Post Date: November 2017
How much shifts in opinion towards the government's response to Harvey can be expected to impact the 2018 election campaigns in Texas depends on how they interact with what has become an unexpectedly roiled political season in the state. The elections are already buffeted by the raucous rule of Trump and his nominal party allies in Washington, the specter of an unusually roused Democratic electorate, lots of candidates shifting around as a result of Congressional retirements, and the ongoing intra-party warfare in the Texas GOP. As government at all levels struggle to respond to the aftermath of disaster in Texas and other places where severe misfortune has struck, the data below will serve as benchmarks for understanding the changes that are coming.
The national media storm over sexual harassment hit Texas this week, which the legislative leadership attempted to act on even as in other corners, some of the same old internecine fights in the GOP played out in the House and on the terrain of the upcoming 2018 primary elections. Congressman Gene Green’s announcement that he wouldn’t seek reelection added another wrinkle in Houston politics, this one among Democrats who are either jumping in to fight for his seat or waiting to see which #txlege competitors create new openings as a result of others' efforts to move up. Meanwhile, events in Congress provided lots of reasons why so many people don’t want to work there anymore, and some are even policy related, like the effort to combine repealing the ACA insurance mandate with the Tax Reform bill.
Democrat Gene Green of Houston's retirement brings the number of Texas legislators not returning to the nation's capitol to six as the filing period for office began over the weekend. While Green is only the second Democrat to announce that he won't be returning to the U.S. House of Representatives (along with Beto O'Rourke, who is instead running to replace Texas Senator Ted Cruz in the upper chamber), each recent announcement by Republican Congressman has resulted in a new round of speculation about what these retirements mean for 2018. The questions are both local – like who is going to fill these seats and how will those replacements reverberate down the ballot – but also global, about the 2018 Election, the Republican Party, and the potential impact of Donald Trump. While these are both interesting and worthy lines of inquiry, a simpler question to ask first is: what the usual Congressional churn looks like in the Texas delegation?
Fantasies of widespread voter abandonment of Republicans for Democrats in the Texas suburbs remain far-fetched, but data from the last three University of Texas/Texas Tribune polls does show that suburban attitudes towards President Trump in Texas could become cause for Texas GOP concern if the party continues on its current trajectory.
As the grim particulars of the Sutherland Springs shooting have become known in the days since the incident, the fact that a bystander armed with a rifle of his own shot the perpetrator and gave chase crucially transforms the terrain of the political interpretation of the shootings. The presence of an armed citizen "shooting in the opposite direction," as President Donald Trump put it hours after the killings, activates partisan attitudes about guns in Texas that can be effectively mobilized by advocates and political leaders to stifle discussion of adding even the most mild restrictions on access to, or ownership, of guns. The trope that the best antidote to gun violence by bad (or even sick) people is good people with guns resonates sufficiently with the right audience of Republicans so as to effectively seal off discussions outside the status quo.
The UT/Texas Tribune Poll asked about two of the key provisions of SB4 that have been subjects of the litigation under discussion today – the so-called "show me your papers provision" that preserve law enforcement officers' option to ask for proof of citizenship during a legal detainment, and the requirement that local authorities' cooperate and comply with federal immigration law, including detainer requests by Customs and Immigration Enforcement (ICE).
When it comes to legal cases in general, and legal rights in particular, it's important to note that public opinion can often act as a poor guide to a just outcome, and in many cases, may have no relevance on particular legal proceedings. With that caveat aside, public opinion is useful in determining how elected officials, including the Attorney General, might react to court decisions, and further, whether the state chooses to push ahead in the legal process in the face of adverse decisions.
President Trump Sticks to the Script in Invoking Mental Health in Response to Latest Texas Shootings
While President Donald Trump has cultivated an image among his followers for defying the conventions of politics, his initial response to yesterday's mass killings by a gunman in Sutherland Springs, Texas, strictly followed the conventional script used by GOP elected officials in the wake of mass shootings.
If you're reading this, you probably know someone who's at least talking about running for Lamar Smith's congressional seat, one of three GOP-held seats now without incumbent candidates in 2018 after Smith and Jeb Hensarling announced they'd be exiting Congress stage-right. Governor Greg Abbott braved the moral swamps of Washington, DC to shop around a $61 billion plan for disaster recovery and beyond for Texas. Back at home, application for homeowner buyouts for those on floodplains is outpacing funding for them. In more personality-driven news, Rockwall businessman Scott Milder is challenging Lt. Governor Dan Patrick in the GOP primary, and Rick Perry offered a heretofore unrecognized benefit of fossil fuels to an eager political press corps, who seemed very glad this week that the longest serving governor in Texas history continues serving the public.
Patrick's job approval numbers among key groups in the October University of Texas/Texas Tribune poll underline the strength of his position with the primary electorate.