The most closely watched battle in Texas state-level politics is the effort by Democrats to flip the Texas House to blue this November. If Democrats can hold the 12 seats they gained in 2018 and take nine more, they will control the Texas House for the first time in more than two decades. The upcoming redistricting process, set to happen in 2021, redraws the legislative maps for both state and federal legislatures and makes this election even more consequential.
In our Battleground 2020 series, we’ve been tracking the money in the 27 races that were decided in 2018 by 10 percentage points or less. We’ve now updated the races with the numbers from the latest financial reports — and then we decided to have a little fun (or, at least, what number nerds like us consider fun). After following these races closely over the course of this election cycle, we wanted to make our own predictions about how the races will go. (Click here to skip the process and go straight to the totals).
Since our expertise is campaign finance, we’ve made our predictions based primarily on an examination of the money in the races — who has raised the most, spent the most, and has the most cash-on-hand for the final stretch. We’ve also paid close attention to the number of donations from citizens inside the candidates’ district, as those are the only people who can actually cast a vote. Lastly, we considered the margin of victory from 2018 and the advantages of incumbency.
Predicting the outcome of 2020 elections is certainly not an exact science, but the money involved in the campaigns can be instructive. Join us, after the votes are tallied and the results are in, to see just how accurate campaign-finance based predictions turn out to be.
While having the biggest campaign account is no guarantee of success at the polls, studies have shown a strong correlation. The Center for Responsive Politics studied the correlation between most money spent and election victory for U.S. House and Senate races between 2000 and 2018. Their study found that the Senate candidates who spent the most money won on average 81.4 percent of the time, while the House candidates who spent the most money enjoyed a 92.8 percent victory rate. A similar study by the Campaign Finance Institute found that money is necessary for a candidate — especially a challenger — to be competitive, but it doesn’t ensure success.
At Transparency USA, we’ve studied the correlation between money spent and victory at the ballot box for state-level candidates in Texas primaries in 2018 and 2020. We found that the candidate who spent the most money won 80.24 percent of the time. Incumbents, however, usually spend more than challengers and have built-in advantages of name recognition and free media. When we removed races with incumbents from the analysis, we found a 58.85 percent rate of victory for the candidate who spent the most.
Bottom line: money is crucial, but not determinative. Considering the money, past electoral trends, in-district donations, and the power of incumbency, here’s where we think these races stand today.
We’ve assigned each race outcome one of five possible predictions: Likely Democrat, Leans Democrat, Toss-Up, Leans Republican, or Likely Republican. “Likely” indicates that the financial criteria strongly favor that candidate of that party, while “Leans” indicates that the campaign finance numbers are in that party’s favor, but not overwhelmingly. A “toss-up” race is too close to call according to their campaign finance data.
For a more in-depth chart detailing the money in each race, including breakdowns of in-district versus out-of-district donations, please click “Details” below.
|District||Detailed Numbers||Incumbent||Democrat Candidate||Republican Candidate||Prediction|
|District 26||Details||Rick Miller (R)||L. Sarah DeMerchant (D)||Jacey Jetton (R)||Likely Republican|
|District 28||Details||Gary Gates (R)||Elizabeth Markowitz (D)||Gary Gates (R)||Likely Republican|
|District 45||Details||Erin Zweiner (D)||Erin Zweiner (D)||Carrie Isaac (R)||Toss-Up|
|District 47||Details||Vikki Goodwin (D)||Vikki Goodwin (D)||Justin Berry (R)||Leans Democrat|
|District 52||Details||James Talarico (D)||James Talarico (D)||Lucio Valdez (R)||Likely Democrat|
|District 54||Details||Brad Buckley (R)||Likeithia “Keke” Williams (D)||Brad Buckley (R)||Likely Republican|
|District 64||Details||Lynn Stucky (R)||Angela Brewer (D)||Lynn Stucky (R)||Toss-Up|
|District 65||Details||Michelle Beckley (D)||Michelle Beckley (D)||Kronda Timesch (R)||Leans Republican|
|District 66||Details||Matt Shaheen (R)||Sharon Hirsch (D)||Matt Shaheen (R)||Leans Democrat|
|District 67||Details||Jeff Leach (R)||Lorenzo Sanchez (D)||Jeff Leach (R)||Likely Republican|
|District 92||Details||Jonathan Stickland (R)||Jeff Whitfield (D)||Jeff Cason (R)||Toss-Up|
|District 93||Details||Matt Krause (R)||Lydia Bean (D)||Matt Krause (R)||Leans Republican|
|District 94||Details||Tony Tinderholt (R)||Alisa Simmons (D)||Tony Tinderholt (R)||Leans Republican|
|District 96||Details||Bill Zedler (R)||Joe Drago (D)||David Cook (R)||Leans Republican|
|District 97||Details||Craig Goldman (R)||Elizabeth Beck (D)||Craig Goldman (R)||Toss-Up|
|District 102||Details||Ana-Maria Ramos (D)||Ana-Maria Ramos (D)||Linda Koop (R)||Leans Democrat|
|District 105||Details||Terry Meza (D)||Terry Meza (D)||Gerson Hernandez (R)||Leans Democrat|
|District 108||Details||Morgan Meyer (R)||Joanna Cattanach (D)||Morgan Meyer (R)||Leans Republican|
|District 112||Details||Angie Chen Button (R)||Brandy Chambers (D)||Angie Chen Button (R)||Toss-Up|
|District 113||Details||Rhetta Bowers (D)||Rhetta Bowers (D)||Will Douglas (R)||Likely Republican|
|District 121||Details||Steve Allison (R)||Celina Montoya (D)||Steve Allison (R)||Toss-Up|
|District 126||Details||Sam Harless (R)||Natali Hurtado (D)||Sam Harless (R)||Leans Republican|
|District 132||Details||Gina Calanni (D)||Gina Calanni (D)||Mike Schofield (R)||Leans Democrat|
|District 134||Details||Sarah Davis (R)||Ann Johnson (D)||Sarah Davis (R)||Leans Democrat|
|District 135||Details||Jon Rosenthal (D)||Jon Rosenthal (D)||Justin Ray (R)||Toss-Up|
|District 136||Details||John Bucy (D)||John H. Bucy (D)||Mike Guevara (R)||Likely Democrat|
|District 138||Details||Dwayne Bohac (R)||Akilah Bacy (D)||Lacey Hull (R)||Leans Democrat|
In total, our predictions turned out nine districts that favor Democrats, including three that would flip to blue, and 11 Battleground 2020 districts that favor Republicans, with two of those districts flipping to red. In the other seven districts, neither candidates’ campaign finance data gave them enough of an edge for us to make a prediction. The numbers favor Republicans remaining in control of the Texas House, but Democrats certainly have an opportunity if turnout goes their way.
The last pre-election campaign finance reports are due October 26, giving us one final look at the numbers before the polls close. Join us here to be the first to know when the latest numbers are released.