I took a good look at the vote tallies for the House of Representatives today. Here are some facts, followed by what I'll call, for lack of a better term, inferences based on the figures. Most of the figures were culled from Real Clear Politics, although RCP did not have any counts for Mississippi, so I checked Politico.
NOTE: None of the vote tallies are entirely official yet. Small numbers of precincts are still unreported in some states, and at this moment Washington State still has a significant chunk unreported in some districts.
- In US House races, Texas votes went 57.10% Republican, 37.13% Democratic, 4.23% Libertarian, and 1.54% Green. The state's House delegation, however, will remain 25-11 Republican, or about 69%.
- The nationwide tally was closer: 49.76% R, 47.30% D, 1.42% L, 0.39% G. Republicans will have an approximately 54-55% majority in the House, depending on four races still not officially called.
- Libertarians ran in 118 of the 435 races; Greens ran in 52. Independents and candidates from other parties ran in 86 races.
- Nationwide, 29 House members—15 Republican and 14 Democratic—ran completely unopposed in the general election. That's 6.67% of all races.
- Only one House member in Texas ran with no opposition: Kevin Brady in District 8. However, 10 of our 36 districts are safe enough that one major party or the other did not contest them. Thus, the only opposition came from Libertarians or Greens (or both).
- Nationwide, the highest US House vote total for a contested race was in Montana's at-large district, with 498,179 votes cast.
- In Texas, District 21 had the highest vote total, with 354,994. District 21, which went Republican, runs from South Austin southward along I-35, bypassing most of San Marcos, and then westward to encompass Fredericksburg and Kerrville.
- In Texas, District 33 had the lowest vote total, with 126,070. District 33, which went Democratic, covers urban areas of Dallas and Fort Worth.
- The top vote totals were mostly in heavily suburban districts such as 2, 3, 12, 22, and 26. The bottom of the bunch consisted of heavily urban areas and the Rio Grande Valley—e.g., 9, 15, 18, 29, and 34.
- In contested districts, the average vote total nationwide was about 282,000. The average for Texas was about 235,000.
- California's average vote tally was even worse, about 185,000, exacerbated by that state's abhorrent Top Two system. (Washington State operates that way as well.)
- By design, a huge majority of Congressional seats are in safe districts. In larger states with partisan gerrymandering, the party in power creates safe seats for both parties, but the minority party's seats are generally safer, even when both major parties run candidates. Sheila Jackson Lee in District 18 typically gets 70-80% of the vote against a Republican opponent. That's not to say that there aren't ridiculously safe Republican districts in Texas, such as 1 in the Piney Woods and 13 in the Panhandle region.
- Because of the drawing of safe districts, a minor party has a minuscule chance of winning a race for US House. Even the lesser of the two major parties has a slim chance unless something really weird happens.
- Unless a minor party runs an extraordinarily popular candidate, it is even unlikely that minor-party candidates will poll more than the margin of victory between the major-party candidates. In the 2016 election, there were three cases of Libertarians getting more votes than that margin: Nebraska's 2nd, New Hampshire's 1st, and the ultra-close race in Texas's 23rd, where Will Hurd (109,816) squeaked past Pete Gallego (106,049) and Libertarian Ruben Corvalan (10,717). It almost happened in Nevada's 4th District as well.
It would be tempting to conclude, because of safe seats, that Greens should not run for US House unless they can field excellent candidates. These aren't even statewide offices, so they cannot help a party obtain access to the ballot.
Not so fast.
First, it's important to provide alternatives when a major party doesn't show up, as Hal Ridley did in TX-36, taking 11% of the vote. Gary Stuard in TX-32 received nearly 10% against a Republican incumbent and a Libertarian opponent. Even in TX-15, where both major parties ran, Vanessa Tijerina did not crack double digits, but her campaigning gave voters from San Antonio to McAllen hope of escape from the Democratic machine's pro-corporate chicanery.
Second, in districts with chronically low turnout, a Green has a better chance of winning a respectable percentage. Tijerina campaigned actively and took just over 3%. James Partsch-Galvan in District 29 barely campaigned at all and took just over 1%. Geographically compact districts like TX-29 make this easier; TX-15 is a narrow strip almost 250 miles (400 km) long.
My recommendation for the Texas Greens in 2018 would be to cultivate strong candidates in targeted districts, preferably in urban and suburban areas, for US House seats. If Tijerina decides to give her not-so-compact district another try, her experience will come in handy.