US House Races in Texas

Texas is boring. Maybe not as a state, maybe not even in its politics. But when it comes to House races, there’s not much excitement to see. Part of this is due to some impressive gerrymandering, but a lot of it is simply that Texas has deep blue cities and deep red everywhere else. This means there’s not much in the way of swing districts, and it shows. All the expert sites out there only mention two Dem held seats that are possible pickup points, and I can’t see much reason to argue with them. It’s going to take a lot more than Tea Party enthusiasm to knock out the urban districts, after all. The good news, however, is that the reverse is also true. There’s really no reason to be worried about defense this year. Really, the only wrinkle is how the immigration debate will impact the moderately Hispanic districts (the heavily Hispanic ones are basically a lock for Dems anyway).

Note: for all potentially competitive seats, I’ll include in paranthesis which of the big three issues the incumbent voted for (ST: stimulus, CT: Cap & Trade, HC: health care).

Dem held seats – 12
Safe seats – 10
9) Al Green vs Steve Mueller (D+22)
15) Ruben Hinojosa vs Eddie Zamora (D+3)
16) Silvestre Reyes vs Tim Besco (D+10)
18) Sheila Jackson Lee vs John Faulk (D+24)
20) Charlie Gonzalez vs Clayton Trotter (D+8)
25) Lloyd Doggett vs Donna Campbell (D+6)
27) Solomon Ortiz vs Blake Farenthold (R+2)
28) Henry Cuellar vs Bryan Underwood (D+0)
29) Gene Green vs Roy Morales (D+8)
30) Eddie Johnson vs Stephen Broden (D+27)

First of all, it should come as no surprise that those double-digit PVI seats are safe. Just be happy the GOP managed to find someone to run in them; two of those seats were unopposed in 2008. While TX-15 looks competitive on paper, it’s a rematch of 2008, where Zamora only got 32% of the vote. That’s too much ground to make up. The 28th district also looks promising, but it’s heavily Hispanic and the white Underwood has little fundraising and little presence. Dr. Campbell has the same problem in the 25th district, albeit doing a bit better on the fundraising front. But when Doggett has never gone below 65% of the vote, I have a hard time seeing an insurgent victory here. I almost considered the 27th district to be a potentially competitive seat, but Ortiz is a long term Congressman in a heabily Hispanic district who’s been winning by 20 points recently. But if there is going to be a dark horse victory here, that’s the seat it will be.

Competitive seats – 1
23) Ciro Rodriguez (ST, HC) vs Francisco Canseco (R+4)
Quico Canseco is a perennial candidate, although this is his first primary victory. While that doesn’t spell good news, the fact is that he’s Hispanic (hey, it’s demographics; I hate it too…), wealthy, has a decent operation, and solid conservative credentials. He’s big on border control (which should be good for voters along the, y’know, border), and has been hitting Rodriguez on his health care vote and his lack of town hall meetings. A recent internal poll from Quico has him down only 48-45, which isn’t too bad. But the incumbent near 50 already? This one will clearly be difficult. But if Rodriguez can be successfully tied to Pelosi and Obama, and if Canseco can raise his name recognition, he could have a chance here.

Lean Takeover seats – 1
17) Chet Edwards (ST) vs Bill Flores (R+20)
Yeah, you saw that right. R+20. This is the most conservative district in the US that is held by a Dem. And Edwards has held it primarily by distancing himself from the national Dem party. Yet his luck can only last so long. In 2008, he won 53-45 against an underfunded challenger, and he now has a serious challenge from businessman Bill Flores, who’s done well with fundraising and in garnering name recognition. Flores, for his part, is planning on tying Edwards to Obama (who only received 32% of the vote here) and as someone not serious about fiscal discipline. And it may work out: a Republican poll conducted in May has Flores up 53-41. Yeah, it’s a partisan poll, but that’s some serious distance between the two. If not for Edwards’ past skills at winning here, I’d say this one would be in the bag.

Rep held seats – 20
Safe seats – 19
1) Louis Gohmert unopposed (R+21)
2) Ted Poe unopposed (R+13)
3) Sam Johnson vs John Lingenfelder (R+14)
4) Ralph Hall vs Valinda Hathcox (R+21)
5) Jeb Hensarling vs Tom Berry (R+17)
6) Joe Barton vs David Cozad (R+15)
7) John Culberson unopposed (R+17)
8 ) Kevin Brady vs Kent Hargett (R+25)
10) Michael McCaul vs Ted Ankrum (R+10)
11) Mike Conaway vs James Quillian (R+28)
12) Kay Granger vs Tracey Smith (R+16)
13) Mac Thornberry unopposed (R+29)
14) Ron Paul vs Robert Pruett (R+18)
19) Randy Neugebauer vs Andy Wilson (R+26)
21) Lamar Smith vs Lainey Melnick (R+14)
22) Pete Olson vs Kesha Rogers (R+13)
24) Kenny Marchant vs Alex Dunaj (R+11)
26) Michael Burgess vs Neil Durrance (R+13)
31) John Carter unopposed (R+14)

Considering that all the seats have a double digit advantage in PVI, you know there’s not much to be worried about. A few key races: Hall is 85 years old in the 4th district, which is really the only reason you might worry that he won’t make it. In the 10th, McCaul has not been winning by much recently (54-43 in 2008), but this race is a rematch of 2006 where he won by 15 points in a worse year for Reps. Pete Olsen’s a freshman in the 22nd, but he lucked out when the LaRouche advocate Kesha Rogers won her primary. She’ll get no support from the establishment, although maybe running on an “Impeach Obama” platform will help her… And while this is Ron Paul’s first election after gaining national attention and thus may get more skepticism, his opponent doesn’t seem like much. All told, none of the Dem opponents look like top tier candidates (none has raised more than $50k so far), so things should be safe all around.

Potentially competitive seats – 1
32) Pete Sessions vs Grier Raggio (R+8)
This appears to be the token race the Dems are interested in. In all fairness, they could have a decent shot if 2010 is similar to 2008. After all, the demographics are trending away from Republicans very quickly in this district, and it likely won’t be an R+8 seat much longer (if it still is). Raggio is a serious candidate, an attourney who has raised ~$150k so far, and has the backing of the Dem establishment. Sessions, meanwhile, won by 16 points last year to an underfunded and undercampaigned opponent. The Dems would dearly love to pick off the NRCC chair, but he has raised over $1 million, and he did win by 16 in a heavily Dem year. Frankly, I’m not worried.

Final Thoughts
Not much is happening in Texas this year. I think if the Republicans can take TX-17, we should all be happy. After all, it’s already a 20-12 advantage for Reps in a state with a few large cities and a huge Hispanic population. Needless to say, being far far away from the border (well, the Mexican border, that is), it’s hard for me to get a feel for how the immigration debate will affect the results. But I see no reason to disagree with the experts who see Texas as not changing too many incumbents.

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