Monday, February 12, 2018

The Toughest House Race In Texas


The Texas primaries are less than a month away-- March 6. And the races are crowded. Or at least the seats that look the most flippable are crowded, even after lots of candidates have dropped out. Texas has 36 congressional districts. The very last one, TX-36, southeast Texas in the Houston area, is so red, that the DCCC isn't even contesting it. But two Democrats are-- Dayna Steele and Jon Powell. The PVI is R+26. Obama lost in 2008 with 30% and in 2012 with 26% and last year Trump beat Hillary 72.0% to 25.2%. Lunatic fringe Republican Steve Stockman-- the guy tangled up with the Oklahoma City bombers-- used to represent the district.

The Republican in office now is a little known, right-wing backbencher, Brian Babin, a dentist and former mayor of Woodville. Both Dems running are good but where Powell would likely do as poorly in the general election as all the other Democrats who have tried running there-- the Dems didn't have a candidate in 2016; their candidate in 2014 (the ex-Libertarian from 2012) got 22.1% and their candidate in 2012 got 26.6%)-- Dayna Steele is a respected, even beloved, local celebrity because of her long run as Houston's "Queen of Rock'n'Roll" as music director and on-air personality on KLOL, the biggest music station in the area. She's the Blue America-endorsed candidate and she's expected to win handily next month. Here's the interview a Houston Chronicle commentator did with her a couple of weeks ago:

Friday, the Chronicle endorsed award-winning cancer researcher and doctor Jason Westin in the Houston district viewed as the most flippable, TX-07. The district is on the other side of the Houston metro, west Houston and the suburbs as far as Barker Reservoir and the Houston National Gold Club. "Westin's professional credentials alone, "wrote the Chronicle editors, "are impressive enough; he says his peers elected him to lead the largest clinical trial team in the nation seeking new treatments for aggressive cancers. But don't think for a second this doctor is a one-trick-pony running on a health care platform. He's impressed crowds at community forums with his conspicuously thoughtful command of a wide variety of issues. Westin launched his candidacy with the help of a nationwide group that's trying to get more scientists to run for office. When he says he's bothered by 'disrespect of facts and science,' he speaks with a quiet passion that seems to be winning over a growing number of supporters."

And over the weekend the Chronicle's Kevin Diaz reported on the 7 Democrats hoping to get into the May 22 runoff that will determine which of them get to face Republican John Culberson in November. Hillary didn't campaign in Houston and didn't put any resources into the area but she beat Trump 48.5% to 47.1%. As of the December 31 FEC reporting deadline, 4 of the Democrats had each raised over a quarter million dollars. Together they've raised nearly 3 times what Culberson has raised. They note that the establishment fave, Alex Triantaphyllis, calls himself-- like Hillary did-- a "practical progressive," the latest way to identify yourself as a conservative and shill for the status quo without turning off the energized Democratic base. Mr. T worked for Goldman Sachs and he isn't fooling anyone.

The other establishment candidate is Lizzie Fletcher, the EMILY's List candidate and another conservative-leaning Democrat, who is being savaged by organized labor because of the vicious anti-union work her law form does. She emphasizes her support from EMILY's List, noting that "They get into races and back candidates where they think they can actually win the general election," neglecting to note that EMILY's List has been for several years the kiss of death for the campaigns they actively taken over, like hers. The candidates they run (rather than passively endorse) always lose, primarily because EMILY's List gives them bad advise, just as they're currently giving Fletcher.

The DCCC is less interested in the 2 progressives in the race, Laura Moser and Jason Westin. This quote is hard to resist:
As a doctor, Westin also believes that he is uniquely qualified to carry a potent message on access to health care, a top Democratic issue. For many Democrats that means defending Obama's Affordable Care Act from GOP repeal efforts.

But for Westin, it also means pushing for a "Medicare-for-all" single-payer national health system, a view he shares with Moser and Sanchez.

That does not mean a "radical government takeover of the medical system," he says. "As a cancer doctor, I know that health care is a right, and that denying facts is wrong."

Westin's position has won him an endorsement from 314 Action, a nationally-focused political action committee that backs candidates with backgrounds in the hard sciences, math, engineering or technology. It is sometimes referred to as the "science lobby" or an Emily's List for doctors.

Westin has received a more high profile endorsement from the Blue America PAC, founded by music producer and liberal provocateur Howie Klein, who went negative in a recent blog post calling Triantaphyllis "another DCCC talking point robot."

Westin disavows any connection to Klein's post, which some see as the first direct attack of the primary.

But he's also scored what might be the first celebrity endorsement: Mark Hamill, who plays Luke Skywalker in Star Wars (and the veteran of a Twitter war with Texas U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz over net neutrality) recently tweeted his support for Westin with the hashtag, #MayTheFactsBeWithYou.
Goal ThermometerOne more Houston race, one that isn't getting much national attention. TX-29 is a very blue district. Whomever win the primary or runoff will be the next congressmember. Hillary won the district 71.1% to 25.4%. The PVI is D+19 and the ship channel district covering East Houston/Pasadena area is over 76% Latino and one of the poorest districts in the country (412 out of 435). When conservative Gene Green finally announced his retirement, Hector Morales had already been campaigning for months. Since then 7 Democrats have jumped into the race, including conservative Tahir Javed who's may have no community support but does have a fat checkbook and is trying to buy the seat with $400,000 worth of self funding (so far). The Texas Tribune reported that state Senator Sylvia Garcia, Green's handpicked candidate to succeed him, was favored to win-- until Javed, a carpetbagger, jumped in with his open checkbook. Blue America has endorsed progressive school teacher Hector Morales. All of the candidates endorsed by Blue America can be accessed by clicking on the Texas thermometer on the right.

OK, let's move west-- to the gerrymandered Austin/San Antonio district that crazy Lamar Smith is giving up. The Blue America candidate is (emphatically) Derrick Crowe. You know how good Ted Lieu, Pramila Jayapal and Jamie Raskin have turned out in Congress? That's how good we expect Derrick to be too. Over the weekend the Austin American-Statesman did a rundown of the race which pits Derrick and 2 other progressives, Elliott McFadden and Mary Wilson, against conservative "ex"-Republican Joseph Kopser. There are also 18 Republicans in the race. The establishment Democrats and DC media types are, of course, attracted to Kosper's Republican-lite perspective and push him. Elliott McFadden's critique of the DCCC sound's like what grassroots Dems are saying all across the country:
“What we’re seeing is the national Democratic Party trying to dictate who our nominee is,” said McFadden, a former executive director of the Travis County Democratic Party who is CEO of Austin B-cycle, a nonprofit bike-sharing program. “They shouldn’t be bringing in national donors to influence this race. It should be up to the Democratic voters in this district to decide.”

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, McFadden said, “needs to butt out of this election.”

McFadden, 43, believes Kopser is emblematic of a misbegotten strategy by many party leaders.

“In partisan races, particularly federal races, people are hyperpartisan today, so, you know when Joseph says, `I’m going to go up there and be reasonable,’ well, the Republicans aren’t going to let him stand up there and do that all by himself,” McFadden said. “They are going to call him a crazy liberal that’s going to take away your guns and all these other things, so you’re not going to be able to get away with standing there and being a moderate.”

Even on its own terms, McFadden said Kopser’s strategy can’t succeed.

“There’s not enough of those voters in this district to win this district,” McFadden said. “When we look at the best the Democrats have done so far in this district (Hillary Clinton vs. Trump in 2016), that’s about a 20,000-vote margin that you still have to overcome.”

“If you can’t win with what the electorate is, you have to change the electorate,” McFadden said. “We need to close that 20,000-vote margin by drawing some of the 60,000 Hillary Clinton voters in the district that would typically not vote in a midterm election.”

“You do not win crossover voters,” said Dean Rindy, a political consultant who is volunteering for McFadden’s campaign. “There are very few truly independent voters anymore.”

...Rindy, McFadden’s consultant, said that if Kopser prevails, it will prove a Pyrrhic victory for Democrats.

“You could elect people like Kopser in 20 districts around the country, but, in the long run, you’d be hurting the party,” he said, burdening Democrats with more “nibble around the edges” members in Congress, offering “more of the same pablum,” when, he said, what the country needs and what voters, including Texas voters, desperately want is “fundamental structural reform.”

McFadden acknowledges that on the primary campaign trail, Kopser is sounding progressive themes, but said that Kopser remains a onetime Republican and admirer of President Ronald Reagan who sits on the board of the Texas Association of Business, “which bills itself as the most conservative business advocacy group in the state. They’ve endorsed Greg Abbott, Ted Cruz, Dan Patrick. They’ve opposed increasing the minimum wage, paid sick leave and in the last session opposed women getting 3-D mammograms through their insurance companies.”

If elected, McFadden said, “which Joseph are we going to get?”

But Kopser, 47, said he helped steer the Texas Association of Business to its signal opposition to last year’s legislation to restrict transgender bathroom use.

He is confident he can draw some Republican support because, “my goodness, it’s my family.”

“My family were Ronald Reagan Republicans when I was younger, and my dad now considers himself an independent,” said Kopser, who grew up in Lexington, Ky.

“These are people who have moved away from the Republican Party, but many haven’t landed comfortably in the Democratic Party,” he said. But, he said, they could support someone like himself who is “rational, full of compromise and civility, but will always be moving the ball forward and never think about going backward on the progress we made.”

Kopser wonders “why my peers in his race, why their followers, cannot offer the same open hand that they extend to an immigrant who comes from a different country to an immigrant who comes from a different ideology?”

“I love pointing out to them how I might be a Democrat today who came from the land of Republicans, but if you cannot accept me in your party, then how can you consistently say, without hypocrisy, that you are accepting immigrants from other countries?” Kopser said. “It’s the same thing. Those people left their country for a better opportunity. I left the Republican Party for a better opportunity.”

“I understand my opponents are clinging to this idea that independents and moderate Republicans will never vote for a Democrat, and I just couldn’t disagree more,” Kopser said.

In an analysis worth reading, Jack Craver made the point that "Trump’s narrower 2016 margin in Texas was most likely the result of new voters coming out for Hillary, not Republican voters deserting their nominee," as many had assumed after the election. "Indeed, Trump won Texas by a far slimmer margin than the three most recent GOP nominees despite the fact that he got more overall votes here than any presidential candidate in history."
It’s pretty simple. Trump got about what you’d expect a Republican candidate to get based on recent performances. In 2008, John McCain got 4.48 million votes. In 2012, Mitt Romney got 4.57 million, an increase of 90,000 votes. And in 2016, Trump got 4.68 million, an increase of 110,000.

In contrast, Hillary Clinton got 557,000 more votes than Obama.

Simply put, the Texans who died today were disproportionately Republican. Of those who turned 18, the great majority are Democrats.

If this trend continues, the GOP’s downfall in Texas isn’t likely, it’s assured. And without Texas, the national GOP is royally screwed.

The Lone Star State has provided the winning margin in the electoral college in the three most recent presidential contests that Republicans have won (2016, 2004, 2000). It now has 38 electoral votes, but it will likely get more in the coming years as its population continues to grow.

Just as important, the 25 GOP members of Congress from Texas are currently the difference between Paul Ryan and Nancy Pelosi being speaker of the House. Democrats will obviously never win all of those seats, but they will take over a fair number of them. The Republican gerrymandering will protect some GOP seats, but other Republican members of Congress will eventually find that the districts that were drawn to be solidly red for them in 2011 have since become much purpler.
He singles out Culberson's Houston seat and predicts Ted Poe's (TX-02) which wraps around the north of the city, will follow the same trajectory. "12 House Republicans from Texas," he wrote, "represent districts that are less than 50 percent white." Look for Pete Olson (South Houston, Sugarland) and Will Hurd (South Texas) to be looking for new jobs soon and for TX-27 (Corpus Christi) to swing blue as well-- followed by Pete Sessions (north Dallas), Joe Barton (Arlington), Randy Weber (Galveston/Beaumont) and Kenny Marchant (Fort Worth suburbs). If the DCCC ever learns to encourage candidates attractive to the voters in the districts instead of to donors on K Street and Wall Street, this could happen faster than anyone has predicted.

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At 2:28 PM, Blogger Elizabeth Burton said...

I'm sure the 46% of voters who consider themselves independents will be pleased to learn they don't exist. Nope, all just good little Democrats at heart.

Where do they find these people?

But that's okay. Derrick Crowe knows better, even if the media still persist in pretending he's just one of the crowd. And the more the establishment ignores the independents, the better chance progressives have of winning.

At 8:56 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Where do they find such people? Floating in the Gulf of Mexico after Hurricane Harvey flushed Texas?

Republicans make up crap as they go along, and win elections doing it. DINO-Whigs want to win elections, and aren't capable of thinking up winning strategies, so they do what the GOP does while claiming to be less of the same. With the mass of the voters captured by these two faces of the corporatist lie, there isn't much left to do anything different except outside of the accepted channels. These exceptions have to hang on long enough for the existing system to crash and burn in order to gain sufficient attention to cause change.


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