Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Blue Revolution Continues in HD-97

I wasn’t watching this Texas HD-97 race very closely because of a bad past experience. It was literally an overlay to the special election for the HD-29 seat at exactly this time last year. My list of similarities:

1) HD-29 boundaries in Brazoria and Matagorda Counties are drawn to assure a Republican will be elected to the state house, as is HD-97’s in Tarrant County.

2) Dr. Anthony DiNovo was opposed by a gang of three Republicans all vying for the seat vacated by the passing of longtime State Rep. Glenda Dawson, just as Dan Barrett was opposed by six, count ‘em, six Republican opponents all vying for the seat of retired state Rep Anna Mowry.

3) Rick Perry waited for the last possible moment to call a special election in HD-29: it was held exactly one year ago today. In HD-97 the special election fell on the regular November 6 general election, but the runoff special election, set again by Rick Perry 7 days before Christmas, guaranteed a low turnout just as we saw in HD-29.

Dr. DiNovo came in 3rd place, missing the runoff by a mere 803 votes. Two Republicans vied for the seat in the runoff this past January.

That’s were the similarities end.

Paul Burka called it for the Republicans, saying that HD-97 was a solid Republican district where Dan Barrett was being outspent 3 to 1 by his Republican opponent and Tom Craddick devotee Mark Shelton.

So I didn’t really pay close attention to this race.

And that taught me something that Texas Democratic Party Chairman Boyd Richie wrote in his news release today:
“To all those critics who were counting Representative-elect Barrett out, it's time to pay attention to the surge in Democratic support all over Texas. Those safe Republican seats aren't quite as safe as one might think, and voters are sick of Republican arrogance and incompetence in Austin.”
Is it really going to be better than all expectations in 2008? Will I have to change the name of my website?

OK, devil’s advocate time.

Was this a fluke? Voter turnout in this runoff election was a dismal 10.75% with about 95,600 total registered voters in HD-97 and a total of 10,278 voters showing up at the polls. But that’s more than double the numbers that showed up for the special election in HD-29, and more than quadruple the numbers that showed up for the runoff.

Yes, there was definite interest in this election, despite the numbers. Interest generated by the fact that the Republican opponent was a Tom Craddick disciple, a fact, I am told, that was hammered home by the Barrett campaign.

And I really have to laugh off the unofficial Republican explanation for this seeming “fluke”. Republicans, they said, actually came out and voted for Barrett so that Shelton would not have the visibility that comes with being the incumbent when this whole thing plays out again in November 2008. They were mad. Mad about some dirty tricks that were being played in the run-up to the special election. They all think that Shelton planted a robo-call to make it look like one of his Republican opponents was attacking the other. So they voted for a Democrat.

That’s pretty flimsy. First, you have to believe that Republicans are that politically canny and acted together to vote for Barrett. Second, all you have to do is look at the numbers. While Dan Barrett had a net loss of 3% of voters between the special and the run-off, Shelton had a whopping 17.6% who didn’t bother to show up at the polls in the run-off.

I think it’s just a matter of who wanted it the most, Democrat or Republican voters. My belief, echoed by others, is that Barrett won because enough Republicans were staying home, or going to the mall instead of the polls. They didn’t want it enough.

Now what happens in November 2008 is anyone’s guess. The numbers in the runoff were a close 52%-48%, and Barrett won’t be doing much of anything in terms of legislating unless Perry calls a special session, something I think he would be crazy to do at this point. So if this result was because of low voter turn out, and would never fly in a regular election, how does Barrett do this?

On the other hand, if this was not a voter turnout fluke, but an actual district turnover, as Chairman Richie says, how many more of these are in the offing? Do we retake the House in 2008 by a landslide?

Could I be that hopeful?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

If this a "blue revolution" against Craddick's leadership then how come Shelton was in the runoff? No doubt the Democrats are more motivated to go to the polls but if Republicans were really sick of Craddick's leadership, then why didn't they elect Leonard, the anti-Craddick Republican in this race? Instead they chose the only other Republican that didn't publicly pledge to Craddick, Shelton. The Democrats are getting way ahead of themselves on this. HD 97 will return to a Republican - almost 10,000 GOP voters stayed home for the runoff because Shelton became damaged goods and they figured they have two opportunities next year to pick someone they like.