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November 1st, 2012:

Obama leads in poll of Harris County

More polling goodness for you.

The poll conducted for KHOU 11 News and KUHF Houston Public Radio indicates Obama leads Romney in Harris County, but not by much. That gives some indication how election night might go for politicians running for offices that are down the ballot.

The poll shows the president leading in Harris County with the support of 46 percent of surveyed voters, compared to Romney’s 42 percent. Libertarian Gary Johnson cracked the survey with 2 percent.

In the U.S. Senate race, Democrat Paul Sadler’s 44 percent leads Republican Ted Cruz with 42 percent in Harris County. With a 3.5 percent margin of error, that’s a statistical dead heat in the largest county in Texas.

[…]

Republican crossover voters are helping push Democratic Sheriff Adrian Garcia to 51 percent in this survey, compared to Republican challenger Louis Guthrie’s 32 percent. Another 13 percent were undecided.

On the other hand, many Democrats told pollsters they’re voting for Republican district attorney candidate Mike Anderson, who’s polling at 41 percent. Nonetheless, Democrat Lloyd Oliver is close behind with 35 percent. Another 19 percent are undecided. That number is especially striking because Democratic Party leaders were so embarrassed by Oliver’s candidacy they tried to remove him from the ballot.

“What we’re seeing is a much more significant ticket-splitting among Republicans than Democrats,” said Bob Stein, the Rice University political scientist and KHOU analyst who supervised the poll. “I don’t know if that’s because they’re more bipartisan, or they simply are more capable and more likely to make that choice, which is not easy to do on an e-slate ballot.”

Or maybe Sheriff Garcia has done a better job of making the case for himself than Mike Anderson has. Prof. Stein was kind enough to share the topline data and the poll questions with responses, and I’ll note that there were considerably more “don’t know” answers in the DA race than in the Sheriff’s. Perhaps that’s the difference.

You can also find basic poll data here, though for some odd reason there’s no breakdown of the Senate race on that page. There are also results for the five City of Houston bond proposals, the HCC and HISD bond proposals, all of which have majority support and in some cases large majorities. There’s no result for the Metro referendum, but I infer from the teaser at the end of this KUHF story on the poll that that result may be released separately. Released by KHOU and KUHF, anyway – if you go back and look at those docs I linked above, you’ll see the Metro referendum result from this poll. It has plurality support, but that makes it the only one not to have a majority. Make of that what you will.

For what it’s worth, there was a Zogby poll of the Presidential race in Harris County in 2008, which showed a 7-point lead for Obama over McCain. Oddly, as I look back at it, the story never mentioned the actual numbers, just the margin; the links for the poll data and crosstabs are now broken, so I can’t check them. (The story did say that Rick Noriega had a 47-40 lead over John Cornyn for Senate in Harris County.) A separate poll of county and judicial races showed similar results, though it did correctly call Ed Emmett the leader in the County Judge race. Democrats did win most of those races, and both Obama and Noriega carried Harris County, though by smaller margins than the poll predicted. As I noted at the time, Zogby (the pollster) showed Dems with an eight-point advantage in party ID, which largely explained the poll numbers. This poll shows roughly the same partisan ID numbers, which could mean some Democratic slippage from 2008, or could just be random. As Greg says, what we very likely have here is a swing county where GOTV will make the difference. We’ll know soon enough.

Strip club cash in the Sheriff’s race

The waning days of a campaign always have the greatest potential for hijinx.

A $25,000 political contribution from the owner of a strip club being sued by Harris County lawyers found its way, via the Harris County Deputies Organization, into the campaign coffers of the man challenging Sheriff Adrian Garcia in November, according to campaign finance reports.

Ali Davari, who with his brother Hassan Davari owns a handful of prominent local strip clubs, including Treasures, Gold Cup and Trophy Club, gave $25,000 to the deputies union political action committee on Oct. 15. It was the only contribution the organization received during the time period covered by the report, which was filed Thursday. The union donated the same amount, in its only listed expenditure, to Republican Louis Guthrie’s campaign a week later, earmarking it for political advertising.

Guthrie reports receiving a $25,000 check from the union on Oct. 9; Guthrie’s campaign manager Sara Kinney said the campaign listed that date because that was the date on the check. HCDO Vice President Eric Batton could not explain the discrepancy in the dates.

“The deputies organization, whatever they do is what they do,” Guthrie said. “The fact that they gave me money, I think it’s great they’re behind me and that they’ve endorsed me in this campaign. I can’t control the deputies organization, the money they take in from whomever.”

Guthrie and Batton accused the Houston Chronicle of writing about the contribution to help Garcia, whom the Chronicle editorial board has endorsed for re-election.

[…]

Houston political analyst Robert Miller said such pass-though donations are common, such as when donors do not want to publicly oppose an incumbent and donate to a political group instead.

“It’s unusual to see it so clumsily done,” Miller said. “By doing it in this manner and with this timing, they have waved a red flag all over the contribution. It would be evident to most that it’s a contribution from the sexually-oriented business to a sheriff’s candidate.”

For reasons unclear I can’t find the HCDO 8 day report on the County Clerk campaign finance report page. The Garcia campaign sent out an email about this that has a few more details. The reaction to the story by everyone involved tells you pretty much everything you need to know about it.

UPDATE: A copy of the 8 day report is here.

Endorsement watch: Perez in HD144

The Chron finally makes an endorsement in the other open legislative seat, HD144.

Mary Ann Perez

For this open seat, we recommend the Democrat, Mary Ann Perez, whose professional skills and experience in another contentious political arena would serve her and the district well in Austin. Perez is opposed by a Republican and a Libertarian.

[…]

A Milby High School graduate, Perez knows this territory well. She has an admirable history of community participation at the grass-roots level, beginning with service as president of her neighborhood civic association and on the board of directors of her two sons’ Little League.

She has since moved on to bigger things, serving as chair of the Board of Trustees of the Houston Community College, where she has proven herself as a knowledgeable and capable leader. If elected to the Texas House, she would be constitutionally obliged to resign from her HCC position, but she would bring her knowledge and experience with her to Austin.

Her community college board experience recommends Perez’s candidacy in two important ways:

1) It has given her real-world experience dealing with important public policy issues while learning the art of compromise.

2) It has brought her familiarity with education issues at a high level.

If they select Mary Ann Perez as their representative, District 144 voters will thus be sending to Austin a woman already well schooled in the two most important subjects facing the Legislature in 2012: education and working across the aisle to create reasonable compromise.

I’m not sure what took them so long to get to this race, since by the numbers it’s the most competitive district in the county and an open seat to boot, but there it is. If Perez wins and all other races hold true to their partisan leanings, Democrats will hold 13 of the 24 seats in Harris County. Perez has the backing of Annie’s List and the HDCC in this high-priority district. How good a day Texas Democrats have on Tuesday will depend in part on the outcome in this race.

Elsa Caballero: Public Employee and Janitors Mobilize in Support of City of Houston Bonds

Note: The following is a guest post.

For the past month, Houston’s janitors have joined forces with our city’s public employees in favor of the City of Houston bond package and METRO referendum on the ballot this election cycle. Volunteers, made up of HOPE and SEIU Local 1 members, are having voter-to-voter conversations about the real immediate benefits of improving our libraries, parks, public housing, public transportation and roads. Working in conjunction with the Vote for Houston’s Future Committee we will have reached 4,000 households in person or by phone by November 6th.

Our members have placed their full support behind this investment in our city because we believe in growing our economy from the bottom up. All Houstonians benefit from quality infrastructure, but it’s low and middle-income families who often depend on these services. This is our opportunity to pull our resources together to balance opportunity for families who live on the margins. With nearly half of all single mothers in Houston living in poverty, it would be immoral and dangerous for us to ignore a growing wealth gap that could undermine our city’s economic vitality in the near future.

This past summer, Houston’s janitors living on as little as $9,000 a year went on strike for a better future for their families. After five weeks, with the support of political leaders, regular Houstonians, and union members from around the country, janitors saved their union and won a 12% raise. The story of one of these janitors, Hernan Trujillo, is a testament to the benefit of quality public infrastructure. As the breadwinner for himself and his two elderly parents, Hernan worked as a dishwasher during the day and a janitor at night, leaving precious little time for himself. Unable to afford a car, Hernan spent most of his time going to work on the bus where he would make time to study the English books he borrowed from his local library. Now with his English close to perfect, he hopes to return to school.

There are thousands of others like Hernan. When families have avenues to rise out of poverty, we all benefit. A vote in support of the city bonds is vote for a brighter Houston for all.

This post was written by Elsa Caballero, State Director for SEIU Local 1 Texas

Texas blog roundup for the week of October 29

The Texas Progressive Alliance urges you to take advantage of early voting this week if you haven’t already done so as it brings you this week’s roundup.

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