In a recent tweet, Rep. Jason Villalba (R-Dallas) said, “The Ds have the long knives out for me” upon learning that a second Democrat had taken formal steps toward challenging him in November. Dallas attorneys Rockwell Bower and John Turner have formed campaign committees, and Villalba has announced his plans for a re-election bid.

Rep. Jason Villalba

Rep. Jason
Villalba

Villalba represents a district that Hillary Clinton won by more than 6K votes, but Republicans otherwise held their own. Villalba defeated his Democratic opponent by more than 10K votes and 15 percentage points. He received more than 8K more votes than Donald Trump, the Republican presidential nominee, and he was the highest vote-getter among candidates with a major party opponent within the district’s precincts.

When we analyzed straight-party voting prior to that election, we noted that the district had the second-lowest rate of straight-party voting among the Dallas Co. state House districts but it produced the second-highest Republican advantage in 2012. History repeated itself in 2016. HD114 was one of just three Dallas Co. state House districts in which a Republican had the advantage in straight-party voting, and HD114 once again saw one of the lowest rates of straight-party voting.

Democrats cut sharply into that advantage in 2016, decreasing it from more than 6K in 2012 to just under 1K. Since 2000, the number of straight-party Republican votes has fallen slightly while the number of straight-party Democratic votes has increased by 49%. Of the five presidential elections since 2000, the 2016 election saw the highest straight-party Democratic vote total and the lowest straight-party Republican vote total.

As the district is currently configured, 2016 represented the best chance for a Democratic win, but Jim Burke, who raised just over $5K for his campaign, underperformed other Democrats on the ballot.

Villalba received 58% of support from voters who did not cast a straight-party vote, nearly double the percent received by Trump (30%) and significantly higher than other Republican candidates including RRC candidate Wayne Christian (42%) and sheriff candidate Kirk Launius (39%).

Historically, the math is decidedly different in gubernatorial election cycles. The number of straight-party Democratic votes cast in the last four gubernatorial elections has fallen more than 40%, on average, from the number cast in the preceding presidential election. Republican turnout has dropped, too, but not by as much – considerably less if the anomalous 2006 election were tossed.

Leaving aside 2006, Democrats have cut the Republicans’ advantage in gubernatorial cycles since 2002 (>9K), reducing it to 8K in 2010 and less than 6K in 2014.

Scenarios are based upon the highest, average and lowest declines in the last four gubernatorial elections relative to the preceding presidential election, and the midpoints between those values, for each party. For example, if you assume that the decline in Republican straight-party voting will be the average of the last four gubernatorial elections, and the Democratic decline will be the lowest for those elections, then the resulting 2018 Democratic advantage would be 4 votes, a dead heat. If both parties saw an decline in turnout midway between their respective averages and highest dropoffs, then the resulting 2018 Republican advantage would be 2,142 votes.

Under all but the most unfavorable turnout scenarios, a Republican would hold a sizeable advantage in the 2018 general election. That said, a sufficient number of straight-party Democratic votes were cast in 2016 that, should they buck history and return in great numbers in 2018, the district could conceivably be flipped.

©2017 Texas Election Source LLC

Methodology

Because of redistricting and shifts in precinct boundaries over time, we can only estimate straight-ticket voting prior to the last time the district was drawn (2011). We estimated straight-ticket vote totals by applying the current district boundaries backward in time to the precincts as they existed in each general election. The farther back we go, the more estimating is required. We use mapping software to identify which voting precincts were located entirely or partially in the current boundaries of HD114 in each even-year general election. We used precinct-level results from each general election to calculate the straight-party vote for each year. For each election prior to 2012, we allocated 100%, 75%, 50% or 25% of the votes cast in those precincts to today’s districts based on the approximate geographic area of the precinct within the district. We totaled the resulting precinct- and split precinct-level data to estimate district-wide straight-ticket votes. For the 2012, 2014 and 2016 general elections, we were able to use the current voting precincts within the current districts without the need to allocate votes across split precincts. We thank the Texas Legislative Council for providing the shapefile data necessary to conduct this analysis. We obtained precinct-level election results data from county election officials.