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Endorsement watch: Bell for King

As the headline notes, this came as a surprise to many.

Chris Bell

Chris Bell

Former Congressman Chris Bell publicly backed fiscal conservative Bill King in the Houston mayoral runoff Tuesday, a move that could bolster King’s efforts to make inroads with progressive voters.

Bell’s endorsement came as a surprise to many political insiders expecting the progressive former mayoral candidate to support King’s rival, Democrat Sylvester Turner.

Bell cited King’s focus on pension reform, public safety, road repair and flooding as reasons for his endorsement, as well as the businessman’s thoughtful approach to policy issues.

“It might come as a surprise to some because of my political persuasion, but it really shouldn’t,” Bell said alongside King in Meyerland. “Truth be told, we agree much more than we disagree. As far as the major principles of his campaign, we’re in complete agreement.”

If you say so, Chris. From my perspective, the main area of overlap between the two campaigns was an enthusiasm for bashing Adrian Garcia. On a number of issues I can think of, from HERO to the revenue cap to ReBuild Houston to (yes) pensions, there seemed to be little in common. It’s easier for me to see agreement between Steve Costello and Sylvester Turner than it is for me to see concurrence between Bell and King. Perhaps it’s in the eye of the beholder, I don’t know. But really, on a broader level, it’s that Bell positioned himself quite purposefully to Sylvester Turner’s left, with his greater purity on LGBT equality being a main point of differentiation. Though he missed out on getting the Houston GLBT Political Caucus’ endorsement – amid a fair amount of grumbling about Turner buying the recommendation via a slew of last-minute memberships – Bell had a lot of support in the LGBT community; a couple of his fervent supporters courted my vote at the West Gray Multi-Service Center by reminding me of an old Turner legislative vote against same sex foster parenting. This is why it’s hard to believe his claims about there being so much in common between him and King, and why this announcement was met with such an explosion of outrage and cries of betrayal. It’s not a partisan matter so much as it is a strong suspicion that either the prior assertions about being the real champion of equality were lies or that this endorsement had to come with a prize. If Chris Bell honestly believes that Bill King will be the best Mayor, that’s his right and his choice. But no one should be surprised by the reaction to it.

Does this help King? Well, he needs to get some Anglo Dem support to win, and that was Bell’s base. Of course, speaking as someone in that demographic, I’ve seen very little evidence that any of his erstwhile supporters were impressed by this. Quite the reverse, as noted above. I guess it can’t hurt, I just wouldn’t expect it to do much.

In the meantime, various organizations have been issuing new and updated endorsements for the runoffs. A few highlights:

– As previously noted, the HCDP endorsed all Democratic candidates with Republican opponents. That means Sylvester Turner for Mayor, Chris Brown for Controller, Georgia Provost, David Robinson, Amanda Edwards, Sharon Moses, Richard Nguyen, and Mike Laster for Council, and Rhonda Skillern-Jones and Jose Leal for HISD Trustee.

– The Houston GLBT Political Caucus added Georgia Provost and Karla Cisneros to their list of endorsed candidates. Turner, Brown, Edwards, and the incumbents were already on there. They did not take action on Moses and Leal.

– The Meyerland Democrats made their first endorsements in a city election: Turner, Brown, Provost, Robinson, Edwards, Nguyen, and Laster.

– Controller candidate Chris Brown sent out another email touting endorsements, this time from five previous Controllers – Ronald Green, Annise Parker, Sylvia Garcia, George Greanias, and Kathy Whitmire. As you know, I’m glad to see Green support him.

– As noted here, the Harris County GOP Executive Committee endorsed Willie Davis in AL2, though it wasn’t exactly unanimous.

– The Log Cabin Republicans transferred their endorsements to Bill King and Mike Knox, and reiterated their support for David Robinson, Jack Christie, and Steve Le. Guess being staunchly anti-HERO has its drawbacks.

– A group called the Texas Conservative View endorsed the candidates you’d expect them to – King, Frazer, Knox, Davis, Roy Morales, Christie, Steve Le, Jim Bigham – and one I didn’t, Jason Cisneroz. All of them were repeats from November except for Morales; they had previously endorsed Jonathan Hansen.

– Finally, the Houston Association of Realtors gave Bill King an endorsement that does mean something and makes sense, along with Amanda Edwards.

I think that catches me up. I’m sure there will be more to come – in particular, the Chron has a few races to revisit. They need to pick a finalist between Brown and Frazer, and make a new choice in AL1 and AL5. I’ll let you know when they do.

UPDATE: The line I deleted above about “being staunchly anti-HERO” was a reference to Willie Davis not getting the LCR endorsement in At Large #2. It made sense in my head when I wrote it, but I can see now that I didn’t make that clear at all. And given that the LCRs endorsed David Robinson in November, it doesn’t make sense even when I clarify who I intended that to be about. So, I take it back. Sorry for the confusion.

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18 Comments

  1. Manuel Barrera says:

    It is that unknown promise that may be the difference as to whom Bell endorsed, reading between the lines in the Chronicle the suggestion was so appointment regarding flooding. There of course could be other thinks that may have been discussed, that is the nature of the beast.

    I don’t expect King to win. As to being a fiscal conservative, I think Turner may be more of a fiscal conservative than King. One has no way to judge King unless one looks at his tenure in Kemah, and that ain’t pretty, 15 cent tax increase for instance

    http://www.yourhoustonnews.com/archives/kemah-council-oks-tax-increase/article_441d1352-0ddc-5600-97e3-0b279974796e.html

  2. Manuel Barrera says:

    other things, need to proof read,

  3. J says:

    “It’s not a partisan matter so much as it is a strong suspicion that either the prior assertions about being the real champion of equality were lies or that this endorsement had to come with a prize.”

    Really, you think that little of Chris Bell to publicly ask whether he has been lying about his views on equality for 20 years? Can’t believe you pull out the “lie” word. With “friends” like you, who needs enemies… Once again, I have to say you just look like the flip side of Steven Hotze, just deranged by hate and the smug sense that only you know what is good and right.

    There is no upside for Bell. King ain’t gonna win and give him a prize. Hotze-like Dems are savaging him. All he has is his fine character and bravery. He sees something that tells him that Turner will not scratch the surface of Houston’s problems, while King is a not-at-all evil moderate who will work really hard; a Bill White type nonpartisan (and hard worker). Many Republicans were willing to vote for White; are there no reasonable Democrats these days? They don’t seem willing to ever, ever, ever cross over — even in a nonpartisan election. Their shame should be as great as HERO opponents who can’t get past their irrational bias against the “other”. Just my humble view.

  4. Joshua ben bullard says:

    This actually is a very big endorsement from Chris bell,here’s why,Chris bell has a base of core follower’s, if Chris was jumping off a bridge,they would be right behind him,I think you’ll see this bell endorsement pay off big for bill king besides,Sylvester Turner is taking right to labor fees from a local business here in Houston that should be illegal.one thing Sylvester turner is going to learn to learn in this election cycle is ,its amazing what the difference makes in a few hundred votes.

  5. T says:

    Sylvester Turner has only been tepid about his status as a Democrat in the past (remember Oklahoma?) so it shouldn’t be any surprise that some Dems don’t feel he is worthy of their loyalty now.

  6. Katy Anders says:

    I’m not at all sure I agree with Joshua, above.

    Bell got 7.4% (about 19,000 votes), which might be significant in a low turnout election like a runoff.

    However, everyone I knew who voted for Bell supported him because they considered him the most propgressive candidate in the race.

    A jump from Bell to King would be a long jump, regardless of the endorsement here…

    Which, I mean, has to be personal, right? Turner must not have invited him to an important event for the Democrats back in 1997 or something?

  7. Mainstream says:

    For completeness, the Harris County GOP has also endorsed King for Mayor, Frazer for Controller, Knox for At Large 1, Davis for At Large 2, Morales for At Large 4, Christie for At Large 5, and Steve Le for his district contest. All endorsements except for Willie Davis in At Large 2 were nearly unanimous. Davis got support from 60-70% of the body. The GOP executive committee overwhelmingly voted not to endorse Jim Bigham in his district contest.

  8. Bill Kelly says:

    Bill White was the former Chair of the Texas Democratic Party. Bill King has thanked Sen. Ted Cruz for his support. Rep. Sylvester Turner has been a Democrat since I was 8.

  9. tinyvoices says:

    We can only hope this puts the final nail in the coffin of his attempted political career in Houston.

  10. landslide says:

    Am I the only person (besides T) who remembers 2002-03? Pete Laney could have served as Speaker until 2010 if a number of Democrats hadn’t joined forces with Tom Craddick in the days after the 2002 election. There were enough ABC (remember that term? Anyone But Craddick) Republicans in the House to keep a Democratic Speaker if all of the Dems had held firm (hell, we only lost 9 or 10 seats!)

    But a bunch of Democrats didn’t hold firm, and many went on to (rightly) lose subsequent primaries.

    There have been a lot of people throwing around the term “Sell Out” since this endorsement was announced. Here’s my definition: depose a Democratic Speaker for a committee chairmanship or a spot on Appropriations (after the rules were changed to eliminate seniority and allow the Speaker to name all members). Or even better, an appointment as Speaker Pro Tempore so you can have the honor and privilege of talking real fast during the Local and Consent Calendar.

    What did we get in exchange? Tort “Reform.” Mid-decade redistricting that cost Martin Frost and Chris Bell (among many others) their seats in Congress. More abortion restrictions. Tuition deregulation. Constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. Massive cuts in health, human services, and education budgets. The list goes on and on, and we are still suffering the aftermath, even with an even-keeled Speaker like Straus.

    Please remember that it didn’t have to happen that way.

  11. J, I don’t know about equality issues, but Bell was Republican Light back in his Congressional days:

    http://socraticgadfly.blogspot.com/2015/11/chris-bell-shows-how-shallow-texas.html

  12. Craddick D says:

    I’m not going to defend Bell, he could very easily just have chosen not to endorse. He screwed up by backing King.

    But it’s really amazing seeing the shock and indignation from Team Turner over a fellow democrat selling out to a Republican. He can claim credit for being the reason Tom Craddick was elected speaker. It may not have been a D alternative, but imagine a Speaker McCall. Literally the worst policies of the Rick Perry era can be laid at Turner’s feet. Democrats fought Craddick tooth and nail for years, and Turner was on the other side of that fight, getting funding for a park named after him. Republicans were getting popped for gutting CHIP, so he pushed a meager CHIP bill to give them cover. Republicans illegally redrew congressional lines with his full support.

    There’s an argument to be made that selling out to the other side is a legitimate method of governing and politics. I don’t agree with it, but Turner made it for years. But you don’t get to cry about party loyalty when someone does the same thing right back to you. Turner took away Bell’s congressional district to help Republicans. Bell bailed on Turner to help Republicans. They should both be held politically accountable for their actions.

  13. J, I’m not sure why you bother reading this site if you think that little of me and what I have to say.

    Craddick D, the strongest reactions by far that I have seen have come from former Bell supporters, who legitimately feel duped. Turner’s past history is what it is, and for sure plenty of his supporters today (myself included) weren’t thrilled with him in the Craddick years. That was a long time ago, politically speaking, when partisan divisions were much less clearly defined. I get what you’re saying, but I and most Turner supporters are more interested in what’s happening now than what happened then.

  14. Paul kubosh says:

    Kuffner…..don’t get your feelings hurt by j. I think a lot of your opinions I just think they are wrong. 🙂

    However, we do share common ground on some very important areas. We both care about the city and where our government is heading.

    We are both Fathers

    We are both from the South.

    All kidding aside I agree with you much more than I would ever agree with a Rockefeller Republican.

    You should walk with us in the next Mlk parade. We throw shirts and have a blast. By far my favorite business holiday.

  15. General Grant says:

    Bell, if you’ll recall, has a long history of taking his many losses with guns blazing. In 2001 he endorsed Lee Brown in the runoff after attacking him vigorously. He filed an ethics complaint against Tom DeLay on his way out of the House in 2004. He sued Rick Perry after losing to him in 2006. Now this. Whatever Bell’s merits, he is not a gracious loser. It is consistent with his rather hard to watch political identity as a man whose middling at best talent cannot match his fierce ambition.

    Texas Conservative View is just Gary Polland’s act dressed up to look like some kind of woman’s group.

  16. J says:

    Yes, I do think very little of anyone who calls Chris Bell a “liar” about being a strong proponent of equality. That’s just mind boggling. Chris Bell has been a “star” Democrat for 20 plus years, beyond reproach. Until he thinks for himself rather than blindly following the party line.

    I also think very little of anyone who lines up with the Turner camp, calling Bill King “too extreme for Houston.” As Chris Bell said, “To try to paint Bill as some kind of right-wing zealot or hater is absolutely absurd.” I mean, really, who is lying now?

    There was overwhelming attack on Hotze & Co for “lying” about HERO. I happen to agree with that. But now the accusers in that case have turned and are doing the exact same thing, lying about Chris Bell, calling him a liar. That’s just patently not true. And that pains me when those taking the moral high ground sink in to the muck.

    Does anyone know David Arpin? A mainstay of Annise Parker’s support team for years, head of finance committee for her. He was standing right there with Chris Bell and Bill King. See the Chronicle article: http://www.houstonchronicle.com/news/politics/houston/article/Bell-surprises-with-endorsement-of-King-in-mayor-6639699.php?t=921d5e0aea438d9cbb&cmpid=twitter-premium&utm_content=buffer09415&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_campaign=buffer

    Is David Arpin also a liar about his entire political past? Or just a perceptive analyzer of which man would be the better mayor in our current circumstances?

    I try to be a moderate, an independent, vote probably more for Dems than Reps. I totally reject Hotze & crew, but when I see the flipside opponents to them also going off the rails, I’m going to call ’em like I see ’em.

  17. Mainstream says:

    General Grant, you are mistaken about Texas Conservative View being linked to former GOP county chair Gary Polland. Mary Jane Smith, a longtime GOP activist and precinct chair, and spouse of federal judge Jerry Smith, is the driving force. She is also a longtime political consultant, mostly for judicial candidates.