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March 4th, 2014:

Watching election results

I’m going to do my best to follow election results tonight, and will post updates as I can here. I’ve got family obligations this evening, and with polling locations opening late in some counties like Travis, I have no idea when we may start to see statewide results or when I may be able to write about them. I suspect I’ll just be up really late tonight and/or up even earlier tomorrow morning to post what I can about outcomes. Analysis and commentary will follow, likely starting on Thursday. Feel free to add what you know in the comments as we go. See you later.

UPDATE 6:20 PM: Via email from Stan Stanart, GOP results may be posted late due to precinct conventions, which will be held after polls close. Democrats are doing their precinct conventions later, so presumably their results will be posted on time.

UPDATE 7:20 PM: Very early results from the Secretary of State show David Alameel over 50% in the Senate primary. Kesha Rogers is second, with Maxey Scherr a not-too-distant third. Either Alameel finishing over 50% or Scherr passing Rogers would be nice. Nothing from Harris County yet. If Stan Stanart is gonna make us wait on Dem results till after the Republican precinct conventions are over, I’m gonna be upset.

UPDATE 7:33 PM: How is it that the Secretary of State has Harris County early vote totals, but the Harris County Clerk doesn’t? Curse you, Stan Stanart!

Oh, and who are these people voting for Jim Hogan in the Ag Commissioner race?

UPDATE 7:42 PM: Finally, Harris County Dem early voting totals. Whitmire, Alma Allen, and Carol Alvarado are all cruising. Kim Ogg has 71% (whew!), and Steven Kirkland is neck and neck with Lori Gray.

UPDATE 8:15 PM: El Paso early results are in. Rep. Mary Gonzalez has 68%, which is excellent. This is Maxey Scherr’s best result so far, but the main effect of it may be to push David Alameel below 50%. Still early, however, and I suspect Alameel will do better on Election Day thanks to the wave of anti-Kesha Rogers sentiment from the party plus Alameel’s mail efforts. I voted for Maxey and I hope she’ll run for something again, but right now keeping Rogers from climbing into a runoff is job one.

Rep. Marc Veasey in CD33 is cruising, but State Rep. Lon Burnam trails by 14 votes before any precinct results are in.

UPDATE 9:20 PM: I’m watching the Rockets game now as I follow the results. Because that’s how I multitask.

UPDATE 9:45 PM: Rockets win! But it’s not looking like a good night for the Texas Parent PAC. Incumbents Lance Gooden, Diane Patrick, and Bennett Ratliff are losing, though mostly by small amounts. Several challengers – Mike Novak, Andy Cargile, and Steve Massengale – lost badly, as did open seat contestants Bruce Tough and Ann Hodge. One challenger, Gary VanDeaver, is leading, and a couple of open seat contenders in multi-candidate races appear headed to runoffs. Overall, a lower batting average for them than what we’ve seen lately, and a potentially significant win for opponents of public education.

UPDATE 10:30 PM: Democratic Rep. Lon Burnam in HD90 has lost. I’m bummed.

Primary Day is today

Today is the day when we begin to get a temporary respite from the mailers, robocalls, and TV/radio ads, as the people who didn’t vote early make their way to the ballot box for the primaries. In Harris County, a list of Democratic polling places is here and a list of Republican polling places is here. Note that some precincts are combined into one location, and that at some locations only one party primary is voting. Check where you need to go before you head out. If you’re not sure what precinct you’re in, it’s on your voter registration card or you can look yourself up here. And yes, remember to bring your acceptable form of photo ID.

A lot of the higher profile races are really just finishing up Round One today. On the Republican side, all of the statewides except Governor, Land Commissioner, and most likely US Senate are expected to go to a runoff. That’s what I meant by a “temporary respite” from the campaigns. They’ll crank right back up after a day or two and keep at it until May. Democrats have two multi-candidate statewide races, for US Senate and Ag Commissioner. If the former gets any attention it’ll be because Kesha Rogers is one of the candidates. Won’t that be fun if it happens? Here in Harris County, Republicans will likely have to finish sorting out races in CD36, HD129, HD132, the 311th Family District Court, County Criminal Court at Law #10, Justice of the Peace Precinct 4 Place 2, and possibly Party Chair. All but the 311th and Party Chair are open seats, which tend to draw multiple candidates. Dems had no such vacancies this cycle, so the only runoff voting we’ll face will be in the statewide races.

I’ve discussed the matter of turnout in prior entries about early voting, but this AP story suggests the efforts of Battleground Texas will be judged by how many Dems wind up voting this March.

Sen. Wendy Davis

Sen. Wendy Davis

The March 4 Democratic primary will reveal how much the group has accomplished on the road to the general election in November.

Democrats hope to make Texas a battleground state by 2016 to, at the very least, force the GOP to divert resources to preserving their hold on the second largest number of electoral college seats in the country. If Democrats could routinely win in Texas, along with their strongholds in California and New York, they could hold the White House for years to come.

But no Democrat has won a statewide election since 1994, and participation in the primary, as a percentage of the state’s population, has steadily dropped to 590,000 in 2012. The one exception was the 2008 primary, in which Obama faced off against Hillary Clinton, a race that brought out a record 2.8 million voters.

“It gives you a sense of what is possible if you have very competitive mobilization efforts going on,” said James Henson, a political scientist at the University of Texas at Austin, an expert on voter behavior in Texas.

“There’s a chicken and egg question, do you get people mobilized and then you get more competitive races? Or do you get more competitive races, and then that helps mobilize people?”


[E]xpectations for [today]’s primary have been tamped down by the fact that Davis doesn’t face a serious Democratic challenger. Greg Abbott, the state attorney general, is the presumptive Republican nominee for governor.

[BGT Executive Director Jenn] Brown said the group is far more focused on turning out the vote in November, when Battleground Texas will fully activate the neighborhood networks to staff phone banks, knock on doors and help Democratic voters get to the polls.

Weather may be a factor in turnout today, which is another reason why I make a habit of voting early. Check with your county election administrator before you head out – polling hours may vary, and polling locations may be combined due to weather issues.

Brian Sweany also talked turnout:

[D]espite the money and the open seats and the general buzz in the media, new voters aren’t paying much attention. In the 2012 Republican primary, nearly 1.45 million ballots were cast for president. In the 2010 Republican primary, just fewer than 1.5 million ballots were cast for governor. Greg Abbott will be the single-biggest vote getter from any candidate from either party, but he wants to see his number as high as possible to emphasize the story line of inevitability (I remain convinced that at least part of the Ted Nugent strategy on the first day of early voting was connected to this). Wendy Davis, on the other hand, wants to be able to beat the numbers for the 2012 Democratic primary (590,000 votes) or 2010 Democratic primary (680,000 votes), which will help her advance the story line of a resurgence in her party. If her vote totals slip, it shows that nothing has changed in her party.

It would be kind of funny if Baby Bush winds up getting more votes than Abbott, wouldn’t it? He has only one opponent, which makes that outcome at least a possibility. I don’t doubt that Davis would like to see more votes cast than in either of the last two primaries, but I don’t think it matters that much. As I’ve noted before, where turnout is up for Dems from 2010 in early voting is in the counties with the hottest local races – Bexar, Dallas, Travis, and Tarrant, thanks to CD33 and SD10. Turnout is down in Harris County, as there are basically three more-or-less high profile primaries – for DA, where Kim Ogg is trying to keep Lloyd Oliver from soiling the ticket again; SD15, where Sen. John Whitmire faces his first real challenger in forever; and the 113th Civil District Court, also known as Steven Kirkland versus George Fleming, Round II – but it’s not down that much. When you consider that in 2010, there was Bill White for Governor, drumming up votes in his back yard, a decent three-way race for Lite Guv, a high profile challenge to Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee in CD18, Round 3 of Borris Miles versus Al Edwards, and thirty (!) contested judicial primaries, Dem turnout in Harris ain’t too shabby. Go compare to the 2006 primary, which like this year had contested races for Governor, US Senate, and Ag Commissioner (plus Lite Guv) and Round 1 of Miles v Edwards, and you’ll see what “low turnout” really looks like.

Anyway. There will be plenty to talk about beginning tomorrow, once all the results are in. For a look at some GOP races to watch, check out Burka and the Observer. Feel free to leave your predictions about turnout, winners, and whatever else in the comments.

We want Dan!

We say we do, anyway.

“Oozing charm from every pore I oiled my way around the floor”

Ask Democratic Sen. Leticia Van de Putte which Republican candidate for lieutenant governor she would like to battle in the general election — incumbent David Dewhurst, Houston Sen. Dan Patrick, Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson or Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples — and you will get a guarded answer: “I’ll be ready for all four of them.”

Coyly, however, she admits Patrick “would probably be more fun.”

Democratic consultants and political analysts not associated with her campaign are more straightforward. They say Patrick’s Republican primary campaign has provided a possible path to victory for Van de Putte, who undoubtedly will capitalize on the Houston talk show host’s harsh immigration rhetoric.

His campaign ads include stern warnings about an “invasion” from Mexico, and he vehemently opposes “amnesty” for anyone who entered the country illegally. In a previous Texas Senate campaign, Patrick warned that undocumented immigrants brought such communicable diseases as leprosy with them — an unsubstantiated claim.

Grace Garcia, executive director of Annie’s List, cited Patrick’s record on women’s issues as another vulnerability for the general election: Many suburban women may be motivated to vote Democratic rather than support Patrick, who unflinchingly opposes abortion in all instances, she said.

Patrick sponsored legislation requiring woman to obtain sonograms before abortions — a popular issue in the GOP primary, but less so among more moderate voters who participate in a general election, she said.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if she was saying a novena or two in his (Patrick’s) interest,” Democratic consultant Dan McClung said.

I basically agree with this, and I daresay so do many Democrats. Patrick is the smarmy embodiment of everything the Democrats are trying to run against this cycle – the hostile-to-Latinos, contemptuous-of-women, ideology-first Republican that has no interest in solving problems. It’s easy enough to imagine him losing enough bits and pieces of Republican support – Latino Republicans like Massey Villarreal, business interests that depend on immigrant labor like the Texas Farm Bureau, maybe some of those suburban women Wendy Davis is also trying to woo – to lose the election. There’s also the fact that a lot of Republicans just flat out don’t like Dan Patrick. Politics is as much about personality as it is anything else, and politicians that are seen as being more about themselves than anything else are generally not as popular with their peers as the team players are. There are show horses and there are work horses, and Patrick’s a show horse all the way. I strongly suspect the number of Republicans that won’t be too unhappy to see him fall on his face is higher than average.

Having said all that, this is a classic case of being careful what you wish for. Patrick may be more likely than the other Republican Lite Guv candidates to lose to Van de Putte, but that doesn’t mean that he is likely to lose. Any Republican is the clear favorite to win until we get more reliable polling evidence that says otherwise. If Dan Patrick is the Lite Guv nominee we want the most, he’s also the one we want to see get elected the least. It’s high risk, high reward. As the underdog we have to take those odds, but we also have to keep the stakes in perspective. Texpatriate has more.

HFD union reaches a deal with the city to avoid “rolling brownouts”

From the Inbox:

Houston Professional Fire Fighters Association (HPFFA) President Bryan Sky-Eagle joined Mayor Annise Parker this morning to announce a tentative agreement on an interim contract that will avoid the brown-outs of fire apparatus proposed earlier to solve an $8.5 million overtime shortfall at the Houston Fire Department.

“I want to thank the union for working with us to help find a solution for this situation,” said Mayor Parker.  “This is an example of what can happen when both sides are willing to negotiate in good faith.  Through productive give-and-take we were able to develop a short-term agreement that will be beneficial to the rank and file while also allowing us to deal with the overtime issue and avoid the need for idling any of our fire trucks.”

The interim pact, which still needs to be voted on by City Council and the union membership, calls for elimination of guaranteed holidays through June 30, 2014 and other changes designed to control overtime costs going forward.  In addition, based on a Fiscal Year 2014 wage reopener clause in the existing 2011 contract, firefighters will receive a two-percent across-the-board pay increase and a one-time uniform allowance with a total value of $3.64 million.  The city is agreeing to keep all fire trucks in service, provided that the two-week average of unscheduled absences does not exceed 35 members per day.  Should this two-week average be exceeded, the city reserves the right to remove units from service. Daily staffing levels will also determine whether the seven ambulances removed from service on February 25, 2014 will be placed back in service or remain idled every day through the end of the fiscal year.

“We are showing good faith with this pay raise and commitment to keeping apparatus in service,” said Parker. “I am asking the fire fighters out in the field to also show good faith by showing up for work, as scheduled.”

When asked about the interim agreement, Sky-Eagle said, “This is a win for the citizens of Houston and the firefighters are proud to work with Chief Garrison and the mayor to stop any further EMS units and fire apparatus from being removed from service.” Sky-Eagle stated, “End of the day, the firefighters knew that public and firefighter safety was more important than the timing of receiving benefits we had earned,” referring to the push of a uniform allowance into Fiscal Year 2015, freeing up authorized money for use in staffing apparatus.

The interim agreement also includes the following provisions:

  • An improved work schedule program will continue to be developed and will be implemented in the first full pay period following July 1, 2014
  • A four-year payout, instead of a lump sum termination payment, for retiring firefighters, at least through the remainder of FY14
  • An agreement by both parties that a future collective bargaining agreement will include the elimination of the District Vacation Bank concept beginning with the vacation scheduling for 2015
  • A five percent cap on guaranteed holidays from July 1, 2014 to the end of the future collective bargaining agreement the two sides anticipate reaching

Subject to expedited approval by the rank and file and City Council, the interim agreement will be in effect through the end of the current fiscal year on June 30, 2014.  In the meantime, negotiations will continue on a new three-year contract that would be effective July 1, 2014.  Both sides are pledging to continue good faith progress on wages, incentives and other staffing proposals that will reduce the possibility of another overtime crisis.

See here and here for the background. I’m glad they got this worked out. I doubt anyone wanted the “rolling brownouts” to happen, but there had to be some way of ensuring enough non-overtime coverage so the budget wouldn’t get blown. Kudos to all for getting this done.

Endorsement watch: The Chron still loves Orlando

They don’t love him enough to endorse him during or before early voting, but they do still love him.

Orlando Sanchez

[Republican] primary voters should give [County Treasurer Orlando] Sanchez a place on the November ballot.

Sanchez, 62, is a former three-term member of Houston City Council and two-time unsuccessful candidate for mayor, but he seems to have settled in well as county treasurer. While the duties of the treasurer’s office have been reduced to balancing the county checkbook, cutting checks and accounting for funds, Sanchez has also served as a reasonable voice against some government habits that deserve a second look.

Whether questioning Metro’s use of GO TEXANS marquees on buses or bringing attention to the county losing millions in credit swaps, Sanchez isn’t afraid to speak up where he thinks he has a duty. We wish he’d bark even louder as a county watchdog, even if there is a legislative muzzle over his office’s bite. Sanchez told the Chronicle he didn’t think it was his job to weigh in on commissioners’ individual spending choices, but an independent treasurer shouldn’t be afraid to provide independent opinions.

Just curious here, but do you think anyone on the Chron’s editorial board could name even one thing besides the “GO TEXANS” kerfuffle that Orlando Sanchez has done in his eight years as Treasurer? Here’s a suggestion of something they could have asked him about during their screening:

Sanchez hopes to reclaim the office’s past role in overseeing county investments, an idea with added momentum due to the legal problems of the current chief financial officer. To that end Sanchez completed a required investment education course to be certified as a county investment officer under the Texas Public Funds Investment Act.

That’s from the Chron’s 2010 general election endorsement of ol’ Orlando. Anyone know if he took any steps toward achieving that goal in the past four years? Anyone want to guess if the Chron asked him about it? But hey, he sure was on top of that issue of bus marquees. I wonder what accomplishment he’ll tout for the November endorsement screening.

By the way, if you click through the photo gallery in this story, you’ll see the Chron’s complete list of endorsements for the primary, not counting Sanchez and James Cargas. I guess that means the Chron officially took no position in the Democratic primary for County Clerk. Whether that was by accident or design, I have no idea.