TX-17: Rick Kennedy vs. Bill Flores

“Kitchen-table issues”

Rick Kennedy
Rick Kennedy

Rick Kennedy is well aware that his race against four-term incumbent Bill Flores is an uphill climb, and even willing to joke about it. Reminded that FiveThirtyEight reports his chances (Sept. 22) as "1 in 100," he says, "It's actually 1 in 200" (i.e., 0.5%). Nevertheless, he says he's getting engaged responses on the campaign trail – from independents and Republicans as well as Democrats – and notes that his campaign's internal polling reflects his opponent's neglect of his constituents. "I call him the invisible man," Kennedy says. "We polled registered voters, and 22% said they have no idea who Bill Flores is, and a full 71% said they were either neutral, negative, or didn't know him. That puts his approval rating at 28% – better than Congress as a whole, so I'll give that to him."

Kennedy said it's the "kitchen-table issues" that are motivating TX-17 voters, and "cut across the political spectrum – the economy, health care, education – and they all say they don't feel represented in Washington." Immigration is also high on the list, he added, but even in that instance, his polling found that 48% think it's [the border wall] a bad idea, and only 44% support it. "It's a symbolic issue, politically inflammatory to motivate the base. Every wall in history has been defeated by ladders, tunnels, ships, and airplanes – visa overstays are far more significant in number than border crossings, and the average 737 cruises at 30,000 feet. A wall isn't going to do anything about that."

Nevertheless, Kennedy said, Trump himself hasn't been much of an issue: "I don't view the election as being nationalized in this district." He returns to the "kitchen-table" theme, and voters "who are hungry for change." He confesses to being a bit envious of Beto O'Rourke, and Julie Oliver in TX-25 – "They have opponents who are visible, and polarizing, and generate interest in the race ... Flores just hopes I'll disappear and he'll ride incumbency and the gerrymander into another two-year term."

"I'm not naive about how challenging the race is," Kennedy says, "but we have a better than a half-one-percent chance. Given the hill we all have to climb, I'm still encouraged by what I see and what I hear when I talk to people. ... There's a dark-horse race in every one of these elections, and this could very well turn out to be it."

TX-17 Snapshot: "Solid R"

FiveThirtyEight odds of D pickup: 1 in 100 (0.3%)

Bill Flores: "Stop the big government expansion and the 'social justice' agendas of liberals like Barack Obama."

Other candidates: Peter Churchman (Libertarian)

Money race (as of June 30):

Flores: $1 million raised, $841,518 cash on hand

Kennedy: $50,040 raised, $9,946 COH

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November 2018 election, Rick Kennedy, Bill Flores

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