I'm about to do what I call Kuffnering—not the thing Chuck Kuffner does wherein 85% of his post is one gigantic blockquote from the Houston Chronicle or other such, but the thing wherein he tosses out a whole bunch of numbers and proceeds to draw some conclusions (or at least strong inferences) from them. I haven't given the blockquote thing a name yet.
This entry is light on links; go look up stuff for yourself.
Some of you who pay attention to electoral matters already know some of the facts I'm about to relate. But now that I've seen the numbers on US House elections in Texas and some other states, I'm mildly shocked.
To see the analysis of Texas's Congressional races, click the Read more link and scroll down past the California and North Carolina sections.
This morning, as I was looking over Politico's map of House district results nationwide, I saw that 44 of California's 53 seats in the 116th Congress will be occupied by Democrats. (We're not going to break that down into progressive vs. corporate Democrats. Not today.) Of the remaining seats, Republicans won eight; there is one as yet undetermined, with the two candidates less than half a percentage point apart and votes still trickling in.
In CA-39, held by retiring Republican Rep. Ed Royce, Democrat Gil Cisneros leads Republican Young Kim by fewer than 1,000 votes. Even if Kim overcomes that margin, Republicans will make up 17% of the state's House delegation. (UPDATE: Cisneros has been declared the winner as of 19 November.) I wondered if the discrepancy between California's aggregate Congressional vote and its representation was as stark as, say North Carolina's (more on which later), but favoring Democrats rather than Republicans.
The short answer is no. There is a noticeable discrepancy, but it's not the travesty found in North Carolina or some other southern states I could name. By Politico's current count, 70.76% of California's voters picked Democrats. This includes races in which the winners of the top-two primary in a particular district were both Democrats; there was just one race, CA-8, in which two Republicans emerged among the top two. Republican candidates received 27.96%; Greens and independents, 1.28% of the total statewide.
So round up the percentages to 71 and 28 respectively, and compare that with the 83-17 ratio of Congressional seats. Some Republicans may hyperventilate over that comparison, but it really isn't that huge a difference, and they probably wouldn't immediately start crying for a proportional representation amendment.
Here's the kicker, where California is concerned. In states that have engaged in partisan gerrymandering, to make the math work out, Republicans typically win somewhat narrowly in their districts, while Democrats run unopposed or against Republicans with no money or name recognition. If California had gerrymandered itself Blue, the reverse would hold true. But far more Democrats in two-party races stomped their Republican opponents than squeaked by. Republican winners mostly won by comfortable margins, but not huge ones.
It could be worse, Republicans: Consider New England. With yesterday's Ranked Choice Voting result from Maine's 2nd district, making Democrat Jared Golden the winner, the six New England states' delegations are now 21 out of 21 Democratic.
It's not as if New England is 0% Republican, or anywhere near it. Massachusetts elected a Republican governor by a 2-to-1 margin last week; Charlie Baker won every county in the Bay State. It's not even unusual in recent years for Republicans to win statewide races there, as with one-term wonder Sen. Scott Brown taking over the late Ted Kennedy's spot.
SIDENOTE: I knew that some California districts had flipped Blue last week, but didn't know how much of that took place in my childhood stomping grounds tha O.C.
North Carolina Keeps It 77%
No Congressional seats flipped parties in North Carolina this year. The Tarheel State will still send 10 Republicans and three Democrats to DC. Statewide, however, Congressional candidates took 50.45% of the vote, compared to 48.20% for Democrats. Six Libertarians, one Green, and one Constitutionalist lapped up the remaining 1.35%. (These figures come from WRAL, the NBC affiliate in Raleigh.)
A 50.45% statewide showing gets you 77% of the seats. Wow. And this includes unopposed Republican Walter Jones's 186,145 votes in NC-3. As in previous elections, where Democrats won (Districts 1, 4, and 12), they won bigly.
This outcome is typical of recent electoral cycles.In 2012, just after the 2010 redistricting, Democratic candidates won a slim majority of votes statewide (50.87%), but got only four of the 13 seats.
Texas: Purple Wave Is Real, Gerrymandering Backfires
Now we bring it all back home to Texas. The Secretary of State's current numbers show that, in this year of the Beto Blue Wave, only 50.44% of the Congressional vote went to Republicans. The rest of the score: Democrats 46.93%, Libertarians 2.23%, others 0.39%.
At first I thought that I had numbers showing the majority of House votes going to Democrats, a pretty stunning development in this rare-brisket-red state, but the formulas on my Excel sheet weren't quite right. Nonetheless, compare this year's totals with 2016, when Republicans took 57.19%, Democrats 37.23%, Libertarians 4.05%, and Greens 1.53% statewide. It didn't help the Dem cause that they sat out seven House races that year, and Republicans only two. If you count just the 29 races in which Democrats participated, their total climbs to 45.52%, a better showing than Hillary Clinton's 43.24%.
This year, to the Dems' benefit, the Texas GOP did not field candidates in four of the 36 districts, while Democrats filled every spot for the first time in some quite some years.
Don't even bother comparing this year with the previous midterm, 2014, when only a third of registered voters turned out. The elections in 2014 and 2018 differ substantially in character, and the Texas Democratic Party was still very much in the doldrums.
The post-2010 partisan gerrymandering in Texas is plenty blatant; the Supreme Court even said so. Just look at districts like TX-15 and TX-35 on a map. North Carolina has us soundly beat in that department, however (see above). Texas Republicans, with their just over 50 percent of the vote, will occupy at least 61% of the state's House delegation (64% if Will Hurd holds TX-23).
If late-arriving absentee ballots or a recount should push Gina Ortiz Jones over the top in TX-23, Democrats will make up 39% of the House delegation, a substantial improvement over the current over the current 31% (11 out of 36). The 47% vote for Democrats in House races statewide would truly mean something.
(UPDATE: As of 19 November, it appears that Ortiz Jones has opted not to seek a recount.)
The strategy of packing Blue districts and cracking Red ones comes with risk, and this year it backfired in Texas. Thanks to Beto O'Rourke's coattails and some demographic shifts, Democrats flipped two districts (TX-7 and 32) and possibly a third (TX-23). They also made some races closer than expected, such as in the 2nd and 6th districts where Ted Poe and Joe Barton, respectively, had hung up their spurs.
The flipping of TX-7, after 52 years in Republican hands, was bound to happen; it was just waiting for a stronger Democratic nominee than James Cargas and a charismatic ticket-topper like O'Rourke. Rep. John Culberson's reputation as the guy who blocked funding for MetroRail and not much else, deserved or not, finally caught up with him.
It's the story from TX-32 that I find more intriguing. Two years ago, no Democrat challenged Pete Sessions for his presumably safe seat. This year, former football pro Colin Allred pursued the Democratic nomination and then handily defeated the House Rules Committee chairperson.
The Dems must have seen the 2016 result and taken it as a sign: the nearly 30% of the district that voted for Not Pete Sessions in 2016—66,000-plus voted Libertarian or Green—plus a fairly substantial undervote due to straight-ticket voting and the lack of a Democratic nominee. (I have no source for the undervote total, and the SoS Office does not include those figures, but in Texas this is a no-brainer.)
That's it. I'm all out of words for today.
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