Yesterday (Saturday), we posed two fundamental questions that will be answered Tuesday, or shortly thereafter. We gave our best guess on the first question, whether Joe Biden will become the first Democratic presidential nominee to carry Texas since 1976 (No, but barely). We turn to the second question – Will Democrats capture the net nine seats to flip the state House? – here. The short answer is, yes.
At this time, we are projecting the Democrats will pick up 10 Republican-held seats while losing none of their own, which would give them a 77-73 majority entering the legislative session. Five more Republican-held seats are projected to be within 2 points of a potential flip, while no Democrat-held seats are within 2 points.
Our final legislative and congressional race ratings are posted here.
In our discussion of the presidential race, we outlined the political climate as a whole to set up a central question: at the state level, will the Republican advantage in smaller counties (fewer than 250K registered voters) be big enough to withstand a Democratic advantage in the urban and suburban counties. This question presumes a continuation of the suburban trends toward the Democrats (or, more likely, away from President Trump). At the state level, candidates have the ability to draw on that large bank of ruby red voters. Candidates running in suburban districts have no such ace in the hole.
Democratic Pick-up Opportunities
The Republican-held House seats below are listed in order from most likely to least likely to flip. We won’t repeat a lot of the rationale for each seat – links after each go to our analyses from earlier this fall. Those analyses reflect the state of the races and their ratings at that time. The ratings below are current.
- HD108 (Likely Democratic) – Rep. Morgan Meyer (R-Dallas) faces a rematch against Joanna Cattanach in a district with a disproportionate number of college-educated voters. The Dallas Co. district was 5 points bluer than the state as a whole in 2018 after moving 4.7 points toward the Democrats from 2016. Libertarian Ed Rankin is also on the ballot.
- HD134 (Likely Democratic) – Rep. Sarah Davis (R-Houston) faces a former opponent, Ann Johnson, in a Harris Co. district that she has held despite its being nearly 9 points bluer than the state as a whole. We’ve called her the Jim McReynolds of this decade.
- HD66 (Lean Democratic) – Rep. Matt Shaheen (R-Plano) faces a rematch against Sharon Hirsch in another district with a higher proportion of college-educated voters. This Collin Co. district was 2.3 points bluer than the state as a whole in 2018 and has moved 19.2 points blue-ward since 2002. Libertarian Shawn Jones is also on the ballot.
- HD138 open (Lean Democratic) – Lacey Hull (R) faces Akilah Bacy (D) in a Harris Co. district that was 4.1 points bluer than the state as a whole in 2018 and is projected to be 5.7 points bluer.
- HD67 (Lean Democratic) – Rep. Jeff Leach (R-Allen) faces Lorenzo Sanchez in a Collin Co. district in what has become the most expensive House race in the state. Since 2002, the district has gotten nearly 20 points bluer, including a 3.6-point jump in 2018.
- HD112 (Lean Democratic) – Rep. Angie Chen Button (R-Garland) faces a rematch against Brandy Chambers, who nearly won the Dallas Co. seat two years ago. The district was more than 5 points bluer than the state in 2018. Libertarian Shane Newsom is also on the ballot.
- HD64 (Toss Up) – Rep. Lynn Stucky (R-Sanger) faces Angela Brewer in a Denton Co. district that has shifted 4 points toward the Democrats in 2018.
- HD96 open (Toss Up) – David Cook (R) faces Joe Drago (D) in a Tarrant Co. district that has been slowly but steadily becoming friendlier to Democrats. It was less than a point bluer than the state as a whole in 2018. Libertarian Nelson Range is also on the ballot. Libertarian Nelson Range is also in the race.
- HD26 open (Toss Up) – Jacey Jetton (R) faces Sarah DeMerchant (D), who is making her third consecutive run for the seat. She received 42% of the vote in 2016 and 48% in 2018. This Fort Bend Co. district was more than a point bluer than the state as a whole. This is the tipping point race in the model’s estimation.
- HD92 open (Toss Up) – Jeff Cason (R) faces Jeff Whitfield (D) in one of the only competitive Republican-held districts where some of the Republicans’ heaviest hitter PACs have largely stayed away. Of Cason’s $611K in contributions since July 1, Midland oil and gas executive Tim Dunn has provided $500K. The Tarrant Co. district was just half a point redder than the state in 2018. Green Party candidate Brody Mulligan is also in the race.
- HD93 (Toss Up) – Rep. Matt Krause (R-Fort Worth) faces Lydia Bean. By the tiniest fraction of a point, the model keeps this district in Republican hands. The Tarrant Co. district was slightly redder than the state in 2018 after moving 2.5 points toward the Democrats. A similar shift this year would make it nearly 2 points bluer than the state as a whole.
- HD121 (Toss Up) – Rep. Steve Allison (R-San Antonio) faces a rematch against Celina Montoya. This Bexar Co. district was just 0.2 percent redder than the state as a whole in 2018.
- HD94 (Toss Up) – Rep. Tony Tinderholt (R-Arlington) faces Alisa Simmons in a Tarrant Co. district that hasn’t moved much from a partisan lean standpoint this decade but got 1.6 points less red in 2018. Libertarian Jessica Pallett is also in the race.
- HD97 (Toss Up) – Rep. Craig Goldman (R-Fort Worth) faces Elizabeth Beck. This Tarrant Co. district has shifted 6 points toward the Democrats since it was drawn. Libertarian Rod Wingo is also on the ballot.
- HD14 (Toss Up) – Rep. John Raney (R-College Station) faces Janet Dudding. This compact Brazos Co. district, centered on Texas A&M Univ. and its environs, was just 1.5 points redder than the state in 2018 after moving 4 points blue-ward since 2016.
- HD28 (Lean Republican) – Rep. Gary Gates (R-Rosenberg) seeks a full term against his special runoff election opponent Eliz Markowitz. This Fort Bend Co. district was just 0.7 points redder than the state in 2018.
- HD126 (Lean Republican) – Rep. Sam Harless (R-Spring) faces a rematch against Natali Hurtado, who got 45% of the vote in 2018. This Harris Co. district is barely redder than the state as a whole, but its blue-ward shift slowed after 2016 to just 0.9 points.
- HD29 (Lean Republican) – Rep. Ed Thompson (R-Pearland) faces Travis Boldt. This Fort Bend Co. district was 1.2 points redder than the state in 2018 and has moved nearly 9 points blue-ward since it was drawn.
- HD54 (Lean Republican) – Rep. Brad Buckley (R-Salado) faces Keke Williams in a Bell Co. district that was 1 point bluer than the state in 2018 but has actually been sliding slowly toward the Republicans.
- HD129 (Lean Republican) – Rep. Dennis Paul (R-Webster) faces Kayla Alix. This Harris Co. district has not been targeted by Democratic groups and likely represents the farthest outer bound of potential pickups if everything goes right for Democrats. The district was more than 3 points redder than the state as a whole in 2018 after shifting 1.5 points blue-ward in that election cycle.
The close nature of a lot of these races, and the state itself at the very top of the ballot, makes the model sensitive to small changes in the presidential outlook.
The projected 0.8% percentage point Trump win over Biden yields 10 Republican-held seats going to the Democrats, enough for a 4-seat majority. Here is how the model shifts based on the presidential outcome:
- If Trump’s margin of victory is 2 points, Democrats pick up seven seats, finishing short of a majority.
- If Trump’s margin of victory is 4 points, Democrats pick up six seats.
- If Biden wins by 1 point, Democrats pick up an 11th seat.
- If Biden wins by 3 points, Democrats would be projected to pick up 14 seats.
The model does not project a Democrat-held seat to flip and barely predicts any to be at risk.
Flipping an individual Democrat-held seat would require a combination of the district breaking against its long-term trend (except for HD31) and likely the Republican candidate over-performing the other Republicans in the district.
Democrat-held seats are listed here from most to least vulnerable, according to the model:
- HD31 (Lean Democratic) – Rep. Ryan Guillen (D-Rio Grande City) faces Marian Knowlton in a South Texas district that has been getting steadily friendlier to Republican. The race is not drawing significant Republican resources.
- HD74 open (Lean Democratic) – This West Texas district has not drawn a lot of resources from either side. It was 9 points bluer than the state as a whole in 2018 after moving 6 points red-ward following Trump’s election. Eddie Morales Jr. (D) faces Ruben Falcon (R).
- HD132 (Lean Democratic) – Rep. Gina Calanni (D-Katy) faces a rematch against former Rep. Mike Schofield (R-Katy). The Harris Co. district was 3.4 points bluer than the state in 2018 after shifting 1.6 points blue-ward from 2016.
- HD135 (Lean Democratic) – Rep. Jon Rosenthal (D-Houston) faces Justin Ray in a Harris Co. district that has shifted 20 points toward the Democrats since 2002.
- HD65 (Lean Democratic) – Rep. Michelle Beckley (D-Carrollton) faces Kronda Thimesch in a Denton Co. district that was nearly 5 points bluer than the state in 2018, and
- HD34 (Lean Democratic) – Rep. Abel Herrero (D-Robstown) faces an underfunded James Hernandez.
Other Republican targets – HD113 in Dallas Co., HD45 in Hays and Blanco Cos., HD52 in Williamson Co., HD102 in Dallas Co., HD47 in Travis Co. and HD114 in Dallas Co. – are all rated Likely Democratic. They ranged from 5.2 to 7.3 points bluer than the state as a whole in 2018, and all have been shifting blue-ward.
We’ll have the rest of our election projections and predictions tomorrow.
©2020 Texas Election Source LLC