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« Presidential Travel Favors Blue, Purple States | Blog Home Page | Would Runoff Change Dynamic In Texas Race? »

Dems Fail To Stay Competitive In 3 Texas Districts

What a difference two years makes. As voters in Texas head to the polls today to vote in their 2010 primaries, Democrats find themselves struggling to put up much of a fight in three of the most competitive Republican House districts in 2008.

In the 10th District, which stretches from Austin to Houston, businessman Jack McDonald was supposed to be the Democratic challenger who could finally defeat Texas Rep. Michael McCaul, the third-term Republican who won with 55 percent or less the last two elections. But McDonald's name won't appear on the 10th District primary ballot today.

After forming an exploratory committee in February 2009, McDonald raised more than $300,000 in five weeks. In April -- 19 months before the election -- the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee aired a radio ad in the district for a week that attacked McCaul for his vote against the stimulus bill. The move was a clear sign of the party's faith in McDonald and its view that McCaul was vulnerable.

McDonald would go on to raise more than $1 million in 10 months. Then in late December -- two weeks before the filing deadline -- McDonald took a look at the political landscape and dropped out.

"Since forming our Exploratory Committee last February, the environment in our District has changed significantly," McDonald wrote in a farewell message on his campaign Web site.

With McDonald out this year, the fallback challenger is Ted Ankrum, a retired Naval officer and Vietnam veteran who challenged McCaul in 2006. He garnered 40 percent that year - and held McCaul to 55 percent - despite spending only $64,000. He has yet to file a fundraising report with the Federal Election Commission and likely won't receive the same national party support McDonald would have.

The Houston area-based 7th District is another in which Democrats were competitive in 2008, but won't be in 2010. Two years ago Michael Skelly, an executive at a wind energy company, spent more than $3 million and held five-term Republican John Culberson to 56 percent. The result appeared to foretell future challenges. Instead, Culberson is running unopposed this year.

There will also be no Democrat running in the 24th District, located outside Dallas, where three-term Republican Kenny Marchant is running for re-election. Marchant won with just 56 percent in 2008, down from 60 percent in 2006 and 64 percent in 2004. His opponent in the last election, Tom Love, spent $22,000 and won 41 percent.

The political winds have shifted dramatically in the last two years, and Texas is no exception. Democrats were on the rise and looked ready to mount serious challenges in historically solid Republican districts. Today, however, in the three most competitive Republican-held districts in Texas, Democrats either don't have a challenger at all, or an extremely well-funded challenger took a look at the district and said: Not this year.