● Pres-by-CD: We arrive in Texas for our project to calculate the 2016 presidential results for all 435 congressional districts nationwide. You can find our complete data set here, which we're updating continuously as the precinct-level election returns we need for our calculations become available. You can also click here to learn more about why this data is so difficult to come by.
Texas's GOP-drawn congressional map was designed to create 24 safely red seats and 11 safely Democratic districts, with only the 23rd District in the western part of the state being truly competitive. In 2012, Mitt Romney carried the state 57-41 and won those 24 red seats by double digits, while Barack Obama easily carried the 11 Democratic districts; the 23rd backed Romney 51-48.
Things were a lot more interesting in 2016, with Donald Trump defeating Hillary Clinton by a smaller 52.5-43.5 margin, the closest presidential election in Texas in decades. Clinton won all the Obama districts, as well as the 23rd and two solidly Romney seats, the 7th and 32nd. However, the GOP still holds all the districts that Romney won in 2012, while Democrats have all the Obama/Clinton districts. The map at the top of this post, which shows each district as equally sized, illustrates all this, with the three Romney/Clinton districts standing out in pink.
We'll start with a look at Texas's 23rd District, which stretches from El Paso to San Antonio and went from 51-48 Romney to 50-46 Clinton. However, the swing wasn't quite enough for Democrats downballot. Republican Will Hurd narrowly unseated Democrat Pete Gallego in the 2014 GOP wave, and he won their expensive rematch by a similarly tight 48-47 margin.
Surprisingly, two other Texas Republicans have now found themselves sitting in seats Clinton won. Romney easily carried the 7th, located in the Houston area, by a wide 60-39 spread, but the well-educated seat backed Clinton by a narrow 48.5-47.1. Republican Rep. John Culberson still decisively turned back a challenge from a perennial candidate 56-44, and it remains to be seen if Democrats will be able to field a stronger contender next time—or whether the GOP's weakness at the top of the ticket was a one-time phenomenon due solely to Trump.
The 32nd in the Dallas area also swung wildly from 57-41 Romney to 49-47 Clinton. However, Democrats didn't even field an opponent against longtime GOP Rep. Pete Sessions, a former head of the NRCC who's capable of raising as much money as he needs to in order to win. This is another well-educated seat where we'll need to see if Democrats will be able to take advantage of Trump's weaknesses, or if The Donald's 2016 problems don't hurt the GOP much downballot in future years.
Seven other Republican-held seats also moved to the left by double digits. The closest result came in Rep. Kenny Marchant's 24th District in the Dallas-Forth Worth suburbs, which Trump won just 51-45 after Romney cruised to a 60-38 win four years earlier. Marchant beat a penniless opponent 56-39, so this district could also wind up on Democratic watch lists.
The other notable shifts include:
- Rep. Ted Poe's Houston-area 2nd District, which went from 63-36 Romney to a more-modest 52-43 Trump;
- Rep. Michael McCaul's suburban Austin 10th District, which moved from 59-39 Romney to 52-43 Trump;
- Rep. Lamar Smith's San Antonio based-21st, which went from 60-38 Romney to 53-43 Trump; and
- Rep. Pete Olson's 22nd, a suburban Houston seat similar to the district that Tom DeLay used to represent, which shifted from 62-37 Romney to 52-44 Trump.
None of these four seats are exactly swing territory, but they at least don't look as untouchable for Democrats as they once did. Meanwhile, all 11 Clinton/Obama seats look completely safe for Democrats. We also have a new contender for most-Trumpy congressional seat in America. Texas's 13th District, which includes Amarillo and Wichita Falls in the Panhandle, went for Trump 79.9-16.9, narrowly dispatching Kentucky's 5th District and its 79.6-17.5 Trump win.
It's also important to note that this map is still the subject of an extremely long-running lawsuit that a three-judge federal panel still hasn't adjudicated, even though the case was first filed in 2011 and a trial was held all the way back in 2014. That suit alleges that the current map unconstitutionally disadvantages the rights of minority voters, and it's survived multiple attempts by Texas Republicans to dismiss it, but thanks to the court's inexplicable delay, three elections have already been held using these lines. However, if the court finally acts and decides in the plaintiffs' favor, 2018's elections could proceed under a different map.
● CA-Gov: Here's another good example of why you shouldn't trust what politicians say about their plans for higher office until the filing deadline passes. San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer, the most prominent Republican elected official in all of California and likely the only candidate who could give the GOP a serious shot in next year's race for governor, said last year that he'd serve out his entire four-year term if he won re-election. He did so easily, but by November, he was already backing away from that pledge, saying he has "no plans" to run for governor. (As we always remind folks, "no plans to run" and "not running" are two very, very different things.)
Now, reports Politico, Faulconer is indeed considering a bid, and it's not just anonymous sources saying this (though they are, too). Former Los Angeles Mayor Dick Riordan says he met with Faulconer in December, who told him he does intend to seek California's open governorship. Riordan adds that Faulconer sought his endorsement, but he declined to give it, saying he "doesn't know him well enough."
Faulconer's office wouldn't comment, which means they're not disputing what Riordan's saying. But unless Faulconer's playing some kind of very deep game, it sure sounds like Riordan cracked out of turn—if you're going to float a bid in this way, you want to do it through someone who's going to validate you, not tell the press he declined to support you! Either way, though, Riordan's suddenly a lot more believable than Faulconer when it comes to the truth about Faulconer's plans.
● GA-Gov: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Greg Bluestein has been following the developing field in Georgia's gubernatorial race closely, and in a new piece, he runs down the prospects of just about every potential candidate in both parties. Two tidbits are particularly notable. For Republicans, Bluestein says that Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle is "almost certain to run," though he doesn't cite any sources. He also offers something similar about a leading Democrat, state House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams, saying she's "all but certain to run" and adds that her supporters are trying to clear the field for her. Both Cagle and Abrams have not ruled out bids.
● VA-Gov: In an extremely unexpected development on Thursday, former Rep. Tom Perriello announced his entry into Virginia's gubernatorial race, a contest where Democrats had long ago thought they'd cleared the field for Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam. The news, which was first reported by the New York Times on Wednesday night, came as a particular surprise because there'd previously been no suggestion that Perriello, who served a single term in Congress and has been out of office since losing re-election in 2010, was even looking at the race. Indeed, he'd spent the last two years in Africa as a special envoy and expressed no interest in trying to reclaim his old House seat when it came open in 2016.
But now Perriello is back, and Virginia Democrats will face a contested primary with some unusual contours. Northam, a former state senator, has the backing of almost the entire Democratic establishment in the state, including Gov. Terry McAuliffe and both Sens. Tim Kaine and Mark Warner, and he's identified himself as a "moderate." He also was reportedly the target of a GOP effort in 2009 to get him to switch parties and hand power to Republicans in the closely divided Senate, though this never came to pass.
But Northam's shown some real moxie, too. Democrats credited him with drawing national attention to a GOP attempt five years ago to force women to undergo an transvaginal ultrasound before having an abortion—an insultingly invasive process that Northam, a physician, made a point of identifying by its true nature, making him the first person to say the word "transvaginal" on the floor of the state Senate. (Republicans wound up dropping that provision.)
Perriello's politics are even harder to pin down. During his lone term in the House from 2009 to 2010, Perriello compiled the 15th most conservative voting record among Democrats according to DW-Nominate, a widely respected measure of lawmaker ideology, but he also represented a conservative seat that John McCain had won, so he was in-step with his district.
But Perriello was also unusually vocal in his support for big-ticket legislation that the Democrats passed that session, including the Affordable Care Act and cap-and-trade—bills that many Democrats tried to hide from. At the same time, though, he was an NRA supporter and voted for the Stupak amendment, which sough to prohibit the use of federal funds to pay for abortions.
While many pundits were quick to try to portray this newly engaged battle as some sort of stereotypical fight between the party's establishment and progressive wings, this race defies easy categorization. Perhaps more importantly, we have no idea how serious a campaign Perriello will be capable of running. Northam declared for this race all the way back in February of 2015 and had $1.4 million in his campaign account as of the middle of last year. Perriello is starting from scratch and has just a little over five months until the June 13 primary. And while neither has much name recognition, Northam has the advantage of having run statewide once before while Perriello has been out of politics for six years.
It's possible the race could produce a stronger Democratic nominee in the end, especially if it stays clean. But many primaries leave the eventual winner wounded and penniless, something Democrats badly hope won't happen here. Republicans, though, still have a three-way showdown of their own between former RNC chair Ed Gillespie, state Sen. Frank Wagner, and Prince William County Supervisor Corey Stewart, who was at one point Donald Trump's state campaign chair. That means there's a good chance both sides will wind up starting from scratch in the general election, which will be 2017's marquee contest.
● CA-34: The race to succeed Rep. Xavier Becerra keeps getting more and more crowded. This week, Vanessa Aramayo, a former head of an anti-poverty non-profit, became the tenth Democrat to join the race for this dark blue seat in downtown Los Angeles, which will become vacant as soon as California's legislature confirms Becerra as the state's new attorney general (hearings start next week). So far, the most prominent contender is state Assemblyman Jimmy Gomez, but no one has much name recognition, and with a field this large, this race is beyond handicapping at this early stage.
● GA-06: A fourth Democrat has jumped into expected special election for GOP Rep. Tom Price's suburban Atlanta House seat: Jon Ossoff, a former congressional aide and campaign operative who now runs a documentary film company that investigates crime and corruption. That political background has already proven to be a big boon to Ossoff, as he kicked off his bid with endorsements from Atlanta-area Reps. Hank Johnson and John Lewis, both of whom he's worked for in the past. He also says that donors have pledged $250,000 to his campaign.
And he'll need the help if he's to have a shot. As we've noted before, all candidates from all parties will run together on a single ballot in the special election, with the top two vote-getters advancing to a runoff in the likely event no one takes a majority in the first round. Because there are so many Democrats already in the race—including two former state legislators—there's a worrisome chance that they'll split the vote and allow two Republicans to squeeze into the second round.
Someone would either need to clear the field or emerge as the only credible Democrat to ensure the runoff is contested, and with his claimed financial strength and his support from Lewis, a civil rights legend, Ossoff may have suddenly become the top contender. And while Georgia's 6th District has traditionally been very conservative, tremendous hostility to Donald Trump saw him carry the district by just a 48-47 margin, so Democrats could have an opening if they don't botch the runoff.
Meanwhile, oddly enough, there's still only one Republican who's declared for the race, state Sen. Judson Hill, though plenty of others are considering, including Price's wife, state Rep. Betty Price, and former Secretary of State Karen Handel. What could be keeping them? Well, while Republicans on Capitol Hill are likely to do whatever Donald Trump demands of them, Price could face some ugly confirmation hearings for Health and Human Services secretary thanks to allegations that he may have engaged in insider trading based on secret information he learned as a member of Congress. It could be that his fellow Republicans are waiting to make sure he's safely ensconced as Obamacare Destroyer-in-Chief before sticking their necks out, lest they risk his taint.
● MT-AL: For reasons unclear, quite a few Democrats have declared their intention to seek their party's nomination in the expected special election to succeed GOP Rep. Ryan Zinke despite the fact that the race will be enormously difficult for Team Blue. The latest entrant is musician Rob Quist, who's described by the Billings Gazette as a "household name" in Montana and served on the state's arts council (a position appointed by the governor) for many years before recently stepping down. He joins a trio of state representatives—Amanda Curtis, Casey Schreiner, and Kelly McCarthy—who are all asking party leaders to pick them in the likely event that Zinke is confirmed as Donald Trump's secretary of the interior.
The Daily Kos Elections Morning Digest is compiled by David Nir, Jeff Singer, and Stephen Wolf, with additional contributions from David Jarman, Steve Singiser, Daniel Donner, and James Lambert.