Up till now, I've generally subscribed to Jim Carville's maxim that "I wouldn't want to work for any government that would be willing to hire me." But this is Texas ... we seem to need a bit of help.
So, starting in January, I'll be working in the legislature for Gene Wu. He won the job title of State Representative fair and square, so I'll be settle for the role of "bill monkey", I guess. This'll be my first time to work the Lege and I'm looking forward to building on what Gene started the day he started campaigning. HD137 is my home and there's no other spec of dust on the globe that I care about more. Our hope is to have a blog for either Gene or the entire office staff once the session is in gear. As soon as there's anything to report on that, I'll pass it on.
What that means for this little blog is currently under review. To be honest, I'm more committed to find more time to build TXPoliticalAlmanac.com. That project has been a stop-and-start effort for a number of years now yet I think it holds the most potential. Since building that site helps build the knowledgebase I'll need working with Gene, I'm eager to spend more time with that project on a day-to-day basis. Whether the 10+ year blogging project goes on hiatus, a change in focus, or gets put on ice permanently ... those are among the options under consideration.
One of the tangents on my mind is that I'm not sure that TXPA is the greatest repository for map-based information. Certainly, I can add a map to a page without any problem. But the type of map that goes on those pages tends to be of the more self-explanatory variety. A number of maps that I like to blog about, however, require a bit more explanation and tend to get more into weeds which I've not yet organized into TXPA.
A higher-order issue for the upcoming session is that the pace of work builds to a sprint toward the end of the session. So there's a challenge of starting off with the hope that I can maintain any kind of productive pace for writing, explaining, opinionating, pontificating and whatnot ... only to see the time for such endeavors dry up in the spring. We'll see what the future holds.
A few nuggets from the Almanac updates I'm still slowly getting around to ...
Since I'm crunching the data from the big counties and their official or unofficial canvasses, I'm trying to keep a few of the countywide contests in the overview. This gives a little bit of insight into two GOP-held Dallas County districts: HD105 and HD107, which were contested by Dem candidates Rosemary Robbins and Robert Miklos respectively. Both ended up losing fairly close contests. But both were also won by Dallas County Tax Assessor, John Ames. Obviously, everything comes down to whether re-redistricting happens by the 2014 elections, but those should be ground zero for Dem pickup opportunities if the maps hold.
In HD112, Angie Chen Button didn't have any competition for re-election. But her district didn't lose much ground from the 2008-level competitiveness it saw.
HD114 had a great Dem candidate trying to pick up a seat. But it was about as out-of-reach as anticipated, with even a status quo district likely to be even harder in a non-Presidential year next time.
The newly-configured HD115 ended up being a bit closer than I'd have expected. Again, assuming the status quo holds for 2014 maps, it could be interesting to see whether this one gets a more aggressive challenge since incoming Rep.-elect Bennett Ratliff comes from the "good GOP" Ratliffs and is likely to pick up some pro-education support.
I've also added the Fort Bend districts, where we can see the relative performances in HD26 and the impact of Dora Olivo's campaign experience in HD85 (which has the non-Ft. Bend Counties included in the totals).
Not included anywhere in the Almanac yet, but worth mentioning here is County Commissioner Richard Morrison's performance in winning re-election. All that's needed to be remembered about this district is that it was marginally Republican when Morrison first won it in 2008 and that redistricting didn't change the boundaries in this election. Oh, and Morrison's opponent this time was a Pennsylvanian outted for vote fraud. Good news for Morrison, but good luck getting swing votes in a Presidential year ... right?
Here's how the contests played out in the first precinct ...
President ------------------------- Romney - 26,750 (56.1%) Obama - 20,500 (43.0%) US Senate ------------------------- Cruz - 26,476 (55.8%) Sadler - 20,072 (42.3%) County Commissioner ------------------------- Fleming - 22,955 (49.3%) Morrison - 23,640 (50.7%)
No other Dem on the ballot broke 45% in Precinct 1. Congrats again to Morrison on this win. For the record, the next-most Dem-friendly County Commissioner seat in Fort Bend is the Sugar Land-centric Precinct 4 held by James Patterson. Obama won 40.5% there while downballot Dems fell just shy of 41%. Given Sugar Land's Asian vote, I'll simply point out that one of those downballot candidates to perform well there was 1st Court of Appeals nominee Kathy Cheng, with 40.8%. Might be something to suggest for a local Chinese-American Dem willing to run there if you ask me.
That's about it for progress, so far. I'll try and work in some Bexar County research since there seems to be some publicity about the GOTV work funded by Mikal Watts and executed by local consultants. My .02 regarding publicity like this stands firm. And a cursory glance at the EV vs E-Day numbers in San Antonio seem to suggest nothing more than a shift of E-Day voters to Early Voters. Maybe there's something there that isn't visible in the totals. But I'm skeptical.
One local sidenote that drives me somewhat mad, while I'm at it. Apparently, the total number of registered voters counted on the canvass here in Harris County is taken from the voter roll counts at a much earlier point in time than those available to vote on Election Day. I know this because of some time lost on my part counting cattle in HD137. If you go through the Registered Vote counts by election cycle, as reported to the state, it would seem that my fair district lost votes every cycle. A rather shocking 20% drop since 2002, in fact.
Well, I happened to get a handful of counts the old-fashioned way: downloading the precinct data and getting the totals from each. Here's my math ...
08/06/2012 ... 47,665 09/24/2012 ... 48,174 10/14/2012 ... 49,061 10/21/2012 ... 49,407 10/25/2012 ... 49,729 ----------------------- 2012 Harris County Final ... 48,003
Granted, the reason this is important to me is because the Gene Wu campaign invested quite a bit in voter registration this past election. We saw some impressive results in areas where we concentrated our efforts and that's work that I look forward to doing again. I know we ended up with the first net-positive gain in registered voters in this configuration of HD137. It would have been nice to see that reflected in the official numbers.
But the reality is that Registered Vote counts (and by extension, turnout levels) are among the biggest crapshoots for interpretation. Counties vary in how they've maintained the voter rolls and yet turnout levels tend to get quoted as if they were sacred mantras. They aren't.
Just as well. Next time, I'm looking to break the 50k barrier.
I don't know what normal people do with free time during a holiday. But I've started to make a dent in the vast, overwhelming backlog of additions needed at the Texas Political Almanac. All of the Harris County House Districts have been updated with election results, including non-judicial countywide contests. With a little luck, I'll be digging through the rest of the major counties to see if I can do the same. And if precinct maps are available, I might even get around to doing some red/blue precinct maps for the big contests there.
One more vacation-like activity to report: I've been making a few meager efforts to get TXPoliticalAlmanac.com updated. And while that'll be a never-ending task, I'm at least to the point where all of the State House districts have been given a map and color-coded for the statewide election results.
A bigger issue, however, is that my webserver upgraded their version of PHP and that forced me to upgrade from an archaic version of the MediaWiki software the site operates on? Meaning??? There are now some growing pains that are driving me nuts. Namely, one of the extensions I lean on the most heavily is woefully out of date and does not appear to be supported anymore by the original coder. So that means I have to really get my programming chops honed for some deep surgery on MW code. Or, I have to find a new extension to do what the old one did and updated every page that makes use of it. None of this is wonderful news. For now, I'm able to go about my business as usual. I just have to live with an "Internal Error" result when I save the page even though the page is really saved.
But enough whining for now. The HD137 page is usually the likeliest to be up-to-date since that's home for me. I'm probably going to do a bit more work on the House Districts to beef those up. There's still nothing done for the Congressional Districts and that eats away at me. But it'll have to serve as motivation to get cracking on the other stuff.
If there's anything that you election nerds out there might like to see included, let me know. Otherwise, you can always sign up for an account and give editing/updating a try. Oh, and if you have any experience coding MediaWiki, I'm willing to spend a little bit of money tweaking things under the hood.
... or whether any of it will matter by the time the legal process is over.
A gaggle of belated Almanac Updates on the new House plan agreed to by MALDEF and Attorney General Abbott here. Just the Harris County area districts for now, but the rest should follow shortly hereafter ...
HD126, HD127, HD128, HD129, HD130, HD131, HD132, HD133, HD134, HD135, HD136 (a rework of the present HD149), HD137, HD138, HD139, HD140, HD141, HD142, HD143, HD144, HD145, HD146, HD147, HD148, HD149 (not in Harris County anymore, but it's got the full data/map treatment for review), HD150
I've also got HD26 completed, for those interested in expanding the view of the greater Houston area.
I can't say I wouldn't mind seeing another plan come forward that would halt me from updating these
» FW Star-Telegram: Texas Almanac offers a challenge for state history buffs
Bob Ray Sanders does a public service by reminding us that the 2012-13 version of the Texas Almanac is out ...
The latest volume includes an excellent article on the Civil War -- in commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the start of the War Between the States -- as well as a history of the Almanac and the music icon Willie Nelson.
It also includes 2010 Census population data, county-by-county primary results, a history of professional football in Texas, and historical high school football and basketball records.
For under $20, it can't be beat. I've been a fan of the books since the 80s and I keep a copy of the 2010-11 version handy, as well as an old copy (1996 to be precise) of the Barone/Ujifusa Almanac of American Politics when I try to sort out some stylistic and organization aspects of my own spin on the subject.
Hopefully, I’m nearing the end of my need to do a bit of daily aggregation to recap current events in order to avoid overloading the brain cells. Just a guess, but maybe the Iowa Caucus results tonight will provide plenty of fodder for more normal blog activity. In the hours until we see what the results are, here’s what’s got my attention:
» Almanac Updates: This sorta stuff is coming along easier and easier since much of the work is just cataloging material from days/months/years/eons past. So it’s turning out to be a great multi-tasking time-killer to do while sports are on TV or there’s dead time to kill in the day. But with the end of 2011 behind us, I’m still frantically trying to get the 2011 Elections page of the Almanac properly seeded for the historical record. The Houston results are there, and most of the contests have a brief little writeup. I’ve also got the complete election history of Mayor Parker in one handy spot and am working on the same for a few other current elected officials as well. Obviously, there’s still a lot of blanks to be filled in: bios, narrative descriptions for each election, and probably a few things that I might not think to add but you may. If you feel compelled to dive in and start adding copy, feel free.
» NY Times: In Flop of H.P. TouchPad, an Object Lesson for the Tech Sector
Very interesting tech read for the week. I was among those who instantly dismissed the TouchPad when they attached the words “WebOS” to it. Nice to know that I wasn’t being totally irrational in doing so. But the build process described for the operating system rings pretty true of a lot of memories from my pro coding days. I guess it’s more amazing that something as ginormous as Windows or as ubiquitous as Android ever really gets “done right” despite what I’m sure are several of the same challenges that Palm and HP had with WebOS.
» Wash. Post: World music star Ndour challenges Senegal’s aging leader with presidential bid
It’s not comforting to know that the US isn’t the only place where the over-celebritization of everything is occurring. But it is pretty predictable.
» Chron: UH’s co-offensive coordinator Kingsbury headed to A&M
A let-down after yesterday’s bowl game. But also predictable. This may be manageable if Jason Phillips stays behind, but there’s already rumor of him heading to SMU to work with June Jones. Defensive Coodinator Brian Stewart is always a candidate for leaving for greener pastures and the defense’s improvement makes him even more attractive to higher-paying gigs. It gets depressing to think about at some level. But there will be others looking to come to Houston. We’ll see what things look like once everything shakes out. I just hope it’s not truly
» Chron: New council members means new staff at City Hall
Some interesting updates on the new support staff for the incoming council members. A particular shout-out for Jerry Peruchini, the new Chief of Staff for Ed Gonzales. Jerry makes two CoS for Gonzales that I’ve worked with in other lifetimes. And there definitely seems to be a tradition of quality there.
All 150 of the State Rep districts in the court-ordered Plan H302 are now updated on the Almanac. Lots of swing districts to check out in there, so I'm hoping to do a review of some of them before the weekend ends. Each page is populated with a district map, demographics (including CVAP), and 2008 & 2010 election data. Some of the districts are more of a challenge to get good context from those two elections, so I'll add some 2004 and/or 2006 election data to help that along.
Congressional pages will follow during the UH-Tulsa football game, which kicks off at 11am today. Fortunately, the high school team doesn't kick off till noon tomorrow. So the heart attacks and fingernail chewing should be at least somewhat spread out over the weekend.
I'm off to a slow start on reviewing the House Districts from the court's plan, H298. But here are some updates to the almanac for some of the more interesting Houston-area changes. If luck and time permit, I'll eventually get around to the DFW area and beyond during the weekend. For whatever its worth, HD107 is started already. If anyone's interested in helping out, drop a line my way.
• HD26 ... No, Harris County didn't gain a new district. But Fort Bend just got a lot more exciting with a district that is as close to 50-50 as it's ever seen. It also looks like the courts took to heart the complaints about the division of Asian population in the county, as this one checks in at about 30% Asian. With the strong Asian concentrations in neighboring HD149 and other nearby House Districts, expect this to be the starting point for consideration of an Asian Congressional District in 2021.
• HD144 ... Legler's district is a lot more Hispanic, but the electoral returns are still competitive. This will be target #1 for Dems in 2012 and the nominee should be favored. Whether it's an Anglo Dem or Hispanic Dem that can carry it will be interesting to see.
• HD149 ... Welcome back, Hubert Vo. The new 149 picks up right about where the old 149 left off in terms of electoral performance. It should still be competitive, but one where Hubert is favored with swing voters from the Vietnamese community. Personally, I like that Team Vo is now tasked with working Precinct 620 every two years. Keeping that large swing precinct blue is a good step toward making the county blue.
• HD137 ... An interesting alteration on the idea of how to draw a more Hispanic district in SW Houston. This version is a lot less hollow than the previous district, thanks to removing Gulfton. There were 62,458 registered voters and 32,538 votes cast in 2008 compared to the old district's 29,916 registered voters and 18,166 ballots cast in the same year. That's still fairly hollow, but it's an improvement of sorts.
• HD146 ... Meet my new State Rep: Borris Miles! I'm not sure what was going through the map-makers' mind when they paired part of Sunnyside with Gulfton. But if that's the price to pay for having two whole districts covering SW Houston, I'm fine with it.
• HD134 ... It's still only an Obama and Bill White district among statewide election returns. That's not terribly different than what it was before, but the overall shift is that the GOP incumbent, Sarah Davis, gains nearly a point more of a GOP lean than the existing district. Given the concentration of Anglo Dems in this district, it should be the epicenter of competitive contests for much of the decade.
• HD135 ... Obama 42.8%, Bill White 43.0%. If the voters in the district continue to shift as they did during the last decade, this is competitive by the end of the decade.
• HD138 ... this starts off about one point more GOP-friendly than the existing HD138 ended the decade as. But that's a lot more Dem-friendly than the district started the district as. In the previous decade, the district moved nearly 10 points more toward Democratic candidates. If there's another 10-point swing this decade, it'll be competitive by 2016 or 2018.
• HD148 ... politically, this one is on par with the existing HD148. I guess my only amazement over this is that it doesn't get drawn more politically favorable in trying to shore up Hispanic communities of interest within the district as it cuts out much of the Heights and extends more into Spring Branch. If nothing else, this is a substitution of a shrinking Hispanic population base with one that's more likely to grow over the decade.