Our look into straight-ticket voting trends in today’s competitive or potentially competitive districts shifts to Southeast Texas with HD144 in Harris Co. Comprised of portions of Baytown, Deer Park, Houston, Pasadena and South Houston, HD144 has switched partisan representation twice in four years.

It was held for a long time by former Rep. Robert Talton (R-Pasadena), but the seat is now more of a toss-up after it was redrawn in 2011. A combination of low turnout and close straight-ticket voting between the parties makes the seat competitive in most years.

Rep. Gilbert Pena

Rep. Gilbert
Pena

Mary Ann Perez

Mary Ann
Perez

We estimate HD144 would have been decided by 500 or fewer votes in five of the last eight general elections (and likely a sixth) had it always been drawn as it is today. Indeed, Rep. Gilbert Pena (R-Pasadena) won the seat in 2014 by 152 votes. We estimate that similarly close elections would have occurred in 2000 (Democrat by ~100 votes), 2002 (Democrat by ~200 votes), 2006 (Democrat by ~500 votes) and 2010 (virtual tie) had HD144 been configured for those elections as it is today. Additionally, in 2004, straight-ticket voters would have been almost evenly split, but Talton ran unopposed.

Pena faces former Rep. Mary Ann Perez (D-Houston) in a rematch of their 2014 race. There are no minor party candidates. Perez first won the seat in 2012 by a little over 1,561 votes, which was practically equal to the Democrats’ advantage in straight-ticket voting (1,531 votes) in the district. Republican candidates had a 281-vote advantage in straight-ticket votes in 2014, and that gave Pena his margin of victory.

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.

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