Up to this point, our race ratings have been based on each district’s partisan lean in the last two election cycles while ignoring the candidates seeking those districts. That’s why Rep. Tracy King’s (D-Batesville) district has been consistently rated a Toss Up even though he drew no opponents.
Our latest model run incorporates longer-term partisan trends for the 219 redrawn legislative and congressional districts and accounts for significant campaign finance disparities. We have also moved to Safe status any seats where a major party candidate is either unopposed or facing solely minor party, independent or write-in opponents.
The model run moved 10 contested seats, four toward Republicans and six toward Democrats, and 23 seats not contested by both major parties.
How We Calculate Partisan Lean
We rate seats using 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. We plug our best guess estimate for the average statewide Democratic candidate, measured head-to-head against the Republican candidate, then “float” the districts above or below that percentage based on past history, recent voting trends, campaign finance numbers and, in a typical year, the incumbent’s tendency to over- or under-perform their party’s candidates. At this point, we have chosen not to use the incumbent’s past performance because districts have been redrawn, and their past performance may not apply to their new constituents.
As a starting point, we’re projecting a 7.6-point margin between Gov. Greg Abbott (R) and Democratic challenger Beto O’Rourke (52.8%-45.2%), reflecting the general trend in recent polls showing a high single-digit lead for Abbott with increasing margins as the certainty of voting increases. We anticipate another tight grouping of statewide candidates and estimate O’Rourke outperforms the average of his fellow statewide Democratic candidates by around a quarter-point, yielding a statewide average of 45.85% measured head-to-head against their Republican opponents.
We then weight the relative changes in partisan lean of the districts as they are now configured from 2018 to 2020 (70% weight), 2016 to 2018 (25% weight) and 2012 to 2016 (5% weight). We then take 75% of this adjusted score and add it to the 2020 partisan lean score to estimate the ongoing shift in the district’s electorate since then. We then add adjustments for relative campaign finance advantages and in a couple of special cases added an incumbent performance advantage or disadvantage.
The formula then provides, for each district, an expected deviation from the statewide partisan lean, regardless of where that mean lean occurs. Adding that figure to the statewide Democratic estimate (45.85% for now) delivers an expected head-to-head vote percentage of the Democratic candidate in each race. Those scores lead to an objective rating from Safe Republican (37.49% or less) to Safe Democrat (62.5% or more).
Results of the Model Run
The following ratings changes arose completely from our model:
- HD23 open (Leo-Wilson) Likely R à Safe R
- HD31 (Guillen) Likely R à Safe R
- HD33 (Holland) Safe R à Likely R
- HD63 open (Bumgarner) Likely R à Lean R
- HD70 open (Plesa) Toss Up à Lean D
- HD121 (Allison) Likely R à Lean R
- HD133 open (DeAyala) Likely R à Lean R
- CD5 (Gooden) Safe R à Likely R
- CD15 open (De la Cruz-Hernandez) Toss Up à Lean R
- CD23 (Gonzales) Lean R à Likely R
Four seats – three in South Texas – shifted toward Republicans, and six seats shifted toward Democrats.
Another 19 seats shifted to Safe R from Likely R because no Democrat is seeking those seats, and four seats shifted to Safe D from Likely D because no Republican is seeking them. The biggest shift in any direction is HD80, which moved from Toss Up to Safe D because no one ran against Rep. Tracy King (D-Batesville).
As it now stands, 86 legislative and congressional seats are rated Safe R, and 62 are rated Safe D. Combined, 61% of Senate seats, 69% of House seats and 68% of congressional seats are now rated as Safe. Another 35 seats are rated Likely R, and 20 are rated Likely D. In total, 203 of the 219 legislative and congressional seats – 93% percent – on the ballot are rated Safe (68%) or Likely (25%) for their respective parties.
That leaves 14 in the Lean category (6%) – seven for each party – and just two seats rated Toss Up: Democrat-held HD74 (Morales) and Republican-held HD118 (Lujan).
As a result, our projections for control of the state House moved to 85-65 Republican, up one Republican seat from the current split but down one seat from our original 86-64 projection. The difference is the move of HD70 open to Lean D from Toss Up. Our projections for the state Senate (19-12 R) and congressional delegation (25-13 R) remain unchanged.
©2022 Texas Election Source LLC