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November 8th, 2012:

First pass at analyzing the 2012 results

This is kind of a brain dump, based on the information available now. I’ll have plenty more to say once precinct data has been released.

– The current tally in the Presidential race on the Secretary of State webpage, with comparison to 2008, is as follows:

2008 Votes Pct =========================== McCain 4,479,328 55.45% Obama 3,528,633 43.68% 2012 Votes Pct =========================== Romney 4,542,012 57.19% Obama 3,285,200 41.36%

Slight uptick for Romney over McCain, slightly larger downtick for Obama. My sense is that this is mostly a turnout issue, that Obama’s coalition was mostly intact but not quite as fired up as in 2008, much like what we saw nationally. I think that’s fixable, but it’s going to take the same thing to fix it (money money money) as it has always been. I mean, Team Obama invested millions in a turnout operation in various parts of the country, and by all accounts it was successful. What effect might that have had here? I hope someday to find out.

– For all my skepticism of the polling in Texas, the pollsters were fairly in the ballpark on Romney’s margin of victory. I have to say, had you told me on Monday that Romney was going to win here by 16 points, I would never have believed that Wendy Davis and Pete Gallego would have won, and I would have doubted Dems’ ability to win the four contested seats in the Lege that they did. But they did, which is both a tip to the skill of the redistricters and a reminder that things could have been better. Overall, I’d grade it as a B- for Texas Dems – the Davis, Gallego, and Craig Eiland wins were huge, but there were missed opportunities, especially in Harris and Dallas Counties, where too many judges lost in the former and two Democratic legislative challengers fell just short in the latter.

– I don’t want to dwell too much on the legislative races, since we’re going to get a new map once the San Antonio court incorporates the DC Court’s ruling into their lawsuit, but there will clearly be more opportunities in 2014. Still, it should be apparent by now just how steep the hill is. Dems came close to parity in the Lege last decade in large part to a sizable rural contingent and an ability to win seats in otherwise-Republican districts. Well, the rural Dems are virtually extinct, and outside of Davis and maybe Eiland I doubt there were any crossover stars this time around; I’ll know for sure when I see precinct data. I still think there will be opportunities for both based on the forthcoming school finance ruling and 2013 legislative session, but we’re a long way from each and candidates still need to be found.

– One question I had going into this race was how well Obama would do in predominantly Latino areas. In 2008, Obama lagged behind the rest of the Democratic ticket in these areas, possibly due to lingering resentment over Hillary Clinton’s loss to him in the primary, but as we know Democrats nationally and Obama specifically have seen Latino support go up since then. Here’s a quick and dirty comparison to 2008 in some heavily Latino counties that will have to do until I get precinct data:

County 08 Obama 12 Obama 08 turnout 12 turnout ======================================================== Cameron 64.08% 65.72% 43.37% 41.46% El Paso 65.87% 65.63% 47.67% 44.58% Hidalgo 69.01% 70.42% 42.83% 45.59% Maverick 78.20% 78.60% 40.43% 37.84% Webb 71.44% 76.56% 44.40% 44.28%

Nice gain in Webb, modest gains in Cameron and Hidalgo. It’s a start.

– Congressional loser Quico Canseco is whining about fraud.

Gallego finished 13,534 votes ahead of Canseco early Wednesday morning.

“The race is not over, and it won’t be until all votes are properly and legally counted,” Canseco said in a statement the morning after the election.

Gallego campaign spokeswoman Rebecca Acuna said there is “no way” voter fraud occurred. “This just shows a lot about [Canseco’s] character, because he chose to go this route” rather than concede and congratulate Gallego, she said.

Canseco’s campaign alleges that officials in Maverick County double- or triple-counted some of the early vote sheets. A complaint to the Secretary of State indicates that Canseco’s campaign found a minimum of 57 duplicate votes when reviewing a list provided by the Maverick County Elections Office. The campaign also alleges that another county used photocopied ballots, a criminal offense, and that an extended delay in counting votes from other counties left “other questions unanswered.”

“There are too many disturbing incidents to declare this race over,” Scott Yeldell, Canseco’s campaign manager, said in a statement. “During the next several days we will be looking into these reports to assure only legal votes have been counted in this election.”

But Acuna said even if all the votes from Maverick County — where Gallego received 6,291 more votes than Canseco — were excluded, Gallego still would have come out ahead. “His argument — it’s not at all valid,” she said. “We won this race; it’s simple math.”

I don’t expect this to go anywhere.

– In Harris County, those last nine precincts were finally counted. Obama’s margin of victory in the county inched up to 585 votes, but as far as I can tell none of the downballot races were affected. Obama’s total was down about 6000 votes from 2008, while Romney improved on McCain by about 13,000 votes. Still, as noted in the comments yesterday, provisional ballots have not yet been counted, and overseas ballots are still arriving, Judges Kyle Carter (1,499) and Tad Halbach (2,786) had the smallest margins in those races, while Mike Sullivan also had a close shave, winning by 2,498 votes and a 48.94% plurality thanks to the presence of a Libertarian candidate that received 2.34%. I still don’t think any races are likely to change, but I daresay all three of these gentlemen will not rest easy until the counting has truly ceased.

– I have to mention a couple of national stories. First, Tuesday was a great day for marriage equality.

Voters in Maryland and Maine legalized same-sex marriage by popular vote Tuesday, the first time in U.S. history that gay marriage has been approved at the ballot box.

In Maryland, voters approved marriage equality 52 percent to 48 percent with 93 percent of precincts reporting, according to the Associated Press. The state government passed legislation legalizing same-sex marriage, but opponents succeeded in putting the issue on the ballot in November.

“Over these past few weeks, Marylanders joined together to affirm that for a free and diverse people of many faiths — a people committed to religious freedom — the way forward is always found through greater respect for the equal rights and human dignity of all,” Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley (D), a champion of marriage equality in the state, said in a statement late Tuesday.

The AP also declared Maine voters had approved same-sex marriage Tuesday after defeating a referendum on it just three years ago, a sign of how quickly Americans’ views on the issue are evolving. With 57 percent of precincts reporting, the ballot measure led 54 percent to 46 percent.

In a third victory for gay rights advocates, Minnesota voters defeated a state constitutional amendment that would have banned same-sex marriage, according to CNN and the AP. Thirty other states have gay marriage bans on the books, including North Carolina’s, approved as recently as May 2012.

Proponents of marriage equality were still hoping Wednesday for a fourth victory in Washington, where a measure to approve gay marriage was still too close to call as of Wednesday morning.

Remember when this was an issue used to bludgeon Democrats? Never again, and thank goodness for it.

Poor John Cornyn. At the beginning of this year, you could have gotten lower odds on the Astros winning the World Series than the Democrats not only holding the Senate but making gains. Yet that’s exactly what happened.

“It’s clear that with our losses in the presidential race, and a number of key Senate races, we have a period of reflection and recalibration ahead for the Republican Party,” the Texas Republican said in a statement released by the National Republican Senatorial Committee, which he directs. “While some will want to blame one wing of the party over the other, the reality is candidates from all corners of our GOP lost tonight. Clearly we have work to do in the weeks and months ahead.”

As of early Wednesday morning, Democrats (with an assist by an Independent in Maine) had picked up four Republican seats while losing just one of their own. Not a single Democratic incumbent was defeated.

Cornyn, who hopes to win a party leadership position in the new Congress, is now explaining the reasons for the 2012 failure.

“We know that our conservative vision is the right one to secure a stronger America for future generations,” Cornyn said in his statement. “We know that we are the party of big, bold ideas with the courage to fight for what’s right even if it’s not politically expedient. It was that courage and that vision that led to important gains for our party in 2010. But all of us should continue to learn from both our victories and our defeats, and work together to build an even stronger Republican Party.”

Basically, the Republicans had first and goal at the one yard line. Then, after a false start, two quarterback sacks, and an intentional-grounding penalty, their 50-yard field goal attempt was blocked by Elizabeth Warren, and returned for a touchdown by Joe Donnelly. The Democrats then added insult to injury by going for two and converting successfully. You just cannot overstate the degree and the stunningness of the turnaround in fortune. And if Big John thinks that the Republicans should just keep doing what they’ve been doing, well, I won’t try to persuade him otherwise.

– Other results of interest: The city of Austin will adopt City Council districts, while League City banned red light cameras. At least some things never change.

That’s all for now. PDiddie, Mark Bennett, Murray Newman, Harold Cook, and TM Daily Post have more, while Texas Parent PAC takes a victory lap.

Succeeding Sen. Gallegos

With the posthumous victory by Sen. Mario Gallegos, there is still one unsettled matter for 2012 in Texas.

Sen. Mario Gallegos

Mario Gallegos, one of the Texas Senate’s most reliable liberals until his death last month, scored a final win Tuesday, easily defeating his Republican challenger after his name remained on the ballot.

Beleaguered Texas Democrats also withstood a spirited, well-funded challenge to Sen. Wendy Davis in the Fort Worth area. Nevertheless, Republicans will retain control of the Senate with a 19-12 advantage when it convenes in January.

The GOP targeted the Davis seat in an attempt to pull within a single vote of an unbreakable two-thirds majority. The Senate operates under a rule that requires the agreement of at least 21 senators for any bill to be brought up for debate during a regular session.


Gallegos, the first Hispanic elected to the state Senate from Harris County, died last month from complications of liver disease. Under Texas law, his name remained on the ballot because he died less than 74 days before the election.

Voters rallied around his candidacy, handing the longtime lawmaker a victory over Republican R.W. Bray in the heavily Democratic District 6, which covers east Harris County. The win by a dead incumbent was not unprecedented – in 2006, state Rep. Glenda Dawson, R-Pearland, was re-elected two months after dying from a brief illness.

Cynthia Gallegos, his youngest sister, said she had worked at polls all day and repeatedly answered the big question from people: Why vote for the late senator?

“Every person who came up to me was like, ‘Didn’t he die?’ ” she said. “I would bite my lip and explain the process. We want to keep the district Democratic.”

With the posthumous win by Gallegos, Gov. Rick Perry will declare the seat vacant and call for a special election to be held within 45 days, on a Tuesday or Saturday.

Possible Democratic candidates include state Rep. Carol Alvarado and former Harris County Commissioner Sylvia Garcia. At a victory party for Gallegos on Tuesday, Alvarado said she would wait a few days to discuss her plans.

“Tonight is about Mario, to savor his victory,” she said of the former firefighter who served 22 years in the state Legislature.

The win by Sen. Davis removes any incentive Rick Perry may have had to drag his feet on calling a special election to fill the vacancy in SD06. Which doesn’t mean he’ll snap to it, just that the practical effect in the Senate is minimized. If Rep. Alvarado runs and wins, there would then need to be another special election in HD145. I was going to say we’re getting way ahead of ourselves, but then this happened.

The morning after his posthumous victory party, the late state Sen. Mario Gallegos, D-Houston, got his dying wish when his choice to succeed him announced her intention to seek the seat he held since 1994.

State Rep. Carol Alvarado, who was re-elected to her House seat without opposition Tuesday, announced her candidacy for the Senate seat in an email Wednesday.


Alvarado is expected to formally announce her candidacy at an event with members of Gallegos’ family on Monday.

Here’s the email. All I know is that I like both Rep. Alvarado and Sylvia Garcia, and I’m glad I was redistricted out of SD06 so I don’t have to choose between them. In the meantime, I salute Sen. Gallegos and his family for his life and his service, and once Perry gives the go-ahead I look forward to a worthy successor being elected to fill his seat in Austin.

More on Ashby Heights

That’s not this project‘s name, but it’s how I think of it.

Canadian developers of a condominium project on a wooded 1.4-acre plot near the Heights Bike Trail and White Oak Bayou late have dropped their request for a variance to develop the site – thereby allowing the city of Houston far less control over their revised plans.

Suzy Hartgrove, spokeswoman for Houston’s planning & development department, confirmed to The Leader that The Viewpoint at The Heights, L.P., altered its plans for “Emes Place” and will now construct a public street over a bridge and install a cul de sac. Earlier plans had called for a private street that would have required a variance and allowed the Planning & Zoning Commission some latitude in approving the project.

Now, said Hartgrove, if the plans meet minimum standards of Chapter 42 of the city’s Code of Ordinances, the commission will have no choice legally but to approve it.

While the initial plans for the property, which borders the hike-and-bike trail and Fifth Street, were for 84 condo units, Hartgrove said the new plans have not specified the density.

City staff was reviewing the new plans to make a recommendation to the Planning Commission, and Hartgrove said she expected it to be on the agenda on Thursday of this week.

See here for the background. I have heard that folks in the neighborhood are pushing for the Planning Department to defer this decision for a month to investigate the developer’s claims about meeting Chapter 42 standards. I think that’s a fine idea, because there’s no other mechanism to put a check on this unloved project if one is needed. Surely it’s part of the process for the city to verify claims about meeting code standards, right? It’s on you now, Planning Department.

On a tangential note, in the event this thing does eventually get built, I have to wonder about the type of person who would want to buy a unit in it. As with the Ashby Highrise, any cursory research on a buyer’s part would make them realize that the vast majority of their new neighbors-to-be despise the building they’re about to move into, and probably will not have very warm feelings towards them as well, at least at first. Maybe it’s just me, but I would feel like that’s a significant negative, more than enough to make me consider other options. These are nice neighborhoods, but they’re not the only nice neighborhoods, and if you can afford a condo in either of these developments, you definitely have other possibilities available to you. What do you think?

UPDATE: Via CM Ellen Cohen’s office, this is what the Planning Department has said regarding Emes Place:

Inner Loop has now revised their plans in order to comply with Chapter 42 of the City’s Code of Ordinances, which governs this type of development. PD has determined that their application now meets the minimum requirements for Planning Commission approval, and the Commission is required by law to approve a subdivision plat application that meets these minimum requirements. This item will be considered by the Commission for a final vote this afternoon and, due to deadlines established by state law, cannot be deferred until a later date.

However, the subdivision plat is only the first step in the development process and any development moving forward must still meet all applicable City requirements. For instance, plans for the street build-out must meet the Public Works and Engineering (PWE) Department’s Infrastructure and Design Manual criteria. No plans for the street have yet been submitted, and when they are, PWE will evaluate to determine if the criteria are met (it is not in the Planning Commission’s purview to determine whether those standards are met.) This will give the City another opportunity to examine whether the developer meets the necessary requirements.

Additionally, the indication on the submitted plat of “future right of way” is being removed. No such right of way has been dedicated, and the City has no intention of buying or condemning any right of way for a private project.

So there you have it.

Tomorrow is the last day to submit comments to TxDOT on I-45

From the inbox:

Dear Neighbors –

TxDOT has plans for I-45, which will impact you!  If you ever drive on I-45; if you live or work near the I-45 Corridor; if you live or work in the Heights, Old Sixth Ward, First Ward, Near North Side, Montrose, Midtown or Downtown – you will be impacted! The Public Comment Deadline for this project is Friday, November 9th.

You must tell TxDOT what you want or don’t want, or TxDOT will do what THEY want! Please comment online and oppose the IH-45 expansion and consider agreeing with the Coalition’s alternatives for our neighborhoods! You can copy below and paste directly to TxDOT’s on-line link below.  Please add your own viewpoints about the expansion. Volume of response counts!!! Comment as often as you like and please forward to others! If you do not agree with the Coalition’s selection – that’s OK too – it is very important that you let TxDOT know your thoughts.

You can go to this link for complete maps of each segment and summary of alternatives at . The I-45 Coalition opposes the expansion in general but we have selected alternatives that are preferred for the least impact to our neighborhoods and businesses.

To see our reasons for our decisions – please look at the end of this document.

To leave your comments, go to this link:

Suggested comments:

I think that spending over $2 BILLION of taxpayer’s money (in 2004 dollars) to get an improvement of only 3 MPH in general traffic lanes is a HUGE waste of money. In addition, TxDOT is using traffic data that is over 12 years old (from 2000) that probably does not reflect the current traffic situation we are facing today. I am against spending ANY money until TxDOT updates their traffic studies and determines cost-effective solutions to today’s congestion. However, if TxDOT proceeds, the following alternatives are the best that have been proposed to minimize additional right-of-way (ROW) and protect neighborhoods and businesses.

Segment 1: I-45 from Beltway to Loop 610

I am in Favor of Alternatives 3 & 3c; 7 & 8.  With Alternatives 7 & 8, TxDOT must provide noise abatement on all elevated structures to reduce increased noise levels. I am opposed to Alternatives 4, 5 & 6 because they require an additional 150’ of ROW which would destroy or devastate existing businesses and/or homes.

Segment 2: I-45 from Loop 610 to I-10

I am in Favor of Alternatives 15, 14 & 10.  I am opposed to Alternatives 3, 11 & 12

Segment 3: I-45 thru Downtown / Pierce Elevated / 59

I am in Favor of Alternative 4 (but TxDOT needs to add exit to I-45), Alt. 5 (TxDOT must move away from the Historic Neighborhoods & Alt. 6 (TxDOT needs to add exit to 59).  I am opposed to Alternatives 3, 7 & 10.

That’s all you need to say – please send your comments to before the deadline of Friday, November 9th.

Thank you for staying involved! This is a critical time for this project!

Jim Weston

I-45 Coalition


Here are reasons for our decisions and a brief description of the alternatives:

Segment 1 We are in favor of Alt. 3 & 3c = This alternative adds 2 additional lanes on Hardy and requires only 14’ additional feet right-of-way (ROW).  Alt. 3c adds 4 elevated managed lanes on 2 structures on Beltway 8, 2 in each direction and requires an additional 100’ ROW – 50’ from each direction.

Alt. 7 Adds 4 managed lanes on one elevated structure in middle of I-45 and increases feeder streets from 2 lanes to 3 lanes in each direction. Requires an additional 60’ of ROW – 30’ from each side.  We like this Alternative ONLY if TxDOT provides noise abatement on ALL elevated structures to reduce noise levels.

Alt. 8 – Adds 4 managed lanes on 2 separate elevated structures on left and right sides of centerlines. Increases feeder streets from 2 lanes to 3 lanes in each direction. Requires an additional 50’ of ROW – 25’ from each side.  We like this Alternative ONLY if TxDOT provides noise abatement on ALL elevated structures to reduce noise levels.

We oppose Alt. 4, 5 or 6 because all of these require 150’ additional ROW – either all from the West or from the East or 75’ split over both East & West.

Segment 2 We are in favor of Alt. 15 = On 610 to Elysian/Hardy , this adds 4 managed lanes on 2 separate elevated structures on left and right sides of centerline with no increase of ROW.  We like this Alternative ONLY if TxDOT provides sound walls for noise abatement from elevated lanes including landscaping.  On Hardy, it will require an additional 24’ ROW and provide 2 additional lanes; 1 inbound & 1 outbound.

Alt. 14 – No additional ROW required on I-45. Existing roadway stays the same and a bored tunnel is added to carry 4 managed lanes within the I-45 ROW.

Alt. 10 – No additional ROW required on I-45. The roadway that is below grade level is widened to include 4 managed lanes while staying within ROW. The roadway below grade level is covered with concrete beams for a solid surface at grade level. Includes two 15’ outside bike lanes. We like this Alternative ONLY if TxDOT converts this new surface area into usable green space and/or park land.

We oppose Alt. 11 & 12 because these both require elevated structures for the managed lanes which will increase noise and sight pollution.

Segment 3 We are in favor of Alt. 4 = No additional ROW required. This Alt. provides a bored tunnel which has 4 managed lanes from an extension of Elysian/Hardy at the North, goes under La Branch and Crawford and terminates at the US 59/SH 288 interchange. We like this Alternative ONLY if TxDOT adds an exit to I-45.

Alt. 5 – No additional ROW required. This Alt. provides a bored tunnel which has 4 managed lanes that tunnels under I-45 then continues under Bagby and terminates at Spur 527. We like this Alternative ONLY if TxDOT moves the tunnel further away from Historic Districts Avondale West, Audubon Place or First Montrose. We also want an exit to I-45.

Alt. 6 – No additional ROW required. This Alt. provides a bored tunnel which has 4 managed lanes that tunnels under I-45 then continues under Jefferson and terminates at I-45 south of the I-45/US 59 interchange. We like this Alternative ONLY if TxDOT adds an exit to US 59.

We oppose Alt. 3 – converting Pierce Elevated and part of US 59 and I-10 into the world’s largest round-a-bout would be a waste of time & fuel and would drive excess amounts of traffic to surface roads and neighborhoods. We oppose Alt. 7 – we do not want any tunnel going under or thru historic neighborhoods including Houston Avenue.

See here and here for the background. Speak now or forever hold your peace.