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August 20th, 2013:

Interview with David Robinson

David Robinson

David Robinson

Running against CM Burks in At Large #2 is David Robinson, which makes this a rematch of sorts from 2011, as both men ran in AL2 that year, though Robinson did not make the runoff. I had suggested a long time ago that a challenge to a first-term At Large member might offer a better chance at victory than a multi-candidate open seat race. Perhaps we’ll find out. Robinson is an architect and neighborhood activist, having been President of the Neartown Association and the citywide Super Neighborhood Alliance. He has also served on the City of Houston Planning Commission under Mayors Bill White and Annise Parker. Here’s what we talked about:

David Robinson interview

You can see all of my interviews as well as finance reports and other information on candidates on my 2013 Election page.

On the matter of money

This story is about the strong desire among Dems for Sen. Wendy Davis to run for Governor, but it touches on a subject that inevitably comes up whenever the subject is running statewide in Texas.

Sen. Wendy Davis

Sen. Wendy Davis

A campaign for governor would cost $30 million to $40 million, said [Matt] Angle. Davis raised $4 million for her last re-election bid, he said. That was before she gained national prominence with her Senate filibuster against tighter state abortion restrictions.

Since then, she’s had appearances and raised money inside and outside Texas. Her latest campaign finance report showed she had raised $933,000 in the last two weeks in June – including more than 15,000 contributions of $250 or less – and had just over $1 million in cash on hand.

She also got some sizable donations, notably $50,000 from Annie’s List, which is dedicated to electing “progressive Democratic women” and launched WeWantWendyDavis.com this week; and $100,000 from Fort Worth oil man Sid Bass.

But she will need a lot more if she seeks the Democratic nomination for governor. Attorney General Greg Abbott, the top contender for the GOP nod to succeed Gov. Rick Perry, reported cash on hand of nearly $21 million. He’s sure to raise much more.

Political scientist Cal Jillson of Southern Methodist University said a credible race could be run for something over $20 million – “the low 20s” – still a big number for a Texas Democrat.

“Texas Democrats over the last 20 years or so have been famous for their short little arms that are good for clapping, but never reach their wallet,” Jillson said.

Just for grins, I went back and took a look at all of Bill White’s finance reports from 2010, since no one questioned his ability to raise money, to see how much he actually did raise over the course of his gubernatorial campaign. Here are the amounts raised from each of his finance reports:

Filing Raised ===================== Jan 2010 6,216,933 Feb 30 day 755,067 Feb 8 day 2,221,666 JUly 2010 7,447,799 Oct 30 day 4,687,096 Oct 8 day 3,698,631 Jan 2011 1,241,875

Note that the January 2011 report includes donations made between the reporting deadline for the 8 day report and Election Day. Add this all up and it comes out to just over $26 million, $26,269,067 to be annoyingly precise. Whatever you thought about the White campaign, they had a full statewide presence and ran plenty of TV ads. I’ve not heard anyone claim they ran on a shoestring. Things are likely a bit more expensive now, but this is a reasonable ballpark. Note that unlike White, Davis has had a huge run of national press leading up to her (presumed) campaign announcement, and would go into this race with much higher name ID than White had; I’ve lost the cite for this, but I could swear I saw a recent poll that suggested she has higher name ID right now than Greg Abbott does. That has a lot of value. Be all that as it may, I am not worried about Davis’ ability to fundraise for this race. If she gets in, she’ll get the resources she’ll need. Jillson has a point, but I don’t believe it will apply in this case.

Stay classy, Greg Abbott

From over the weekend.

A Twitter poster who called Wendy Davis an “idiot” and “retard Barbie,” and said Greg Abbott would demolish her in the governor’s election, got a thank-you from Abbott’s campaign also via Twitter.

The exchange prompted a flurry of people on Twitter to suggest that Abbott should have refuted the offensive language instead of giving a shout out to the poster.

The poster, @jefflegal, frequently comments on political events and ridicules liberals. He had little patience for those who criticized his name-calling. He said he was using irony and “loved hearing complaints from liberals.”

Here’s the exchange:

The story has already gone national. Abbott, who according to TrailBlazers writes all his own tweets, later attempted to back away a bit:

Nor, apparently, will he condemn such language – and remember, even Sarah Palin considers the word “retarded” to be offensive. Look, Greg Abbott isn’t responsible for what a troglodyte like that has to say, but once he engages with him like that, it’s fair game. Abbott could have easily ignored him – it’s not like being tweeted at demands a response – but if he does choose to respond, the nature of his response, and what wasn’t said, is open to scrutiny. I will simply note that one of the keys to a Wendy Davis victory next year is a nice, big gender gap. It’s fine by me if Abbott and his Barbie-obsessed Twitter supporters keep on doing their best to make that happen.

One more thing, from this Trib story about the perils of candidates/officeholders doing unsupervised tweeting:

An Abbott source who spoke on condition of anonymity said the attorney general did not read the full message (and in particular, the offensive language) before expressing his gratitude.

What, was the tweet too long for him to make it all the way to the end? Maybe Twitter needs to reconsider that 140 character limit. Texas Politics, BOR, and dKos have more.

UPDATE: Despite giving Abbott more credit than he deserves, the DMN editorial board nails it.

From Shelby to Pasadena

You might have noticed this Chron editorial from last week.

Pasadena City Council

After former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay’s fall from grace, we thought that Texas politicians would know better than pursue mid-decade redistricting. Not so in Pasadena, where Mayor Johnny Isbell is trying to change Pasadena’s city council districts.

Isbell proposed last month to replace two of Pasadena’s single-member districts with two at-large seats. The Bond/Charter Review Committee recommended against moving forward with the changes, at least for the upcoming election. But the proposal alone is distressing enough. Historically, replacing districts with at-large seats has been used to discriminatory ends, and such moves are often blocked by the Department of Justice. Only a few months ago, that would have been the case here. Not anymore. For decades, the Voting Rights Act has been a useful speed bump in Texas. Due to our history of discrimination, any alteration to voting laws or processes had to be approved by the Department of Justice. When the Supreme Court struck down the part of the VRA that based preclearance requirements on past discrimination, it busted open a hole in that wall, and Texas politicians have wasted no time to climb through.

This newfound lack of federal oversight allows local politicians to implement maps that threaten to discriminate against minority voters. The current individual districts in Pasadena allow large, compact and politically cohesive minority populations to elect the representatives of their choice. Replacing these districts with at-large seats could dilute minority voting power, submerging the voting-bloc in a sea of majority voters.

I’ve been peripherally aware of this, but I can’t claim to have followed it closely. I got an email from Pasadena Council Member Ornaldo Ybarra, whom I interviewed in 2012 when he ran for the Legislature, alerting me to this. Pasadena did a normal redistricting process in 2011 that wound up being quite contentious amid allegations that Pasadena Mayor Isbell was driving it with an eye towards furthering his own political ends by drawing his opponents out of their districts. (Stace noted this last year; there’s more here.) I’m told that there’s a 4-4 partisan split on Council (Mayor Isbell is a Republican), with the Mayor being a tiebreaking vote on some issues. An attempt to reduce the number of district seats from 8 to 6, with two At Large seats, was quashed by the Justice Department, but barring a bail-in to Section 3 preclearance by the courts, that plan is now back in play.

In fact, it’s on the agenda for tonight’s Pasadena City Council meeting (agenda item F, on page 5, in the section beginning “(2) First Readings”). Neither a search of Google or the Chron’s archives found much on the history of this, but here’s a Your Houston news story about what is on tap for tonight.

The short road to a destination that finalizes what will be on the November ballot in Pasadena has had plenty of bends and even u-turns.

In July, a quickly assembled citizen committee considering bonds and charter revisions met publicly and privately. They recommended bonds only, not charter revisions for the November ballot.

At last Tuesday’s (August 13) council meeting, after three councilmembers spoke for a slimmer bond package and lost, and the original proposal passed, Mayor Johnny Isbell said he “…doesn’t understand how anyone can vote against the bonds.”

Then, Thursday (August 15), Isbell wrote a memo with another twist; forget the bonds for now. Instead, we’re going to consider charter amendments.

With two readings needed to get it approved and a Harris County election deadline fast approaching, Isbell has put the charter amendments on the Tuesday (August 20) agenda and also called a Special Council Meeting for Thursday morning (August 22) at 8 a.m. to get it done.

In his Thursday memo from to councilmembers and the citizen committee obtained by The Pasadena Citizen, Isbell states, “As a result of opposition to the bond proposal by three Members of Council, I have elected to withdraw the proposed ordinance,” and, “If the representatives don’t present a united plan, then voters are concerned and many may be unwilling to commit the tax dollars necessary to improve neighborhoods they know nothing about.

“How could we persuade a voter who lives in Village Grove to support spending millions of dollars in the Gardens or Deepwater areas if the representatives of those neighborhoods oppose such expenditures. I find the task of convincing voters, under such circumstances, to be daunting.”

Also in the memo, Isbell praised the work of the Bond/Charter Review Committee, as the rest of council has publicly done, then he added, “However, in view of the Committee’s hard work, I am proposing an election to amend the Charter.”

Isbell wrote that charter changes don’t require as high a standard of unanimity as bonds do.

“The Committee proposed four changes to the Charter and I am adding a proposed fifth change which deals with redistricting,” Isbell wrote.

So if you have any interest in this, you might want to head over to Pasadena City Hall this evening at 6:30 to watch the proceedings. As noted in that story, there are some other things going on as well – see this Easter Lemming Facebook post for more.

Like I said, I’ve not followed this closely, and the details are a bit fuzzy to me, so please forgive the lack of data. But look at it this way: If Mayor Parker – or any Houston mayor – suddenly announced the need to redraw Houston’s Council districts, and produced a map that she herself had drawn without input from Council, wouldn’t you be suspicious? And if that map just happened to draw a couple of her persistent critics out of their seats, wouldn’t that look even more hinky? That’s what appears to be going on in Pasadena. And if it happens there, you can expect it to happen elsewhere, too.