As the Houston municipal elections draw to a close, it’s time to focus once again on statewide election developments. Save for serious breaking news, I’ve decided to do a new blog series to keep up with regular election news called TexWatch 2014.
For the first such update, we start with the big news in the Governor’s race. In a poll released by the Texas Tribune today, the race for Governor shows Democrat Wendy Davis inching closer to the Republican frontrunner Greg Abbott. The poll shows Abbott in the lead with 40 percent of to Davis’ 34 percent in a head-to-head matchup, with 25 percent undecided. When Libertarian candidate Kathie Glass was thrown in the mix, Abbott held at 40 percent, Davis inches up to 35 percent, and 20 percent remain in the undecided camp. Clearly this shows that Democrat Davis is still behind, but not nearly as much as she could be. It’s a big sign of encouragement for Texas Democrats as well, because it shows that when presented with a viable candidate, Democratic support is out there in the state. Keep in mind that in 2010, what some could call one the most right-leaning years of the century, under-funded Democrat Bill White still managed 42 percent of the vote in a light turnout election. This was in a blood-red year, and before the existence of groups like Battleground Texas.
Another important difference?? Wendy Davis has more time. Even with the passing of her father delaying an original announcement date, Davis is already solidly in the race a full two months before Bill White, whom announced his candidacy for Governor in December of 2009. Davis of course started out with better name ID than White, thanks to massive national exposure from her Filibuster of HB2. She’s also entered the game with a much improved Democratic funding apparatus. Given the 2 month advantage, Davis has the ability to far outpace Bill White in the fundraising arena. And again, with light turnout, White was able to garner 42 percent of the vote to Perry’s 55 percent.
Geography matters a whole lot in this too. Unlike White, who was from an already blue Harris County, Davis is from the last “urban Republican stronghold” Tarrant County. It currently holds the distinction of being the largest red county in the state of Texas. Only Tarrant and Nueces County remain as urban areas where Republicans won. Being Davis’ home and the epicenter of her campaign, she’s got a fantastic shot at winning Tarrant County, and would be expected to at least hold all of the urban counties that White claimed in 2010, and will probably win by greater percentages in each area. The urban counties are how Davis can go from the 42 percent baseline up to a 46 or 47 percent, putting her within striking distance of a win. But the only way for it to happen is through near historic turnout. Where Harris County netted a 16,000 gain for White in 2010, the net of Democratic voters has got to push near 100,000 for Davis. The good news though is this can get done by simply registering enough voters in low turnout areas. In 2008, over 700,000 registered voters in Harris County did not vote. If Democrats can focus on these and other urban centers, Davis really has a shot at being Texas’ next Governor.