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Election 2006: All Their Base Are Belong to Us

Crunching the numbers on the November 2006 election

By Mike Clark-Madison, Fri., Nov. 17, 2006

To borrow some geek-speak from the Intertubes: The GOP got pwned, here and everywhere else. But in Travis County, this doesn't represent any realignment, shake-up, or paradigm shift – just inexorable trends rolling on. Let's go to the tape!


STATE RACES


GOVERNOR
CandidateESWNWCENTNSETOTAL
Bell (D)54.838.038.858.339.354.445.1%
Perry (R)15.933.234.813.532.113.226.4%
Strayhorn (I)17.014.712.79.515.715.613.7%
Friedman (I)11.313.012.417.511.615.613.5%
Werner (L)1.0%1.21.31.11.41.11.2%

U.S. SENATE
CandidateESWNWCENTNSETOTAL
Radnofsky (D)67.544.244.069.445.568.653.2%
Hutchison (R)28.851.952.626.250.426.542.8%
Jameson (L)3.73.83.44.54.14.94.0%
Hutchison>Perry12.818.817.812.718.313.316.4%
Radnofsky>Bell12.76.35.211.06.214.28.1%


RAILROAD COMMISSION
CandidateESWNWCENTNSETOTAL
Henry (D)70.346.945.970.648.970.855.6%
Jones (R)22.446.748.621.744.719.737.6%
Serrano (L)7.36.45.47.76.49.66.8%

Chris Bell won in every Travis Co. House district, though with far short of a majority in the three formerly R districts (50, 48, and 47). While that would suggest that Rick Perry lost votes to Kinky and Grandma, it ain't necessarily so. In boxes where Perry won – mostly west of MoPac – Bell almost always came in second, often with more votes than Strayhorn and Friedman combined. Where Bell won, Perry often came in third or even fourth. Another way of looking at this is shown on the map, where we compare Bell and Perry's margins to Barbara Radnofsky and Kay Bailey Hutchison's performance in the same boxes. That big blue streak in the middle is the MoPac corridor, Austin's swing belt, where people voted for KBH and against Perry.

In itself, the Senate breakdown isn't so interesting, looking much like the partisan split by district that we saw in 1998 and 2002. But that's in a race with a highly popular, well-funded and "moderate" GOP incumbent, a race that was never seriously in play for the Dems. To get the real skinny on where Travis stands now, you have to look at a more generic statewide race – we used the Railroad Commission contest, where appointed "incumbent" Elizabeth Ames Jones barely managed to carry a single Travis House district against a completely unknown opponent.


Turnout

ESWNWCNSE
HD 46HD 47HD 48HD 49HD 50HD 51TOTAL
Total turnout32.347.848.143.839.925.841.1%
Election Day18.825.525.825.324.014.823.1%
Early/absentee13.522.322.318.515.911.018.0%

Back in the spring, we were expecting high turnout driven by those exciting, new-voter-wrangling independents in the Guv race. Then, by October, we'd figured out that all four governor campaigns were riding the short bus, and we expected low turnout. That projection held true through most of early voting, and then … a bunch of Democrats showed up and kept showing up on Election Day, driving most boxes' D margins into the range between "healthy" and "absurd." Note that the most dependable R regions – the northwest (HD 48) and southwest (HD 47) – saw only a modest uptick on Election Day, while Central (HD 49) and (surprisingly) North (HD 50) saw major jumps in late voting. In addition to Mark Strama, Ted Ankrum was a prime beneficiary of the latter surge. In the East and Southeast (HDs 46 and 51), where people are always more likely to vote on E-Day, turnout remained at the lower level that had been expected countywide. Comparatively, the six districts turned out at the same rates they always do – in descending order from Northwest to Southeast.


Every box in the county went to either Rick Perry or Chris Bell. This map compares the two's percentages in the boxes they won to their party's Senate candidate. In Bell's case, while a few true-blue boxes (like those around campus) gave both him and Radnofsky huge margins, mostly we see evidence of ticket-splitting along the MoPac swing belt – people who voted for Hutchison but against Gov. Goodhair. They did the same thing in most of the boxes where Perry did worst compared to Hutchison – the missing GOP votes went to Bell, who did better in these boxes than Kinky and Grandma combined. In the blue boxes to the east and south where Radnofsky totally outperformed Bell, the missing Dem votes tended toward Strayhorn and Friedman, respectively.


You'd think that such a closely divided district would be more "close" and less "divided," but tain't so. Both Valinda Bolton and Bill Welch piled up big margins in their friendly boxes – for her, east of MoPac, and for him out by the lake – and then fought over the few remaining scraps, like Travis Country and Circle C Ranch.


CONGRESS


District 10

(Candidate: E / NW / CENT / N / TOTAL)

Ankrum (D): 58.6% / 50.7% / 69.4% / 52.1% / 55.6%

McCaul (R): 35.1% / 44.4% / 24.6% / 41.3% / 38.4%

Badnarik (L): 6.3% / 4.9% / 6.0% / 6.6% / 5.9%


District 25

(Candidate: E / SW / NW / CENT / SE / TOTAL)

Doggett (D): 88.2% / 62.5% / 65.8% / 83.6% / 81.9% / 74.0%

Rostig (R): 7.2% / 31.0% / 29.8% / 10.0% / 11.4% / 19.8%

Cunningham (L): 3.3% / 4.5% / 3.4% / 4.4% / 4.6% / 4.3%

Parrett (I): 1.3% / 2.1% / 1.1% / 1.9% / 2.1% / 1.9%


District 21

(Candidate: SW / NW / CENT / N / TOTAL)

Smith (R): 52.1% / 49.5% / 21.6% / 51.8% / 46.9%

Courage (D): 24.2% / 29.9% / 44.2% / 26.6% / 30.0%

Kelly (D): 16.4% / 13.8% / 24.8% / 15.4% / 16.1%

Others: 7.2% / 6.8% / 9.3% / 6.1% / 7.0%


(Candidate: E / SW / NW / CENT / N / SE / TOTAL)

Congress D>R / 54.1% / 26.8% / 7.2% / 57.9% / 7.0% / 69.0% / 33.1%

The blue tide also came surprisingly close to washing out Rep. Michael McCaul, whose seat was never, ever, ever considered in play by either side but who ended up with less than 60% districtwide. As the map shows, Ankrum won boxes well into the suburban reaches of the district by margins of more than 15%. In 2008, if the Dems run a well-funded candidate who can go on TV, could Travis margins outweigh the Houston burbs at the other end of this barbell district?

Meanwhile, Lloyd Doggett hit the "absurd" end of the Dem range, winning Eastside boxes with more than 90% of the vote and waxing the floor with his ragtag opponents in all but the very most conservative boxes in his new district (those at the Lakeway end). As for Lamar Smith, though Central Austin doesn't much like him, he did well enough elsewhere to suggest that his days as a Dem target are over. (And, you know, seriously? Can we throw Gene Kelly down a well?) Overall, the average Dem congressional margin was 33%, but the two districts where the GOP did much better – North and Northwest – owe that performance to Smith.


To nobody's surprise, Lloyd Doggett rolled up awe-inspiring margins against his little-known and barely visible Republican opponent, Grant Rostig. (In several Eastside boxes, Doggett got close to 95% of the total.) But the much less well-favored Ted Ankrum also managed to wax incumbent Michael McCaul by sizable margins in most of CD 10's Travis boxes. While Lamar Smith's remaining Central Austin toehold rejected him soundly, luckily for him the county's remaining Republican redoubts – except for a few boxes in and around Pflugerville – are still in CD 21.


CITY BONDS

ESWNWCENTNSEW'MSONTOTAL
Average "Yes"71.160.665.673.759.270.553.466.4%
P3: Parks75.168.071.880.265.976.158.272.7%
P1: Roads74.268.273.377.167.673.062.672.2%
P7: Public Safety71.568.371.474.867.771.567.871.0%
P2: Water72.263.268.376.461.171.654.868.6%
P5: Afford. Housing72.455.259.771.153.571.047.462.7%
P6: Library65.052.460.369.251.564.644.960.1%
P4: Arts67.549.254.167.446.965.738.057.4%

The chart here includes a separate column for Williamson County voters, who to no great surprise were less enthusiastic about the city's $567 million bond package. But even there, the average "yes" vote on all the bonds topped 50%; the big surprise is, basically, how well all the individual bonds did all over town. Much will, we're sure, be made in the near future about how parks (Proposition 3) did better than roads (Prop. 1) and cops (Prop. 7), thanks to a four-to-one pro-park vote in Central Austin. But even the laggards of the package, Props. 4, 5, and 6 – the arts, housing, and library bonds – all won comfortably in Northwest and did better than expected in the North and Southwest.

[Editor's note: Yes, Mike Clark-Madison was the campaign coordinator for the Libraries for Austin PAC that supported Proposition 6, and a consultant for the Unity PAC that supported all the bonds. But before that, he was our city editor and election-map analyst, and we're chaining him to that latter position until his indentured servitude is paid off.]


In all my years of drawing election maps, I don't know that I've ever seen the famous Austin Doughnut so shapely and perfectly centered. (If the map tracked actual votes instead of percentages, it would have been an even more perfect bull's-eye.) The bond package as a whole didn't lose anywhere – the lowest average "yes" vote on all seven bonds in a full Austin precinct was 50.3%. But it couldn't be much clearer that the full bond package (including the arts, housing, and library bonds) grew more attractive the closer you got to the center of town.



MORE NUMBER-CRUNCHING

1) So much for that "more conservative" Congressional District 25. After his district got realigned during the summer for the third time this decade, we noted that Lloyd Doggett would be facing a somewhat more conservative electorate than ever before (See "Democrats Get a Boost From Court Redistricting," Aug. 11). Not enough to seriously threaten his re-election chances, since the district is still anchored in Travis County, but it looked like he might actually have trouble cracking 60%, as opposed to the blowouts he'd enjoyed in the past. Well, we doubt the good folks in the seven other counties in CD 25 have suddenly turned into peace-sign-waving hippies, but they did in fact support Doggett over the three opponents he faced in the special election. Perhaps it can be chalked up to a little-known Republican challenger who really wasn't even welcome within his own party (Grant Rostig called himself a "Ron Paul Republican," which won't exactly ingratiate you to the more theocratic wing of the party), but Doggett actually won a majority in every single county. Of the rural counties, he enjoyed a high of 65% in Caldwell County, and a low of 51% in Colorado County. Of course, most of the voters live in Travis, which favored him with 74% of the vote.

2) Travis County (and more precisely, Austin) doesn't just love Democrats, it also hates Republicans. In races where Republicans faced no Democratic opponent (which included several statewide court races) Travis voters went heavily for the Libertarian alternative, presumably just out of protest. (I confess I did this myself, even though most Libertarian candidates make me cringe.) In most of these races, the Libertarian generally got around 45% of the vote, certainly much higher than the 6% or less more typical for the L party. And in many central-city precincts, such as my Precinct 242, the Lib actually won, with well over 60%. Contrast those numbers with several local races where a Democrat faced no Republican – typical was the state Senate District 14 race, where Kirk Watson racked up 80% vs. Rock Howard's 20%. – Lee Nichols

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