Burnt Orange Political Report Predictions: 10/14 (State House)

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Click here to return to the Burnt Orange Political Report home page.

Note to readers; I posted 15 resource pages for State House candidates over night. You can see the full list of them here, or scroll down our home page (and onto the next one) to view them all, or click on the links for the races below. Please reference those pages for more information on why we made the predictions we made.

The Texas House districts were drawn to elect nearly 100 Republicans. Five years ago, House Republicans led the chamber 88-62. Today, that lead has dwindled to 79-71 — and without too much imagination, we may yet see Texas Democrats retake the Texas House.

It will take serious work, though. Texas Democrats are running in deeply Republican districts across the state. That's a sign of how terribly the Republican brand of governing — led by House Speaker Tom Craddick — has failed Texas families over the past five years. However, because we are running in such strong Republican areas, we here at Burnt Orange Report are generally much more conservative with our rankings than you may expect.

We fully expect that many of these races are fluid, and that “Lean Republican” can easily become “Toss-Up” and “Lean Democrat” could easily become “Likely Democrat.” One thing is certain: the pick-ups in 2004 (Vo, Strama, Leibowitz helped us protect a “net” 1 pickup), 2006 (Howard, Garcia, Bolton, Cohen, Pierson, Vaught) & 2007 (England, Barrett) are a trend. House Democrats will gain net seats this cycle — the question is just, how many.

To start answering that question, here are our predictions:

“Likely Democrat” Races

All the rural Democrats (Rep. Hopson, Rep. Homer, Rep. McReynolds) and our newest Democrat — Rep. Kirk England — are facing challengers, but we don't expect their races to be close. That, in and of itself, is a testament to the success of Texas Democrats. Especially the fact that Rep. Kirk England, who was a Republican State House member just over a year ago, is now running as a Democrat without a serious challenge.

Don't get tricked by conservative concern trolls: this is still very much a year for Texas House Democrats.

“Lean Democrat” Races: Four “Holds” and Two Potential “Pick-Ups” for Democrats

I go into much more details on the State of the Race for each of these campaigns on their resource pages — so be sure to click on the links above to read more. In short, though, no Democratic incumbent is facing too serious of a challenge (even with the threats of millions of Craddick money coming in the final days) because, quite frankly, all four of those candidates are among our best campaigners in the state. Their races are still within their own control.

Rep. Herrero and Rep. Vaught are closer to “Likely Democrat” than “Lean Democrat” but I slotted them here because they are running in two of the most Republican districts of any D incumbent. Rep. Garcia and Rep. Vo are two top targets for the GOP — but I don't think either is facing too much danger. You'll have to click on their page links to read why.

Meanwhile, two challengers already make the “Lean Democrat” list — TexBlog PAC endorsed candidates Chris Turner and Diana Maldonado. Suffice to say, each is running an excellent campaign, both are right on the issues, and both hold major fundraising leads over their opponents.

“Toss-Up” Races: Two “Holds” and Two Potential “Pick-Ups” for Democrats

Every one of these races is within very, very close striking distance for Democrats. Donnie Dippel is running an excellent ground game, and Bastrop County is going to go strong Democratic this year. Dan Barrett has three negative mailers on Shelton's position on school vouchers that have already hit households; Shelton has barely released the one. These are tight races to watch — click on their pages to read more analysis.

In two open seats, meanwhile, Democrats have strong chances of picking up seats. Joe Moody has the best Democratic base of any Democrat running to pick-up a seat, and by Labor Day — over a month ago — Joel Redmond had already knocked on half of the 40,000 doors of registered voters in his district. I go into more detail in each candidate page about why each stand's an excellent chance of further tightening the margins in the Texas House.

“Lean Republican” Races: 5 Democratic Challengers

Every one of these candidates has a real shot at winning in strongly Republican areas of the state. Rather than try to condense their excellent stories here, I promise to write a more detailed post tomorrow outlining each of their chances.

For now, though, I'd encourage you to click on the links above and visit their candidate pages. We only need to win one of these five races to break even in the Texas House, and two would give us a clean majority.

As I said in the beginning — Texas Democrats, even though they are running in heavy Republican races, are doing much, much better than enough people are giving them credit for. We here so many isolated stories about different races…

But take a look at this page, and these predictions, and understand how close Democrats are to taking back the House this election cycle.

About Author

Phillip Martin

Currently the Research and Policy Director for Progress Texas and the Texas Research Institute, Phillip Martin writes occasional long-form pieces for BOR that promote focused analysis and insight into Texas politics. Born and raised in Austin, Phillip started working in politics in 2003 and started writing on BOR in the summer of 2005. Phillip has worked for the Texas Democratic Trust, the Texas Legislative Study Group, and now the Progress Texas family. He is a lifelong Houston Astros fan, a loyal Longhorn, and loves swimming at Barton Springs Pool.


  1. Gritsforbreakfast on

    Ouch! 2 Short!
    So if your predictions are on target and Democrats win all the toss up seats plus all those currently leaning their way, but lose those currently leaning Republican, they pick up only four seats, two short of the number needed to elect a new Speaker!

    OTOH, among the possibilities included in your predictions is also the (outside) chance of Rs actually picking up seats. The most likely result for Ds appears to be a small pickup by these data – a couple of seats but probably not six.

    That's frankly not enough to be a game changer in the House. The predicted results set up a nasty, NASTY fight in January – the same one that we ended the last session with over Tom Craddick, but possibly even more amplified and divided, if that's imaginable. Ugh. :-(

    • Possibly
      Again, those “Lean Republican” races are all close to being “toss-up” races. I wouldn't count anything out yet.

      And momentum moving for Democrats can be a very positive thing…

      • Fantastic Work … but the Math?
        This is a great summary of the races.  Thanks for the fantastic work.

        One typo:

        “Lean Democrat” Races: Two “Holds” and Two Potential “Pick-Ups” for Democrats

        I think that should be 4 “Holds”.  

        I'm on a bit of Benadryl right now, so perhaps that's causing some confusion.  You and Grits seem to be saying that we need 6 seats to get a clear majority.  But, it's currently 79 (R) to 71 (D), so 5 pick ups would make it 76 (D) to 74 (R).  By my count, if we win the lean D's and toss ups, then it will be 75-75.  Winning only one lean R would on top of those will put us at 76-74.  What am I missing?

        • The Math is the worst part about 3am postings
          I fixed it — it should be 4 holds.

          Also, I earlier had it listed as 80-70, instead of 79-71. I think that's what got Grits and I confused. I forgot that we actually got 6 in 2006 (Howard in the Spring, Vaught, Garcia, Cohen, Bolton, and Pierson in the fall). And, once again, I can't do math that late at night.

          Thanks for the catches!

          • Good Deal!
            The only reason I caught is that I have had the number 5 in my head for so long.  Also, I think you need to fix this sentence too:

            We only need to win one of these five races to break even in the Texas House, and two would give us a clean majority.

            I think it should be:

            We only need to win one of these five races to give us a clean majority.

            By the way, the one will be Kent.  The part of 102 around 635 has a high minority population who will come out to vote for Obama.

    • Also
      In 2006, we had two races as “Lean Republican” that ended up electing Democrats — the Vaught and Garcia races, I believe.

      Don't think that we can't pick up at least two in the “Lean Republican” category again this year.

  2. Wow.
    This is a LOT of work, Philip. Well done! Very impressive. It's stuff like this that makes BOR the flagship state blog.

  3. Not to be picky
    But I think we had 3 pickups in 2004 (with Democratic losses I think it only equaled out to one), but the three Democrats who defeated incumbent Republicans were Strama, Leibowitz, and Vo.  Any of the three could have been the one pickup.

  4. Gritsforbreakfast on

    Forgot to mention
    Ditto on the “this is a lot of work” and “well done” kudos. I should have thanked you up front for doing all this legwork. Good job!

    • Nope
      She's a likely Dem.

      I know everyone is going to say she's only a “lean” — and I'll write about this later in the week — but she's much safer than the other “lean Dems.” Especially with the massive attention from the Travis County Dems.

  5. Dan Barrett
    Dan has no chance. That district is 3:1 Republican. I would rather us spend some money on a race we can win instead of that race. As I've said before ordinary people don't care about down ballot races and will just vote party affiliation. Anyone that thinks Dan will win that race is too optimistic.  

    • who is this “we”
      Tell me what race you would prefer “we” spend money on.  Why wouldn't “we” spend money to protect an incumbent Democrat that proved last year he can win in his district against all kinds of Republican money?

      • Dan
        Dan won that race in a special election. Not in a general election. Ordinary people didn't even know that we had a special election. You can find a few thousand voters in a special election to vote for you and win (If you have good volunteers). Paul Hackett in Ohio almost did the unthinkable a few years ago when he almost won in congressional race in a special election(in one of the deepest red counties, but again that was a federal race). I would rather spend money on Chris Turner's race than Dan's. As I've said before most people don't care about down ballot races and with this being a 3:1 Republican district there is no way Dan can win. All they will do is vote their party affiliation. If we were smart we would invest more money in to Turner's race than Dan's race. In district 97 we are wasting money and time.

        • 3:1 — What?
          Show me any statistic where this is a 3:1 Republican district.

          In 2006, Mowery beat Barrett 57.8% – 42.2%. That's not 3:1 — not even close. Barrett has also had a year of incumbency, has way more money, has excitement atop the ticket that will drive more straight-ticket voting, and has a much more extensive GOTV mail program than Shelton.

          Sorry — your fuzzy math just doesn't add up.

        • in 2006
          Moody pulled 38.2% in Rep. Farabee's district, 39.6% in Rep. Hopson's district, and 42.3% in Rep. Heflin's district.  He pulled 43.1% in Barrett's district.  Want to know something?  All of those members are incumbent Democrats.  One of the races we're making a strong play for is HD 55, where Moody pulled 37.0%.

          You see, if we listened to you, we'd be out four incumbent members and not even playing in the fifth race.  The thing is, people do pay attention to down ballot races, especially when the candidates run excellent, grassroots campaigns and get their voters out to the polls.  It's how we managed to hold on to members like Hopson and Farabee when George W. Bush was at the top of the ticket in 2004, and it's how we'll take back the House in 2008.  

          I'm not sure what personal vendetta you've got against Barrett, but he's going to win the same way he won last year – by working hard and connecting with voters.  And newsflash: Turner is running in a Republican district too, without the advantage of incumbency.  He'll do a great job with Rep. Barrett in the delegation next session.

  6. How bout some DFW love?
    Kent is a toss-up, not a leaner. Every year Goolsby underperforms the GOP ticket. Lots of his constituents in close-in suburban dallas are getting pummeled by the mortgage crisis — they cannot be happy. Goolsby is heavily invested in freakin TV already — the last time I saw a house race on TV was the TRMPAC cycle.

    Here's a sleeper — Dist. 108 Branch v. Reichstadt. The district is wrongly written off as blood red because it contains SMU, ritzy Highland park, and the church where Dubya received his “callin'” to become president. But the last cycle saw an anemic dem candidate at 41.9%. You probably remember last-cycle's perfectly intelligent, pleasant, lackluster gentleman more for his competitive primary contest with a former prostitute (himself a decent human being, no doubt) than for his campaign against Branch. More importantly, Branch depends each year on low turnout in the southern african-american and hispanic parts of district. I was out registering voters last week in the housing projects in south 108, and I dont think it will be the same story this time — large majorities of the people we talked to were already registered and very excited about showing up Nov. 4.

    Full disclosure, I am a (spare-time, unpaid, guy-with-a-day-job) volunteer for Reichstadt. Fuller disclosure — Branch has quietly compiled one of the most virulently anti-environment, anti-gay, anti-CHIP, pro-insurance rate-hike voting records in the Leg. and Emil Reichstadt is a progressive alternative.

    How about a little love for Kent http://electcarolkent.com/ and Reichstadt http://www.emil2008.com ?

    • Great comment, and excellent feedback!
      These are the kind of voices we love to hear from when we release our report!

      Kent is doing a great job — we fully recognize that. However, to say that she's in the same place as Moody, Redmond, Barrett, or Dippel, we believe, just isn't quite accurate. If we created a category that was between toss-up and “lean Republican” then we'd probably slot her there.

      That being said — we always are re-evaluating, and we'll have new predictions on Friday. I'll absolutely take your comment into consideration going forward.

      Thanks for the note.

  7. 102 should be toss-up or lean Democrat
    Harriet Miller came within 1500 votes of winning this race two years ago.  She would have won had Tony not pulled out his bag of dirty tricks of a made up accusation of Voter Fraud and Voter Suppression post cards being sent to minority precincts.


    Carol will win due to the following:

    1) Carol received a strong endorsement from the Dallas Morning News.  Harriet Miller did not receive the endorsement in 2006.

    2) Carol is an elected official having served on the Richardson School Board since 2004. Most of the district sits within the Richardson School District.

    3) The Obama wind behind our back.

    4) Carol has done very well with her fundraising.

    5) Carol has strong crossover appeal.  I've seen many homes with McCain and Kent signs.

    6) Republicans who know Goolsby don't like him. Basically they see him as a do-nothing.

  8. I live in Fort Worth
    I don't know where you live but I know this area more than you. On the one year of incumbency factor, no one has heard of Dan Barrett (he won in a special election). Come up here to district 97 and ask fellow strangers who is Dan Barrett any only a select few would know (probably less than 3%). I don't have a vendetta against Dan (I blocked walked for him before). You must realize 95% of the voters are not like YOU. They don't follow local politics. If they don't follow local politics they will just vote by their party affiliation. Only how Dan can win is if Obama mania were to take off and somehow Obama wins Texas.  

  9. If I lived in a district
    that had been a Republican stronghold for decades, and was suddenly Democratic, I'd be doing everything I could to keep it that way.

    You see, I prefer my elected representatives to cast votes to restore CHIP, lower college tuition rates, block coal plants, support renewable energies and conservation efforts, protect water resources, reign in pollution from shale drilling, lower utility rates, strengthen public education, increase teacher salaries, stop vouchers, protect consumers, and build solid transportation infrastructure (including highways but with an eye on rail).

    I know that my newly minted Democratic incumbent will do all those things.  I know his Republican opponent will not.  And so I would spend my time trying to ensure his reelection and trying to recruit more people to the cause, not bashing him on blogs.  I'm now done engaging you.

    For anyone else in the Fort Worth area this weekend, Rep. Barrett could use your help.  From an email:

    State Representative Dan Barrett Super Saturday

    When:  Saturday October 18, 2008  9am – 5 pm

                Sunday October 19, 2008  1pm – 6pm

    Where:  Campaign Headquarters

                  6453 Southwest Blvd.

                  Fort Worth, Texas 76132

    Sign up online or call the campaign at 817-732-1470  

  10. 97
    Just because I think Dan will not win this race does not mean I'm trolling. I'm actually trying to help the Democratic Party by wanting them to invest in other races that we can actually win. If you live in this area you will understand how far right this area is.

    Go read about past results in this area and you will come to the conclusion that Dan has no chance. Dan won in a special election if you have a good ground team and volunteers you can win. When I voted for Dan last December he was the only person on that ballot. Everyone that voted in that race is political (most people in this area didn't even know a race was going on) . But when it comes to the general election all those Republicans are going to straight ticket vote on all the local races. You must understand that the TCU area (Dan's district) is very upper class in a lot of areas. If you drive through this area you will see a lot more McCain-Palin signs than Obama-Biden.

    On the mailing program? Who actually reads this stuff. Everytime I get a flyer from a Democrat, Republican, Libertarian, Green Party or whatever it goes directly to the trash. No normal person reads it. Go read a great Ross Perot line about it. It's a waste of money.  

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