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November 6th, 2012:

What I’ll be looking for tonight

Just a reminder that I’ll be on KPFT tonight starting at 7 PM to talk about the elections. Here’s a preview of the things I’ll be looking for:

1. SD10 – Sen. Wendy Davis vs Mark Shelton: Easily the most important race on the ballot in Texas. Davis has been a progressive champion and a pain in Dan Patrick’s rear end, and will make for a strong statewide candidate when she’s ready. She also ensures that the Dems maintain enough votes in the Senate to invoke the two-thirds rule until whenever Rick Perry calls the special election to succeed the late Sen. Mario Gallegos. I am heartened that Robert Miller thinks Davis is leading, though he subsequently amended that, but I won’t rest easy until I see that lead on the Secretary of State’s election results webpage.

2. Legislative races – While Dems start out with only 48 seats in the Lege, they will automatically pick up three today – HDs 35, 40, and 101 – because there are no Republicans running in them. Beyond that, the over/under line for Dems is 55 seats total. Three in particular to watch: HD23, in which Rep. Craig Eiland is one of the only, if not the only, threatened Democratic incumbents; HD134, in which Ann Johnson’s challenge to freshman Rep. Sarah Davis will be a good test of how well a message attacking the Rs for cutting $5.4 billion from public education will work; and HD136, the open seat in Williamson County, which will be a test of whether 2008 was a fluke or a trend for Democrats in places like that.

3. Adrian Garcia and Mike Anderson – Everyone expects both candidates to win, as both have become poster children for not voting a straight ticket this year. As such, they will both likely represent the high-water mark for each party this year, as Garcia and Ed Emmett were in 2008. I’ll be paying particular attention to how they did in various legislative and other districts once the precinct data is out, because that may provide an early roadmap for future electoral targets.

4. Fort Bend County – Fort Bend came very close to going Democratic in 2008. President Obama received 48.49% of the vote there, and no Republican won the county by as much as 10,000 votes out of 200,000 cast. Is this the year Democrats break through? Also worth keeping an eye on is freshman County Commissioner Richard Morrison in his race against double voter Bruce Fleming.

5. CCA – Hampton vs Keller – I think we’re all familiar with this one by now. Whether Hampton has a chance to win depends largely, though not entirely, on how well Obama does in Texas. The presence of a Libertarian candidate in this race means that Hampton can win with less than 50% of the vote. Most of the statewide judicial races in 2008 had Libertarians in them, and they got about 3% of the vote on average. I suspect the ceiling for that may be higher in this case, as some Republicans may prefer to not vote for Keller but not vote for a Dem, either. I will not be surprised if 48% is enough to win. If Obama can improve on 2008, even a little, it makes it that much easier for Hampton to get over the hump. If not, we may be stuck with Keller for another six years or until she finally has the grace to resign.

6. 1st and 14th Courts of Appeals – Jim Sharp broke through for Democrats in 2008, and there’s a nearly full slate of them running for seats on these courts, whose jurisdictions cover multiple counties, this year. As was the case in 2008, a sufficiently strong showing in Harris County may be enough to make it across the finish line, though if Fort Bend is blue as well, that would be a big help. This is where future Supreme Court and Court of Criminal Appeals candidates can emerge.

7. Bonds, Metro, and SA Pre-K – I expect the Houston bonds to pass. Keep an eye on the charter amendments, since if they pass as well there can be no further charter amendments on the ballot till May of 2015. I think the Metro referendum will pass, but I would not bet my own money on it. The San Antonio Pre-K initiative is expected to be close. Given the recent love affair in the national media and from the national party for Mayor Julian Castro, a loss here will undoubtedly be portrayed as a setback for him.

I think that’s plenty to think about. What races are you watching?

Today’s the day

Still the only voter ID anyone should need

At long last, the death march known as Election 2012 will come to an end today, at which time we can begin gearing up for the next elections in 2013, 2014, and 2016, as well as dreading what the Legislature has in store for us. If you haven’t already voted, you can find your Harris County Election Day polling place here, or if you know your precinct number you can look up your location in this spreadsheet sent out by the County Clerk’s office. If all else fails, call the County Clerk’s office at 713 795 6965 for assistance.

Want more? You can get a free ride from Metro if you show your voter registration card. If you don’t have your voter registration card you can’t ride free on Metro but you can still vote as long as you have one of these other forms of identification. (Note: May not work in Williamson County.) As I expect that something like 60 to 70% of the votes have already been cast in the county for this election, I figure the lines won’t be too bad, but I still wouldn’t advise waiting till the last minute if you can help it. Remember, state law entitles you to at least two consecutive hours off on Election Day to vote, so take advantage of it as needed.

The best thing that can happen while people are voting is for nothing remarkable to happen. There will be Justice Department election monitors in Harris County to keep an eye on things in the event there is anything hinky going on. The less news there is to report about that, the better.

If you can’t bear the thought of having to wait till tomorrow morning to know what I think about what’s happened, you can tune into KPFT radio tonight from 7 to 10 to hear me blather on about it. I’ll be a guest on Mike Honig’s ThinkWing Radio show, which can be found at 90.1 FM on your dial or by going to KPFT.org and clicking on “Listen Live”, which naturally can be done from anywhere there’s an Internet connection. I may if I get ambitious dust off my badly neglected Twitter account (@kuff) and use that for quickie updates while waiting for my turn to speak. Don’t ask me about hashtags, I’m not that organized.

I will also be taping not one but two episodes of “Red, White, and Blue” on Houston PBS this week, one on national election results to run on the 9th and one on local election results to run on the 16th. By the time all this is done even I will be sick of me talking about the election. I’ll have more details on that later, in case you’ve ever wondered what I look like in a suit and tie.

Finally, an amusing tidbit to send you off to your polling or poll-watching place. Remember that story about campaign contributions made by people connected to the strip club Treasures to Republican candidates like Robert Talton? You can see all that on Talton’s eight day campaign finance report. If you look a little farther down on that report, however, you will also see a $15,000 expenditure made to the Texas Conservative Review for an advertisement. The TCR is of course owned by Talton’s law partner, Gary Polland. Guess who is also a lobbyist for Treasures? That would be Gary Polland. It’s like the circle of life, you know? I’m going to miss having these guys involved in the election.

We know the potential, but what’s the plan?

I trust we’re all familiar with the basic points that Eva Longoria and Gilberto Hinojosa make in Politico about Texas’ potential to become a swing state, perhaps by 2016. There’s nothing that Nate Silver didn’t address, and I could just refer to my response to that and leave it be, but there is one more thing to add. Everyone agrees that there are a lot of potential Democratic voters in Texas. But what is the plan to turn them into actual voters? Let me throw a number out at you: 2,832,704. That’s the number of votes John Kerry received in Texas in 2004. It’s also enough votes to have won every statewide election in Texas in 2002 save for Comptroller, and every statewide election in 2006. It even would have been enough to beat Rick Perry in 2010, and while it wouldn’t have been enough to win other races that year, it would have been within 100,000 votes of the Railroad Commissioner and contested judicial races. In 2010, for crying out loud.

So yeah, the votes are there. President Obama won 3,528,633 votes in 2008, so we wouldn’t even need all of those Kerry voters to come out in 2014 to make it a good year. I understand that Team Obama has a pretty good ground game going around the country. They did particularly well among Latino voters nationally in 2008, and appear poised to do at least as well this year. What do we need to do to convince them to bring that to Texas? That’s what I want to know. TM Daily Post has more.

TAB does not intend to release its hostage

And why should they, if it’s a viable strategy?

Representatives from the Texas Coalition for a Competitive Workforce, which includes major business groups and local chambers of commerce, said at a news conference that the assessment and accountability system known as the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness cannot be rolled back.

Too many students are leaving Texas public schools ill-prepared for college or a “high-performance” job, said Mike Rollins, president of the Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce, who pointed to the 42 percent of students at Austin Community College who needed remedial classes.

Bill Hammond, president of the Texas Association of Business, said efforts to dilute the high-stakes system is the wrong move for the state’s businesses and the public school students who go to work for those businesses.

“We send kids to (community college) telling them that they’re ready to go, and they walk in the door and they find out the next day that they’re not and they’re going to have to take these god-awful remedial courses and they have to pay for them and they don’t get credit,” Hammond said. “That’s not fair to them.”

The coalition said 80 percent of Texas students should graduate ready for college or a career without remedial classes. In the first round of the new testing system last spring, only 3 percent of students met that standard on the end-of-course writing exam.

The coalition is open to some minor modifications, such as reducing how much the end-of-course test matters in a student’s final grade. Current law says the score should count as 15 percent, which was the primary source of consternation among the parents last spring.

Dineen Majcher, who is part of the parent group, Texans Advocating for Meaningful Student Assessment, said the business leaders’ hard-line position is unrealistic.

“There are parents all over the state that understand that the system is broken,” Majcher said. “It is imprudent to completely ignore that.”

Well, the way to make TAB and Bill Hammond understand that is to elect enough candidates that support your position and oppose theirs to force them to the negotiating table. As long as they think they’ve got enough legislators under their sway, they don’t need to care what anyone else thinks. These are the stakes today, I hope everyone was paying attention. See here, here, and here for more.

Texas blog roundup for the week of November 5

The Texas Progressive Alliance celebrates another Election Day as it brings you this week’s roundup.

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