Sabatos Crystal Ball

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Texas (17)

Outlook: Likely Democratic


This race is part of the Crystal Ball’s “Watch List” of the next 25 House races worth keeping an eye on.

November 6, 2006 Update:

Rep. Chet Edwards (D) will win reelection over Van Taylor (R). Sure, the president will be voting for Taylor, but in this case his opinion will be worth just as much as everyone else’s. Taylor is a young veteran and an attractive candidate, but it’s likely that Edwards’s incumbency and considerable political skills will pull him through yet another election in this severely red district.

June 29, 2006 Update:

Iraq veteran Van Taylor captured his party’s nomination to run against longtime Democratic Rep. Chet Edwards in this, the most conservative Texas district still held by a Democrat. But his victory in the primary came at a cost, and now he must replenish his campaign coffers quickly if he wants to have any hope of ousting Edwards, who is possibly the most able campaigner in the state’s congressional delegation. This race still leans to the Democrats.


February 2006 Outlook:

Texas’s 17th District may be home to President Bush’s ranch in Crawford and last year’s anti-war protests outside of it, but GOP State Rep. Arlene Wohlgemuth still came up about 8,000 votes shy of knocking off Democratic Rep. Chet Edwards in this reconfigured Waco-based seat last year. The politically talented Edwards was the only one of the five targeted Texas Democrats to win enough crossover support to survive pro-Republican redistricting in 2004, and Republicans will have to find a stronger candidate to win here in 2006.

What does not destroy an incumbent like Edwards strengthens him. On the other hand, with so few truly competitive House districts, both parties have tens of millions to spend in the handful of close battles, so Edwards will likely be hard pressed again in 2006. So far, Marine Reservist Van Taylor holds a sizeable edge over Tucker Anderson for the GOP nomination. Either would give Edwards a good race, but for now, the Crystal Ball gives the incumbent Democrat the edge. If the GOP unites behind one well-funded candidate soon, however, this race could easily make its way back to the toss-up column.

Candidates

Chet Edwards (I) – Democrat – Total Raised: $2,899,630.39 | Total Spent: $2,257,067.89
Website

Van Taylor – Republican – Total Raised: $1,817,372.68 | Total Spent: $2,058,085.71
Website

Texas (22) (Open Seat)

Outlook: Toss-up


This race is part of the Crystal Ball’s “Ferocious FIFTY” list of the 50 most competitive House races in the nation.

November 8, 2006 Update:

Democrat Nick Lampson defeated Republican Shelley Sekula-Gibbs.

November 6, 2006 Update:

Nick Lampson (D) will defeat Shelley Sekula-Gibbs (R). We really do wonder about this district. Republicans chose to gamble on expensive voter education campaigns here and in Florida to salvage scandal-tarred seats. Late word on the street is that party efforts are finally paying off in both places, at least in part because awareness of the special situations seems to be high among the midterm electorate, which skews affluent and well-educated. Still, we believe a write-in vote for “Sekula-Gibbs” is a lot to ask of most voters, and we tend to think Lampson still has a very thin advantage–for the full term, that is–going into Election Day.

October 2, 2006 Update:

Republican Shelly Sekula-Gibbs is asking voters to check her name twice in the Nov. 7th general election. She is running in special contest for the remainder of former Rep. Tom DeLay‘s term, and she is running in a write-in campaign to allow her to serve in the seat for the next two years. Sekula-Gibbs is fighting an uphill battle because historically no write-in candidate in Texas has ever won a congressional race. Her opponent, Democrat Nick Lampson, is also already 2.2 million dollars ahead in fundraising because of Sekula-Gibbs’ late start after Delay’s resignation. According to the Dallas Morning News, Sekula-Gibbs is telling voters: “It’s the first time that you get to vote for the same person twice on the same day. Usually it’s cheating if you do that, but I’m asking you to do that to keep this district conservative and Republican.”

Erin Levin, Crystal Ball Southern Regional Correspondent

August 10, 2006 Update:

In a stunning reversal of fortune, the state GOP was denied the opportunity to replace Tom DeLay on the ballot, and instead was forced to coalesce around a write-in candidate to take on Democrat Nick Lampson in the general election. The GOP’s pick? Conservative Houston City Council woman Shelley Sekula-Gibbs, whose name isn’t particulary easy to remember or spell! We do not yet know whether Republicans will try to pour substantial sums into the race in hopes of keeping it competitive, but their odds of mounting a successful write-in bid are slim, if history is any guide. In November, the advantage must be given to the well-funded Lampson, who may well turn out to be a one-term wonder if the GOP gets its act together here in time for 2008.

June 29, 2006 Update:

Just when we thought we might get to witness a House race for the ages in this district, Majority Leader Tom DeLay announced his retirement from Congress and shattered everything we had come to know and expect about the race here.

Currently, the ballot replacement struggle is playing out in court, with Democrats fighting to keep DeLay’s name on the ballot for November and the GOP claiming that his move to Virginia makes him ineligible to stay on the ballot. Our guess is that Republicans get to field a replacement nominee who will start off as a favorite against former Reps. Democrat Nick Lampson and Independent Steve Stockman, the latter of whom may not even appear on the ballot as a result of not filing proper paperwork.

The end result of these developments? GOP chances of retaining this seat will improve quite dramatically with DeLay off the ballot. But in the Crystal Ball’s view, with yesterday’s Supreme Court redistricting ruling in mind, Texas might want to think about changing its slogan to “Land of Litigated Congressional Elections.”


February 2006 Outlook:

As if residents of the Texas Gulf Coast were in need of another storm besides Rita, those living in the 22nd District have observed one brewing for nearly a year now, and this one in the southwest-of-Houston area won’t be over until November 7th.

First, take the fact that now-indicted ex-House Majority Leader Tom DeLay vastly outspent a little-known, Howard Dean-supported Democrat in 2004 and received only
55 percent of the vote. Next, consider that since then, news of his indictment and his demotion from the GOP leadership has saturated his Houston-area district’s media market and that his favorability ratings have plummeted in polls of his constituents. Finally, take into account that both a former Democratic Texas congressman who used to represent 20 percent of DeLay’s current district AND a former maverick Republican congressman have decided to run against him. What do you have? A barnburner of a race that conceivably could result in the biggest upset of 2006.

Although a conviction in the next several months would likely sink his congressional career entirely, DeLay doesn’t yet have the smell of death about him. For his part, DeLay has embarked on a massive public relations campaign to return fire on Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle and has missed few opportunities to brand Earle’s charges “baseless” and “frivolous.” Furthermore, DeLay’s territory is one where it is mighty tough for a Democrat to win. But surely it is no more inhospitable to Democrats than the district won by redistricted Democratic Congressman Chet Edwards in 2002. DeLay is going to have to work hard, and spend his time and money at home rather than around the country for other members of his caucus.

Democrat Nick Lampson‘s decision to oppose DeLay in 2006 met with jubilation among Washington Democrats who have their minds set on exacting revenge for the GOP’s 2004 takeout of another congressional party leader named Tom. And for Lampson, an upset of DeLay would be payback for DeLay’s role in bringing about the mid-decade redrawing of district lines that resulted in the loss of the Democrat’s Galveston-to-Beaumont district.

If indeed the “Hammer” loses in 2006, he would likely be a victim of his own creativity. In the 2003 redrawing process, he collegially agreed to take on a few more Democratic precincts in exchange for boosting GOP chances elsewhere. Still, don’t count DeLay out: even though he no longer can point to clout commensurate with a top House leadership position, he can easily raise all the money he needs to wage a breathtakingly vigorous defense of his seat. At the year’s end, he had $1.45 million in the bank to the Democrat’s $1.29 million in cash on hand.

Lest we forget, the nascent independent candidacy of former GOP Rep. Steve Stockman could be a complicating factor in this race. While there is certainly no love lost between Stockman and DeLay, Stockman is not on especially good terms with Lampson either: it was Lampson who unseated him in a nasty runoff held in Texas’s old 9th District back in 1996. And while Stockman will surely claim many Republican votes, he may actually aid DeLay by splitting the anti-DeLay vote with Lampson.

This will be the marquee House race of 2006 and we’ve moved it into the toss-up column.

Candidates

Steve Stockman (I) – Independent – Total Raised: N/A | Total Spent: N/A

Nick Lampson – Democrat – Total Raised: $2,963,110.58 | Total Spent: $2,190,247.15
Website

David Wallace – Republican – Former Mayor of Sugar Land, will be Tom DeLay’s write in Candidate Second Quarter Raised: $203,421.43 | Cash on Hand: $157,814.15
Website

Shelley Sekula-Gibbs – Republican – Total Raised: $585,903.25 | Total Spent: $672,650.4
Website

Texas (23)

Outlook: Leans Republican


This race is part of the Crystal Ball’s “Ferocious FIFTY” list of the 50 most competitive House races in the nation.

November 8, 2006 Update:

Republican Henry Bonilla won re-election over Democrat Ciro Rodriguez.

November 6, 2006 Update:

Rep. Henry Bonilla (R) will win reelection over Ciro Rodriguez (D). The fact that this race has been practically inaudible on the national stage since the district’s creation this summer is very good news for Bonilla, who will be dominating the field in the open primary tomorrow. The question, of course, is whether he will reach 50 percent in this race, which might as well be held in Louisiana. If he is held under 50 percent, we believe it will be Rodriguez who advances to the runoff, although businessman Lukin Gilliland has an outside shot. This newly configured district is expansive as ever and poses numerous message communication difficulties, meaning that Bonilla’s insurmountable cash edge may enable him to run circles around the competition even if Democrats are the district’s political majority.

August 9, 2006 Update:

Longtime GOP Rep. Henry Bonilla contends that the new court-imposed Texas congressional district boundaries do not harm his reelection prospects, as the addition of southern Bexar County to the district means residents of the territory surrounding his boyhood home will finally have the chance to vote for him. But in all truth, though Bonilla is still the favorite under the new lines, he is by no means guaranteed victory, especially now that Democratic Rep. Ciro Rodriguez of San Antonio’s south side has entered the race.

And what an intriguing game of musical chairs this district has played! Bonilla, Rodriguez, and neighboring Democratic Rep. Henry Cuellar will have all faced off against each other in the span of just three election cycles. Bonilla’s chances in November against any credible Democratic nominee will come down to geography: the removal of heavily anglo Kerr, Kendall, Bandera, and Real counties from the district outweigh the district’s loss of portions heavily Latino Webb County politically, and the switcheroo could really end up causing the incumbent headaches, perhaps even in a runoff.


Candidates

Henry Bonilla (I) – Republican – Total Raised: $3,305,615.18| Total Spent: $2,479,514.57
Website

Ciro D. Rodriguez – Democrat – Total Raised: $858,393.81 | Total Spent: $897,074.86
Website