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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.