Friday, April 27, 2012

DFW Area House Races

Another area of the state with a plethora of primary races is DFW, spearheaded by Tarrant County with 10 of its 11 House seats in contested primaries -- 7 Republican and 3 Democratic.  Only Harris County had more Republican primary voters than Tarrant County in 2010, and that second in the state ranking will continue this year with 7 out of the 8 Republican Tarrant County seats having contested primaries.  Collin and Denton County are also solidly Republican counties with all 7 House seats being held by Republicans, plus 2 new Republican seats from redistricting.
There is 1 open Democratic seat in Dallas County (Mallory Caraway), 2 in Tarrant County (Veasey and the new District 101), and Rep. Lon Burnam (D - Fort Worth) is facing a stiff primary challenge.
The question everyone is pondering is what will be the composition of the primary electorate.  With no contested presidential race on either side, all parties agree that turnout will be less than a normal presidential year.  The prevailing thought is that it will be a more partisan electorate in both the Democratic and Republican primaries, with a predominance of 3D and 3R voters.  On the Republican side, this would arguably favor the more conservative candidate.  However, it will also favor the candidate with the resources and campaign execution that is effectively able to identify and turn out his/her voters.

Below is my current analysis of these races.  Of course, this is simply a snapshot 4-1/2 weeks in advance of the election, and much can and will change between now and when all of the votes are finally cast.  A final caveat from one astute observer of DFW:  "There are a lot of races up here that just are not mature enough to make predications." Nevertheless, here goes.
Collin County

Dist. Incumbent      Candidates
33    New seat       Jim Pruitt R
                     Scott Turner R
Assessment:  Turner is the conservative favorite, although Rockwall County gives Pruitt a chance.

67    Jerry Madden   Jeran Akers R
                     Roger Burns R
                     Jon Cole R
                     Jeff Leach R
                     John Pitchford R
Assessment:  It will be a runoff, and Burns, Cole and Leach are the leading competitors for the two spots.

70    Ken Paxton     Scott Sanford R
                     Bracy Wilson R
Assessment:  I give Sanford the edge.

Dallas County

Dist. Incumbent      Candidates
110   B. Caraway     Cedric Davis D
                     Toni Rose D
                     Larry Taylor D
Assessment:  Likely a runoff between Rose and Taylor, with Davis having a chance to make the runoff.

114   Will Hartnett  David Boone R
                     Bill Keffer R
                     Jason Villalba R
Assessment:  Likely a runoff between Keffer and Villalba.

115   Jim Jackson    Lib Grimmett R
                     Steve Nguyen R
                     Andy Olivo R
                     Bennett Ratliff R
                     Matt Rinaldi R
Assessment:  It will be a runoff, and Nguyen, Ratliff and Rinaldi are the leading competitors for the two spots.

Denton County

Dist. Incumbent      Candidates
64    Myra Crownover Myra Crownover R
                     Mike Brucia R
Assessment:  Crownover wins.

65    Burt Solomons  Mike Hennefer R
                     David Loerwald R
                     Ron Simmons R
Assessment:  Simmons is the favorite; question is whether he can avoid a runoff with Loerwald.

106   New seat       Amber Fulton R
                     Pat Fallon R
Assessment:  Fallon wins.

Tarrant County

Dist. Incumbent      Candidates
90    Lon Burnam     Lon Burnam D
                     Carlos Vasquez D
Assessment:  Very close race.  Never count Burnam out, but the CD 33 dynamics are hurting him.

91    Kelly Hancock  Stephanie Klick R
                     Ken Sapp R
                     Charles Scoma R
                     Lady Thombs R
Assessment:  Runoff between Klick and Sapp.
92    Todd Smith     Roger Fisher R
                     Jonathan Stickland R
Assessment:  Toss up, but I give slight edge to Stickland.

93    Barbara Nash   Pat Carlson R
                     Matt Krause R
                     Barbara Nash R
Assessment:  Runoff between Nash and Krause.

94    Diane Patrick  Tina Lanza R
                     Diane Patrick R
Assessment:  Patrick wins.

95    Marc Veasey    Nicole Collier D
                     Jesse Gaines D
                     Jamal Masimini D
Assessment:  Collier and Gaines are the frontrunners. 

96    Bill Zedler    Bill Zedler R
                     Mike Leyman R
Assessment:  Zedler wins.
97    Mark Shelton   Craig Goldman R
                     Chris Hatch R
                     Susan Todd R
Assessment:  Runoff between Goldman and Todd.

98    Vicki Truitt   Giovanni Capriglione R
                     Vicki Truitt R
Assessment:  Truitt wins, but it will be close and the race is tightening.

101   New seat       Vicki Barnett D
                     Paula Pierson D
                     Chris Turner D
Assessment:  Turner wins; question is whether he can avoid a runoff with Pierson.

Friday, April 20, 2012

East Texas House Races

The attack mail pieces are starting to hit.  Television advertising has been bought and is beginning to air.  Early voting begins in 30 days, and 50% or more of the votes are likely to have been cast prior to election day.  In other words, we are in the primary home stretch for Texas legislative races.
East Texas is Ground Zero for Texas House Republican primary races.  SD 3 (Nichols) contains in whole or in part 11 House seats:  10 of them have Republican primaries.  SD 1 (Eltife) has an additional 4 seats with 3 primary contests.  SD 2 (Deuell) includes 3 more with 2 primaries.  Finally, SD 4 (Williams) has 3 additional with 2 primaries.  In total, there are 20 House seats covered by the 4 East Texas Senate districts, and 16 of them have Republican primaries -- 80%!
Here is how I see the 16 races 30 days out.
  • HD 2 (Hopkins, Hunt and Van Zandt) -- Rep. Dan Flynn appears to be in good shape against his challenger.
  • HD 3 (Waller and Montgomery) -- Cecil Bell is the clear favorite in this open seat.
  • HD 4 (Kaufman and Henderson) -- Rep. Lance Gooden is weathering a TEA party challenger.
  • HD 5 (Rains, Wood and Smith) -- Rep. Bryan Hughes is favored in this race against an educator-backed challenger.
  • HD 6 (Smith) -- Rep. Leo Berman seems to be holding off his challenger.
  • HD 7 (Gregg and Upshur) -- I see Rep. David Simpson defeating former Rep. Tommy Merritt in a rerun of 2010.
  • HD 8 (Hill, Navarro et al.) -- State Affairs Chair Byron Cook is brushing aside his challenger.
  • HD 9 (Cass, Marion et al.) -- Rep. Wayne Christian is being challenged by Marshall Mayor Chris Paddie.  I give Paddie the edge.
  • HD 10 (Ellis and Henderson) -- Appropriations Chair Jim Pitts appears to be weathering 3 challengers.  The key for Chairman Pitts is to avoid a runoff.
  • HD 11 (Cherokee, Nacogdoches and Rusk) -- General Investigating and Ethics Chair Chuck Hopson is in a tight race with a challenger from the population center of the district.  Tie goes to the incumbent, Hopson.
  • HD 15 (Montgomery) -- Public Education Chair Rob Eissler appears in good shape against his challenger.
  • HD 18 (Liberty, San Jacinto and Walker) -- Rep. John Otto will easily defeat his challenger.
  • HD 19 (Hardin et al.) -- Licensing and Administrative Procedures Chair Tuffy Hamilton and Rep. James White have squared off in the only House race with 2 incumbents.  Hamilton has strong lobby and House leadership support.  Texans for Lawsuit Reform is going to the mat for White.  I see Hamilton defeating White.
  • HD 21 (Jefferson and Orange) -- Natural Resources Chair Allan Ritter is brushing aside his secessionist challenger.
  • HD 23 (Chambers and Galveston) -- 3 Republicans are competing for the nomination to oppose Rep. Craig Eiland in the only Democratic House seat that is potentially in play in the general election.  Advantage:  Eiland.
  • HD 57 (Leon to San Augustine) -- Rep. Marva Beck is being challenged by Trent Ashby.  Ashby is from the population end of the district, and is an attractive and well-financed candidate.  At this point, I give Ashby the edge.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Sen. Wendy Davis

There is likely to be only one competitive Texas Senate race in the November general election.  Sen. Wendy Davis will square off against Rep./Dr. Mark Shelton in Fort Worth’s SD 10.
First the SD 10 numbers:  In 2008, Sen. McCain defeated President Obama 52.1% to 47.1%; Supreme Court Justice Dale Wainwright defeated Sam Houston 50.2% to 47.4%; while Davis defeated incumbent Sen. Kim Brimer 49.9% to 47.5%, with the Libertarian taking 2.6% of the vote.  In 2010, Gov. Perry carried the district 52.7% to 44.6% over Mayor White, and Railroad Commissioner David Porter defeated Jeff Weems 56.3% to 39.7%.  Sen. Davis is the only Democrat who has ever won in SD 10, and she did not break 50%.
With no Libertarian on the ballot in 2012, SD 10 is clearly a marginally Republican district with a 2012 Optimal Republican Voting Strength of 55.2%.  Bryan Eppstein, Rep. Shelton’s powerful consultant, opines that Shelton will win easily.
I see the race as closer and would currently rate it as a toss-up.  Although the District’s Republican numbers favor Shelton, Davis will benefit from being the incumbent.  
Sen. Davis was in Houston the last several days.  Sen. Rodney Ellis organized meet and greets for her with various labor and business groups, including the Greater Houston Partnership.  She will return in two weeks for a day of fundraisers.
I had the opportunity to observe Davis at a couple of these meetings.  Attractive, smart, passionate and yet soft-spoken, she is an excellent campaigner.  She smoothly works the room, remembering people’s names.
She also appears to be the top priority state race for Texas Democrats.  As the twelfth Democrat in the Senate, she exponentially strengthens the eleven vote minority block.  With only eleven votes, it is pretty easy to lose one Democrat.  When there are twelve, it is harder to lose two.
I am impressed with how hard Davis is working.  On paper, SD 10 clearly favors Rep. Shelton, and he is a strong candidate.  However, Republicans underestimate Sen. Davis at their peril.  She is not going down without a fight.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Kim Bonnen Re-Joins Locke Lord

I am pleased to announce that Kim Bonnen has re-joined the Locke Lord Texas Public Law Group.  Bonnen is an experienced public law attorney who will advise clients on Texas ethics laws, campaign finance and other legal matters.  Kim resides in Angleton, Texas, with her husband Rep. Dennis Bonnen, and she will be Of Counsel in our Austin and Houston offices.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Texas House -- The Action is in the Primaries!

We are now into April without a ruling from the D.C. court on pre-clearance.  I believe that the San Antonio court and the D.C. court have been communicating and coordinating all along, and the San Antonio court did not issue its interim maps without some comfort level that the D.C. court would not blow up the interim maps with an adverse pre-clearance ruling.  
The interim maps must still be pre-cleared by the Department of Justice.  However, testimony was previously given in the San Antonio court stating that maps would have to be in place by March 30 in order to have a June 26 primary (the last possible date).  If the Department of Justice were now to refuse to pre-clear the interim maps, Texas would not be able to conduct Republican and Democratic primaries in 2012.  It seems highly unlikely that DOJ would be willing to incur the responsibility for no primaries by refusing to pre-clear the interim maps.  Accordingly, I believe that the interim maps will stand and we will have May 29 primaries in Texas.
The Democratic and Republican primaries are where the majority of the action will be in the Texas House elections.  There are likely to be at most 10 competitive elections in November.  When all is said and done, there will be 90 to 95 Republicans in the House, down from 102 currently, and Democrats will number 55 to 60, up from 48.  Let’s look at the races.
102 Republican House members
  • 23 are not seeking reelection to the House
  • 25 did not draw a primary or Democratic opponent and are reelected
  • 30 drew only a Republican primary challenger
  • 8 have both a primary and a Democratic opponent
  • 16 have only a Democratic opponent
48 Democratic House members
  • 7 are not seeking reelection to the House
  • 23 are reelected because they did not draw a primary opponent or a Republican
  • 6 have only a primary opponent
  • 2 have both a primary and a Republican opponent
  • 10 drew only a Republican in the general election
31 Open seats
  • Although there are 30 incumbents not seeking reelection, there are 31 open seats because Hamilton and White are paired
  • 9 will be decided in the Republican primary, because no Democrat filed
  • 4 will be decided in the Democratic primary, because no Republican filed
  • 18 seats have both Democrats and Republicans running; 11 are likely to be won by the Republican, 6 by the Democrat, and the Legler open seat is a toss-up
After the Primaries
  • There will be 63 Republican members – no Democrats have filed in these seats
  • There will be 33 Democratic members – no Republicans have filed in these seats
  • There will be 54 general election contests, but at most 10 will be truly competitive
  • 140 of the House members will likely be known by the end of the primaries
  • In other words, all of the action is in the primaries!
November competitive seats
  • In November, it currently looks like there will be at most 10 seats in play – currently 9 are Republican and 1 is Democratic.  These seats and their 2012 Optimal Republican Voting Strength (ORVS) are:
  • HD 78 – Margo -- 47
  • HD 34 – Scott -- 47.1
  • HD 144 – Open -- 49.2
  • HD 117 – Garza -- 50.8
  • HD 23 – Eiland -- 51
  • HD 43 – Lozano -- 51.7
  • HD 107 – Sheets -- 54.9
  • HD 105 – Harper – Brown -- 55.3
  • HD 102 – Carter -- 56
  • HD 114 – Open -- 56.7
In my next post, I will begin looking at the primary races.