Number of Republican candidates for state representative whose vote percentage was exceeded by Donald Trump in the 2016 general election.
There were 53 state House seats contested by a Republican and a Democrat in 2016. In 49 of those races, the Republican state representative candidate outperformed the Republican presidential nominee. On average, the Republican legislative candidate received 3.8% more of the vote than Trump, measured head-to-head against the Democratic candidate. Republican legislative candidates averaged 2,902 more votes than Trump.
Reps. Sarah Davis (+13.5%), Jason Villalba (+12.5%), Linda Koop (+9.7%), Matt Shaheen (+8.0%) and Angie Chen Button (+7.8%) had the best vote percentages relative to Trump. Rep. Leighton Schubert (-0.4%) and then-Rep. Gilbert Peña (-0.2%) were the only incumbents among the 53 candidates to receive a lower percent of the vote than Trump, measured head-to-head against the Democrat. Peña was defeated. Schubert won re-election but is not seeking re-election (and resigning). The other two Republican candidates who polled below Trump were running, unsuccessfully, in Democrat-held districts.
This over-performance permitted eight Republican candidates – all incumbents – to prevail in contested general elections even though Hillary Clinton carried their districts. On average, those eight incumbents received nearly 6,200 more votes than Trump.
But these percentages include the impact straight-party voting has on all contested partisan elections in these districts. Single-punch, straight-party votes accounted for 65% of the votes received by the Republican and Democratic legislative candidates. Those votes counted for the respective presidential candidates as well. Backing those votes out reveals an even greater performance gap between the presidential nominee and the legislative candidates.
On average, the 53 Republican state House candidates received 11% more of the vote from full-ballot voters* than Trump. In fact, in these 53 districts, Trump lost to Clinton among full-ballot voters, 53%-47%, but the collective Republican candidates prevailed, 58%-42%. This gap exceeded 20 points in seven districts, including five won by Clinton.
Villalba (+32.1%) and Davis (+30.7%) had the highest performance improvements over Trump among full-ballot voters. To put this in perspective, about a third of HD114 voters who went through the full ballot voted for Clinton and Villalba, and more than three out of 10 HD134 voters cast ballots for Clinton and Davis.
This effect may have implications for 2018 in at least two of these districts. Both Villalba and Davis are facing conservative primary opponents in districts were voters have shown a greater-than-typical willingness to break party lines. HD134’s rate of straight-party voting ranked 49th among the 53 districts in this analysis, which means that full-ballot voters have a greater influence there than in most other districts, and Villalba’s district ranked 40th.
* Full-ballot voters do not cast a straight-party vote and instead choose candidates race-by-race down the ballot.