While it looks difficult for Democrats to retake the Texas House of Representatives, the March 7 primary offers Democrats some hope for a shift in the battlefield in their favor. Republicans have been going crazy with primary challenges against their own incumbents, as folks like Dr. Leininger on the one hand, and the Texas Parent PAC on the other, try and pull Republicans like taffy on education
. Charles Soechting of the Texas Democratic Party has gone so far as to describe Texas Republicans as experiencing a "rift
Primaries in general sometimes help and sometimes hurt the incumbent party. It largely depends whether they are cordial and increase positive media coverage of all the candidates, or are brutal and negative, and make everyone involved look slimy. But when a primary challenger unseats a longstanding incumbent, the opposing party is often given an opportunity for a pickup, assuming they have a candidate in place.
Here's a rundown of what's going on.Categories
1. Safe Challenges: An incumbent being challenged in the primary, but not the general election.Safe Challenges
2. Bipartisan Primaries: Both parties have multiple candidates.
3. In-Party Unity, Out-Party Primary: The party out of power has a primary before getting to take on a unified incumbent party.
4. Out-Party Unity, In-Party Primary: The party holding an open seat has a primary. The other party does not.
5. Incumbents Facing Primary, Out-Party Unity: An incumbent is facing a primary challenge and a general election challenge. In my opinion, these are the seats to watch.
These Republican incumbents are being challenged in the March 7 primary, and they have no Democratic opposition. These are, in a sense, "safe" primary challenges for Republicans to endure. The one that should really make Democrats smack their forheads is HD-009: Roy Blake, Jr. He's the only Republican on this list from a blue district (using, as usual, the 2002 Sharp/Dewhurst numbers from Quorum Report
). Why exactly couldn't Democrats run someone there?
HD-006 Berman 64/36
HD-009 Blake 48/52
HD-026 Howard 65/35
HD-072 Campbell 56/44
HD-073 Casteel 71.5/28.5
HD-087 Swinford 63/37
HD-098 Truitt 72/28
HD-101 Reyna 56.5/43.5
HD-112 Hill 63.5/36.5
These Democratic incumbents being challenged in the primary, with no Republican opposition. They are, in a sense, "safe" primary challenges for Democrats to endure. Republicans sure picked some blue districts to give up on.
HD-042 Raymond 17/83 Bipartisan Primaries
HD-043 Escobar 36/64
HD-109 Giddings 27/73
HD-110 Jones 15/85
HD-140 Bailey 33.5/66.5
HD-146 Edwards 27/73
HD-147 Coleman 18/82
Occasionally, both parties have multi-candidate primaries. In those cases, neither party loses out having a primary in and of itself because both are doing it. Now if one party's primary is nastier than the other, that might have an effect... There is one Democratic-held seat where both parties have a primary.
HD-118 open (Uresti) 43/57 **
And two Republican seats where both parties have a primary.
HD-047 open (Keel) 48/52In-Party Unity, Out-Party Primary
HD-054 open (Hupp) 56/44
There are 5 Democratic-held seats where there are multiple Republicans competing in primaries for the chance to take on a single running Democrat. You can generally see why so many Republicans would be interested. Except for Hernandez's district, these are all very competetive districts.
HD-011 Hopson 52.5/47.5
HD-017 Cook 50/50
HD-050 Strama 48/52
HD-085 open (Laney) 52.5/47.5
HD-143 Hernandez 30/70
There are only 2 Republican-held seats where Democrats face primaries to face Republicans who have sewed up their nomination:
HD-107 Keffer 56/44Out-Party Unity, In-Party Primary
HD-108 Branch 56/44
There's one case where there's a Democratic primary for a Democratic-held open seat, but the Republican running has successfully avoided a primary.
HD-038 open (Solis) 36.5/63.5
However, there are 7 districts where there are Republican primaries for Republican-held open seats, but the Democrat running has successfully avoided a primary. I suspect in an environment like this it will end up helping the Democrats to be unified, but that's really just a guess.
HD-016 open (Hope) 73/27Incumbents Facing Primary, Out-Party Unity
HD-028 open (Hegar) 59/41
HD-071 open (Hunter) 61/39
HD-091 open (Griggs) 63/37
HD-106 open (Allen) 55/45
HD-126 open (Hamric) 60/40
HD-133 open (Nixon) 60/40
Looking only at the races I've touched on up until this point, it's wouldn't be entirely clear which party should benefit more from the primary situation. But these last few races, I think, paint a picture showing that Democrats will be helped more this year.
If these Republican incumbents win their primaries, their seats are probably safe (i.e. "Solid Republican"), except Phillips, who I have currently ranked as "Likely Republican". But if they lose, Democrats would suddenly have an opportunity for a pickup. The ranking listed is the vulnerability ranking for the seat should the incumbent lose in the primary.
HD-002 Flynn 61/39 Likely Republican
HD-004 Brown 58/42 Leans Republican
HD-007 Merritt 62/38 Likely Republican
HD-010 Pitts 64/36 Likely Republican
HD-052 Krusee 54/46 Tossup
HD-062 Phillips 58/42 Leans Republican
HD-078 Haggerty 55/45 Tossup
HD-083 Jones 66/34 Solid Republican
HD-094 Grusendorf 62/38 Likely Republican
HD-097 Mowery 58/42 Leans Republican
HD-099 Geren 61/39 Likely Republican
HD-127 Crabb 70/30 Solid Republican
And there are only 3 Democratic incumbents who have primary competitors who have filed, but a lone Republican opponent for November. The most competetive here would be if Donna Howard lost the primary (say, to Andy Brown).
HD-027 Olivo 39/61 Likely Democratic
HD-048 Howard 46/54*** Tossup
HD-075 Quintanilla 36/64 Likely Democratic
So, I've come around the long way to point out the numbers that I think matters here: 10 to 3. There are 10 Republican incumbents (not counting Jones and Crabb here) who could theoretically lose in the primary, thereby increasing the vulnerability of their district. There are only 3 Democrats who could do the same. It should be interesting to see what happens in the primaries March 7. Maybe no incumbents will be defeated. Or maybe only Democrats. I don't quite know how to handicap those primary races, but I do think I have a good idea what could happen if the incumbents lose.
** Yes, HD-118
open, which I mistakenly forgot to include as a "Leans Democratic" district in my State House Rankings. Dadnabit. I'll get it next time.
*** Or maybe Howard doesn't belong on this list... I wonder if Andy Brown and Kathy Rider will line up behind Donna Howard now for November... Anyone heard anything?
Note: I'm tired. I hope I didn't mess up any of the numbers here, but after the day I've had today, I wouldn't be surprised. Let's just say I'm a little loopy right now. Let me know in comments if you guys see something amiss.