89 House Seats Will Be Contested in 2008
Thu January 10, 2008 12:06 am

The speaker's race and the narrowing Republican majority gave both parties an incentive to field candidates in races that they might normally pass up. Almost three-fifths of the House seats will be up for grabs in 2008. I have made comments throughout and tried to give some perspective on the outcome with reports of previous races, and my evaluation of the overall candidate list appears at the end. Each section of the list is in the numerical order of members' districts. (I'm going to put the number of the districts in parentheses.) Note to readers: I will be updating these races as more information comes in during the primary campaigns.

CANDIDATES RUNNING UNOPPOSED (32 R, 29 D)
Dan Flynn (R)
Bryan Hughes (R)
Leo Berman (R) -- faced major opposition in 06
Tommy Merritt (R) -- a surprise that he's unopposed; Craddick/Leininger tried to take him out in 06
Jim Pitts (R) -- another surprise; he's a potential Craddick rival for speaker
Lois Kolkhorst (R)
Fred Brown (R)
Rob Eissler (R)
Brandon Creighton (R)
Allan Ritter (D) -- WD-40 who escaped opposition
Joe Deshotel (D) -- former Craddick D
Craig Eiland (D)
Larry Taylor (R)
Dennis Bonnen (R) -- environmentalists' criticism only helps him in Dow country
Geanie Morrison (R)
Ryan Guillen (D) -- Craddick D
Yvonne Gonzalez Toureilles (D)
Eddie Lucio III (D)
Armando Martinez (D)
Richard Raymond (D)
Edmund Kuempel (R)--former Craddick rival for speaker
Eddie Rodriguez (D)
Harvey Hildenbran (R)
Jimmie Don Aycock (R)
Jim Dunnam (D) -- Democratic leader runs unopposed
Burt Solomons (R) -- possible speaker candidate
Brian McCall (R) -- another speaker candidate; a Plano prosecutor opted not to run
Rick Hardcastle (R)
David Farabee (D) -- along with Ritter, he's one of two WD-40 to escape opposition
Ken Paxton (R)
Susan King (R) -- push poll in her district did not lead to an opponent
Drew Darby (R)
Norma Chavez (D) -- estranged Craddick D
Joe Pickett (D)
Tracy King (D) -- Craddick D
Carl Isett (R)
David Swinford (D)
Warren Chisum (R)
Jodie Laubenberg (R)
Diane Patrick (R)
Marc Veasy (D)
Terri Hodge (D) -- indicted for bribery, fraud, and conspiracy, but no opponent
Rafael Anchia (D)
Helen Giddings (D) -- Craddick D
Barbara Mallory Caraway (D)
Will Hartnett (R)
Martinez Fischer (D)
Roland Gutierrez (D) -- running unopposed for Puente's seat
Ruth McClendon D) -- Craddick D
Joe Strauss (R)
Mike Villareal (D)
Jose Menendez (D)
Joaquin Castro (D)
Wayne Smith (R)
Alma Allen (D)
Bill Callegari (R)
Beverly Woolley (R)
Scott Hochberg (D) -- frequently challenged by Rs in previous years, but not this time
Sylvester Turner (D) -- the quintessential Craddick D
Harold Dutton (D) -- Craddick D

INCUMBENTS FACING PRIMARY ELECTIONS ONLY (10 D, 8 R)

There aren't a lot of races in this group, but a high percentage of them involve players in the speaker's race, including five battles involving current (or, in the case of Al Edwards, former) Craddick Ds. These are crucial races in the continuing battle over Craddick's reelection as speaker.

Byron Cook (R) -- potential speaker candidate faces Bobby Vickery, a little known opponent from Frost, which is appropriate because it will be the proverbial cold day in hell if he wins.
* Update 2/6. Nothing under Vickery's name in the Ethics Commission's files.

Charlie Howard (R) -- Paula Stansell, a precinct chair and civic leader, is potentially a strong opponent.
* Update 1/16: Stansell loaned her campaign $60,000 but received little in the way of contributions. Howard's report is not yet online.
* Update 1/22: Howard has a hefty $255,000 cash on hand.
* Update 1/29: Kyle Janek's decision to delay his resignation from the Senate until June raises some intriguing possibilities -- and quandaries -- for Howard. The Quorum Report speculates that the special election for Janek's Senate seat will not occur until the day of the general election in November. If Howard wins the primary for his House seat, could he step aside as the Republican nominee, allowing the local precinct chairs to pick a replacement, and then run for the Senate? This is a possibility that could become an issue in Howard's primary race.

Kino Flores (D) -- Craddick D faces Sandra Rodriguez, former president of the local Democratic Women's Political Caucus and a former school board member (Pharr-San Juan-Alamo).
* Update 12/17: Flores is an entrenched, hard-campaigning incumbent from a prominent political family in the western part of Hidalgo County. His father is mayor of Sullivan City. Rodriguez grew up in Mission. Her husband, Fernando Mancias, is a former district judge. Rodriguez's consultant, James Aldrete, managed Carlos Uresti's upset victory over Frank Madla in 06. The Rodriguez camp is using Flores' seven votes against CHIP (ranging from budget cuts to expansion of the program) as a major issue in the campaign. Annie's List, a Democratic fundraising organization named for Annie Webb Blanton, the first woman elected to statewide office in Texas (Superintendent of Public Instruction, 1918) is helping Rodriguez, who will need to buy TV time to offset Flores' warchest -- his report shows $266,000 spent so far and $78,000 cash on hand -- and his old-style campaign methods, like providing turkeys to area churches and sending flowers to rosaries. This is a real race.
* Update 2/5: Flores received a %50,000 donation on 1/11 from a recently activated PAC whose major donor so far is Tom Craddick, to the tune of $250,000. Rodriguez has only $32,000 cash on hand at the thirty-day mark.

Rene Oliveira (D) -- challenger John "Roca" Shergold, a Brownsville attorney, says the late Fort Worth legislator Doyle Willis was his political mentor. I shouldn't speak ill of the dead, and Willis was a World War II hero, but his derisive nickname of "Oily Doyley" is too good not to mention.
* Update 1/18: Shergold has attacked Oliveira for accepting $1,000 worth of Spurs' tickets from TXU. He also criticized Oliveira for voting against a proposal requiring disclosure when an insurance company opens a car repair shop.

Aaron Pena (D) -- Craddick D faces a challenge by Eddie Rodriguez, a civil engineer and chairman of two hospital boards.
* Update 1/16: Saenz was supposed to be a tough opponent for Pena, but he was cited for DUI before the filing deadline and was a no-show at a major Democratic forum, sending his wife to represent him.
* Update 1/17: D analysts say the only way to beat Pena is from the left, and Saenz, a chamber of commerce type, is not the sort to be comfortable with campaigning from that direction.
* Update 1/22: I just got back from a trip to the Valley, and I couldn't find anybody who thinks Pena has any problems.
* Update 1/31: Saenz serves as chairman of the Board of Governors of the Edinburg Regional Medical Center and Edinburg Children’s Hospital, but the Texas Hospital Association endorsed Pena. This is not a renunciation of Saenz but rather an instance of the friendly incumbent rule at work.
* Lobby Talk 2/1: Some lobbyists think this is a real race. La Joya mayor Billy Leo, a longtime power broker on the west side of Hidalgo County, is supporting Saenz.
* Update 2/3: Saenz is attacking Pena for missing a vote on the Voter ID bill, which passed the House by a single vote. From Saenz's Web site: "Last year, my opponent Aaron Pena took a walk when his Republican allies in Austin passed a Voter I.D. bill by a single vote."
* Update 2/4: Pena's blog reports that the Criminal Jurisprudence committee, which he chairs, met in Valley to address the problem of drunk driving. Not coincidentally, DUI is an offense for which his primary opponent was recently cited.
* Update 2/5: Pena received a %50,000 contribution on 1/11 from a recently activated PAC whose major donor so far is Tom Craddick, to the tune of $250,000.

Juan Escobar (D) -- His opponent, Tara Rios Ybarra, a dentist who practices in Brownsville but serves as an alderman for South Padre Island, has been running for five months. She is a very attractive candidate, in every sense of the word.
* Update: I wrote on 1/14 that the Republicans believe they have a strong candidate here. Sort of a Freudian slip: Ybarra is running as a Democrat, but Ds believe she is Republican who is backed by Texans for Lawsuit Reform. Word in the lobby is that the Hispanic Caucus regards this as a must-support-Escobar race. Question is: Will Republicans cross over to vote for Ybarra? If the GOP's presidential race is still up in the air, crossover turnout will be greatly reduced. Hutchison beat Radnofsky here, 55-45, while losing most of the other South Texas districts.
* Update 1/22: I drove around Harlingen today looking at political signs. Escobar identifies himself as a Democrat. Some may find it significant that Ybarra does not do so. Her signs simply say, "A New Voice -- for a Change."
* Update 1/29. The shadow of strongarm politics hangs over this race. Last week, Trey Martinez Fischer sent out a letter to members of the House Democratic caucus with a threatening tone. It has been widely circulated. Here are the two key paragraphs:
"This year marks the first time I have ever seen a lobbyist go out of his way to challenge a sitting member, especially one who has done a great job representing his district and who is considered a leader in the Democratic Caucus. I will not engage in the slippery slope opining as to what motivated this lobbyist to openly target Juan. Nor wil I engage in a dialogue about how this lobbyist and his client sought, shaped, and supported Juan's opponent months before she made the decision to run. I just won't do that.
"What I will say is what many of you expressed to me last week upon learning about this lobbyist who led a guided tour of Austin, advancing meetings, making introductions, and scripting every move for Juan Escobar's opponent. It's the same view others have shared with me in regards to Juan Garcia's opponent. Short and sweet -- Any lobbyist who targets Juan Escobar, Juan Garcia, or any member of our Democratic caucus is targeting me and every one of you. Like you, I find it more than coincidental that one lobbying firm as taken such an open and hostile position against the Democratic caucus." (bold facing is in the original letter)

* I can't let this letter pass without comment. This is politics. If Martinez Fischer doesn't know the rules of the game, let me restate them for him. Lobbyists are expected to support friendly incumbents. They are not, and should not, be required to support unfriendly incumbents. If the Democrats are going to say, those who oppose any of us will be treated as opposing all of us, what good are they? We might as well have Craddick and Leininger.
* Update 2/5: The Corpus Christi Caller-Times endorsed Escobar, whose district extends as far north as Kleberg County (Kingsville).

Dawnna Dukes (D) -- A Craddick D, she is challenged by political newcomer Brian Thompson. The choice is between a black woman and a gay man. This is relevant information, This race will figure prominently in the contest for speaker.
* Update 1/17: Six Democratic organizations met last night, and five endorsed Thompson. However, one was the Southwest Austin Democrats, which is far from Dukes' eastside district, and two others did not endorse. Dukes held fast to her position that she will vote for a Democratic speaker if the Democrats have a majority, but if the Republicans have the majority, she will vote for the candidate that will help her do things for her district--i.e., Craddick.
* Update 1/18: The Quorum Report has this evaluation of the endorsement: "Old-timers at last night’s forum – which appeared to be a split among old-timers, county employees and new activists – said it was a new infusion of gay voters across the various associations that gave Thompson one of his edges in endorsements last night." The article goes on to say [that] "[H]e’s not someone who is running for a House seat on any kind of 'gay' agenda. The issues that concern his neighbors are going to concern him, Thompson said.
* Update 1/23: The liberal blogs have been full of reports about Dukes' questionable use of credit cards, following up on a Texas Weekly story headlined "Drastic Plastic." Here is a portion of a release from her opponent:
"Forty days after telling Travis County voters that she would correct eight years worth of misreported credit card expenses, Rep. Dawnna Dukes has yet to file a single amended campaign finance report, as she promised. "Elected officials should never be too busy to follow the law, nor should they act as if they are above the law....Representative Dukes has had forty days to do as she promised, file corrected ethics reports that are complete and accurate and don't withhold pertinent information about $89,000 in credit card expenses."
* Update 1/25. There has been considerable speculation that former state representative Glen Maxey's candidacy for Travis County tax collector against incumbent Nelda Wells Spear will have repercussions in the Dukes-Thompson race, as it is another case of a gay white male challenging an incumbent black woman. The argument is that blacks will line up behind Dukes, despite her ethics problems and her support for a Republican speaker. I suspect that this would have happened anyway; color (or, if you prefer, ethnicity) is a powerful motivator in electoral politics for all races. The district is overwhelmingly Democratic: Hutchison received just 30% of the vote here in 06, Perry only 16%. The voting age population is 32.6% Anglo, 26.1% black, and 37.9% Hispanic. Although blacks are the smallest racial group in the district, they may represent the largest turnout group in a Democratic primary, because (a) I suppose that some of the Anglos vote in the Republican primary and (b) Hispanics can't be counted on to turn out to vote in a race in which they don't have a candidate.
* Update: 1/28: More endorsements for Thompson last night from two more Democratic organizations. One was University Democrats, the other was Central Austin Democrats. This sounds good, but to repeat what I said earlier about Thompson's endorsement from the Southwest Austin Democrats, Dukes' district is in east Austin, and endorsements from groups outside of Dukes' district do not figure to be worth many--if any--votes.
* Update 1/29: The American Statesman reported today on its Web site that a complaint had been filed against Dawnna Dukes over her incomplete ethics reports.
* Lobby Talk 2/1: Thompson is getting some traction, but a big Obama vote in the presidential primary will save Dukes.

Doc Anderson (R) -- opposed by David Sibley's son Jonathan. The Sibley name remains gilt-edged in Waco, but Anderson has spent years in Republican politics here and is well liked. Both candidates are pledged to Craddick.
* Update 1/16: Sibley outraised Anderson during the reporting period by $185,022 to $51,337; however, $152,000 of the younger Sibley's contributions came from the elder Sibley.
* Update 2/1: Anderson was endorsed by the Texas Association of Business, which did not endorse any challengers to incumbents.

Jerry Madden (R) -- What did he do to deserve an opponent? The challenger is a former Rick Perry intern, Jon Cole, who accuses Madden of being soft on crime. Very ambitious. Very young. Could Perry hold a grudge against Madden over the TYC hearings? This has become a serious race.
* Update 1/14, Tarrant County DA Tim Curry, former Dallas County DA Bill Hill, and Williamson County DA endorsed Cole. From the letter: "Unfortunately, a small coalition of legislators, led by State Representative Jerry Madden, has repeatedly violated that promise through a vigorous effort to soften Texas criminal laws. Collectively, this group has undermined the discretion of judges and prosecutors, putting citizens and our children at an ever-growing risk of harm."
* Update 1/17: Apparently the DAs are angry over lawmakers' decision not to allow misdemeanants in TYC. (Madden made the Ten Best Legislators list in 2007 for his work on TYC.)
* Update 1/18: The Young Conservatives of Texas called upon Cole to stop what YCT characterized as "smear tactics" against Jerry Madden, including a push poll in Madden's district. YCT has endorsed Madden.
* Update 1/22: Various correspondents have pointed out that Cole most recently worked for Jim Pitts. This led some correspondents to speculation, as people will do on blogs, that Pitts got Cole to run in order to defeat Madden and provide a vote for Pitts in the speaker's race. Yesterday I received an e-mail from Pitts saying that he supports Madden and has conveyed that to Madden.
* Update 1/30: Madden, who is in the middle of a hot primary race, will get the benefit on Friday, February 1, of holding a joint hearing on immigration in Richardson, involving his Corrections committee and the County Affairs committee.
* Update 2/5: Jon Cole "raised serious questions about the motivation and impropriety" of Madden's decision to hold the public hearing so close to the primary election. From Cole's press release: It is outrageous for Representative Madden to put on a legislative road show just over two weeks prior to the opening of Early Voting. Legislative per diem, legislative travel, staff travel and facility use, all of this will cost taxpayers thousands of dollars and for what? So Madden can put on a ‘hearing’ that will make no decisions with the intent of grabbing a headline off the backs of the taxpayers, Cole stated. Madden responded with his own press release: Taking government out of Austin and to the people is something that should happen more frequently – not less – as it allows citizens to become more engaged. During the legislative interim, the legislature appropriately takes the opportunity to get out of Austin and hear from people affected by the issues, all around this state, and that’s what should happen. To suggest that the answers to our state’s problems can be found by sitting in Austin and expecting constituents to travel to you, is very arrogant.

Paul Moreno (D) -- The veteran warhorse faces Marisa Marquez, an under-30 Notre Dame grad and former Vista Volunteer, who had blockwalked half the district by January. Her slogan is "It's time."
* Update 1/17: The D money folks are totally behind Moreno. They are suspicious that Marquez may be playing with Craddick and/or TLR. Maybe this is because she is being introduced around Austin by former Craddick D Norma Chavez, whose renouncement of her ties to Craddick is not necessarily taken at face value by some Ds. (Both Chavez and Marquez have said publicly that they will not support Craddick for speaker.)
* Update 2/5: Moreno outraised Marquez in January, $24,600 to $8,400.

Buddy West (R) -- Battling ill health, challenged by three opponents, and getting no support from Craddick, he's got a hard road ahead.
Craddick's candidate is retired district judge Tryon Lewis. Randy Rives is a controversial school board member. The third contender is Jesse Gore, a newcomer to electoral politics.
* Update 2/1: West was endorsed by the Texas Association of Business.

Delwin Jones (R) -- Craddick/Leininger couldn't beat him in 06. Physician John Hnatek is the latest challenger.
* Update 1/17: Hnatek moved to Lubbuck several years ago. He is not well known. The Texas Medical Association is said to be supporting Jones. Unless Craddick is lying behind the log here, Jones should win this easily.
* Update 1/19: The Ethics Commission Web site shows a file for Hnatek but no campaign finance report.

Charlie Geren (R) -- Like Jones, Geren was a Craddick/Leininger target in 06. He has one of the most independent voting records in the House, and this may become an issue in the race. Opponent is prominent optometrist Tom Annunziato. This will be a no-holds-barred race, not only between the candidates but also between the Texas Medical Association and the optometrists.
* Update 1/16: Annunziato has raised $178,265, much of it from optometrists. He has $148,052 cash on hand. He has already put out seven mailers.
* Update 1/17. Geren raised $162,766 during the reporting period and has $194,801 cash on hand. Question is: Will Craddick throw in against Geren? Probably so.
Update 2/1: Geren was endorsed by the Texas Association of Business.

Robert Alonzo (D) -- Dallasblog.com describes his opponent, Harry Trujillo, as a civic activist.

Corbin Van Arsdale (R) -- Senator Dan Patrick is "all in" for Van Arsdale's challenger, Allen Fletcher, a security company owner and former Houston cop. Could be the meanest race of all.
* Update: The Fletcher campaign is touting a Hill Research poll of 300 likely Republican Primary voters (margin of error +/- 5.7%). According to the press release, Van Arsdale "enjoys relatively high name identification (85%) among Republican Primary voters." His favorable/unfavorable rating is 52%/20%. Of the 52%, the release says, a majority of Van Arsdale's support (32%) is a soft “somewhat favorable
* Update 1/17: Fletcher raised some $36,000 and also loaned $40,000 to his campaign. Van Arsdale raised just short of $120,000 and has $169,011 cash on hand.
* My comment about the poll: These numbers don't seem bad for someone who has been targeted for defeat by Dan Patrick. In particular, the press release's characterization of Van Arsdale's 20% negative rating as "high" is a stretch.
* Update 2/1: The Texas Association of Business and the Texas Association of Realtors both endorsed Van Arsdale.

Kevin Bailey (D) -- The Craddick D is a prime target for mainstream Democrats; opponent Armando Walle is a former aide to Congressman Gene Green. Key contest in the speaker's race.
* Update 1/17: Bailey's biggest contributor is HILLCO ($21,000); labor is next ($5K from AFSCME. Green is backing Walle. The conventional wisdom is that Bailey is in trouble, but Bailey will have a lot of money and help from labor. Two years ago he was able to win reelection while receiving just over 900 votes. I'm told that Hispanic activists are trying to register voters, but, given the district's performance in the past, the likelihood is that turnout will be low. More than a third of the district's population is foreign born. More than a fourth are non-citizens. More than half of the 130,000 residents speak Spanish at home and another 20% do not speak English well (from the population and household profile of the District on Bailey's House Web site).
* Update 2/3: OfftheKuff.com has a taped interview with Walle. Not arms-length. Some quotes:
--In the six years I worked for Congressman Green, he [Bailey] was not visible in the community. I've only seen him two or three times in the six years.
--Congressman Green had to call him out of bed to go vote in Austin.
--On whether he would vote for Craddick as speaker: "Absolutely not. You don't compromise the core values of this district."
* Update 2/5: Bailey received a %50,000 contribution on 1/11 from a recently activated PAC whose major donor so far is Tom Craddick, to the tune of $250,000.

Borris Miles (D) -- Al Edwards, the former Craddick D, is trying to regain his old seat.
* Update: This has developed into a bizarre race. The Houston Chronicle reported that the Harris County DA's office is investigating Miles' conduct at a holiday party: "According to witnesses, Miles entered a St. Regis Hotel ballroom uninvited, confronting guests, displaying a pistol and forcibly kissing another man's wife." How stupid do you have to be to do this three months before a primary election? How stupid do you have to be to lose a race to Al Edwards?
* Update 1/18: Miles has dropped out of sight. The Chronicle's Rick Casey wrote yesterday that Garnet Coleman "thinks Miles suffers under the strain of a diagnosis of sickle cell anemia." Coleman told me that Miles has been in the hospital.
* Update 1/22: Miles has been sued over the unwanted kiss and the plaintiff has asked that he be required to provide a blood sample. Miles is said to be hospitalized with pneumonia. I didn't think it was possible to replace Edwards with someone worse, but his district was up to the challenge.
* Update 2/1: The Texas Association of Realtors endorsed Miles.

Garnet Coleman (D) -- Opposed by LaRhonda Torry.
* Update 1/19: Harris County Democratic Chairman Gerry Birnberg refused to accept Torry's filing fee because she had not yet designated a campaign treasurer. Coleman says that the law requires that a candidate designate a treasurer before any funds have been raised or spent. Torry's lawyer is Craddick ally Ron Wilson. The case is in the courts.
* Update 1/26: The Supreme Court has ruled that a county chairman may not disqualify a candidate because of a failure to designate a campaign treasurer, meaning that Torry's name will be on the ballot. The Court acknowledged that a candidate violates the law by accepting a contribution or making an expenditure without designating a treasurer, but such a violation is a Class A misdemeanor. The Court said that a county chairman may not impose his own penalty.

INCUMBENTS WITH GENERAL ELECTION RACES ONLY (28 D, 25 R)

The most interesting thing about these races is an apparent Republican strategy to challenge black and Hispanic Democratic incumbents. As readers will see, there are a large number of such races, in which Democrats will be favored, but local rivalries, low Democratic turnout, and lavish campaign budgets could produce an upset or two.

Stephen Frost (D) -- opposed by George Lavender, a former House and Senate candidate.
* Update 1/17: Lavender's campaign finance report lists no contributions.

Mark Homer (D) -- The WD-40 faces Kirby Hollingsworth for the third straight election; the 04 race was very close; the 06 race was not.

Wayne Christian (R) -- Democrat Kenneth Franks is a teacher.

Chuck Hopson (D) -- Brian Walker, loser of the 06 Republican runoff, will face the WD-40.

Jim McReynolds (D) -- Yet another WD-40, he faces Republican Van Brookshire.
* Update 1/16: Brookshire was the Republican nominee for Congress in 2002, losing 61-38 against Democrat Jim Turner in a big Republican year. He also ran third in the 2000 race for the state Senate seat that eventually was won by Todd Staples. He has served as interim county judge of San Jacinto County and county Republican chairman. Originally I was told that Brookshire was a member of the family that operates a chain of grocery stores in East Texas and produced a legislator, Oscar Brookshire.
* Update 1/17: I spoke to McReynolds' campaign chairman. The grocery store Brookshires in Lufkin contributed to McReynolds. Van is not related.

John Otto (R) -- His "no" vote on Indian gambling resulted in a tie that killed the measure, which has a lot of support in his district from economic development advocates; Arlan Foster, the president of the correctional employees union, is the Democratic challenger. The five prisons in the district employ 1,852 workers.

Mike "Tuffy" Hamilton (R) -- D candidate Larry Hunter has held a plethora of local offices (school board, mayor, municipal judge). This race in a swing district is crucial in the battle for majority control of the House.

Dan Gattis (R) -- Has two Democratic opponents, of whom Leonard Surratt seems to be the more active, but this is a solid R district.

John Zerwas (R) -- There are some transitional districts in the Harris County region that a Democrat could win, but this isn't one of them. Democrat Dorothy Bottos has little chance.

Juan Garcia (D) -- Former member and lobbyist Todd Hunter is favored to reverse Garcia's 06 upset win. The Corpus Christi Caller Times says that the district includes eleven of the most conservative precincts in Nueces County. This is the Republicans' top-targeted district in the state.
* Update: Two former Democratic members from the Coastal Bend, Hugo Berlanga and Judy Hawley, will co-chair Hunter's campaign.
* Update 1/14: The Texas Ethics Commission has fined the Garcia campaign $1,800 for reporting vioations. I don't see how Garcia can win this race.

Solomon Ortiz (D) -- He won a squeaker in 06 (by 5%) in a special election to replace Vilma Luna. His opponent, Raul Torres, was mentioned as a possible candidate in that race. His father, the congressman of the same name, is increasingly controversial but can turn the vote out. This is a smart speculation by Republicans.

Abel Herrero (D) -- His opponent, Connie Scott, is a tort-reform activist.

Veronica Gonzales (D) -- Opponent Javier Villalobos is a Perry appointee to the Funeral Services commission. Don't be surprised to see Perry campaign in this race.
* Update 1/22: In 2006, the Republican statewide ticket averaged 52+% here, making this the most Republican district in the Valley. I think this will turn out to be an important race in the fall.
* Update 1/31: The McAllen Chamber of Commerce designated January 14 as Veronica Gonzales Day in honor of her being named to the Aspen Institute’s Rodel Fellowship in Public Leadership. Twelve Democrats and twelve Republicans nationally are honored.

Patrick Rose (D) -- The former Craddick D will not have the speaker's support this time against Republican Matt Young. Still, he is very popular in his swing district and should win reelection handily.

Valinda Bolton (D) -- She won a Republican district in 06 but has serious opposition from Donna Keel, Terry's sister-in-law. Good recruiting by the Republicans. This is a huge race.
* Update 1/30. A Republican told me today that Bolton had the 5th most liberal voting record in the House. There are many rankings. I looked at the Young Conservatives of Texas version. She was the 25th most liberal Democrat, so she was not even in the top 1/3 of Democrats when it came to voting liberal (or, if you prefer, non-conservative). Other groups may reach different results.

Donna Howard (D) -- Like Bolton, Howard wrested her district from Rs in 06. She faces Leander school board member Pam Waggoner. Some say Howard has suffered a drop in popularity in the Westlake part of the district. Another huge race
* Update 1/14: Austin physician Joe Donnelly is also seeking the Republican nomination. He appears in the latest listing of candidates on the Republican party Web site. It is incredible that Texas has such a cumbersome system of dual filing (local party or state party) that it takes twelve days after the filing deadline to find out who is running.
* Update 1/30. While I was checking Valinda Bolton's ranking by the Young Conservatives of Texas (see above), I checked Howard's also. She was the 30th most liberal (or least conservative) Democrat, just a few notches from the median.

Eliott Nashtatt (D) -- Hard to believe any R can win this hardcore liberal Austin district. Jim Hasik is going to try.

Mark Strama (D) -- He beat Republican incumbent Jack Stick in 04 and held the seat in 06. Financial advisor Jerry Mikus is the Republican opponent.
* Update 1/16: Mikus lost a Republican primary race for the seat in 2002 and finished a distant second in a primary race for Congress in 2000.
* Update 1/29. A former Republican member who is familiar with the race told me that Mikus was recruited to run by U.S. Senator John Cornyn, and that Cornyn has been actively recruiting other candidates as well.

Rob Orr (R) -- The man with the shortest name in the Legislature faces Democrat Greg Kauffman in an area previously represented by Arlene Wohlgemuth.

Sid Miller (R)
-- Won an unimpressive victory in 2006 over Democrat Ernie Casbeer, who is running again, along with rancher James Vickery. Miller won only 55% last time, but Ds seldom fare well west of I-35.

Jim Keffer (R) -- Lots of talk that Craddick was looking for a primary opponent for Keffer produced no one. A speaker candidate himself, Keffer did not draw a primary opponent. He faces David Shupp, a retired air traffic controller, in November.

Larry Phillips (R) -- Democrat Peter Veeck won 39% of the vote in 06 and that's about the limit in this Oklahoma border district.

Tan Parker (R) -- Democrat Jesus Carillo is no threat in this solid R district.

Myra Crownover (R) -- Nor is Democrat John McClelland a threat in this district

Pete Gallego (D) -- This could be an interesting race. There are a lot of Republicans scattered throughout the sprawling rural area. Fort Stockton rancher Thomas Kincaid carries the Republican banner. He's on the board of the Rio Grande Electric Coop. It's a another good speculation by Rs.
* Update 1/18: Gallego has $12,760 cash on hand. Kinkaid's report is not yet posted. As of 1/31, it's still not posted.

Chente Quintanilla (D) -- Wouldn't be missed if he lost to Republican Charlie Garza, but he won with 65% in 06.
* Update 1/27: According to Garza's bio, he is a twenty-year veteran of the Navy submarine service. He was the National Republican Congressional Committee's 2001 Republican of the year. He currently is an assistant elementary school principal in the Clint school district in eastern El Paso County. Click on the link for a full biography.
* Update 1/28: Republican sources in El Paso do not regard Garza as a serious challenger to Quintanilla.

Tom Craddick (R) -- What's the over/under for this race? Craddick should break 75%. If Midland city council member Bill Dingus holds him under 70%, that would be an embarrassment.
* Update 1/31. Bob Campbell of the Midland Reporter-News interviewed Dingus for a Web video. Dingus: "I'm concerned that if Midland sends Tom back down to Austin, he's going to lose his speakership, and Midland's going to lose its influence, and there will be a backlash."

Joe Heflin (D) -- His victory in Pete Laney's old seat was a surprise hold for Ds in 06. He faces Isaac Castro, who is a city attorney [not a county attorney, as I erroneously reported previously], a Hamlin school trustee, and Republican county chairman.
* Update 1/17: Some Democrats believe Castro is not a strong challenger, compared to Landtroop in 06; his prospects--as is the case in many races--depend upon how much money Team Craddick is willing to put into his race.
* Lobby Talk 2/5: Republicans believe Castro IS a strong challenger.

John Smithee (R) -- Opposed by Democrat James Wood. Amarillo is not Democrat-friendly.

Lon Burnam (D) -- Burnam drubbed Larry Keilberg in 2002 and 2004, and there's no reason to think that he won't do so again.

Kelly Hancock (R) -- This district's misfortune was to lose Bob Griggs as its representative -- he was a respected former superintendent who was driven out of the House by the anti-public ed stances of Tom Craddick and Kent Grusendorf -- and gain Hancock, who promptly sought to make school counselors reveal to whom they were referring students. It's a 60-40 Republican district, though, which means Hancock should have no trouble defeating Democrat Chris Utchell

Todd Smith (R) -- An independent Republican, Smith is opposed by Democrat Kalandra Wheeler.

Paula Hightower-Pierson (D) -- Beat Toby Goodman by 600 votes in 06; Rs hope real estate investor Bill Burch can retake the seat. This is high on the list of Republican targets.
* Update: A commenter noted that Burch's wife is on the State Republican Executive Committee.
* Update 1/22: Pierson has $54,685 cash on hand.

Dan Barrett (D) -- It was something of a miracle when Barrett won the special election to succeed Anna Mowry; it would be an even bigger miracle if he could hold the seat in November. Three Republicans from the special election are vying to oppose Barrett: physician Mark Shelton, a Craddick supporter, who lost to Barrett in the runoff; former member Bob Leonard, who was the target of the controversial robo calls that knocked him out of contention; and attorney James Schull. Shelton and Leonard will be the favorites in the primary. Leonard would be the stronger candidate against Barrett because of Shelton's support of Craddick.

Vicki Truitt (R) -- Beat incumbent Nancy Moffat ten years ago; now Moffat is running as a D in a heavily Republican area of Tarrant County.

Tony Goolsby (R) -- Ds may have a shot here with Carol Kent, a member of the Richardson school board. Goolsby barely won with 51+% in 06.

Linda Harper-Brown (R) -- This is the kind of transitional district in which Ds ran well in 06. Harper-Brown won with 55% two years ago; she is opposed by attorney Jim Rea (note: would tie Rob Orr for the shortest name if he won).

Kirk England (D) -- The freshman R switched from to D and the Republicans hope to punish him. They are fielding Karen Wiegman, a former school board member who provided Grand Prairie students with textbook covers with the Ten Commandments on them.
* Update: England has more than $62,000 cash on hand, and he's going to need it. This is a very important race in a swing district. Wiegman's report is not posted.

Allen Vaught (D) -- He took out extreme conservative Bill Keffer in 06; Keffer wants his seat back. Huge race.
* Update 1/18: Vaught has raised more than $101,000 and has $76,507 cash on hand. Like England, he'll need it. Keffer's report is not posted.
* Update 1/29: Both sides think they are doing well. One is going to be wrong.

Dan Branch (R) -- Some of these Metroplex races look close but aren't really winnable by Ds. This is one. Branch won 56% in 06, but it's hard to envision that Democrat Emil Reichstadt can pick up the necessary votes, especially in this megawealthy area.

Yvonne Davis (D) -- She won 73% of the vote in 06; Republican Homer Fincannon, a former Duncanville ISD trustee, poses no threat.

Joe Driver (R) -- Driver faces Democrat Eric Brandler, whom he defeated in 06 by 59-38.

David Leibowitz (D) -- John Garza is the Republican challenger, but Leibowitz won by 60-40 in 06 after barely defeating R incumbent Ken Mercer (who has found a new calling: contributing to the disgrace of the State Board of Education) in 04.

Joe Farias (D) -- Farias won his seat in 06 with a plurality, not a majority (48-44) against George Antuna, a lavishly funded and well regarded Republican challenger, and did little to distinguish himself as a freshman. He faces Republican Don Green. If Antuna couldn't beat Farias, it is hard to imagine that a lesser known Republican can.

Patricia Harless (R) -- Rematch of 06 race against Chad Khan that she won by a 2 to 1 margin.

Jim Murphy (R) -- Very similar to the John Davis race except for the ethics problems: Murphy won with 55% in 06 and is facing a rematch with Kristi Thibaut. Like Sherrie Matula, who is running against Joe Crabb, Thibaut is a good candidate, but the Ds need a huge turnout to win these transitional Harris County districts and, historically, they haven't gotten it.

Ellen Cohen (D) -- She defeated Republican incumbent Martha Wong in 06 and has considerable crossover support. Republicans recruited Joe Agris, a prominent plastic surgeon, to oppose her. He faces primary opposition from Carlos Obando. This is a major race in a swing district.
* Update 1/16: Agris was a close friend of the late Marvin Zindler and wrote an authorized biography of the flamboyant Houston newsman best known for closing down the La Grange "chicken ranch". In 2004, after Saddam Hussein had imprisoned a group of Iraqi businessmen for trading in dollars and then had their right hands amputated, Agris and Zindler arranged for seven of the victims to come to Houston and receive prosthetic hands. This is a real race.

Gary Elkins (R) -- The last time the Democrats fielded a candidate in this district was 2002 and Elkins won 70-30, so Troy Fleming's prospects aren't bright.

Dwayne Bohac (R) -- For some reason, Democrats think they can win this seat, even though Bohac polled 63% of the vote in 04 and 06. I don't get it. Virginia Stogner is the Democratic challenger.

Senfronia Thompson (D) -- She's a speaker candidate with the opportunity to be a kingmaker, as she continues to hold a lot of Democratic pledges. Michael Bunch, who has run several losing races against various House Democrats (Rick Noriega, among others) is challenging Thompson.

Ana Hernandez (D) -- Faces Dorothy Olmos, whom she beat with 70% in 06.

Hubert Vo (D) -- HISD school board member Greg Meyers is a strong Republican challenger. Vo won 54+% in 06, which is too close for comfort.
* Update 1/131: Meyers' consultant is the Patriot Group. He received a $10,000 contribution from Bob Perry. This district is targeted. Watch for a high-spending race in the fall.

Debbie Riddle (R) -- Weak member. Strong district. Opposed by Democrat Brad Neal.
* Update 2/1: I just came across a report in Houston Community Newspapers (1/18) that a Montgomery County-based political watchdog group filed an ethics compaint against Riddle over "discrepancies in her financial report." Citing Ethics Commission documents, the story by Valerie Clifton says, "Calculations forward from the July 2004 report ... show that the January 2006 semi-annual report 'Contribution Balance' should be $42,998.46, and not zero as reported," the complaint states. "As of June 2007, $34,169.92 is missing." Magnolia resident Peter Goeddertz, who filed the complaint, said the watchdog group was comprised of conservative Republicans who had no political motive.

INCUMBENTS WITH PRIMARY & GENERAL ELECTION OPPONENTS (9 Rs, 2 Ds)

Betty Brown (R) -- She faces a primary rematch with trial lawyer Wade Gent and a general election battle with Victor Morales, the Democratic nominee for U.S. Senate against Phil Gramm in 1996. Brown defeated Gent by 5 points in 06 and won the general election easily. She is pledged to Craddick and willing to say so.
* Update 1/16: Mark Sanders, the former Strayhorn operative, and his wife Elicia live in the district, and Elicia established an entertaining and informative Web site, after Brown failed to respond to a letter.
* Update 1/17. Brown won Kaufman County (Terrell), home to both candidates, by just 51 votes in 06. Her edge in Henderson County (Athens) was around 500 votes. Having run previously, Gent is presumably better positioned this year. This is an important "hold" for Craddick. The race will be close.
* Update 1/25: Gent outraised Brown in the reporting period and has a slight edge in cash on hand ($43,000 to $39,000), but the big money for Brown has yet to appear.
* Update 1/27: Brown is having trouble with two issues. One is the Trans-Texas Corridor, which is unpopular in this district.
The other, believe it or not, is illegal immigration. See Update 2/3 for details.The lawmaker who carried the Voter ID bill is being criticized for her earlier support of free tuition for the children of illegal aliens. Brown has also aroused some resentment in Kaufman County for moving her district office to Henderson County. Brown has not been very visible so far in this campaign season; she hasn't attended some events and she hasn't used direct mail yet. A mailer in 06 showed Gent's head on a donkey and attacked him for being a trial lawyer. The race is Brown's to lose, but she could lose it.
* Update 1/31: The Texas State Teachers Association has endorsed Gent.
* Update 2/3: Gent's Web site elaborates on the two issues I mentioned on the 1/27 update. In January, Gent posted a link to a letter he had published in the Athens Review in the summer of 2006, just a few months after Brown defeated him in the Republican primary. The letter letter begins, "The Trans-Texas land grab must be stopped in its tracks. The $184 billion project is slated to cut a path through our region. In its way are nearly 600,000 acres of family farms, ranches and backyards owned by hardworking Texans." On January 4, he posted, "Betty Brown admitted in the Tyler Morning Telegraph today that she voted to give in-state college tuition to illegal immigrants, a policy that still is in effect today." (I'm with Betty on this one. Any child of illegal aliens who learns English well enough to graduate from high school at a time when Hispanic dropout rates are terrible deserves in-state tuition.)

John Davis (R) -- Primary opponent Jon Keeney is a former League City council member who has around $10,000 cash on hand. Davis filed a report showing only expenditures, no contributions. He won the general election with 57% in 06 vs. Sherrie Matula, who is running again. Ds credit the former teacher and Clear Creek ISD trustee with being a great candidate, but the numbers favor the Republican nominee.
* Update 1/16: Last fall Davis was fined by the Texas Ethics Commission for spending approximately $13,000 in contributions for personal use following an investigation by KHOU-TV. This will be an issue in the race.

Dora Olivo (D) -- Primary opponent Ron Reynolds is a former municipal judge. Obviously something is afoot in this race because several Hispanic Democratic legislators are supporting Reynolds, who is black. Steve Host, the Republican challenger, is a businessman in Fort Bend County. This was a 60-40 Democratic district in 06, but the turmoil over could imperil the Democrats' hold on the seat.
* Update 1/17: The prevailing view is that Reynolds will defeat Olivo.

Phil King (R) -- Joe Tison, who resigned as mayor of Weatherford to challenge King, is a strong opponent. The Republican who wins the primary should have no trouble in the general election against Democrat Charles William Randolph. This is high on the list of the most important races in the state.
* Update 1/16: The Regulated Industries committee is a cash cow, and King has cashed in: $251,561 raised during the reporting period and $286,601 cash on hand. The Star-Telegram today (1/16) reported that the president of AT&T wrote a letter to employees and retirees of the company who live in the district, urging them to campaign door-to-door with King. Noted the Startlegram: "King has faced criticism in the past that he is too closely tied to the companies he regulates in the House." Tison's campaign finance report is not available online at this time, but he has said he raised $17,550 in the few days between his resignation as mayor and the end of the reporting period.
* Update 1/23: I saw King today. He has shaved off his moustache. He said that Tison is "moving around" but has no name ID outside of Weatherford.
* Update 1/30: I checked some population numbers. The population estimate for Weatherford in 2006 was 22,400. The population estimate for Parker County was 106,000. The other towns of note in the county are Azle (10,200), on the county line with Tarrant County, and Aledo (2,300). Looking at a satellite photo of the county, one can see a lot of rural subdivisions, particularly in the eastern half of the county. These people probably commute to Fort Worth and have little contact with Weatherford. The point is, Tison's base doesn't figure to be big enough to compete with King. The other county in the district is Wise (Decatur). It has fewer people than Parker County and probably many fewer who have heard of Tison than those who have heard of King. On this set of facts, I'd say King is going to be hard to beat.
* Lobby Talk 2/1. King may have an internal poll that isn't so good.

Nathan Macias (R) -- The hired gun who took out Carter Casteel with Leininger money in 2006 has a tough primary race against Doug Miller, the former mayor of New Braunfels. It may take more Leininger money for Macias to prevail. The winner will face Democrat Daniel Boone, a career Air Force officer and psychologist from Canyon Lake.
* Update 1/25: Macias reported $31,000 cash on hand. Miller has $86,000 cash on hand, $50,000 of which is his own loan to his campaign. Dolph Briscoe contributed $5,000 to Miller.

Pat Haggerty (R) -- Dee Margo, who lost the 06 Senate race to Eliot Shapleigh, and who is presumed to have been recruited by Craddick, is running against Haggerty, who barely survived a primary challenge in 06. Margo and his wife, Adair, are prominent folks in El Paso, and she is a close friend of Laura Bush. Democrats have a shot at winning the general election. The stronger of their two candidates is Joe Moody, son of Judge Bill Moody, who ran for a Texas Supreme Court seat in 2006 and was the leading Democratic votegetter statewide.
* Update: The El Paso Times has a story about Haggerty's unsuccessful challenge to Margo's claim to reside in the district. Newspapertree, a Web publication that covers El Paso politics, has a lengthy critical report about the Margos' involvement with the local Republican party, written by a Republican who has no love for Margo. See This may be more than you want to know about this race. Margo appears to be the favorite.
* Update 1/26: This is the latest on the race from newspapertree.com, based on a forum called "Inform El Paso" sponsored by the Web site. Haggerty attended; Margo did not. The report:
Haggerty passed out cards with his picture and the slogan "You Can Count on Pat." Across the bottom of the card, in yellow letters on black background, was a "Voter Integrity Alert," which called challenger Margo a "carpetbagger" assigned by Texas House Speaker Tom Craddick to take Haggerty out. Margo recently moved to Haggerty's district, and has said he was planning the move -- to a singe-level home -- well before the campaign because the family housekeeper has a hard time with the multi-level home on Rim Road.

Haggerty said that Margo was backed largely by three sources: Craddick, who has been a statewide story for his rule of the House (Haggerty was one of the Republican "rebels" who challenged Craddick), and El Paso businessmen Woody Hunt and Paul Foster, both of whom gave Margo large sums of money, as reported in the last round of campaign finance filings.

Haggerty laid out what he believes will be Margo's strategy -- a series of telephoned questions defined by Haggerty as a "push poll," where Haggerty's positions on issues will be misrepresented, and whichever answers make voters less likely to support him will be used by Margo in a $150,000 television ad campaign.

He said he had some examples of the statements used; one was that Haggerty voted to give needles to drug addicts. Haggerty said that an example of a half-truth used to make him look bad, and explained the needle giveaway was a pilot program in San Antonio that was an amendment added to an important Medicaid reform bill, SB 10.

Margo said he'll debate Haggerty on KVIA-Channel 7, in an appearance to be broadcast Jan. 28, and that Saturday he did not go to the forum because "it's more important to me I get out and communicate with voters and that's what I'm doing."

Margo denied doing a push poll, and said of the assertion that there is a $150,000 media campaign in the works, "I haven't even seen the media budget yet. He (Haggerty) must be omniscient, or inebriated, I don't know which."

Update 1/27: Yet another report from the El Paso Times about this race:

A new bipartisan group may have held its inaugural meeting last night at the El Paso Club. Mayor John Cook described it as "citizens against vindictive politics."
Really, it was a fundraiser for incumbent Republican state Rep. Pat Haggerty attended by Republican legislators from across the state, by Texas Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson and by a host of locally elected Democrats, including the other four state representatives from El Paso.

Haggerty's campaign staff estimated more than 250 attended the event, where most supporters' speeches had a similar theme: Haggerty is good, Craddick is not.
In a not-so-subtle jab at Haggerty's primary election opponent, state Rep. Todd Smith, R-Euless, said if voters don't stick with the incumbent, they may get a representative who takes cues from Craddick instead of from people here in El Paso.
"Our primary responsibility is to vote our district, plain and simple," he said.
Republican challenger Dee Margo, chairman and CEO of JDW Insurance, has said he wouldn't be beholden to anyone besides the voters.

Here's a list of the legislators who showed up at Haggerty's fundraiser:
State Rep. Ed Kuempel, R-Seguin
State Rep. Tommy Merritt, R-Longview
State Rep. Jim Pitts, R-Waxahachie
State Rep. Todd Smith, R-Euless
State Rep. Norma Chavez, D-El Paso
State Rep. Paul Moreno, D-El Paso
State Rep. Joe Pickett, D-El Paso
State Rep. Chente Quintanilla, D-El Paso
State Sen. Mike Jackson, R-LaPorte

* Update 1/28: The early polls in the race are very close to where they were two years ago, when Haggerty beat Lorraine O'Donnell by 105 votes. His positives are up a couple of points, and his negatives are up a couple of points. The big difference is that there are fewer undecided voters. This race is going to be close all the way.
* Update 2/1: Haggerty was endorsed by the Texas Association of Business.
* Update 2/5: Haggerty raised $149,000 in January, $100,000+ more than Margo raised.

Bill Zedler (R) -- Faces Fort Worth cop (and vice-president of CLEAT) Lee E. Jackson in the primary. Zedler is a lightweight legislator who won his 06 general election race with just 52.46% in 06. Sources familiar with the race say that Jackson is not a strong primary challenger. Chris Turner, a Chet Edwards staffer, is the Democratic hopeful. Democrats see this seat as one of their best hopes for a pickup. The problem is that the district typically has a high voter turnout. Zedler's percentage majority was small, but his actual margin of victory in the general election was over 3,000 votes.

Thomas Latham (R) -- He defeated Elvira Reyna in 06 but may have a short career; former Mesquite mayor Mike Anderson is favored to win the primary. The Democrat in the race is Robert Miklos, a former Dallas prosecutor and a Hughes and Luce attorney (Hughes and Luce recently merged with another firm.) Both Latham and Anderson are pledged to Craddick.
* Update 1/19: Latham has been named Region 10 Legislator of the Year by the Association of Texas Professional Educators.
* Update 1/30: Reyna, whom Latham defeated by a handful of votes in 2006, has endorsed Latham.
* Update 2/1: Latham won the endorsement of the Texas Association of Business and the Texas Association of Realtors.
* Update 2/3: Latham is accusing Anderson of plagiarising campaign materials used by Angie Chen Button, who is running for the seat being vacated by Fred Hill. Button and Anderson are using the same consultant. Anderson denies the charges and says he personally worked on his own letter. WFAA has posted both letters on its Wev site. There are certainly many similarities, in form and in content, in the two letters, including the same issues (illegal immigration, taxes, crime). But the wording is sufficiently different that "plagiarism" is a clear exaggeration. On the other hand, the letters are sufficiently similar that it is clearly cookie-cutter campaigning.
* Update 2/5: The Dallas Morning News endorsed Anderson in an editorial, citing its concerns about transportation.

Frank Corte (R) -- The Republican caucus chair faces primary opposition from Tony Kosub, a teacher, and a general election challenge by Frances Carnot, president of the Bexar County Democratic Women. Corte polled 66% of the vote against a Democrat in 06, and his district regularly produces the highest vote total in the county, so no trouble here.
* Update 1/29: I can't envision Corte losing the primary, but a Democratic rep from San Antonio told me Corte had better not take Kosub lightly. Corte is a strong advocate of vouchers, and if Kosub were to get the Parent PAC endorsement, that could change the dynamics of the race. Here is a quote from Parent PAC's Carolyn Boyle that ran in the Fort Worth Star Telegram last year after the House voted to prohibit state funding for vouchers in the 08-09 budget: "Vouchers has always been one of these 'line in the sand' kind of issues," said Carolyn Boyle, president of Texas Parent PAC. "It's a very clear-cut issue. You're either with us or you're not."

Joe Crabb (R) -- He faces two primary opponents, Martin Basaldua, a Kingwood physician whose practice focuses on "an integrated approach to your healthcare by offering medical diagnostics along with natural approaches to healing" and David Davenport, executive director of the End Hunger Network. The Democrats are fielding Joe Montemayor, a retired immigration officer. Crabb won 58-40 against a stronger Democratic candidate in 2006.
* Update 1/29: Here are some biographies of the challengers from the Web site ourtribune.com:
Basaldua, a native of San Antonio, was elected to the board of the North Harris Community College District in 1991. In 1997, he was appointed by then-Gov. George Bush to the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board. In 2001, he sought the position of State Representative for District 127 but switched to the Senate District 4 race, ultimately losing to Tommy Williams. Davenport has a long record of service to the nonprofit sector. He worked for 11 years for the YMCA in Ft. Worth and Houston. For three years, he was director of development for Boys and Girls Harbor of Houston and he has been the top official at the End Hunger Network for the last four years. Montemayor is a retired federal immigration officer who lives in Crosby. He is concerned about law enforcement shortages and current recruitment practices.

Jessica Farrar (D) -- Challenged in the primary by her former legislative staffer, Jose Medrano. Howard Gano is the Republican opponent. A Democratic lawmaker told me that Farrar is in law school and her campaign time may be limited; another version is that she is taking a light load so that she can campaign.
* Update 1/30: Farrar was the most liberal member of the Legislature in 2006, with a conservative rating of 0, according to the Young Conservatives of Texas rankings.

INCUMBENTS WHO RETIRED, LEAVING OPEN SEATS (7 Rs, 2 Ds

Robbie Cook (D) -- He barely eked out a win over Republican Tim Kleinschmidt in 06. Kleinschmidt is running for the vacant seat, but the issue he used with great effectiveness two years ago -- Cook's support for the animal ID bill -- disappeared with Cook's decision to retire. Two Democrats will try to hold the seat: Donnie Dippel, former assistant commissioner for the Texas Department of Agriculture, and Latreese Cook, the executive director of a nonprofit that seeks to reduce prison overcrowding. Dippel is regarded as the stronger challenger. This is a great opportunity for the Republicans to pick up a seat.
* Update 1/31: Burnt Orange Report has researched Latreese Cook's criminal record (mostly "theft by check") and also raises the issue of whether she lives in the district. The original article ran on 1/25 and another article today links to the original.

Mike O'Day (R) -- Randy Weber, who lost the January 07 runoff to O'Day in the special election to fill the late Glenda Dawson's unexpired term, is trying again. Gary Bucek, president of the Pearland chamber of commerce, is in the race, as is Craig Kelsay, a CPA formerly with the state comptroller's office. Kevin Murphy, an attorney, is the Democratic hopeful. In the first round of the special election, in December 06, the lone Democrat polled just 22% against three Republicans and didn't make the runoff.
* Update 2/1: Bucek, who runs a real estate company, was endorsed by, you guessed it, the Texas Association of Realtors.

Mike Krusee (R) -- The chairman of the Transportation committee barely broke 50% against an unfunded Democrat in 2006. Six candidates (four Rs, two Ds are vying to succeed him. The Ds recruited Round Rock school trustee Diana Maldonado for the race. The Republican candidates include a former three-term GOP county chairman, John Gordon. This is a transitional district that is changing character due to refugees from Austin who have been priced out of the housing market there. This is a fair fight.
* Update 1/23: Eye on Williamson blog reports that Maldonado outraised all the Republican candidates combined. Bryan Daniel appears to be the leading Republican. He received $1,000 from HILLCO and the dairy farmers and the cattle raisers PACs gave him a combined $3,500. His biggest contribution, however, is from Jim Prewitt of Flower Mound, for $5,000. Prewitt is a Saturday night request show host on radio station KLUV ("The Greatest Hits of the Sixties and Seventies") who sparked protests and received a rebuke for a bizarre on-air incident when he urged listeners to help drive war protestor Cindy Sheehan (whose name Prewitt pronounced, "Cindy SheMan") off the land she had purchased in Crawford.

Dianne Delisi (R) -- Delisi has been one of the best legislators of the Republican era. She will be missed. Four Rs, one D are in the race to succeed her. Among the favorites: Martha Tyroch, Temple city council member and mayor pro-tem; the lone Democrat is Sam Murphey, a veteran and a longtime Chet Edwards staffer. He's a credible candidate, but Delisi defeated her 2006 Democratic opponent, 66-33.
* Update 2/1: The Texas Association of Business has endorsed John Alaniz, a member of the TAB board. The Texas Association of Realtors has endorsed Tyroch.

Fred Hill (R) -- Over his long career, he evolved from a back bencher to a strong advocate of local control and a vocal opponent of Speaker Craddick's excesses. He leaves a void that will be hard to fill. Three Rs and a D are running to succeed him. James E. Shepherd and Angie Chen Button are the mainstream Rs; Sandra VuLe is the Democrat.
* Update 1/22: Hill and John Carona have endorsed Shepherd and are holding an Austin fundraiser on January 30. Angie Chen Button, marketing manager for Texas Instruments and a member of the DART board, has been endorsed by Florence Shapiro. Randy Dunning, a software engineer and Garland council member, has endorsements from ultraconservative state rep Jodie Laubenberg and pluperfect consevative RNC committee member Denise McNamara. A Garland blogger -- Suzyblitz.com -- blasts Button for contributing to Democrats (Ron Kirk and Eddie Bernice Johnson, among others) and promotes Dunning in writeups that are presented as Larry King interviews. Very entertaining.
* Update 2/1: The Texas Association of Business and the Texas Association of Realtors endorsed Button.
* Lobby Talk 2/1: Shepherd is very low key. At his fundraiser, he said he expected to be in the runoff but is concerned about losing it. As you might expect, given his endorsement by Hill, he opposes appraisal caps but worries that it could defeat him.
* Update 2/4: In addition to Shapiro, Chen has endorsements from Brian McCall,, former Republican state chairman (in the good old days before the wing nuts took over the party) Fred Meyer, a former Dallas County GOP chairman, and others.

Robert Puente (D) -- The House's water policy guru, a Craddick D, elected to retire. His successor will be San Antonio city council member Robert Gutierrez, whose name appears on the list of the 61 candidates who are running unopposed.
* Update 1/29. This is believed to be a lost seat for Craddick in the speaker's race. Don't count your chickens. Craddick isn't afraid to ask.

Robert Talton (R) -- Known for his anti-gay views, he became a staunch Craddick foe and a force to be reckoned with in his last session. Talton is running for the congressional seat held by Democrat Nick Lampson and is considered an underdog in the Republican primary. Three Rs and a D are running for this Pasadena-based legislative district. This is a transitional district in which Talton won 56% of the vote in 06. Democrats hope Joel Redmond, a mortgage lender, might win in a big turnout year. The leading Republicans are Ken Legler, a board member for the Texas Association of Business, and a member of the TCEQ advisory board, and John Roberts, a Pasadena school board member. Hmmm -- I wonder what Legler is advising TCEQ about pollution in Pasadena, and is TCEQ listening?
* Update 2/1: The Texas Association of Business endorsed Legler.

Rick Noriega (D) -- He is the presumed Democratic nominee for U.S. Senate against John Cornyn. Houston city council member Carol Alvarado, who is term limited, will face political newcomer Elias De La Garza in the Democratic primary; Patricia Rodriquez is the Republican.
* Update 1/16: Some Ds think Alvarado is "squishy" in the speaker's race, due to conflicts with Farrar and Hernandez.
* Update 1/31: OfftheKuff is reporting that an Ana Hernandez press release contains a slew of endorsements for Alvarado. Here is the text:

Former Houston City Council Member and candidate for State Representative in Texas House District 145, Carol Alvarado has received significant endorsements from progressive leaders of the Texas House of Representatives, including Representatives Ellen Cohen, Garnet Coleman, Jessica Farrar, Ana Hernandez, Borris Miles, Richard Raymond and Hubert Vo. Alvarado's commitment to the Democratic Party and its principles has not gone unnoticed as these Democratic legislators have pledged their support to her candidacy. During her six years as a council member, Alvarado marched for immigrant rights, fought for tougher toxic emission standards and helped pass a city wide smoking ban. She has served her city council district well and is now ready to continue the fight at the Texas House of Representatives.

These Democratic State Representatives embody the spirit of the Democratic Party as they each have a proven record of fighting for the rights of their constituents and against the current Republican leadership in the Texas House of Representatives. They look forward to Alvarado joining them in the fight to regain the Texas House majority.

Kuff Komments: This should not just kill the idea that there's any "squishiness" about Alvarado's bona fides, it should drive a stake through its heart, cut its head off, and burn the carcass.

My Komments: The endorsements are a nice piece of work, and a sign of the unity that Democrats are displaying across the country, but it doesn't mean that whatever caused this particular spllit has gone away.

* * * * *

My comments about the races generally:

The Republicans came out of filing deadline with an advantage. There are two main reasons for this. The Democrats' success since Craddick became speaker means that they have to defend a lot of seats in which they won close races. This is a problem, to be sure, but it is a problem that any political party would be happy to have. Republicans are contesting every seat that the Democrats have picked up in those years: the Talmadge Heflin, Jack Stick, and Ken Mercer seats in 2004; and the Todd Baxter, Terry Keel, Bill Keffer, Toby Goodman, Gene Seaman, and Martha Wong seats in 2006.

What's more, the Republicans recruited some very strong candidates in key races: Todd Hunter against Juan Garcia and Donna Keel against Valinda Bolton, to name a couple. Craddick nemeses Pat Haggerty and Charlie Geren have difficult Republican primary races. Many of the races are hard to evaluate, because the chances of success depend upon how much money Republican candidates will have available for candidates like Raul Torres, who is running against Solomon Ortiz Jr.. We'll know more after the January 15 reports come in.

The problem for Democrats is that they have already picked most of the low-hanging Republican fruit. A few Rs are vulnerable if the national mood is good for Democrats -- Tony Goolsby, Linda Harper-Brown, Robert Talton, Bill Zedler, Tuffy Hamilton -- but many more Democrats have precarious holds on their seats.

The speaker's race is harder to evaluate than the partisan battles. It is too early to know whether Craddick will be a liability in primaries or the general election. The first indication will be the fate of the Craddick Ds who have tough races: Kevin Bailey, Dwanna Dukes, Kino Flores.

One thing we can be sure of: With 89 contested races, lobbyists are going to have to spend a lot of money.

More Texas Monthly

Loading, please wait...

Most Read

  • Viewed
  • Past:
  • 1 week