Will Peņa switch parties? Unlikely

Talk of Aaron Peņa 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 Peņa'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. Peņa represents in Hidalgo County:

McCain 22.3%
Obama 76.9%

Cornyn 19.7%
Noriega 78.5%

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.

Posted by Evan @ 12/11/10 12:53 AM


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"So if the Rep is thinking about running for re-election to the state house, it seems unlikely that he would switch. "

Rep Pena can sell out now for a nice appointment to something and leave office gracefully. He gave up years ago.

Posted by wouldn-t you like to know @ 12/11/10 03:13 AM

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