Texas on the Potomac lists 11 national races of interest for 2011. Well, of interest to some – outside of the Dallas Mayoral race, none of these mean much to me, and that’s only if incumbent Tom Leppart leaves to pursue the Senate or draws a real challenger. (Here’s a good overview of the Dallas races, if you want to know more about them.) What I care about is the races that will be on Houston ballots this November. Here’s an early look at what will be up and what we may have to look forward to.
Obviously, the biggest race, if there is one. For a wide variety of reasons, Mayor Annise Parker is not in the same position that Bill White was six years ago, when he was set to cruise to a 90% total against a handful of nobodies. Still, Parker may or may not face a real challenger – while a number of names have been mentioned as possibilities, no one has named a treasurer or taken any other formal steps to take her on. The person most consistently mentioned as a possible opponent is Council Member C.O. Bradford, but I have my doubts that there’s anything to this, mostly because Bradford has not been a strong fundraiser in his prior campaigns, and because I have my doubts he would have much broad appeal. I think if someone doesn’t go on the record with at least a statement that he or she is “exploring” a Mayoral candidacy by the end of this month, we can expect Parker to have a clear path to a second term.
The last year in which a sitting City Controller had an election opponent was 1997, when Sylvia Garcia knocked off Lloyd Kelley. I don’t expect anything different this year, so go ahead and pencil in Ronald Green for another term.
City Council At Large
Only one open At Large seat, the one currently held by CM Sue Lovell. I expect a big field for that seat – there are already two candidates that have made their ambitions known, Jenifer Pool and HCC Trustee Michael Williams, with several others known to be talking about it. Unlike 2009, when incumbent At Large members Lovell and Jolanda Jones were forced into runoffs before winning re-election, I don’t expect any current incumbents to face serious challenges. Someone may take a crack at Jones, but if they couldn’t take her out in 2009, I don’t expect them to do so in 2011. If CM Bradford is planning to run for Mayor, then of course there would be a second open At Large seat, in which case you may see some people shift races, and some more people jump in. I don’t really expect this to happen, but until it’s been ruled out anything is possible.
City Council district seats
2011 is the year that Council is increased to 11 district members, with new boundaries being drawn for all seats. Two current incumbents – Jarvis Johnson in B, and Anne Clutterbuck in C – are term-limited out, so there will be at least four open seats in play. With City Prop 2, which would have authorized a one-time change to the residency requirement to six months from the usual 12, being defeated, if you’re not already in the Council district you hope to run for, it’s too late. What that suggests to me is that every reasonable step will be taken to ensure that the remaining seven district incumbents can run again in those districts, leaving B and C to be sliced and diced freely if need be.
Questions to ponder before Census data comes in and the sausage-making process begins:
1. Will there be a third Latino district drawn, as some activists have hoped/demanded? Given the low level of Latino participation in city elections, and the wide dispersal of Latinos across the city, I think that’s a mighty tall order. The thing to watch for is if someone actually produces a map that they say would elect three Latinos to district seats. Without that, don’t expect there to be a serious attempt at achieving this.
2. Will there be a “gay-friendly” district in central Houston that (among other things) separates Montrose from District D and unites it with the Heights? Greg took a crack at drawing such a thing, and discussed some of the difficulties in doing so. As with a Latino district, I expect there will be some pressure for this to happen. You’ll note, by the way, that the map Greg drew had a Latino population of about 35%, which will likely be higher when the 2010 data is in. Not enough to get a Latino elected by itself, perhaps, but a decent starting point for a base.
3. Will the successor to the current District F be preserved as an “Asian” district? Between MJ Khan and Al Hoang, F has certainly functioned as an Asian district, however it was intended to be. This seems likely to happen, partly because it would be in incumbent Hoang’s best interests and partly because there’s already some interest in keeping it that way. And not to be tedious, but I’m willing to bet that both the current and future versions of F are also heavily Latino. I’m just saying.
4. Will Kingwood and Clear Lake remain joined? I asked CM Sullivan about this when I interviewed him in 2009, and that was his preference. He is no longer the Chair of the committee that handles redistricting, however, so he doesn’t have as much influence over that as he once did. You can make a case either way, so we’ll just see how it goes.
Four HISD Trustees will be on the ballot, assuming no one steps down. They are Carol Mims Galloway (District II), Manuel Rodriguez (III), Paula Harris (IV), and the newly-elected Juliet Stipeche (VIII). Other that perhaps Stipeche, I don’t expect anyone to be seriously challenged. If no one does step down, it will be the first time in at least a decade that there will be no open seats available; I’ve verified this through 2001, but the 1999 results aren’t available on the County Clerk webpage, and I’m too lazy to go back farther than that.
I certainly hope we won’t have a repeat of 2009, in which incumbent Trustee Abel Davila decided at the last minute to not file for re-election, leaving the field open for his brother-in-law, who dropped out two days later amid much public backlash, thus paving the way for a write-in candidate, Eva Loredo, to win. Three Trustees are up for another six-year term: Michael Williams (District 4), Richard Schechter (District 5), and Christopher Oliver (District 9). Williams, as noted above, is apparently seeking a City Council office, which would leave his seat open if he follows through. Only Schechter had an opponent in 2005, whom he dispatched easily. On the other hand, we did have a very close race in 2009, with incumbent Diane Olmos Guzman being nipped by Mary Ann Perez. For offices that have six-year terms and no resign to run requirement, these offices deserve more attention than they usually get.