Thursday, October 31, 2013

Nolan Ryan Considering Run for Texas Agriculture Commissioner

Baseball legend Nolan Ryan is considering seeking the Republican nomination for Texas Agriculture Commissioner.  Ryan retires effective today as CEO of the Texas Rangers and has sold his ownership interest in the club.

He currently serves as Statewide Chairman of current Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples’ campaign for Lieutenant Governor.

Ryan first looked at running for Agriculture Commissioner in 1989 against Jim Hightower in the 1990 election.  Ultimately, then Rep. Rick Perry switched from Democrat to Republican and filed against Hightower, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Ryan would be joining a crowded Republican field currently consisting of former Rep. Sid Miller; SREC Member Eric Opiela; Uvalde Mayor J. Allen Carnes; and former Rep. Tommy Merritt.  Rep. Cecil Bell is also considering the race.  Author and musician Kinky Friedman has announced for the Democratic nomination.

10/31 - Updated to reflect that Tommy Merritt is also running for Ag Commissioner.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Election Potpourri

Early voting is heavy in Harris County, more than doubling what it was through the first seven days in 2011.  With 52,170 votes already cast, you can see that, as expected, Harris County will disproportionately affect the outcome of the statewide constitutional amendment propositions.  In 2011, 695,052 Texans voted in the constitutional amendment election, with 152,597 votes being cast in Harris County or 22%.  In 2013, it appears the Harris County may approach 30% of the statewide total.

An analysis of the City of Houston vote by Kyle Johnston of Johnston Campaign estimates that through the first five days, the ethnic breakdown of those casting Houston ballots is African American 32%, Hispanic 12%, Asian 1%, and Other (Anglo) 55%.  Mr. Johnston also finds that of the City of Houston voters, 61% have a Democratic primary history, 34% have a Republican primary history, and 5% have no primary history.  This partisan breakdown provides further evidence that the time has passed when a candidate running as a Republican can be elected Mayor of Houston.

In the current mayoral election, Mayor Parker’s polling is showing her pulling away from Dr. Hall.  According to her internal polls, the undecideds are breaking her way and Dr. Hall’s pro forma television buy is not sufficient to keep him in the game.  Either the Mayor’s polls are wrong or she is going to win without a runoff.

I also recently reviewed a couple of Republican primary polls for Texas races.  The polls continue to show that the number one issue for Texas Republican primary voters is illegal immigration.  That is why you are seeing Republican candidates strenuously oppose in-state tuition for illegal immigrants, because the Republican primary base demands that they crack down on illegal immigration.  However, the hard facts of demography tell us that Hispanic voters will ultimately become the majority in Texas.  The Republicans truly are between a primary rock and a demographic hard place.

Lastly, it has been a good couple of weeks for Sen. Glenn Hegar in his race for State Comptroller.  He has recently been endorsed by both Comptroller Susan Combs (an establishment conservative) and Texans for Fiscal Responsibility (a movement conservative).  With Debra Medina’s renewed focus on the race, Rep. Harvey Hilderbran appears to be in a difficult position.  On the positive side, Rep. Hilderbran was recently endorsed by Brint Ryan, the Founder of Ryan LLC, which has a huge tax practice before the Comptroller’s office.  Mr. Ryan apparently has a different analysis of the likely outcome of the race than current conventional wisdom.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Two Minute Warning

Early voting starts Monday in the Houston mayor’s race.  When I last updated the race, it was halftime and Mayor Annise Parker was leading Dr. Ben Hall 20 - 3.  We have now reached the two minute warning.

Mayor Parker has the lead, the ball and the wind at her back.  The outcome of the contest is clear and Parker will win.  The only question is whether she will cover the point spread and win without a runoff.

The point spread to win without a runoff is a large one (19 points in my opinion) because there are nine candidates in the race.  I have the Mayor ahead 27 to 10 and needing one more score.  Dr. Hall appears to have thrown in the towel and has pulled his starters (and his television ads).  Mayor Parker, on the other hand, has left her starters in and continues to throw downfield with hard hitting television ads.  Parker is clearly going to leave it all on the field in the final two minutes and is trying end the contest November 5 without a runoff.

At this point, I believe the Mayor has a better than 50% chance of winning without a runoff.  Polling I have seen shows Parker projected to win between 50% and 52% of the vote; Hall at 30% to 35%; and the other 7 candidates at 10% to 15%.  Of course, the only poll that counts are the results on election day and a lot can happen in 20 days.

Nevertheless, political fans are already looking ahead to the 2015 mayoral season.  The initial rankings show three tier one candidates projected to run for mayor in 2015:  Council Member Stephen Costello; Sheriff Adrian Garcia; and Representative Sylvester Turner.  Other possible candidates receiving consideration in the 2015 rankings are:  Chris Bell; Brad Bradford; Gilbert Garcia; Ed Gonzalez; Ronald Green; Ben Hall; Sue Lovell; Vidal Martinez; James Rodriguez; and Orlando Sanchez.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Preview of November 2014 Legislative Races

Optimal Republican Voting Strength (ORVS) is a method of comparing legislative districts on an apples-to-apples basis for purposes of assessing the generic Republican voting strength of the district.  Although there is a strong correlation between ORVS and actual results, it is less of a predictor and more of a metric for ranking the Republican strength of the districts.  Mike Baselice of Baselice & Associates has computed the 2014 ORVS using the following formula:  [(2010 Perry %) + (2 x 2010 Abbott %) + (2012 Hecht %) + (2012 Romney % + 2012 Cruz %)] / 6 = ORVS.  

Democrats use the Democratic Performance Index (DPI).  I have not seen the 2014 DPI numbers, although they have been described to me.

There appear to be 15 competitive House districts in Texas for the general election, and 1 competitive Senate district.  They are:

2014 ORVS
Aycock - R
Isaac - R
Button - R 
Davis - R
Villalba - R
Open (Carter - R)
Harper-Brown - R
Burkett - R
Lozano - R
Sheets - R
Open (Eiland - D)
Cortez - D
Perez - D
Moody - D
Herrero - D

2014 ORVS
Open (Davis - D)

The Republican targets of opportunity are the open seats HD 23 (Eiland) in Galveston and SD 10 (Davis) in Fort Worth.

The Democrats will be focusing their fire on the open seat in HD 102 (Carter), and Reps. Harper-Brown, Burkett, Lozano and Sheets.

Michael Quinn Sullivan (MQS) and Empower Texas are also ably aiding the Democrats in their pick up efforts by mailing “F” report cards into the districts of Aycock, Button, Davis, Villalba, Harper-Brown (received a D-), Burkett and Sheets, softening them up for the general election.

At this point, I would say the betting line for the 2015 House opens  at between +1 R per the Republicans, and +4 D per the Democrats.  In my opinion, the Republicans are favored to pick up the Davis senate seat.  This would result in 54 to 59 House Democrats next session, and 11 Democratic senators.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Thirty Pieces of Silver

UPDATED 10/7/13:  See response of Jeff Rotkoff at end.

An ancient Arabian proverb says the enemy of my enemy is my friend.  The concept is that two parties, opposed in most respects, unite against a common opponent.  In Texas, it has aligned Steve Mostyn, a passionate liberal and prolific contributor to Democrats, with Debra Medina, a libertarian Republican now contemplating a run for governor as an independent in 2014.

Mostyn began supporting Medina because she opposed Gov. Rick Perry in the 2010 Republican primary.  Mostyn also created the Back to Basics PAC and contributed almost $4 million in 2010 to attack Gov. Perry.

Medina’s political organization is We Texans, a 501(c)(4) corporation focusing on private property, state sovereignty, gun ownership and illegal immigration.  The identities of donors to 501(c)(4) organizations do not have to be disclosed. These organizations can engage in unlimited lobbying activities, and some campaign activity, so long as it is not their primary activity.

In 2010, Medina received 18.5% of the vote and finished last in the Republican primary for Governor to Gov. Perry’s 51% and Sen. Hutchison’s 30%.  Medina has a definite following, but she appears a long way from being able to win a statewide Republican primary.

Medina is currently seeking the Republican nomination for Comptroller.   Medina’s race is not going well, as Sen. Glenn Hegar appears to be uniting the movement conservative and establishment conservative wings of the Republican party behind his candidacy.  For example, he was recently endorsed by Tarrant County Reps. Capriglione, Goldman, Klick, Krause and Zedler; and Ned Holmes is hosting a major Houston fundraiser for Hegar this month.

However, according to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram Medina “has received millions of dollars in pledges on the condition that she instead run for governor as an independent.”  It doesn’t take a Rice graduate to figure out the source of those pledges.  Steve Mostyn and his wife, Amber, are fervent backers of Sen. Wendy Davis and her gubernatorial campaign.  It is a time-honored political tactic to entice other candidates into a race to siphon votes from the frontrunner, in this case Attorney General Greg Abbott.

Ms. Medina would do well to remember the remorse of Judas after accepting the thirty pieces of silver.  Instead of betraying her political principles, she should wait and run for an office she can win:  The special election for SD 18 assuming that Hegar is elected Comptroller.

Response 10/7/13:

Mr. Miller - 

My name is Jeff Rotkoff and I am a political consultant who works full time with Steve and Amber Mostyn. 

I want to state unambiguously to you that your post claiming the Mostyns have committed financial or political support to Debra Medina -- should she choose to run for Governor in 2014 -- is incorrect. 
To be clear, the Mostyns have not spoken with Ms. Medina about any campaign for any office in 2014. Neither they, nor I on their behalf, have suggested that they would provide any kind of financial or political support to Ms. Medina in a 2014 gubernatorial run. Further, I do not believe Ms. Mostyn has ever spoken with Ms. Medina. The last time Mr. Mostyn spoke with her would have been in the form of a passing "hello" while walking through the halls of the Capitol sometime earlier this year. A 5 to 10 second exchange, at best. 
I hope you will correct your post. If you choose not to do so, I hope you will acknowledge that your claims are directly disputed by those with actual, direct knowledge as to the Mostyns political activity.
Jeff Rotkoff