Ten years ago, I set out to make my readers the smartest people in their political crowd. My approach was to combine comprehensive election data, campaign finance figures and candidate news with the insights I’ve built over more than three decades of observing Texas politics.
I wanted to look beyond the typical two-year campaign window to identify long-term trends and apply them to the next election. I sought to weed through the noise of numbers and report on only those that were truly important to understanding what happened, what’s happening and what may happen next. And I wanted to do this as objectively and insightfully as possible.
After every general election, I decide whether I will commit myself to putting in the thousands of hours of work necessary to deliver news and analysis at the level of quality I expect from myself. In the past, that answer has been “yes.” This time, I have decided not to continue for the 2023-24 election cycle.
Many reasons and circumstances contributed to this decision, but the biggest is simply this: I’m ready to redirect my energies into new endeavors.
Publication of Texas Election Source will end next week. All outstanding subscription balances will be rebated or otherwise distributed as directed by the subscriber (More details will be forthcoming). Our website will remain up, so access to the archives and existing Crib Sheets will continue for the foreseeable future. Regular emails will cease, but any new content on the site will be sent via email as before.
I will remain on Twitter at @TXElects so long as Twitter remains a viable platform to share election and political news, though my activity there will be reduced. Contact information will remain the same.
Thank you to all the friends, professionals and political junkies who have been a part of this journey, especially those who have been with me from the beginning. You were willing to take a chance on me as Texas Election Source evolved from a crazy idea to an emailed PDF attachment to the fully digital product it is today. I am honored to have earned your faith, trust and business. I appreciate you immensely. And I hope we succeeded in making you the smartest person in the room.
This chapter of Texas Election Source is ending, but a new chapter may one day begin. If years of rummaging through data and observing trends have taught me anything, it’s that nothing in politics is permanent. For now, I will simply say thank you for being a Texas Election Source subscriber!
©2022 Texas Election Source LLCNo tags for this post.
A third of Texas registered voters continue to believe President Biden did not “legitimately” win the 2020 presidential election, according to the latest Univ. of Texas/Texas Politics Project poll. Three out of five Republicans do not believe Biden won the election “legitimately” and another 16% are unsure – leaving just 24% who accept the results as legitimate.
No credible evidence supports former President Trump’s fantasy that the 2020 presidential election was somehow stolen from him. Yet, that fantasy persists.
Election denialism is more prevalent among older voters than younger ones:
- Aged 65 and older – 46% believe Biden was legitimately elected, 43% do not
- Aged 45-64 – 51% believe the election was legitimate, 38% do not
- Aged 30-44 – 62% believe the election was legitimate, 28% do not; and
- Aged 18-29 – 75% believe the election was legitimate, 10% do not.
Rural voters are more likely to believe Biden’s win was illegitimate (48%) than legitimate (38%), while suburban voters are more inclined to believe its legitimacy (55%) than not (33%).
Most Republicans (59%) do not believe U.S. election results are accurate – 26% believe they are “very inaccurate” – but just 19% of Republicans believe Texas election results are inaccurate. Only 1 in 25 Republicans believe Texas results are “very inaccurate.”
Encouragingly, election denialism has declined, slightly, since the UT/TPP poll conducted shortly after Biden’s inauguration. In that poll, 43% of Texans thought U.S. election results were either somewhat (13%) or very (30%) inaccurate. In the latest poll, the percent of Texans believing U.S. results are very inaccurate has fallen by half to 15%, with much of that difference shifting to somewhat inaccurate (+6%) and somewhat accurate (+11%).
Discouragingly, election denialism has increased since right before the general election. In its October poll, UT/TPP found just 24% of Texans believed U.S. election results were either somewhat (15%) or very (6%) inaccurate.
Faith in Texas election results has remained steady over the past two years.
The poll found fairly divided assessments on job approvals, most of which have held steady for at least two years:
- Greg Abbott’s job approval: 49/41 (24/34 strongly)
- Gov. Dan Patrick’s job approval: 43/36 (19/31 strongly)
- Gen. Ken Paxton’s job approval: 41/37 (19/31 strongly)
- U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz’s job approval: 44/44 (25/36 strongly)
- U.S. Sen. John Cornyn’s job approval: 35/40 (13/25 strongly)
- Biden favorability: 40/49 (17/43 very)
- Trump favorability: 42/48 (20/39 very)
Biden’s net favorability rating of -9 represents the least underwater he has been since his presidential campaign began in 2020.
Looking ahead at the 2024 primary, five out of six Republicans either strongly (53%) or somewhat (30%) approve of Cruz’s job performance. Just 9% of Republicans disapprove (3% strongly). Seven out of 10 “extremely” conservative voters strongly approve Cruz’s job performance.
The poll of 1,200 self-declared RVs was in the field December 2-11 and has a stated margin of error of ±2.89% for the full sample.
©2022 Texas Election Source LLC
The Secretary of State’s office released its “Final Report on Audit of 2020 General Election in Texas.” Over the course of 359 pages, the report details “very serious issues” with Harris Co. and “two large problems” with Dallas Co.’s election administration while lauding Tarrant Co. for its “quality, transparent election” and Collin Co. as “the model of how to run elections in Texas.” It also identifies “data inconsistencies” from the four counties it audited, noting that such “inconsistencies, even with valid reasons, weaken the public’s confidence that the election was run properly.”
Indeed, that appears to be the point: highlighting inconsistencies, especially in Democrat-run counties, with a very real outcome being weakened public confidence in elections in those counties.
The report states that “elections are trustworthy” when the Election Code and local procedures are followed. “As outlined in this report, in cases where procedures were not followed, discrepancies and irregularities ranging from small to large ensued.” At no point does the report question the outcome of the election, but that wasn’t its purpose, nor should its findings have led to that conclusion. However, the implication is clear: Republican-run counties run trustworthy elections, while Democrat-run counties do not.
“Texas has sone of the strongest and most effective transparency measures in the country when it comes to administering and auditing elections,” said Secretary of State John Scott, who is leaving the office at the end of the year. “The Texas forensic election audit – which is, by far, the largest undertaken in the nation to date – demonstrates how these measures can and should be used to make sure Texas voters can have confidence in the outcome of any given election, as well as which areas counties need to address to restore confidence going forward.”
Several findings can be easily sensationalized while any “valid reasons” for them are left in the details of the report. The first two findings under Harris Co. implicate more than 300K vote records from mobile ballot boxes, which is a much easier to understand talking point than the jargon-heavy discussions of those findings or Harris Co.’s explanation.
As to the latter, the Harris Co. election office issued a statement saying the staff followed the processes created by Hart InterCivic to ensure accurate counting of “stranded” votes. While much shorter in length, it too is jargon-heavy and difficult for the general public to understand.
The audit report presents information objectively, highlighting what the Secretary of State office’s team found during its lengthy work. The issue is not their work, thoroughness, dedication or documentation. The issue is the inevitable use of those findings, stripped from their pages of details and any responses from the counties, to continue to undermine confidence in elections by those who benefit from doing so.
In its entirety, the report should be considered further evidence that the 2020 election in Texas was secure, accurate and trustworthy. However, it doesn’t say that.
The report says elections are trustworthy when procedures are followed, and here are examples of procedures that weren’t followed. Most of them occurred in Harris and Dallas Cos. The elections run by Collin and Tarrant Cos., while not flawless, were by contrast models of transparency and quality. The implication is elections held by the other two counties are not trustworthy even though the report itself does not reach that conclusion.
©2022 Texas Election Source LLC
Based on preliminary and largely unofficial election results, Texas ranked 39th in turnout, calculated as percent of the voting-eligible population casting ballots for the top office on the ballot. With just over 8.1M votes cast, 42.5% of the estimated 19.1M voting-eligible Texans voted.
It is the state’s highest ranking since at least 2002 and represents a slight uptick from 41st place, which was the state’s ranking in 2018.
SD27: A recount confirmed Sen.-elect Morgan LaMantia’s (D-McAllen) narrow victory over Adam Hinojosa (R).
El Paso: Rep. Art Fierro (D-El Paso) won the runoff over incumbent council member Claudia Rodriguez by more than 300 votes. Roughly 14,500 fewer people voted in the runoff than in the general election, which saw Rodriguez finish first by more than 2K over Fierro. Chris Canales and Brian Kennedy won open seat runoffs.
Fierro lost his House re-election bid in the March primary, falling to Rep. Lina Ortega (D-El Paso) in the only race between paired incumbents.
Laredo: Victor Treviño defeated former council member Mercurio Martinez, 54%-46%, to win the mayoral runoff. Gilbert Gonzalez and Tyler King won open seat runoffs. Gonzalez is the brother of council member Jesse Gonzalez, who he replaces on the council.
©2022 Texas Election Source LLC
Former Mayor and former Sen. Kirk Watson (D-Austin) won Austin’s mayoral runoff, 50.4%-49.6%, over Rep. Celia Israel (D-Austin), a margin of 886 votes.
Watson’s margin of victory came from the pockets of Austin outside Travis Co. He received 62% of the nearly 3,600 votes cast in Williamson Co., and he received 27 of the 32 votes cast in Hays Co. Combined, those two counties gave Watson a 903-vote advantage. Israel narrowly carried Travis Co., receiving 50.01% of the 110K votes cast there – a margin of 17 votes.
Three council seat runoffs resulted in the elections of Ryan Alter (60%), Zo Qadri (51%) and José Velásquez (53%) to open seats. Turnout was around 18% of registered voters.
In Corpus Christi, council member Roland Barrera (51%) won re-election by 53 votes. Former council member Everett Roy defeated incumbent Billy Lerma by 51 votes (51.6%-48.4%). Former council member Mark Scott was not so fortunate, losing to Sylvia Campos by 33 votes (51.6%-48.5%). Turnout was south of 7.5% of registered voters.
RRC: Comm. Christi Craddick (R) was elected chair by her colleagues. Customarily, the chair rotates every two years, and Craddick is up for re-election in 2024.
Leadership: House Democrats elected Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer (D-San Antonio) to lead the caucus. He succeeds Rep. Chris Turner (D-Grand Prairie), who did not seek leadership of the caucus this session. Rep. Victoria Neave (D-Dallas) was elected chair of the Mexican American Legislative Caucus.
Campaign Finance: Late last week, federal candidates on the November ballot filed their post-general campaign finance reports. These reports disclosed contributions received and expenditures made between Oct. 20 and Nov. 28. Collectively, federal candidates raised $7.5M and spent $9.6M for the period. Our Crib Sheets have been updated.
These reports generally do not attract much interest since the elections are over, and the candidates are generally beginning to refill their campaign war chests heading into the new Congress. However, there were some figures worth noting.
Around 30% of contributions and expenditures for the period went to three races:
- In CD28, U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Laredo) was out-raised, $759K to $258K, and outspent, $882K to $406K, by challenger Cassy Garcia (R).
- In CD15, Michelle Vallejo (D) out-raised U.S. Rep. Elect Monica De la Cruz-Hernandez (R-Alamo), $396K to $342K, but was outspent, $832K to $521K.
- S. Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-Houston) raised just over $500K for the period – more than any other incumbent – and spent $235K. His Democratic opponent raised $7K and spent $21K.
Crenshaw’s haul brought his contribution total for the election cycle to $15.3M, and he spent $14.6M. Crenshaw received 74% of the vote in the March primary and 66% of the vote in the general election.
Nine members and members-elect ended the period with at least $1M on hand:
- $5.23M – U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-Austin)
- $2.03M – U.S. Rep.-elect Wesley Hunt (R-Houston)
- $2.01M – U.S. Rep. Colin Allred (D-Dallas)
- $1.78M – Crenshaw
- $1.44M – U.S. Rep. August Pfluger (R-San Angelo)
- $1.43M – U.S. Rep. Jodey Arrington (R-Lubbock)
- $1.39M – U.S. Rep. Lizzie Fletcher (D-Houston)
- $1.29M – U.S. Rep. Chip Roy (R-Austin)
- $1.23M – U.S. Rep. Beth Van Duyne (R-Irving)
Just missing the cut were U.S. Rep.-elect Morgan Luttrell (R-Houston) with $988K, U.S. Rep. Brian Babin (R-Woodville) with $936K and U.S. Rep. Ronny Jackson (R-Amarillo) with $895K. As of the end of October, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R) had $3.25M on hand, and U.S. Sen. John Cornyn (R) had $1.45M on hand.
For many filers, this report ends the election cycle, and funds raised before the end of the year count toward the next cycle. We use the end of the calendar year as the end of the campaign cycle, so we will also count the candidates’ year-end reports as part of this cycle, consistent with how we handle state candidates.
©2022 Texas Election Source LLC
Gov. Greg Abbott (R) will nominate Sen. Jane Nelson (R-Flower Mound) to become the state’s 115th Secretary of State.
“Senator Nelson’s lifelong commitment to public service and deep understanding of state government will be assets in her new role ensuring the critical duties of Secretary of State are fulfilled,” Abbott said in a statement. “Nothing is more important to a free society than fair elections, and the State of Texas will continue working to uphold and protect this right.”
Nelson said in a statement that she was looking forward to a “new chapter” in her public service. “Voters expect fair elections with accurate, timely results, and I am committed to making that happen,” she said. “Texans with all political views should have faith in our election system.”
Nelson, who did not seek re-election this year, has served in the Senate since 1993 and should have little difficulty being confirmed by her colleagues. The last three Secretaries of State – David Whitley, Ruth Hughs and John Scott – were not confirmed by the Senate. Whitley and Hughs resigned after failing to receive Senate confirmation, and Scott is resigning before the Senate next convenes.
©2022 Texas Election Source LLC
The “independent state legislature” theory gets its day in the U.S. Supreme Court tomorrow (Wed.) as justices will ultimately decide whether the U.S. Constitution gives state legislatures sole authority to regulate federal elections beyond the purview of state courts and, potentially, all state and local election officials.
Various legal efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election included some form of the independent state legislature theory. Broadly, these efforts argued that individual votes or entire elections should be thrown out because they were cast or counted in ways authorized by court order, state regulation or local ordinance, but not by the legislature. This argument has found its way into legal efforts aimed at issues with elections since.
If SCOTUS finds that state courts have little to no jurisdiction over legislatures’ authority to regulate federal elections, then we could begin to see federal and state elections operating under different sets of rules – one set of which could willfully violate state constitutional provisions while being immune to state judicial review (Federal judicial review would still apply.).
The proceeding, Moore v. Harper, arises from two North Carolina redistricting cases. The state supreme court rejected two legislative efforts to draw new districts, finding that they were “egregious and intentional” partisan gerrymanders that violated the state constitution’s guarantee of free elections. The court adopted a map drawn by experts it appointed. Earlier this year, a divided Supreme Court rejected a request to put the court-drawn map aside and reinstate the legislatively drawn map. Justices Alito, Gorsuch and Thomas dissented, arguing “there must be some limit on the authority of state courts” if the Constitution’s language “is to be taken seriously.”
The independent state legislature theory hinges on similar language contained in two provisions:
- The Elections Clause (Art. 1, Sec. 4) provides that “the times, places and manner of holding elections for Senators and Representatives shall be prescribed in each state by the legislature thereof; but the Congress may at any time by law make or alter such regulations, except as to the places of choosing Senators.”
- The Electors Clause (Art. 2, Sec. 1) provides that “each state shall appoint, in such manner as the legislature thereof may direct, a number of electors …” to elect the president.
Both apply to federal elections – not state elections.
In a brief filed at the Supreme Court, petitioners argue the North Carolina high court “decreed that the 2022 election and all upcoming congressional elections in the state were not to be held in the ‘manner … prescribed … by the legislature’ … but rather in the manner prescribed by the state’s judicial branch” (Emphases removed). Petitioners argue “this result is irreconcilable with [the U.S. Constitution’s] allocation of authority over federal elections.” Further, “the Election Clause’s allocation of authority to state legislatures would be emptied of meaning if state courts could seize on vaguely-worded state-constitutional clauses to replace the legislature’s chosen election regulations with their own.” Only federal constitutional limits should apply to federal elections.
Respondents argue that judicial review of election or redistricting legislation is “the same constitutional check placed on all legislation.” The Elections Clause resembles other grants of power in the Constitution “which contemplate legislation subject to ordinary constitutional checks … including judicial review.” Further, Congress, using the power granted in the Elections Clause, “has mandated that states’ congressional districting plans comply with substantive state constitutional provisions, and it has authorized state courts to adopt remedial plans.”
Respondents also argue the Reduction Clause (Amendment XIV, Sec. 2) “requires congressional districting plans to comply with state constitutional provisions protecting voter rights.” In relevant part, the Reduction Clause provides “when the right to vote at any election for the choice of electors for President and Vice President of the United States, Representatives in Congress, the executive and judicial officers of a state, or the members of the legislature thereof, is denied … or in any way abridged, except for participation in rebellion or other crime, the basis of representation therein shall be reduced” proportionally. In other words, states lose representation in Congress if the right to vote is “denied … or in any way abridged” for those eligible to vote.
Further, respondents argue that state legislatures themselves are creations of their states’ constitutions, and the laws they pass must comply with those constitutions, regardless of how vaguely worded they may be. As such, state courts can intervene and enforce limits based on those states’ constitutions.
The House Republican Caucus endorsed Speaker Dade Phelan (R-Beaumont) for re-election by a reported 78-6 secret ballot vote. Rep. Tony Tinderholt (R-Arligton) was the only other candidate nominated.
“Every member will play a role in our legislative process,” Phelan tweeted after the vote. “I look forward to earning the votes of all my colleagues when” the session convenes.
“Because Dade Phelan has all the support of Democrats, Republicans fear the bully tactics of his team if they oppose him,” Tinderholt said in a statement issued after the vote, the secret nature of which should have enabled Republicans who oppose Phelan to do so freely. “I am undeterred in my fight to ensure we have strong conservative leadership this session and look forward to the floor vote on the first day of session.”
HD135: Mike May, the Republican who lost to Rep. Jon Rosenthal (D-Houston) by more than 6K votes, has filed a petition with the Secretary of State seeking to have the election voided and a new one ordered. In his one-page petition, May alleges the outcome of his race “is not the true outcome because an election officer or other person officially involved in the administration of the election prevented eligible voters from voting.” May contends voters left polling places without voting “because numerous polling locations … did not have any paper ballots when those voters arrived.”
To succeed, May would need to prove that the number of voters who weren’t able to vote must at least equal the margin of defeat against Rosenthal, which would be more than 15% of voters in the district.
In a statement, Rosenthal said, “This ridiculous petition should be rejected out-of-hand as frivolous and without any merit, completely absent of any numerical basis for a challenge.”
Formal election contests for legislative races are referred to the House Speaker who appoints a committee and a special master to investigate the complaint. The last election contest to go to the House was a 2010 race involving a 12-vote margin of victory. Then-Speaker Joe Straus (R-San Antonio) appointed a nine-member select committee chaired by former Rep. Bob Hunter (R-Abilene) and named Rep. Will Hartnett (R-Dallas) as the special. The committee ultimately determined the challenger “failed to establish by clear and convincing evidence that the election contest outcome was not the true outcome.” The vote was unanimous.
Secretary of State: Secretary of State John Scott announced he would resign effective Dec. 31 to return to his private law practice. Scott has served in the position since October 2021 as the fifth Secretary of State named by Gov. Greg Abbott (R). Abbott’s next nominee will be subject to confirmation by the Senate.
The last three – David Whitley, Ruth Hughs and Scott – were not confirmed by the Senate. Whitley and Hughs resigned after failing to receive Senate confirmation, and Scott is resigning before the Senate next convenes.
Dallas: Former Dallas ISD Superintendent Michael Hinojosa said he would not challenge Mayor Eric Johnson.
Houston: LULAC has filed a lawsuit against the city challenging its model of 11 single-member districts and five at-large districts.
SD27 open: Adam Hinojosa (R) formally requested a recount of his 659-vote loss to Morgan LaMantia (D) in three of the district’s eight counties. “If honest mistakes were made in the counting, it would only be significant in a place where large numbers of paper or mail-in ballots were cast,” he said in a statement. “These counties are the logical place to double-check.”
Runoff Elections: Early voting is underway in jurisdictions holding Dec. 13 or Dec. 17 runoff elections including Austin (Mayor, D3, D5, D9), Corpus Christi (D1, D2, D3), El Paso (D1, D6, D8) and Laredo (Mayor, D1, D6). Early voting continues for Bryan’s (D5) Dec. 8 runoff election.
Austin: Mayor Steve Adler has declined to endorse between former mayor and former Sen. Kirk Watson (D-Austin) and Rep. Celia Israel (D-Austin), who advanced to a runoff to succeed him.
Legislation: Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick (R) revealed his priorities for the upcoming session. They included two election-related items:
- Restore voter fraud to a felony
- Ensure timely counting of votes and review of machines.
The latter appears to have been motivated by Harris County’s performance in releasing election results. Keep in mind that Harris Co. had to count more than 1.1M votes – almost as many votes were cast in the entire state of Oklahoma and more than the number of votes cast in 20 states.
Patrick, at another press conference, hinted he might seek re-election in 2026. “Never know,” he said.
Gov. Greg Abbott (R) canvassed the statewide results of the 2022 general election yesterday (Mon.). As far as we can tell, no state races flipped from the unofficial election results.
Just over 8.1M Texans cast a vote for a certified gubernatorial candidate, representing 45.9% of registered voters and 42.5% of the estimated voting-eligible population. All three representations of turnout fell short of their comparable 2018 figures (8.4M votes cast, 53.0% of RVs, 46.3% of VEP), but represent the second highest such figures for a midterm election since at least 1982, which is the earliest mid-term for which we have a reliable VEP estimate.
Nearly 11M Texans – including a record 9.6M RVs – who could have voted in this election did not do so. Nearly 4M fewer RVs cast ballots in this election than in the 2020 general election, the largest drop-off in state history (The figure equals a decrease in the number of votes cast and an increase in the number of RVs.).
Final statewide results:
- Abbott (R) defeated Beto O’Rourke (D), 54.8%-43.9%
- Gov. Dan Patrick (R) defeated Mike Collier (D), 53.8%-43.5%
- Gen. Ken Paxton (R) defeated Rochelle Garza (D), 53.4%-43.7%
- Glenn Hegar (R) defeated Janet Dudding (D), 56.4%-40.9%
- Dawn Buckingham (R) won he LAND open race over Jay Kleberg (D), 56.2%-42.2%
- Agriculture Comm. Sid Miller (R) defeated Susan Hays (D), 56.3%-43.7%
- Railroad Comm. Wayne Christian (R) defeated Luke Warford (D), 55.4%-40.5%
- Supreme Court Justices Rebeca Huddle (R), Scott Walker (R) and Evan Young (R) won with 57.1%, 56.9% and 56.4% of the vote, respectively.
- Court of Criminal Appeals Judges Jesse McClure (R) and Scott Walker (R) won with 57.2% and 56.9% of the vote, respectively.
Measured head-to-head, the average statewide Republican candidate received 56.66% of the vote to the average statewide Democrat’s 43.34%. The five judicial races were tightly clustered around their average 57.00% for the Republican and 43.00% for the Democrat. The median statewide races were SC5 (57.1%-42.9%) and CCA5 (56.9%-43.1%) – averaging those yields 57.0% to 43.0%.
Our final projection of the head-to-head average statewide race was 55.87%-44.13%, approximately 0.8 percentage points from the actual result.
In terms of the number of votes received, the top vote-getter was Huddle with 4.53M. Paxton’s 4.28M was the lowest among the 12 contested statewide candidates. The spread between them was 252K votes – 3.1% of all votes cast. The Democratic spread between O’Rourke (3.55M votes) and Warford (3.22M votes) was 331K votes, which is 4.09% of all votes cast. This implies upwards of 95% of voters effectively cast a straight ticket, at least at the statewide level.
El Paso County: 34th Judicial Dist. Atty. Yvonne Rosales (D) has resigned, ending a lengthy legal effort to have her removed from office. Her resignation is effective Dec. 14, the day before a hearing that could have resulted in her temporary suspension pending a jury trial. Rosales’s resignation letter was given to District Judge Tryon Lewis (R) during a status hearing on the case. Gov. Greg Abbott (R) will appoint a successor to serve out the two-plus remaining years of Rosales’s unexpired term. The position also serves as the district attorney for Culberson and Hudspeth Cos.
Houston: Sen. John Whitmire (D-Houston) will “kickstart” his mayoral campaign tomorrow (Wed.) at a fundraiser hosted by Tilman Fertitta. Mayor Sylvester Turner is term-limited.