UPDATE: Here are links to Part II and Part III of this series.
As of this afternoon, the buzz has subsided a bit. Now comes the sober task of processing it all. It will take a few entries and at least a couple of days to put it all together, because beyond the confines of this blogspace I actually have a life.
Herewith, we present the first of these entries, examining statewide races and the composition of the next Texas Legislature. We will focus on Harris County and some results for progressive candidates and issues in other states in subsequent posts.
Before I dive in too deeply, I offer these two disclaimers:
- Regardless of how my readers may have interpreted recent posts, I don't reflexively hate Democrats! In fact, Election Night usually brings out of hiding the Democrat I used to be: cheering as despised Republicans are turned out (Scott Walker in Wisconsin), moaning when Democrats fall just short (Bill Nelson and Andrew Gillum in Florida).
- In this post and those that follow, I am reporting the facts and figures as if the relevant vote-counting agencies actually counted the votes correctly. #FaithBasedVoting, y'all.
On the state and county level, however, if Greens can't get in the race and it has to be Democrats who liberate us from Republican rule, so be it. I not only accept that, I even support it. As a progressive comrade noted in a Facebook post I read today, voting for state and local Democrats is damage control.
Nor do I hate the Progressives and mainstream Democrats with whom I often debate in the social networking sphere. Many folks whom I consider friends take that view. They keep trying to impress upon me the unfortunate reality of the two-party system, concluding that we must hold our noses and vote for Democratic candidates rather than voting third-party, because the Republicans are lizard-people trying to turn America into a Soylent Green remake. I don't fault these friends for capitulating to fear and helping to perpetuate a sucky system, even while I wish more of them had the courage and insight to help destroy that unreformable system.
Perhaps the new, younger, more female, multi-demographic crowd of Democratic office holders will prove us pessimists wrong and reform at least their party by force of numbers and sheer stubbornness. Perhaps by 2020 I will detest the Democratic Party even less.
Texas Stays Red
I got yer Texas 2018 General Election results right here.
As early voting results trickled in Tuesday night, Texas Democrats were on track for a big celebration. After 3 million ballots had been counted, Democratic nominees led in the races for lieutenant governor, attorney general, and agriculture commissioner. The loathsome trio of Dan Patrick, Ken Paxton, and Sid Miller might have been sent packing. Alas, 'twas not to be: By 10 pm Central, the Elephants had all the statewide executive and judicial offices in the bag.
The race for governor was never even close: a 4-to-3 margin for incumbent Greg Abbott. It appears that about 400,000 Beto O'Rourke voters punched their tickets for Abbott rather than for challenger Lupe Valdez. At least Valdez grabbed one handful of O'Rourke's coattails and did not fail as miserably as Wendy Davis in 2014; nevertheless, the former Dallas County sheriff drew the lowest percentage of any statewide Democrat this November (42.45%).
Although we must abide the stench of Patrick, Paxton, and Miller for four more years (barring Paxton's looming impeachment for his dodgy securities trades), Democrats looking at the long haul have reasons to be cheerful. Let's whip out some numerical comparisons that I find meaningful.
Turnout: Statewide, says the Secretary of State's Office, about 52.70% of registered voters showed up. That's still not up to Healthy Democracy level—7.5 million registered Texas voters either sitting it out or prevented from exercising their franchise is worrisome—but it's a huge improvement over the 33.14% turnout in 2014. We had 8.3 million ballots cast this year, compared to 4.6 million four years ago and just under 9 million (59.39%) in the 2016 presidential election.
How about the turnout in some of traditionally low-turnout counties—in particular, the mostly LatinX metropolitan counties of South and West Texas? Do the numbers below herald the awakening of El Gigante Dormiente?
(BTW, in re the SA Current article linked above, Gina ex–Military Intelligence Ortiz-Jones lost her bid to unseat Beto's buddy Will ex-CIA Hurd by a mere 689 votes. That's close enough for a recount, but will she or won't she?)
Not Losing As Badly: The woeful Cleveland Browns of recent years have nothing on The Lone Stars. Texas Democrats' statewide losing streak has now expanded to 12 biennial elections. However, like this year's Browns, they can take a little hope from their opponents' shrinking victory margins.
Compared to their lackluster showings in 2010 and 2014, this year's crop of Donkey losers looks pretty good. Their polling ranged from Valdez's 42.45% to O'Rourke's 48.26%, with some others in the high 46's. Compare O'Rourke's margin of loss, about 223,000 votes, with David Alameel's in the 2014 Senate race (1.26 million) and Bill White's in the 2010 gubernatorial (630,000). In 2012, Paul Sadler the Unknown Democrat lost to newcomer Ted Cruz by about 1.2 million, or nearly 16 percentage points. (That was totally my fault, since I had the audacity to run as a Green and take 0.86% of the total.)
For all the talk about Texas being not so much a red state as a non-voting state, there remain enough...whatever the Republican equivalent of yellow-dog Democrats are to keep the state government solid red. Is the state on a trajectory to change that by 2022? What will happen between now and then to accelerate or thwart it? Stay tuned. You know I will.
The Lege: The Texas Tribune has your results. If my counting is correct, the 86th session of the Texas House will have 83 Republicans and 67 Democrats. That represents a flipping of 12 seats from Red to Blue. On the Senate side, Democrats knocked off two incumbents: Beverly Powell defeated Konni Burton in SD-10 (Fort Worth/Tarrant County), and Nathan Johnson handily defeated Don Huffines in SD-16 (North Dallas). Republicans will still have a 19-12 majority in the Senate, but no longer a super-majority; this development may knock Lt. Gov. Patrick's dictatorial arrogance down a few pegs, but I'm not holding my breath.
The Libertarian Factor
The Democratic Party left an opening in the race for Court of Criminal Appeals Place 8, and the Libertarian Party pounced on it. Mark Ash's vote total as of now is 1,607,588, or 25.29%. With only 5% needed in a statewide race to retain the party's ballot line, Ash & Team Porcupine crushed it. I salute them.
Beyond the numbers lie some perplexities for me, a longtime Green obsessed with ballot access in this quite inaccessible state.
- No other Libertarians cracked 5% in their three-way statewide races, with 3.41% their best showing (Ben Sanders, running for Comptroller). Mark Miller managed this feat in 2016 in a four-way race for a Railroad Commission seat.
- The undervote still beat out Ash in the CCA 8 race: 1,967,497 voters skipped it.
- About half a million more people voted for Republican Judge Michelle Slaughter than for Ted Cruz in the Senate race. A good percentage of those half-million are quite likely Democratic voters.
- Historically, in statewide contests between Republicans and Greens with no Democratic nominee, the Greens have only seldom pierced the 10% mark.
- Irritating inference: In Texas, the majority of Democratic voters would still rather vote Republican, vote Libertarian, undervote, or vote straight-ticket and neglect to check down the ballot than vote for a Green candidate. This has not changed much since 2000. It also belies all the talk about how similar the Green and Democratic programs/platforms supposedly are: You'd think that, in the absence of a Democratic nominee, Democrats would see the Green nominee as Plan B. Will this change when straight-ticket voting disappears in 2020? Crikey, I hope so.
To be continued, but probably not until tomorrow (8 November).