Keyword: 2018 Election
In the February 2018 poll released today, we rely on past vote history to determine whether or not we should consider someone to be a likely voter, and in particular, past primary voting history. For a respondent’s opinion to be considered in our primary trial ballot estimates, he or she had to have participated in a Texas party primary in 2012, 2014, or 2016.
With primary elections in Texas just days away, public opinion polling is inevitably seeping into the discussion of an unusually active political season. Campaigns are starting to release their internal polling in efforts to shape the news coverage and perception of races, and of course the University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll will follow its more or less regular schedule and appear sometime prior to Election Day. Purveyors of public polls like the UT/Texas Tribune Poll are once again faced with the unenviable task of providing context and (unfortunately) implied predictions about what’s going to happen in nominating contests for the state’s top offices.
The week started with very bad news for Lupe Valdez, while state campaign finance reports revealed how the Governor and Lt. Governor are spending their campaign largesse in the absence of any real primary challengers. Patrick Svitek of the Texas Tribune also posited the absence of one of the issues that roiled the legislative session in primary campaigns, despite some predictions (even promises) to the contrary. We took a break on national politics this week, though we note with many others that some national polling is suggesting that the much-discussed Democratic wave might be breaking farther from shore than exuberant Democrats and glum Republicans have been thinking.
Day-to-day breaking news on the various aspects of investigations of Russian tampering in the 2016 election and (increasingly) how the Trump White House has responded to the investigation dominated the national political news this week, with the early week looking bad for the FBI but the end of the week looking decidedly worse for the president. The big story from the previous week, the negotiations over immigration policy and the government shutdown, hovered ever so lightly over Dan Patrick’s first border-security and illegal immigration focused campaign video, in which the Lt. Governor signaled very strongly that he’s still behind the president. Yet within hours of the release of the governor’s video, the president was signaling his willingness to trade a path to citizenship for DACA recipients for border wall funding – which provided Senator Cruz the chance to raise his head above the hedge to shout his dissent. In two developments that remain secure from the ever-expanding storm of national politics, the special school finance commission met for the first time this week, and the first batch of legally grown marijuana in Texas made news. Continue on for Texas data on yet another week in politics that veered very unevenly between mystery and quirky humor.
Texas politics continued to be roiled by the ongoing national reckoning with sexual misconduct and gender attitudes in the culture this week, from a hearing in the Texas Senate on harassment policy to a couple of men calling it quits, including yet another Congressman, Blake Farenthold. In the policy realm, good stories on the history of the border wall produced by a team of Texas Tribune and ProPublica, and on climate change and Harvey in the Houston Chronicle, remind us all that we can continue to talk about enduring policy issues, though they also point to polarized public attitudes that make any moves on those issues difficult. All this, and, of course, Alabama
General Flynn has flipped, though on whom is still developing. Also still developing is just how many members of the Texas Congressional delegation will not be coming back. Joe Barton opted out, but there’s bad news out today for Congressman Farenthold, too. Over on the other side of the U.S. Capitol, the Senate handling of the tax rewrite (whatever the outcome) isn’t likely to help Congress’s approval rating – probably about as much as Matt Lauer, Charlie Rose, Bill O’Reilly, and Mark Halperin have helped the news media’s standing. On the other hand, Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s endorsement of Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller is likely to give him a shot in the arm after he picked up a challenger this week. Lest we think there’s no policy news, health care was in the post-Harvey spotlight this week at a Texas Tribune event, and amidst all these other weird things going on, Texas surrendered in one of the voting rights cases working its way through federal courts.
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.
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.