The number-crunchers among the Republicans and the Democrats in Texas use election results to get a feel for the political environment in each legislative district. They start with statewide races and then bake in some assumptions about what might happen if they put the right candidates in place.
We and other political watchers need the same thing, without the partisan ingredients. So we cooked up the Texas Tribune Index (Texas Weekly readers know it as the Texas Weekly Index. Consider it re-branded). We used it as a starting point for our recent Fight Club story on the most competive races in next year's elections.
We start with the results in statewide races that are contested by both of the major parties (that gets rid of the 100 percent results for uncontested candidates). We use the numbers from the last two election cycles to average out the differences between gubernatorial and presidential elections. The Index is the difference between the Republican average and the Democratic average for each district.
Then we added subjective rankings (Very Republican, Very Democratic, etc.), which takes our reporting into account and attempts to explain why the numbers aren't everything. As in the case of Rep. David Farabee, D-Wichita Falls, whose seat in overwhelmingly Republican territory was relatively safe — as long as he wanted it. He's leaving after this term, though, so it reverts for our purposes back to Very Republican.
We're not trying to predict the future here — just trying to get a feel for the districts from past elections and from what politicians, officeholders, consultants and activists are telling us. By all means, argue! This is politics.