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Ellis wins Precinct 1 nomination

In the end, it wasn’t close.

Sen. Rodney Ellis

Sen. Rodney Ellis

State Sen. Rodney Ellis on Saturday won the Democratic nomination for Precinct 1 Commissioner, effectively guaranteeing the veteran lawmaker the office.

Ellis will be sacrificing 26 years in the Texas senate to become the next commissioner, an often overlooked but powerful local office. He will take over from current Precinct 1 commissioner Gene Locke in January, who also ran for the office and was seen as Ellis’ top opponent.

Saturday’s nomination ends one of the most unusual campaigns in recent history. Longtime Commissioner El Franco Lee, who represented Precinct 1 for more than 30 years, died in January while still on the March 1 primary ballot, leaving the choice for who will run as the Democratic candidate to 125 precinct chairs.

There is no Republican opponent in November, all but guaranteeing victory to Ellis.

[…]

A week before the nomination meeting, Ellis claimed he had the support of more than half of the precinct chairs, effectively claiming victory. He also claimed the endorsement of Lee’s widow.

He will be the only Democrat on the court, which has four other Republican members.

The Precinct 1 commissioner represents 1.2 million people and controls a budget of more than $200 million.

The precinct convention that ultimately placed Ellis on the ballot was a wild affair, with a ton of people of varying interests in attendance. The precinct chairs that were to vote had to check in and be verified, at which time we got a name tag that we wore allowing us to sit down front, where we would ultimately vote. Ellis and Locke had the largest contingencies, with many Ellis supporters wearing navy blue Ellis T-shirts. (This led to an objection by one precinct chair, who cited election law about campaign materials not being too close to where elections are held. It was ruled out of order on the grounds that by law this was a precinct convention and a party function, not an election.)

There were a few motions made about who was and wasn’t eligible to participate, and a lot of noise about the process to elect a convention chair. Rules allow the chair, which at the beginning was HCDP Chair Lane Lewis, to select the method of voting from a set of possible choices. After a voice vote on the convention chair was indeterminate, a “division of the house” process, in which supporters of each candidate went to different locations to be counted, was done. Once that was settled and a secretary was elected, we eventually got around to the main event.

Four candidates were nominated for the position. In order of their nomination, they were Nat West, Dwight Boykins, Rodney Ellis, and Gene Locke. I was a little surprised that no one else’s name came up, but that’s how it went. Among other things, it meant that Ellis was the only nominated candidate to have filled out the HCDP questionnaire. Each candidate got two minutes to address the crowd; motions to give them five minutes, and to allow two other supporters to speak on their behalf were loudly voted down. Division of the house was used for this vote. Nat West, who as a precinct chair nominated himself, had two votes. Dwight Boykins appeared to have about ten or so; he then declared that he was withdrawing, and from what I could tell all of his supporters went over to Gene Locke. In the end, Ellis had 78 votes, Locke had 36 (BOR reported 46; I’m pretty sure that’s a mis-hearing of the announced total), and West had two. There was no need for a runoff.

I’m very glad this is over, but this is just part of what needs to be done. There’s still the county convention for the judicial candidates on Thursday; several of those candidates, for the two different benches, were in attendance yesterday. With the selection of Ellis for the County Commissioner spot, there is now a vacancy for SD13. Candidates for that position were in attendance as well.

Ellis now must withdraw from the November ballot in Senate District 13, which covers a swath of southwest Houston. He will be replaced on the ballot by whichever Democrat can win the support of a majority of the precinct chairs in the district. The replacement will run unopposed in November.

At least three state representatives from the area are said to be interested in Ellis’ seat in the Senate: Garnet Coleman, Borris Miles and Senfronia Thompson.

Miles and Thompson were there yesterday, with the former handing out yard signs and the latter passing out pamphlets. I will not be surprised if other names surface for this – as with this position, being nominated is akin to being elected, as there are no other candidates on the November ballot – but the lesson to take from today is that just because one says one is running does not mean one will eventually be nominated to be a candidate. Also, I am not in SD13, so this is officially Not My Problem. I’ll do my part in the CEC meeting on Thursday, then I’m done.

Congratulations to Rodney Ellis, who I believe will do a great job as County Commissioner. We need to talk about doing something about him being the “only Democrat” on that body. The 2018 election will be a key opportunity to change that calculus. I would also like to offer my sincere thanks to current Commissioner Gene Locke, who I believe has done a very good job in his time in office. Under other circumstances I would have supported Commissioner Locke, so I am sorry I was unable to this time. I wish Commissioner Locke all the best as he completes the good work he has started, and in whatever comes next. I would also like to thank Council Member Boykins for his candidacy. He came up short but he brought attention to important issues that deserve it. I wish him all the best on City Council. It was an honor to take part in this process, but in all sincerity I hope I never have that kind of power again. It’t not something I’m comfortable with. I’m glad there are people for whom it is a better fit who can and do take on that challenge with wisdom and humility.

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8 Comments

  1. PDiddie says:

    City council has a “resign to run” for-something-else provision that either Council isn’t enforcing or Boykins got wink-and-nod approval for to avoid. Or something else. Do you know which — or what — prompted someone to skip that rule?

  2. It’s not been established that he would be required to resign:

    http://www.houstonchronicle.com/news/politics/houston/article/Resign-to-run-law-now-applies-to-elected-city-6787701.php?t=3a12c2df82438d9cbb&cmpid=twitter-premium

    A Texas attorney general opinion issued in 2000 states that running for the nomination of a political party’s executive committee does not trigger automatic resignation.

    “A person who merely seeks a political party’s executive committee’s nomination to be the party’s candidate for a new office in a general election does not announce his or her candidacy or become a candidate in fact in a general, special, or primary election,” then-Attorney General John Cornyn wrote. He added that it “therefore does not trigger the constitutional provision’s automatic resignation provision.”

    The resign-to-run provision is only triggered when a person accepts the nomination of a political party’s executive committee.

    My interpretation is that someone will have to take action in order to force the issue.

  3. Bill Daniels says:

    “The precinct chairs that were to vote had to check in and be verified, at which time we got a name tag that we wore allowing us to sit down front, where we would ultimately vote.”

    Did you guys have to present a valid ID, proving your residence in the district?

  4. HCDP 504 Chair says:

    If you voted for Ellis, you created a vacancy in the Democratic Ballot, and stolen from the will of the people. If the damaged Democratic ballot is not your problem, please resign as a Democratic official.

  5. Franco Lee and Garcia didn’t do anything on county court.

    The only thing that Ellis will be is a voice.

    Radack is a cisgender, white male with 20th century ideas.

    Cagle and Morman are there to collect a paycheck.

    The funny part of my city council campaign, watching Cagle staff take notes and ask me questions about public finance.

  6. […] Joe McElligott on Ellis wins Precinct 1 nomination […]

  7. PDiddie says:

    “My interpretation is that someone will have to take action in order to force the issue.”

    I would really to to see some lawyer take that up in the next Lege (or the next Council session). A law similar to that which binds county electeds would be something I’d like. Maybe I’ll contact my state representative, who wants to be state senator now, or maybe my CM, who is probably going to run for state rep if/when my state rep is elected to be my state senator.

    Or something.

  8. […] PDiddie on Ellis wins Precinct 1 nomination […]

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