THE SPEAKER’S RACE: D’s GAIN 3 SEATS, R’S MAINTAIN BARE MAJORITY
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In a nutshell: Democrats did very well in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. In the rest of the state, not so well. Their hopes for picking up multiple seats in Harris County did not bear fruit. They lost one of their few rural seats in Robbie Cook’s old district. I’m going to list all the races that were in play, by district number, with the prevailing candidate listed first: District 3 Homer (D) vs. Hollingsworth (R) Homer has just under a 2,000 vote lead with 9 boxes out, all of them in Delta County. D hold District 11 Hopson (D) vs. Walker (R) Walker grabbed the lead by 715 votes with 2/3 of the vote in, then Hopson wrested it back. Eight boxes were out, all of them in Houston County, and Hopson led by 65 votes. Hopson had carried Houston County in the early vote and did well enough on election day to win by 102 votes. D hold District 17 Kleinschmidt (R) vs. Dippel (D) Dippel faced an uphill battle. Kleinschmidt had almost defeated Robbie Cook, the WD-40 incumbent, in 2006. Even so, a 7,000-vote blowout was a significant underperformance by the Democrats. Dippel was slow to work the black vote in Bastrop County. R pickup District 32 Hunter (R) vs. Garcia (D) I never understood, or bought into, the Democrats’ unbridled optimism about Garcia’s chances to hold an overwhelmingly Republican district. Here are the flaws in the reasoning: (1) Garcia won the seat in 2006 because Gene Seaman, the Republican incumbent, became enmeshed in a scandal. (2) Todd Hunter was a much more formidable candidate than Seaman. (3) I don’t care how good a candidate Garcia was; bad numbers trump good candidates. There was never any sense of realism about this race in the Democratic camp. R pickup District 34 Herrero (D) vs. Scott (R) Republicans threw everything but the kitchen sink at Herrero. It was good money after bad. Herrero won by 2,500 votes. D hold District 47 Bolton (D) vs. Keel (R) Trying to win a Democratic seat in Travis County is not a profitable strategy for Republicans. Bolton won the early vote by 4,000 votes, and the race was over. D hold District 52 Maldonado (D) vs. Daniel (R) This is a significant victory. Democrats established a beachhead in the suburbs, the Williamson County seat being vacated by Mike Krusee. Maldonado posted an 1,800-vote lead in early voting, which has now shrunk to 848 votes with one box outstanding (12:39 a.m.). Craddick may have backed the wrong horse in the Republican primary; prosecutor Dee Hobbs had a better chance than Daniel to hold the seat. D pickup District 55 Sheffield (R) vs. Murphey (D) Probably the Democrats should have passed on this race to fill the seat being vacated by Dianne Delisi. Bell County is very Republican. But Sheffield was a flawed candidate with a checkered past, and Murphey was well known and well liked in the district. Didn’t matter. There just weren’t enough Democrats in the district for Murphey to make a race of it. R hold District 59 S. Miller (R) vs. Casbeer (D) The Sheffield and Miller races indicate just how weak the Democrats are west of Interstate 35, even against weak candidates. Miller is a confirmed backbencher, but he leads by 8,000 votes with a few boxes still out (1:06 a.m.) R hold District 78 Moody (D) vs. Margo (R) The irony of this race is that Craddick recruited Margo to take out nemesis Pat Haggerty in the Republican primary, thereby removing from the field the one Republican who might have been able to hold the seat. Moody had all sorts of baggage in this race, including some indiscreet and immature blogging about his lack of fondness for El Paso and for the military, but he still won the race by a comfortable 3,300 votes. That margin might have been more than even Haggerty could have overcome. D pickup District 85 Heflin (D) vs. Castro (R) The Republicans threw good money after bad in this race in hopes of winning this West Texas district that used to be represented by Pete Laney. Heflin is a very seasoned politician who made a good impression in his freshman year. He cruised to a 3,000 vote lead at 1:16 p.m. with a few boxes still out. D hold Chris Turner (D) vs. Zedler (R) Zedler had a big target painted on his back from the moment that he filed for re-election, a doofus up against a strong opponent. Turner is a former Chet Edwards staffer who knows his way around politics. Turner won by 6,000 votes. D pickup District 97 Shelton (R) vs. Barrett (D) Barrett was living on borrowed time from the moment that he won an upset victory in the special election to fill the seat left vacant by Anna Mowry’s retirement. Time ran out tonight; Shelton won this race by 8,000 votes. Again, I am left to wonder at the Democrats’ view that Barrett stood a good chance of retaining his seat. You can’t win in politics unless you can see the world as it is, not as you wish it to be. R pickup District 101 Miklos (D) vs. Anderson (R) This seat is the archetypal Metroplex district undergoing demographic change. The seat has changed hands in three straight elections, from Elvira Reyna to Thomas Latham in the 2006 GOP primary, from Latham to Mike Anderson in the 2008 GOP primary, and now to the Democrats. D pickup District 102 Kent (D) vs. Goolsby (R) One of the best-liked members, Goolsby pronounced his own obituary a few days ago: “This is the only job I’ve got and I’m trying to save it. Obama’s got people coming out of the rafters.” He made this comment after a Craddick spokesperson said that a posh renovation of the member’s lounge wasn’t the speaker’s project, it was Goolsby’s as the chairman of House Administration. This episode illuminates the dark side of Craddick. He has no loyalty to his members. D pickup District 105 Harper-Brown (R) vs. Romano (D) For the second consecutive election, the D’s failed to devote resources to this district because they didn’t think much of their own candidate. They got what they deserved. Harper-Brown, known for her rabid anti-immigrant views, survived by 25 votes. One mailer could have been enough to pick up this seat. No doubt the D’s will ask for a recount, but recounts rarely change the outcome. R hold District 106 England (D) vs. Wiegman (R) Yet another Metroplex battle. R’s hoped to punish England for switching parties last year, but he won the early vote 60-40. The Democratic trend in the metroplex is inexorable. D hold District 107 Vaught (D) vs. B. Keffer (R) Why did the R’s even bother with this race? Keffer, who lost to Vaught as an incumbent in 06, is a poor campaigner. Vaught is a good campaigner. Demographic changes favor the Democrats. Just more good money after bad. D hold I did not include Dan Branch’s race or the battle for Fred Hill’s seat as swing districts. Republicans prevailed easily. The remaining key races all took place in Harris County. Democrats had high hopes of picking up three seats here and had only one seat of their own that was at risk. The early voting trend was in their favor, but they only gained one seat. District 129 Davis (R) vs. Matula (D) This is the wrong side of Harris County for the Democrats. The west side is where the demographic ferment is. Despite Davis having some ethics issues, Matula was not competitive. She lost by 10,000 votes. District 133 Thibaut (D) vs. Murphy (R) This is the right side of Harris County for the Democrats, and, sure enough, Thibaut won the early vote by a thousand votes, lost the lead, and then rode a late surge to victory. It’s too bad that Murphy was the victim. He was going to be a very good member. D pickup District 138 Bohac (R) vs. McDavid (D) The D’s didn’t make much of an effort here. The thought was that Bohac might be collateral damage if there was a Democratic sweep. The sweep took place at the courthouse level but didn’t trickle down to the legislative races. Bohac won the early vote handily and piled up a 6,000-vote margin. The D’s will try again in 2010. R hold District 144 Legler (R) vs. Redmond (D) This race was probably the Democrats’ biggest disappointment of the night, a battle for the seat being vacated by Robert Talton. I think this was yet another race in which D’s were mesmerized by the quality of their candidate and disregarded the fundamentals: wrong side of Harris County and too few minority voters. Even so, Redmond may have been done in by the infamous “Blackbird” mailer funded by Bob Perry. Legler posted a 500-vote lead in the early vote and Redmond couldn’t catch up. R hold District 149 Vo (D) vs. Meyers (R) This was the the Garcia-Hunter race in reverse. The Republicans had a great candidate; Vo had all sorts of issues (the worst of which was widely publicized accusations that he was a slumlord); but in the end, bad numbers trump good candidates. Talmadge Hefflin won this district 55-45 in 2002. In 2004, Vo beat him by 32 votes. In 2006, Vo won 55-45. A fifth grader could extrapolate that this year the Democratic advantage was 60-40. Vo’s percentage was 58.9. D hold