After the Election, Our Status Remains Quo

Travis County Democratic Party volunteer Dan Isaac Yahiel calls potential voters from the local party headquarters on Tuesday Nov. 6, 2012 in Austin, Texas.
Travis County Democratic Party volunteer Dan Isaac Yahiel calls potential voters from the local party headquarters on Tuesday Nov. 6, 2012 in Austin, Texas.

The big change from the 2012 general election will be right up there on the voter board in the Texas House, which will have 43 names on it that weren’t there last time.

The 2010 election — that was a big deal, remember? — put 35 new names on the board. Eleven of them aren’t coming back for the ordinary reasons of quitting, climbing and failing. That leaves 24 from that class.

That’s 67 freshmen and sophomores on the House side. The Senate has, or will have, six new members.

Most of the new senators have served in the House, so they’re already broken in. The one fresh face, so far, is that of Dr. Donna Campbell, R-New Braunfels.

The late Mario Gallegos, D-Houston, won another term, setting up a yet to be called special election that will likely feature former Harris County Commissioner Sylvia Garcia and current state Rep. Carol Alvarado. It’s a strongly Democratic district.

The Senate came into the election with 19 Republicans and 12 Democrats and will come out, after the Gallegos replacement race is over, with that same configuration. The House went in 102-48 and came out 95-55, confirming Republican warnings that even with Democrats shut out of redistricting, they couldn’t draw 102 safe districts.

Texas is sending eight new people to Congress, four in open seats, two replacing retiring members and two challengers who won. That group includes five Democrats and three Republicans.

That's a lot of new people, but the partisan lines didn't move much.

Wendy Davis’ reelection left a list of wounded, starting with Mark Shelton, the Republican who forfeited a safe House seat to challenge the one-term Democrat. That list includes Bryan Eppstein, the consultant who led the effort, Texans for Lawsuit Reform, the conservative PAC that put the race at the top of the list before redistricting maps were even drawn. Lots of head-scratching, finger-pointing and woulda-shoulda-coulda stuff going on there, but Davis was the superior candidate and was the only one in the race whose supporters weren’t trying to frag each other for the last four or five months.

If the Republicans do any alterations on the political map, that district — SD-10 — is a leading contender for change, depending on what the courts finally say about the maps the Legislature drew.

Remember those? The state is using maps drawn by federal judges while another set of federal judges decides whether the state’s own maps are legal. So far, that’s been a bumpy road, and continued court action remains ahead.

An interesting sidebar: The senators serve staggered four-year terms and all run at the same time only in redistricting years. When the voting is over, they usually draw straws to decide who is serving a two-year term and who got a four-year term. Now there’s some talk of skipping the straws until after the federal courts decide what’s what with the maps. If the courts finally approve the Senate’s own version of those maps, there could be 31 senators on the ballot again in 2014. (Two speculations for another time: Which senators got elected in this presidential year who might face perilously different electorates in a gubernatorial year? And who might be willing to run for statewide office in 2014 only if they’re not up for reelection and wouldn’t have to give up their spot to run?)

If you doubted the effectiveness of redistricting in protecting incumbents, consider this. There are 246 offices at the top of the ballot, including the statewide executive and judicial races, the congressional delegation and the state Legislature. Only 16 of the incumbents who ran for reelection got beat this year. November’s victims: U.S. Rep. Francisco “Quico” Canseco, R-San Antonio, and Republican state Reps. John Garza of San Antonio, Dee Margo of El Paso, and Connie Scott of Corpus Christi.

The election completed a two-cycle makeover of the Texas Railroad Commission, with both Barry Smitherman and Christi Craddick winning terms there and joining David Porter, who got on in 2010. Keeping score there? Midland 2, Houston 1.

Statewide Republicans did a little better in 2012 than in 2008, and not as well as they did in 2010. At the top, Mitt Romney got 57.2 percent; John McCain got 55.5 four years earlier. Barack Obama got 41.4 percent this time and 43.7 percent four years ago. In 2010, the high mark in a statewide race with both a Republican and a Democrat saw Attorney General Greg Abbott beating Barbara Ann Radnofsky 64.1 percent to 33.7 percent.

The end of the election was the starting gun for the legislative session and with it, the race for speaker of the House. Joe Straus seems confident enough about getting reelected, but a group of conservatives in his own party are trying to stir support for Rep. Bryan Hughes, R-Mineola, or for someone other than the incumbent. Hughes is circulating a letter that would give members with more seniority a greater hand in choosing their own committee assignments, allow bills that are stuck in committee to come to the floor if “broad majorities” are in favor, and speeding up the committee assignments, which some members complain take too long. And the day after the election, his allies put out a list of 100 conservative activists and leaders who endorse Hughes for speaker.

Saddle up. Members can start filing bills on Monday.

What's Next for the Contentious El Paso Delegation?


Maybe that should be the theme for next session’s “El Paso Day” at the state capitol, when lawmakers and lobbyists from the border region come together to showcase the swath of Texas they call home.

Two members of the five-person House delegation, Democratic Reps. Naomi Gonzalez and Marisa Marquez, lauded the experience of incumbent Dee Margo, a Republican, during his race against former lawmaker and Democrat Joe Moody. Moody beat Margo in 2008 only to lose to him two years later, a casualty of the GOP tsunami that took over Texas – and the rest of the country.

Marquez and Gonzalez said their “support” for Margo – they phrased it carefully and said it wasn’t an actual endorsement – stemmed from the fact that the delegation had become a cohesive unit after several sessions of infighting.

But Moody won the election, making HD-78 one of seven districts the outnumbered and outmatched Democrats gained in the Texas House. Marquez didn’t return calls seeking comment. Moody seemed ready to get back to work the day after the election. And he seemed ready to try and fend off inquiries about how everybody is getting along.

“To me it makes no difference,” Moody, 31, said. “Campaigning is one thing and working in the Legislature is another.”  

Moody said Gonzalez and Marquez have already been in touch, and the delegation is meeting soon to hammer out details about strategy leading up to January’s inauguration. He said the delegation was divided in 2008 and the group was able to work through it then, and he didn’t anticipate any lingering backlash.

Richard D. Pineda, an associate director of the Sam Donaldson Center for Communication Studies at UTEP, said the support heaped on Margo was part of a political chess match.

“The calculated risk is this: cast your support with a Republican that has good relationships with the party and good relationships with the speaker, and see that translate into support for better committee assignments or stronger consideration when it comes to the session,” he said. “If you back him and he loses, there is definitely some backlash.”

That backlash, however, may be minimal in Austin. 

“[There is] plenty of time to make up the difference and push for a session that benefits the community and take that in to a reelection,” in 2014, Pineda said.

How party leaders in El Paso feel, however, is another matter. El Paso County Democratic Party Chairman Rick Melendrez was not happy when news of the non-endorsements broke. “You don’t forget who brought you to the dance,” he said then.

Cornyn: Senate Losses Cause for Party to "Reflect"

U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas
U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas

He was tasked with electing Republicans to the U.S. Senate and securing a GOP majority. By Tuesday's night's measure, Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, failed as Chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee. 

"It’s clear that with our losses in the Presidential race, and a number of key Senate races, we have a period of reflection and recalibration ahead for the Republican Party," Cornyn said in an NRSC statement.

There are mixed opinions as to whether Democratic gains of four Republican seats will impact Cornyn's chances of becoming GOP Whip.

"I think if you had asked anyone in politics a year ago if the Democrats were not only not going to lose any seats, but gain seats, they would've said you've been drinking," said Paul Stekler, a professor at the University of Texas LBJ School of Public Affairs.

Stekler said a lot of factors were at play this election cycle, many outside of Cornyn's control — demographics, the strong campaign President Obama ran and Democratic 'Get Out the Vote' efforts — as well as some poor choices within the Republican Party. 

"I mean, what are you going to do with Todd Akin? What are you going to do with Richard Mourdock," Stekler said.

Both Akin, R-Missouri, and Mourdock, R-Indiana, made inflammatory comments about rape that had many party leaders calling for the men to walk away from their candidacies. Republicans had expected to easily beat incumbent Democrat Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri.

"They had a chance to really convince Akin to drop out. A couple Republicans did, but Cornyn didn't do enough. He's got to shoulder some of that blame," said Brian Smith, a professor of behavioral sciences at St. Edwards University. He said Republicans had the opportunity to take over the Senate in this election with expected wins in both Missouri and North Dakota.

Cornyn is currently running unopposed for GOP Whip. Tuesday's losses leave some question if another senator will now challenge him.

If Cornyn wins, he will help outline GOP priorities nationally, be in charge of making sure members support party leadership and are present to vote on key issues. 

With Democrats still in control in the Senate and in the White House, Cornyn is already sounding like a whip: "Solving these very serious problems will take real Presidential leadership.  This is something we unfortunately did not see in the President’s first term, but that all of us hope for in his second.”

Newsreel: The Election's Over — Now What?

The 2012 elections are in the bag. We look at wins, losses and where the Texas Legislature stands in the upcoming session.

Inside Intelligence: A Last Bit of Punditry....

Enough from the regular pundits blathering about the election; we asked our insiders to blather about it. We also wanted to know what they think Gov. Rick Perry will do (spoiler: only 12 percent think he won’t run for office again and 42 percent said he’ll run for another term and also for president again in 2016). More than half said this election rendered Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst weaker than he was; almost as many said he’s in about the same shape as before. And most said Speaker Joe Straus is about the same as before, although a third said he gained clout on Tuesday.

As always, we’ve attached a full set of the verbatim answers — worth reading for the punditry, in particular — and we’ve included a sampling below.

You're the pundit: What was your take on Tuesday's election results, both for Texas and for the country?

• "Redistricting determines 9 out of 10 races and further polarizes the public policy debate."

• "The Republicans nominated a candidate they did not fully embrace and the rest of the country could not embrace him either, even though the country is not completely happy with the President."

• "The republican primary cannot be won by anyone who can win the general election. THANKS TEA!"

• "There will be continued gridlock in Washington and lots of deer in the headlights in Austin."

• "John Cornyn has egg on his face; in an attempt to appease Tea Partiers and extreme conservative members of the GOP, the party lost a chance to win back the US Senate."

• "Texas is on the cusp of beginning the turn to purple. The base democratic vote increased in races where the democratic nominee had no money, no name ID and no qualifications for the office. GOP better do something to catch the Hispanic vote. Nationally, Congress and Obama MUST and will now work together for the grand bargain and it will happen, likely in 2014. There will be major tax and entitlement reform. Immigration reform will also be accomplished for the same reasons that the National GOP MUST grow its Hispanic support...immigration reform is the vehicle to do it. They cannot afford to be seen as opposing reasonable reform. But the biggest result is that the Obama win will cement another Democratic victory in 2016 as the business cycle primarily, and government action secondarily, will inexorably lead the country to bountiful times by 2016, and continued prosperity for the Democrats."

• "The Obama ground game, use of technology is the gold standard for GOTV. Romney couldn't buy it, and lost. P.S. The Bush take on the big tent and Hispanic support is the ONLY way Republicans regain footing as a national party. As for Texas, saddle up Ricky has a new pony!"

• "Obama didn’t win it Romney lost it. Bad for the country. More division and gridlock. Solid pro-business and low tax policies assure that Texas will continue to prosper while rest of the country slides into despair and default."

• "The country is safe! Texas is screwed!"

• "Texas has to find a way back to common sense, moderate governing. If Republicans can't figure out a way to do that and keep Goober on the front porch, Democrats will do it eventually."

• "Nationally, the President did exactly what he needed to do: remind those in swing states that the economy is getting better and connect to them in a way Romney couldn't. In Texas, the tea party folks benefited from a July primary and cruised to victory. Wendy Davis win is shocking in Tarrant County where the President lost 57-41 and Straight Ticket Republicans consisted of 38% of the total vote in the county."

• "Two words: Status Quo."

• "Same take for both: 'The slumbering Hispanic giant starts to awake.' And, I predict the next GOP presidential candidate's name ends in a vowel."

• "Another marker in the relentless move toward a conservative white minority"


What do the results mean for Gov. Rick Perry?

• "If you believe the not so hushed rumors, it will be Perry for Governor in 2014 and Perry for President in 2016."

• "He will continue to listen to those folks who tell him 'you were the best guy - see? That is why the republicans lost - they did not pick you'."

• "He's too damaged at this point, and those below him on the food chain are getting too restless."

• "He won't stop until the money dries up."

• "One would have to think that this election at least (in his mind) keeps him in play for the GOP nomination in four years. My best guess would be that he would think that just to maximize his options he needs the springboard of the governorship of Texas to take advantage of the situation IF the cards fall right for a candidacy in 2016."

• "He should not run for president - the damage was too severe and the bench is far too deep (Jeb, Rubio, Ryan, Christie, Jindal)."

• "The Governor will make noises about a 2014 gubernatorial run, but this will be his last term as he elects to focus solely on a 2016 presidential run."

• "The door is now open for Perry to run for President again (and get beat again). Running for governor is logical, since the office brings prestige, an overly large security detail, and state government financing for logistics."

• "He can't help himself and we will all have to throw good money after bad again."

• "Were he to run for re-election, someone would tear him up in the primary over having 'retired' while still living on state money, housing, travel, etc. After that, a Democrat could/would beat him in November. Not worth the risk to his legacy or to the re-building of the party."

• "The question is how he runs. United that can bring Hispanics into the party? Or the 'hard ass' Republican that Lindsey Graham lamented this week?"


What do the 2012 election results mean for Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst's clout in the Senate?

• "He is always teetering on the brink of losing some of his power and his lousy Senate campaign won't help."

• "2/3rd Rule remains and that keeps power with the Gavel."

• "He's unhappy. This emperor isn't wearing any clothes."

• "Unless the moderate Republicans come to their senses, he will be weaker"

• "Introducing Majority Leader Patrick and Minority Leader Watson."

• "Showing up to a Cruz election night party is clear resignation. Pathetic."

• "He controls which bills come to the floor and that is major clout."

• "He's weak, but not because of the elections. He just lacks vision and direction."


What do the election results mean for Speaker Joe Straus' clout in the House?

• "Straus is back- he has the votes!!"

• "Having a super majority was not good...Straus can be stronger with 95 R's"

• "He'll return the Republican Party to its historical roots."

• "Probably needs to hold off on placing the new order of business cards that say 'Speaker.' They will be coming after him harder than ever."

• "Hard to actually get much stronger than he already is. No real loss of power. He's still firmly in control."

• "Straus could bear the brunt of conservative frustration, but the outcome will likely be the same. He should win another term."

• "I could make the case he's stronger the smaller (slightly) his caucus is. Easier to manage, although none of the truly crazy crazies lost."

• "He'll win reelection in 2013, mainly because there is not a viable (non-trial lawyer) challenger."

Our thanks to this week's participants: Gene Acuna, Brandon Aghamalian, Jenny Aghamalian, Victor Alcorta, Clyde Alexander, George Allen, David Anthony, Jay Arnold, Louis Bacarisse, Charles Bailey, Tom Banning, Dave Beckwith, Rebecca Bernhardt, Allen Blakemore, Tom Blanton, Hugh Brady, Chris Britton, Thure Cannon, Snapper Carr, Corbin Casteel, Jim Chapman, William Chapman, Elna Christopher, James Clark, Beth Cubriel, Randy Cubriel, Denise Davis, Hector De Leon, June Deadrick, Tom Duffy, David Dunn, Richard Dyer, Jeff Eller, Jack Erskine, Jon Fisher, Norman Garza, Bruce Gibson, Stephanie Gibson, Kinnan Golemon, Daniel Gonzalez, John Greytok, Michael Grimes, Clint Hackney, Wayne Hamilton, Bill Hammond, Adam Haynes, John Heasley, Ken Hodges, Billy Howe, Shanna Igo, Deborah Ingersoll, Cal Jillson, Bill Jones, Mark Jones, Walt Jordan, Lisa Kaufman, Robert Kepple, Richard Khouri, Tom Kleinworth, Sandy Kress, Pete Laney, James LeBas, Luke Legate, Myra Leo, Ruben Longoria, Homero Lucero, Vilma Luna, Matt Mackowiak, Dan McClung, Parker McCollough, Mike McKinney, Robert Miller, Bee Moorhead, Mike Moses, Steve Murdock, Craig Murphy, Gardner Pate, Robert Peeler, Jerry Philips, Wayne Pierce, Richard Pineda, John Pitts, Allen Place, Royce Poinsett, Kraege Polan, Gary Polland, Jay Pritchard, Jay Propes, Bill Ratliff, Tim Reeves, Jason Sabo, Mark Sanders, Andy Sansom, Jim Sartwelle, Stan Schlueter, Bruce Scott, Robert Scott, Bradford Shields, Jason Skaggs, Ed Small, Martha Smiley, Larry Soward, Dennis Speight, Jeri Stone, Bob Strauser, Colin Strother, Michael Quinn Sullivan, Sherry Sylvester, Jay Thompson, Russ Tidwell, Trey Trainor, Ware Wendell, Ken Whalen, Darren Whitehurst, Woody Widrow, Seth Winick, Alex Winslow, Angelo Zottarelli.

The Calendar

Monday, Nov. 12:

  • Joint Human Trafficking Committee hearing (10 a.m.)
  • Fundraiser for Rep. Elliott Naishtat; Nuevo Leon, Austin (5-7:30 p.m.)

Thursday, Nov. 15:

  • 11th Annual Legacy Luncheon Honoring Ben Barnes; Four Seasons Hotel, Austin (11:30 am.-1 p.m.)

The Week in the Rearview Mirror

An ongoing dispute about the Texas Open Meetings Act and its legal consequences is headed to the U.S. Supreme Court. The group contesting the law contends that it’s outdated in the modern age of social media and emails and that officials can easily break the law inadvertently. But Attorney General Greg Abbott’s office defended the statute, stressing his office’s commitment to transparency in government. The case has been around since 2009, and the law was recently upheld by a three-judge panel of the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals. The group is sidestepping an appeal to the entire circuit court and electing to take the case directly to the Supreme Court.

Attorney General Greg Abbott’s office released an opinion this week on whether to allow employees to store concealed handguns in their locked cars at work. Sen. Bob Deuell, R-Greenville, had asked the AG’s office for clarification on the matter, following the passage of a law in the 2011 session allowing holders of concealed handgun licenses to bring their guns to work, even when their employers prohibited it, as long as they were stored in their locked cars. Abbott confirmed that employers must allow the practice and that there’s nothing in the statute that runs counter to state laws.

After widespread problems getting its voting machines up and running on Election Day, Galveston County officials asked a judge to order that polls remain open late. District Judge John Ellisor agreed to let the polls stay open until 8:54 p.m. to compensate for the late start faced by voters at all 45 polling places in the county.

Voters not only had to choose between candidates on the ballot, but also to give a thumbs up or down to local propositions and initiatives. Austin voters approved a controversial measure that raises property taxes to provide for regional health initiatives, including the building of a medical school affiliated with the University of Texas. El Paso voters were asked to approve a hotel tax that would fund a new baseball field downtown on the site of the current City Hall. In San Antonio, Mayor Julián Castro led the fight for approval of a sales tax increase to fund a full-day pre-kindergarten program, which cruised to victory. And Houston and Dallas had bond packages on the ballot for improvements to public facilities. Both cities approved the billions of dollars in funding for the projects.

Former prosecutor and Williamson County State District Judge Ken Anderson responded to ethics violations charges filed against him by the State Bar. He faces charges that he withheld evidence and made false statements to a court in the Michael Morton case. Morton’s conviction was nullified last year when DNA evidence proved that he was innocent. But Anderson’s attorneys allege that the disciplinary case cannot move forward because of the statute of limitations, which limits action against an attorney to conduct that took place within four years of being brought to the attention of the disciplinary committee.

Early voting totals varied statewide, but overall the state saw a drop in the percentage of people who cast their votes before Election Day. Early voting in 2008 clocked in at 42 percent, while this year officials reported a 39.3 percent turnout. Districts with contentious races tended to have larger early turnouts, but top-of-the-ticket races weren’t expected to draw voters in droves. The presidential and senate races were widely expected to go to Republicans, tending to depress turnout. The 2012 total still beats the 2004 percentage of 29.6 percent.

Protesters returned to the scene of a fatal shooting near the border town of La Joya, where last month a police officer opened fire on a pickup truck. The truck was fleeing from police who assumed the cargo in the back of the truck was illegal drugs. A police helicopter joined in, and the officer fired shots that killed two men. It was then discovered that the cargo in the truck was a group of illegal immigrants from Guatemala being smuggled across the border. Police claim the sharpshooter was attempting to stop the vehicle by shooting out the tires, but protesters object to law enforcement opening fire on the truck when it appeared to be unarmed. The publicity drew the attention of two state representatives from the area who’ve called for a review of the policy allowing officers to shoot at vehicles.

Political People and their Moves

George P. Bush filed papers with the Texas Ethics Commission, naming a campaign treasurer but not designating what office he might run for. He's living in Fort Worth now and the treasurer's name is locally prominent: Mrs. Kit Moncrief

Mary McClure, a longtime Collin County resident and political leader, will serve as chief of staff to Rep.-elect Jeff Leach.


Darrell K. Royal, the beloved former football coach at the University of Texas-Austin. He was 88... 

William Kilgarlin, former Texas Supreme Court Justice, state district judge, state representative, Harris County Democratic Party chairman. He was 79.


Quotes of the Week

Looks like everything was done according to DPS policy. It's unfortunate some people died, but I guess the lesson is: Don't be running from the law.

Rep. Sid Miller, R-Stephenville, quoted by the Associated Press after a DPS sniper fired on a pickup truck from a helicopter and killed two Guatemalan immigrants

It’s clear that with our losses in the Presidential race, and a number of key Senate races, we have a period of reflection and recalibration ahead for the Republican Party. While some will want to blame one wing of the party over the other, the reality is candidates from all corners of our GOP lost tonight.

U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, in a statement on Republicans' losses on Tuesday

This election proved that trying to expand a shrinking base ain’t gonna cut it. It’s time to put some compassion back in conservatism. The party needs more tolerance, more diversity and a deeper appreciation for the concerns of the middle class. 

Political strategist Mark McKinnon to The New York Times

I think we said the door was going to be left open, but there is a lot of work that has to be done. 2016 is multiple lifetimes away. 

Gov. Rick Perry speaking to a group of reporters at the Capitol

I think we can have immigration reform. Some policies we’ve advocated with, for instance, is doing away with the lottery and increasing the cap on high-skilled worker visas. 

U.S. Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Austin, on the prospects of Congress taking up comprehensive immigration reform next year

This may be the last election that we see two white men run against each other for president.

Matthew Dowd during ABC's election night coverage, apparently forgetting some key details