Could Houston's Present Be Texas's Future

Cross posted at www.BurntOrangeReport.comand

Not often you watch a Saturday, off-cycle runoff with anticipation.  This past weekend, Texas bloggers watched intently as the Houston City Council At-Large results came in.

Houston Mayor Bill White has been long rumored to be eyeing a statewide race in 2010, and growing the Democratic base and brand in his own backyard is an important part of preparing for such a run.

Clearly Melissa Noriega, State Rep. and decorated war hero Rick Noriega's wife, was interested in her own race against Republican Roy Morales.  Would she be able to win a race so few thought she should run in? A loss surely ended any speculation that her husband could run for statewide office, while a victory would fuel the speculation.

As Saturday's numbers rolled in (slowly but surely) Noriega won handily.  She beat Morales by over 11 points and now all eyes turned toward the future. Harris County is home to 1,782,013 voters spread throughout 875 precincts. Texas only has 12,357,887 registered voters in 254 counties or 8,306 precincts.  What happens in Houston is a gage of 14% of the Texas electorate.

During the last presidential election an impressive 1,067,968 people voted in Harris County -- 55% turnout of registered voters at the time.

Not only does extending our bench to 8 out of 14 city council members in Houston matter, but Melissa Noriega winning a citywide election in such a crucial state will possibly influence both the primary and general election for another Noriega.

The news gets better in Houston. Houston City Council is now at 8 to 6 majority for Democrats, but if you include influential and ambitious Mayor Bill White and Controller Annise Parker, that means Democrats hold 10 of 16 regionally and citywide elected officials.

Now that we are done with the city elections, we are staring directly at 2008, and Houston has changed the picture.

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TX-Sen: Watts matches Cornyn Dollar for Dollar

(Cross-posted from The Texas Blue)

Mikal Watts got things off to a rousing start by matching Cornyn's first quarter money totals dollar for dollar, to the tune of $3.8 million. The Chron has it that Watts wants to start off with a level playing field, which he and Cornyn now have.

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Wham, Bam, Thank You, TX-22

Promoted because Sunday evenings are too quiet around here. Texas Nate
As Rep Nick Lampson continues recovering from his heart surgery, he's making plans for his political future that seem likely to leave a lot of his supporters in the district very unhappy.

The Battle for TX-22 was a hard fought one in 2006. Replacing a wounded Delay (who left the race after the primary in vain hope of allowing the RPT to name a successor) took the combined efforts of a determined candidate, the DCCC and other established Dem powers, and bloggers and other activists sowing blue seeds in a determinedly red district.

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Red State Recruitment: Senate Dems Look to Texas, Oklahoma

I noted yesterday that Republicans were having difficulty recruiting candidates even in some districts and states in which they would be expected to at least be competitive and potentially even win. But what of the Democrats? Reports this morning out of two fairly red states indicate that Democratic recruitment efforts are moving forward at full bore even in areas in which Democrats have had difficulty winning in recent years.

First, out of Texas Michelle Mittelstadt reports for the Houston Chronicle that one able fundraising member of the Texas Democratic congressional delegation is looking towards a possible challenge to the surprisingly vulnerable John Cornyn, the state's freshman Republican Senator.

It may be up or out as Congressman Nick Lampson ponders his political future.

The Stafford Democrat is giving serious consideration to entering the U.S. Senate race against Republican incumbent John Cornyn, well-connected Democrats in Texas and Washington say.

Lampson's jaunt last weekend to San Antonio to mingle with donors at a fundraiser for the national Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee hasn't done anything to discourage the speculation -- particularly since he underwent major heart surgery less than a month before and has yet to resume a full work schedule.


The calculus is fairly simple, several Democratic strategists say: Lampson faces a battle to hold on to his House seat, and, since he'll have to raise millions of dollars anyway, he might as well go for the brass ring.

Any Democratic challenge to Cornyn will cost serious money, and although Lampson only has about $260,000 on hand at the moment, he has proved to be quite the proficient fundraiser in years past, for instance raising a staggering $3.7 million for his race for Congress last cycle. Yet despite the fact that Cornyn would no doubt be able to raise serious dollars towards a reelection bid and Texas has tended to support Republicans in statewide elections in recent years (the last Democrat to win a Senate race in the state was Lloyd Bentsen in 1988), there is reason to believe that a Democrat, perhaps Lampson and perhaps someone else, could at the least give a scare to the Republicans. As of this month, Cornyn's approval rating stands at a weak 43 percent, with 40 percent disapproving, according to SurveyUSA.

Texas is not the only red state in which the Democrats appear to be getting closer to finding a Senate candidate. The Tulsa World has the story.

State Sen. Andrew Rice said he is considering a run against U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe.

Rice, an Oklahoma City Democrat who is in his first term in the state Senate, said he met at a function in Dallas last week with U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer, D-New York, chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.

He said he told Schumer he was considering a run against the veteran Republican incumbent.

"I said I was open to it," Rice said, adding that the two discussed polling that has been done.

Rice, 34, said he has not made a decision but is flattered by the interest that is being shown in his possible candidacy.

There hasn't been a terribily large deal of public polling on Inhofe in recent months, but the existing polling does not inspire much confidence in the Republicans' popularity. A SurveyUSA poll from back in November found just 46 percent of Oklahomans approving of Inhofe and 41 percent disapproving.

The potential interest of Rice and Lampson in Senate races in Oklahoma and Texas, respectively, is not necessarily a sign that Democrats are going to pick up seats in these states. However, they are reflective of the general optimisim of Democrats this cycle -- an optimism that might prove self-fulfilling as more good candidates opt to run, more donors opt to make contributions and more volunteers opt to give their time to help elect Democrats, whether to the presidency or a county commission.

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Sen. Cornyn's Reelect Numbers Fall Below 50 Percent in Texas

In recent weeks and months, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee hasn't only been polling in the states where it is obvious that a strong Democratic challenger might be able to upset a Republican incumbent. Apparently, they have also been in the field in other states, including Texas.

Key Findings

1. George W Bush has a negative job rating in Texas (47% positive - 51% negative) and the voters are nearly evenly split on whether their family would be better off with a Democrat or Republican majority in the US Senate (41% Democrats - 43% Republicans).

2. A strong plurality of voters in Texas believe the country is headed in the wrong direction (34% right direction - 49% wrong direction). President Bush's job rating on handling Iraq is even more negative (41% positive - 58% negative).

3. Republican John Cornyn has lower than expected name recognition for an incumbent US Senator, with 39% of the electorate unable to rate Cornyn either favorably or unfavorably. Overall he is 41% favorable - 19% unfavorable.

4. Senator Cornyn's generic reelect versus a Democrat is under 50% (47% Republican John Cornyn - 38% Democratic candidate; 15% undecided).


1 The following memo is based on a survey of 800 registered likely voters in Texas. Hamilton Beattie & Staff conducted telephone interviewing April 11-15, 2007. The margin of error for the statewide sample is ± 3.5 percentage points, at the 95% confidence level.

The point of posting this poll is not to indicate that I believe that Texas will necessarily be on the board in the race for the Senate but rather that the Democrats at least have the opportunity to put the Republicans on the defensive in yet another state this year -- a fact that could be bad news for the Republicans, both because they have not shown an ability to match Chuck Schumer's fundraising prowess at the DSCC and because they are defending 75 percent more seats in 2008 than are the Democrats.

Clearly, the Democrats need to find a suitable candidate for the race in Texas -- a race that, as mentioned above, might not even turn out competitive but could and likely would, at the very least, put the GOP on its heels. Markos seems to like a state Rep. named Rick Noriega, whose name has been forwarded by 2004 Tom DeLay challenger and Netroots hero Richard Morrison. Other names currently being bandied about include the former state comptroller John Sharp, Houston Mayor Bill White and former Congressman Jim Turner.

Regardless of who ends up getting into the race and whom the Democrats eventually nominate, this polling does at least hold out the hope that this could be a competitive race. And as we've seen any number of times in recent cycles, whether it was in Virginia in 2006 or Kentucky in 2004, strange things can happen in senatorial contests that can blow wide open races previously viewed as cakewalks.

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