A Milder Shade of Pale: Texas Data Points for the Week in Politics, November 3, 2017

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.

1. Cue "The flight of the incumbents" stories. This week saw announcements from two GOP members of the Texas Congressional delegation that they were hanging it up. Reps. Lamar Smith and Jeb Hensarling join fellow-Republican Sam Johnson and Democrat Beto O’Rourke in saying that they will not be running for reelection in 2018 (though O’Rourke will be running for Senate, as you may have heard in Rolling Stone, Vanity Fair, Mother Jones,  etc., etc., etc.). The impulse has been to paint these retirements as indicators of a broader trend, in particular, one of Republicans retiring from office as a result of Donald Trump’s Presidency, premonitions about a coming Democratic wave election, and just plain frustration with being a member of Congress these days. Some of these issues may be at play. For instance, the President’s party (any President) usually loses seats in the midterm elections following their own election, and being a Congressman these days, by all accounts, is a real drag, and not exactly a source of respect. But in Smith’s case, the man has been in Congress since 1987 and he’s about to lose his chairmanship due to GOP caucus rules that impose term limits (i.e. it’s hard to say that he’s leaving too soon). Hensarling was elected in 2003 and is being term-limited out of his Chairmanship of the Financial Services Committee (i.e. he will not have any problems finding lucrative work). It’s important to remember at this early stage in the 2018 election cycle that there are many less exciting theories about these recent retirements that don’t involve a 30-year veteran of Congress who won his district with 60 percent of the vote two years ago running scared. The one trend that these retirements do continue is the cycling out of Texas politicians, conservative by any standard, who entered office representing the pre-Tea Party Texas GOP. If recent elections offer any hints, it’s very likely that the new representatives will be more conservative than the men they are replacing. 

Loading chart...
categoryDemocratRepublicanTea Party
Conservative enough66%57%36%
Too conservative34%13%4%
Not conservative enough0%20%58%
Don't know/No opinion0%10%3%

2. Mr. Abbott goes to Washington. Speaking of Congress, a few weeks after Governor Abbott rattled the cages of the Texas Congressional delegation over the pace of Washington’s delivery of disaster relief funds to Texas and the state delegation getting rolled, Abbott made a relatively rare foray into the swamp to tout his $61 billion long-term plan for relief and future protection from weather that he is apparently expecting to get worse. When the October University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll asked Texans to review the performance of government entities in their response to Harvey, the feds finished third behind state and local government. As far as what the future might hold, opinions were mixed on whether climate change was making things worse (but differed in predictable ways). Maybe the Governor – or Chancellor Sharp, or Mr. Hamilton – knows something the skeptics don’t...

Loading chart...
Don't know/no opinion13%

Loading chart...
Don't know/no opinion13%17%12%

Loading chart...
Approve strongly30%
Approve somewhat27%
Neither approve nor disapprove17%
Disapprove somewhat10%
Disapprove strongly10%
Don't know6%

Loading chart...
Approve strongly38%
Approve somewhat30%
Neither approve nor disapprove13%
Disapprove somewhat7%
Disapprove strongly6%
Don't know6%

Loading chart...
Approve strongly38%
Approve somewhat31%
Neither approve nor disapprove13%
Disapprove somewhat5%
Disapprove strongly4%
Don't know9%

Loading chart...
Public Education2%
Public health22%
Environmental contamination15%
Debris cleanup and disposal28%
Damage to local businesses2%

3. Build your house on a rock! The Texas Tribune (via Nina Satija), together with ProPublica, had an interesting piece this week highlighting how the requests for those wanting to be bought out of their home in the wake of Hurricane Harvey are likely to outpace available funding, and in many instances, come from homeowners ineligible for the buyouts. It’s worth a read (or if nothing else, a look at the graphic – we like graphics if you haven't noticed). On the public opinion side of this issue, we asked Texans in the October UT/TT Poll about this federal relief for people with homes in frequently flooded areas, in full: “Should people that rebuild their homes in frequently flooded areas be eligible for federal relief in the future if their homes flood again?” Tough question, and Texans were split overall, with some partisan sorting, but less than usual.

Loading chart...
Don't know/no opinion23%

Loading chart...
Don't know/no opinion22%18%25%

4. The Lt. Governor has a primary challenger. We wrote a post looking at Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick’s standing among Republicans and, in particular, Tea Party identifiers on the day he announced. While no one can be certain about the future, Allen Blakemore isn’t worried, and in this case, who can blame him? (Though, as Jonathan Tilove recounts in the Austin American ForSaleMan (sorry, we know it's nerve-wracking), with his characteristic ear for the good kicker quote, the Patrick campaign's "due diligence process" is underway, with the subtlety we've come to expect from them.)

Loading chart...
PollApproveDisapproveNeither/Don't Know
November 201564%8%29%
February 201662%8%29%
June 201668%9%24%
October 201670%8%21%
February 201775%5%20%
June 201779%9%12%
October 201770%9%20%
February 201874%10%16%
June 201871%11%18%
October 201882%7%11%

5. He keeps on giving. From the longest-serving Texas Governor and current Secretary of Energy, Rick Perry, via Politico but widely covered in a national political press that loves guys who shock you albeit in familiar ways:

“I just got back from Africa, I’m to finish up with this, because I think I heard a lady say there are people dying. Let me tell you where people are dying, is in Africa, because of the lack of energy they have there. And it’s going to take fossil fuels to push power out into those villages in Africa, where a young girl told me to my face, one of the reasons that electricity is so important to me is not only because I’m not going to have to try to read by the light of a fire and have those fumes literally killing people. But also from the standpoint of sexual assault. When the lights are on, when you have light that shines, the righteousness, if you will, one those types of acts. So from the standpoint of how you really affect people’s lives, fossil fuels is going to play a role in that. I happen to think it’s going to play a positive role.”

Oops. (Sorry, Jay Root, didn't meant to tread.)

Loading chart...
Very favorable10%
Somewhat favorable21%
Neither favorable nor unfavorable20%
Somewhat unfavorable14%
Very unfavorable16%
Don't know/no opinion18%

Loading chart...
Very favorable2%3%18%
Somewhat favorable8%10%36%
Neither favorable nor unfavorable20%32%18%
Somewhat unfavorable18%14%12%
Very unfavorable31%12%5%
Don't know/no opinion21%29%11%

Loading chart...
A great deal12%20%
A lot14%24%
A moderate amount22%26%
A little35%21%
None at all17%8%

Quick Hits:

Ross Ramsey used the wealth of data on Straus collected in University of Texas/Texas Tribune Polling to talk about corrolaries to the Laney rule without mentioning it. If you want to use graphics of this data, grab them in multiple downloadable formats here.

A story by Louis Jacobson in Governing Magazine gave a kind word to those who provide statewide polling in Texas, though seems not to have noticed that the University of Texas is involved.  We like Governing, maybe next time.

Jonathan Silver over at the Austin American Statesman incorporated public attitudes captured in the UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS / Texas Tribune Poll into his story on the Governor's meeting with Texas House Member Eric Johnson's request to remove a confederate plaque from outside his office.  

The raging environmental activists over at the General Accounting office released a much-anticipated report on climate change - here's a link to the pdf.

Loading chart...
categoryThe Bible is the word of God, to be taken literallyThe Bible is the word of God, not to be taken literallyThe Bible is a book written by men
Don't know/no opinion17%13%7%