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The Texas Blue
Advancing Progressive Ideas

Races That Could Surprise You: TX U.S. District 10

While the Texas state races are heating up, there's one national congressional seat that should be getting more attention. Democratic challenger Larry Joe Doherty looks to be making a strong contention for the seat held by incumbent congressman Michael McCaul (R) in Congressional District 10. The 10th district covers the southeast Austin and northwest Houston suburbs and everything in between.

Why is the district in play?

Rep. McCaul is a young incumbent, winning his seat in 2004 while facing no Democratic opponent. In 2006, McCaul won re-election with only 55% of the vote against a Democratic candidate that raised less than $50,000. Mr. Doherty is different: a real candidate with a real shot at pulling an upset. In the second quarter alone, the Doherty campaign brought in a quarter of a million dollars — serious money for such a race. And as a well connected Houston lawyer, he is likely to see his financial support only strengthen the closer the race appears.

Polls have also been troublesome for McCaul, who seems to have low name recognition within his own district.

Another great reason for the Doherty campaign to be optimistic is the new surge of Democratic voters in the 10th. In the smaller and normally more Republican counties of Austin, Bastrop, and Lee, primary voter turnout this year was incredibly high. In those counties alone, there were 2,500 more Democratic ballots cast in the primaries than compared to John Kerry's entire election totals four years ago. This is a sign not only that Democrats are moving into this District, but that existing Dem voters are organized and coming out to vote.

With this surge of voters, it seems possible that the 10th has become a 55(R)/45(D) base district, meaning that a candidate like Doherty, with money and organization, can really make this race a surprisingly close squeaker.

Hyping Polls...

How far will hyping a poll get a candidate?

Below is the latest from the highly respected Stuart Rothenberg:

The Rothenberg Political Report -

"Larry Joe Doherty (D)is hyping a poll against Rep. Michael McCaul (R) in Texas’ 10th, and some bloggers seem to be excited about Sharen Neuhardt (D) in Ohio’s 7th. Neither even made the DCCC’s emerging races, so how seriously should they be treated?

Talk of a 30-plus seat Democratic year is overblown. Even though many factors favor Democrats, the party would need to win solidly Republican districts to get that kind of gain, and that’s a daunting challenge. Partisanship still matters a great deal.

In Texas’ 10th, a Goodwin Simon Victoria Research polling memo for Doherty in late May argued that "Democrats have a real chance to take this district in November." The Doherty campaign is also crowing about a June survey conducted by IVR Polls, an automated polling firm with a very thin political track record.

The reality of the race is quite different. Doherty showed almost $260,000 in the bank at the end of June — not what he’d need to oust a mega-wealthy Republican in a solidly GOP district that gave George W. Bush 62 percent in 2004. If McCaul campaigns, he wins." (The Rothenberg Political Report)

From highly respected sources it looks like the race isn't quite what you make it out to be.

-The Truth Seeker

You seem to have forgotten

You seem to have forgotten to note that the "highly respected sources" quote *other* highly respected sources saying exactly the opposite. Political pundits and polling professionals are of two minds on races like Doherty's -- is that a surprise this far out?

But -- call me crazy -- I tend to say, when opinion goes both ways, bring it back to fundamentals and *go with the numbers*. "Hyping" a poll is powerful because the information you're using isn't an opinion, or a reference, or a hazy collection of adjectives describing the groundswell one expects to see. It's hard data. There's no "hype" to a properly done study -- sure, you can have analysis of the polling methodology, but at least to some degree the numbers speak for themselves.

That must explain

why McCaul has been so quick to release his polling numbers.... Not!

A few corrections

What do you mean that McCaul won his seat in 2004 "facing no Democratic opponent"?! I worked like crazy in that race, running as a write-in when no Democrat filed for the primary, but always running as a Democrat , in close coordination with the Travis County Democratic Party and several rural county Democratic parties. I got 14,000 votes (6%), which hardly struck the Republicans with fear, but my campaign formed the incubator for Ted Ankrum's 2006 campaign (whose budget was $65K, not "less than $50K"), which in turn served as an incubator for Larry Joe Doherty's campaign.

McCaul largely ignored Ankrum, and totally ignored me, but he's taking Doherty seriously, spending far more time in the district than he ever has before, sending out zillions of robo-calls, and even moderating his voting stance.

The district is 45% Travis County (solid blue), 35% Harris County (extremely red), and 20% rural.

This campaign will be fought on the ground and in the airwaves. On the ground, the Travis County Democratic Party is extremely well-organized, with a huge army of volunteers, and is actively pushing for Doherty. State Rep. Mark Strama, whose north Austin district is almost entirely in CD10 (and who largely ran away from the party in 2004 and 2006) is adding his own powerful organization to the effort. Doherty should carry Travis County at least 60-40.

What's unclear is how well we can organize NW Harris county, which is solidly Republican (DPI in the 20s) and has little Democratic infrastructure, but whose demographics are improving. With active Obama, Noriega and Bell campaigns, and with the lists of caucus-goers and county convention-goers providing a starting point, we've got a chance to cut our losses there.

The best way to reach the Harris County voters is via TV, and that's extremely expensive. Ankrum and I ran campaigns with 5-digit budgets and Doherty's has a 6-digit budget so far, but he probably needs 7 figures to really compete. Give if you can. I did!

Lorenzo Sadun
(former) Democrat for Congress TX-10
(always) Democrat for Democracy

Texas, United States

The stimulus bill is a dense document, no doubt imposing for anyone, but that still doesn't excuse the fact that more lobbyists were given copies than members of Congress. That's right folk. How upfront and honest are these politicians who make the decisions on the stimulus bill and on whether or not we get to keep payday loans. It's a bit comforting to know that at least payday loans terms are upfront and honest.Economic issues where stop, it seems that the payday loans that the nation is counting on for the economy aren't even being read by a lot of Congressmen.

District 10

As a Maritime Lawyer in Houston, TX I will be interested in seeing how this election plays out. Can being a well connected lawyer in Houston, help McCaul raise the amount of funding necessary to win this race?

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