Monday, July 29, 2013

A Tale of Two Cities

Texas is currently a Republican state with Republicans occupying all 27 statewide elected offices.  The last time Democrats won statewide elections was in 1994 when seven Democrats were elected:  Lt. Gov. Bullock; Attorney General Morales; Comptroller Sharp; Treasurer Whitehead; Land Commissioner Mauro; Supreme Court Justice Gonzalez; and Court of Criminal Appeals Presiding Judge McCormick.
Republican primary voters alone have determined Texas’ statewide elected officials since 1998.  In that year, 596,839 voted in the Republican primary for Governor.  In 2010, 1,484,542 voted in the fierce Republican primary race between Governor Perry and Sen. Hutchison.  To be elected statewide in Texas, you needed at most from 298,420 Republican primary votes in 1998 to 742,272 in 2010.  I continue to see the Republican nominee as likely to prevail in the 2014 Texas general election.
Texas is also an urban state.  In 2005, 86% of the population lived in urban areas and 14% lived in rural areas according to the Texas Comptroller.  Those percentages have only increased since 2005.
The Republican primary vote has come to be dominated by the three corners of the Texas triangle.  In 2010, the Houston area[1] cast 19.34% of Republican primary votes; DFW[2] cast 25.29%; and the Austin/San Antonio corridor[3] cast 14.36%.  In 2012, the Houston area cast 21.51% of Republican primary votes; DFW cast 21.25%; and the Austin/San Antonio corridor cast 13.95%.
Five of the nine statewide executive agency officials hail from the Texas triangle cities:  Lt. Gov. Dewhurst (Houston); Attorney General Abbott (Houston); Comptroller Combs (Austin); Land Commissioner Patterson (Houston); and Railroad Commissioner Smitherman (Houston).
 In 2014, it could increase to seven out of nine from either DFW or Houston.  Abbott (Houston) will win the gubernatorial nomination and Bush (DFW) will win the nomination for Land Commissioner.  Three of the four Lt. Gov. competitors are from Houston, with Commissioner Staples, albeit a strong and viable contender, being from Palestine (Texas, that is).  All attorney general candidates are either from DFW (Branch and Paxton) or Houston (Smitherman).  
I see a decided geographic advantage in three other 2014 Republican primary races.
Current candidates are Sen. Glenn Hegar, Rep. Harvey Hilderbran, Debra Medina and former Rep. Raul Torres.    Hegar is from Katy, a Houston suburban city, while his opponents are from Kerr County, Wharton County and Nueces County.  Hegar also drew a four-year term in the Texas Senate, which means in 2015 he will either be a State Senator or State Comptroller.  Such certainty helps his fundraising.  Advantage:  Hegar.
Agriculture Commissioner
Current candidates discussed are Uvalde Mayor J. Allen Carnes, Rep. Brandon Creighton, former Rep. Tommy Merritt and SREC member Eric Opiela.  Creighton is from Conroe, which is part of the Houston MSA.  Carnes is from Uvalde County, Merritt from Gregg County, and Opiela from Karnes County.  Geographic Advantage:  Creighton.
Railroad Commissioner
Current candidates are Becky Berger, Malachi (“Mike”) Boyuls, Stephanie Carter, and Ray Keller.  Boyuls, Carter and Keller are from DFW, with Berger from Fayette County.  Geographic Disadvantage:  Berger.  (P. S.:  Mr. Boyuls’ nickname is not Mike; I was just trying to help him out).
Under current Texas statewide election dynamics, it is good to be a Republican candidate from either DFW or Houston.
1 “Houston” for purposes of this analysis means the Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land, TX Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) consisting of Austin, Brazoria, Chambers, Fort Bend, Galveston, Harris, Liberty, Montgomery, San Jacinto and Waller counties. 
2 “DFW” for purposes of this analysis means the Dallas-Fort Worth- Arlington, TX MSA consisting of Collin, Dallas, Delta, Denton, Ellis, Johnson, Kaufman, Parker, Rockwall, Tarrant and Wise counties.
3 “Austin/San Antonio” for purposes of this analysis means the San Antonio-New Braunfels MSA and the Austin MSA consisting of Atascosa, Bandera, Bastrop, Bexar, Caldwell, Comal, Guadalupe, Hays, Kendall, Medina, Travis and Williamson and Wilson counties. 

Monday, July 22, 2013

City of Houston Halftime Score: 20 - 3

Two of my favorite fall sports are Rice Owls football and City of Houston mayoral elections (in odd numbered years).

There are many similarities between the 2013 Owls and the 2013 Annise Parker Campaign.  Both open the season with veteran squads, high expectations, and a tough match-up.

Rice will line up against Texas A&M at high noon on August 31 and attempt to corral Johnny Manziel on national television.  A&M enjoyed smashing success in its first year on the field in the SEC, and its move to the SEC has proved to a financial home run. 

Mayor Parker (Rice ’78) is similarly competing against the free-spending Ben Hall, who has pumped $1.7 million into his candidacy so far.  Given that he only raised $311,000 in the first half of the year, he will need to rely on his fortune made as a plaintiff’s lawyer to continue to field a team.

The mayor’s race kicked off on January 16 when Mr. Hall announced, and the final gun will sound on November 4, election day.  In essence, the July 15 finance reports marked halftime.  Mayor Parker won the first half.

Parker played a steady first half grinding out the yards.  She raised $2.2 million during the period, spent about $640,500, and had $2.5 million on hand as of June 30 compared to Hall’s $1.16 million.  She didn’t have any turnovers, and, in my judgment, ended the first half with a 20 - 3 lead.

It is still a competitive game and I look for Hall to start throwing deep.  But given that the Mayor has now won 8 citywide elections in a row, I am betting that she will be reelected and cover the spread.  I am only betting that the Owls will cover the spread.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Cover Woman

Sen. Wendy Davis is currently slated to be featured on the August cover of Texas Monthly.  It will cap a meteoric rise to state and national prominence since her June 25 filibuster and the chaotic conclusion of  the First Called Session.
The question is where does Sen. Davis go from here in 2014? Does she seek reelection to the Texas Senate, or does she run statewide?
Governor General Abbott appears unbeatable by Democrat or Republican.  Sen. Davis, as a Harvard-trained lawyer, could run for the open office of Texas Attorney General.  However, that does not appear to be a particularly exciting, nor necessarily winnable, down ballot matchup.
The marquee matchup would be to run for Lieutenant Governor, who serves as Presiding Officer of the Texas Senate.  A fierce contest has commenced for the Republican nomination, with Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst being challenged by Sen. Dan Patrick, Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson and Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples. Polling shows that today Lt. Gov. Dewhurst is headed towards a Republican primary runoff.
Harris County is the largest bloc of Republican voters in the state, and Sen. Patrick is well-known and very popular with these voters.  The margins Sen. Patrick will roll up in Harris County arguably could give him a spot in the runoff.  The purest of the pure partisans show up for primary runoffs, and those are more likely to be Sen. Patrick radio listeners (in Harris County) and voters.
This would bring us a Davis vs. Patrick contest for Lt. Governor in November 2014, a stark contrast indeed.  One of the most liberal senators vs. one of the most conservative; pro-choice vs. pro-life; woman vs. man; and, at this point, woman vs. a possibly all male Republican statewide slate.  One mistake by Sen. Patrick and Sen. Davis has a shot.
The irony is she would then preside over a Senate probably comprised of 20 Republicans and 11 Democrats – the Republicans would have an excellent opportunity to pick up Davis’ senate seat.  All of the Lt. Governor’s powers are derived from the rules of the Senate, which are adopted by a simple majority vote (16 out of 31).  Wouldn’t the Republicans simply strip her of these powers?
My crystal ball gets cloudy that far out.  But it wouldn’t matter from Davis’ perspective.  If they stripped her of the traditional powers of the office, it would simply magnify her prominence and amplify her voice.
My thinking has evolved.  I now believe it makes political sense for Sen. Davis to run statewide for Lt. Governor in 2014. As she hits the newsstands in August, look for #Wendymania to continue trending.

Update July 16:  Some readers perceived the original blog title of “Cover Girl” as disrespectful.  The American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer defines cover girl as “An attractive woman whose photograph is featured on a magazine cover . . .”  The title was meant to be playful and catchy.  Nevertheless, perception is reality in politics.  I always strive to treat everyone with respect and to be cognizant of the feelings of others.  Accordingly, I have revised the title and sincerely apologize to any who were offended. 

Monday, July 8, 2013

Greg Abbott, Man of Steel vs. Supernova Wendy Davis

Gov. Rick Perry, the longest serving Texas Governor in history, just announced that he would not be seeking reelection in 2014.

This shift in political tectonic plates will result in Greg Abbott being elected Governor of Texas on November 4, 2014.

These seismic shifts follow hard on the heels of a political astrological event:  Supernova Wendy Davis.  A supernova is a stellar explosion the briefly outshines an entire galaxy before fading from view over weeks or months.  However, make no mistake:  The Davis filibuster and its aftermath that occurred in the Texas Senate the last week of June was significant and lasting.  As I wrote last year, “Republicans underestimate Sen. Davis at their peril.”

She is a gifted political leader and clearly will be a statewide candidate for the Democrats this decade.  But it will not be in 2014.  She is too smart for that, and knows the Democrats will still not be competitive in Texas on statewide basis in 2014.  Once the burst of radiation fades from her gripping performance last month, Sen. Davis will likely turn her attention to winning a third straight election to the Texas Senate from Fort Worth.

Attorney General Abbott will announce his candidacy for Governor this weekend, and he should clear the field of any significant Republican opponents and likely any significant Democratic ones as well.

General Abbott has an equally compelling personal narrative as Sen. Davis.  Rendered a paraplegic by a falling tree while jogging in 1984, steel rods were permanently inserted into his back to stabilize his spine.  Cecilia Abbott, a Latina and his wife of 31 years, is the granddaughter of immigrants from Mexico.  They have a beautiful adopted daughter, Audrey.  He has had a stellar legal career as a lawyer in private practice in Houston, a district court judge, a supreme court justice and now Texas Attorney General.  Greg Abbott has literally lifted himself up from tragedy and is now poised to roll into the Governor’s office.

He will do so as the most prolific fundraiser in Texas today.  He reported cash on hand of $18 million as of December 31, 2012, and has indicated that he set a Texas record for the thirteen day fundraising window from June 17 to June 30.

Davis and Abbott are both rocketing into orbit.  One is integral to the renaissance of the Texas Democratic party, but the other is the next Governor of Texas.