Can Beto help down Ballot Dems?
The voltage Beto O’Rourke is bringing to the Democratic ticket has Democratic candidates down ballot excited and Republicans worried. But, in a year where many statewide Democrats are underfunded and under noticed, can this electricity at the top of the ticket pull up down ballot Democratic candidates?
The causal story is murky, but in the last four election cycles where there has been a Senate election at the top of the ticket in the past 25 years, the down ballot candidate for Attorney General (as a representative “down ballot” race) have actually outperformed the Democratic nominee for Senate.
As the figure shows, in most cases, down ballot candidates received more votes than their top of the ticket ballot mates. Dan Morales (running for AG in 1994) took about 650,000 more votes than Richard Fisher (running for Senate). Morales won the seat. In 2014, Sam Houston (not that Sam Houston) took about 200,000 more votes than Democrat Senate candidate David Alameel. The notable exception is Ron Kirk (2002 Democratic Senate nominee) who came out slightly ahead of Kirk Watson, the nominee for Attorney General.
Clearly, the biggest caveat is that none of the past candidates, with the exception of Ron Kirk in 2002, were as well-funded or visible as O’Rourke. Weaker Democratic nominees like Barbara Ann Radnofsky (2006) or David Alameel (2014) weren’t really in a position to help their down ballot colleagues.
Brandon Rottinghaus is a Professor of Political Science at the University of Houston