Our examination of straight-ticket voting trends in competitive or potentially competitive districts makes a final stop in HD136, which encompasses most of Cedar Park, Leander and the Williamson Co. part of Austin. The fast-growing district is trending more Democratic, but it remains a Republican-friendly district.
The district was created during the 2011 round of redistricting when a new district was added to Williamson Co. Previous incarnations of HD136 were located in Harris Co.
Rep. Tony Dale (R-Cedar Park) is seeking his third term. He faces Austin insurance agent and former social worker Paul Gordon. The Libertarian candidate withdrew from the race and will not appear on the ballot.
In 2012, Dale won the open-seat race, 57%-43%, the same split as Mitt Romney’s win over President Obama in the district. Democratic turnout was stronger in 2008, but we estimate that a Republican candidate would have won what is now HD136, 57%-43%, performing several points better than John McCain against Obama (53%-47%).
Measured by the percent of votes cast, Democrats have made significant progress in straight-ticket voting in the precincts that now comprise HD136. However, the growth in the actual number of straight-ticket votes cast in 2012 versus 2000 favors Republicans. About 7,750 more straight-ticket Democratic votes were cast in 2012 compared to 2000, but Republicans added an additional 8,500 or so straight-ticket voters during the same period.
Estimates of the number of straight-ticket and full-ballot votes cast in the 2000, 2004 and 2008 and the actual amounts cast in the 2012 presidential elections in the precincts currently comprising HD136 are shown below.
- Straight Republican – 10,600 34% 34%
- Straight Democratic – 4,000 13% 13%
- Full Ballot – 21,300 68% 68%
Republican Advantage: ~6,600 votes
- Straight Republican – 15,700 50% 50%
- Straight Democratic – 7,100 23% 23%
- Full Ballot – 25,900 83% 83%
Republican Advantage: ~8,600 votes
- Straight Republican – 17,100 55% 55%
- Straight Democratic – 12,400 40% 40%
- Full Ballot – 31,300 100% 100%
Republican Advantage: ~4,900 votes
- Straight Republican – 19,087 61% 61%
- Straight Democratic – 11,757 38% 38%
- Full Ballot – 30,678 98% 98%
Republican Advantage: 7,330 votes
Straight-ticket voters represent growing blocs of the HD136 electorate, but full-ballot voters remain the largest bloc, hovering around 50% of all in 2010 and 2012 before dropping to 46% in 2014. Just shy of a third of all voters cast a straight-ticket Republican vote, and about 20% cast a straight-ticket Democratic vote.
In 2012, Dale barely edged out his Democratic opponent among full-ballot voters, but the 7,330-vote advantage in straight-ticket voting carried him to a comfortable victory. Dale fared better in 2014 with full-ballot voters, receiving 53% of their votes. Dale’s 2012 performance was down from the Republicans on the ballot in those precincts in 2008. They received 56% of the full-ballot vote.
Gordon is no match for Dale when it comes to campaign finances. In the month leading up to the election, Dale raised $72K and had $128K on hand. Gordon raised $235 and had just over $2K on hand.
Demographic changes and growth in this district may make it competitive in 2020, but for now it should remain Dale’s district to represent.
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 lied entirely or partially in the current boundaries of HD136 in each even-year general election. We used precinct-level results from each general election. 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. We rounded to the nearest 100 to avoid appearing too precise in our estimation. For the 2012 and 2014 general elections, we were able to use the current voting precincts within the current districts without the need to allocate votes across split precincts. Because we could use complete precincts, we chose to provide the accurate vote totals. 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.