2014 Post-Election Analysis

Saturday, November 8, 2014
posted by elizabeth @ 5:47 PM

Tuesday’s general election resulted in a major GOP sweep nationally, stemming from an unpopular Democratic President, unsuccessful Democratic campaign efforts and candidates. At the state level, Texas remains red with all statewide office holders being Republican.

State of Texas

Greg Abbott defeated Wendy Davis in the race for governor, winning with 59% of the vote. Abbott busted the gender gap, carrying both women and men. Davis had hoped to appeal to Republican women, but only received 4% of their votes. Abbott’s Hispanic inroads helped him gain support from 44% of Hispanics, a strong showing for a Republican. Younger voters favored Davis while Abbott did especially well among older Texans. He got two-thirds of the vote from those 45-64 and those 65 and older — and they accounted for more than half of the state’s turnout. Greg Abbott’s win lead the GOP effort that upset every Democrat running for statewide office.

The other statewide Republican candidates had double-digit wins.  Lt. Governor-elect Dan Patrick beat long-time Senator Leticia Van de Putte, who will remain in her Senate seat to represent her San Antonio constituents. Attorney General-elect Ken Paxton beat the Democrat Sam Houston. Comptroller-elect Glenn Hegar beat Houston-based Mike Collier, securing 58% of the vote. Land Commissioner-elect and GOP favorite, George P. Bush easily took 60% of the vote. Agriculture Commissioner-elect and former House member Sid Miller and Railroad Commissioner-elect Ryan Sitton both won with 58% of the vote.

Only one race in the Texas Senate, the seat left open when Wendy Davis gave up to run for governor, was a competitive general election race.   In that race Republican Konni Burton defeated Democrat Libby Willis, gaining 52.8% of the vote in the Ft. Worth based Senate District 10.

A dozen races for the 150-member Texas House were competitive. In the House, Republicans needed to pick up five seats to get to a supermajority — 100 of the 150 members.  Although they did not reach that milestone, they brought their majority to 98 with wins from Wayne Faircloth in HD-23, which includes Galveston; Rick Galindo in San Antonio’s HD-117; and Gilbert Peña in Harris County’s HD-144.

Judiciary and Legal

Most Texans overlook the races where the candidates running have the most influence over their daily lives and they do not realize it, judicial races.  Our judicial races are part of what contribute to Texas being the state with the longest election ballots.

Texas had judicial races of one kind or another be it appeals court, county civil and criminal courts, probate, county-court-at-law and others.  There were no major sweeps of county civil and criminal courts as we have seen in past years.  Most judges were re-elected.  The statewide judicial races for the Texas Supreme Court and Criminal Court of Appeals did not have any surprises.  The incumbents on the Supreme Court were all re-elected.  Chief Justice Nathan Hecht won his re-election bid as did Supreme Court Justices Jeff Brown, Jeff Boyd and Phil Johnson.  Likewise, the justices on the Court of Criminal Appeals were re-elected including Judges Bert Richardson, Kevin Patrick Yeary and David Newell.

There were two prominent District Attorneys who were not re-elected.  In Bexar County, incumbent Republican Susan Reed lost to her Democratic challenger Nicholas LaHood.  In Dallas County, incumbent Democrat Craig Watkins lost to his Republican challenger Susan Hawk.

Proposition 1

Proposition 1, a constitutional amendment that takes a percentage of oil and gas tax revenues and directs them towards road project funding passed by a wide margin – 79.78% to 20.21%. Taxes from the oil and gas industry will be a new source of revenue for cash-strapped Texas roads – taking a portion of the severance tax that was going into the state’s Rainy Day Fund and allocates it to the State Highway Fund. In the 2014 fiscal year, according to the Texas State Comptroller, Texas collected $3.8 billion in crude oil taxes and another $1.9 billion in natural gas taxes. For an idea of how fast this revenue source is growing, collections on crude oil taxes jumped 30 percent while natural gas went up 27 percent compared to the 2012 fiscal year.

However, the additional revenue estimated at $1.7 billion—might not be enough and additional sources of revenue must be found in the 2015 Texas Legislative session.  With crude oil trading below $80 per barrel the estimate could be reduced if that trend continues.

Denton Fracking Ban

Voters in Denton, Texas, banned fracking within the city limits by a margin of 59 to 41. This is the first such restriction in Texas,   Denton has been a hot bed for the industry and one of eight locales with fracking bans on the ballot this election. Located 35 miles northwest of Dallas, Denton sits atop the Barnett shale and already has some 275 fracked wells. Those who voted for the ban were concerned about air pollution, the heavy demand for water, and the possibility that the process causes earthquakes. Passing the state’s first ban on hydraulic fracturing will set up a high-profile property rights clash likely to be fought in courtrooms and the Legislature.

The Denton measure does not technically prohibit drilling outright.  It would apply only to fracking. But, opponents of the ban say it would make gas beneath the city too difficult to profitably tap.  This essentially amounts to a drilling ban. A week ahead of the election, the opponents of the ban raised nearly $700,000, mostly from companies like Chevron, Occidental Petroleum, EnerVest, XTO Energy and Devon Energy. The Denton Record-Chronicle called it the most expensive campaign in the town’s history by far.

United States Congress

At the federal level, Republicans swept the election.  Republicans had a strong, well thought out game plan in place and recruited better candidates to run compared to last cycle.  On the House side, not only did Republicans retain their majority, they added it to it by at least ten.  Some races are still undecided.  Furthermore, Republicans brought with them some firsts in electoral politics.  Senator-elect Joni Ernst is the first woman elected to the U.S. Senate from Iowa.  Mia Love, Representative-elect from Utah is the first Republican African-American woman elected to Congress.  Then there is Elise Stefanik, Representative-elect from New York.  At age 30 she is the youngest woman to be elected to Congress.   Senator Tim Scott was appointed to fill a vacant Senate seat in South Carolina.  On Tuesday, Scott became the first African-American senator elected in the South since Reconstruction.  Will Hurd will be the first Republican African American Congressman from Texas since Reconstruction.  Hurd will be one of three new Congressional Members from Texas.  They include Brian Babin (R-36 Houston-Woodville), Will Hurd (R-23 San Antonio-Alpine), and John Ratcliffe (R-4 Rockwall-Texarkana). The Texas Congressional delegation will now have 27 Republicans and 11 Democrats.

As of the writing of this report, there are three undecided Senate races.  With that said, Republicans picked up seven seats to help vault them into the majority.  They picked up seats in Arkansas (Tom Cotton), Colorado (Cory Gardner), Iowa (Joni Ernst), Montana (Steve Daines), North Carolina (Thom Tillis), South Dakota (Mike Rounds) and West Virgin (Shelley Moore Capito).

The makeup of the Senate will change with Republicans in the majority holding 52 seats and Democrats in the minority holding 45 seats.  There will be 2 Independents and both will caucus with the Democrats.  As of this writing, there are three Senate races undecided, Alaska, Louisiana and Virginia.  The Louisiana race will be a runoff between incumbent Democrat Senator Mary Landrieu and her Republican challenger Congressman Bill Cassidy.

There will not be any leadership changes in either chamber other than Republicans moving to the majority in the Senate.  Senator Mitch McConnell will become Majority Leader and Texas Senator John Cornyn will retain his Whip status.  However, he will become Majority Whip.  Senator Harry Reid is said to be staying in the Senate and will retain his leadership role as Minority Leader as will Dick Durbin who will be Minority Whip.

The House will remain in the control of the Republicans.  There will be 175 Democrats and 243 Republicans.  As of this writing, there are 17 undecided races. John Boehner will retain the Speaker’s gavel and Kevin McCarthy will continue on as Majority Leader.  Nancy Pelosi will continue to be Minority Leader and Steny Hoyer will stay on as Minority Whip

Lessons Learned

One of our resident Democrats reflected on Tuesday’s election returns and provided lessons learned.  He noted that the election brings to mind the saying by Speaker Tip O’Neill, “All Politics is local.”

Like most failures, the cause of campaign defeats are often a result of a combination of reasons, but if there is one lesson that Texas Democrats should take out of this election, it’s that all politics is local.  Adhering to this philosophy can be particularly challenging across the State of Texas because of its incredible diversity, but nevertheless, it is a necessary component to a successful campaign.

Over the past 10-15 years, a number of advancements, from social media to electronic programs, have led to a fast evolution on how campaigns are operated.  However, one must recognize that many of these advancements are a compliment of, not a substitute for, age-old campaign methods which accomplish a personal connection with constituents and their issues.

Abbott, with all of his resources, hit the mark on virtually every aspect.  He invested in over a dozen trips to the Rio Grande Valley, a Democrat stronghold with a large Hispanic population, while Davis made only a handful of visits.  Battleground Texas, a PAC established to make Texas a swing state, hired a well experienced individual to lead its Hispanic outreach, yet he was from out of state.  Abbott’s Hispanic mother-in-law appeared in both English and Spanish commercials, while Davis had some commercials airing on Spanish networks with subtitles.

Another notable outcome of last night’s results are the nearly identical numbers of Davis and Van de Putte despite the large discrepancy in campaign funds.  Regardless of the political will of the State, I believe this is indicative something different must be done at the top of the Democratic ticket in order to effectively connect with the voters.

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