Texas is a whole lot less competitive state than a year ago.
After the Legislature drew new maps for itself and the Congress, only 13 districts (6%) are rated as “Toss Ups” (4), “Lean Republican” (5) or “Lean Democrat” (4) in our initial Race Ratings for the 2022 general election. There were 38 such districts in our initial 2020 ratings, and that figure excluded six competitive Senate districts that were not on the ballot.
We rate seats based on a seven-point scale from Safe Republican to Safe Democrat based on our formulas for calculating how much redder or bluer a district is than the state as a whole. Our initial ratings are based on the new districts’ partisan lean calculated solely using the 2020 general election results as though the new districts were in effect. We will incorporate recent shifts in the districts’ partisan leans by analyzing election data back to at least 2012 – in some districts as far back as 2002 – to detect longer-term trends. We will eventually incorporate estimates for statewide candidates’ performance, measured head-to-head against the other major party’s nominee, and then “float” the districts above or below that percentage based on past history, recent trends and the incumbent’s tendency to over- or under-perform their party’s candidates. Those calculations will begin after the primary elections. Our initial ratings capture the partisan lean at a single moment of time: November 2020.
Based on these initial ratings, we have projected the partisan makeup of the Legislature and Congressional delegation without any regard to who may be running for any of the offices, with three exceptions which we will note below.
Republican candidates have won every statewide race since 1996, and the 2020 election results suggest that streak will easily continue through 2022. Based on our criteria, all statewide races would be rated as Likely Republican.
That said, we moved the LTGOV and AG races to Lean Republican based on the relatively close elections those two incumbents had in 2018. A lack of marquee Democratic candidates for any of the statewide offices does not move the needles any further.
All 31 Senate seats are on the ballot in 2022. Nearly all of them will be settled following the primary elections.
Only SD27 receives a competitive rating: Lean Democrat. A dozen seats are rated Likely Republican, and seven more are Safe Republican. Three seats are rated Likely Democrat, and eight are rated Safe Democrat.
In the House, 84 of the chamber’s 150 seats are rated safe for one party or the other – 45 Safe Republican and 39 Safe Democrat. Just nine seats are rated as competitive, and one of those is purely because of the incumbent’s historic over-performance relative to the rest of his party.
Rep. Ryan Guillen’s (D-Rio Grande City) HD31 as drawn is a Likely Republican district, but Guillen in 2020 fared 11.7 points better than the average Democrat running on the ballot with him. We shift the seat to Lean Republican accordingly, and further analysis may move it again to Toss Up.
The other three seats rated Lean Republican are open HD52 in Williamson Co.; HD54, the Bell Co. doughnut district held by Rep. Brad Buckley (R-Salado); and Rep. Angie Chen Button’s (R-Garland) HD112, one of two Republican-held districts remaining in Dallas Co.
Ongoing shifts in partisan lean among Hispanic/Latino voters place South Texas districts HD80, held by Rep. Tracy King (D-Batesville), and open HD118 in Bexar Co. into the Toss Up category. A special runoff election November 2 will give HD118 an incumbent, and, if it’s former Rep. John Lujan (R-San Antonio), he’ll inherit a district far more winnable in the general election than when he last won a special election. Open HD70 in southwestern Collin Co. is the other Toss Up district, and its presence shifted neighboring HD66, held by Rep. Matt Shaheen (R-Plano), and HD67, held by Rep. Jeff Leach (R-Allen), into the Likely Republican category.
Both seats rated Lean Democratic are also seeing rapid shifts toward Republican candidates: the newly created, open HD37 in Cameron Co. and the sprawling HD74, the district held by Rep, Eddie Morales Jr. (D-Eagle Pass), which hugs the southern border from El Paso to the Maverick-Webb Co. line.
A striking change from 2020 is the number of seats rated in the “Likely” category. Our initial 2022 ratings include 29 Likely Republican seats, up from 13 in our initial 2020 ratings, and 22 Likely Democratic seats, up from 11 in 2020. No Democrat-held seat, save the jointly held but open HD63, landed in the Likely Republican category, but one Republican-held seat is rated as Likely Democratic: HD92, held today by Rep. Jeff Cason (R-Bedford). Republican-friendly precincts in Bedford and Hurst were swapped for more Democrat-friendly precincts on Arlington and Grand Prairie, moving HD92’s partisan lean 13 points toward Democratic candidates. As it is today, HD92 was 2.2 points bluer than the state as a whole in 2020. Its new configuration is 15.1 points bluer than the state as a whole based on the 2020 election.
Overall, the House map will have little impact on the partisan makeup of the chamber but a big impact on how safe those seats will be for their primary victors.
We rate just three out of 38 congressional districts as competitive following redistricting, and all three are Hispanic/Latino-majority districts:
- CD15 – 79% of the voting-age population (VAP) is Hispanic/Latino
- CD23 – 60% of VAP is Hispanic/Latino, and
- CD28 – 73% of VAP is Hispanic/Latino.
As the districts were configured in 2020, those percentages were 78%, 66% and 74%, respectively. The biggest shift among the three occurred in Republican-held CD23, which saw the Anglo share of VAP increase to 31% from 26%. That might not seem like much of a shift, but it, combined with the improving performance of Republicans in the region, is enough to move the last decade’s most competitive district to Lean Republican.
The lone Toss Up seat is open CD15, which U.S. Rep. Vicente Gonzalez (D-McAllen) is vacating to seek adjacent, and Likely Democratic, CD34.
Twenty-six seats – two-thirds of the delegation – are rated either Safe Republican (16) or Safe Democrat (10).
Overall, we rate 125 of the state’s 219 legislative and congressional districts as “safe” for one party or the other. That’s 57% of all districts. Another 81 districts (37%) are rated as “likely” to go to one party or the other. Across much of the state, primary voters have all the power.
©2021 Texas Election Source LLC