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When might the Supreme Court speak on the Houston term limits lawsuit?

So as you know there is an ongoing lawsuit over the language used in the 2015 referendum that altered the city’s term limits ordinance. It was filed shortly after the election, with the city winning the first round in district court. Appeals are ongoing, with the most recent ruling coming this past January on a procedural matter. In addition to all this, the plaintiff in the original suit filed a writ of mandamus with the Supreme Court on June 2 that asks them to direct the district court judge to vacate his previous order allowing the 2015 result to stand and to require city elections this November. I’m on the plaintiff’s attorney’s email list (for my sins, no doubt) and as he sent out a missive last week urging his followers to contact the Supreme Court and ask them to rule on the writ in time for an election to occur, I figured I ought to bring this up.

So as we are now halfway through June, I have to think that time is rapidly running out for a non-farcical election to be conducted this November. Normally at this time, multiple candidates for a variety of offices, especially the open ones, will have been at work for months. There are always people who pop up to run in July and August, including a few at the filing deadline, but by this point you usually have a pretty good idea of who is out there. Funds have been raised, materials have been printed, websites and social media presences have been built, volunteers have been recruited, etc etc etc. Campaigns require resources, and one of those resources is time. We’re basically four months out from the start of early voting. To get a campaign up and running from scratch, especially for an At Large position, that’s not a whole lot of time. It could be done, but it would greatly favor those who already have some of the other resources, namely money and some amount of name recognition. In other words, incumbents and people who can write a check to get their campaign going quickly.

For what it’s worth, the Supreme Court issued a ruling requiring a vote on HERO on July 24, 2015, which was in response to a writ of mandamus. That was about a referendum and thus didn’t directly involve any candidates, though I’d argue that it had a negative effect on the pro-HERO side, since the antis had been gearing up for a campaign for some time by then. Let’s call that the outer bounds of when a writ mandating city elections for this year may happen, though really I’d say that’s too late. Bear in mind that Council members Brenda Stardig, Jerry Davis, Ellen Cohen, Mike Laster, Larry Green, and Jack Christie are all in their last terms one way or the other, so if those terms wind up ending this year instead of 2019, a whole gaggle of hopefuls are going to have to get up to speed immediately. There’s no question that the Supreme Court has no qualms about meddling in the affairs of the city of Houston, but that doesn’t mean it feels compelled to do so. We ought to know soon enough.

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8 Comments

  1. N.M. Horwitz says:

    I’m very nervous about this.

    The “powers-to-be” inside the loop are burying their heads in the sand about the possibility of a snap election, the same way they did with HERO. I have no doubts that the right-wing is not, and in any case it’s easier for them to find candidates and fund them.

    For Democrats, especially the competent, pragmatic Democrats that Houston has been lucky enough to field for years, it is like herding sheep.

    I started sounding the alarm on this in January, as I recall you did as well. I bought a lot of lunches around then trying to convince prospective candidates to put their names out there. I was unsuccessful.

    Here’s what the worst-case-scenario is on a snap election:

    1. A Jewish Republican (I won’t name names) winning in ‘C.’
    2. Someone incompetent and impractical (Again, no naming names) winning in ‘J.’
    3. A Tea Party nut (I have to say it a third time) getting elected in ‘A.’
    4. Another lost chance to replace Christie with a progressive, and I guess the same could be said for Knox.

  2. neither here nor there says:

    NM there is not much difference in how you describe potential candidates that are not your liking as Republicans describe candidates that are not to their liking.

    What is wrong with a Jewish Republican? Do they think differently than a Jewish Democrat? What if it is a non-Jewish Democrat?

    What is your definition of incompetent and impractical?

    A Tea Party Nut is not much different that a Leftist Nut.

  3. Steve Houston says:

    NHNT, I get the impression that Noah is speaking of specific candidates but he’s unwilling to name their names. As you say, an extremist from one side is generally just as bad as one from his opposing side, just in different ways.

    Noah, it’s not easier for the GOP to field quality candidates and they are rarely funded much from the county headquarters. I think your description of competent, pragmatic Democrats must vary from what the rest of us would suggest given the way many of them lacked both qualities to any significant degree.

  4. Joshua ben bullard says:

    The ballot language Never Increased the duties or responsibilities of a “part time” mayor or council member, In this case as a matter of law ,the language needs to give additional job duties and perhaps more time on the job =this Does neither. By city law itself the position is 2yrs and is a part-time position, if you want 4? You’ll need to clearly provide the additional IN THE LANGUAGE, so the voters can see and decide,This evidence is non existent,aside from no one even today being able to figure out the meaning of the language ,I would say its a very easy call for the Tx supreme Court to put this years city election back in play, again and after all ,Its a part time 2yr position and the language never increased the duties of the office ,nor the classification from “part-time” to fulltime,yet 2 to 4= nonstarter in anyone’s book.

  5. voter_worker says:

    Not to mention that for the County Clerk, the election effectively begins on September 1, roughly eleven weeks from now.

  6. PDiddie says:

    Noah, this is tragic news. Did your dad increase your allowance for all those lunches bought or did you have to raid your trust fund?

    The rest of you: “competent, pragmatic Democrats” = “corporate, centrist neoliberals” such as the kind that just blew $30 million bucks on a southwest Atlanta Congressional seat earlier this week.

    If those Democrats are discouraged from running a short-cycle campaign for City Hall this year — that might happen if the SCOTX rules on Eric Dick’s writ of mandamus — I don’t see a downside.

  7. N.M. Horwitz says:

    Perry, do I get to be the donkey of the day now? You know how long I’ve looked forward to that accomplishment.

  8. PDiddie says:

    No, sorry. Some things in life your father just can’t buy you. It’s a hard lesson, one I would have thought you’d already learned.

    Speaking of learning, has law school taught you anything about the Oxford comma yet?

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