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Polling for Harris County

October 31, 2012 Politics-2012 No Comments

Closer to home …

» KHOU: Obama leads tight race in Harris County

The poll shows the president leading in Harris County with the support of 46 percent of surveyed voters, compared to Romney’s 42 percent. Libertarian Gary Johnson cracked the survey with 2 percent.

In the U.S. Senate race, Democrat Paul Sadler’s 44 percent leads Republican Ted Cruz with 42 percent in Harris County. With a 3.5 percent margin of error, that’s a statistical dead heat in the largest county in Texas.

Republican crossover voters are helping push Democratic Sheriff Adrian Garcia to 51 percent in this survey, compared to Republican challenger Louis Guthrie’s 32 percent. Another 13 percent were undecided.

On the other hand, many Democrats told pollsters they’re voting for Republican district attorney candidate Mike Anderson, who’s polling at 41 percent. Nonetheless, Democrat Lloyd Oliver is close behind with 35 percent. Another 19 percent are undecided. That number is especially striking because Democratic Party leaders were so embarrassed by Oliver’s candidacy they tried to remove him from the ballot.

» Chron: Strip club cash raises questions in sheriff campaign

Ali Davari, who with his brother Hassan Davari owns a handful of prominent local strip clubs, including Treasures, Gold Cup and Trophy Club, gave $25,000 to the deputies union political action committee on Oct. 15. It was the only contribution the organization received during the time period covered by the report, which was filed Thursday. The union donated the same amount, in its only listed expenditure, to Republican Louis Guthrie’s campaign a week later, earmarking it for political advertising.

Guthrie reports receiving a $25,000 check from the union on Oct. 9; Guthrie’s campaign manager Sara Kinney said the campaign listed that date because that was the date on the check. HCDO Vice President Eric Batton could not explain the discrepancy in the dates.

As much as I hope the swing votes are enough to save the county from embarrassments like Guthrie and Oliver, I stand by my conclusion that all other datapoints are merely indicative of a swing county in the midst of a battle over who finishes on the plus side of what I expect to be a plurality vote at the Presidential level.

Voting, circa 2012

October 25, 2012 Politics-2012 No Comments

People still write letters to the Chronicle editors

Regarding “Time to cast a ballot” (Page B7, Monday), law enforcement should be competent, never partisan. To protect the safety of our community, please vote for Democrat Adrian Garcia for Harris County sheriff and Republican Mike Anderson for district attorney.

Both are respected professionals who can manage others to a high standard. I respect parties, but crime is a basic violation of civil rights and criminals do not discriminate based on party affiliation. When you call 911 you want a qualified responder; victims and jurors want an effective and fair prosecutor.

Democrats, join me in voting for Mike Anderson for DA. Republicans, keep our strong and honest sheriff, Sheriff Adrian Garcia, in office.

Bill White, former mayor of Houston

I can’t say that I disagree with him on this score. I held my nose and voted for Anderson. I left a handful of judicial ballots blank. Oh, and I voted for this guy earlier in the AM …

The line at Bayland Park was wrapped around the front of the building 10 minutes prior to opening and I was done with my random act of democracy by 8:15. Pick your own spot to vote early if you feel similarly inclined.

Among the tougher choices on the ballot for me was one that’s usually pretty easy: President. Yes, I voted for Obama again. But there was a temptation to leave the spot blank this time around. Obama wasn’t my choice and I can’t say I’m won over by his style of leadership. It’d be a cheap and easy free shot to make some minor form of a statement by doing such a thing. Texas, after all, is not in play. But one over-riding issue convinces me that it’s worth sticking with my own traditions and principles by voting for him regardless. And that’s the fact that I fully support Obama to be the one appointing judges for the next four years as opposed to just about any Republican.

As far as bonds and referendums go, I voted for the city charter fixes, the parks bond, and the library bond. For everything else, I’m willing to consider second offers.

Primary Mapping: GOP County Attorney

August 29, 2012 Politics-2012 No Comments

Long time no blog. I’ve pretty much got the remainder of primary contests mapped out that I’m interested in seeing. But I do need to relocate a moment of free time to get everything uploaded and web-ready. Some of the larger fields of candidates made for some interesting research and I’m not sure they tell an easy story in one map. So those will probably get a side-by-side treatment. And by the time I’m done with all of that, I’ll be able to go through the runoff elections. I don’t know what your hobbies are, but surely they can’t be this much fun. Right?

Anyway, the reason I wanted to post this one from the last batch of primaries was simply because I found it to be the most interesting of all the GOP Primary maps. The final results of this contest weren’t really all that close:

Robert Talton: 64.6%
Leslie Johnson: 35.4%

What the map below demonstrates, to me, is that Talton essentially ran the table outside of the River Oaks-Memorial region. Or, as I’ll call it, “Establishment Row” for GOP voters. You’d expect to see Talton do well in the southeastern area of the county since his old State Rep district covered Pasadena and surrounding areas. Johnson, as far as I can tell, seemed to have evident support inside the Loop. I don’t know enough about how this campaign played out to suggest that it was a true case of Insider vs Outsider or Establishment vs Tea Party style choice. Talton certainly has his social conservativism ducks in a row, but he’s also been thought of as a bit too friendly to trial attorneys for most GOP tastes.

Whatever the case may be, the contours definitely show up for something vaguely resembling the social vs business conservative breakdown. It’ll be interesting to see how closely this map resembles the runoff map for the US Senate seat. Till that gets posted, feel free to click, poke, and explore. Oh, and download if you’re into that sorta thing.

ADD-ON: Also, I tweaked the color-coding to make the different reds a bit easier to sort out visually. In this case, the dark red is Talton, the light red is Johnson, and white means there were no votes cast.

ADD-ON 2.0: Grrr. One point of clarification that eluded me while posting this: the map indicates where Talton won over 60% of the vote, not simply where he won. A won/loss map was more of a wipeout for Talton. So the outline here for “establishment” support for Johnson should be viewed relative to areas where she performed under 40%. In short: the outline is still interesting. But the nature of the contest was certainly a lot more muted in terms of how much of any “establishment” vs “non-establishment” differences existed between candidates. This is what I get for leaving maps on Google Earth for several days without blogging about them.


full pageGoogle Earth

Primary Mapping: Dem CD7

August 20, 2012 Politics-2012 No Comments

Here’s a muddled picture since all three candidates came out of the first round with a decent-to-good showing.

Lissa Squiers – 39.9%
James Cargas – 33.8%
Phillip Andrews – 26.3%

I went with color-coding for the ultimate winner again, so the coding is: dark blue = Cargas; light blue = Squiers; purple = Andrews.

There weren’t many areas where Squiers was winning a majority in this map, so the ocean of aqua blue is a bit misleading here. Had I been interpreting this in realtime, I think it’s safe to say she was getting her benefit of being the only female in the race at this point. Viewed in isolation, that might make a runoff either a tossup or a slight advantage for the female candidate. But with Squiers running a shoestring campaign and Cargas loosening the purse-strings for a little mail in the runoff, that calculus didn’t quite hold up in July.


full pageGoogle Earth

Primary Mapping: Dem Constable 1

August 20, 2012 Politics-2012 No Comments

Here’s one of the more muddled Primary contests I’ll be mapping out – the six-way election for Constable, Precinct 1. This would go to a runoff between Alan Rosen and Cindy Vara-Leija, but the first round settled out as follows:

Alan Rosen – 28.0%
Cindy Vara-Leija – 23.8%
Grady Castleberry – 21.8%
Quincy Whitaker – 19.7%
Jaime Tellez, Jr. – 3.7%
Richard Talamantez – 3.1%

The map below is coded as follows: dark blue = Rosen; light blue = Vara-Leija; purple = anyone else. That purple basically broke down to Castleberry and Whitaker splitting much of the African-American vote in Acres Homes, Independence Heights, and the Fifth Ward.

All told, the breakdown is a pretty good overview of the district’s demographics. What jumped out to me from this view is Rosen’s showing in the Anglo Dem dogleg from the Heights to Meyerland. Rosen did exceptionally well in Montrose, pushing close to 70% of the vote there. Ditto for much of Rosen’s home base of Bellaire. But in the River Oaks – to – West U area, Rosen only got anywhere from a near-majority to a bare majority. That left a lot of room for improvement in the runoff and I think it would be clear where those votes would go regardless of who was in a runoff. That might account for the overwhelming showing that he’d see in the runoff.


full pageGoogle Earth

Primary Mapping: Dem HD146

August 20, 2012 Politics-2012 No Comments

One of the more pleasant outcomes to watch outside of my own HD137, Borris Miles fended off two-time previous incumbent, Al Edwards, 57.6% to 42.4%. One tidbit that gives some of us hope that this will be the last go-round for Al Edwards: this was the first of the four matchups where Borris Miles has won the Sunnyside half of the district. In fact, the areas where Edwards did best this time, were the newer precincts to the far west.

On the whole, the scope of Borris’ win is pretty broad. Edwards didn’t have a lot of help from his previous enablers, so his campaign was on far more of a shoestring. I’ve got to think that if he still sees a State Representative in the mirror, it seems likelier that his former constituents don’t.

Color-coding is: dark blue = Miles; light blue = Edwards.


full pageGoogle Earth

Primary Mapping: Dem SBOE6

August 20, 2012 Politics-2012 No Comments

Here’s another modest surprise – a three-way contest that didn’t need a runoff to decide the nominee. And, as was the case with HD144, it was a female candidate who ended up winning.

Traci Jensen – 51.5%
Patty Quintana-Nilsson – 29.7%
David Scott – 18.8%

This was a district that Obama only won 40.8% of the vote in, so it’s not the most significant in terms of viability or changing the culture (or, for that matter, existence) of the State Board of Education. But since it’s an open race in a Presidential year, there’s hope that we’ll see some improvement on the Dem baseline in this district. There wasn’t a lot of communication in this contest, but what there was, it was all Jensen that I saw. A pretty good example of how to shut out the rest of the pack in an otherwise low-information contest.

Color-coding is: dark blue = Jensen; light blue = Scott; purple = Quintana-Nilsson. Not sure why I coded Scott and Q-Nilsson opposite, but I’ll live with the break in pattern.


full pageGoogle Earth

Primary Mapping: GOP Senate

August 16, 2012 Politics-2012 No Comments

Another big, important contest here to review. Obviously, the US Senate contest would need a runoff to decide on the winner, the outcome in May was enough of a two-person race to see some patterns at this point. The final outcome in May, just to refresh, was as follows:

David Dewhurst – 45.9%
Ted Cruz – 43.6%
Tom Leppert – 5.8%
Everyone Else – 4.7%

I basically broke the precinct returns into Dewhurst, Cruz, and Other. The only identifiable blip for where “Other” broke 15% was in Pct 529 in Tomball. That was due to a highly localized boomlet of Glenn Addison voters showing up to the tune of 7.1% there. That compares to his 1.1% showing countywide. I’d love to hear that precinct’s story. But even there, Dewhurst pulled 47% to Cruz’s 38%.

UPDATE: After a little bit of poking around other Tomball precincts, I notice that three others gave Addison a bigger-than-normal share: 127, 726, and 1036. The results were enough in those four boxes to give Addison 7.4% of the vote in Tomball. Addison was a trustee for the Magnolia School Board before resigning to run. Who knows … maybe that good of a showing in his home turf will translate to some other future run for office.

In the case of this map, I opted to color-code it by the winner of the ultimate victory – Cruz – rather than the candidate that led the pack in May – Dewhurst. So dark-red = Cruz; light-red = Dewhurst

I think the most interesting map to compare this to is the Chang/Detamore map for County Court 2. In both cases, the establishment candidates win a good share of everything from River Oaks to the westside/Memorial and even more of the southwest area. Dewhurst appears to have polled better in the Kingwood/Clear Lake areas. A neighborhood-by-neighborhood analysis might be instructive here, so I’ll put it somewhere on my to-do list. In particular, I think it would be interesting to see how both the overall map and the ‘hood number-crunching look in this race compared to the final Runoff outcome.

Feel free to poke and prod this map and let me know of any further analysis that you think might be warranted here.


full pageGoogle Earth

Last one for today. District races should be next. I’ll have to do some creative coding to show the Constable Precinct 1 race in a meaningful way.

Primary Mapping: GOP Party Chair

August 16, 2012 Politics-2012 No Comments

This contest seems to have been under-emphasized based on the closeness of the outcome and some of the issues aired out by Republican bloggers. But in case you missed it, Party Chairman Jared Woodfill almost lost. The final outcome was 52.6% Woodfill to 47.4% Paul Simpson.

And yet, unlike the County Court 2 outcome, the geographical pattern here is more of a scatter plot diagram. Woodfill certainly seemed to struggle a bit in the River Oaks/Anglo Dem corridor, but split a lot of turf in the westside/Memorial precincts. On the whole, it just looks like it would have been a challenge to have a good feel for the outcome. If it were a more important contest, I’d probably want to pick about 20 or so neighborhoods, grab 3-5 big precincts from each, and see what those results may show in terms of relative strength around the county. But this was still a fairly low-profile race that didn’t seem to revolve around Establishment/anti-Establishment issues and I’m not sure I’d equate Simpson as being a challenger from the mythical “Tea Party” wing of the GOP. There were personal issues, to be sure. And Woodchip’s background as a trial attorney usually comes up in some negative contexts when he’s not looking good. But those don’t often translate into clear geographic divides.

Anyways, poke and prod the map to your heart’s content. Again: dark-red = Woodfill; light-red = Simpson; white = no votes.


full pageGoogle Earth

Primary Mapping: GOP County Court 2

August 16, 2012 Politics-2012 No Comments

In stark contrast to the first GOP map, this one was the closest countywide result, with Donna Detamore defeating appointed County Court judge Theresa Chang, 50.1% to 49.9% … or, 735 votes out of 123,941 total votes cast. Close enough to call it one per precinct (at least, among precincts with voters).

It’s generally interesting to see how GOP Primaries break down by how the Establishment Row of westside, River Oaks, and other areas generally within the Anglo Dem region stretching from the Heights to Meyerland. Chang performed well there, even adding a decent showing in the southwest and Alief areas where Asian GOP voters could be counted on to support her. Outside of that, however, it looks like strong areas were hard to come by, as Detamore performed well in Clear Lake, much of the Baytown/Highlands area … and she pretty much ran the gamut of disparate W/NW areas like Champions Forest, Spring, Tomball, Cypress, and Katy.

On the surface, it looks a bit similar (albeit, much closer) to Steve Kirkland’s challenge: voters outside of Houston city limits may not be moved on the same basis as those within. That could be a function of personal networks or other communication channels. But the outline here is clear in terms of demonstrating where any Establishment vs non/less-Establishment campaign may break down in GOP circles. It may be interesting to see how the Medina/Devine Supreme Court contest compares to this one.

As is the pattern: dark-red = Detamore; light-red = Chang; white = no votes.


full pageGoogle Earth

Primary Mapping: GOP District Attorney

August 16, 2012 Politics-2012 No Comments

It looks like the next round of maps I’m doing will be the countywide/statewide results for the GOP side. And for no other reason than it being easier to work with the code I’ve written before re-writing some code to deal with the districts within Harris County for smaller contests.

First up is a pretty “blah” map to interpret – the blowout win by Mike Anderson over incumbent District Attorney, Pat Lykos. Anderson would win this race with 62.8% to Lykos’ 37.2%. I’ll refer you to this map as a reason why I’m not likely to map a lot of the contests that weren’t close in the primary. I’m sure there are some small examples of precincts won by the losing candidate. But, by and large, this just demonstrates what a blowout looks like.

Again, darker color goes to the victor. So: dark-red = Anderson; light-red = Lykos; white = no votes.

You can compare this to the 2008 GOP Primary mapping I did for the Siegler/Lykos contest.


full pageGoogle Earth

Primary Mapping: Dem President

August 15, 2012 Politics-2012 No Comments

Picking up from yesterday’s map-related posts of Primary and Runoff election outcomes ….

The one big enchilada to look at from the May Democratic Primary was where any latent “Not Obama” vote may have been demonstrated. Kuff broke this down by House District when the news was a bit more timely. His take upon seeing the results was that much of the “Not Obama” vote may have corresponded to the “Bubba Vote”. Mine, looking at the very same results, was that I’d be quicker to suggest Hispanic voters not totally in love with Obama. There was also a comment suggesting that it may be most accurate to view these results against Total Ballots rather than Total Votes since it may demonstrate a few more “Not Obama” sources due to voters simply not wishing to cast vote. I will get around to that, but my early guess is that the results don’t change.

Obama won the county with 95.3%, so it took some code changes to highlight that vote. The color-coding was changed to the following:

dark-blue: Obama over 80%
light-blue: Obama over 50%
white: no votes

I believe there were 2 or 3 precincts where Obama did not win and I seem to recall all of them having less than 5 votes total, possibly as little as 1 or 2. The only respectable-sized box that stands out as being “Oklahoma-esque” for Obama results is Pct 531 along the Chambers County border. Obama won 27 of the 51 votes cast. Feel free to poke around at some of the light-blue boxes and see what your conclusion is.


full pageGoogle Earth

That’s the last one I’ve got for today. Not sure whether I’ll do the GOP Primary results next or edit some code to do some district races in the Dem Primary. Either way … more maps tomorrow and I’ll eventually get to them all.

Primary Mapping: Dem Harris County Board of Education

August 15, 2012 Politics-2012 No Comments

Picking up from yesterday’s map-related posts of Primary and Runoff election outcomes ….

For a contested primary to run against an incumbent for the privilege of holding a non-paying elected gig, the At-Large spot for Harris County Board of Education ends up being pretty interesting. This was an outcome that went 59% to 41% in favor of Diane Trautman. What makes it interesting is that both candidates were Anglos. It might have been a good insight into a generic male/female split, but Trautman had run countywide before and David Rosen had a few advantages going for him in the Anglo Dem corridor of the county. I don’t put a lot of credence in any possible name confusion with Alan Rosen running a very visible campaign for Constable in that Anglo Dem area. But I do think there was a big benefit from there being a lot of Jewish and Young Professional type voters in that area to boost Rosen’s showing.

In the end, it just looks as if Rosen needed somewhere else to go to add a constituency. It appears that some of that may have come from voters on the northside. I’d have to do some research to see what the demographics are there among voters, though. Just because it’s an area known to be heavily Hispanic doesn’t mean that that’s who represents the majority of voters. Especially in a Primary.

The map below is a return to form: dark blue for the winning candidate (Trautman); light blue for the losing candidate (Rosen).


full pageGoogle Earth

Primary Mapping: Dem Sheriff

August 15, 2012 Politics-2012 No Comments

Picking up from yesterday’s map-related posts of Primary and Runoff election outcomes ….

So I’m falling a bit behind the timeline I set for getting more of these done. Such is life. But to continue on with some Primary and Runoff maps, here’s the outcome of the Sheriff’s primary. Basically, I tweaked the code to tell a fuller story about where any non-Adrian Garcia vote may come from. So instead of a binary, who-won-what color-coding, I show the following:

Dark blue: Garcia won
Light blue: Garcia under 60%
Yellow: Garcia under 50%

What you see is a mix of some African-American boxes where voters are looking for another candidate and an assorted scattershot of odd precincts here and there. About the only things I conclude from this are that: a) Hispanic candidates still generally run into some issues among Afr-Am voters, even if they’re incumbents; and b) when you don’t run much of a campaign, you run into some vote loss here and there. Garcia really didn’t have to take much of any time to campaign for the primary. I think it’s a safe assumption that this will be very different for the General, though.


full pageGoogle Earth

The Difference Turnout Makes

October 11, 2011 Politics-2012 No Comments

» Wash. Post: Eyes on Northern Virginia’s swing districts

One of the better journalistic moments in describing how turnout differences can swing elections in different cycles, as the Post covers a small group of contested swing districts for the State Assembly in the DC suburbs.

Voter turnout tends to be sharply lower in off-year elections than during presidential or statewide races. Turnout in Virginia was about 75 percent when Obama was elected in 2008 and 71 percent when George W. Bush won reelection four years earlier. It ranged from 30 percent to 53 percent in the years in between.

“Because Virginia has an off-year election cycle, you’re looking at a situation where the election is a very, very distorted picture of the electorate,” Farnsworth said. “You’re talking about a swing of millions of people participating or not participating.”

Even so, there is a reason to pay attention to the three districts: They’re competitive. Unlike the deep rural areas that are GOP territory and the cities and close-in suburbs that tend to go for Democrats, Virginia’s exurbs are “contestable,” Farnsworth said.

“These particular races are really important races because they’re in the areas of rapid growth and in the areas where both parties are really pretty competitive,” he said.

The reason for that is the growing diversification of those areas, experts say.

“There used to be this very easy formula, as a place became more suburbanized, it became more Republican,” Holsworth said.

But that traditional dynamic has not held true in these districts because of the way they have developed: first with large estates, then with townhouses and apartments, Farnsworth said.

“The first people into Loudoun are much more focused on a conservative social agenda than the second wave, who may be just looking for a deal on a townhouse they can afford with their high-tech job,” he said.

That’s actually a two-fer in describing how the suburbs of today are less like the suburbs of the 80s and 90s in addition to the difference turnout makes. I don’t know that I’ve fully distilled an explanation for what I mean by how turnout differences played a role in 2010, so here’s a first stab at it:

Imagine you have two equally-sized precincts in a district. One goes 60.1% Dem and the other goes 60.0% GOP. If they turnout at the same rate, the Democrat wins. If the GOP precinct turnout is higher than the Dem precinct, the Republican wins. That’s a rough explanation of what happened to Sylvia Garcia and a lot of other Democrats in 2010. The turnout in Dem precincts wasn’t overly different than most other midterm cycles, while the GOP turnout was amped up quite a bit. That made a difference in county races. It made the difference in Sylvia’s County Commissioner contest. And it made the difference in a few State Rep races in Harris County.

There was less change in terms of Dem support within Dem precincts or GOP support in GOP precincts. In the case of Sylvia’s 2010 loss, there was a dropoff from 2002 levels of Dem support by about 3 percent in the cluster of precincts that Sylvia won and lost. That was across the board and fairly even among both groups of precincts. But in 2002, Sylvia won by 5.5%. Come 2010, the turnout in precincts she won actually rose. The problem – and hence, the difference-maker in all of this – was that the precincts that Sylvia won had a 6-point difference in turnout to those where she had lost, yet in 2010, that gap grew to 13 points. That was enough to make for a hairline loss for Sylvia

You can see the gory math here. It’s not dissimilar to what happened in 1994, also. That’s what makes midterm tsunamis what they are. But it also leads to a lot of bad reporting that suggests that voters suddenly changed their mind about Obama as President, health care reform, or whatever other issue that fits into a nice, neat pre-packaged narrative. Those factors can certainly influence the motivation to get out and vote. But unless you want to make editorial judgments on why folks come out to vote vs no vote, there’s no clear read on a change of mind really taking place.

There’s still a lot to be said for the difference in enthusiasm to get out and vote in terms of a Presidential election cycle. I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if we see some significant cases of turnout dropoff from 2008. Particularly where the incumbent President carried a number of areas due to high levels of excitement among less-reliable voters. And that will make for some very hard-fought defensive campaigns by those who won in 2008. I think most everyone is writing off Indiana for Obama in 2012. And states like Virginia, Florida, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico and North Carolina will likewise be tough. It’s not for nothing that they’re called competitive.

But just for a good dose of local angle on all of this: Barack Obama won Harris County, TX with 50.4% of the vote. There wasn’t much in the way of official campaign activity in Texas (save for calling folks in New Mexico), but there was certainly enthusiasm since the election basically played out everywhere on the news stations. That’s what promises to make 2012 competitive around these parts.

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