Sabato's Crystal Ball

Texas (17) House 2010

 

Crystal Ball Outlook: Leans R

Democratic candidate: Chet Edwards, Incumbent

Republican candidate: Bill Flores, former CEO

Recent updates from the Crystal Ball

Update: October 5th, 2010

After the start of the general election campaign was delayed by a Republican primary runoff, this race took a few weeks to take shape. Now it is in full swing, with a new ad released each day this week. Democrat Chet Edwards has a long history in the district and a conservative voting record that matches the district’s predilections. Unfortunately for him, when voters enter the voting booths in November, they will not see that record, only the “D” next to his name. In a district that is two-thirds Republican at the presidential level, and in an election that has been very much nationalized, this will be Edwards’ toughest race ever. After being pushed as a potential vice-presidential nominee by Nancy Pelosi in 2008, Edwards has cut all ties, running an ad saying he “stood up to” Pelosi and Obama. Republican nominee Bill Flores is running a solid campaign that has turned a long-time Democratic district into one of the GOP’s best pick-up opportunities. The Crystal Ball changes our rating here from Toss-Up to Leans Republican.

Background:

Democratic Rep. Chet Edwards is currently serving his tenth term in Congress. He was first elected to Congress in 1990, and in 2008, he won his most recent reelection over Republican Rob Curnock by a margin of 53 percent to 46 percent. While he has been tested over the years, this moderate Democrat has shown that he is capable of maintaining support in this increasingly Republican Texas district, and Edwards is still favored to win an eleventh term in 2010.

The Texas 17th Congressional District, centered on the city of Waco, has undergone a modest political realignment over the decades. For much of its history, the Texas 17th leaned Democratic, going for Hubert Humphrey in 1968, when most of the South went for the Republican or Dixiecrat candidate, and voting for a Democratic gubernatorial candidate as recently as 1990. However, in recent years, this district has seen a trend toward the Republicans, with George Bush winning 68 percent of the vote in 2000 and 69 percent in 2004, and with John McCain taking 67 percent of the vote in 2008. Chet Edwards has managed to continue winning electoral victories, even in this increasingly Republican climate, by maintaining a fairly centrist voting record: Edwards has supported drilling in the ANWR; he has supported the constitutional amendments requiring a balanced budget and banning same-sex marriage; and, most recently, he has expressed opposition to the Democratic healthcare plan, citing fears that the health legislation will be too costly.

Even with his largely centrist voting record, many conservatives view Chet Edwards as too beholden to Democratic leadership in Congress, and Edwards has long been the target of Republican challengers. In 2010, seven GOP challengers are seeking to unseat Edwards. At this point, the prime challengers are ’08 nominee Rob Curnock, nurse Timothy Delasandro, businessman Chuck Wilson, and businessman Darren Yancy, with the other three candidates severely lacking in fundraising and name-recognition.

While Republicans are targeting Edwards in 2010, his centrist voting record, name-recognition, and significant fundraising advantage should be enough to win him reelection in 2010.