Both parties have lists of candidates on their Web site. Neither list is accurate. At least the Republican list is in the order that the offices appear on the ballot: president, U.S. senator and representative, Railroad Commission, the statewide courts, the State Board of Education, then state Senate and House. You can also locate the Rs in alphabetical order. The Democrats’ list is maddening. It is organized — a generous description — by the date that a candidate filed, which is an absolutely useless piece of information. This ensures that you have to go through the entire list if you are looking for candidates in a particular district or for a particular candidate by name.
Both lists omit many candidates who are known to be running. If the Republican list is to be believed, they have no candidate entered in state House districts 14 (Fred Brown), 15 (Rob Eissler), and 16 (Brandon Creighton). Many Democratic incumbents are missing from their party’s list of House candidates, including a number of the Craddick Ds.
The big battle is for speaker and for partisan control of the state House of Representatives, and it seemed to me that Republicans did a better job of recruiting candidates for contested seats. One reason for this is that they have more seats to contest, having lost six of them in the last election cycle and a couple more in 2007 (the Fort Worth special election and the Grand Prarie district in which Kirk England switched parties). This will be the major battleground, and here’s how the races shape up. The races are identified by the Democratic incumbent.
* Juan Garcia. The Rs have a strong candidate, former Democratic legislator Todd Hunter, in this Coastal Bend district formerly held by Republican Gene Seaman. This district is the top Republican target in the state, and Hunter should win. Some of Garcia’s supporters urged him to run for Congress against ethically challenged Democratic incumbent Solomon Ortiz, but Garcia chose to try to defend his seat.
* Allen Vaught. Republican Bill Keffer, who lost to Vaught in 06, is trying to regain his seat. This should be a tight race. Both sides are optimistic.
* Paula Pierson. She defeated Toby Goodman in a big-spending race in which Goodman’s purchase of an Austin condo with campaign funds became a major issue. She will have to defend her seat against Republican challenger Bill Burch, a Grand Prairie real estate investor.
* Joe Heflin, who upset a favored Republican to hold the seat of retiring former speaker Pete Laney for the Ds, faces Isaac Castro, a Hamlin attorney.
* Donna Howard and Valinda Bolton. Both of these Democratic pickups in 06 are in Travis County, and both were open seats. The Republican list shows no challenger to either Howard or Bolton, but I do not vouch for its accuracy.
* Kirk England, now a Democrat, has a Republican challenger, Karen Wiegman, of Grand Prarie.
The Republicans are going to have to put a lot of resources into these races; they can’t accept the loss of these seats. Garcia and Pierson look like the most vulnerable of the Ds. Heflin holds a very Republican seat, but he is well known in the district and is a very seasoned politician. Except for the Austin seat, all of these races were close in 06 and rate to be close again in 08.
I’m going to shut this down for now and hope for more complete lists tomorrow.