Off the Kuff Rotating Header Image

Election 2011

January finance reports: City of Houston

Yes, I know, there are no city of Houston elections this year. (Not yet, anyway.) But the candidates and officeholders have to file reports anyway, covering the period from their last report through the end of the year. That period may be from eight days before the December runoff, eight days before the November election, or even the July reporting period if they were lucky enough to be unopposed in November. It’s how you see what the candidates in contested races did in the last days before the election, and it’s how you see who hopped on the late train for a candidate who wasn’t necessarily expected to win. I’ve updated the 2011 Election page to include links to the January finance reports for current and now-former Council members. I didn’t bother with non-incumbents who lost in November or December because life is too short. Here’s a brief summary:

Candidate Raised Spent Cash on hand ================================================ Parker 64,329 260,317 1,272,794 RGreen 30,794 23,785 46,691 Costello 12,250 47,311 655 Burks 25,175 33,426 2,403 Noriega 4,326 14,600 14,108 Bradford 4,453 35,340 20,282 Christie 16,700 51,138 3,156 Brown 6,900 9,664 1,467 Davis 32,630 39,974 20,703 Cohen 24,008 67,375 6,413 Adams 13,100 27,687 59,572 Sullivan 8,200 14,629 53,641 Hoang 3,450 25,472 5,366 Pennington 89,025 167,555 123,326 Gonzalez 5,254 15,908 56,108 Rodriguez 4,729 26,456 21,328 Laster 20,563 23,314 20,473 LGreen 22,470 27,955 576 Lovell Jones 39,810 62,555 6,397 Stardig 13,450 45,176 36,956 Johnson Clutterbuck 0 22,199 38,223

The first thing to note here is the $1.2 million cash on hand Mayor Parker has. This is significant for two reasons. One, obviously, is that it’s the opening bid for how much a Mayoral wannabee will have to raise to be competitive with her next year. She will be able to add to that total this year, while anyone who has not filed a designation of treasurer will not; I will not be surprised if her COH figure tops $2 million in a year’s time. While this certainly isn’t insurmountable, the first question anyone who might want to challenge her is going to get from a potential donor is going to be “How do you plan to raise enough money to compete with Mayor Parker?” Some of them will likely say “Show me that you can raise some money first, then get back to me”, which needless to say makes fundraising that much harder. It’s a barrier to entry, and the higher it is the better off she’ll be next year.

The flip side to that is that she’s really lucky she managed to avoid a runoff. Not only because that meant she could sit on her cash rather than have to spend it in December, but also because by leaving that much cash in the bank she would have left herself wide open to criticism that she didn’t run as hard as she needed to going into November. Look at poor Brenda Stardig, who had a relative ton of cash on hand in her November 8 day report, mostly because she hadn’t run any kind of campaign up till that point. By the time she was forced to kick it into gear, it was already too late, and the money she had wasn’t of much good to her. This is the cautionary tale that the Mayor was fortunate to avoid.

As such, don’t be surprised by the small cash on hand totals that moneybags like Costello and Cohen posted. They emptied their weapons, left it all on the field, and otherwise engaged in all the suitable cliches when it counted. You don’t doubt their ability to replenish their coffers, right? I’ll check back again in July and again next January and we’ll see where they stand.

Of course, for Council members who have their eye on the next office, as CMs Adams and Sullivan do, the calculus is a bit more complex. Well, not for Sullivan, who was unopposed and was thus able to turn his current stash into a decent opening advantage. Adams also has an early financial lead in her race for State Rep, though as she had an opponent last year it wasn’t entirely without risk.

Since I mentioned the late train earlier, I will note that there wasn’t one I could see for Helena Brown. Her late donors list was short and familiar. As for Andrew Burks, his donors were African-Americans – at least, all of the names I recognized belonged to African-Americans – and the usual PAC and law firm suspects that generally give to all incumbents. Not quite the Republican rainbow coalition that may have helped him win the runoff, but a likely indicator that he’ll enter 2013 with a decent sum in his kitty. I will be very interested to see if the usual suspects latch on to Brown or not. They didn’t rush to do so after the election results were in.

Finally, we have the outgoing Council members. With the exception of Jarvis Johnson, who is running for HCDE Trustee, I don’t think any of them are currently angling for another office. Lovell has been interested in County Clerk, but didn’t run in 2010 and I have not heard anything to say she may in 2014. I don’t get a future candidacy vibe from Clutterbuck, Jones, or Stardig, but who knows. They could take a cycle or two off, do some backstage work or some such, and come back later. Johnson has not filed a report with either the city or the county, nor has he responded to my requests for an interview, so other than his candidacy for HCDE I have no idea what he’s up to.

Runoff precinct analysis, At Large #5

Here are the numbers for the At Large #5 runoff between CM-elect Jack Christie and CM Jolanda Jones. As this was a rematch from 2009, I’m putting the 2011 numbers alongside the 2009 numbers, again with the caveat that they’re not really directly comparable. We work with what we’ve got, though, so here it is:

Dist Chris11 Jones11 Chris% Jones% Chris09 Jones09 Chris% Jones% ================================================================== A 4,080 1,309 75.7 24.3 10,541 5,300 66.5 33.5 B 523 5,733 8.4 91.6 1,658 10,673 13.4 86.6 C 6,501 2,820 69.7 30.3 10,675 9,215 53.7 46.3 D 1,190 6,384 15.7 84.3 3,681 17,653 17.2 82.8 E 3,998 1,269 75.9 24.1 10,894 4,771 69.5 30.5 F 1,101 487 69.3 30.7 4,404 2,964 59.8 40.2 G 7,554 1,347 84.9 15.1 18,001 6,039 74.9 25.1 H 1,117 1,644 40.5 59.5 5,011 6,531 43.4 56.6 I 1,006 880 53.3 46.7 3,025 4,119 42.3 57.7 J 1,166 491 70.4 29.6 K 1,989 2,741 42.1 57.9

At first glance, it’s more of the same from 2009, only more so. With the exception of District I, Jones did better in all the places she had done well before, and Christie did better in all the places he had done well before. The problem with this, at least from Jones’ perspective, is that she had a lot less room to grow than Christie did. In addition, and this is something we’ve discussed before, in this lower turnout environment, the bigger percentages in B and D meant a smaller total number of votes, meaning that Christie had less to make up everywhere else. With him building on his margins as well, and with the difference between the two so small, that was enough.

What really stands out to me is the change in District C. If you didn’t know better, you’d think it was another Republican stronghold. I can think of two possible explanations for Christie’s strong performance in this district. The Bill White endorsement of Christie probably moved a few Anglo Dem voters to support the challenger. District C was also Mayor Parker’s cradle of support, and it’s not unreasonable to think that Parker supporters there expressed that support by voting against her most vocal and visible critic on Council. I’m sure there’s plenty of overlap among those groups, but if so then that’s double the motivation. Jones’ deficit overall was bigger than the gap in District C, so it’s not the case that this was the whole election for her, but presumably the same forces that affected this district were at work elsewhere as well.

As noted before, the undervote in this race was tiny, as it was the marquee matchup. In fact, the 1.02% undervote in At Large #5 was less than that of the 2009 Mayoral runoff undervote of 1.45%. This was the race that drew people out to vote, and that ultimately did not work in Jones’ favor. While it’s possible to imagine different outcomes under higher turnout scenarios in At Large #2, I don’t think that would have made any difference here. As CM Jones said the day after the election, the voters have spoken.

I hope you found this useful. I will have one more thing to say about the 2011 elections tomorrow. Greg has more.

Runoff precinct analysis, At Large #2

One of Santa’s election elves came by on Friday with a delivery of Harris County precinct data for the 2011 runoff elections. You can guess how I spent some of my weekend. Before I launch into the numbers, here are a few caveats about them. First and foremost, this is the first election under the new Council districts, so comparisons to prior elections are dicey propositions. That won’t stop me from making them, of course, just remember that the districts in question are different now, so be even more careful about the inferences you draw. Unlike the 2009 runoffs, the spreadsheet I got did not indicate what district the precincts were in. I had to figure that out as best I could by fitting that sheet next to the regular election data, for which I must first filter out the non-Houston precincts. I got it maybe 98 or 99 percent lined up, but I know it’s off a little because the numbers derived from the districts don’t total up exactly. And of course, this is all draft data, meaning it hasn’t been officially canvassed and may not include provisional ballots that will count later. Oh, and it’s Harris County only, too. In short, take all this as an approximation of the truth, as best I can put it together.

With all that said, here’s how the numbers look for the At Large #2 race between CM-elect Andrew Burks and Kristi Thibaut. Thibaut won the Harris County portion of the city by a small margin, but lost the Fort Bend portion by a slightly larger margin, making Burks the winner. Since Burks was also in a runoff in 2009 for this seat against outgoing incumbent CM Sue Lovell, I thought I’d put those numbers in as well.

Dist Thibaut Burks Thib% Burks% Lovell Burks Lovell% Burks% ================================================================== A 2,535 2,180 53.8 46.2 8,953 5,571 61.6 38.4 B 1,703 4,042 29.4 70.4 3,128 7,773 28.7 71.3 C 5,834 2,922 66.6 33.4 12,427 5,962 67.6 32.4 D 2,183 4,802 32.2 68.8 8,015 11,974 40.1 59.9 E 2,478 2,370 51.1 48.9 7,659 6,834 52.9 47.1 F 851 655 56.5 43.5 3,967 2,966 57.2 42.8 G 4,441 3,696 54.6 45.4 12,963 8,770 59.7 40.3 H 1,385 1,214 53.3 46.7 7,235 3,721 66.0 34.0 I 981 775 55.9 44.1 3,625 3,036 54.4 45.6 J 957 617 60.8 39.2 K 2,192 2,248 49.4 50.6

Bearing in mind that these districts are different, the results aren’t all that different. The main exception is District H, where Lovell nearly doubled up Burks while Thibaut squeaked past him. I wish I had an easy way of knowing which precincts were in the old districts, but not only are the districts different, there are differences in the individual precincts as well. Nonetheless, that one comparison stands out like a sore thumb.

Looking at these numbers, there’s not much there to change my mind about how this election played out. Burks did just well enough in the African-American districts to outweigh Thibaut’s advantage everywhere else. Alternately, you could say Thibaut did not do well enough outside the African-American districts to overcome Burks’ lead there, even though she did reasonably well in them; you’ll get a clearer picture of that when I show you the At Large #5 data. Robert Miller wrote on Friday about how Burks was finally able to win on a coalition of African-Americans and westside Republicans, which was visible to him at a fundraiser held for Burks at the home of Republican Fred Zeidman:

In attendance were Democratic elected stalwarts Judge Zinetta Burney, Constable May Walker and State Rep. Ron Reynolds; and Republicans Harris County District Clerk Chris Daniel and former Judge Levi Benton (Burk’s treasurer). Mayor Annise Parker was the Special Guest. Burks announced that he had hired Sandra Strachan from the Greater Houston Partnership as his Chief of Staff, and former Council Member Mark Goldberg as an Executive Advisor — two strong hires.

I’m curious to know what Burks’ supporters here think of that. Is this the Council member you thought you were getting? I personally will be eagerly awaiting Burks’ January finance report, to see who has hopped on the late train for him.

Be that as it may, the question is whether this coalition can be successful in a normal-turnout election, or if it’s an artifact of the unique conditions that a runoff like this one entails. I continue to believe that Burks will be vulnerable in 2013 in a way that freshman Council member usually aren’t, but I have no more history or precedent to go on than anyone else does.

One other interesting aspect of this race was the undervote, which was considerably higher than the undervote in At Large #5. That’s not surprising, since clearly AL5 was the marquee race, but I’ve heard several disappointed Thibaut supporters grumble about how that affected the outcome. Here’s how the non-votes went by district, for both At Large runoffs:

Dist Thibaut Burks Under Under% AL5 UV AL5 UV% =================================================== A 2,535 2,180 826 14.9 152 2.7 B 1,703 4,042 622 9.8 112 1.8 C 5,834 2,922 623 6.6 58 0.6 D 2,183 4,802 641 8.4 51 0.6 E 2,478 2,370 450 8.5 31 0.6 F 851 655 101 6.3 19 1.2 G 4,441 3,696 800 9.0 36 0.4 H 1,385 1,214 196 7.0 34 1.2 I 981 775 145 7.6 15 0.8 J 957 617 108 6.4 25 1.5 K 2,192 2,248 332 7.0 42 0.9

Clearly, Thibaut left some votes on the table in District C, but then so did Burks in Districts B and D. Again, this was the pattern for him from 2009 – far fewer people vote for him in the African-American districts than for Jolanda Jones, or any other such candidate. I think that may hurt him in a normal election, assuming he doesn’t gain some polish and add a professional campaign to address these shortcomings, but it’s hard to say that the dropoff in voting helped or hurt either candidate in this race. I don’t think you can make assumptions about who the non-voters in the Republican districts would have chosen if they had bothered to do so. I’m certain quite a few of them made the deliberate “none of the above” choice. Will those voters, presumably mostly Republicans, be part of a Burks coalition in 2013? His re-election likely gets a lot harder if they aren’t. On the other hand, if he does enough to merit their support (and keep out a Helena Brown type from his race), how much does he lose from the Democratic side? It’s going to be fun to watch, that’s for sure.

In any close race, it’s easy to point at this factor or that as a key to the outcome. I think it’s equally fair to say that if Thibaut had done a better job driving turnout in the Anglo Dem areas she could have won as it is to say that if Burks had run an actual campaign he’d have won more comfortably. After all this time, and with the precinct data in hand, I still don’t know what to make of this race. Greg has more.

Adjusting to the new Council

This is kind of a fluff story about the new Council – apparently, having two more seats at the table could cause some problems – but I couldn’t pass this up:

“This infusion, effectively of new blood – of a whole bunch of people at one time – is going to change the dynamics,” said Paul Bettencourt, the former county tax assessor who, along with other conservatives, had endorsed newly elected council members Helena Brown, Andrew Burks Jr, and Jack Christie. “Because it won’t just be Jolanda Jones saying ‘no’ anymore by herself.”

Before SCOTUS threw the 2012 election calendar in the air, there had been some talk that Bettencourt might run for the new CD34, which snakes up into northwest Harris County and thus ought to be amenable to someone like him. I wasn’t so sure about that, however. How could he possibly fit a Congressional campaign into his busy schedule of pontificating on city politics and not running for Mayor? There’s only so many hours in the day, people.

As for the “not just Jolanda Jones saying no” comment, I have this mental image of Mike Sullivan off in a corner by himself, pouting and muttering “What am I, chopped liver?” under his breath. Snark aside, it remains to be seen how much “no” saying there will be. Let’s not forget that the November election added a couple of people who are likely to be reasonably close to the Mayor. I don’t think she’s going to need to whip votes as a matter of routine just yet. Let’s figure out where everyone’s going to sit first, and we’ll go from there.

Don’t draw broad conclusions from muddled evidence

I have a number of issues with the analysis presented in this Chron story about what happened in the runoffs and What It All Means.

The results illustrate a continuation of a national trend of anger and frustration toward government during the worst economic stretch since the Great Depression, political observers said.

In short: Voters want change.

“A lot of people are angry at virtually all institutions and the government is high on their list,” said Richard Murray, a political science professor at the University of Houston. “And these are the people in a low-turnout election that are most likely to show up because they are angry. They’re agitated.”


The results show clear opposition to the status quo, particularly following a general election in which Mayor Annise Parker and several council members narrowly avoided runoff elections, said Bob Stein, a political science professor at Rice University.

“It’s a strong repudiation of this administration – not just the mayor, but the council,” Stein said.

First of all, I believe that voters who are angry and agitated vote. I don’t see how that’s consistent with an election with six percent turnout. I refer you to the 2010 election, and the historically high Republican turnout, for a canonical example. Maybe it’s just me, but the words I use to describe an electorate that fails to show up like this are “disengaged” and “apathetic”. Your mileage may vary.

But maybe turnout was disproportionately high in District A, which is the one election out of the four where I will agree there were angry voters sending a message to someone. To see if that was the case, I checked the ratio of turnout in districts to the Harris County portion of the citywide turnout for runoffs in the past five elections. This is what I found:

Year Dist Turnout Overall Ratio =================================== 2011 A 8.28 6.08 1.36 2011 B 6.76 6.08 1.11 2009 A 18.82 16.48 1.14 2009 F 13.41 16.48 0.81 2007 D 6.29 2.70 2.33 2007 E 5.05 2.70 1.87 2005 B 4.92 4.02 1.22 2005 C 9.38 4.02 2.33 2003 F 18.98 22.71 0.84 2003 G 29.53 22.71 1.30 2003 H 20.57 22.71 0.91

I only went back as far as 2003 because that’s as far back as the County Clerk has runoff data. The ratio of District A turnout to overall is higher than average, but by no means historic. To be fair, the higher level of turnout overall compared to the 2007 and 2005 runoffs may be masking the effect. There’s just not enough data points for me to say, and we’re still talking about eight percent turnout in A. I have a hard time assigning any special meaning to that.

Further, I strongly disagree with taking the result in District A and extrapolating it to the rest of the city. With all due respect to Professor Stein, if the voters intended to repudiate the Mayor a month after re-electing her, Jolanda Jones is the last Council member they should be kicking to the curb. CM Jones was arguably the Mayor’s most vocal and visible critic on Council. I feel pretty confident that they’re not losing any sleep in the Mayor’s office over this result. We may not know exactly what we’ll get with CM-Elect Jack Christie, but we do know that he’s a supporter of Rebuild Houston and that he voted to keep the red light cameras.

Perhaps there was an anti-incumbent message in these results. For sure, CMs Jones and Stardig are the first sitting Council members to be unelected since Jean Kelly in 1999, and only the third and fourth incumbents of any kind to lose since term limits were established. I would argue that there are unique circumstances to each of their losses. To put it mildly, CM Jones had some baggage, and was very nearly ousted in 2009. I’ve been saying all along that a runoff would be a crapshoot for her, and indeed she rolled snake eyes. With the help of Gene Locke’s mayoral campaign she was able to win the turnout fight two years ago, but not this time. I suspect as well that her performance deteriorated in Anglo and Hispanic Democratic areas – I’m sure the Bill White endorsement of Christie had some effect on that – though that’s a question that will have to wait for the precinct data.

As for District A itself, those voters did mostly vote against incumbents last time around, so it’s probably not much of a surprise that they did it to their incumbent District member in the runoff. That said, CM Stardig clearly had her own set of baggage. If anyone can think of another situation offhand in which the three prior incumbents of a given Council district were supporting the opponent of the current incumbent, let me know about it, because I doubt it’s happened any time recently. Far as I can tell, she didn’t have much of a campaign going into the November election – her eight day report showed expenditures on signs, some ads in neighborhood newspapers, and a $6K ad in the Texas Conservative Review that I’m guessing wasn’t well-received; her 30 day report had practically nothing. Maybe it wouldn’t have mattered, but let this be Exhibit A for future incumbents: Unless you’re unopposed, run hard. You never know. Hell, run hard even if you are unopposed. Never hurts to get people into the habit of voting for you – your name ID probably isn’t as good as you think it is.

Putting this another way, Stardig was primaried, and she was not prepared for it. Redistricting did her no favors on that score, either. It will be interesting to see how CM-Elect Helena Brown reconciles her professed political beliefs with the sort of things that constituents tend to expect to get done. Maybe there is such a thing as a Republican pothole.

There’s still two other races to consider. The result in District B could be considered an anti-incumbent vote, but when you consider that the outgoing incumbent is CM Jarvis Johnson, is it really that surprising? As for Prof. Stein’s thesis, here’s what CM-Elect Jerry Davis had to say for himself:

Davis, 38, said he hoped to begin working with the administration as quickly as possible to cut down his learning curve as he gets set to start his first job as a public representative. He said his main goal as a council member would be to represent the priorities of District B constituents.

“My job is to represent the people and do what the people want me to do and that’s going to be the number one step,” Davis said.

I mentioned before that of the five candidates I interviewed, only Davis said he supported Renew Houston prior to the referendum passing. If you listen to the interview I did with him, you will also note that Davis supported the red light cameras, again being the only candidate in the district to do so. Way to repudiate the Parker Administration, District B voters!

As for Burks v Thibaut, good luck making sense out of that one. Again, I’ll wait till I see precinct data, but it seems to me that the vaunted “pincer strategy” of African-Americans plus Republicans finally worked. Why Republican voters fell into line behind an Obama delegate at the 2008 DNC convention who once ran for HCDP Chair is a bit puzzling to me, but I suppose stranger things have happened. It’s not like Burks is well-known for policy positions, so he’s a pretty blank slate onto which one can project whatever one wants, and then there is that Hotze embrace to whet the appetite. I don’t think this result would have happened in an election where the votes were distributed more proportionally. Perhaps someone will test that hypothesis in two years’ time. Like I said, we’ll see what the precinct data tells us. Oh, and for what it’s worth, the one elected official who endorsed CM-Elect Andrew Burks was CM Brad Bradford. If you want a guide for how Burks is likely to vote, I’d say to start there. Greg and Stace have more.

Christie, Burks, Davis, Brown

Those are your runoff winners.

Jack Christie’s victory was the most dramatic, coming in his fifth attempt to defeat Jolanda Jones, an opponent he had forced into multiple runoff elections.

Helena Brown was the other candidate who beat an incumbent, defeating Brenda Stardig by a 10 percent margin for the District A seat, according to unofficial county totals.

Both Christie, a 63-year-old chiropractor, and Brown, a 34-year-old political activist, are conservatives.

Brown, whose political history is colored by Tea Party activism, campaigned as an anti-tax, anti-fee candidate. She attacked Stardig for her support of policies backed by Mayor Annise Parker, including an increasingly unpopular drainage fee for $8 billion flood prevention projects.

In the race for At-Large Position 2, Andrew Burks Jr. beat Kristi Thibaut by less than 1 percent.

Jerry Davis, a 38-year-old restaurateur, defeated Alvin Byrd, a 58-year-old constituent services director for current Councilman Jarvis Johnson, by 98 votes to claim the District B seat.

First, congratulations to all the winners. I wish them good luck in office. The city needs everyone’s best, and I hope they all exceed everyone’s expectations.

I’ve made my feelings clear about Andrew Burks, and I’m not going to pretend I’m not disappointed in that result. He led in early voting, but a strong showing on Election Day put Thibaut ahead of him in Harris County. He had enough of a lead in Fort Bend to hang on for the win. For what it’s worth, the result in Fort Bend illustrates what I had said before about Burks’ strength as a candidate compared to Jolanda Jones’:

Candidate Votes Pct ========================= Thibaut 325 32.5 Burks 676 67.5 Christie 75 7.1 Jones 981 92.9

I’ll be very interested to see what the precinct data looks like in each of the At Large races. I hope, though I don’t expect, that I have underestimated Andrew Burks and that he will be a good Council member. But if I haven’t, I hope that candidates who are looking at the 2013 elections will consider that with Christie’s victory there will be only one open At Large seat in two years, that being At Large 3, just as there was only one open At Large seat this year. What do you think will offer better odds of victory, a cattle call open seat race or a challenge to a freshman incumbent like Burks?

The bit in the story about Helena Brown and Renew Houston needs some context. It’s true that Brown rode her opposition to that to victory in District A. However, she was not typical. Jack Christie, who supported Renew Houston, defeated Jolanda Jones, who opposed it. In District B, of the five candidates whom I interviewed, only Jerry Davis supported Renew Houston prior to its passage. Even Andrew Burks says he now supports Renew/Rebuild Houston. In addition to that, all three new Council members who were elected in November supported Renew Houston – Ellen Cohen in C, Mike Laster in J, and Larry Green in K. Point being, District A isn’t the whole city.

Oh, and just for the record, turnout has been unofficially pegged at 56,998 – 55,934 in Harris, 1,063 in Fort Bend, and 1 – yes, one – in Montgomery. That person voted early for Thibaut and Jones. Turnout for the city was a hair over six percent.

That’s all I have for now. On to the March primaries, once SCOTUS cleans up the mess they’ve made of that.

Runoff Day today

Today is Runoff Day for the city of Houston. If you have not already voted in the City Council runoff elections, you have until 7 PM to do so. Go to and use the “Find Your Election Day Poll” option to determine where to cast your ballot. You don’t have to have voted in November to be qualified to vote today, you just have to be registered. It’s your last chance to vote this year, so don’t miss out. I’ll post election results later.

UPDATE: Here’s a Chron story about today’s runoffs.

Runoff overview: District B

Here’s the final runoff overview story, for the District B race.

The District B runoff election is a classic case of the candidate who touts his experience versus the newcomer who makes the case for a different approach.

A vote for Alvin Byrd is the closest thing a voter gets to re-electing incumbent Jarvis Johnson, who is termed-limited and endorses Byrd, one of his top aides for the past six years.

“We’ve never had continuity in District B,” Byrd said. “Every time we start over, we step back. We can’t afford that.”

District B historically has been neglected, Byrd said, and it needs the various projects in the pipeline to move and move fast. As the man who helped put District B projects on the city’s five-year building program, the aide who has existing relationships with other council members and department heads, Byrd said he is the best candidate to deliver the goods.

Jerry Davis said that in his block walking, people have told him they want a change, not a continuation of the way things are going.

“They don’t want, in their words, ‘a duplicate of the current administration.’ They want someone who has experience in the business community,” Davis said. He helps his brothers run the popular Midtown restaurant the Breakfast Klub.

I think that captures it pretty nicely. Normally, being a staff member for the outgoing Council member is an asset, but in this case that’s not necessarily the case. Be that as it may, I think both of these candidates would do a good job. I sure hope so, because the district will need them to.

Final early vote totals for the 2011 runoff

Here’s the final early vote tally for the 2011 City of Houston runoffs. A total of 23,030 in person and absentee ballots were cast in Harris County. Add in Fort Bend and the absentee stragglers, and I figure maybe 23,500 total early votes. For comparison, there were 25,382 votes cast in total for the 2007 runoff, so suffice it to say there was more interest this time around. As I said last time, based on this I’ll move the over/under line to 50,000 votes. You want other predictions, make them yourself in the comments.

Polls will be open on Runoff Day, December 10, from 7 AM to 7 PM. Find your polling place here if you haven’t already voted. The weather should be nice, and even if it weren’t there’s really no excuse. Vote, or don’t complain about who wins.

November was like 2007, December is more like 2005

Here’s the daily report for the first six days of Early Voting in the runoff. There have been 17,568 votes cast so far, with today still to go. That means there have been more early votes cast in Harris County than there were in the entire 2007 runoff, when 11,374 ballots were cast before Runoff Day. Indeed, we had already exceeded that total by the end of Friday’s early voting. So, even though turnout for the November, 2011 election in the City of Houston was nearly identical to turnout from 2007, the December election is looking more like the runoff from 2005. In 2007, there was a grand total of 25,382 votes cast. At the rate we’re going, Early Voting in this runoff may approach that number. A better model may be 2005, with 38,620 votes cast, though I daresay that may be a bit low. There were only 14,233 early votes cast in the 2005 runoff, but early voting was less popular back then.

Given what we’ve seen so far, I’d put the over/under now at about 50,000 votes. The main difference is that in 2007 the one At Large runoff, between now-CM Jolanda Jones and Joe Trevino, was a much more low-profile and low-dollar affair than what we’ve got this time. Jolanda wasn’t Jolanda yet in 2007, if you get what I mean, so that race was almost beneath the radar – the two district runoffs generated more attention. This year we have two At Large runoffs with three of the four candidates raising money and the fourth having a hundred elections’ worth of name recognition, with the two district runoffs generating some heat as well. The 2005 runoff had only one At Large race, between now-CM Sue Lovell and Jay Aiyer, but it had a fair amount of money as well as some controversy. This year we have some familiar names and enough money to raise the bar a bit. It’s still an extreme low turnout race – we’re talking five percent turnout instead of three or four – but clearly there are some gradations in there.

Runoff overview: At Large #2

For a guy who’s run multiple campaigns for Council – more than he can remember – Andrew Burks is somewhat of a cipher. Let’s see what the Chron overview of the At Large #2 runoff says about perennial candidate Andrew Burks.

Andrew Burks Jr. is harder to pin down. He’s a lifelong black Democrat who ran once for chairman of the county party, yet he scored an A on the Texas Conservative Review’s questionnaire and had the publication’s endorsement for the general election when there were 10 candidates in the running.

Burks is endorsed by the county Republican Party. Despite a claim on his Web site that he is endorsed by a former At-Large 5 candidate Laurie Robinson, she said she has not endorsed him.

Asked about the city’s controversial drainage fee approved by voters a year ago, Burks said, “I was against it at first. The people spoke. Now, I’m with it.”

He said he would not support its repeal unless it was replaced with another flood protection plan. He learned firsthand the ravages of inundation during Tropical Storm Allison a decade ago when he entered his church in its aftermath and found it full of water and a copperhead on the piano.


Burks said he cannot remember how many times he has run for office. Chronicle research indicates this is his 12th run for public office and his seventh for a council seat. He also has run for state representative, Congress, county school board and party chairman. Two years ago, he took incumbent Sue Lovell to a runoff. Lovell, who is term-limited, endorses Thibaut.

For Burks, jobs are the campaign’s big issue. He proposes to lower business fees to make it more attractive for businesses to locate within the city. He also calls for a makeover of Houston Business Development, Inc., a city-established nonprofit that provides small business loans and support services for start-ups. He would like to start with a marquee outside the headquarters in Palm Center, and proposes bringing in experts from Rice University and the University of Houston to improve operations.


Burks was under house arrest for 40 days last year following his second DWI conviction. Burks said he had not been drinking nor driving, but that he had been prescribed improper medication at a Veterans Affairs facility, where he was in a parked car at the time of his arrest.

As a point of comparison, here’s the 2009 runoff overview story. The reason Burks has been endorsed by the GOP despite his “lifelong Democrat” status is likely because he welcomed the endorsement of Steven Hotze in the 2009 runoff. There are plenty of reasons not to vote for Andrew Burks, but that one would be sufficient for me. Beyond that, I just don’t know what to make of the guy. Like Griff, the impression I get is of a guy who’s running to run, not because he has some idea of what he wants to do if he wins. His finance reports are a mess, and he says ridiculous things – in that 2009 story, he talks about a “conspiracy of silence” that he can’t articulate. None of this is to say that he can’t win – he can, and he might. I just don’t know what we’ll get if he does.

There’s also some stuff in there about Kristi Thibaut. As someone who’s actually won an election before, she’s much more of a known quantity. I guess we’ll see what the voters prefer.

Eight day runoff finance reports

Seven of the eight campaign finance reports for the runoff have been posted; all but Jack Christie’s were available online as of last night. Let’s have a look at them. First up, District A:

Candidate Raised Spent Loans Cash on Hand ==================================================== Stardig 74,103 42,308 0 81,023 Brown 13,840 13,340 0 4,409

Helena Brown may have finished ahead of CM Brenda Stardig in November, but the establishment is still backing the incumbent. Brown got $1000 each from Paul Bettencourt’s campaign fund (what’s the deadline on using leftover campaign funds like his?) and the Texas Latino GOP PAC, $750 from Don Sumners, $500 from Norman Adams, and $100 from Bruce Tatro. Stardig got $2500 in kind from Mayor Parker’s campaign, $500 from CM Stephen Costello, and a boatload of PAC money, including $10K from the Council of Engineering Companies and $9500 from the Texas Association of Realtors PAC; they contributed in at least two of the other races as well. I still don’t know why Stardig had spent so little before now; if she manages to survive she’ll at least have a nice nest egg for 2013.

District B:

Candidate Raised Spent Loans Cash on Hand ==================================================== Byrd 23,700 17,672 0 6,027 Davis 37,350 16,480 0 29,435

As noted before, Alvin Byrd received a fair amount of support from elected officials for the runoff. Jerry Davis didn’t get any donations from electeds that I saw, but he did collect $200 from former Congressional candidate Michael Skelley. Roland Garcia, who was Mayor Parker’s finance chair in 2009, and Kent Friedman of the Sports Authority were both in for $500, Rusty Hardin gave $2000, and Jeff Caynon of the Firefighter’s union went for $5000. Both received PAC money, but just eyeballing it I’d say Davis had more.

At Large #2:

Candidate Raised Spent Loans Cash on Hand ==================================================== Burks 13,750 15,698 0 10,455 Thibaut 68,818 53,115 10,000 29,083

Andrew Burks‘ report is just a mess. Each contribution is listed twice. The $9500 he got from the Realtors was credited to Constable May Walker, which would be illegal if it were true; in reality, either Walker was listed erroneously or the total he cited does match the individual dollar amounts listed. I don’t recall seeing that the $10K loan he made himself in the regular cycle was paid off; no balance for that loan is given here. As with Griff, you’d think a guy who runs for Council as a matter of habit every two years would have some idea what he’s doing by now, but you’d be wrong. As for Kristi Thibaut, there’s no question she’s the establishment candidate. She got a ton of PAC money. Her former colleagues State Reps. Borris Miles and Garnet Coleman gave her $1000 and $2500, respectively. Port Commissioner Janiece Longoria gave $1000, Kent Friedman another $500. Former Council Member Peter Brown chipped in $1000 (his Smart PAC kicked in another $1500) and Council Member-Elect Larry Green gave $200. Usually the big money bets correctly, but between this race and the Stardig-Brown runoff, there’s a better than usual chance that it will be wrong.

As for At Large #5, the only action to report is on CM Jolanda Jones, who had another stellar report. She took in $70,217, spent $68,576, and had $24,400 left on hand. She got $2500 from Rep. Garnet Coleman, $1000 each from Rep. Borris Miles, Sen. John Whitmire, Ben Hall, $500 from Roland Garcia and District Court Judge Kyle Carter, $250 from Sylvia Garcia and Chris Bell, $200 from the Rev. William Lawson, $150 from CM-Elect Larry Green, and $100 each from Constable Ruben Davis and JP Zinetta Burney. She had less PAC money than you might expect. No report yet from Jack Christie – I know he’s sent out at least three mail pieces, so I’d guess he’s spent upward of $50K. Whether he’s financing that himself as he did last time or he’s got it covered I couldn’t say. When I see the report, I’ll update this post and let you know.

UPDATE: There was indeed a Jack Christie finance report uploaded. It was from a day earlier than the others, and was amid some amended reports from candidates not in the runoff, so I just missed seeing it. The Christie campaign pointed this out to me, and I apologize to them for the error. Here’s the Jones/Christie comparison:

Candidate Raised Spent Loans Cash on Hand ==================================================== Jones 70,217 68,576 0 24,400 Christie 71,580 43,147 500 33,094

Nearly identical amount raised – inded, roughly $70K is more or less the standard for the At Large runoffs, with three of the four candidates in that vicinity. Christie received $10K from Anne Clutterbuck’s campaign, and $1000 each from Beverley Woolley’s campaign and Peter Brown, whose SmartPAC also chipped in $1500. As with CM Jones, not a whole lot of PAC money on his report.

Endorsement watch: Byrd for B

The Chron makes its last endorsement of the 2011 cycle.

District B needs effective leadership at City Hall. We believe the lifelong resident and city government veteran Alvin Byrd offers both the experience and knowledge of the district to bring change and hope to this majority-minority district. We recommend a vote for Byrd in the runoff election on Dec. 10. Early voting is under way.


Alvin Byrd brings the energy and commitment to move District B forward, as his campaign literature urges. We believe he is the right choice for leadership at this critical juncture in the life of the district.

Byrd also picked up the HBAD endorsement a couple of days ago; both that and the Chron endorsement had gone to Kathy Daniels in November. I believe the District B runoff is one with no bad outcome, as both Byrd and Jerry Davis are good candidates. Byrd also reported $23,700 raised on his 8 Day runoff report, which is the only one I’ve seen posted so far, including contributions from State Sen. John Whitmire, State Reps. Borris Miles and Sylvester Turner, Justice of the Peace Zinetta Burney, Peter Brown, and Laurie Robinson. I’ll update this post when I see a report from Davis.

Runoff overview: At Large #5

The fifth time is for all the marbles. Again.

For the fifth time since 2007, counting general elections and runoffs, Jolanda Jones and Jack Christie are running against each other for the At-Large Position 5 seat on Houston City Council.

Christie is a Republican, a resident of the Memorial City area and white. He makes the pitch that he plays better in the sandbox than Jones does, that he’s comfortable in the halls of power and friendly with those who rule there. Senators take his calls, he said.

“This isn’t about fighting,” Christie said, “This is about getting along with the mayor, getting along with the City Council” to get the city’s business done.

Jones, who won the previous four face-offs, is a Democrat, a resident of the Third Ward neighborhood where she grew up, black, and boasts that she’s fearless in those same halls and defiant of those who rule there when they get it wrong.

“I have the ball,” said Jones, a former high school All-American athlete fond of sports metaphors. “I expect they will try to tackle me.”

I doubt anyone reading this needs to make up their minds for this one. It’s all about who gets more of their supporters to the polls. Based on the first day early vote totals, this race may be a bigger draw on its own than I originally expected. Both candidates have been busy with mail – Christie sent out one piece a few days ago that attacked Jones up one side and down the other, and this week he has one out that touts the endorsement of famed criminal defense attorney Rusty Hardin; Jones has one out this week that highlights her accomplishments and the Chron endorsement of her. I can’t wait to see their eight day reports. Like I said, I doubt anyone has to decide whom to support in this one, it’s only a matter of whether they take that support to the polls or not.

Runoff early voting totals, Day One

Early voting for the city of Houston runoffs began yesterday, and you can see the Day One totals here. I don’t have a daily EV record from the 2007 runoffs, but I note that the total early vote from the 2007 runoff was 11,374, and the total absentee and in person votes yesterday was 4,519, so I’d say we’re well ahead of the pace from that year. The busiest single location was in District A, not too surprisingly. We’ll see if any patterns emerge for this year. In the meantime, I’ll be looking for 8 Day finance reports to post, and we’re all still waiting for a runoff endorsement in District B from the Chron. When do you plan to vote?

Early voting for city runoffs begins today

You remember that we have runoff elections for four Houston City Council positions, right? Well, early voting starts today and runs through next Tuesday, December 6. Here are the early voting locations that will be open for the runoff. Early voting will run from 7 AM to 7 PM each day except Sunday the 4th, when it will be 1 to 6 PM. You can go any time you want, as I expect you will be the only person voting whenever it is you show up. The over/under for turnout in this runoff is 25,000, which is to say about what it was for the 2007 runoff. Districts A and B, and At Large #2 and #5 are up.

Eight day finance reports are due Friday, so I’ll be checking for those and posting them along with anything interesting I find in them. The one remaining question is who the Chron will endorse in the District B runoff. They had endorsed Kathy Daniels for the November election, but she finished third. In the other races, they went with CM Brenda Stardig in A, CM Jolanda Jones in At Large #5, and Kristi Thibaut in At Large #2. You can debate how much endorsements mean, but whatever it is it’s surely more so in a low-profile, low-turnout race.

And low turnout it will be. Look at it this way: your vote never counts more than it does when there aren’t that many votes cast. This is your last chance to vote in 2011, so go make it count.

Runoff overview: District A

I don’t remember there being a Chron overview story for the District A regular election, but now that it’s in overtime we get an overview story about the race between CM Brenda Stardig and challenger Helen Brown. Better late than never, right?

Just a few thoughts about the article. First, it’s a little silly to call this runoff a “referendum” on Mayor Parker. Not to put too fine a point on it, but we just had a referendum on the Mayor, and she passed, if just barely. A 5000-vote (if that much) Council runoff in a single district four weeks later isn’t going to tell us anything we didn’t already know. I’ve no doubt the Mayor is an issue in this race, perhaps the key issue, but let’s keep some perspective here.

Some of the other issues in this race are a bit curious.

Brown supports the repeal of Proposition 1, the voter-approved initiative that called for the creation of a monthly drainage fee. Stardig voted in favor of the ordinance that Council passed to implement it. Brown calls for the removal of George Greanias as Metro CEO because of his viewing of pornography at work. Like Parker, Stardig favors leaving that decision to the Metro board “until it impacts the actual function of the business.” Stardig favored the city’s approximately $20 million investment in infrastructure and land to get the Dynamo to build a $60 million soccer stadium downtown that the city and county will own. Brown argues that is an improper public investment in a private business.

I’m pretty sure Council can’t pass an ordinance that overturns a charter amendment that has been adopted by referendum – we do have to respect the will of the voters, right? – but I suppose they could vote to put a repeal referendum on the ballot. That is, if the Mayor gives them a repeal referendum to put on the ballot, which needless to say isn’t going to happen. Or there will be another petiton drive, for which the vote to put it on the ballot is a formality. Greanias isn’t going anywhere unless the Mayor wants him to, and she has shown no inclination of that. As for Dynamo Stadium, last I checked it was about six months from being completed. This Council did vote twice on aspects of the deal – both unanimous, for what it’s worth – but the vote to make the land available for the stadium was taken in 2008, which is to say before Stardig’s time on Council. And ironically, it was Annise Parker who ran an ad that disparaged the deal during the 2009 election. Politics does make strange bedfellows.

Not that there’s anything wrong with examining past issues. I certainly asked plenty of questions about what had gone on before when doing my Council interviews, and knowing how someone would have acted tells you a lot about what they’re likely to do in the future. Long as everyone has a realistic expectation about what a single Council member can do about some of these past issues, I guess.

Finally, I’ll say again that if this election turns out to be little more than a Republican primary, I don’t see how Stardig wins. She’s clearly lost a lot of favor among the activists. She needs the electorate to be bigger than that, which means she needs to convince some Democrats and independents to come out and vote for her. How she does that I don’t know – maybe point out Brown’s history lessons and hope for the best – but with early voting for the runoff set to begin this Wednesday the 30th, she better figure it out quickly.

Back and forth in At Large #5

Did you think this would be a slow holiday week? Not when there’s a runoff looming. So far this week, the Jack Christie campaign has released a letter from the former public policy director for CM Jolanda Jones that ripped her up one side and down the other. The next day, the city’s Office of the Inspector General cleared CM Jones of charges that she had cut that same letter writer’s salary in retaliation for his cooperation in the previous OIG investigation of her, thus refuting or at least dampening some of the allegations made in the campaign letter. Jones then released a letter of her own, from Kubosh brother #3, Randy, in support of her candidacy. (If Kuboshes were Baldwins, that would make Randy Billy, I suppose.) I presume this was done in part to counter the Bill White endorsement of Christie, but honestly in a toss-up race like this every little edge could be the difference. Having said that, I’m not sure how much any endorsement really matters in a low-turnout race that’s all about getting as many of your core supporters to realize that there is an election for them to vote in. But no stone unturned and all that.

No recount in HISD III

There will be no recount in the HISD Trustee District III race as challenger Ramiro Fonseca has officially conceded.

“After examining the official election results, I have decided that a recount is not an option that would change the outcome of this election,” Fonseca said in a statement. “I congratulate Mr. Rodriguez on his re-election.”

Because of the close margin, Fonseca, a Houston Community College administrator, did not concede on election night three weeks ago. At that time, Fonseca trailed by 24 votes.

After mail-in and provisional ballots were counted, Fonseca was down by an additional vote, and the school board canvassed the results last week to make them official.

Monday was the day that the election results were officially canvassed and certified. As close as the HISD III race was, it’s not realistic to expect that a recount would change anything. I wish the result had been different, but it’s time to move forward and keep shining a spotlight on the incumbent, who continues to not get it. My thanks to Ramiro Fonseca for running a good race. Stace has more.

Evaluating the endorsers

As you know, I kept track as best I could of endorsements that candidates received on my 2011 Election page. Now that the regular election is over, I thought it might be interesting to go back through those endorsements and see how many winners and losers each organization picked. The full results are beneath the fold, as it’s a lot of information.

– I followed my own links from that page to each endorsement list. A couple of the links were no longer functioning, so I skipped them.

– I counted the total number of endorsed candidates for each group, and from there totaled and listed the winners, losers, and runoff participants. A few organizations made dual endorsements in various races. With one exception, I counted both of the dual endorsees. The one exception was for the Christians for Better Government (CFBG) endorsement in the HCC IV race – they “endorsed” each of the two candidates running. To my way of thinking, that’s useless, so I ignored it for these purposes.

– Most of these organizations are PACs, so their endorsements also imply financial support for their candidates. As such, and given that most PACs stick with incumbents, the vast majority of these groups have a very high winner percentage. Nearly all of them backed the right horse 60% of the time or more.

– Of course, no organization is required to offer an endorsement in any given race. Nearly all of them skipped at least one race; even if you limit the scope to just Houston races, not HISD or HCC, many of them bypass at least one race. There are a variety of reasons for this: Some races do not have a candidate who is suitable for the issues the group espouses; some candidates choose not to screen for whatever the reason; some groups eschew endorsing in uncontested races; some prefer not to make a call when there’s more than one acceptable candidate, preferring to wait till a runoff; some require a supermajority vote of their membership; and so on and so forth. One result is that this tends to inflate winning percentages as well, since you can skip the hard-to-prognosticate multi-entrant open seat races.

– No organization backed only winners, but three had no losers, at least before the runoff. Those were as follows: HAR, with 14 of 16 winners; KEY, with 12 of 16; and 80-20, with 12 of 14.

– The top five winning percentages belonged to HAR (14 of 16, 87.5%); HAA (13 of 15, 86.7%); PPHSET (12 of 14, 85.7%); 80-20 (12 of 14, 85.7%); and CFBG (19 of 23, 82.6%).

– Only three organizations failed to have a majority of their candidates win. They were the CCLUB (4 of 11, with 3 in the runoffs); NKTA (3 of 10, with 1 in the runoffs); and Steven Hotze’s Conservative Republicans of Texas, which came in after early voting was over and which I didn’t bother to link to. They backed the winner a puny 2 of 14 times, with 2 other candidates in the runoff. With that one and CCLUB, ideology was the prime factor, so several easy races were skipped and numerous long-shot challengers were supported. NKTA is a single issue group – “NKTA” stands for “No Kill Texas Advocates”; they advocate “to stop the needless killing of healthy and treatable pets in Texas animal shelters through legislation and political advocacy”. If all you care about is one issue, you stand with whoever answers your questions the way you want them to and that’s all there is to it. I don’t disparage these philosophies – indeed, putting aside my feelings about ideology, I admire the approach – but if one goes this way, one has to be able to accept an alternate measure of success.

Anyway. Beneath the fold is the full accounting. We’ll see how the runoff changes things.


Looking ahead to the runoffs

The runoff election for the city of Houston will be Saturday, December 10. It’s going to be an extremely low turnout affair – as was the case with the general election, I expect the runoff to have about the same level of turnout as the 2007 runoff, in which 25,382 ballots were cast. Look at it this way: If you bother to vote in the runoff, your vote really counts for a lot.

Some thoughts and questions about the runoff now that we’re two weeks out from the November election and all of the precinct analyses have been done:

– On paper, CM Brenda Stardig has all of the advantages in District A. She had $67K on hand as of the 8 Day reports, while Helena Brown had less than $1500. She swept all of the endorsements of which I’m aware except one, from the odious Steven Hotze. She’s the incumbent, and incumbents generally don’t lose. But the fact remains that she trailed Brown by six points and nearly 500 votes. How does she make that up? Does she try to woo Democratic voters by reminding them that she’s not nearly as bad as Brown, or does she try to out-wingnut her? How much help does she get from groups like the realtors, the police, the firefighters, and so on? Conversely, is Brown able to raise funds now that she’s demonstrated that she can win? Does she get any endorsements from elected officials? This one should be Stardig’s to lose, but then it should have been Stardig’s to win in regulation time. As I said before, I have a bad feeling about this one for her.

– As I said before, a lot of people waited on the sidelines to see who would make the runoff in B before committing to it. Now is the time to get off the fence. Jerry Davis previously announced the support of several former opponents, and Monday it was Alvin Byrd’s turn to make his new supporters known. He now lists former District B candidates Kathy Ballard Blueford-Daniels, Kenneth Perkins, and James Joseph; former Council members Jarvis Johnson, Carol Galloway, Michael Yarborough, and Jewell McGowen (on behalf of Ernest McGowen); and elected officials State Reps. Senfronia Thompson, Sylvester Turner, and Ron Reynolds, plus HISD Trustee-elect Rhonda Skillern-Jones. There are still numerous groups that have not made a choice in this race, including the realtors, the police, the firefighters, HOPE-SEIU, and Planned Parenthood (both Davis and Byrd scored 100% on the PP questionnaire). HBAD and the Chron went with Daniels in the first round, so they’re up for grabs as well. Neither candidate raised much money up till now – Davis has $9,274 on hand, while Byrd has $3,882. There will be another finance report due on December 2, and I’ll be looking to see if some big checks have been coming in. As of this writing, this one looks like a tossup.

– Not much to add to the At Large #2 runoff that I didn’t say before. Kristi Thibaut has the early momentum, and I expect she will collect most of the remaining endorsements in addition to the ones she has already received. I’ll be very curious to see if Andrew Burks reports any major endorsements – off the top of my head, I can’t remember any coming his way in 2009. That was when he was going against an incumbent, however, so this time may be different. Thibaut has $19K on hand, Burks has $12K, most of which is left over from his $20K loan, originally reported as a loan from his wife but later corrected to indicate it was a self-loan. Does anyone write Burks a check? Burks has the advantage of CM Jolanda Jones running, who will turn out voters that will be more inclined to support him than Thibaut, if they bother to vote in his race. What will Burks do to actually try to win? I see this one as being lean Thibaut, with the only thing holding me back from making a stronger statement the low turnout.

– As for At Large #5, what else is there to say? I’ll be curious to see if there’s another big show of support for Jack Christie from some of CM Jones’ colleagues. In retrospect, it’s not clear to me how much that actually helped Christie or hurt Jones, but it sure felt like a big deal at the time. Laurie Robinson picked up a few endorsements, including the police and the firefighters, who I think it’s safe to say will back Christie. If there’s going to be any real money thrown around in the runoff, it’s likely to be in this race. Jones starts out with $40K on hand, while Christie has $23K, but as we saw last time he’s willing and able to write his own check as needed. I feel like there’s another shoe or two to drop in this one, but I have no idea where they may come from or when they may fall. This one is a tossup. Nothing and everything will surprise me.

Saggy pants

I’m not much of a candidate forum attender, but I wish I had gone to this one.

Half-a-dozen candidates in runoff City Council elections each made his or her case as champion of the downtrodden before a mostly black and Latino audience at a Fifth Ward church on Saturday afternoon.

Council aide Alvin Byrd faces nonprofit director Jerry Davis in District B; pastor Andrew Burks faces former state Rep. Kristi Thibaut for the At-Large Position 2 seat; and chiropractor Jack Christie is challenging incumbent Councilwoman Jolanda Jones for the At-Large 5 seat in the Dec. 10 elections.

At the forum sponsored by a coalition of labor and civil rights groups, the lead-off question prompted candidates’ positions on whether they would oppose changing public employee pensions from the guaranteed benefits they now offer to a 401(k) system in which the payouts are determined by how well retirement investments perform.


Burks generally did not answer questions directly but used the floor to complain that not enough police officers and firefighters live inside the city limits and that Mayor Annise Parker does not want him to defeat Thibaut in the race. He even responded to a question about providing birth control in city health clinics by calling for issuing tickets to young men who wear sagging pants that reveal their underwear.

That may be the most awesome thing I’ve heard from a candidate forum. I only wish the story had indicated how the audience reacted. Please, someone tell me you were there and can answer that.

Early voting for city runoffs begins today

You remember that we have runoff elections for four Houston City Council positions, right? Well, early voting starts today and runs through next Tuesday, December 6. Here are the early voting locations that will be open for the runoff. Early voting will run from 7 AM to 7 PM each day except Sunday the 4th, when it will be 1 to 6 PM. You can go any time you want, as I expect you will be the only person voting whenever it is you show up. The over/under for turnout in this runoff is 25,000, which is to say about what it was for the 2007 runoff. Districts A and B, and At Large #2 and #5 are up.

Eight day finance reports are due Friday, so I’ll be checking for those and posting them along with anything interesting I find in them. One question that remains unanswered is who the Chron will endorse for the District B runoff. For the November election, the Chron endorsed CM Brenda Stardig in A, CM Jolanda Jones in At Large #5, and Kristi Thibaut in At Large #2, but their choice in B was Kathy Daniels, who finished third. As of this morning, they have not updated that recommendation.

Regardless, today begins your last chance to vote in 2011. Your vote never counts more than it does in an extreme low-turnout election, so go take advantage of that.

Precinct analysis: 2011 At Large #5

Last but certainly not least, the race everyone is wondering about, At Large #5:

Dist Robinson Jones Christie Ryan ======================================= A 17.10% 23.61% 48.91% 10.38% B 18.80% 73.00% 5.09% 3.11% C 25.07% 30.02% 35.57% 9.35% D 14.96% 73.56% 7.86% 3.62% E 19.97% 13.73% 54.51% 11.79% F 19.44% 30.45% 37.41% 12.70% G 14.99% 14.70% 61.81% 8.49% H 23.23% 45.26% 21.10% 10.41% I 26.13% 41.33% 21.39% 11.14% J 20.19% 31.78% 35.56% 12.47% K 20.85% 51.01% 21.54% 6.60%

For comparison purposes, here are my analyses of the 2009 runoff and regular election for At Large #5. I’m going to keep this simple, because I think Greg captures most of the important points. Superficially, the race this year resembles the one from 2009, in that you had CM Jolanda Jones versus Jack Christie, an African-American woman, and another Republican. Clearly, though, Laurie Robinson > Davetta Daniels, and Carlos Obando at least had second place finishes in the old Districts H and I to show for his effort. Jones remained strong in B and D – she scored 76% and 70% in the old versions, respectively. While Robinson did better than Daniels in those districts – Daniels had 8% and 14% – she didn’t take a noticeable amount of that vote away from Jones. But Jones starts out with a lower percentage than last time, suggesting there may be more people than before that are willing to vote her out.

Which is a problem, of course, because she won by a very slender margin last time. The main difference this time is that the 2009 runoff was a relatively high profile affair, with Gene Locke and Ronald Green also on the ballot, wooing African-American voters. Over 160,000 people voted in the ’09 runoff. Here, Jones’ race is the top of the ticket, and Andrew Burks will hope to ride her coattails because he has no momentum of his own. If the 2011 election was like the 2007 election, perhaps the 2011 runoff will be like the 2007 runoff, in which case we can expect maybe 25,000 to 30,000 voters. It all comes down to who comes out. Jones has no room for error. The scary thing for her is that when you shrink the voter pool that much, even if the basic shape of the electorate is the same as it was two years ago, a little random fluctuation here or there could be the difference. I’ll say it again, I would not bet against her, but I would hate to be in this position. It’s anyone’s ball game.

Precinct analysis: 2011 At Large #2

What can you say about a ten-candidate pileup? Let’s start by seeing what the district numbers look like:

Dist Thibaut Perez Burks Goss Fraga Dick Pool Griff Robinson Shorter ==================================================================================== A 15.69% 17.99% 13.94% 3.03% 6.93% 11.67% 6.41% 11.35% 9.75% 3.25% B 8.93% 6.65% 31.58% 1.83% 4.70% 4.43% 5.48% 3.93% 18.52% 13.94% C 18.49% 10.79% 7.76% 1.41% 10.92% 9.49% 14.37% 11.63% 12.93% 2.20% D 7.24% 6.22% 35.65% 1.38% 4.64% 3.36% 4.45% 4.22% 13.85% 18.98% E 15.70% 23.72% 15.98% 2.69% 7.03% 9.61% 5.19% 9.44% 8.27% 2.38% F 28.18% 16.73% 11.24% 2.67% 5.41% 7.79% 5.23% 7.60% 9.72% 5.41% G 25.08% 15.87% 14.93% 1.64% 7.85% 9.80% 4.16% 9.95% 9.07% 1.65% H 9.93% 20.35% 9.70% 1.50% 24.90% 6.49% 7.73% 6.96% 8.31% 4.13% I 8.56% 24.54% 9.54% 1.82% 27.29% 4.11% 4.95% 4.74% 8.12% 6.34% J 20.07% 16.78% 11.47% 2.52% 8.47% 7.12% 7.14% 9.64% 11.79% 4.99% K 15.34% 11.16% 19.45% 1.92% 5.68% 4.69% 6.89% 7.52% 15.72% 11.62%

Starting from the top:

– Andrew Burks obviously and expectedly did well in the African-American areas. I had thought that Rozzy Shorter might shave a few points off his totals, and I daresay she did, but it wasn’t enough to knock him out. He also did pretty well everywhere else, no doubt in part to the decent name ID gained by being a seven time candidate for a Council seat, even if he himself can only remember five of them. I guess at some point it’s hard to keep track of them all.

– Kristi Thibaut did well in District C, but it was her advantage in the west/southwest part of town that carried her into the runoff. She led the field in Districts F and G, and had a strong showing in K as well, all of which was enough to overcome third-place finisher Elizabeth Perez’s advantages elsewhere (more on that in a second). Also good news for Thibaut is that three of the four candidates that finished behind her in C – Jenifer Pool, David Robinson, and Bo Fraga, who combined with her for almost 57% of the vote in C – have endorsed her for the runoff. She will need big margins in places like C to counter Burks’ numbers in B, D, and K.

– Perez won the Election Day vote and didn’t miss the runoff by much. She did well in the Republican districts as you’d expect, but both Thibaut and Burks were able to keep close enough to her to prevent her from passing them. Where she really did well was – say it with me now – in Districts H and I, where she outdistanced Thibaut by enough to wipe out her margin in District C. Unfortunately for her, she shared the ballot with Fraga, who did better than she did, thus again keeping her from making a real run at the top. While this looks on the surface a bit like a missed opportunity for the Republicans – Perez wasn’t exactly raking in the contributions – it’s a bit hard to see where she could have drummed up more support.

– The retiring Griff finished fourth in his old stomping grounds of District C, just ahead of Bo Fraga, and fourth in District E, just ahead of Eric Dick. I guess that means something, but compared to his performance in 2009 it’s hard to say what other than another step in the random walk. His single best shot at a win post-1993 was in 2007, if only he’d cared enough to do more than just show up.

– Speaking of Dick, well, there’s really not much to say, is there? He finished fourth in his home District A. He barely got half as many votes as Perez did for considerably more money. But a lot of people know his name now, so mission accomplished, I guess.

– David Robinson finished second in B, third in D, and second in K. I’m going to take a wild guess here and posit that his name was advantageous to him.

That’s about all I’ve got for now. Last but not least will be At Large #5, coming up next.

Precinct analysis: 2011 At Large races, part 1

Here’s a look at the election returns in each Council district for the three “normal” At Large races, in At Large #1, #3, and #4. First up is #1, where first term incumbent CM Stephen Costello won a narrow majority for a second term.

Dist Costello Galvan Boates Cook ====================================== A 46.25% 7.44% 28.98% 17.34% B 42.41% 9.19% 18.17% 30.24% C 63.58% 5.07% 19.66% 11.68% D 46.48% 8.23% 20.82% 24.47% E 42.68% 6.21% 33.25% 17.86% F 45.46% 9.03% 22.44% 23.07% G 53.55% 3.44% 30.58% 12.43% H 53.68% 18.22% 12.30% 15.80% I 48.36% 22.10% 12.91% 16.62% J 50.64% 9.05% 21.56% 18.74% K 52.14% 7.15% 19.85% 20.87%

Costello’s numbers roughly match those of Mayor Parker – he did a little better in some districts, a little worse in others, and finished about a percentage point higher than the Mayor. A couple of things stand out to me. One, for all of the anti-Renew Houston backlash in District A, Costello didn’t do too badly there; he received as many votes as Brenda Stardig but had a higher percentage of the vote, as there was a greater undervote in his race. The total among his three opponents was about the same as Helena Brown’s total, so who knows, maybe all of the Bob Schoellkopf voters skipped this race. Two, the fact that James Partsch-Galvan was able to score in double digits in Districts H and I is a clear indicator to me that little to no voter outreach was done in those districts, at least for this race. No rational voter, given even minimal information about the candidates, would ever choose Partsch-Galvan. Greg suggests that CM Costello needs to work on increasing his name recognition, and I’m inclined to agree. When people don’t know anything about the candidates they’re voting for beyond the names they see in front of them, strange things happen.

Moving on to At Large #3:

Dist Noriega Carmona Batteau ============================== A 48.35% 34.81% 16.84% B 53.76% 15.36% 30.88% C 66.58% 23.62% 9.80% D 51.89% 14.82% 33.28% E 43.06% 41.43% 15.51% F 49.26% 32.34% 18.39% G 46.92% 40.23% 12.85% H 68.16% 19.62% 12.23% I 70.08% 18.12% 11.80% J 55.64% 26.48% 17.88% K 56.49% 20.80% 22.71%

CM Noriega had over 55% of the vote, which is right in line with her performance in the 2007 special election runoff. She won majorities outside of the Republican districts, though her totals in B, D, and K were likely diminished by the presence of Brad Batteau, even if some people thought he was in another race. Carmona did decently in E and G but was mostly background noise in the rest of the districts. He had less money than Scott Boates did, but as Carmona did not try to have it both ways with his party ID, it probably worked better for him. One more thing to note is how well Noriega did in Districts H and I. Having a Latino name surely didn’t hurt, but let’s not forget that Noriega lives in District I and is pretty well known in and around there. She did better in I than its district Council Member, James Rodriguez: Noriega received 4,282 votes to Rodriguez’s 4,045. Point being, once again, that being known to the voters is a necessary condition for performing to expectations.

Finally, At Large #4:

Dist Bradford Molnar Price ============================== A 59.66% 14.08% 26.26% B 84.79% 4.63% 10.58% C 65.64% 10.81% 23.55% D 83.70% 4.51% 11.79% E 60.52% 12.40% 27.08% F 55.85% 15.19% 28.96% G 67.61% 10.75% 21.64% H 57.52% 17.58% 24.90% I 52.43% 21.77% 25.81% J 57.19% 14.69% 28.12% K 73.82% 7.76% 18.42%

CM Bradford had easily the best showing among contested citywide candidates, and one of the best showings overall. He also did not have something that Costello, Noriega, and Jolanda Jones had: A Republican opponent. My guess is that if you’d thrown a token R into his race – imagine Jack O’Connor moving into At Large #4 instead of the Mayor’s race after leaving At Large #5 – you’d likely move Bradford’s numbers down into the Costello-Noriega range. It’s impossible to say with any certainty, of course. There are so many factors to consider. Unlike Costello and Noriega, Bradford did get the CCLUB endorsement, which surely helped him in the Republican areas, but who knows if he’d have gotten it over a real Republican. I don’t want to understate Bradford’s strength as a candidate – he’s now won two multi-candidate races in a row with large majorities, which is no small feat – but I don’t want to overstate it, either. He was in a different race than his colleagues, and that makes it hard to compare them.

I’m working on analyses of the At Large #2 cattle call, and of course the At Large #5 race as well. Look for them shortly. Let me know what you think of this.

Precinct analysis: The 2011 Mayor’s race

I finally have a draft canvass of the 2011 Harris County vote. You know what that means. Here’s the breakdown in the Council districts for the Mayor’s race:

Dist Simms Ullman Wilson Herrera Parker O'Connor ===================================================== A 4.41% 1.28% 16.31% 18.03% 41.89% 18.09% B 22.41% 3.02% 11.92% 12.71% 43.80% 6.14% C 1.65% 0.83% 9.11% 11.21% 65.38% 11.83% D 15.33% 2.63% 11.07% 11.67% 50.84% 8.45% E 2.48% 0.81% 18.23% 15.03% 38.25% 25.20% F 5.20% 2.15% 10.81% 13.48% 48.78% 19.59% G 1.49% 0.51% 12.16% 9.43% 50.50% 25.91% H 6.04% 2.09% 7.70% 29.48% 47.33% 7.36% I 5.95% 2.47% 8.82% 29.98% 44.68% 8.10% J 5.82% 2.15% 13.27% 13.97% 50.05% 14.74% K 9.62% 1.99% 10.29% 11.00% 56.63% 10.47%

For comparison purposes, here’s my analysis of the 2009 Mayoral runoff. A couple of thoughts:

– As expected, Mayor Parker had her best showing in her District C stronghold, but let’s be honest: 65% against a bunch of no-names is nothing to write home about. Even on her friendliest turf, she failed to top the Lee Brown line. This is what I mean when I say that her problems begin with a lack of enthusiasm in her base. That needs to be Job One for her political team.

– All things considered, Parker did pretty well in the African-American districts, certainly compared to her 2009 head-to-head with Gene Locke. Obviously, not having a top tier African American candidate opposing her helped, but at least she can say she got a lot more support in these areas than before.

– On the flipside, the Mayor lost a lot of support in Republican areas, though she maintained a (slim) majority of the vote in District G. While there were no A listers among them, the fact that there were three conservative Republicans running against her was certainly a contributor. Seeing this makes me wonder why Republicans didn’t back Roy Morales more strongly in 2009. He’s no worse a candidate than any of the three Rs this time around were, and he’d run citywide before.

– The results in district H and I should concern Team Parker. How much of that was genuine dissatisfaction with the Mayor, and how much was Latinos voting Herrera’s name plus a lack of engagement from the Parker campaign? In my neighborhood, I saw a lot more Herrera signs than I did Parker signs. No question that a lot of the former was driven by the issues we’ve discussed before, but the latter I suspect was mostly about lack of outreach. I spend a lot of time in District C, and I barely saw any Parker signs there. What, other than run some TV ads, was her campaign team doing to reach out to voters?

– Looking at this, I wonder if the strategy of squeezing Parker out by running an African-American and a Republican against her – say, Ben Hall and Paul Bettencourt – would really have worked. I’ve no doubt that Hall could have taken a chunk of African-American votes away from Parker, but it’s not clear to me that Bettencourt had much room to improve on the performance of the three Republicans. For one thing, if you replace Wilson, O’Connor, and Herrera with Bettencourt, I’d bet he’d lose some of the Latino votes Herrera got in Districts I and J. He might do better in District G than the non-Parkers did, but maybe not. It’s also possible that the presence of a polarizing figure like Bettencourt, combined with the possibility that she might actually lose to this partisan, conservative Republican, could galvanize the Democratic vote in the Mayor’s favor. It’s anybody’s guess who would benefit from higher turnout, but I don’t think it would strongly favor any one candidate. I think the odds are very good that a Parker-Bettencourt-Hall race winds up in a runoff – Parker had very little margin for error, after all – but I think the most likely ordering would be Parker, then Bettencourt, then Hall – remember, it was Sylvester Turner that got squeezed out in 2003, not Bill White. In that scenario, I’d make Parker a solid favorite in the runoff. Ironically, if she went on to post a decent win in that hypothetical runoff, say 55-45, she might then have been perceived as stronger than she is right now. You can drive yourself crazy thinking about these things.

I’m sure I’ll have more things to say about this as I keep thinking about it. For now, this is what we have. I’ll run the numbers for the At Large races next. Greg has more.

We won’t have Griff to kick around any more

He’s going to “retire” from his hobby of pointless Council campaigns.

Michael “Griff” Griffin, Houston’s perennial candidate for City Council, admitted the unspeakable over a plate of spaghetti and meatballs.

The Don Quixote of local politics recognized that he probably would lose his 10th campaign. If that really did happen, he said after pressing the flesh during a pasta lunch a few weeks ago, he would return to his day job as a private investigator and abandon any hope of ever winning political office.

Tuesday night, Griffin’s gloomy prediction came true. In a field of 10 candidates, he came in sixth. Election Day 2011 was Griff’s last run.

“It’s my fault,” Griffin said. “They say you’re a joke if you don’t spend at least $100,000. I only spent $12,000 – $10,000 of my own and another $2,000 from supporters. I just don’t like to ask for money.”

It’s not the lack of money that made Griff a joke. It’s the lack of effort, combined with the lack of a comprehensible rationale for doing what he’s done so many times. Just this cycle, Griff failed to file a July finance report, and failed to include totals on his 30 day and 8 day reports. That would be unacceptable from a novice, and to me is a clear indicator that Griff never took the task of being a candidate seriously. Even more damning is the fact that whether he realizes it or not, he had a golden opportunity to actually win an election, in 2007 when he was the sole opponent to then-first term Council Member Sue Lovell, who in an apparent nod to the quality of her opposition spent the entire year campaigning for other people, and wound up with just under 53% of the vote. If Griff had gotten past his dislike of fundraising, which is something that very few candidates like to do but all of the serious ones recognize is something they need to do if they want to have a chance to win, he probably would have found a sizable number of people willing to help him that year, and in doing so he might have been able to articulate the policy positions he apparently holds to a wider audience. He still might have lost, but at least then he could look back on it and say he gave it his best shot. It’s the fact that he can’t say he did his best, not then or in any election except possibly his first one way back in 1993, that made him a joke.

More thoughts on the Council elections

One district at a time…

– I confess that I did not see the District A result coming. Helena Brown did raise a decent amount of money since entering the race at the filing deadline, about $22K through the end of October, which makes me wonder how she might have fared if she had gotten in the race sooner. For what it’s worth, she’s at a big financial disadvantage in the runoff, as CM Brenda Stardig reported over $67K on hand in her 8 Day report, while Brown listed only $1378 on hers. Maybe Stardig needed to spend more during regulation time. Brown has received donations from the two previous District A members, Bruce Tatro and Toni Lawrence, the latter of whom apparently had a falling out with Stardig a few months back. If Brown wins she will be a big success story for the anti-Renew Houston forces. She would probably like for the runoff to be a low turnout affair in which she can campaign like it’s a Republican primary. Stardig will likely need to persuade some Democrats that she’s worth voting for; I would also expect the Houston Association of Realtors to try to come to her rescue. I have a bad feeling about this one for the incumbent.

– A lot of endorsing organizations avoided choosing a candidate in District B for November. I presume that part of the reason for that was that it was a crowded race with no obvious frontrunner and multiple contenders who might have a shot at making it to the runoff. Now that it’s narrowed down to Alvin Byrd and Jerry Davis, who received the bulk of the endorsements that were made, it’ll be interesting to see who lines up behind whom. Davis had an email out yesterday touting the fact that former competitors Kenneth Perkins, Phillip Paul Bryant, Bryan Smart, and Charles Ingram were all now supporting him. Also up for grabs now are the HBAD and Chronicle endorsements, both of which had gone to third place finisher (and currently unaligned, as far as I know) Kathy Daniels.

– Moving to the non-runoff districts, I’m still not sure if I’m surprised or not that Ellen Cohen won in C without a runoff. I had no doubt that it was possible, but I had no good feel for what the likelihood of it was. I do have a feeling that Cohen’s next two elections will be much easier to prognosticate.

– Given how a few other first-termers did, CM Al Hoang’s 56% win in District F has to be seen as a pretty strong performance, but much like Helena Brown in A, I wonder how Peter Lyn René might have fared if he had entered the race earlier. He missed out on the opportunity to screen for an awful lot of Democrat-friendly endorsements. I’m not saying he would have won, but a swing of less than 300 votes away from Hoang would have put him into a runoff. Surely that was achievable with a few months’ extra time to organize and fundraise.

– I’m just going to point you to what Greg says about District J, because there really isn’t anything I can add to it. I hope CM-elect Mike Laster makes an offer to Criselda Romero to be on his staff so that she can be in a good position to succeed him in 2017.

– Regarding the At Large runoffs, it’s easy to see the AL2 and AL5 races in racial terms, with the fates of the candidates entwined. Here’s Greg again:

As an aside in looking at the At Large runoffs together, I have a hard time seeing the needle threading such that both JoJo and Kristi win, though that’s obviously the outcome I’d most love to see. The more JoJo voters there are, then theoretically, the better the odds are for Andrew Burks. And the better things look for Kristi, the harder they look for JoJo. I really hope I’m wrong on this.

I think it’s a little more complex than that, for the simple reason that Burks isn’t a particularly good candidate. To put it another way, while I would agree that there will be a correlation between the vote totals of Burks and CM Jones, there will also be a lag between their totals. I believe a fair number of people who show up to vote for Jones will not bother to vote for Burks. As evidence, I cite the district returns from the 2009 runoffs, which featured both Burks and Jones as well as Ronald Green and Gene Locke. Take a look at these numbers, which I compiled from these earlier posts:

Candidate B votes D votes ============================ Locke 11,395 15,223 Green 10,017 16,935 Burks 7,773 11,974 Jones 10,673 17,653

Burks received less that 75% of Jones’ vote total in the African-American districts in the 2009 runoff, and he was running against someone who is not nearly as well-liked as Kristi Thibaut. He isn’t anywhere near Jones’ league. Maybe this time it will be different, but I see a lot of room for Jones to win and Burks to lose. And like District B, there are now a bunch of endorsements up for grabs. Thibaut, who had more endorsements by my count than other candidates going into the November election, counted HBAD among her supporters. She has since picked up the support of former candidates Bo Fraga, Jenifer Pool, and David Robinson; a whole host of Democratic elected officials, including numerous African-Americans (Rodney Ellis, Alma Allen, Garnet Coleman, Harold Dutton, Ron Reynolds, and Senfronia Thompson); and the Oak Forest Dems and Democracy for Houston endorsements; both of those groups reaffirmed their support of CM Jones as well. I think that says something, and about Burks’ ability to keep up with Jones.

As far as CM Jones goes, the playbook is the same for her as was two years ago: Run up the score in the friendly precincts, and hope it’s enough. Without a Gene Locke at the top of the ticket to drive turnout, that could be harder to achieve. She does have the benefit of the runoff in B to help her, but that may be canceled out by the action in A. It’s a crapshoot. I wouldn’t bet against her, but boy this is a tough way to go about it.

Sometimes an apology isn’t enough

That’s what we tell our kids when they do something particularly egregious. It’s what I would tell Manuel Rodriguez, too.

The day after he retained his Houston school board seat by just 24 votes, Trustee Manuel Rodriguez formally apologized for a campaign brochure he distributed last week that many described as homophobic.

“I am aware that some people have said they were offended by one of my ads, and I apologize to all of those people,” Rodriguez wrote in a letter he released Wednesday afternoon. He said he “respect(ed)” challenger Ramiro Fonseca’s “contributions to our community and his record of public service.”


“I’m glad he finally did this,” [Trustee Juliet] Stipeche said Wednesday night, when she learned of Rodriguez’s apology. “I just wish he had apologized earlier. But I hope he truly understands how the ad was hurtful and harmful. Perhaps we can use this as a means of truly understanding our total non-discrimination policy and have a better understanding of what ‘bullying’ is.”

Fonseca was not impressed by Rodriguez’s words.

Fonseca said he was waiting for the final vote tally, which would count outstanding mail and provisional ballots, before deciding his next step – including a possible request for a recount.

“I think the hurt has been deep in the community,” Fonseca said in response to Rodriguez’s statement.


Mike Pomeroy, a member of the GLBT caucus, said he thought Rodriguez’s statement was insufficient, and he plans to join others – including an HISD student – in addressing Rodriguez during the public comment period.

“I don’t think he gets it,” Pomeroy said. “He was throughout the weekend saying, ‘I don’t know what’s wrong with this. It’s the truth.’ And he was still handing out the flier at the polls. This is all coming a little bit too late.”

I agree with all these reactions. Rodriguez didn’t admit to doing anything wrong – his “apology” amounts to little more than “I’m sorry if someone was offended by what I said” – and didn’t say what if anything he might do to atone for his words. Talk is cheap. Rodriguez has shown us who he is, now he needs to show us – not tell us – that he intends to be better than that. He’s got a long way to go. Hair Balls has more, while K-12 Zone and Stace report from the protests at last night’s HISD meeting.

More thoughts on the Mayoral election

I think there are two key things to keep in mind when contemplating Tuesday’s election results in Houston and what they may mean for 2013. First and foremost, I believe you have to see the Mayor’s percentage of the vote, which everyone would agree was underwhelming, as a reflection on her level of support and nothing else. To put it another way, this was her “generic” re-elect number, given that she wasn’t running against any one opponent but against a mostly interchangeable slate of “not Annise Parker” candidates. That’s bad, because some 49% of the people who bothered to vote said they wanted someone else, but it’s not necessarily as bad as it looks. Many incumbents do worse in polls against a generic opponent. Look at President Obama for a clear example of that. The flipside of this, which is also crystal clear with the President, is that it means they generally do better, sometimes much better, against actual named opponents. Every single person who might run against Annise Parker in 2013 has his or her own strengths and weaknesses, and many of them have their own record in public service that can be examined and critiqued. Change the choice from “I’d like somebody else to be Mayor” to “I’d like this specific person to be Mayor” – Paul Bettencourt, Ben Hall, Bill King, whoever – and some people who maybe aren’t too happy with Parker will decide she’s the preferable option. (Or not – it can certainly go either way.) Give the Mayor a single named opponent whose flaws and policy ideas she can attack, and the dynamic of the race changes, because it’s no longer all about her. Like I said, that may or may not ultimately work in her favor, but it will be different than this race was. We can’t know how that will go until someone actually decides to run against her. Further, while it’s easy enough to imagine Parker getting squeezed between a white Republican and an African-American Democrat, what happens if more than one of either or both decides to jump in? This is what I mean when I say it’s far too early to make any grand pronunciations about 2013. There are too many variables in play. I still believe, as I said before the election and before anyone else, that an underperformance by the Mayor would make it more likely she will draw a serious opponent in 2013. That’s not the same as saying I believe she’ll lose, or even that she’s more likely to lose. It’s far too early to tell about that.

The Mayor’s first term was affected by several factors that were beyond her control – things like the economy, the red light camera referendum, various Council hijinx. I believe she is likely to derive some benefit from there being fewer of these external factors over the next two years – I mean, how much more can there be? If it turns out I’m wrong about that, she may well decide this job is a curse and gladly hand it off to someone else. Be that as it may, there’s no shortage of things well within her control where she can and must do better. The Mayor’s biggest political liability isn’t the caprices of fate but the fact that she has done very little to expand her base of support, and quite a bit to antagonize and depress it. I think of the Mayor’s base primarily as people like me – urban progressives. As far as I can tell – I’ll have a better grasp on this when I get the vote canvass, but I don’t need numbers to see the basic problem outline – there’s a lot of discontent among people in my neck of the woods with the Mayor’s actions. First and foremost among them is the 380 agreement situation, which begins but now doesn’t end with Ainbinder and Washington Heights. The fact that Ainbinder chose Wal-Mart as its anchor tenant is another example of uncontrollable bad luck for the Mayor – if they had announced a deal with HEB, no one would have cared enough to kick up a fuss about it – but the decision to offer Ainbinder a 380 agreement in return for what appear to be minor, almost trivial, infrastructure improvements, along with still-unresolved questions about traffic, bridge safety, noise, drainage, and so forth, that was all on the Mayor and her unhelpful department heads. Pursuing historic preservation – which, one must admit, was something she campaigned on – won her more enemies than friends, as support for preservation is broad but shallow, while opposition to it is narrow but deep and fierce and activism-inspiring. However you feel about these things, the fact remains that there are fewer people in neighborhoods that should be her strongholds that are on her side, and more than aren’t. That’s not a good position to be in. I don’t know what she and her advisers have been discussing since Tuesday night, but if I were in on those conversations, I’d strongly recommend they spend less time worrying about who may or may not decide to run against her, and more time figuring out how to do something about this. And if they can’t come up with a good strategy for that, they’d best start working on their oppo research, because they’re going to need plenty of it.

Anyway. I’ll have some analysis of the other results tomorrow, and once I get my hands on canvass data, I’ll start bringing the numbers. In the meantime, here are some more overviews of the election results, from PDiddie, Stace, Greg, BOR, and EoW.

UPDATE: Here’s the Chron analysis, which covers much of the same ground as I did.

2011 Houston results

Let’s go through the races…

– Mayor Parker won with a shade under 51%, with none of her opponents cracking 15% on their own. Obviously, this is not a position a Mayor with no serious opposition wants to be in, and it won’t surprise anyone if one or more potential opponents for 2013 are on the phone already calling potential financial backers. It’s certainly possible, perhaps likely, that she will face a much tougher challenge in two years. It’s also possible, given a better economy, a less dire budget, and fewer externally-driven issues like a red light camera referendum, that she could be in a stronger position for re-election in two years and that the time to have beaten her was now. Many people thought Rick Perry looked vulnerable after winning with 39% of the vote in 2006, but things don’t always go as you think they will. Often uncertain the future is, that’s all I’m saying.

– Brenda Stardig trailed Helena Brown in District A by 479 votes. She and Jolanda Jones, who led Jack Christie by about 6700 votes, will be headed to a runoff. All other incumbents won majorities, with CM Stephen Costello having the closest race but winning with 51.2%. So much for the anti-Renew Houston slate.

– Only two of the five open seats will feature runoffs. Ellen Cohen in C (53.62%), Mike Laster in J (67.27%), and Larry Green in District K (67.23%) all won. Alvin Byrd (25.11%) and Jerry Davis (24.38%) head to overtime in District B, while the perennially perennial Andrew Burks led the field in At Large #2, garnering 17.33%. Kristi Thibaut came in second, with 15.65%, followed by Elizabeth Perez and David Robinson. This is at least the third time Burks has made it to a city election runoff – he lost to Sue Lovell in overtime in 2009 – and I wonder if he will get any official support. Being in a runoff with Jolanda Jones and a District B race also on the ballot will help him, but beyond that it’s hard to see him doing much of anything. You have to wonder what Michael P. Williams is thinking this morning. Oh, and Eric Dick finished seventh out of ten. Apparently, it takes more than spreading campaign signs like grass seed and putting out puerile press releases to win public office. Good to know.

– Paula Harris and Juliet Stipeche easily won re-election in HISD, as did Chris Oliver in HCC. Carroll Robinson defeated Jew Don Boney by a 55-45 margin to succeed Williams as the District IV Trustee. The closest race of the election, one that will have people gnashing their teeth all winter, was in HISD III, where Manuel Rodriguez barely held on. I’m a staunch advocate of early voting, but you have to wonder how many early-goers to the ballot box may have regretted pushing the button for Rodriguez before his shameful gay-baiting mailer came out.

– There were 123,047 city of Houston votes cast in Harris and Fort Bend Counties, making this election a near exact duplicate of 2007 turnout-wise. There were 164,283 votes cast in Harris County, of which 120,931 were Houston votes, for a Houston share of 73.6%. The final early vote total for Harris County was 60,122, almost exactly what I hypothesized it would be, and the early vote total was 36.6% of the overall tally in Harris. There were 920,172 registered voters in Houston, about 15,000 fewer than in 2009 but 7000 more than in 2007. City turnout was 13.14% in Harris County.

I have my second tour of jury duty today, this time in the municipal courts, so that’s all from me for now. I may have some deeper thoughts later. What do you think of how the election went? PDiddie has more.

UPDATE: Robert Miller offers his perspective.

UPDATE: Nancy Sims weighs in.

Election results elsewhere

Results of interest from elsewhere in Texas and the country…

– Three of the ten Constitutional amendments were defeated, with Prop 4 losing by nearly 20 points. It drew strong opposition from anti-toll road activists, and I daresay that was the reason for the lopsided loss. The other two, Props 7 and 8, were pretty innocuous, and I have no real idea for why they went down.

– There was one special legislative election, to replace Fred Brown in HD14. Republicans Bob Yancey and John Raney will advance to the runoff for that seat.

– In New Braunfels, the can ban was upheld, and it wasn’t close.

The container ban ordinance, which goes into effect Jan. 1, was approved by 58 percent of the vote.

Ban supporters hailed the win as vindication of their claim that residents want the river protected from rowdy tourists and their litter.

“This was a landslide that can be disputed by no one,” said Kathleen Krueger, spokeswoman for Support The Ban. “New Braunfels has spoken loud and clear that we want to protect our rivers for the next generation.”

The lead spokesman for the opposition said the real issue was government transparency and vowed to continue the fight.

“I’m not disappointed,” said Mark McGonigal. “I have an opinion and so do other people. I knew one side would prevail. But the legality of this has yet to be determined.”

A lawsuit challenging the ordinance as illegal under state law, filed by a group of local business owners, is pending in state district court.

Nearly 9000 votes were cast in that referendum.

– Elsewhere in the country, there were a number of good results for progressives. Voters in Maine restored same day registration, while voters in Ohio repealed a law that would have curtailed collective bargaining rights. Each was a defeat for the state’s elected-in-the-2010-landslide Republican Governor. Mississippi voters rejected a radical “personhood amendment” that could have had far-reaching negative effects on reproductive choice. And finally, Arizona State Senator Russell Pearce, the author of the anti-immigrant SB1070 and a notorious racist, was recalled by voters there. Small steps, but in the right direction.

Your annual reminder that every vote matters

HISD Trustee, District III results, with 38 of 38 precincts reporting:

Manuel Rodriguez 2,401 50.25% Ramiro Fonseca 2,377 49.75%

There were 653 undervotes in this race, and turnout in the district was 11.61%. Fonseca carried Election Day by 78 votes, but had trailed by 102. At one point during the count, the Clerk had Fonseca up by one vote. What more do you need to know?

I will have recaps of the elections tomorrow morning. As of publication, about 95% of Harris County precincts are in. Mayor Parker appears to be headed to a just-over-50% victory, which beats the alternatives but is sure to get the chattering classes all fired up. The big surprise of the night to me is District A incumbent Brenda Stardig trailing her teabagger opponent, with the two of them headed for a runoff. We’ll see how that plays out. Other incumbents are all above 50% with the exception of Jolanda Jones, who will go into overtime again against Jack Christie. More tomorrow, see you then.