Thursday, November 15, 2012

State and District 2012 Texas Election Summary

 by Michael Handley

Down ballot results for statewide and district Democratic candidates follows top of the ballot presidential voting patterns.
U.S. Senate Results by County
Senate Democratic candidate Paul Sadler became the latest Democrat seeking that office to fall far from the 50 percent mark, receiving just 40.5 percent of the vote.

Sadler, a former Texas House member with solid credentials, was no match against the tea party-backed candidate, Ted Cruz, who won with 56.6 percent of the vote.  Cruz got strong support in Tarrant County, winning 57 percent of the vote.

Similarly, Democrat Keith Hampton captured just over 40 percent of the vote in his loss to Republican Sharon Keller for a Texas Court of Criminal Appeals post.  Democrat Michele Petty pulled 42 percent of the vote in her loss to Nathan Hecht for Justice, Texas Supreme Court. Democrat Dale Henry got 40 percent of the vote to Christi Craddick's 56 percent for Railroad Commissioner.

The few brighter spots, including one bittersweet spot, of news for Texas Democrats comes from the Texas Senate and House results.  Senator Mario Gallegos, D-Houston, won re-election to his Texas state Senate seat last Tuesday, three weeks after his death. Sen. Gallegos died on October 16 of complications related to liver disease. Gallegos, who had served since 1994, overwhelmingly beat his challenger, Republican newcomer, R.W. Bray.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry should schedule a special election sometime in December to fill Gallegos' Senate seat.  Gallegos' Senate seat is likely to remain in Democratic hands, though Gov. Perry could delay calling the special election into early 2013, therefore giving Democrats one less vote in the Texas Senate during the 2013 legislative session.

Texas State Representative Carol Alvarado, D-Houston, who won reelection to her seat in the Texas House, announced on Monday November 12 that she will run for Gallegos' Senate seat.  Should she win that, in turn, could result in another special election to fill Alvarado's House seat during the 2013 Legislative Session. Former Harris County Commissioner Sylvia Garcia announced last Friday that she will also run as a Democrat for the Senate seat vacated by the death of Gallegos.

The 2013 Texas legislative session is shaping up to be another rough-and-tumble brawl between Democrats and Republicans. The 2012 election conducted under interim redistricting maps, ordered by the U.S. District Court in San Antonio on March 1, 2012, all but guaranteed Republicans would lose a few seats from the commanding 102-48 super majority they held in the House in 2011.

In 2011, three blue dog House Democrats turned Republican, pushing the GOP beyond the two-thirds super majority threshold in that legislative chamber. That super majority allowed conservatives to run the table on Democrats during 2011 legislative session, suspending rules and ramming through massive cuts to education, a voter photo I.D. law, a law requiring woman to have trans-vaginal sonograms and other legislation that progressive Democrats deem onerous.

On Election Day 2012, Democrats gained enough seats in the Texas House to have a little more negotiating leverage against ultra right wing Republicans with a 55-95 ratio of votes. While the right wing Republicans remain the dominant force in the Texas Legislature, Democrats' slight numerical gain could be important when negotiating critical legislation such as public education funding during the 2013 session.  Holding more than a third of the vote means that Democrats can slow down the Republican agenda by enforcing parliamentary rules. Clever use of those rules can give Democrats behind-the-scenes power to force compromise.

In the upper chamber of the Texas legislature, state Senator Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, won re-election against Republican challenger Mark Shelton. Davis' win keeps the the partisan makeup of the Senate at 12-19, thus preventing the possibility of a Republican super majority in the Senate. Under the Senate's traditional rules, a bill needs two-thirds support of the chamber, or 21 of 31 votes, to make it to the floor for a debate.  Republicans were fighting for every possible Senate seat in an attempt to eliminate Democrats from the legislative process in that chamber.  With 12 votes, Senate Democrats are in a better position to demand compromises on key legislation or slow down legislation they oppose.

The Democratic to Republican ratios in the House and Senate will make it harder for the GOP to fast-track its ultra right wing conservative agenda, though its strong majority in both chambers means Republicans will probably pass most of the bills they want.

Here are the top issues facing the Legislature when the session opens in January.
  1. School Funding: Democrats are pushing for restoring $5.4 billion in funds cut last year; Republicans plan to push for school vouchers that allow public money to be spent on private schools.
  2. Medicaid: Republicans complain that the health program for the poor, elderly and disabled will bankrupt the state; Democrats will try to defend state spending on the federal program.
  3. Immigration: Republicans are expected to reintroduce legislation requiring local police to investigate violations of federal immigration law, something Democrats think should be optional.
Monday, November 12, 2012 is the first day that legislation may be filed for the 2013 Legislative Session. The 2013 Legislative Session begins on Tuesday, January 8, 2013 and adjourns on May 27, 2013.

Texas Congressional District
Election 2012 Results
In one of the hotly contested U.S. House races, state Rep. Pete Gallego (D) beat out incumbent freshman U.S. Rep. Francisco “Quico” Canseco (R) for the 23rd District - one of the geographically largest Congressional Districts in the United States, spanning from San Antonio to El Paso.  Of course, tea party favorite Canseco immediately claimed that the only way Gallego could have won was by a Democratic plot of voter fraud.

Canseco supports Arizona-style immigration reform, anti-union policies and privatized social security. Gallego, on the other hand, supported a path to citizenship for immigrants, has a 100% positive labor voting record, and is pro-environment.  Latinos - who represent 70% of the 23rd District - took notice of the contrasts, rewarding Gallego with the win by over 9,500 votes.

In another hotly contested U.S. House race, State Rep. Randy Weber (R) bested former congressman Nick Lampson (D) for the 14th District seat. Weber will succeed GOP Rep. Ron Paul, who retired from Congress have eight terms in the House.

In a third U.S. House race, Democrat Joaquin Castro defeated Republican David Rosa, as expected, and will represent the 20th congressional district in Texas.  Castro, who is Mexican-American, is considered a rising star of the Democratic Party and is the twin brother of San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro. Castro was a representative of the 125th district in the Texas House of Representatives.

The 20th congressional district represents much of the city of San Antonio and is currently represented by Democrat Charles Gonzalez, a chair of the congressional Hispanic caucus. Gonzalez is retiring, which will put an end to nearly four decades of district representation by his family. Castro defeated Rosa, an insurance salesman. The 20th district is about 64 percent Latino and has a 55 percent majority of Democrat registered voters.

Of the 36 U.S. House seats in play for Texas in the 2012 election, 24 went to Republicans and 12 to Democrats - largely as expected from the gerrymandered congressional districts favoring Republicans.  Texas gained 4 House seats from the 2010 U.S. census, largely from Hispanic population growth.  Of the 32 Texas Congressional seats going into the 2012 election cycle, Democrats held 9 seats in the U.S. House, and Republicans held 23 seats.

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