This is my list of vulnerable Democrats and how they might fare, based upon the results of 2008. I am going to say this one time, and it applies to all races, including those not listed here: The combination of an energized Republican base and a demoralized Democratic base, plus the Rs’ huge advantage in fundraising, makes every race potentially much better for Republicans than would normally be the case, regardless of what happened in previous years.
> Valinda Bolton (Austin) - Like Donna Howard’s district, Bolton’s district was drawn to elect a Republican. Former Travis County sheriff Terry Keel won this seat in 2004. When he resigned his seat to run for a judicial seat in 2006, Bolton defeated Bill Welch by around 2,000 votes beat Donna Keel (yes, related to Terry) in 2008 by the same margin. Republicans view Bolton as very vulnerable, but her margins of victory have been solid and the Libertarian candidate could siphon votes from Paul Workman. And, of course, this is Austin. Risk: Low
> Jim Dunnam (Waco) - He didn’t have a R opponent in either 2008 or 2006. The district voted 54% for McCain in 08 … but supported down ballot Democrats & Congressman Edwards. Republicans are going to throw a lot of advertising at Dunnam in the closing days. I don’t think it will matter. Risk: Low
> Stephen Frost (Texarkana) - This is a rematch of the 2006 race in which Frost defeated George Lavender by some 4,700 votes. Frost’s 2008 race against a weak opponent wasn’t even close, even though McCain carried the district with 68% and all Republicans on the ballot won. The independent candidate could take votes away from either side. Risk: Low
> Yvonne Gonzalez-Toureilles (Alice) - This is a sleeper race that few have paid much attention to. Only two of the seven counties voted Democratic in 2004, when her first race went to an election contest before the House, which the Republicans ultimately dropped. She had no opposition in 2008, when the district voted 54% for McCain. Gonzalez-Toureilles needs a big vote out of Alice to overcome Republican votes in the northern part of the district, and she doesn’t have the benefit of a Libertarian candidate who would take votes away from the Republican candidate. Risk: Medium
> Joe Heflin (Crosbyton). Big trouble for Heflin. He received 53% in 2008, McCain got 72%. This is the rematch of the 2006 race that Heflin won by 217 votes over Jim Landtroop, a race that was a proxy fight between Tom Craddick and Pete Laney. Risk: Extreme
> Abel Herrero (Corpus Christi) – A “reliable source” (R) tells me that Herrero will win a close one. Nueces County is trending Republican, and there are a lot of R candidates for local offices. Still, Herrero won handily in 2004 by 10%, won big in 2006, and beat his current opponent, Connie Scott, by 2,500 votes in 2008. Herrero received 53% in 08, McCain 51%, but Democrats narrowly won all other races. Risk: Medium
> Mark Homer (Paris) – One of the last surviving WD-40s (white Democrats of middle age from rural Texas). Homer received 52% in 2008, MCain received 70%. He narrowly won by 218 votes in 2004 but won big with 58% in 2006. Homer has received a radio endorsement from the founder of Lamar County’s Tea Party. I thought Homer was a dead duck until several Internet sites carried the news that Cain’s brother-in-law accused him of being a drug dealer. What a gift for Homer. The R’s aren’t rebutting it. A Libertarian candidate could also siphon votes from Cain. Risk: Medium low.
> Donna Howard (Austin). The district was drawn in 2001 to elect a Republican. The Republican who was elected, Todd Baxter, won by 147 votes. Baxter got himself in hot water and probably would not have been reelected. He chose to resign from the House rather than seek reelection. This opened the door for Howard to run in a special election, and she routed Republican Ben Bentzin with 58% of the vote. Her current opponent, former UT football player Dan Neil, got a late start. This is the district where I live. I have seen only a few signs for Neil and no TV. Risk: Very low.
> Carol Kent (Dallas) – Kent received 53% in 2008, McCain 49%. But R incumbent Tony Goolsby received 53% and 52% respectively in 2004 and 2006 against one of the D’s best candidates, Harriet Miller. Street talk is that Kent is behind. The absence of a Libertarian candidate should help R Stefani Carter. Risk: Very high
> Diana Maldanado (Round Rock) – Maldanado established a Democratic beachhead in Republican Williamson County in 2008, one election cycle after Republican Mike Krusee won reelection with a bare 50.44%. But can she hold it? She won by 851 votes (49% plurality) in 2008 with a Libertarian in the race. In 2008, McCain won here with 50% and R’s won most of the downballot elections. Maldonado’s TV is very good. Risk: High, but the Libertarian vote could hurt Larry Gonzalez.
> Jim McReynolds (Lufkin). The Republicans are said to be readying a big push here, but McReynolds is very popular locally. He pulled 57% in 2008 when McCain was carrying the district with 68%. Risk: Low
> Robert Miklos (Mesquite). He won his seat in 08 by just 511 votes despite other D’s winning by larger margins in the county. Dems narrowly won all Dallas County races on the ballot, This was a solidly Republican district before Miklos pulled an upset in 08. The absence of a Libertarian hurts Miklos as well. Risk: Very high.
> Joe Moody (El Paso) – He faces a formidable opponent in Dee Margo, who, along with his wife Adair, is close to the Bush family. Margo has lost races for state Senate and, against Moody in 2008, the Texas House. Moody’s margin in 08 was 3000+ votes, helped by an Obama advertising blitz in nearby Las Cruces, New Mexico, that aired in El Paso. Moody’s father is a former and current candidate for the Texas Supreme Court and is very popular locally. The latest El Paso Times poll (10/22) shows Margo with 43.9, Moody with 40.3. But Moody may have erred when when he jumped into a bitter Democratic primary race last spring between incumbent Norma Chavez and challenger Naomi Gonzalez on the side of Chavez. The race split the local Democratic party and Moody found himself on the losing side. Margo may try to exploit Moody’s ties to Chavez. Risk: Medium high
> Patrick Rose (Dripping Springs). Rose won handily in 2006 (59%) and 2008 (60%), but this is a rural district that McCain carried with 52%. The more opponent Jason Isaac hammers Rose for being a liberal, the more Rose’s ads sound Republican, which may turn off his Democratic base. Risk: Medium
> Kristi Thibaut (Houston). This is the third duel between Thibaut and Jim Murphy. Murphy won by 3000 votes in 2006, a Democratic year. Thibaut won by 497 votes in 2008. Demographics has swung the district toward the Democrats, but this race looks more like 2006 than 2008. There’s a Libertarian in the race, but that won’t matter. Risk: Extreme
> Chris Turner (Arlington) – Turner is a savvy former Chet Edwards operative. His Republican opponent is eccentric former rep Bill Zedler, who, to put it politely, was not one of the Legislature’s shining lights during his two terms. Turner won with 51% (3,869 vote margin) in 2008; McCain barely carried the district with 51%. Zedler won two previous races, in 04 by a big margin and in 06 by a small one. The absence of a Libertarian candidate helps Zedler. Risk: High
> Allen Vaught (Dallas) – Vaught beat incumbent Bill Keffer with 50.1% in 2006 and 50.4% (1758 votes) vs Bill Keffer in 2008, so he has little margin for error. If he defeats Kenneth Sheets this time around, it will be because of Libertarian vote drain. Risk: High
This is not all of the races in which Democrats are at risk. I have not researched the Kirk England (Grand Prairie) race, but it is in Dallas County, which is shaping up as a potential Democratic graveyard this year. Hubert Vo and Scott Hochberg could have tough races. It is possible that the Republican pickup in the House could reach double digits.