We continue our look into how straight-ticket voting has played out historically in today’s more competitive districts. We started in Dallas Co. with HD102, HD105 and HD107. Today we shift to Bexar Co. to look at HD117, a district that has changed partisan hands five times since 2002. Two of those partisan changes occurred despite a disadvantage in straight-ticket voting.
HD117 is today held by freshman Rep. Rick Galindo (R-San Antonio), who faces a rematch against the Democrat he wrested the seat from, former Rep. Philip Cortez (D-San Antonio). Galindo won the 2014 general election, 53%-47%, over Cortez, who won the 2012 general election, 54%-46%, over former Rep. John Garza (R-San Antonio). There are no minor party candidates in the race.
The district is comprised of unincorporated western Bexar Co., Helotes, Von Ormy and a portion of southwestern San Antonio surrounding Lackland Air Force Base. As it is drawn today, HD117 was carried by George W. Bush in 2000 and 2004, and Barack Obama won the district’s current precincts in 2008 and 2012.
Democrats had an advantage in straight-ticket voting in three of those four years, but Republicans had a slight advantage in 2004. The Democrats’ largest advantage (~2,900 votes) came in 2008, and most of that advantage carried forward to 2012. A Bexar Co. Democrat has won this seat in each presidential election year since 1972, though it has been redrawn several times during that streak. A Republican has won the seat in three of the past four gubernatorial election years.
Since 2000, straight-ticket voters have consistently represented around 54% of all votes cast in the district, regardless of whether it is a presidential or gubernatorial election, with two notable exceptions. In 2006, fewer than half of all votes cast in what is now HD117 were straight-ticket thanks in part to strong independent gubernatorial candidates. In 2012, two thirds of all votes cast were straight-ticket votes as both parties saw significant growth in straight-ticket voting from 2008.
Estimates of the number of straight-ticket and full-ballot votes cast in the 2000, 2004 and 2008 presidential elections and the actual number of those votes in the 2012 presidential election are shown below.
- Straight Republican – 4,700 29% 29%
- Straight Democratic – 6,300 39% 39%
- Full Ballot – 9,200 56% 56%
Democratic Advantage: ~1,600 votes
- Straight Republican – 7,800 48% 48%
- Straight Democratic – 7,600 47% 47%
- Full Ballot – 11,500 71% 71%
Republican Advantage: ~200 votes
- Straight Republican – 8,700 53% 53%
- Straight Democratic – 11,600 71% 71%
- Full Ballot – 16,300 100% 100%
Democratic Advantage: ~2,900 votes
- Straight Republican – 13,028 80% 80%
- Straight Democratic – 15,390 94% 94%
- Full Ballot – 13,852 85% 85%
Democratic Advantage: 2,362 votes
Full-ballot voters have represented a plurality of all votes cast in the precincts currently comprising HD117 in every election since 2000 except for 2012, when Democratic straight-ticket voters overtook them and Republican straight-ticket voters came up just over 800 votes short of doing the same. Nearly 8K more straight-ticket votes (~4,300 Republican and ~3,800 Democratic) were cast in 2012 than in 2008.
The number of votes cast in the district has increased in each presidential election, rising from just over 20K in 2000 to nearly 27K in 2004 to more than 36K in 2008 to nearly 43K in 2012. Likewise, the number of straight-ticket votes cast has increased each time, nearly tripling from 2000.
History suggests that Cortez will have the advantage in straight-ticket voting in 2016. History also suggests that Cortez will have an advantage in full-ballot voting, which the Democratic candidate has enjoyed in each presidential election in the precincts currently comprising HD117. Candidates split these blocs of votes last in 2004, when Republicans held a 200-vote advantage in straight-ticket voting and David Leibowitz, the then-Democratic challenger, received around 53% of the full-ballot vote in today’s HD117.
It is likely that Galindo will need a similar split in votes, albeit in reverse, to hold the seat. If he does so, he would be favored to win in 2018, when we project Republicans to have a slight (<500 votes) straight-ticket voting advantage.