We continue our series of analyses of competitive, or potentially competitive, legislative seats with an exploration of the I-35 corridor from Bell Co. to Bexar Co.

Republican Targets

HD45 (Lean Democratic): Rep. Erin Zwiener (D-Driftwood) won this open seat in 2018, becoming the first Democrat to represent Hays Co. since former Rep. Patrick Rose (D-Dripping Springs) was defeated by former Rep. Jason Isaac (R-Dripping Springs) in the wipeout election of 2010.

Jason Isaac left the seat for an unsuccessful run for open CD21. His wife, Carrie Isaac, is challenging Zwiener this year.

Collectively, Hays and Blanco Cos. have been bluer than the state as a whole since 2004. Until 2018, they wobbled between 1 and 3 points bluer than the state but with no discernable trend. Nearly every district will trend generally redder or bluer, but not this one. In 2018, our model projected a narrow Zwiener win, despite being at a significant campaign finance disadvantage and the district’s general friendliness to Republicans. We thought the model was overly bullish at the time.

Turns out our model was not bullish enough. The district jumped to more than 6 points bluer than the state as a whole, putting the average Democrat over 50% for the first time in more than two decades. That jump was fueled by a nearly 4K-vote swing in straight-party voting toward the Democrats. Compared to 2016, nearly 2K more Democrats cast a straight-party ballot and almost 2K fewer Republicans did the same. Republicans running in the district still had an advantage, but it was just 4 votes out of the 45K straight-party ballots cast.

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Zwiener’s win was powered by strong Democratic turnout in Hays Co., particularly in the precincts including and adjacent to Texas State Univ., which provided her entire margin of victory. If turnout is reduced there because of coronavirus-related interruptions or reductions in on-campus activity, the seat could easily become a Toss Up.

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