Sunday, March 11, 2018

#TXLege results and analysis from last Tuesday

This won't be as exhaustive a review of the Texas House and Senate as the Congressional profiles I completed last Friday.  (Sometimes I get the sense those posts are TL;DR for many of you, and wonder why I bother.  Then I remind myself that it's a resource for me.)  Once again, see the TexTrib's great summary of election results for each district.

A few links and excerpts:

-- The Texas Observer's Forrest "For the Trees" Wilder, helping me out with HDs 46, 37, 104, 116, 118, and SD 19, as they appear in order here.

—Dawnna Dukes, who has long represented a rapidly gentrifying East Austin district, managed just 10 percent tonight, handily losing to former City Council member Sheryl Cole and immigration attorney José “Chito” Vela. Cole and Vela now head to a runoff. Dukes has been in the local news for years for her chronic absenteeism at the Capitol, criminal indictments for abuse of office (she was later cleared of charges) and run-ins with standing desks.

René Oliveira is going to a runoff with Cameron County Commissioner Alex Dominguez. As Gus Bova recently reported, Oliveira’s two challengers hammered the 17-term incumbent for doing little to bring jobs and education to the Brownsville-area district.

—Roberto Alonzo, who’s held the Dallas seat since 1992, lost in a landslide to Jessica Gonzalez, a 37-year-old attorney. Alonzo was known as a perennial backbencher.

Trey Martinez Fischer narrowly bested Diana Arévalo in this San Antonio district. Arévalo had served just a single term before TMF, as he’s known, decided to make his path back to the Legislature, where he previously served for 16 years, right through Arévalo’s incumbency. TMF had tried to move up to the Senate but lost twice to José Menéndez. But TMF is a consummate brawler, an almost comically intense tactician at the Lege. Arévalo was simply a casualty of his need to get back in The Game.

—Tomas Uresti… we barely knew you. Uresti lost to the little-known Leo Pacheco. Though Uresti was known in the Lege as a bit of a dud, his biggest liability may be his name. The Uresti family is well-known in San Antonio, and while that used to be a good thing, it probably didn’t help Tomas’ career that his brother, Senator Carlos Uresti, was recently convicted of 11 felony fraud charges; is facing another criminal trial for bribery and conspiracy and money laundering related to a disastrously-run private prison for immigrants in West Texas; and has been accused by multiple women of sexual misconduct.

State Rep. Roland Gutierrez (HD 119) has announced his bid to challenge Sen. Uresti .... in 2020.  I believe the odds are short that Uresti will be outside the long arm of the law in order to defend the seat.  In the meantime, Rep. Gutierrez will return to the Texas House, having had no D primary challenger and with no R opponent in November.

-- Besides Vela (above), Gus Bova from the Observer relays that the Berniecrats, aka Democratic Socialists who won or made the runoff in their statehouse races include Fran Watson in SD17, Steven Kling in SD 25, Erin Zwiener in HD 45, and Andrew Morris in HD 47.

With respect to the Texas Republicans ...

-- They're going to keep dancing with the freaks that brung them.  Overreach in various ways by the MFIC is still obvious; let's note that Greg Abbott's gambit in the Texas House went 1 for 3, which he probably thinks is still good enough to get him into the Hall of Fame.  Scott Braddock at Quorum Report -- his personal blog has been added to the right hand column -- clarifies.  The subheadline (or maybe it's an excerpt from behind the subscriber paywall) is his point.

Speaker Straus set the stage for rational House Republicans to run the table; Governor Abbott’s losing two of the three races where he challenged House incumbents. If the House GOP bows down to Abbott & Patrick next session, it won't be because voters in their districts told them to.

To refresh: Abbott spent nearly a quarter of a million bucks trying to defeat three incumbents: Sarah Davis in HD-134 (West University, Bellaire, etc.) which he lost 44-56; Lyle Larson in Bexar County's HD-122, the governor beaten 40-60;  but helping Mayes Middleton knock off HD 23 incumbent Wayne Faircloth in Galveston County.  The TexTrib first pointed out last August that all three state reps had crossed swords with him over what they believed were severe ethical lapses on his part: appointing cronies to state boards after they gave bigly to his campaign coffers.

I think it's way too early to speculate about statehouse dynamics, especially since there's gonna be a new Speaker in town next January, but let's run with Braddock a bit farther here.

Four years ago, if you asked how to win a GOP primary in Texas, the answer would be for the candidate to try to get to the right of Sen. Ted Cruz.

Since then, Cruz did violence to his relevance by flaming out at the Republican National Convention when he refused to endorse the ticket, only to later completely crater with those who were still on his side by doing the one thing they respected him for not doing: Endorsing Donald J. Trump for the White House. Cruz has mostly regained his footing among Republicans, but some polling has shown his numbers remain weak among self-identified independents.

Tonight, Cruz lost a Texas House race in the Piney Woods after endorsing the challenger to Rep. Chris Paddie, R-Marshall. Paddie stomped his opponent 63 to 36 even with Cruz and the Wilks Brothers against him while Empower Texans blanketed his district with negative mail.

In 2018, Republicans are largely following the leader, but it ain’t Cruz.

That's all you get from Harvey Kronberg without paying.  Is this defeat really on Cruz, though?  Why didn't Abbott jump in roll in with his moneybags in HD-9 as with Davis, Larson, and Faircloth?  What are the differing tactics of Abbott versus Empower Texans from a progressive/liberal/establishment Democrat perspective beyond degree of right-wing freakishness?  And is this too 'inside baseball' for you?  Because it is for me, and I'm a baseball fanatic.

My main disagreement with Braddock's contention is that Cruz, as a federale, isn't as tainted by an Austin endorsement gone sour as are Abbott and his ilk, who tried very hard to muck up the Lege with more Freedumb Caucusers.  The MQS/Dunn/Wilks/EmpT thugs were mostly a fail against incumbents Tuesday night ...

Meanwhile, two vulnerable Republicans looked likely to survive tight challenges from the right in races that Abbott sat out.

State Rep. Charlie Geren, R-Fort Worth, fended off a repeat challenge from Bo French in perhaps the House’s ugliest primary race. In a repeat of a bitter 2016 primary, French challenged Geren from the right, hoping to unseat the nearly two-decade incumbent. French had the backing of conservative groups, including Empower Texans.

Weeks before Tuesday’s primary, Empower Texans sent out a mailer from the invented “Texas Ethics Disclosure Board” warning constituents that Geren is married to a lobbyist. French has also alleged that a political operative working for Geren asked Child Protective Services to investigate French’s family.

And Dan Flynn, R-Canton, beat challenger Bryan Slaton with a small margin — 52 percent to 48 percent. That race is a rematch of the 2016 primary when Slaton, a conservative challenger, lost by only about 600 votes of 30,000 cast. Flynn, who’s been in the House since 2003, hired a political consultant in the race for the first time.

But a third — Dallas Republican Jason Villalba — fell to challenger Lisa Luby Ryan, an interior designer who came at him on the right with the backing of Empower Texans.


Villalba, one of the most moderate Republicans left in the House, was one of the only members of his party who spoke out vocally against the “bathroom bill” raised last session that would have regulated the use of certain public facilities for transgender Texans. Luby Ryan raised more money than Villalba and picked up several key conservative endorsements.

... but they did hold their own crew's ground, managed well in open races, and are poised for runoff success.  Go on deeper in the weeds as far as you like (scroll down past the excerpt from above).  I'll be here when you get back.

Beyond these contests, I'll wait to post a more thorough analysis of the Lege and the potential forces at play for 2019 until after the May runoffs.

Still to come: Harris County results and thoughts.

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