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Abel Davila

Chron overview of HCC Trustee races

As always, HCC Trustee races don’t get as much attention as they deserve.

Adriana Tamez

Adriana Tamez

Since the 2013 election put four new trustees – Zeph Capo, Robert Glaser, Dave Wilson and Adriana Tamez – on the board, one trustee, Carroll Robinson, has stepped down to campaign for city controller and two others – Chris Oliver and Sandie Mullins Moger – have launched bids for City Council seats.

Carolyn Evans-Shabazz, a real estate professional who attended HCC, took over Robinson’s seat in May and faces no challengers. John P. Hansen, a longtime Alief school board member, is uncontested in his bid for Moger’s seat on the board. If Oliver loses his council bid, he’ll remain on the HCC board; if he wins, the board will appoint a replacement.

Tamez and Eva Loredo, who has been on the board since 2009, each face challengers for their seats. This means that if Oliver wins his council race, longtime trustee Neeta Sane may be the only board member to have served longer than two years.

Eva Loredo

Eva Loredo

[…]

Tamez faces Florida “Flo” Cooper, a retired telecommunications consultant who ran unsuccessfully for a City Council seat in 2007. Cooper did not respond to multiple calls for an interview.

[…]

Loredo faces Art Aguilar, a Harris County sheriff’s deputy who ran unsuccessfully for constable in 2008. Aguilar, who did not respond to requests for an interview, is part of a slate of candidates that includes his sister, Diana Dávila, who is running for the Houston school board, and his brother-in-law Abel Dávila, a former HCC trustee now running for the City Council.

Cooper also ran for District D in 1997 against then incumbent CM Jew Don Boney, and in a special election for At Large #4 (eventually won by Chris Bell) in January of 1997. Aguilar is of course who Abel Davila tried to gift this Trustee seat to in 2009 via some last-minute filing shenanigans; Loredo won as a write-in candidate after Aguilar was forced to withdraw by the backlash. Neither is a serious candidate, which is why I highlighted their mentions in this article. Carolyn Evans-Shabazz and John Hansen are serious candidates, but both are unopposed – Moger won the position she is now departing as an unopposed candidate back in 2009 – and I just don’t like it when that happens for open seats. Be that as it may, my interview with Tamez is here and with Loredo is here. Both were endorsed by the Chron (and by most endorsing organizations), and both are worth your vote if you live in either district. Let’s please not elect any more accidental Trustees.

Chron race overview: District H

A look at the race in District H, to succeed the term-limited CM Ed Gonzalez.

CM Ed Gonzalez

CM Ed Gonzalez

Roland Chavez views city leadership from a labor management perspective with an eye to curbing overtime and ensuring retirement benefits for city workers. He retired in 2013 after 34 years with the Houston Fire Department, and by his own description has been campaigning for City Council ever since.

Chavez advocated for firefighters as their liaison in City Hall under four Houston mayors. A decade ago, during his term as president of the local chapter of the firefighters’ association, he oversaw the workers’ first collective bargaining agreement with the city that included across the board raises and set up a charitable foundation for firefighters.

[…]

Karla Cisneros, another longtime resident of Woodland Heights, is an elementary teacher and former school board member whose primary aim as a City Council member is improving the quality of life for children and families. She took leave from work to run for office.

Cisneros, 61, grew up in a Navy family, and her parents retired in San Antonio. She moved to Houston for graduate school at Rice University, where she studied architecture. Cisneros became a grass-roots activist for neighborhood schools while raising three children with her husband in Woodland Heights. She said the Heights at the time she put down roots in 1985 was a place families left once their kids reached kindergarten age because they lacked confidence in the schools.

[…]

Jason Cisneroz, the third candidate for the District H seat, is focused on crime prevention. Cisneroz aims to strengthen communication between community members and public safety officials and encourage neighbors to look out for one another.

Cisneroz grew up in a family of community activists, attending meetings with his grandmother at the civic association that his paternal uncle founded, where his mother served as a board member.

[…]

The fourth candidate for District H, Abel Davila, is a trained pharmacist who served as a Houston Community College trustee from 1998 to 2013 and chaired the HCC board in 2003 and 2009. He lost his first bid for City Council in 1999, capturing 14 percent of the votes for the District H seat.

Davila, 43, grew up with his parents and nine siblings in the East End. He is married to Diana Davila, a former Houston Independent School District board member, who is seeking to win back a spot on the board in November. She resigned her seat early citing family issues.

A Chronicle story around the time of her departure documented her attempt to get her husband appointed to the district’s bond oversight committee, which oversaw nearly $1 billion in construction funds. The inspector general determined Diana Davila’s action amounted to a conflict of interest.

The couple have a 14-year-old son and 10-year-old daughter. Abel Davila’s record at HCC was marked by an independent investigation commissioned by the college that found he violated HCC policy by steering a $1.5 million painting contract to an upstart company run by one of his pharmacy students who was a family friend. Davila denied wrongdoing, and the Harris County District Attorney did not pursue criminal charges.

Interview with the first three are on the Election 2015 page. 30 day dampaign finance summaries are as follows:

Candidate Raised Spent Loans On Hand =================================================== Chavez 14,779 14,104 5,100 51,734 Cisneros, K 12,580 21,055 0 4,717 Cisneroz, J 31,368 14,447 0 26,610 Davila 6,500 9,046 20,000 17,453

Karla Cisneros got the Chron endorsement, while Abel Davila is the Hotze candidate. Roland Chavez and Jason Cisneroz got the rest of the endorsements, with Chavez having the edge. I’m a little surprised Karla Cisneros didn’t go better in that department, but that’s the way it goes sometimes. She’s easily winning the yard sign battle in my neighborhood, with Chavez a distant second. She’s also the only candidate to actually door-knock me this cycle, though I’ve seen her and Chavez and Cisneroz at various events throughout the summer. I tell people when they ask me that there are three good candidates running in H, and one they should not vote for. As long as two of those three make the runoff, it’s fine by me.

Finance reports come trickling in

As always, the Mayoral reports lead the story.

BagOfMoney

Former Harris County Sheriff Adrian Garcia closed out the first half of the year with more than $1.3 million in the bank, eclipsing City Councilman Stephen Costello by a mere $7,423.

According to their campaign finance reports, Garcia raised $1.5 million and spent just over $122,000, while Costello raised about $30,000 less in contributions, was loaned $90,000 and spent $496,000.

State Rep. Sylvester Turner and former mayor of Kemah Bill King trailed in cash on hand, reporting $1.1 million and $544,000, respectively.

[…]

Costello’s campaign previously said his funds include a $250,000 personal contribution and a $262,000 transfer from his council account.

Among those with reports already in, King spent the most in the first half of the year, coughing up more than $680,000. He raised more than $755,000 and lent himself an additional $500,000.

Turner’s expenditures came in just under King’s, at $601,000, according to his report. However, his campaign noted that $125,000 of those expenditures were related to his state office, not his mayoral campaign.

After starting the race with about $900,000 in the bank from his legislative account, Turner raised an additional $763,000 in the nine days between when his state fundraising blackout period ended and the close of the reporting period.

See here for more. As previously noted, the reports are not in their usual place due to changes in state law and the reporting system. For now, you can see the reports that the city has posted here. I’ve linked to them on my Election 2015 page and will keep updating that as more of them appear. I’ll do a more in depth look at the reports once they’re all there, starting with the Mayorals, which were added to that page as of last night. Expect that for next week.

The Chron story has a spreadsheet embedded in it with totals for candidates who had turned in reports by publication time. Among the other Mayorals, Chris Bell had raised $381K and had $190K on hand; Ben Hall raised $94K and loaned himself $850K to have $812K on hand; and Mary McVey had raised $60K and loaned himself $1.075M to have $1.071M on hand. Forget the price of oil, this Mayoral campaign will be stimulating the local economy over the next few months.

So far, mayoral fundraising has far overshadowed that for Houston’s second-highest political post, city controller.

Deputy controller Chris Brown reported raising $270,000 and spending $22,000, leaving him with more than $222,000 in cash on hand.

Meanwhile, Bill Frazer, runner-up in the 2013 controller’s race, raised $129,000, received $32,000 in loans, spent $120,000 and closed out the first half of the year with more than $53,000 in the bank.

Former Metro board member Dwight Jefferson lagged behind with $11,000 raised $1,800 loaned and $9,000 spent. It was unclear how much cash he had on hand.

Carroll Robinson had raised $50K and had $5K on hand; Jew Don Boney did not have totals posted. Other hauls of note: Amanda Edwards dominated At Large #4 with $165K raised and $118K on hand. Laurie Robinson was the runnerup with $43K and $26K, respectively. In At Large #1, Tom McCasland ($141K raised, $98K on hand) and Lane Lewis ($104K raised, $62K on hand) were far out in front; Chris Oliver raised $37K and had $23K on hand, while Jenifer Pool had not yet reported. CM Michael Kubosh was the only one with any money in At Large #3, raising $63K and banking $44K. Philippe Nassif had a very respectable $73K raised in At Large #5, but only $12K of it remained, far less than CM Jack Christie’s $100K cash on $124K raised; Durrel Douglas had not yet reported.

For district races, CM Mike Laster had a big haul and an equally big financial lead in J, while CM Richard Nguyen had a decent total in F. His opponent, Steven Le, did not have a report up as of last night. There was surprisingly little money raised in the two-person District G race; Greg Travis led in cash on hand over Sandie Moger thanks to a $41K loan to himself. Roland Chavez had the most raised and the most on hand in H, with Karla Cisneros and Jason Cisneroz a notch back. Abel Davila raised a small amount but loaned himself $20K to be even in cash on hand with the other two.

That’s it for now. For the other races, HISD and HCC reports lag behind the city’s – HISD by a little, HCC by a lot – so I’ll keep an eye on those and update as needed. As always, fundraising is just one aspect of one’s candidacy, and is in no way predictive in many races. We only get a few chances a year to see who’s funding whom, and this is one of them. I’ll have more when I can.

From the “Who not to vote for” files, part 1

AbelDavilaMDMailer

The embedded image is a scan of a mailer we got about two weeks ago. Abel Davila is a former HCC Trustee; his wife Diana, whom I had originally heard was interested in running for District H, is a former HISD Trustee. That makes him a credible candidate, but it doesn’t make him a good one. Davila was dogged by ethical issues while he was on the HCC board, and then he attempted to hand off the office to his brother-in-law, Art Aguilar, via some last-minute filing-deadline-day shenanigans; Aguilar subsequently withdrew his filing in the wake of the blowback, thus letting Eva Loredo win as a write-in candidate with no other names on the ballot. See here, here, and here for the details.

As for Davila’s tenure at HCC, here are a Chron stories to fill you in. From the second story:

In a statement read by chairman Richard Schechter, the board also publicly condemned the actions of two former trustees, Abel Davila and Diane Olmos Guzman, and criticized what the investigator found to be a minor mistake regarding the appearance of a conflict of interest involving current trustee Chris Oliver.

Schechter said the investigation portrayed Flores and Davila as the most egregious offenders, with the two appearing “to have been engaged in a relentless pattern and practice of conduct designed to enrich at a minimum their family and friends.”

Davila, through an attorney, previously has denied wrongdoing.

The investigative report accused Flores of enlisting Davila, the then-chairman of the HCC board, to use his influence over a vendor to hire a construction company co-run by Flores’ son. The company connected to Flores received nearly $163,000 from the vendor between December 2008 and October 2009, according to the investigative report.

So yeah. I don’t want that on Council, and I especially don’t want that from my Council member. There are three other good candidates in District H – Roland Chavez, Jason Cisneroz, and more recently former HISD Trustee Karla Cisneros. I don’t know which candidate I’m voting for yet, but I do know who I’m not voting for.

Oh, and the brother-in-law, Art Aguilar? He’s running for HCC 8, presumably for real this time. I’m not wedded to the idea of voting for Eva Loredo – in her 5 1/2 years as Trustee, I don’t believe I’ve received a single communication of any kind from her office, and she only recently created a personal Facebook page – but I’ll need a better alternative than Art Aguilar.

January campaign finance reports – HCC Trustees

There are nine trustees on the HCC board. With them serving six-year terms, in a normal year three trustees are up for re-election; 2013 was an abnormal year, with two extra races to fill out unexpired terms. We are back to normal this time, so we have three races. As with HISD, at this time all incumbents that are up are currently expected to run for re-election, and no opponents have emerged at this early date. Here are the incumbents in question.

Adriana Tamez, District III

Dr. Tamez won one of those two special elections from 2013, to fill out the term of Mary Ann Perez, who stepped down after winning in HD144 in 2012. The candidate she defeated in the runoff was one of two supported by Dave Wilson, so that was extra sweet. (Speaking of Wilson, he nominated himself for Board President at the start of this year, but had to withdraw after no one seconded him. Then, to add insult to injury, Zeph Capo, who defeated Wilson’s buddy Yolanda Navarro Flores in 2013, was elected Board President. Sucks to be you, Dave.) Tamez was elected Board Secretary for this year.

Sandie Mullins, District VI

Sandie Mullins, formerly Meyers, is serving her first term on the Board. She was elected in 2009 without facing an opponent to fill the seat formerly held by now-State Rep. Jim Murphy. (Mills Worsham was named to replace Murphy in 2007 after his initial election in HD133, then Worsham ran for Council in 2009 instead of a full term on HCC.) Like Murphy and her ex-husband, HISD Trustee Greg Meyers, Mullins is a Republican, one of two on the board along with you-know-who. She is herself an alumna of HCC, and serves or has served on a number of other boards.

Eva Loredo, District VIII

Under normal circumstances, Eva Loredo would not be on the HCC Board. She didn’t file for the race in 2009, against incumbent Abel Davila. No one did, and on filing deadline day Davila was expected to run unopposed for re-election. Except that he decided at the last minute not to run, and instead his brother-in-law Art Aguilar filed. That led to a medium-sized crap storm, which led to Aguilar’s withdrawal. Loredo had by then submitted paperwork to be a write-in candidate, with some assistance from the late Sen. Mario Gallegos, and with no other candidate on the ballot, she won. She would be on the ballot this time.

As for finance reports, you may recall that as recently as 2011 it was damn near impossible to lay one’s hands on HCC Trustee finance reports. I claim a small measure of the credit for changing that situation. Be that as it may, the fact that these reports are now available online at this link doesn’t mean that they’re available in a timely fashion. Despite the fact that the city, the county, the school board, and the state all had theirs up within a day or so of the January 15 deadline, HCC still had nothing more recent than last July’s as of yesterday. So those are the totals I will include, pending them getting off their butts and updating this information.

Name Raised Spent Loans On Hand ==================================================== Tamez 7,150 15,392 7,000 610 Mullins 0 1,878 0 18,400 Loredo 0 492 0 2,004 Oliver 8,225 6,060 0 2,165

So there you have it. I’ve included the totals for Chris Oliver as well, since he is now running for Council. I’ll update all this in July, and ought to have my Election 2015 page up by then as well.

HCC Trustee sues HCC Board

Back in April, the HCC Board of Trustees censured Board member Yolanda Navarro Flores after an investigation reported that she had engaged in unethical behavior. Here’s the Chron story from the time, which I did not blog about:

The Houston Community College board on Thursday censured trustee Yolanda Navarro Flores after a yearlong investigation found she used her influence to direct work to her son’s construction company and to obtain free consulting from a vendor.

The investigation – which also found troubling behavior by Trustee Chris Oliver and former board members Abel Dávila and Diane Olmos Guzman – called into question the business practices at one of the nation’s largest community college systems.

HCC Board Chairman Richard Schechter pledged a review of the college district’s policies.

“This board has zero tolerance for this kind of conduct,” he said.

Schechter said the investigation portrayed Flores and Dávila as the most egregious offenders, with the two appearing “to have been engaged in a relentless pattern and practice of conduct designed to enrich at a minimum their family and friends.”

Flores, who was not present for the 7-0 censure vote, told trustees afterward that she was unaware her son did work for HCC.

Dávila and Guzman have denied wrongdoing, and Oliver apologized for making an “honest mistake” by voting on a contract for a company with connections to his construction cleaning firm. Oliver, the report said, had filed the required disclosure paperwork.

Trustee Navarro Flores has now filed a lawsuit against her colleagues over that report.

In court papers filed Thursday, Yolanda Navarro Flores accuses the defendants of subjecting her to “character defamation, libel and slander” under the pretext of investigating possible inappropriate actions by HCC trustees and her potential conflict of interest with an HCC contractor.

“Specifically, defendants conducted a program of attack upon plaintiff’s character, reputation and integrity through malicious action based on false information that defendants knew was false or should have known was …false had their investigation been conducted in a prudent, fair and unbiased manner,” the suit claims.

[…]

Named in the lawsuit are HCC Chancellor Mary Spangler, HCC Deputy Chancellor Arthur Tyler, HCC Board of Trustees legal counsel Jarvis Hollingsworth, HCC general counsel Renee Byas as well as trustees Oliver, Richard Schechter, Michael Williams, Bruce Austin, Mary Ann Perez, Sandie Mullins, Neeta Sane and Eva Loredo.

The suit has been filed in the 61st Civil District Court. I’m no lawyer, but it seems to me that one way or another, someone is going to be embarrassed by the outcome of this lawsuit. Beyond that, all I can say is that I’m looking forward to doing HCC candidate interviews even more now.

HISD Trustee Diana Davila resigns

This was unexpected.

HISD trustee Diana Dávila said Wednesday she will resign from the school board Thursday, more than a year before her term ends.

Dávila, who was first elected to the school board in 2003, said she is stepping down because of “personal family issues.” Dávila is married to Abel Dávila, the former chairman of the Houston Community College board who decided unexpectedly last year not to seek re-election. They have two children, ages 6 and 8.

“There are certain things going on in our lives currently that need our attention,” she said. “We have our own personal businesses that require some of our attention. And I have two growing children that require more of mommy’s attention.”

Dávila said her husband is expanding his pharmacy business, and she and her parents own a restaurant.

She said her resignation is not related to the article in the Houston Chronicle on Sunday that said she had tried to appoint her husband to an Houston Independent School District committee that oversees a nearly $1 billion construction program, a move the district’s inspector general concluded was a conflict of interest.

Dávila then recommended her political campaign manager, Manuel Barrera Jr., to the Bond Oversight Committee. Barrera resigned from that post Sunday, complaining that the newspaper story was intended to embarrass Hispanics.

Here’s that Sunday story, which I didn’t see while I was out of town. I wish the Dávilas the best with their personal business, but after the deadline day shenanigans from last year, I can’t say I’m particularly grieved by this turn of events. I’m just curious as to what will happen to her seat.

HISD’s private attorney, David Thompson, explained that state law specific to HISD says the board “shall” appoint a replacement to fill any vacancies. The person would serve until the next regular election, which is in November 2011. But the law also says that “should the board for any reason fail or refuse to fill” an open spot, it must call a special election.

I’m rooting for the special election to happen, which Dávila says is her preference as well. We’ll see what action the board takes. Hair Balls and School Zone have more.

Endorsement watch: HCC trustees

The Chron endorses in the HCC Trustee races, which even I had forgotten they hadn’t yet done.

In the westside District VI, Sandie Meyers is unopposed as the replacement for incumbent Robert Mills Worsham.

In District III, which stretches from near southeast Houston to Beltway 8, the Chronicle endorses one-term incumbent Diane Olmos Guzman , a public relations specialist and small business owner with a B.A. in journalism from the University of Houston.

I confess, I know exactly nothing about the District III race. I don’t recall seeing any endorsements being made in this one contested race by most of the usual endorsing organizations. Which, when you recall that these are for six-year terms that have no resign-to-run requirement, is a shame. Anyone have any thoughts about this one?

Outgoing District VIII incumbent Abel Davila embarrassed himself and HCC by leading constituents to think he was running for re-election to the central and eastside district, only to be a no-show at the filing deadline. His brother-in-law, Arturo Aguilar, filed instead but then dropped out of the race two days later.

Luckily, retired educator and community activist Eva Loredo had the foresight to register as a write-in candidate and is in position to pick up the pieces left by Davila and provide District VIII with a qualified representative.

That’s my district, which I hadn’t really realized till I got a mailer from Loredo over the weekend; I’ll have a scan of it up shortly. Your HCC Trustee district isn’t printed on your voter registration card – you need to find your registration online to see what district you’re in. She’s the first write-in candidate I’ve ever voted for, and may I say that’s a pain in the rear to do on the eSlate machine. Better than having to pay for a special election because there were no candidates on the ballot, though. I can’t wait to see how many votes she actually gets.

What happens now in HCC District 8?

As we know, after the filing-deadline shenanigans in the HCC Trustee District 8 race, brother-in-law candidate Arturo Aguilar said he was withdrawing from the ballot. As I noted at the time, that meant there were no other candidates who had filed before the deadline for that office. The question is what happens in that race?

First, are we sure that Aguilar can withdraw? If this were an even-numbered year and a partisan race, the answer would be No, as that deadline would be 74 days before the election. However, in this kind of race, Section 145.092 of the Elections Code applies:

Sec. 145.092. DEADLINE FOR WITHDRAWAL. (a) Except as otherwise provided by this section, a candidate may not withdraw from an election after 5 p.m. of the second day before the beginning of early voting by personal appearance.

(b) A candidate in an election for which the filing deadline for an application for a place on the ballot is not later than 5 p.m. of the 62nd day before election day may not withdraw from the election after 5 p.m. of the 53rd day before election day.

That makes the deadline to withdraw this Friday, September 11. Let’s assume Aguilar does so, if he hasn’t already.

Now again, if this were a general election for state or county office, and given that Aguilar’s was the only name on the ballot, there would be a prescribed procedure for replacing him; basically, the chairs of the county Republican and Democratic Parties would choose a replacement nominee by whatever internal process they have. Note that this only applies in the event of an otherwise uncontested race – had there been more than one candidate, then no replacements are chosen and whoever else was nominated from the other parties would duke it out. This was the Tom DeLay story in 2006.

But this isn’t that kind of an election. Here’s what the law says about Aguilar’s withdrawal, in Section 145.094:

Sec. 145.094. WITHDRAWN, DECEASED, OR INELIGIBLE CANDIDATE’S NAME OMITTED FROM BALLOT. (a) The name of a candidate shall be omitted from the ballot if the candidate:

(1) dies before the second day before the date of the deadline for filing the candidate’s application for a place on the ballot;

(2) withdraws or is declared ineligible before 5 p.m. of the second day before the beginning of early voting by personal appearance, in an election subject to Section 145.092(a);

(3) withdraws or is declared ineligible before 5 p.m. of the 53rd day before election day, in an election subject to Section 145.092(b); or

(4) withdraws or is declared ineligible before 5 p.m. of the 67th day before election day, in an election subject to Section 145.092(f).

145.092(b) is what applies here, so Aguilar’s name will not appear on the ballot. So far, so good, but that’s only half of the question. I do not see any statute that specifies a replacement procedure in the event that a candidate’s withdrawal leaves nobody on the ballot. So, given that Aguilar was the only candidate that filed on time, what happens if he withdraws? I can think of two possible explanations, assuming my interpretation of the law is correct up to this point:

1. There is no election for HCC Trustee in District 8, because there are no candidates on the ballot. In this case, I presume that once Abel Davila’s term expires, a vacancy will then be declared and a special election will be set, presumably for the next uniform election date in May of 2010. Which, given the possibility a special election to fill KBH’s Senate seat at the same time, could make that one of the more interesting special elections for an otherwise obscure office ever held. You know that I think that possibility is highly unlikely, but it could happen, so I mention it here.

2. The election takes place with no candidates appearing on the ballot, but with the option to write in a candidate’s name. According to Section 146.054, the deadline to file a declaration of write-in candidacy is “not later than 5 p.m. of the fifth day after the date an application for a place on the ballot is required to be filed”. I asked Hector DeLeon in the County Clerk’s office about this, and he confirmed my assumption that this means the fifth business day, and not fifth calendar day (which would have made the deadline 5 PM on Labor Day), in which case the deadline is 5 PM tomorrow, September 10. I presume Eva Loredo has filed her declaration of intent; I wonder if anyone else has.

I strongly suspect that option #2 is what will actually happen. I have a call in to the Secretary of State’s office to inquire about it. I’ll post an update when I get a response. Frankly, I don’t find either of these alternatives to be particularly appealing. The former allows for a real election, at the cost of up to six months’ vacancy of the office plus the financial cost of running the election, while the latter is basically a freak occurrence that will allow someone to be elected with a tiny minority of the total votes cast, but at least fills the seat in a timely fashion and saves the expense of a special election. Note here that since the deadline to file a declaration of intent to run as a write-in is Thursday, and the deadline to withdraw is Friday, we could theoretically wind up with a situation where there’s no candidate on the ballot and no write-in option. The only way out of that, as far as I can see, is scenario #1 above. There has to be a better way. Clearly, when Sen. Gallegos and his colleagues return to Austin in 2011, they’ll need to address this situation as well when they tweak the law to allow for an extension of the filing deadline when a to-be-unopposed candidate decides on the last day to not run.

So that’s my reading of this situation. If I’m incorrect about any of this, I hope someone will leave a comment and set me straight. As I said, when I hear back from the SOS, I’ll post an update.

From the “Timing Is Everything” department

I can only presume that this Saturday op-ed by soon-to-be-former HCC Trustee Abel Davila was submitted to the Chron before Wednesday of this week. I also presume once it was in the queue, it was going to run regardless of other events. And finally, given those recent events, the final sentence, in which Davila praises HCC Superintendent Mary Spangler for her leadership, has taken on a certain element of unintentional comedy. So there you have it.

Aguilar drops out of HCC Trustee race

I’m guessing the backlash for being a last minute candidate who also happens to be the brother-in-law of the suddenly-stepping-down incumbent must have been pretty strong, because Arturo Aguilar has decided to withdraw from the HCC Trustee race in District 8.

For all everyone knew, Abel Davila was planning to run for re-election to the Houston Community College Board of Trustees, which he serves as chairman.

That’s what he had told supporters and fellow officeholders, and that seemed to explain why he paid $30,000 for five prominent billboards featuring a photo of him and his wife, a Houston ISD trustee, along with the slogan “Partnering for Success.”

He had more than $50,000 in his campaign account as of the latest July accounting — a significant amount for a non-partisan, down-ballot race — and he had the support of other elected and community leaders.

But a funny thing happened on the way to the ballot. Davila never signed up. So when the deadline passed on Wednesday afternoon, the only candidate in the race for the District 8 spot was Arturo Aguilar, who submitted his ballot application 19 minutes before the cutoff.

Aguilar is the brother of Diana Davila, Abel’s wife. But Friday afternoon, the 34-year-old police officer said he is going to withdraw from the race. He did not explain why.

“It’s not in my best interest for me to run,” Aguilar said. “I don’t really want to say more than that. I will leave it as an open seat for those who are more interested.”

Oh, I think we know why Aguilar changed his mind. The rest of the story is quotes from State Sen. Mario Gallegos and the revelation of Eva Loredo as a write-in candidate, both of which I reported yesterday. What is not answered in this story is 1) does this mean Aguilar will not appear on the ballot; and 2) if so, can someone else be added, and under what procedures? I presume that if Aguilar’s name cannot be removed from the ballot that he intends to not take office, in which case there would be a special election to fill the seat. Perhaps some of Abel Davila’s no-longer-needed campaign funds can be used to help pay for that special election if that happens. Does anybody know what the relevant law is regarding who can be on the ballot for this situation?

All in the family, HCC-style

I noted last night and this morning that the HCC Trustee seat in District 8, which was left open at the last minute by Abel Davila, will be filled by his brother-in-law Arturo Aguilar. (Davila is married to HISD Trustee Diana Davila.) It turns out that Aguilar is not the only family member of an elected official who will be inheriting an open HCC Trustee seat. The candidate in District 6 is Sandra Meyers. Like Aguilar, a Google search for her yields basically nothing, but when I looked at her name this morning, I realized it rang a bell. Turns out, if you check the “About” page of HISD Trustee Greg Meyers, his wife’s name is “Sandie”. I have since confirmed that Sandie-wife-of-Greg Meyers and Sandra-soon-to-be-HCC-Trustee Meyers are one and the same. (Campos notes this as well; I figured this out before I saw his post.) And so she, like Aguilar, will walk into an elected position that has a six year term without being vetted by the public. Neither Meyers nor Aguilar has a campaign website I could find, and the Chronicle story that mentioned them was devoid of information beyond their names.

I’m sorry, but this stinks. Meyers, at least, was known to be a candidate before deadline day, and the seat she will occupy was known to be open for longer than that. I don’t know why no one else filed, but at least someone else had the chance. Aguilar got in under the wire when Davila pulled his last-minute retirement act. I have a problem with uncontested open seats, never mind ones that will be handed to the family members of current elected officials. That doesn’t serve democracy, or the interests of the constituents of those districts. And let’s not forget, the position of HCC Trustee has often been a stepping stone to candidacy for other offices. City Council candidates Mills Worsham (whose seat Meyers is getting) and Herman Litt are or were HCC Trustees. Yolanda Navarros Flores, who ran in the special election for District H, is a trustee. Jay Aiyer was a trustee before running for Council in 2005. Jim Murphy, who was succeeded on the Board by Worsham, won election as State Representative in 2006. With a six-year term and no resign-to-run requirement (something that State Sen. Mario Gallegos attempted to address this year), HCC Trustees get numerous opportunities to run for other offices without having to give up their existing gig.

I had a chat with Sen. Gallegos about this today. He was the one I’d heard talking about what had happened in District 8 last night, and to say the least he wasn’t happy about it. To sum up what Sen. Gallegos told me, he said he thought Davila had deceived his constituents and denied them the right to choose the trustee for themselves. He informed me he had no idea who Aguilar was – “I wouldn’t recognize him if he walked into my office right now, or anyone else’s,” he told me – even if Aguilar was Diana Davila’s brother (he is, I learned from another source) or Abel Davila’s sister’s husband. He noted that at least two other people had expressed an interest in filing for the seat, but decided not to run because everyone was supporting Davila. That support is now gone, and I can report that one of those people, a retired HISD principal and lifelong resident of Magnolia Park by the name of Eva Loredo, will file to run as a write-in candidate. I confirmed this with Ms. Loredo, so at least the people who are aware of her will have an option besides skipping the race. It’s better than nothing.

Finally, Campos and commenter JJMB in my earlier post note that something similar happened in HD132 back in 1992, when then-Rep. Paul Colbert stepped down on the day of the filing deadline, and now-Rep. Scott Hochberg, who worked for Colbert, filed in his stead. That was wrong, too, though at least Colbert and Hochberg weren’t related to each other, and the voters had to wait only two years to rectify the situation if they thought it warranted it. Hochberg, of course, is an outstanding State Rep, so the outcome was a good one. Maybe that’ll happen here, who knows? It just would have been nice for the voters to have a say in it, that’s all.

UPDATE: Just got a call from State Sen. Gallegos, who added that he has had a conversation with State Sen. Rodney Ellis, who is equally upset about what happened, and that the two of them plan to prefile legislation next November to allow for an automatic 24 to 48 hour extension of the filing deadline in the case of a non-partisan/non-primary election where an incumbent drops out or announces his or her retirement within 24 hours of the deadline. In other words, the next time this happens, filing for the office would be kept open for another day to allow other candidates to enter. He said a law like this already existed for primaries (Greg alluded to it in response to JJMB’s comment), and this would simply extend the concept to other elections. He said State Sen. John Whitmire was in Austin but he and Sen. Ellis would consult with him and get him on board as well. I think this is a great idea, and support its passage in the next legislative session.

UPDATE: Sandra Meyers’ website is SandieMeyers.com.

More on the lineups

Here’s the Chron story about the final filings to be on the ballot for city elections. As noted before, not a whole lot of surprises, but there are a couple of things worth mentioning:

Otis Jordan, president of the Houston Black Firefighters Association, who has been a frequent critic of the Houston Fire Department’s handling of allegations of racism and sexism among firefighters in recent months, filed to run against District D Councilwoman Wanda Adams, who also will face Larry McKinzie.

Interesting. I’m not sure if this is because HBFA has a beef against CM Adams, or if it’s just because that’s the district he lives in. More on Otis Jordan here and here.

In the Houston Community College System board, only one seat is contested: District 3, where incumbent Diane Olmos Guzman will face a challenge from Mary Ann Perez.

In District 6, the only candidate to file was Sandra Meyers. The lone candidate for District 8 is Arturo Aguilar.

As I said before, District 8 is currently held by Abel Davila, who apparently decided not to run for re-election. I hope there will be some kind of followup to give us more information about Arturo Aguilar (a Google search didn’t tell me anything), especially given how his name appeared on the last day for a seat for which it looked like Davila was going to run for re-election. I reported last night that I’d heard that Aguilar (whose name I hadn’t heard) was Davila’s brother-in-law. If that’s true, and he basically inherited this seat for free, that stinks. Does anyone know any more about this?

Here’s your lineup

Martha has your final filings for City of Houston elections. Executive summary: No surprise last minute entrants, but everyone except for Council Members Melissa Noriega (At Large #3), Ed Gonzalez (H), and James Rodriguez (I) has at least one opponent. Time to start handicapping the races and guessing who makes it to what runoff.

Meanwhile, the HISD Board of Trustee elections got more competitive as Mike Lunceford drew Ray Reiner, retired HISD principal and executive director of the Houston Association of School Administrators, for the open District V seat, and Board President Larry Marshall wound up with three opponents for District IX. District I remained a three-candidate race, while incumbents Harvin Moore and Greg Meyers went unopposed.

Finally, the one strange turn occurred in the HCC Board of Trustees universe, where Trustee Abel Davila reportedly did not file for re-election. If I heard correctly, it sounds like his brother-in-law (!) filed at the last minute and will have the field to himself. I gather some people are not happy about this, and I expect there will be some fallout as a result. Stay tuned.

Filing deadline

Today at 5 PM is the filing deadline for city elections. Martha has her usual roundup of who has filed. So far, the only bit of suspense is in the Mayor’s race, where Roy Morales has yet to do his paperwork. I presume he’s just taking his time, but you never know what can happen. And whatever does happen, be sure to come by Cafe Adobe at 5:30 to have a drink and talk about it.

Meanwhile, the only contested HISD Trustee race is in the District I seat that Natasha Kamrani is leaving open. Oddly, the open District V still has only one candidate. Mike Lunceford may be the luckiest guy of the cycle. We’ll know soon enough. Of interest to me since I brought it up yesterday is this:

On Monday, in his last day on the job, now-retired HISD Superintendent Abelardo Saavedra suggested in an interview that the structure of the Houston school board be changed so that four of the nine members are elected at-large by the entire community — rather than by a smaller geographic district.

In most Texas school districts, the board members are elected at-large, said Thompson and Kelly Frels, another longtime school attorney.

HISD’s system of single-member districts is the result of a 1975 state statute designed to increase minority representation specifically on the Houston school board, the attorneys said.

If Houston wanted to change to at-large board members, the Legislature would have to act and the Justice Department would have to sign off, Frels said.

The Dallas school board is set up similar to Houston’s, while Austin has a hybrid board, with two of the nine trustees elected at-large.

Laurie Bricker, a former HISD board member, said she agrees with Saavedra’s suggestion of a hybrid board.

“I think it would bring a nice blend,” Bricker said. “This is not a criticism of single-member district board members. But they have to be mindful. There is a group that elected them. They have special interests.”

I guess I figured that there would be a Justice Department issue. I’m still not sure what the allure of a hybrid system is, though.

One more thing: According to a sidebar on the story, this is the filing situation for the Houston Community College Board of Trustees:

HCC CANDIDATES

Like HISD, the Houston Community College board election has drawn few candidates so far. The filing deadline is today. HCC board candidates as of Tuesday:

• District 3: Diane Olmos Guzman (incumbent), Mary Ann Perez

• District 6: Sandra Meyers

• District 8: No candidates

The District 6 incumbent is Mills Worsham, who as we know is running for City Council. The District 8 incumbent is Abel Davila, who I presume is running for re-election. I’m just curious, though: What happens if Davila somehow manages to screw up his filing (think Ray Jones), and no one else files? Anybody know the answer offhand?