In re Glenn Hegar

In what was probably the most egregious example of the Tribune poll’s unreliability, the Comptroller Republican primary turned out to be anything but predictable. The Tribune had predicted Debra Medina, the Tea Party firebrand, would finish in the plurality, with State Senator Glenn Hegar and State Representative Harvey Hilderbran fighting it out for second place. Ultimately, the results showed Hegar with a convincing lead, Hilderbran squarely in second place and Medina in a distant third place. Former State Representative Raul Torres also ran but finished last. Throughout election night and the succeeding days, Hegar hovered around 50%, leaving the prospect of a runoff between him and Hilderbran up in the air. Finally, Hilderbran withdrew from the campaign, leaving Hegar as the nominee by default.

Hegar will now face Mike Collier, a Democrat, in the general election. Collier has been especially hard on Hegar for two reasons. First, Hegar has previously received the endorsement of the incumbent, Susan Combs, who has been especially notorious for underestimating revenue, thus leading to overly painful austerity measures. Second, Hegar has been especially reliant on conservative organizations with admittedly little to do with the office of the Comptroller. As Collier has been saying, the office should be about “accounting, not abortion.”

Click here to see the obligatory map!

In re David Dewhurst

The runoff was perhaps the biggest surprise of the night, with State Senator Dan Patrick outperforming incumbent Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst 2-to-1 in the preliminary Republican primary for the post. The two will advance to a May runoff election, eliminating both Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples and Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson. Most political prognosticators (including, unfortunately, myself) thought the roles would be largely reversed, with Dewhurst receiving 40%+ and Patrick holding about a twenty point deficit.

Further, the Texas Tribune reports on a developing story surrounding pressures placed on second-place candidates to drop out, thus eliminating the need for a runoff election. The effort has already been successful on one front, with State Representative Harvey Hilderbran dropping out in his bid for Comptroller, thus assuring victory to the huge frontrunner, State Senator Glenn Hegar. Similarly, on the Lieutenant Governor’s side, Dewhurst has some huge ground he must make up if he actually plans on remaining competitive. Finishing with barely over 20% of the vote in a race for re-election is a very pitiful end of a political career, but his possible fate in the runoff could spell even more misery.

Click here to view another map!

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.

Click here to read more!

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.

Click here to read all my other points!

2014’s first big poll

The Texas Tribune reports on a very comprehensive poll they conducted over just about every competitive primary in the State. The poll has a fairly substantial margin of error (upwards of 6% in the Democratic primary, specifically), so that is something to bear in mind when analyzing the results.

Simply put, the results paint a bad picture for the Democrats. Back at that time, Greg Abbott lead Wendy Davis by only five points; today, Abbott’s lead has grown to Eleven points. Other polls paint a similarly bleak picture for the Democrats, especially considering that these Texas Tribune polls have historically been overly generous to the Democratic candidate. Just a few days after that original Tribune poll, Public Policy Polling (a historically very accurate pollster) estimated Abbott’s lead at a whopping fifteen points. Accordingly, I am eager to see just how bad off the Democrats are doing when PPP releases its triannual February poll any day now.

Also of note here is that these polls were largely conducted before the Ted Nugent scandal really blew over regarding Greg Abbott’s campaign. Therefore, one could plausibly assert that this poll overvalues Davis’ problems emanating from “Trailergate” while simultaneously not taking to account Abbott’s recent woes. Among other issues with this poll was a misleading discrepancy between “registered” and “likely” voters. Additionally, the polls completely disregarded the portion of the electorate still undecided. I have recreated these polls with the undecideds built into the poll, as well as only taking note of the “registered” voters.

Click here for full results and graph!

Texpatriate endorses in Comptroller primary

The Texas Comptroller is an incredibly unique position, one without a readily identifiable counterpart at the local or national level. At first glance, one might think the job predominantly revolves around managing and keeping the State’s money. While the Comptroller may do many of these functions today, they were not and are not the prime duties of the office. Indeed, the office of State Treasurer had originally completed these tasks. The prime responsibility of the Comptroller of Public Accounts is to forecast revenue for the upcoming biennium, which in turn binds the Legislature as to how much money it may appropriate throughout its session. These estimates are important, because they can make or break just how painful the austerity in any particular year will be. For example, the incumbent Comptroller, Susan Combs, greatly underestimated revenue a few years ago –for ideological reasons– leading to excessive cuts.

This board has not been impressed by Combs’ tumultuous tenure in office. Putting ideology above the welfare of the State has led to disastrous results, most notably the painful cuts to Education in the 2011 session. Accordingly, we would be remiss to continue with business as usual by supporting her handpicked choice as successor, State Senator Glenn Hegar. Rather than talking about accounting, Hegar has seemed very busy on the campaign trail touting his stance on abortion. Rather than aspiring to be a protector of the State’s financial integrity, Hegar appears content to protect the integrity of the 2nd Amendment. We fail to see how either has anything to do with the office of Comptroller.

Click here to read more!

Another 2014 Tribune poll

The Texas Tribune, in cooperation with the University of Texas, has released a new 2014 General election poll. As far as I could figure, this is the first poll the institutions have released for the 2014 campaign. The results paint an interesting picture of the political landscape that could foster competitive elections for the first time in nearly 20 years.

First and foremost, let us look at the results:

Click here to view results and analysis!

Wendy for Governor

But we all knew this. The New York Times, among other locations, reports that “sources close to Wendy Davis” have leaked information confirming that she will, in fact, run for Governor of Texas in 2014.

A few more details have been unearthed as well about Davis’ future candidacy. She will make the big announcement, as I had partially predicted, in her hometown of Fort Worth. That would also be where the future campaign will be based. This is some very good new for her part. The meticulously astute might remember one of my first posts on this blog, wherein I roundly criticized Paul Sadler’s statewide campaign for being based in Austin. While I maintain that San Antonio would have been a better headquarters, Fort Worth is an important place as well.

As Davis’ campaign is analyzed by the Times, the paper interviews pertinent individuals who reflected upon her future candidacy. Matt Angle of the Lone Star Project, a Democratic activist grassroots force that has largely been historically impotent, offered somewhat obligatory commendable remarks vis-a-vis Davis’ candidacy. However, what surprised me more was the Times’ interview with Mark White, the former Democratic Governor. White, who is 73, stated:

“I think her chances are very good. I compare it to my chances of winning when I decided to run for governor. Everybody said it was impossible to do, and I was able to do it, and they’re probably telling her the same thing. She’s got the advantage that David had over Goliath.”

Davis, of course, was mum on the leaks. She will still be making her announcement on October 3rd, and will not be publicly saying anything before then. However, the announcement will be somewhat anticlimactic, like the faux-suspensful drama leading up to statements on the future candidacies of Greg Abbott, Brandon Creighton and Harvey Hildenbran before.

There is a lot to be said right now about whether or not Davis may actually win. I have discussed this issue at detail in the past, and I am sure I will do it again sometime soon. Loyal readers of Texpatriate know that my position is that, while Davis cannot win, she could come closer than any before, and set the stage for a victory down the line. Accordingly, I am very happy to see this announcement (though I had known this was coming for awhile).

The Dallas Morning News, Houston Chronicle and Austin American-Statesman have more. Also, Politico.

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.

Horwitz on ‘going Blue’

For some reason, there are a large number of people in this State who think that, if Wendy Davis runs for Governor, she will win. Personally, I find that statement to be utterly ridiculous, but admire the optimism from those who believe it. Even more Texans believe, once again foolishly, that Julian Castro can win the Governor’s mansion in 2018. Once again, the optimism is admired from this tired, old cynic. But I do not want to talk about how long our road to victory still is, the Editorial Board has already done that. I would like to talk about how, once Democrats break the losing-streak we’ve had since 1996, serious challenges will persist. Indeed, as long as the road to our first Democratic victory will be, the road to a Texas that is as blue as California will be even longer.

As much as I would love the peaches & cream belief that a single Democratic victory ushers in an unprecedented era of Democratic dominance, it simply won’t happen. Here’s why:

Let us assume, arguendo, that Julian Castro is victorious in his campaign to deny Governor Greg Abbott a second term in 2018, the same year his twin brother, Joaquin Castro is elected to the United States Senate by defeating first-term Senator Ted Cruz. The election will be quite notable, because while the pundits and Democratic activists had been saying it all along, the real establishment had been far more pessimistic about the entire ordeal. Accordingly, Democrats ran really poor candidates against the Agriculture Commissioner, Brandon Creighton; the Land Commissioner, George P. Bush, and; the Comptroller, Harvey Hilderbran. All these officeholders crushed the mediocre, placeholder Democratic opposition. Meanwhile, some of the Statewide spots on the Texas Supreme Court and Court of Criminal Appeals lacked even a single Democratic opponent.

Democrats made only meager gains in the State Legislature, though one bright spot was Texas Democratic Party Chairwoman Wendy Davis defeating Konni Burton and winning back her old Senate seat.

Democrats wouldn’t make such a mistake more than once, so they will probably start running competent candidates in all the Statewide seats thereafter. They won’t win, though, for at least a few more election cycles.

The other reason a Democratic governor’s election in 2018 would be invaluable is that she or he could veto the redistricting plan. Under current maps, it would be almost impossible for Democrats to win more than 65 seats in the House, and I cannot image them winning many more than that by 2021. Accordingly, a heavily Republican Legislature will draw the maps for the 2020s. For these reasons, I cannot image Democrats taking over the State Legislature until the 2030s.

Another problem is something that the Democrats will surely face in their first defensive position, say 2022:

By 2022, the national mood will have turned against the Democrats in full force. Despite President Clinton’s re-election just two years earlier, the nation had grown weary of the 14 years of continuous Democratic rule in Washington. The frustration was taken out on the local level as Land Commissioner George P. Bush soundly defeated Governor Castro in the 2022 midterm elections. Republicans, still controlling back majorities in the State Legislature, pushed for another mid-decade redistricting plan–the second in the past three decades.

Things still hadn’t turned around by 2024, when Republicans take back the White House after 16 years, and the new Republican President’s coattails sweep a creationist into the Senate, denying Joaquin Castro a second term.

Once the Democrats start taking Statewide positions, they will be fighting hard with the Republicans to keep them for the foreseeable future. To give some background, Illinois has voted Democratic in the past six Presidential election, but the Land of Lincoln will probably elected a Republican governor next year. To this Bostonian, need I say more than Scott Brown?

So make absolutely no mistake, Texas is not going blue any time soon. The State will go purple at some point in the next 10-15 years, but I will have grey white hair before the pigment is blue.