writing this because it is still a breaking story). He has been accused of countless felonies, including abuse of power and official oppression.

An exhaustive summary of all of the controversies Dupuy has been involved in in the past roughly two years would be too onerous to detail at this time. Rather, there are three distinct issues currently affecting the Galveston Judge.

First, Dupuy was recently indicted and suspended without pay for eight crimes. These included corruption, oppression, abuse of power and retaliation. After the original arrest and indictment, Dupuy simply showed up for work like nothing had happened. It was only at that time that Dupuy was ordered by the State Commission on Judicial Conduct into official unpaid suspension.

Second, Dupuy has been historically quite erratic and possibly dangerous. A Chron article from February describes Susan Criss, another Galveston judge, fearing for her safety and the safety of her staff after frightening encounters with Dupuy. Judge Criss also claimed that Dupuy had posted inflammatory comments on his personal Facebook page, insinuating that he was carrying handguns “in a zipped pocket in his jacket” to the courthouse regularly.

Lastly, Dupuy has been involved in extensive family drama. During a recent court hearing of which Dupuy was a party to, rather than presiding over, Dupuy was alleged told his then-girlfriend that he was planning on killing his ex-wife and kidnapping his children and bringing them out of the country. FOX26 reports that this girlfriend, Tara Compton, plead the fifth when taking the stand, out of fear for her life. “I’m afraid something bad will come of this. I don’t want to end up having a bad accident after all of this. I fear what could happen to me,” the woman said. Dupuy also allegedly mailed a picture of a gun with a silencer on it to his ex-wife.

This guy is nuts. He was noted a few times to start laughing during court proceedings “when there did not appear to be anything humorous happening.” I had heard stories over the years of an absolutely psychotic lawyer my father once faced off against, but didn’t realize it was Dupuy until somewhat recently. I hope he can get kicked out of office sooner, rather than later, so that Galveston can reclaim some of their dignity.

Eiland
Speaking of Galveston, there is another newstory going on. Craig Eiland, the Galveston Democratic State Rep and former Speaker Pro Tem, will not be seeking re-election in 2014. He fought hard to win in both 2010 and 2012, so this is going to be a hard seat for the Democrats to keep. According to the Trib article on the topic, Eiland prophesied not about the importance of purple, but of brown–and obvious reference to the changing demographics.

I haven’t heard of anyone running for this seat, but it is going to be a messy race. Personally, I think this is a lost cause for the Democrats. Dems aren’t going to win this seat fighting over rural white districts. Let them go, keep your eye on the real prize: the cities and the south. Off the Kuff has more on Eiland.