Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Pre-Filing Update on Texas Senate Races

Four state senators have announced their retirement, a fifth senate district is anticipated to flip from Democrat to Republican if the redistricting map is upheld, and one incumbent is likely facing a stiff primary challenge.  Twenty-five senators appear to be breezing to reelection.
On average over the last ten years, there have been three new senators each legislative session.  In 2003 (78th Regular Session), there were four new senators; 2005 -- two; 2007 -- five; 2009 -- two; 2011 -- two.  In 2013, it appear that there will be at least five new senators.  My assessment of the races:
SD 5  (Ogden) -- Rep. Charles Schwertner will win the race.  At this point, no one else has filed, although Ben Bius continues to talk about it.
SD 8 (Shapiro) -- Rep. Ken Paxton is the heavy favorite to defeat Scott O’Grady, a motivational speaker and retired Air Force pilot who was shot down in Bosnia.
SD 9 (Harris) -- Victor Vandergriff will face off against Rep. Rodney Anderson.  Vandergriff is Chair of the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles, and the immediate past Chair of the North Texas Tollway Authority.  He has long and deep roots in Tarrant County, which is where the majority of voters in SD 9 live.  Rep. Rodney Anderson is a solid member, a strong campaigner and a very likeable person.  He will give Mr. Vandergriff a run, but it starts out as Vandergriff’s race to lose.
SD 11 (Jackson) -- Rep. Larry Taylor is the heavy favorite to defeat Dave Norman, a Seabrook insurance agent, and Daniel McCool, a Harris County Deputy Sheriff.  Rep. Taylor chairs the House Republican Caucus, and has virtually unanimous support from the Republican elected officials in the district.  There are two outstanding questions on this race.  First, do the lines of the new Congressional District 36 change because of the redistricting litigation?  If so and if Sen. Jackson believes that the revised district is not winnable, Sen. Jackson will seek reelection to the Senate and Rep. Taylor will seek reelection to his current House seat.  Second, how much money will Attorney Steve Mostyn spend against Rep. Taylor? 
SD 10 (Davis) -- I expect the new Senate lines to be upheld and not changed by the redistricting litigation.  If so, SD 10 becomes a Republican district not winnable by Sen. Davis (D - Fort Worth).  Rep. Kelly Hancock and Rep. Mark Shelton will square off for the SD 10 Republican nomination.  Rep. Hancock was first out of the gate and is a strong campaigner.  Rep. Shelton is a solid member who is asking the Fort Worth business community to back him.  I see this as a very competitive Republican primary, although at this point I would give the edge to Rep. Hancock.
Primary Challenge
SD 25 -- Sen. Jeff Wentworth is being challenged by Dr. Donna Campbell, who ran for Congress against Lloyd Doggett in 2010.  Dr. Campbell recently moved to New Braunfels to run.  The race remains fluid, and other challengers may get in.  I expect San Antonio money to rally around Sen. Wentworth against a non-Bexar County candidate.  A complete assessment of this race cannot be made until after the filing deadline.  However, it is always risky to bet against incumbents, and I rate Wentworth as the current favorite.