Dallas Co., one of the birthplaces for the modern Republican Party in Texas, briefly became the epicenter of a Democratic surge in 2008. Buoyed by enthusiasm for then-candidate Barack Obama, Democrats celebrated victories across the county, including flipping three competitive House districts and holding on to a fourth. Two years later, those Obama voters were no-shows, and Republicans reclaimed all four of those seats, improving their numbers in almost every district. The parties held serve in 2012, after redistricting took away two districts.
The county remains home to several of the state’s most competitive districts. It also contains some of the state’s most lopsidedly Democratic districts, which overall makes the county friendly toward Democratic candidates. This year, the fates of several statewide campaigns may rest on the ability of Democrats to turn out voters – particularly straight-ticket voters – across the county.
As in most of Texas, voters are increasingly using the straight-ticket voting option when they go to the polls in Dallas Co. In 1998, straight-ticket voting represented less than 44% of all votes cast. In 2012, almost 70% of all ballots cast by Dallas Co. voters were straight ticket. Democratic straight-ticket voters outnumbered Republicans by nearly 100K votes in 2012, down slightly from just over 100K votes in 2008. The story is different in gubernatorial years, when the gap between the parties is much smaller.
The chart at left shows the major party’s total straight-ticket votes in each general election since 1998 in Dallas Co. Between 2008 and 2010, the number of straight-ticket Republican votes fell 30%. Democratic votes fell even farther, declining 47%. They rebounded in 2012, but the total numbers should fall again in 2014. Gubernatorial election turnout is historically lower, often substantially lower, than in preceding presidential election years.
The Democratic straight-ticket advantage in the last two presidential election cycles averaged 97K. In the last two gubernatorial cycles, that average advantage was 18K.
For Democrats, getting voters, particularly straight-ticket voters, to the polls in presidential election year numbers is crucial to any chances of winning statewide and repeating Dallas Democratic candidates’ 2008 successes in close districts. Eight of the county’s 14 House districts are locks. No Republican ran in six districts held by Democrats (HDs 100, 103, 104, 109, 110 and 111), and no Democrat ran in two districts held by Republicans (HDs 112 and 114).
Republicans hold the other six seats. In four of the other six, Democratic candidates crested 40% in 2012, and two came very close to winning. Rosemary Robbins lost to Rep. Linda Harper-Brown (HD105) by just 782 votes. Former Rep. Robert Miklos lost to Rep. Kenneth Sheets (HD107) by 850 votes.
The table below shows Democratic candidates’ percentage of the vote in each district since 2002.
The number of close races in Dallas Co. increased throughout the last decade:
- In 2002, no winning candidate had less than 55% of the vote.
- In 2004, two Republicans won with less than 55% of the vote.
- In 2006, two Republicans and one Democrat won with less than 55%, including one Republican with less than 50%.
- In 2008, three Democrats and one Republican won with less than 55%, including one Republican with less than 50%.
- In 2010, five Republicans won with less than 55%, including one with less than 50%.
In 2012, the number of close races fell, with just three Republicans winning with less than 55%. All other victors had more than 55%.
Adding to the volatility are Libertarian candidates in the HD105 and HD115 races. Recently, minor party candidates have created some very tight races:
- 2012: Rep. Linda Harper-Brown (R) retained her HD105 seat, receiving 50.06% of the vote. A Green Party candidate received 1.67%.
- 2010: Rodney Anderson (R) defeated Rep. Kirk England (D) in HD106 with 49.44% of the vote. A Libertarian candidate received 2.06%.
- 2008: Rep. Linda Harper-Brown (R) retained her HD105 seat, receiving 48.72% of the vote. A Libertarian candidate received 2.60%, and
- 2006: Rep. Kirk England (R) won the open HD106 seat, receiving 49.16% of the vote. A Libertarian candidate received 2.77%.
We will take a brief look at each of the six contested Dallas Co. seats. (PDF)No tags for this post.