31 December 2010
I'm not terribly sorry to see 2010 go. It hasn't been the best of years for me, starting with this, but not ending there.
Not sure what the next year holds for this blog. I've never really felt like writing about the legislative session has much comparative advantage for me, though I suppose I could reprint all the rumors that come my way. I may take another long hiatus. A decade ago, I spent lots of time studying redistricting maps and law, so I suppose there's a chance that I post on that. Time will tell.
Anyway, here's to 2011! Happy New Year! ¡Espero que todos tengan un año muy feliz!
30 December 2010
Voting fraud is normal in South Texas?
Steve Miller on election fraud in South Texas:
In a courtroom here, Dora Gonzalez confessed.
She had intentionally hampered the voting process by mishandling more than 100 absentee ballots in the March 2 Democratic primary in Val Verde County. By 29 votes, her employer, County Commissioner Jesus Ortiz, had won the primary, effectively handing him re-election in this Democratic county. Challenger Gus Flores alleged voter fraud and sued.
A judge ruled in August that Gonzalez' activity on Ortiz' behalf was illegal and ordered a new primary. Under close scrutiny, the election was won by Flores with a 306-vote margin.
In many ways, the case is typical of voter fraud in South Texas: Many violators are not charged -- Gonzalez wasn't either --- because prosecutors complain the cases are hard to prove. When they are prosecuted, the penalties are so small they don't deter the crime. So, with payment as "get out the vote" workers for candidates, the vote harvesters continue to hijack absentee ballots by sending applications on behalf of voters, arriving on their doorstep as the ballots arrive and coaching their votes.
"It's almost like it's OK because it's always been done," said Rudy Montalvo, election administrator in Starr County, which hugs the Mexican border just northwest of McAllen. He's done battle with his own Dora Gonzalezes, to little avail.
Will people continue to repeat the canard that "there are almost no proven cases of voting fraud in Texas" just because convictions are rare? Even with a confession, she wasn't even prosecuted.
Texas Watchdog actually makes the whole article available for republication under a Creative Commons license.
The redistricting sitdown
The Hotline's blog had a Q&A with Georgia Republican Rep. Lynn Westmoreland. Here's the snippet on Texas:
The Hotline: What states are particularly well prepared?
LW: Pennsylvania is really kind of a model of what these states need to be. They've had meeting after meeting with Pennsylvania delegation up here. So I think it's a pretty good relationship with all of them.
The Hotline: When you mention meetings with the delegation, do you mean that representatives from the state legislature are meeting with the Republican congressional caucus.
LW: Well, each delegation does their own thing. The Texas guys have met with some of their people that are going to be doing reapportionment. So has Pennsylvania. We've meet with some of our guys from Georgia. We're trying to encourage the delegations to do that, to sit down.
In not too long, Texas political blogs will probably be all redistricting, all the time.
UTIMCO & Performance of Texas Venture Capital and Private Equity Funds
Today I ran across the alternative investment performance figures for UTIMCO -- UTexas's investment manager. Most of the investments are PE and VC funds. It's not too surprising that private equity and venture capital investments will be NYC and Silicon Valley focused, but I still would have expected to see some other Texas firms on that list that I am pretty sure are open to new investments.
Here's a quick and dirty list of the Texas firms that UTIMCO invests in: Austin Ventures, ARCH Venture Partners, Escalate, Sandefer Capital, JatoTech, PTV Sciences (Pinto), SCF Partners, Texas Pacific Group, TGF Management, Essex Woodlands, Wingate Partners, Encap, Fortress (Dallas office), GSO ( bought by blackrock). I could have missed some, but that should be a majority.
If you aren't in the investment management business, you might want to research J-curves, capital commitments, etc., in order to correctly interpret the numbers presented.
"I win your internet for today"
The quoted title is from a friend's feed.
And he was right, he did win my internet. That's Nancy Reagan kissing Mr. T at the 1983 White House Christmas Party.
Ted Cruz to challenge KBH?
National Review's John J. Miller writes about something that I hear people talk about, but I don't think I have seen in print until this point: former solicitor general and AG candidate Ted Cruz running for Senate in 2012:
Right now, Cruz isn't a declared candidate. Neither is Hutchison: She's not saying whether she plans to pursue reelection. For Cruz, it may not matter. He appears to be getting ready for a campaign, whether it's against her or for an open seat.
No matter what Hutchison does, there may be a logjam of primary candidates -- not just Cruz and Williams, but also railroad commissioner Elizabeth Ames Jones, former secretary of state Roger Williams, and Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, who will probably be the most significant contender if he runs. Dewhurst has the ability to self-fund and the support of Austin's political establishment; the conventional wisdom will hold that the race is his to lose. But conservatives will harbor doubts because they don't consider Dewhurst one of their own.
I think Cruz would probably have a better chance of emerging out of a crowded pack than most of the names in that last paragraph. He doesn't have much name identification, but neither do any of them, with the exception of Dewhurst.
And even Dewhurst isn't well known for a specific cause or issue, nor as Miller relates, has he ever really sealed the deal with much of the activist base. That may explain why he hesitated in running when Phil Gramm surprised us with his retirement announcement, and John Cornyn boldly announced and locked up support.
29 December 2010
12/29 Roundup, aka Clearing out my Diigo feed
* South Steps posts Bill White's
Christmas Season's Greeting card. How many Sunday School teachers send out Christmas cards without the word Christmas on them?
* Harvard economist Ed Glaeser argues that land use overregulation (strict zoning) explains the Sun Belt's population growth:
In a sense, the anti-regulation crowd is right that the laissez-faire attitude of the South and West explains their recent growth. But the usual argument focuses on the wrong regulations.
Housing regulations, more than those that bind standard businesses, explain the Sun Belt’s population growth.
* Joe Holley at the Chronicle wrote defeated Harris County Commissioner Sylvia Garcia a favorable article. There's also this:
Although some longtime political observers say she lost touch with portions of her diverse district and others say she grew complacent, Garcia insists she was swept out of office in a GOP tidal wave too powerful to withstand.Obviously the two are not mutually exclusive. The former happened, which made the latter possible. She has $1 million dollars left in her campaign account, and her opponent spent only $20k. By definition, Sylvia Garcia got complacent.
Still, you'd have to think she'd have a chance against Gene Green (or in a new district) with redistricting likely to change the congressional map around, and now she's got nothing to lose.
* This part of a sad article made me laugh:
The Lincoln-Way East High School graduate used his connections as president of the College Republicans at Illinois Wesleyan University to become an active volunteer on the re-election campaign of veteran U.S. Rep. Jerry Weller.You don't need to use connections to volunteer for political campaigns. Just show up. 98% of political campaigns will use your time completely inefficiently and often completely ineffectively as well, but it's not like they are going to tell you to go away.
* "Quick, without looking it up, rank the following NFL QBs in terms of their 2010 Adjusted Yards Per Passing Attempt through week 15:
A. Drew Brees
B. Peyton Manning
C. Colt McCoy
D. Matt Ryan
E. Sam Bradford"
Colt McCoy is #1, slightly edging out Peyton Manning.
* Stu Rothenberg nominates Bill White for his Most Overhyped Candidate of 2010, saying "I'll never believe Democratic statewide spin about Texas -- at least not until they finally win one."
If you read this blog, you shouldn't have fallen for the spin.
Interesting Texas demographic facts
From this FWST article:
* Texas has doubled in population since 1975.
*"The largest direct migration flow from one state to another is California to Texas."
* 90% of Texas' growth in the last decade came from DFW, Houston metro, San Antonio/Austin, and the Rio Grande Valley.
* Non-Latinos have 1.3 births per death.
* Latinos have 8 births per death.
Llegó ya la hora para aprender comunicarse en el Español. Vamos.
Daily Speaker's Race (Melo)Drama
Warren Chisum sent out a press release:
I am pleased that Representative Taylor has called a Republican Caucus meeting for January 10th. The Democrat members of the Texas House caucused before the last legislative session to elect Speaker Straus and 100% of the Democrats remain pledged to Speaker Straus today. Therefore, when we convene on January 10th, I call on Representative Taylor as the Republican Caucus chair, to call for a vote to determine the Republican preference for Speaker of the Texas House.
Harvey Kronberg called gotcha!
House Democrats never "caucused to elect Speaker Straus." That is a myth manufactured by the anti-Straus faction.To which Chisum responded:
The only thing resembling unity in the Democratic Caucus was opposition to the incumbent. The only document ever signed was a letter confirming that 64 Democrats would not vote for Speaker Tom Craddick.
Now, it seems to me that when you see a letter with 64 signatures, released by the Democratic Caucus, all taking a unified party position on the Speaker's race, that it just might be fair to say that the Democrats "caucused" and took a position on the Speaker's race. We all know that every one of those 64 Democrats subsequently pledged to vote and did vote for Joe Straus for Speaker. Of course, it is possible that the 64 Democrats never had a meeting, never had a caucus, and somehow just all spontaneously agreed on a position and signed a letter released by the Democratic caucus.
Point Chisum. Unless you want to argue the semantics of caucus, Chisum's original statement isn't unreasonable. Maybe they never had a formal meeting with a formal vote, but they certainly agreed as a "caucus" (there's that word again!) to vote as a bloc.
By the way, I've been predicting for 8 or 9 years that the Texas Speaker (incuding on this blog) would eventually be elected by a caucus vote. Folks argue that the current method is an indication of how Austin works differently than Washington. To a point that is true, but correlation is not causation. The Texas House elects the speaker in a vote of the entire body because, once upon a time, partisan identification didn't mean hardly anything in the Texas House. The label didn't predict very much about how that member was going to vote. Thus it didn't make much sense to elect the speaker in a caucus vote. That has completely changed over the last two decades, but at an increasing pace this last decade.
We currently have a much more polarized membership. Partisan identification means more now than it did even in 2000, much less 1970 when Republicans were a mere fringe of the body politic.
So I don't know whether the Speakership will be decided by a caucus vote this year, in another 2 years, or even this decade. But the Speaker of the Texas House will be decided by a caucus vote in my lifetime. It's just an inevitable fact of life that reflects that the way Austin functions has already changed.
Note: I make no value judgment about that, but it was and is fairly obvious to any political scientist.
22 December 2010
KBH speaks on FCC regulating the internet/net neutrality
Kay Bailey Hutchison's speech on the net neutrality provisions pushed through the FCC on a party-line vote.
If Republicans were to retake the Senate, Hutchison would be the likely chair of the Commerce Committee, which has oversees the FCC. Interestingly, while I know Democrats who get really fired up about this issue, I don't really know any Republicans who do.
UPDATE: On the other hand, John Fund's article in today's Journal might get some of them fired up.
21 December 2010
It's official: Texas to gain 4 congressional seats. 2 more than any other state.
Gaining 4 seats in Congress
Gaining 2 House seats
While the media is reporting that states won by Obama in 2008 lose a net of 6 seats, that understates the impact. Using the 2004 election is probably a better metric for determining the change in electoral votes. By that calculation, Obama loses 12 electoral votes.
A discussion of approval ratings and their application
Paul Burka writes:
#1 Kay Bailey Hutchison 56% favorable, 25% unfavorable (+31%)
#2 John Cornyn: 43% favorable, 21% unfavorable (+22%)
#3 Bill White 41% favorable, 32% unfavorable (+9%)
#4 Rick Perry 42% favorable, 38% unfavorable (+4%)
Hutchison has regained most of what she lost in her primary race against Perry, which she began with a favorability in the 60s. As for Perry, this tells you that the voters don't really like him; he barely has a net positive favorability rating. Remember, this poll was taken right before an election during which he spent bazillions of dollars, and the best he could do was +4%.
The biggest news is Hutchison's recovery half a year after getting drubbed by Perry. Perhaps she is a viable candidate for reelection in 2012 after all.
1. Hutchison's favorability rating. I'm nonplussed that Paul thinks this is news. I consider it expected.
Hutchison is the state's most popular politician, in that she is the Republican candidate who has the maximum votegetting potential in a statewide race versus a generic Democrat. Put another way, she has the broadest base of possible support, moreso even than George W Bush, who is more polarizing after 8 years as president.
On the other hand, her base is pretty shallow. Consider all the people who voted for Perry: when you ask them now, 10 months after the primary, if they have a favorable rating of Hutchison, what will they say? The vast majority of them will say favorable, despite 70% of those folks having chosen another candidate in the most recent electoral test of her popularity.
2. Is Hutchison a viable candidate? To answer Burka's question, I think you'd need to define the word viable. Any incumbent senator is a viable candidate, in my opinion. Does KBH have more than a 50% chance at winning? Probably not. If Texas didn't have runoffs, I think you could easily make her a favorite. But Texas does have runoffs and it certainly appears that several 'viable' (there's that word again) candidates will run against her if she runs. Can she avoid a runoff? Unlikely. Can she win a runoff? Not impossible, but not something I'd even consider betting on at 50/50 odds.
3. Perry's approval ratings. Between KBH and Bill White, about $50 million dollars has been spent in the last 12 months attacking Rick Perry, so it's hardly shocking that he has pretty high unfavorables...especially after 10 years as governor.
But that's also part of the natural cyclical tides of Texas politics. Perry's fav/unfavs ratio will wax in Perry's favor after the legislature goes out of session and before campaign season. Then the fav/unfavs will wane as campaign season starts, maybe recover a little afterwards into the start of the legislative session, only to fall again when the tough decisions have to be made by the Lege.
Slater needs to get a hold on those horses
Wayne Slater speculates:
There's been some mystery around state Rep. Aaron Pena's party switch from Democrat to Republican. Why would he do it?
That Brownsville/maybe McAllen district could be drawn in a way that's tailor-made for Pena, an Edinburg lawyer. Fact is, Republicans believe there are enough Republicans in the Valley to do the job, if the lines are drawn just right. And while promising Pena he'll get a new Congressional district drawn for him might be wrong, that's the word among some political insiders at the Texas Capitol.
First, notice that liberal bloggers have made it a point to always use Pena instead of Peña. What word did Slater use repeatedly?
Second, notice that Slater doesn't mention actual sources. It sounds like Slater is letting the horses in his imagination run a little wild. Color me skeptical that he has actual sources, because it sure sounds like he's just passing on gossip from Austin lobbyists who get paid to be information sources...so they make stuff up. Every conversation I've had with Republicans, including some at a high level, does not point towards any promise being made. Why? Because they don't think that drawing a congressional seat like that is possible.
Rep. Peña has said that he switched parties to be true to himself. I'm pretty inclined to believe him, because that's the story that best fits the facts. Given his background and resume, it would have been relatively easy to keep being re-elected to his House seat and wait for an opportunity to run for Texas Senate or Congress, si se le diera las ganas a el. Switching to the Republican party is way riskier for both higher office and staying in the Texas House.
19 December 2010
Ghosts in the machine
There's a reason Cory Crow's Noise Machine is a daily morning read. And that doesn't even include what follows about my post taking Chris Bell to task for playing hard and fast with the facts:
Advantage Evan. There's a reason he's my favorite Texas political pundit. That some major media outlet hasn't offered him money for his analysis is one of the State's great political crimes.
Ooh...that might make me spend more than 10 minutes writing a post. And I might even have to self edit occasionally.
Chris Bell, investing in Texas Democrats, and why his examples support NOT investing in TX Dems
Chris Bell wrote a piece for the Texas Tribuned this last week called, "Why you should invest in Texas Democrats" in response to Ross Ramsey's column that asks "why anyone (read: trial lawyers) still invests in [Texas Democrats]?" Bell's answer:
[for] exactly the same reason that folks like George H.W. Bush, Robert Mosbacher Sr. and H.L. Hunt continued to invest in Texas Republicans when they were in "the basement" and didn't seem capable of winning a statewide race: because they believed in the Republican Party and what it stood for, and they knew that if they stopped investing, their candidates, instead of just being underdogs, would stand absolutely no chance whatsoever.
That's a pretty flawed metaphor. Texas' political ideology is and always has been rightward of center on the political spectrum. The Texas Republican Party is rightward of center and has always been to the right of the Texas Democratic Party. For historical reasons, Republicans weren't a viable option during the timeframe that Bell references, but they had a huge advantage: the same ideology as Texans.
Really. Bad. Example. Texas Democrats have long been a viable option, but they are a center-left party in a center-right state. Bell's example is the diametrically opposed situation, and in fact argues against investing in Democrats.
Bell continues in his second paragraph with some banalities that don't deserve comment. On to the third paragraph:
Perhaps the media has failed to notice, and perhaps we as Democrats have done a less-than-stellar job explaining, but there are significant differences between the two major parties.
Given that Republicans repeatedly win every single one of a ridiculously long ballot of statewide offices, it's a reasonable assumption that Texans have noticed quite well that there are significant differences between the parties.
Chris Bell not very subtly insinuates that Republicans are racists. Yeah. Next step: involving Hitler in the argument somehow.
Most Democrats believe we could be doing much better at educating our children and providing opportunity for the less fortunate; we believe in equality, abhor racism and think our God wants us to take care of the planet he has blessed us with. Meanwhile, Republicans . . .
This is LOL bad for anyone who has ever read any presidential campaign history. He was ridiculed, pillored and...he emerged completely unscathed through it all to become the Teflon president.
With today's media, it's quite likely that Ronald Reagan would have been pilloried and ridiculed and reduced to such a level that he would have never stood a chance of actually winning.
Despite Bell's poor attempt at persuasion, I tend to agree that a competitive Democratic party is in the best interest of Texas. Unfortunately, to this point, Democrats are not a particularly competitive party because they fail to understand why Republicans win in Texas: Republicans are more fundamentally in tune on the issues that Texas voters care about. If Democrats want to win -- and be worthy of investment -- they have to move to the center and become competitive. It's not exactly rocket science, and if they want to know how to do it, they only need to study how Republicans win gubernatorial election in uber-blue Massachusetts. To date, Democrats haven't learned any of those lessons.
Chris Bell certainly hasn't learned those lessons. But then again, he's the guy who said that any Democratic nominee could be a corpse and get 31% percent of the statewide vote...and he got 29.8% of the vote.
16 December 2010
Speculating about Cornyn's tweet, because we can do that on a blog
John Cornyn tweeted:
Ever notice how dangerous it is for an elected official to publically change their mind on an issue?
The Hill thinks it is about the omnibus spending bill:
It is unclear to what Cornyn (Texas) is referring, but he did catch flak from some for requesting millions of dollars in earmarks in the $1.1 trillion omnibus spending bill, which he said came earlier this year.The first thing that jumped into my mind was the KBH flips on Dream Act and earmarking, but that's just speculation. As NRSC chairman, he encouraged her not to resign in the last cycle, but he doesn't really have any stake in her decision this cycle: whether she retires or not, it is very likely that there will be a competitive Republican primary this year.
Figuring out what Cornyn meant is a fun parlor game. I really have no idea, maybe it was the earmarks.
13 December 2010
Matt Angle, head coach of Texas Democrats
Ross Ramsey writes a column for the TT/NYT on Republican dominance of Texas. Solid enough piece, given the audience. However, I confess to being confused by this:
And what are the Democrats doing in response to their epic failures at the state and local level? Nothing.
There's no equivalent to a head coach. Usually thats the highest-ranking elected official from the party, but the Democrats dont have one.
Power in the Texas Democratic Party is fairly concentrated in Matt Angle's hands. He controls the money, he recruits candidates, he endorses candidates, and most of the recent strategic plans for Texas Democrats have been his.
Democrats I've talked to think that Matt Angle is the head coach. I think the only reason they don't say so more often publically is precisely because of his position. Getting the head coach mad at you might reduce your playing time.
Cornyn talks 2012 Senate map
Senator Cornyn talked to RollCall:
In a 30-minute interview with Roll Call Thursday, the Texas Republican declined to predict the outcome of elections 23 months away. But he made clear only one result is acceptable heading into a cycle that has a favorable map for the GOP.
Cornyn said it would be a "disappointment" if Senate Republicans are still in the minority in 2013. "I think we've got very good opportunities for pickups in '12, and another reason I decided to stay on was I think we have an opportunity to turn the corner and get in the majority," he said.
I remember Cornyn admitting early last cycle that it was impossible for the GOP to capture a majority in 2010. Not only was that shown to be incorrect, but it's not the sort of thing that campaign committee chairs normally says.
In the same vein, it's a little unusual for the chairman to predict a majority. He's set the bar by which he will be judged, when the macro political conditions are what will largely determine whether the GOP takes the Senate.
Cornyn's top five takeover targets are Democratic-held seats in Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio and Virginia.What about Montana, which is a state McCain actually won, unlike Ohio and Virginia. Florida and Wisconsin, as well as Michigan, should also be pretty high on the radar.
Party-switching: GOP House supermajority reached
South Steps' post reminded me that I'd meant to post on Ritter's switch and Peña's* possible switch.
The 100 Republican mark is mostly psychological. Yes, 100 votes are needed for constitutional amendments and to tap the Rainy Day fund, but historically this hasn't been a big deal.
First, Ritter has confirmed that he is switching, giving the Texas House GOP 100 members. Why did he do it? Here's the Austin Chronicle's take:
[Ritter] also told KFDM news that in the last decade his district went "from a solid Democratic district to a solid Republican district."The AusChron take is technically correct (there's a reason Ritter didn't even have an R opponent), yet totally misses the point: no one has a re-election district right now. What happened in Ritter's old district doesn't matter, because redistricting is going to happen before 2012.
Hmm. Time for some fact checking. In the last election:
1: Jefferson county returned two Democratic state reps, Ritter and his neighbor Joe Deshotel.
2: Jefferson voters broke 50.47% for Gov. Rick Perry, 48.15% for Bill White. So White actually performed better there than he did statewide, where he only got 42.28%.
3: According to the Jefferson County Clerk, there were more straight-ticket voting Democrats than Republicans.
I haven't delved into the maps too much at this point, but it is pretty clearly that Ritter had a good reason to switch. He's a white Democrat in an area that is less Democrat than it used to be and which isn't rapidly growing. Frankly, it's not quite clear that switching parties will be enough for Ritter to survive.
Current rumor is that House Republicans won't be able to draw a map that will be able to pass. With 99 Republicans in the House, it's pretty difficult to draw a map with 99 Republican districts to match those folks. Whether Texas House and Senate go to the LRB or they pass their own maps, there will be some difficult decisions to be made, so Ritter will be under a microscope. Still, switching parties at least gives him a chance at survival; his political career was almost definitely over if he didn't switch.
As for Peña, it's awfully hard to believe that he is planning on running for re-election if he switches parties. Surely he knows his area better than I, but it's highly unlikely that Texas House re-election is his motivation if he switches. Despite that, his switch would certainly be a coup for the Texas GOP, and he's seemed to be headed more that way over the past several months, not just since the election.
* Note to journalists: stop substituting Pena for Peña. Pena means something along the lines of pain, punishment or embarrassment. Peña can have several meanings, but usually it means something more like group of friends.
Daily Draft Marco Rubio reading
Over on Draft Marco Rubio, I have a post on why the news that Barack Obama will raise $1,000,000,000 for his re-election should point Republicans towards Marco Rubio.
11 December 2010
Mark McKinnon misses his own point
Mark McKinnon's column yesterday in the Daily Beast was about how Marco Rubio is a "lock" to be the VP pick for a Republican.
Look at all the boxes he would check:
• A Tea Party favorite
• And a young, fresh face
• With a solid conservative record
• From the critical state of Florida
• He has a compelling American story
• And a rationale greater than himself for running, and for governing
• He appeals to the base
• He appeals to younger (and older) voters
• And he attracts Hispanic voters
With a warm, easy, and uplifting rhetorical style, the 39-year-young conservative is this generation's John F. Kennedy, though from a decidedly different neighborhood. Born not of the privileges of wealth, but of the privilege of being "a citizen of the single greatest nation on earth," Rubio is the son of hardworking Cuban exiles. A father of four, he and his wife live in a working-class neighborhood just four blocks from where his parents lived.
It's a little difficult for me to understand how McKinnon can devote an entire column arguing that Rubio deserves to be a heartbeat away from the presidency, yet somehow misses the clear point: Marco Rubio should run for president.
Will Peña switch parties? Unlikely
Talk of Aaron Peña switching parties has been the talk of Austin all day, since Paul Burka put up and then took down a post speculating on the switch.
From the Rio Grande Guardian:
"I am out of state with my wife on a mini-vacation. With so many calls coming in, I cannot simply ignore the speculation any more. As a result of the devastation in the general election, where Texas Democrats lost their conservative and much of the moderate wing of their party, I responded to questions posed by the Rio Grande Guardian as to what the future holds for the party.
That article caused a lot of speculation and the Texas Tribune, in a podcast, and Texas Monthly's Paul Burka, in a blog, asked questions about my future. Although Paul took his post down soon afterwards, it opened up the floodgates and I have received over 50 calls, from Democrats and Republicans alike. Many of the Democrats are still thinking the party can be reformed and that perhaps, in a decade, we can be competitive again. Many of the calls from Republicans, including lawmakers, were that our community can still have a seat at the table now. Why wait a decade when you can have opportunities now? And so, after the large number of calls today and the growing speculation, I can say I am taking the matter under consideration and I will issue a public statement in the coming days, one way or the other. I am who I am and my intention is to represent my community and to give them the best possible advantage under the current environment."
I have no doubt as to the sincerity of Peña's statement, but I think that when he gets home and looks at these numbers, he'll be likely to end up staying a Democrat if he wants to run for re-election.
First, 2008 election results for HD40, the district Rep. Peña represents in Hidalgo County:
Those look bad, right? Well, HD40 is split between CDs 15 and 28, and it's even worse there:
Congressional Rs 18.5%
Congressional Ds 79.9%
85% of that vote was in a district where the Republican candidate had a Spanish last name, and he underperformed Cornyn and McCain. This is a district with 88.5% Spanish last names.
Believe it or not, those numbers underestimate how difficult it would be to win this district as a Republican. But the current HD40 numbers are not so important when you consider that we are entering into a redistricting cycle. So let's look at Hidalgo County as a whole.
In 2008, Democrats won straight party voting in Hidalgo County by a margin of 61,896 to 20,201, or roughly 75% to 24%, out of 132,626 total ballots cast. However, by the time voters got to the State Rep races, there was quite a bit of dropoff, and the total State Rep undervotes was 24010. That means that only 108616 votes were cast in Hidalgo County State Rep races... so the straight party Democratic ticket voting alone was 57% of all state rep voting.
Now there is one big caveat to that: three of the four 2008 state rep races in Hidalgo were unopposed. However, even if we take an undervote number from the opposed race and extrapolate it out, then we find that straight ticket Democratic voting is 49.1% of the vote. Put another way, Democratic straight party ticket voting alone was over 98% of the vote necessary to win the election.
So if the Rep is thinking about running for re-election to the state house, it seems unlikely that he would switch.
08 December 2010
On KBH, re-election, and fundraising
Todd Gillman and Dave Michaels in today's DMN:
Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, who has been coy about whether she'll retire or seek another term, will begin replenishing her war chest today at a $1,000-a-plate breakfast in Washington.
She could be gearing up for a 2012 re-election bid, or testing the waters to see how hard it would be to raise the millions needed after her drubbing in the March gubernatorial primary. She could simply be gathering the resources needed for routine political travel and staff, or intentionally sending an ambiguous signal, to avoid irrelevance in her last years in office.
As far as fundraising goes, this is about the least committed fundraising possible. In other words, this is the low-hanging fruit. A $1k breakfast is an easy way to pick up some money from lobbyists: she's still a senator, and one with seniority. She's not even asking for a maximum $2400, just $1k. So she gets to raise a reasonable amount of money from supporters, former staffers and lobbyists with a minimum of effort. So far, this is the only Kay Bailey Hutchison fundraising activity that I have heard of.
Every indication is that Senator Hutchison is exploring running for re-election, but not committed to it. She's flipped on a couple key issues -- earmarking and comprehensive immigration reform -- that are necessary to deprive potential rivals of hot button issues. Still, she knows that she will face a primary challenge and yet she hasn't started fundraising in earnest like she would have if she were 100% committed to running for re-election.
There's certainly plenty of sense to this strategy from KBH's perspective: tack right, work hard, and then check back in around June. Take a poll and see where she's at against her opponents -- and trust me, there will be opponents. What do major fundraisers and donors think? How's the overall political climate? See if any of their messages are resonating or will resonate with primary voters. Is Kay Bailout still remembered and toxic, or a thing of the past? Is Perry rumored to be inclined to work hard against her or mostly sit it out?
The downside is that this captures what lots of Republicans dislike about Hutchison: I'll resign my seat! No I won't! Yes I will but later! No I won't!
If I were to predict right now, I would think it's about 50/50 whether she decides to run again for re-election in 2012, but with a nudge on the scales that says she's more likely to retire rather than face a very uncertain result in the primary. Because that primary is likely to have multiple legitimate candidates from the right who can easily force her into a runoff and then beat her in a runoff.
Draft Marco Rubio
Announcing Marco Rubio vs World!
Ok, ok, that's not really the name. Actually I've spent my spare hours for the last couple days putting together Draft Marco Rubio.
Basically, the more I looked at the Republicans who were running, the more I thought that none of them looked like a winner. Lots of them would have trouble consolidating the Republican base (Huckabee, Romney, etc) or simply have too much baggage to be electable (Gingrich, Palin, etc). Some of them wouldn't be good presidents and some just don't strike anyone as a POTUS.
Marco Rubio has none of those problems. Not only is he likely to be able to raise the money for a run, but he's spent the last two years running against Obama. He doesn't need to search for a message or run a poll. He already has it because he's lived it.
The idea of Marco Rubio running for president seems to initially strike many people as a bit early..."but he was just elected to the Senate!" I had the same reaction when Matt Lewis suggested this last April that Rubio run for president in 2012.
The obvious counter-argument is that he's too inexperienced, and that running this soon might look overly ambitious. For this reason, Rubio's team wants nothing to do with this meme, but the experience factor has been utterly altered by the very man I'd like to see Rubio challenge in less than three years. Barack Obama defeated Hillary Clinton and John McCain after serving only a few years in the U.S. Senate -- most of which was spent running for president.
Barack Obama's performance as president has underwhelmed the expectations of pretty much the entire political spectrum. But it has nothing to do with age or years in elected office. It has to do with wisdom, competence, and ideology. That's where Obama fails, and where Rubio excels. And arguably Rubio's pre-presidential electoral experience exceeds Obama's anyway.
My hope is that people will watch a few of Rubio's videos (what I call Taking the Draft Marco Rubio Challenge) and then go check out the records and speeches of others running for POTUS. I think
06 December 2010
Require a TX Senate supermajority in the TX Constitution
To follow Friday's post in favor of term limits for Texas' governor, today I argue that the Texas Senate should require a supermajority, but put it in the constitution.
By tradition, the Texas Senate has required a 2/3 supermajority, but it's not a terribly firm tradition. Any session, the majority could decide to do away with the tradition, as they have done at various points in the past.
In my opinion, we should add a constitutional amendment that requires a 60% majority. That's the same as the US Senate (which also once required 2/3). With the current 31 seats, that would require 18.6 votes, or 19.
It seems to me that Republicans would be likely to favor this. Republicans don't trust Democrats not to do away with the supermajority tradition if Democrats ever regain control of the Senate. Moreover, Republicans occupy exactly 19 seats right now, so it's enough to pass bills that are unanimously popular among Republicans.
Democrats might oppose it simply because Republicans currently occupy 61% of seats. It means that Republicans will pass Voter ID -- although Republicans are almost definitely going to pass it anyway. On the other hand, it places a definite goal by which Democrats can regain negotiating power; all they have to do is pick up a single seat in the state Senate. That is a better deal than if Republicans simply decide to get rid of the blocker bill completely.
I like this solution because it firmly establishes a tradition that most favor. Whereas the current tradition doesn't seem likely to remain intact for too much longer, placing a supermajority provision in the Texas Constitution would place the tradition on a much more permanent foundation.
05 December 2010
The PerryVsWorld Good Government Agenda
So far the announced items for the PerryVsWorld Good Government Agenda:
* Term limits for governor of Texas. I think two terms of four years would is a marginal improvement.
* Remove Public Integrity from Travis County DA. Increase accountability to voters.
I'll have a few more coming.
Tea Party Caucus Update
Rather than 70, rumor is that the number of Tea Party Caucus members in the House will come in at half the Republican caucus, so more in the 50ish range.
04 December 2010
South Steps of the Capitol
South Steps writes about me:
I've been reading his blog since 2005, and I can sincerely say that he is one of the most insightful politicos in this state. He's certainly better at this than any member of the press. If I were running for office and he were available for hire, I'd enlist him over just about any campaign consultant in Texas.
I don't know who South Steps is, but he or she has a new friend for life.
Beyond that, I think the posts have been insightful. Check it out.
03 December 2010
Happy Six Year Anniversary to Rick Perry vs World
By chance, I flipped through the blogspot archives and I saw that today is the 6 year anniversary of Rick Perry vs the World. ¡Que los cumplas feliz!
My first post still holds up pretty well six years later.
Dan Patrick to announce 70 House members in Tea Party Caucus
Rumor has it that Dan Patrick will announce on Monday that 65-75 members of the Texas House have joined his Tea Party Caucus.
Patrick has long had his eye on statewide office, so we'll see if he tries to use this as a base to run a statewide campaign.
The Legislature should enact term limits for governor
Texas should limit the governor to 8 years, and now might be a particularly good time to pass it.
Traditionally, governors of Texas have not served for a long time. Until Rick Perry, the longest continuously serving governor in Texas' history was Allan Shivers' 7.5 years as governor. Bill Clements later served 8 years, but spread over two terms (78-82, 86-90). Texas has historically had a relatively weak executive, and that has helped constrain government. After 10 years in office, Perry has strengthened executive powers, both formally and informally. Republicans haven't minded, but are probably still cognizant that a stronger executive branch can increase the reach of government in the future.
36 states have some form of term limits for the governor. Two of the 14 states without term limits elect their governor every two years, which is almost as effective -- and how Texas used to do it until 1972.
Right now is probably a unique moment where most factions have an incentive to pass term limits.
Democrats -- Most Democrats would vote for it just because they are unhappy with Rick Perry.
Republicans -- Most Republicans are still in favor of term limits in most cases, as a curb on the power of government, so they'd vote for it.
Rick Perry -- Although he might be tempted to see it as a rebuke, term limits would make it awfully hard for anyone to ever supplant his record of 14 years as governor of Texas (assuming he finishes his term).
02 December 2010
Thank you to all
It's been a tough week. I'll probably start posting again tonight or tomorrow, but I wanted to say thank you to everyone who has been kind enough to email, chat or comment. I appreciate it, and if I haven't returned your email yet, I apologize and will do so soon.
In the meantime, I was amused that this blog has the number one search result for Republicans who can beat Obama. I've been on record for the past year or so that I think Obama will be quite difficult to beat, and Republicans need to nominate their strongest nominee. Candidly, I don't think any of the current Republican candidates are likely to beat Obama*, though part of the primary process is to put candidates through the fire to see who is refined into a potentially winning candidate.
To my mind, the Republican who can beat Obama is Marco Rubio.
* Obviously this is in part dependent on the economy, though Obama's economic policies certainly haven't helped economic recovery.