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Lone Star Project Report

In Senate District 10, GOP Turns to the Second String

GOP benchwarmers Shelton and Goodman all that’s left after SD10 restored

The bottom line

If Republican leaders thought they could win in District 10, they would never have worked so hard to dismantle the district.  Republican Party leaders wanted a much safer district badly enough to violate the Voting Right Act to get it. Republicans are understandably disappointed that their illegal Senate map was overturned and are now stuck with Jr. Varsity candidates.  With Shelton and Goodman, it's clear that they intend to cover their disappointment with bluster and rhetoric.

 

Candidate filing opens today and, despite the efforts of overtly partisan State Republican leaders, Wendy Davis has filed for re-election in Senate District 10, which has now been restored by the Federal Courts to the exact configuration of the district when Davis won it in 2008.  Whether State Republicans admit it or not, the Court’s decision badly damages and likely ends their ambitions to capture District 10.

A sure sign that local and State Republican leaders have lowered their expectations in State Senate District 10 is the lack of success in finding a strong GOP candidate.  State House backbencher Mark Shelton (HD97 – Fort Worth) has formally announced for the Republican nomination.  The only other Republican being discussed is scandal-ridden former House Member Toby Goodman.  Both Shelton and Goodman have lost races where the odds were in their favor and have a history of underperforming in competitive elections.  Neither has the stature, political base or broad appeal of incumbent District 10 Senator Wendy Davis.

 Wendy Davis
State Senator Wendy Davis

 

Until the Federal Courts overturned Texas Republican’s illegal State Senate redistricting map, Republican leaders had appeared to settle on State Representative Kelly Hancock (HD91 – N Richland Hills) as their nominee in District 10.  Hancock has earned his stripes with right wing donors and ideological activists making him popular among harshly partisan Republicans. 

However, the advantage in Senate District 10 shifted strongly back to Wendy Davis last week.  The Federal Court in San Antonio discarded the Republican redistricting plan and restored District 10 as a majority minority district where a racial and political coalition determines the winner.  Hancock’s House District, along with his right wing political base, were placed within open Senate District 9.  He has already announced that he’ll run in District 9 rather than in District 10.  That leaves Republican leaders without a first tier opponent to challenge popular Senator Wendy Davis.  They are now stuck with weak bottom tier options Mark Shelton and Toby Goodman.

 

Possible Republican Candidates in SD 10

Mark Shelton 
Shelton has served two years in the State House.  He’s seen as a reliable vote for the right wing and corporate lobby but otherwise unremarkable.

 Mark Shelton
Mark Shelton

Lost Special Election in safely Republican District 97
Shelton’s first try for elected office was in a special election in District 97 in 2007.  The District had been easily held through the decade by Republican Anna Mowery.  Republican candidates have an advantage in low-turnout special elections where older more conservative and more partisan voters are more likely to vote.  However, Shelton figured out a way to lose.  Democrat Dan Barrett won a surprise victory in the special election by running a better organized campaign and building a broader base of support
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Shelton Under-performs compared to other Republicans 
In the 2008 General Election – a Presidential year when turnout in a strongly Republican district should mean a landslide win – Mark Shelton ran well behind other Republicans on the ballot.  Meanwhile, Wendy Davis ran ahead of other Democrats.  On average, Davis ran almost 4 percent better than other Democrats within the portion of Senate District 10 made up of House District 97, while Shelton ran over 2 percent worse than other Republicans and almost 3 percent worse than John McCain.

House District 97 Stats – 2008 General

2008 Republican Top of the Ticket Average

57.4%

2008 Mark Shelton (Rep)

55.3%

Shelton Under-performance

-2.1%

 

2008 Democratic Top of the Ticket Average

40.40%

2008 Wendy Davis (in HD 97)

44.30%

Davis Over-performance

+3.9%

 

Toby Goodman

 Toby Goodman
Toby Goodman

Now out of office, Goodman served in the State House from 1991 through 2006.  He was defeated for re-election in 2006 by long-time Arlington leader Paula Pierson.  For most of his career, he kept a low profile showing little in the way of accomplishments or ambition.

Goodman’s career collapsed when it was discovered that he used campaign money to buy a suburban Austin home registered in his wife’s name (Source: Austin American-Statesman March 21, 2008. Rent deal yields fine for former lawmaker.) 

Goodman also landed in hot water after publicly defending the right of child predators to live near schools and parks (Source: The Dallas Morning News, August 18, 2006, Local officials seek state 'safe zone' law).

Since his defeat, Goodman has been working as an Austin lobbyist rather than rebuilding a political base in Tarrant County (See Texas Ethics Commission).


Prepare for Frantic GOP Spinning
Expect Republican leaders and self-interested consultants to urgently claim that a GOP win in District 10 is certain.  They will tout superficial statistics that show the obvious – the district was carried by Republicans like John McCain, Rick Perry and John Cornyn.  They will fail to acknowledge however, that in the only competitive State Senate election ever held in District 10, Wendy Davis defeated a long-time Republican incumbent who Republican “experts” all but guaranteed would win. 

 

It is important to remember that throughout the 2008 election cycle, Republican consultants and party leaders boasted that incumbent Kim Brimer was in great shape, pointing to misleading or inconsequential data and the endorsement of establishment mayors like Mike Moncrief in Fort Worth and Bob Cluck in Arlington.  Early in the campaign, Brimer’s principal consultant, Bryan Epstein, cited his firm’s poll as proof that Brimer was “strong in the district” (Source: FW Star-Telegram, August 10, 2007).  Epstein and other GOP consultants on Brimer’s payroll insisted that the district was solid for a Republican – all the way up to the day that Brimer lost to Wendy Davis.  The same type of excited, but empty boasts are being made now.