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Two possible straws in the wind

Ken Paxton seems a little nervous.

Best mugshot ever

Less than 36 hours before Election Day, the race for attorney general is showing signs of competition that have been absent in just about every other statewide contest.

Republican incumbent Ken Paxton, who was indicted more than three years ago on felony securities fraud charges, has been running a relatively quiet campaign with the comfortable advantage of a GOP incumbent in a state that has not elected a Democrat statewide in more than two decades.

But now he is firing back at his Democratic challenger, Justin Nelson, with a new attack ad — the first one from Paxton that addresses the indictment — and getting a fresh influx of high-dollar campaign donations, signals that Republicans are not taking anything for granted in the race for Texas’ top lawyer.

Nelson, a prominent Austin attorney, has made Paxton’s legal troubles the basis of his campaign and the main focus of much of his advertising — posting billboards around the state featuring Paxton’s mugshot, commissioning a rolling billboard he calls the “Mugshot Mobile” and even sending campaign staffers dressed as Paxton in prisoner garb to frolic on the Capitol grounds in a Halloween stunt. Yet most consequentially, Nelson has spent significantly to air TV ads informing voters all over the state that their attorney general is under indictment.

The anti-Nelson push from Paxton’s campaign suggests that the Democrat’s jabs have been successful in getting something most other Democratic statewide candidates have been aching for: the GOP’s attention. Except for the blockbuster U.S. Senate battle between incumbent Ted Cruz and Democratic challenger Beto O’Rourke, Republican statewide officials have largely ignored their Democratic challengers, let alone gone negative on TV against them.

“Nelson has successfully raised the profile of the race to a level where Republicans began to be nervous that people who vote straight-ticket Republican may cross over in this race as they learn more about Ken Paxton,” said Mark Jones, a political science professor at Rice University. “While they’re still counting on it, they don’t have 100 percent confidence.”

Paxton also got a cash injection from Greg Abbott. As I said before, this may just be an abundance of caution on Paxton’s part. The official reason, asserted by the political scientists, is that Paxton doesn’t want to win by a wimpy single-digit score. And maybe that is all it is. But I feel pretty confident saying he wouldn’t be asking for handouts from Greg Abbott if he didn’t think he needed the help.

Meanwhile, there’s Democratic money coming in, too.

A Democratic super PAC focused on state legislative races has injected $2.2 million into a slew of Texas House contests in their closing days.

The group, Forward Majority, is using the money to help 32 Democratic candidates, many of them challengers in GOP-held districts who have not been able to match the financial backing of the incumbents. A large majority of the funds are going toward digital ads targeting the Republicans as beholden to big donors and corporate interests, with a couple of spots tailored to specific lawmakers.

“We are staging this late intervention because we believe there is a unique window of opportunity for first time candidates to take down several entrenched Republican incumbents on Tuesday,” said Ben Wexler-Waite, a spokesman for Forward Majority.

[…]

Forward Majority was launched last year by alumni of Barack Obama’s campaigns with the goal of retaking state legislatures across the country before the next round of redistricting in 2021. Texas is one of six states the group is targeting this cycle as part of a nearly $9 million push.

In Texas, Forward Majority began seriously spending in its targeted races just a couple weeks ago. Its latest filing with the Texas Ethics Commission, which covered Sept. 28 through Oct. 27, shows the group spent $1.1 million. The rest of the $2.2 million has come since then, Wexler-Waite said.

Forward Majority is not the only seven-figure force for Democrats in Texas House races this cycle. The House Democratic Campaign Committee has raised $1.1 million this cycle, fueled by six-figure donations from the National Democratic Redistricting Committee, the group led by former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder. The HDCC is currently waging an $800,000 digital ad campaign in the most competitive seats.

The list of races in which this PAC is spending money follows. It ranges from the ones that have been the focus of attention all along, to those that should have had more attention all along, to the stretch goals and the more speculative investments. I couldn’t tell you the last time we did something like this – pretty sure it wasn’t this redistricting cycle – so I’m just happy to see it happen. We’ll see how sound an investment this turns out to be.

When Ken Paxton attacks

He’s gotta be a little scared.

Best mugshot ever

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has started airing a statewide TV ad against his Democratic challenger, Justin Nelson, as Nelson presses to close the race with an emphasis on the indictment that has dogged the Republican incumbent for most of his first term.

Since last week, Nelson, an Austin lawyer, has been airing a TV commercial highlighting Paxton’s 2015 indictment on securities fraud charges, asking, “If Ken Paxton can’t follow the law, how can he enforce it?” Nelson has also put up billboards across the state plastered with Paxton’s mugshot.

In the new spot from Paxton, a narrator asserts Nelson is “running a negative campaign to hide his extreme liberal agenda,” portraying the Democrat as soft on illegal immigration. The half-minute commercial then contrasts Nelson with Paxton, who the narrator says “shut down the world’s largest human trafficking marketplace” — a reference to the attorney general’s role in shuttering the Dallas-based sex ads website Backpage.com.

The ad was seen airing this morning in major markets throughout the state, including Austin, Dallas, Houston and San Antonio.

The anti-Nelson ad is notable for a number of reasons. Beyond U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz in his blockbuster battle with Democrat Beto O’Rourke, most of Texas’ statewide officials have hardly acknowledged their Democratic opponents, let alone run TV ads against them. And Paxton has until now appeared to have kept his TV advertising positive, airing a spot touting his role in the Backpage.com investigation.

It could be an abundance of caution. Paxton believes he’s ahead, but not insurmountably so, and there’s no reason to take chances. It could be a belief that attacks must be answered, lest one look weak or lose initiative. And it could be that he’s genuinely worried. Paxton has refused to engage in any kind of political activity that isn’t all about himself or comfortably in the embrace of the Fox News wingnut universe. If he changes his tactics now, at this late date, there’s a reason for it.

On the air

You might be seeing some TV ads from Texas Democrats who aren’t Beto O’Rourke or Lizzie Fletcher. There’s Justin Nelson:

Justin Nelson

Attorney Justin Nelson, a candidate for attorney general, on Tuesday became the first — and likely only — Democrat running for state office to go on TV with a Texas-wide campaign ad.

Nelson’s 30-second spot now on air across Texas hammers incumbent Attorney General Ken Paxton for his 2015 criminal indictment for securities fraud and a subsequent 2017 investigation into bribery and corruption that was closed after prosecutors decided not to pursue any charges against him. Paxton has yet to go to trial on three felony charges from the 2015 indictment.

Paxton, a Republican finishing his first term, released his own ad Monday. Paxton’s campaign spot features his office cracking down on human trafficking to make Texas safer. That includes helping shut down Backpage.com, a website that hosted prostitution-related ads. Paxton’s spokesman said the ad is on air, including in the Houston market.

I saw one of the Nelson ads during the last Astros’ game (sigh).

There’s Todd Litton.

Todd Litton

Democrat Todd Litton on Monday began airing the first TV ad of his campaign for Texas’ 2nd Congressional District, with a 30-second spot that seeks to draw a contrast between himself and Republican opponent Dan Crenshaw.

The ad, titled “No Joke,” begins with a scene in Litton’s kitchen, where he tells a “dad joke” to his kids.

“They sure keep me in check,” Litton says about his children. “But no one is keeping Congress in check. That’s no joke.”

He goes on to mention “my far right opponent, Dan Crenshaw,” whom Litton says “only makes matters worse.” He contends Crenshaw would “do away with Social Security, health care and a woman’s right to choose.”

“I’ll protect them,” Litton concludes. “And I’ll stand up to anyone and work with anyone to get things done.”

The ad represents a six-figure buy and will air on broadcast networks through Election Day, according to Litton’s campaign.

If you had told me a couple of months ago that one of the Congressional candidates would tell a dad joke in a TV ad, I’d have guessed it would be Todd Litton. And now there’s Sri Kulkarni.

Sri Kulkarni

Democrat Sri Preston Kulkarni is continuing to put pressure on U.S. Rep. Pete Olson in what has fast become one of the most competitive races for Congress in Texas.

Kulkarni has launched a new television ad blasting Olson, a 5-term incumbent, as a “do-nothing Congressman.”

“What happened to Pete Olson?” a narrator says, noting that Olson had sponsored just three bills that passed in 10 years in office.

According to records with the Library of Congress, Olson two of those bills renamed post offices in Pearland and Sugar Land. Another bill awarded the Congressional Gold Medal to the World War II pilots who made raids on Tokyo.

[…]

The ad comes at a time that new campaign finance reports show Kulkarni raised more money in the last three months for his campaign than Olson, and Kulkarni has more money going into the final weeks of the campaign.

In addition, national Democrats are promising more help for Kulkarni after his surprise showing. This week the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee added Kulkarni to their “Red to Blue” program, which provides organizational and fundraising support for campaigns.

“Sri has put together a strong people-powered campaign that makes this race competitive,” said DCCC chairman Ben Ray Lujan.

It’s almost like we live in a competitive political environment. Such exciting times. You can see Justin Nelson’s ad here, Todd Litton’s ad here, and Sri Kulkarni’s ad here.

On negative ads and name recognition

I confess, I’m amused by this.

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz is going after Democrat Beto O’Rourke for cursing during some of his campaign speeches.

The Cruz campaign released a digital ad on social media that shows O’Rourke cursing at various campaign events over the last year.

“So he’s showing up across Texas sharing his wit, his wisdom and his character,” an unidentified narrator says as clips of O’Rourke cursing are bleeped out.

The ad closes by saying O’Rourke is “showing the #@%* up.”

That’s…bad? Doesn’t that imply that Ted Cruz isn’t “showing the #@%* up”? I’m not exactly sure what I’m supposed to make of that, but then it seems that Ted Cruz isn’t very good at negative ads. Maybe if he had some accomplishments he could tout or something like that. I’m just spitballing here. What does it say about an incumbent when all his first moves out of the gate are to attack his opponent rather than brag about his record?

It’s clear that it’s going to be all mud from here on out, not just from Cruz but also from the big money outside agitators that prop him up as well. All of which leads to a bit of musing from RG Ratcliffe on the state of the race.

The increased attention that O’Rourke’s growing celebrity is drawing has some Democratic stalwarts worried that O’Rourke has not built a campaign that has the ability to quickly trade jab for jab. This may be problematic because poll after poll—which show the race for Senate is close—suggests that a large number of voters still do not know O’Rourke. This low voter ID allows Cruz and his allies to help define his opponent leading into Election Day.

You might want to put in a mouth guard to prevent injury as you grind your teeth at the quotes from unnamed “Democratic operatives”, but never mind that for now. My first inclination in times like these is always to look to the data, so I went through all the recent polls to see what I could find about Beto O’Rourke’s favorability and name recognition. Here’s what I got:

UT/Trib, June 25 – 16% Neutral, 24% Don’t Know

Quinnipiac, July 31 – 43% “Haven’t heard enough”

PPP, August 1 – “O’Rourke’s name recognition has grown since January as well as his favorability. In January, only 39% of voters had an opinion of him, and his favorability was 20% while 19% had an unfavorable opinion of him. Now 57% have an opinion of him with 31% having a favorable and 26% having an unfavorable opinion.”

NBC News, August 22 – 36% Unsure/Never heard among RVs

ECPS, Aug 27 – 27% Neutral, 11% Never heard

Not all polls asked about Beto’s favorability (though they nearly always asked about Cruz’s, and nearly everyone has an opinion on him), and those that did were not consistent in their question wording or their categorizations. Still, even with the variability, it’s clear that a decent number of people don’t have a firm opinion about Beto O’Rourke, and thus we get the pearl-clutching.

And to be fair, it’s a very reasonable point to make. If you don’t already have an opinion about a candidate – maybe even if you do – that means your perception is up for grabs. If you’re a politician with plenty of money – and while O’Rourke has greatly outraised Cruz, he still has lots of dough and his buddies in the conservative PAC business have bottomless coffers – you can have an effect on that. Thus the old adage about defining yourself before your opponent does it for you.

That said, I think it’s also worth contemplating how much effect negative ads, even competent ones, may have this year, especially on a high-charisma candidate like Beto O’Rourke. For one thing, as we have recently observed, not all candidates are vulnerable to negative information about them. For another, people who dislike Ted Cruz (of which there are many) and are undecided about Beto O’Rourke may be less likely to believe or be swayed by an attack on O’Rourke by Cruz. Most of all, in a year where so many people are highly motivated to deliver a message to Donald Trump, negative ads just may not mean much to them.

I’m not saying that Cruz’s barrage can’t or won’t have an effect. It probably will, though at this point it’s impossible to say how much of an effect it may have. I am saying that this is a weird year, with unusual dynamics, and it’s worth thinking this sort of thing through. I do hope Beto has a strategy for weathering the attacks, even if that strategy is “keep on keeping on”. We’re sure to get a lot more polling data over the next two months, so whatever effect there is, I’m sure we’ll see it.

Beto’s ad strategy

Nothing wrong with a little low-tech outreach.

Rep. Beto O’Rourke

Over the last year, U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke’s bid to unseat U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz has drawn national fanfare as a thoroughly modern, digital-first campaign. He regularly draws an audience of thousands to his Facebook page by livestreaming mundane moments on the campaign trail, and he has outpaced most every other campaign in the country with the millions he’s spent on digital advertising.

Yet the El Paso Democrat has been also waging a more under-the-radar effort via more old-school mediums. For the past few months, O’Rourke’s campaign has been running ads on local radio stations and in certain publications in an effort to court voters he may be less likely to reach online, part of a six-figure investment to supplement his already-robust presence online.

It has unfolded ahead of O’Rourke’s biggest foray into paid, non-digital media yet — a $1.3 million TV buy that is set to begin Wednesday across the state. But in some communities, it will not be the first time they have seen or heard O’Rourke advertising offline.

The radio ads, which have not been previously reported, have fallen into at least two categories: spots that advise listeners of an upcoming O’Rourke appearance in their area and a half-minute commercial in which he introduces himself as the candidate “running against Ted Cruz for the Senate because I believe in the people of Texas.”

[…]

Among the radio ads that O’Rourke has run to get out the word about his events have been in the Rio Grande Valley, where he has acknowledged he needs to do better after losing some counties there to a little-known opponent in the March primary. For example, back in May, O’Rourke ran minute-long radio ads on McAllen stations in the hours before he went block walking and held a town hall in the border city.

At least some of the radio and print ads appear to be aimed at black voters. The 30-second radio spot has aired on urban contemporary stations like KGGR in Dallas and KHVN in Fort Worth, and the print ads have shown up in African-American newspapers such as the Houston Defender and Dallas Examiner, touching on issues including jobs, education and health care.

You can listen to the radio spot and see a print ad at the link above. There’s a lot to like about this. It reaches out to voters who aren’t Internet users or regular TV watchers. It’s consistent with his visit-everywhere strategy. It addresses a weakness from the primary. The ads cross-promote his town halls and rallies, which are where the magic really happens for his campaign. The cost is low, so there’s no negative effect on the budget for larger ad expenditures. Knowing this is happening gives me an extra level of faith in his campaign. Well done.

The rising cost of losing

Womp womp.

The price of losing keeps going up for Republican Kathaleen Wall.

Four months after losing her campaign for Congress, the Houston Republican had to put yet another $150,000 of her own money into her campaign to pay for final expenses related to the race, newly released Federal Election Commission records show.

That pushed the total she spent on her failed campaign for the 2nd Congressional District to just under $6.2 million — the most self-funding any candidate in Texas has put into a campaign for a U.S. House seat since at least the year 2000 and the second highest amount any candidate for the House has spent nationwide this year.

Only Maryland Democrat David Trone has spent more of his own money to campaign for the U.S. House of Representatives this year. Trone, the co-founder of Total Wine & More, has so far spent just over $10.2 million on his campaign. He won his primary last month and faces Republican Amie Hoeber in November.

[…]

Wall’s final report to the FEC showed she needed the extra money for a variety expenses after losing her race, including for online advertising bills that were paid in April.

I know, it’s in poor taste to kick someone when they’re down. But good Lord, those Wall ads on TV were horrible, and you COULD NOT ESCAPE THEM. I’m getting twitchy just thinking about it. She deserves one last raspberry from those of us who had to survive them.

Voter registration deadline is Monday

Check your registration status.

Houston-area voters are registering to vote in record numbers just in time for the March 6 primaries, and the two major political parties are bracing for yet another wave of newcomers over the next few days.

With Monday’s voter registration deadline fast approaching, both major political parties say they are seeing a definite uptick in interest from people wanting to be ready for the nation’s first in the nation political primaries.

“​We are seeing a spike in activity,” said Vlad Davidiuk, communications director for the Harris County Republican Party.

Harris County Democrats say they too are seeing a lot more interest than usual during a midterm election cycle for both the primary races on March 6 and the general election in November.

Already Harris County has nearly 2.3 million registered voters. Four years ago in 2014, the last time Texas had a midterm election cycle with the governor’s race being the top draw, Harris County had less than 2.1 million registered voters.

That last paragraph misstates the comparison. The “less than 2.1 million” figure – actually 2,044,361 – was for the November election. The truly comparable total is from the March primary, and that was 1,992,969. We’re more than 300,000 voters up on that amount. That in and of itself doesn’t mean anything, but I think it’s safe to say that turnout this March will be higher than that March, when 139K Republicans showed up for a bunch of contested statewide races and a paltry 53K Dems did the same for not much of excitement. I feel reasonably comfortable saying Dems will exceed that total. Beyond that, we’ll see.

You can check your status at the Harris County Tax Assessor, but it’s really only an issue if you’ve moved recently. The rest of you should have received your new voter registration card in the mail. I would definitely check if you haven’t received that.

Also, too, a reason to lean on your DVR over the next month:

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick may act like he’s not worried by his Republican primary challenger, but he is spending more than $1 million on TV ads in the Houston area between now and the March 6 election.

Some 975 ads are booked to run during the Olympics, morning shows, afternoon programming, and prime-time evening news hours, according to television station public inspection records filed with the Federal Communications Commission.

Spread among NBC affiliate KPRC-Channel 2, ABC affiliate KTRK-Channel 13, FOX affiliate KIRV-Channel 26 and KHOU-Channel 11, Patrick’s campaign is spending $1,049,640 on the TV ad spots that were scheduled to begin running this week through the election.

In technical terms, that is a metric crap-ton of advertising. You have been warned.

Clinton campaign to run ads in Texas

It’s come to this.

Hillary Clinton

Hillary Clinton’ campaign is going on the air in solid-red Texas, a remarkable move by a Democratic presidential nominee as her Republican rival, Donald Trump, struggles across the country.

Clinton is launching a one-week ad buy in the Lone Star State that highlights the Dallas Morning News’ recent endorsement of the former secretary of state, according to a campaign aide. The 30-second commercial will air on TV in Dallas, Houston, Austin and San Antonio, as well as online. Clinton’s campaign did not detail the size of the buy.

When the Dallas Morning News editorial board endorsed Clinton earlier this year, it was the board’s first endorsement of a Democratic presidential hopeful since before World War II. The Clinton spot notes the historical significance of the endorsement, going on to quote its criticism of Trump’s judgment and praise of Clinton’s bipartisan credentials.

“At this moment in time, for Texas and for America, Hillary for president,” a narrator concludes.

The ad buy comes as polls continue to show the presidential race in Texas closer than usual. A WFAA/SurveyUSA poll released Thursday found Trump leading by only 4 points, much less than Mitt Romney’s 16-point margin in 2012 and John McCain’s 12-point margin in 2008.

“The Dallas Morning News points out Trump’s values are out of step with Texas,” Garry Mauro, who chairs Clinton’s efforts in Texas, said in a statement on the ad buy. “As more and more Texans realize this — and turn to Hillary — the polls will get better and better.”

Here’s the ad:

Nice. Is it likely to have any effect on persuasion or turnout? Maybe a little bit at the margins, but who cares? The Chron goes into some detail.

Though Clinton still is a long shot in Texas, political analysts see it as a sign of her recent strength nationally and in the critical battleground states of Pennsylvania and Florida.

“I don’t think it’s knowable at this point what a Texas ad buy would accomplish,” veteran Texas Democratic operative Harold Cook said. “But I will say this: If the Democrat is buying ad time in Texas in a presidential election, it ain’t a good year for the Republican.”

[…]

“I think they’re playing with house money right now,” said Craig Goodman, a political scientist at the University of Houston in Victoria, citing reports that the Clinton campaign is flush with cash compared to Trump, who has taken in less than half of the $373 million reported so far by the Democrat. “They’ve got excess resources.”

I’m just glad I lived long enough to see a Democratic Presidential candidate decide it was worthwhile to run some general election ads in Texas for Texas voters. Trail Blazers has more.

KHSPVA

That will be the new acronym for the High School for the Performing and Visual Arts.

After impassioned debate, the Houston school board voted 7-2 Thursday to accept a $7.5 million gift for the district’s renowned arts high school and to rename the campus after the donors in an unprecedented move.

The Kinder Foundation, run by billionaire couple Richard and Nancy Kinder, offered the donation in exchange for calling the campus the Kinder High School for the Performing and Visual Arts. The money is supposed to help with rebuilding the school downtown, funding theater lighting and seats, a sound system, a specialized dance floor and more.

“We hope these joint and cooperative efforts preserve the long-term future of one of Houston’s most acclaimed and diverse schools and forges a new path through public/private partnership to support future HISD schools,” Rich Kinder said in a statement after the vote.

Board approval of the deal was in doubt just hours before the board meeting. Several trustees expressed frustration over the private negotiations that took place concerning the deal and questioned the fairness to other campuses in the Houston Independent School District. Board member Mike Lunceford, whose trustee district includes the arts school in its current Montrose-area location, had brought forward the proposal.

[…]

Houston school board member Rhonda Skillern-Jones, who said Monday that she was conflicted about the proposal, said Thursday that, although she thought the renaming policy needed to be strengthened, she believed the students at the arts school deserved the funding.

“I do not believe you deprive our high-performing schools of what they need to get to equity,” Skillern-Jones, who has a son attending the arts high school, said before voting with the majority to support the proposal.

Houston board member Jolanda Jones, who opposed the deal along with trustee Diana Davila, described the gift negotiations as “sneaky.”

“I find it offensive that people say if you don’t vote for this, that you don’t care about the kids. Actually I care about all the kids in HISD,” Jones said.

“It seems like HISD is like a pimp, and the schools are what they sell,” Jones added. “That was the nicest way I could think to say it.

Here’s an earlier story, from when the grant was announced, and a Chron editorial in favor of taking the cash. I’ve advocated selling ad space on school buses and school rooftops, as well as naming rights to stadiums, so I’m hardly in a position to turn my nose up at this. I’m fine with reviewing the board policy to ensure we get what we want and not what we don’t, and I absolutely want to see grants like this going to poorer and less prestigious schools, which need the money more, but neither of those concerns should have an effect on this, so I’m glad the Board voted to accept. Maybe someday when we finally fund our schools at an appropriate level this sort of thing won’t be needed, but until then, I say bring it on. The Press has more.

Checking in on Garcia v Green

An update on how the biggest primary fight in the county is going.

Rep. Gene Green

Rep. Gene Green

U.S. Congressman Gene Green has taken Texas’ 29th District Democratic primary to television, leveraging his substantial financial advantage over challenger Adrian Garcia to pour more than $240,000 into network and cable advertising over the next three weeks.

Green’s English- and Spanish-language ads focus on his involvement in the community, providing a contrast to Garcia’s more aggressive negative messaging about the incumbent.

Seeking to fend off his first primary challenge in two decades, Green is relying on his war chest and deep roots in the 77-percent Hispanic district that curls around eastern Houston from the near north side to the Hobby Airport area.

“Welcome to my office. To solve problems, you have to get out in the community,” Green says in an ad that is set to begin airing Wednesday on Comcast. “That’s how we turned a cantina into a thriving clinic expanding access to health care.”

Green has spent $141,000 on cable ads running in the North Houston, Baytown, Pasadena and Pearland areas, and another $100,000 on ads set to begin airing on KHOU-11 next week, records show. The campaign expects to spend a total of $350,000 on television advertising by the end of the week, including on Spanish-language channels.

Adrian Garcia

Adrian Garcia

“Getting people’s attention is going to be hard,” Green consultant Robert Jara said, noting that the presidential race soon will hit Texas in full force. “We wanted to make sure we got things locked in before the presidential candidates started moving into Texas.”

[…]

Comcast and Federal Communications Commission files for major Houston-area channels had no record of advertising purchases by Garcia’s campaign.

Instead, Garcia, who was sitting on just $73,000 in his campaign account at the end of last year, has focused on free media, sending near-daily campaign announcements and news releases, many of which attack Green on issues ranging from gun safety to the environment.

“Benzene Gene is not for District 29,” read a Garcia press release emailed Tuesday afternoon.

For what it’s worth, I think both candidates have run the kind of race they’ve needed to run (yeah, there’s a third candidate, but he’s not done much of anything). Green has rolled out a bajillion endorsements, and now he’s hitting the airwaves to remind people that he’s good at his job and they’ve never had any complaints about him before now. Garcia has been busy attacking him on issues like marriage equality, gun control, and the environment, where Green’s record is not exactly in line with many primary-voting Democrats. He’s also made the pitch to be the first Latino member of Congress from the Houston area – this Trib story from a few days ago sums up that aspect of the race well – and has thrown in some economic inequality stuff as well. It’s all what I’d have done if he’d have asked for my opinion.

The identity politics stuff is interesting and necessarily dominates the discussion. It may work well in this race, though it will be hard to tell exactly by how much. I’m more intrigued by the issues arguments. A few years ago I had a conversation with the founder of a lefty 527 PAC, who wanted to pick my brains about finding someone to challenge Gene Green from the left. I told him that wouldn’t be easy, for all the reasons you’d expect – Green was well-liked, he performed very well in elections, all of the potential challengers you could think of were allied with him, etc – and also noted that CD29 wasn’t exactly a hotbed of liberal agitation. Green’s more conservative record, on the issues mentioned above and on other things, was in line with the district, I said. The question now is whether that’s still the case. Nationally, the Democratic base has shifted to the left – one need only look at the Presidential primary to see that. That doesn’t mean that said shift is uniform, or universal. CD29 is the kind of place where you might not see such a difference – it’s blue collar, working class, and heavily dependent on the oil patch for its jobs. Yet that’s part of what’s driving this race. Whether that will have any effect one way or the other on the outcome, and whether that effect will be part of the postmortem, is unclear to me. But it is happening, and we should keep an eye on it.

Red lights on the Green line

Alas.

HoustonMetro

Light rail is up and running along Harrisburg on the city’s east side, but Metro’s construction continues to be a sore spot with area residents because it seems at every turn the work is taking longer than promised.

The latest delays come from sluggish work to move utilities and excavate for a planned overpass of freight railroad tracks along Harrisburg near Hughes. The overpass is needed to extend Green Line rail service from its current terminus at Altic to its future endpoint at the Magnolia Park Transit Center.

“There is no way to sugarcoat this. We are behind schedule and we are working to get back on schedule,” said Roberto Trevino, Metro’s executive vice president for planning, engineering and construction.

Construction can catch up, officials said, meaning the overpass remains on track to open in May 2016 as Metro and McCarthy Building Companies – the project’s general contractor – estimated in January. Much of the work occurs in the center of the new street, meaning it doesn’t cut off businesses but does make accessing their driveways trickier.

[…]

One of the first steps in the construction – moving utilities – got off to a slow start, Trevino said.

Moving overhead electrical utilities lagged at first, then crews started finding telecommunications and gas lines that weren’t listed on plans and city documents.

That stalls work as gas or phone company crews have to come out and assess the lines and see if they are functioning.

A potentially bigger pitfall comes from prior industrial uses along Harrisburg, Trevino said, specifically underground tanks used to store fuels that were not listed on many site plans and which proved more problematic than Metro thought.

“We are doing some proactive measures to make up as much time as we can,” Trevino said.

To accelerate construction, additional crews have descended on the job site, and McCarthy has plans to move from doing work for 10 hours six days a week, to seven days a week.

If it’s not one thing it’s another with this construction. I don’t think there’s much that could have been done differently based on what the story says, but boy will everyone be glad when this is over. I just hope they can still make the May deadline.

In tangential news, the Wednesday Metro board meeting was where the long-discussed idea of allowing ads on trains and buses was supposed to come up, but I haven’t seen any news item or press release indicating that it did. Anyone know what happened?

8 day finance reports: Controller candidates

How about a look at the 8 day finance reports for Controller candidates? I figure if you’re reading this blog you won’t look at me funny when I say things like that, so here we go:


Candidate    Raised      Spent      Loans   On Hand
===================================================
Brown        46,375    151,848     30,000    12,067
Frazer       58,953    146,767     32,500    38,072
Khan         44,965    351,902    215,000    32,986
Robinson      6,375          0          0     1,151

Candidate    Advertising     Print/Mail
=======================================
Brown             99,600         34,600
Frazer            76,500         53,000
Khan             307,500         24,000

BagOfMoney

A few comments:

– Neither Dwight Jefferson nor Jew Don Boney have 8 day reports, or for that matter 30 day reports. I have no idea why this is the case. Carroll Robinson’s 8 day report does not list a total for expenses, and it has no itemization of contributions or expenses; there’s basically nothing after the initial cover page.

– Bill Frazer had $16,450 in in-kind contributions listed as “pro-rata share of mailer”, from the C Club and Houston Realty Business Coalition. $69,215 of his expenses were from personal funds, including $50,250 for advertising, $7,490 for “GOTV mailout printing”, and $9,747 for postage.

– 22 off MJ Khan’s 44 contributors gave non-Houston addresses. I think I’ve seen his circa-2009 ad and Chris Brown’s “high school swim team” ad more than any Mayoral candidate’s ads except for maybe Costello. Khan also spent $825 on Facebook ads, because why not?

I have not had the time or energy to do the same scrutiny on Council reports, but this Chron story provides a few highlights.

1. At-large 1: Candidates competing to replace term-limited Stephen Costello, who is running for mayor, dropped nearly $299,00 during the past month. The biggest spender was Tom McCasland, former CEO of the Harris County Housing Authority, whose political action committee dropped nearly $155,000. Mike Knox, who has positioned himself as the conservative candidate, spent $57,000 and Lane Lewis, chair of the Harris County Democratic Party, spent $44,000.

2. At-large 4: In another competitive at-large race, seven candidates combined spent $252,000. Amanda Edwards, a municipal finance lawyer, has significantly outpaced competitors in spending, dropping $208,000.

4. At-large 2: Incumbent David Robinson and four contenders spent a combined $147,000. Challenger Eric Dick, a lawyer and former mayoral candidate, shelled out the most, spending almost $75,000. Robinson spent more than $47,000.

Since they didn’t go into it, I will note that in At Large #3, CM Kubosh spent about $28K, while Doug Peterson and John LaRue combined to spend about $12K; in At Large #5, CM Christie spent $60K, while Philippe Nassif spent $13K. I know I’ve received some mail from Amanda Edwards (and also received a mailer yesterday from Chris Brown), as well as two robocalls from Eric Dick and – this is the strangest thing I’ve experienced this campaign – a robocall from “former Houston Rocket Robert Reid on behalf of [his] good friend Griff Griffin”. Who knew Griff even did campaigning? Not that this appeared anywhere on his finance report, as either an expense or an in-kind donation, of course. Let’s not go overboard, you know. Anyway, if you look at the 2015 Election page, you will see that as with the Controllers, several At Large candidates have not filed 8 day reports. James Partsch-Galvan and Joe McElligott have filed no reports; Moe Rivera and Jonathan Hansen have not filed 30 Day or 8 Day reports; Jenifer Pool filed an 8 day but not a 30 day; and Larry Blackmon and Brad Batteau filed 30 day reports but not 8 day reports. It’s possible some of these may turn up later, so I’ll keep looking for them. I’m working on the district reports as well and will list them as I can.

8 day finance reports: Mayoral candidates

Here’s the story:

BagOfMoney

Adrian Garcia outspent his chief rivals in the Houston mayor’s race over the last month, hoping to hold what polls suggest is his slipping grip on a spot in the likely December runoff.

The final round of campaign finance filings before the Nov. 3 election, covering the period from late September through last Saturday, showed Garcia’s $1.1 million outlay made up a third of all six top campaigns’ spending for the period.

About $860,000 of the former Harris County sheriff’s expenditures were for advertising, double that of what some polls show is his closest rival, former mayor of Kemah Bill King.

[…]

City Councilman Steve Costello, who has been a strong fundraiser but trails Garcia and King in most polls, posted the second-highest outlay for the period, at $732,000. Of that, he spent $652,000 on advertising, and was helped by another $251,000 in ad spending by a political action committee organized to support him, Houstonians for the Future.

King spent $572,700 in the period, about $429,000 of it on advertising. He stopped running TV ads in the middle of last week but was to resume them on Tuesday, campaign spokesman Jim McGrath said. That gap is not concerning, McGrath said, pointing to consistent radio buys, key endorsements and strong early turnout from conservative areas.

“We like where we are,” McGrath said. “We could spend a good chunk of money on broadcast, but it’s all about getting the most bang for your buck. We like cable.”

State Rep. Sylvester Turner, who remains the presumed frontrunner, raised nearly $400,000 in the period, spent the third-highest amount at $626,000 and entered this week with $285,000 on hand – roughly the same amount as Garcia and Costello. King entered the week with $123,350 banked.

Former Congressman Chris Bell, who has lagged in fundraising, spent $106,000 in the period and entered the final week with $60,500 on hand. Former City Attorney Ben Hall, who loaned his campaign $850,000 earlier in the year, continued to post low fundraising totals and spent $134,000 in the period, leaving himself nearly $694,000 on hand.

Eight day reports for Mayoral candidates and some others (still working on it) are on my 2015 Election page. Here’s my breakdown of the reports:


Candidate    Raised      Spent      Loans   On Hand
===================================================
Bell         96,167    106,155          0    60,564
Costello    294,033    731,861     90,000   278,987
Garcia      440,941  1,079,308          0   278,434
Hall         69,260    134,142    850,000   693,755
King        317,919    572,737    650,000   123,349
McVey         4,800     87,216  1,075,000   954,729
Turner      394,323    626,106          0   285,648

Candidate    Advertising     Print/Mail
=======================================
Bell               3,600         30,620
Costello         631,000         20,300
Garcia           860,000              0
Hall             137,500          1,750
King             430,000         15,000
McVey              2,750         10,262
Turner           160,000         60,000

“Advertising” and “printing” can be vague categories, and some reports are more organized and sensible than others. These are add-them-in-my-head totals, and I’m pretty good at addition, but don’t make any bar bets based on them because I may not have always been consistent in how I categorized things. A few comments:

– Chris Bell mentioned in the interview I did with him that he was a regular user of Uber, and his finance report bears that out.

– Steve Costello had some polling expenses in there, and was the only candidate who listed an expense for phone calls. He classified that as “advertising” on the report, but I didn’t include it in my total. The report for that “Houstonians For The Future” PAC is here.

– Remember how Adrian Garcia had fairly low expenses for consultants and staff in his July report because of his later entry into the race? He made up for that in this report, in addition to the buttload he spent on ads. He was the only one who didn’t have any obvious expenses for mailers that I could see.

– How is it that Ben Hall listed $134K in expenses yet I show him as having $137,500 in ads? He had $25,000 in in-kind donations listed as “Television/Univision”, plus $9,000 in one in-kind donation for “commercials”. Of the rest, there was a single $100,000 expense for “Media”, whatever that means, and a few bits and pieces besides. His “print/mail” total is all in-kind contributions for mail ballots. I feel like these in-kind contributions are somehow un-kosher, but I can’t say for sure.

– Unlike Hall and his monolithic “Media” expense, Bill King itemized all of his media buys, which were multiple ones for the local TV stations and some radio. He also did a fair amount of online advertising – he had several $500 expenses to Google for that, plus a couple other line items. A few other candidates had online ad buys as well.

– Marty McVey bought some Facebook ads, and had one mailer. I don’t know why you loan yourself a million bucks then don’t spend it, but whatever. Most of his expenses for consultants and other campaign services were listed under “Unpaid Incurred Obligations”.

– Sylvester Turner had less advertising expenditures than the fighting-for-second-place candidates, but he also had over $145K listed for “get out the vote” services. He also spent some money on polling.

With all that, I’ve still mostly seen Costello ads – they tend to run on cable, during sporting events – with a handful of Turners and Garcias thrown in. I’ve not yet seen a King ad, nor a Hall ad if one exists. It’s times like these that I’m glad to listen to non-commercial radio – satellite, HD radio, and college station KACC. I will try to summarize the other citywide race 8 day reports in the next day or two.

8 day finance reports: Pro- and anti-HERO

First, from the inbox:

HoustonUnites

Houston Unites has raised nearly $3 million in support of Proposition 1 from late August through last Saturday, according to the campaign’s finance report submitted to the city today. Almost 75 percent of all donors were from Houston.

“Compared to the handful of wealthy opponents funding the rollback of needed protections for African-Americans, Latinos, women and veterans, we have put together a massive, diverse grassroots coalition backing Houston’s Equal Rights Ordinance,” said Richard Carlbom, campaign manager of Houston Unites. “We anticipate this to be the closest of races, so these final days are critical for HERO supporters to keep investing in the campaign.”

Highlights of the finance report include:

  • More than 85 percent of the total donors to Houston Unites were from Texas.
  • More than 1,100 of the 1,500 total donors were from Houston.
  • Total raised was $2,971,491.
  • More than $100,000 was raised online from more than 1,000 donors.

Here’s their report. Here also are the reports for the Human Rights Campaign for HERO PAC, the Business Coalition for Prop 1 PAC, and the anti-HERO Campaign for Houston PAC. In case you’re wondering, the name Bob McNair does not appear anywhere in that report. I assume this is because he had merely pledged to give $10K before having his mind changed, so with no money actually changing hands there’s nothing to report. Those of you who are more in tune with the legal requirements, please correct me if I’m wrong on that. There’s also the No On Prop 1 PAC, but they had not reported as of yesterday, so the antis do have more than this, we just don’t have all the details yet.

I did not scan through the Houston Unites report last night – I may do so later, and we have their summary, so we’ll go with that for now. The Business Coalition has four donors – cash donations from Bret Scholtes ($500) and Haynes & Boone LLP ($5,000), and pledges from the Greater Houston Partnership ($71,760) and United Airlines ($10,000). They spent all their money on print ads – $77,500 in the Chronicle, $9,760 in the Houston Business Journal – which may sound weird until you remember that the average age of a Houston voter in this election is expected to be about 69. Newspaper print ads seems like a reasonable way to reach that demographic.

As for the Campaign for Houston, they listed 45 contributions, for a total of $62,495 raised. Forty-one came from individual donors, 21 of whom were non-Houston residents (one Houston person gave twice), with two familiar names: Andrew (son of Phyllis) Schlafly, and former HCC Trustee Yolanda Flores (no middle name given, but the ZIP code points to her). One donor listed in this group rather than the “corporations or labor unions” line item on the subtotals cover sheet page 3, was TriStar Freight, which gave $2,500. Don’t ask me why they did that, I couldn’t tell you. What I can tell you is the names of the three corporate donors:


Contributor Name             Amount
===================================
Trinity Equity Partners LLP  50,000
Texas Outhouse Inc            5,000
The Education Valet Inc         250

I shit you not (sorry not sorry) about that middle one. They list $88,195 in expenses, of which a bit less than $45K is for media buys. They’re running that disgusting bathroom ad during the evening news, or at least they did last night on KPRC at 6. I have no idea how many of those spots that kind of money can buy. This Chron story documents the ad wars; I can confirm that the pro-HERO folks have mail going out as well, one of which landed in my box yesterday. Campaign for Houston also lists a $50K outstanding loan, which isn’t detailed on this form but is presumably the same Hotze loan from their 30 day report.

Other 8 day reports are coming in as well – you can find them here and by searching here. I’ll do my best to update the Election 2015 page as we go this week.

Metro once again considers advertising

And I once again say go for it.

HoustonMetro

Thursday, Metropolitan Transit Authority board members will consider researching options for putting ads inside buses and trains, as well as text-based ads for those who use the system’s next-bus texting service. Metro board member Diann Lewter said the discussion is preliminary, but she and others want to gauge their options.

Lewter said advertising on the buses’ exteriors would not be considered. Previously, the notion of draping buses in ads rankled some, especially Scenic Houston, the group responsible for curtailing billboards in the city.

Metro uses the space above seats on many buses for promotional messages now, but it could sell some of the space to advertisers.

“We want to know what the market for that is, if there’s a market,” Lewter said.

[…]

Board members stressed they were proceeding with caution. Any policy would have to include strict provisions to avoid less-than-desirable ads without infringing on free speech rights. Massage parlors, for example, could pose a challenge, board member Jim Robinson said. Officials would also consider how much revenue ads might generate.

The complications are slightly less onerous for the agency’s next-bus texting system. The service, which allows riders to text Metro and receive a reply with information on when the next bus arrives, was contracted to a vendor. Part of that agreement allowed Metro to add advertisements, pending board approval, which would enable the vendor to recoup some of the money.

The plan isn’t for Metro to start spamming people, transit agency CEO Tom Lambert said. Instead, the ads would likely accompany the bus arrival information.

The last time this came up was almost three years ago, so no one can accuse Metro of recklessly charging ahead on this. As you know, I’m a longtime advocate of Metro selling ad space, so I’m hoping that this is finally the time when the move forward on it. The amount of money at stake isn’t huge – the figure cited in the Chron story from 2012 in the quoted section above was $10 million per year in an annual budget of $300 million – but it ain’t nothing, either. I bet that kind of extra revenue could help speed up the process of installing bus shelters, and maybe pay to make an existing bus line or two higher frequency. Who knows? All I know is that I’ve considered this to be a worthwhile idea for years now, and I hope this is the moment when Metro finally takes it.

30 day finance reports, citywide races

Here’s a brief summary of the 30 Day campaign finance reports that I’ve been able to find, some of which are on this page and some of which are findable via the normal campaign finance report website, and all of which are collected on my Election 2015 page. First up, the Mayoral candidates:

Candidate Raised Spent Loans On Hand =================================================== Bell 126,563 240,035 0 91,901 Costello 266,845 871,109 90,000 696,539 Garcia 584,916 1,060,457 0 831,284 Hall 57,859 111,417 850,000 758,618 King 284,031 626,621 650,000 322,474 McVey Turner 526,516 1,265,239 0 507,099 Ferreira Lane 11,105 14,467 9,000 5,457 Munoz Nguyen 150 0 5,000 150 Smith Steffes

I’ve separated the “real” candidates from the “minor” candidates. Marty McVey did file a 30-day report but the totals on cover sheet page 2 are wrong; the Chron’s Rebecca Elliott did the pencil work to tot things up if you’re interested. Neither Sylvester Turner nor Adrian Garcia slowed down after their torrid initial pace, thought both Steve Costello and Bill King weren’t as prolific. On the spending side, I’ve seen plenty of Costello ads on my TV lately, as well as a handful of Turner ads; Turner has been all over my Internet, but all of the “real” candidates minus Hall have had multiple sponsored Facebook posts on my feed. I keep wondering when I’m going to see an Adrian Garcia ad on the tube.

The Controllers:

Candidate Raised Spent Loans On Hand =================================================== Boney Brown 42,820 181,923 0 106,165 Frazer 58,375 80,377 32,500 58,293 Jefferson Khan 84,950 5,495 5,100 81,290 Robinson 14,050 17,556 0 1,527

No report as yet from Jew Don Boney or Dwight Jefferson. That’s a pretty decent haul for MJ Khan given how late he entered the race. He also had an ad running during the fourth quarter of the Monday Night Football game between the Steelers and Chargers. I’m about 99% certain it was a rerun of one of his Controller ads from 2009. I’ve seen several Chris Brown ads on TV, but nothing from anyone else. Brown, Bill Frazer, and Carroll Robinson have been in my Facebook feeds.

At Large races:

Candidate Raised Spent Loans On Hand =================================================== Griffin 1,000 1,600 0 895 Knox 22,940 11,370 0 9,349 Lewis 40,164 64,479 100 48,803 McCasland 60,978 33,222 0 112,443 Oliver 9,400 7,840 0 25,230 PartschGalvan Pool Provost 1,956 6,841 0 543 Candidate Raised Spent Loans On Hand =================================================== Burks 2,525 1,906 0 618 Davis 7,000 662 0 7,000 Dick 0 103,772 0 0 Rivera Robinson 27,596 40,188 0 121,348 Candidate Raised Spent Loans On Hand =================================================== Kubosh 39,025 46,255 25,000 41,306 LaRue 13,250 4,524 0 8,725 McElligott Peterson 10,225 9,886 0 2,271 Candidate Raised Spent Loans On Hand =================================================== Blackmon 27,285 34,500 0 0 Edwards 131,417 61,327 0 191,445 Hansen Morales 17,495 30,042 2,200 3,786 Murphy 670 5,125 14,045 167 Robinson 29,050 25,923 15,040 35,886 Thompson 0 1,850 0 0 Candidate Raised Spent Loans On Hand =================================================== Batteau 0 0 0 0 Christie 33,202 50,153 0 84,899 Moses 550 1,418 0 0 Nassif 29,690 27,558 0 14,368 Tahir

Candidates with blanks next to their names had no reports I could find. I’ve given some details in the posts about the At Large #4 and At Large #1 races, and Greg covered some of this ground last week. I like to think of campaign finance reports as being one part about who people want to see win, and one part about who (some other) people think actually will win. To whatever extent that holds true, you can see who the betting favorites are. It’s not destiny, of course – as I said, it’s more like Vegas – but it does tell you something. What are your guesses for these races? Leave a comment and let us know.

Get ready for the TV ads to begin

Keep that DVR remote handy, because you’re going to have to start fast-forwarding through Mayoral campaign ads on TV soon.

After nearly topping the July fundraising that put this year’s mayor’s race on track to be the most expensive in recent city history, City Councilman Stephen Costello led the pack to the TV airwaves in late August.

His debut ad focused on three broad policy priorities: infrastructure, public safety and city finances.

Thus far, Costello has spent more on broadcast than any candidate in the race – about $625,000 across KTRK (Channel 13), KHOU (Channel 11), KPRC (Channel 2,) KRIV (Channel 26) and KIAH (Channel 39), according to his campaign – with ads scheduled in two waves through Nov. 2. He also has been advertising on cable since July.

“We saw the opportunity now to break out early, and thanks to successful fundraising and low overhead, we’re in a position to go back up and go back up strong,” Campaign Manager Ward Curtin said.

Meanwhile, presumptive frontrunners Sylvester Turner and Adrian Garcia, who closed out the first half of the year with more than $1 million in the bank apiece, have invested about $450,000 each in broadcast TV.

A Turner ad began airing this week on the same five Houston-area channels as Costello and briefly introduces the candidate and his policy initiatives: job training, a living wage, community policing, school partnerships and filling potholes.

According to his campaign, Turner also will begin advertising on cable on Oct. 12, having spent $75,000.

Garcia has opted for a more concentrated approach, with his ads slated to run only in the final three and a half weeks before the Nov. 2 election. They will air on six Houston-area channels, including Univision and Telemundo, beginning October 10, according to Campaign Manager Mary Bell.

“The Garcia campaign is communicating to all voters, including predominantly Spanish speaking voters, and paid communication is a part of that,” Bell said, adding, “we’re not finished buying.”

[…]

Federal Communications Commission records show [Bill] King has spent nearly $20,000 for time on KHOU next week, though campaign spokesman Chris Begala said King also will be going up on three other channels.

“Our intention is to stay up on broadcast until Election Day, but it would not be a deal-killer to be off a day or three,” Begala said in an email. “We are engaged in an aggressive mail program, social media, cable and radio buy.”

King has spent nearly $300,000 on cable, beginning in May, according to his campaign.

Chris Bell also has made a nominal foray onto television, spending nearly $25,000 to run a 30-second introductory spot this week on KTRK, KHOU, KPRC and KIAH, according to his campaign.

Greg goes into much more detail on this than I could, so let me direct you to him for an in-depth analysis. For what it’s worth, so far I’ve seen a few Costello ads and maybe on Bill King ad. I’ll just add that no candidates should overestimate their name ID. Adrian Garcia, by virtue of being elected countywide twice during Presidential years is the only candidate on this ballot that can feel reasonably secure that the voters know who he is. Everyone else from the Mayorals on down needs to assume they need to introduce themselves. An awful lot of people are just now starting to pay attention, and early voting starts in three weeks. Let’s see who does what with the opportunity they have.

Same sex marriage ads on your TV

In case you missed it.

RedEquality

The national same-sex marriage advocacy group Freedom to Marry will air a series of television ads in Texas this week, with the aim to personalize the issue ahead of an important federal hearing Friday.

The $100,000 TV buy will air Sunday and Monday, just days before the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans is slated to hear arguments in a case challenging Texas’ constitutional ban on gay marriage.

The ads, which feature gay and lesbian Texans talking about their desire to marry, will air in eight of Texas’ 20 markets including Houston, San Antonio, Dallas, Austin, Beaumont, Corpus Christi, El Paso, Laredo, the Rio Grande Valley, Waco and Wichita Falls.

In the ad slated to run in the Dallas area, Fort Worth Police Officers express their desire that their gay colleague, Chris Gorrie, soon has the ability to marry his partner.

“Texans believe in freedom and liberty, and part of that is being able to marry who you love,” Fort Worth Police Department Neighborhood Police Officer Jay Doshi says of his colleague. “So Chris should be able to marry whoever he loves.”

[…]

Freedom to Marry has aired similar ads in other states ahead of prominent court hearings there. The Texas ads are part of the group’s recently-launched statewide advocacy campaign, which also features town hall meetings and efforts to bring together young conservatives around the issue.

See here for the background on Texas for Marriage, the aforementioned statewide advocacy campaign. Here’s the ad in question:

As I understand it, this is the only ad currently set for broadcast, but dozens of couples (and allies) have been profiled on the Texas for Marriage website and Facebook page, so visit those for more. I’m glad to see this and I hope they get a great response to this campaign. Trail Blazers and Hair Balls have more.

On school districts selling stadium naming rights

Raise your hand if this surprises you.

YourNameHereStadium

When Bert Brocker wanted to advertise his auto business on the entrances of New Caney ISD’s new football stadium recently, the district offered another, bigger possibility: Naming rights to the entire $20 million, 8,000-seat facility.

Brocker, who runs the Texan GMC and Texan Dodge auto dealerships in Humble, said the new complex was right in his market, so he jumped at the opportunity.

“It was for me almost a no-brainer,” Brocker said.

For $60,000 per year for five years, Brocker bought the rights – and New Caney’s facility was named Texan Drive Stadium, part of a larger partnership between the business and the school district that also includes live streaming of athletic events and sponsoring sports camps.

The New Caney district has joined the growing ranks of Houston-area school districts to sell the naming rights for its sports facilities, allowing them to be used to promote private businesses. The practice has stirred debate in recent years over the role and effect of advertising in education.

Conroe ISD sold the naming rights to its stadium in 2007, and Humble ISD has done so for its field, entryways and suite.

While some criticize selling naming rights or advertising in school facilities as detrimental to a child’s education, experts and industry officials say the practice has grown in recent years, as schools explore different methods for raising money and businesses recognize the value of publicizing their brand in public schools.

“It’s a win-win opportunity for Texan and for us,” said Brent Sipe, athletic director for New Caney, located about 20 miles east of The Woodlands.

[…]

Faith Boninger, a research associate at the University of Colorado’s National Education Policy Center, which has been researching advertising and commercialism in education for more than a decade, said selling naming rights to a stadium and other advertising initiatives like New Caney’s can promote a sense of materialism and commercialism in schools.

“We like to think of school as being separated from that, kind of protected from that, a place where students can entertain options for themselves that are other than the consumerist perspective,” Boninger said.

In some cases, Boninger said, advertisements can harm a child’s psychological and physical well-being. For example, an advertisement or sponsorship from a company that sells cosmetics might create self-esteem issues for some students, or a fast-food company ad could promote unhealthy eating habits.

The center has been looking for ways to quantify and assess the magnitude of such effects.

I feel the same way about this as I do about advertising on school buses and rooftops: In an ideal world this wouldn’t happen, but given today’s realities I can’t think of a good reason to deny schools or school districts this kind of easy money. When the Legislature truly funds our schools in an adequate and equitable manner, then we can talk. Beyond that, the only surprise here to me is that this hasn’t been going on longer.

Perry’s No Jobs Tour continues

TrailBlazers takes the bait.

Corndogs make bad news go down easier

Corndog manufacturing is a growth industry

Rick Perry is on the road again. But then, he’s rarely off it these days.

This weekend, he’s in Western Kentucky at Murray State University to headline a Republican Party fundraiser.

Then, it’s off to California to talk to their businesses about uprooting and moving en mass to the Lone Star State.

The three-day trip to California is being paid for by Americans for Economic Freedom, a group Perry and his supporters helped establish. It emphasizes some of Perry’s fundamental tenets about helping create job growth, including low-taxes, low-wages and lawsuit limits.

The reported $300,000 radio and TV ad buy for the trip features Perry. It brags about 50 California companies moving to Texas over the past year or so and how Texas has surpassed Silicon Valley as the top exporter of tech products.

I’ve talked before about how the most notable thing about Rick Perry’s job stealing tours is how he never actually manages to steal any jobs while on them. This ad running in California – “running” is almost certainly an overstatement; given how it takes roughly a million dollars a week to run an effective TV advertising campaign for a statewide candidate in Texas, one can guess how many Californian eyeballs will actually view this latest piece of performance art from our Governor – may brag about “50 California companies moving to Texas over the past year or so”, yet Governor Perry’s press releases in that time frame makes no mention of any such relocations. You’d think if these company moves are worth bragging about in a TV ad, they’d have been worth mentioning in a press release or two. Maybe someone should ask him for the specifics. They might also ask about how miraculous things really are here. Or maybe we should all remember that the real point of all this is Rick Perry touting the virtues of Rick Perry. By that metric, it remains a success.

Annise Parker is in your Internets

She’s in mine, anyway. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but an awful lot of the websites I surf to now feature a familiar face looking back at me:

Annise_Cracked

Here’s another:

Annise_TBogg

Clearly, she’s seeking to dominate the liberal nerd humor vote. Of course, there are Facebook ads:

Annise_Facebook

Facebook is the one place I’ve seen other ads. Ben Hall has placed a few, mostly touting his Facebook page. I know some other candidates have spent money on Facebook ads, but as yet I’ve not seen them.

You know how at the bottom of articles on some websites there’s a listing of “related” stories that you might want to read, that are mostly sponsored links? She’s there, too.

Annise_Chron

And not just in the Chronicle:

Annise_Slate

Even out in LaLa Land:

Annise_LATimes

Too bad they can’t control the stories they get associated with. Some of them might be hard to compete with for clicks.

Anyway. Web advertising is hardly new, though this particular tactic is one I don’t recall seeing before. They’ve clearly done a good job of targeting, since it’s hardly a coincidence all these things appeared for my benefit. I don’t know how expensive this is – clearly, Team Parker dropped a decent amount of cash on it – but it seems likely to me that doing this on a perhaps more modest scale would be viable for many campaigns. Of course, I’m assuming people take notice of these things, never mind click on them. Have you been noticing these ads? What do you think about them?

Perry’s empty job-stealing tour continues

Sorry, Maryland.

Corndogs make bad news go down easier

All your corndogs are belong to us

Gov. Rick Perry is taking aim at Maryland and its business climate — his latest effort to lure out-of-state companies to Texas.

In a radio advertisement, Perry slams Gov. Martin O’Malley, a Democrat who is considering a presidential bid in 2016, for turning Maryland into a “tax and fee state” with “some of the highest taxes in America.”

“When you grow tired of Maryland taxes squeezing every dime out of your business, think Texas,” Perry says in the minute-long spot, according to WTOP, a local radio station that serves the Baltimore and Washington, D.C., areas.

In a statement released by O’Malley’s office, the Maryland governor touted the state’s achievements under his leadership, including a 2012 U.S. Chamber of Commerce ranking as the top state for innovation and entrepreneurship.

“Instead of engaging in PR stunts, Gov. Perry should come to Maryland to see firsthand the better choices that have led to these better results,” O’Malley’s office said in the statement.

Once again, I will observe that for all the attention Perry gets for these silly and expensive PR stunts, I’ve yet to see a single news story about a single job that has been relocated to Texas as a result. It would be nice if the mainstream media noticed that if the goal was to entice businesses to move to Texas, the effort has been a complete and unqualified flop, so far at least. If his mission was to convince other states to be more like Texas in terms of tax philosophy, that too has failed. Of course, if the goal was to force everyone to pay attention to Rick Perry, then I will concede that he has accomplished his mission. But beyond that, who cares?

One more thing: The Baltimore Sun, in addition to providing some delightful snark, mentions a few inconvenient facts that Perry will never mention:

We don’t want to alarm those secessionists out in Western Maryland who may find themselves drawn to a state whose governor thinks along the same lines, but you might have to take a bit of a pay cut in Texas. Like about 29 percent.

The Perry economic miracle, it seems, has been swell if you fancy working for low wages or if you’re not so keen on things like health benefits. (Texas: No. 1 in the rate of the uninsured! Obamacare? No, thank you!) If, however, you’re interested in actually making enough money to support your family, or avoiding bankruptcy if you get sick, you might consider looking a little closer to home.

[…]

Ah, you might ask, what good is having the nation’s highest median household income if you’re saddled with all those pesky taxes? Quite a lot, actually. According to the Tax Foundation — not what anyone would mistake for a liberal organization — Maryland’s state and local tax burden is 12th highest in the nation, and Texas’ is 45th. So, factoring in Maryland’s rate of 10.2 percent versus Texas’ 7.9 percent, a typical family could stay here and pull down $63,000 after state and local taxes, or move to Texas and make a bit over $45,000. The cost of living is higher here, according to Census Bureau estimates, but the comparison still works out in our favor.

And what do you get for the money? The best public schools in the nation, for starters. And that’s not just the product of some formula Education Week came up with, it’s also validated by scores on Advanced Placement tests and the National Assessment of Educational Progress. It’s a little cheaper to go to college here, too, according to the College Board, and the trends don’t look good for Mr. Perry. In-state tuition has gone up 18 percent there in the last five years. Here? Two percent. You’re almost twice as likely to run into someone with a post-graduate degree in Maryland as you are in Texas.

As someone once said, “Oops!”

So where are the jobs he’s been trying to poach?

There’s an obvious question to ask about this story, but I don’t see it being asked.

Where do they make corndogs, anyway?

Where do they make corndogs, anyway?

After a couple of high profile job-poaching trips to California and Illinois, Gov. Rick Perry is planning a new raid — this time on the Big Apple.

And he’s putting big money behind the state’s big mouth: $1 million for a TV advertising campaign promoting the Lone Star State’s pro-business approach and strong economy, officials say.

Perry is scheduled to travel to New York on Sunday, June 16, and also plans a stop in Connecticut during the four-day trip, the governor’s office is announcing Monday. The message will be identical to the one he has taken to other states: Texas wants you — namely your jobs and investment capital.

“The governor’s job recruitment trips are doing exactly what we intended — getting the word out about the low taxes, smart regulations, fair legal system and skilled workforce that have made Texas a beacon for employers,” said Perry spokeswoman Lucy Nashed. “We have a formula in Texas that has made us the best state in the nation to live, work, raise a family and run a business — and it’s a formula other states and our federal government would do well to replicate.”

The 30-second ads will feature Texans from a variety of professions — from filmmakers to doctors — extolling the virtues of the state’s economy. They will run on CNBC, FOX News, CNN, ESPN and the Discovery Channel, according to the governor’s office. The spots are scheduled to run for a week, and begin airing Monday, aides said.

The New York ad buy, which dwarfs the ones purchased earlier this year in California and Illinois, appears to be the most aggressive campaign yet by the state’s economic development marketing team.

[…]

While marketing a state’s economic climate to businesses in other states and countries isn’t a new concept, Perry has taken it to a new, confrontational level. When he went to California in February, Perry met with business leaders, talked up Texas to reporters and was featured in a radio ad criticizing the Golden State.

“Building a business is tough. But I hear building a business in California is next to impossible,” Perry said in the ad. “See why our low taxes, sensible regulations and fair legal system are just the thing to get your business moving to Texas.”

The swaggering Texas governor ratcheted up the rhetoric in an ad directly appealing to Illinois’ business leaders, telling them their state’s business climate was “designed for you to fail.”

“With rising taxes and government interference on the upswing, your situation is not unlike a burning building on the verge of collapse,” Perry says in the ad, which urges business leaders to take an “escape route” to Texas. The Illinois ad campaign, which included print and radio spots, cost about $80,000, according to published reports.

The recruiting trips have prompted some eye-rolling scorn in the states where he’s conducted them.

After Perry’s trip to California, Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown called the state’s $24,000 ad buy targeting the California businesses “barely a fart” and said it would have no impact on the state’s economy. (When a maker of firearms gear, Shield Tactical, announced in May it was relocating operations from California to Texas, Perry attributed it directly to the recruiting trip and ad buy.)

And right there is the critical point that is being overlooked. Shield Tactical, which calls itself a “family business”, is the only business named that has actually paid heed to Perry’s call to come to Texas. How big a business they are I can’t say – neither their website nor Perry’s press release mentioned their size – but the point is that they’re it so far, after two high-profile ad buys and a ton of press coverage of them. If that’s the case, then by any reasonable metric, Perry’s ad campaign has been a miserable failure. Maybe the New York buy will produce better results – they are spending more money there – but if so it will be a big change from the previous ad campaigns. The Trib article says that “no tax dollars are being used in connection with the marketing trip or ad campaign”, and for the sake of simplicity I’ll take that at face value, but clearly there’s a significant part of the story being missed here. Like with most things Rick Perry does, there’s a big splash up front, then little if anything to show for it once the cameras stop rolling.

Well, okay, there is one thing to show for it:

“This kind of strategy in which you use free media has always been a hallmark of Rick Perry’s public profile,” said Jim Henson, director of the Texas Politics Project at the University of Texas at Austin. “It’s hard not to see this as an ongoing branding effort for the next stage of Rick Perry’s public career.”

I must admit that by that measure, this has been a success. Any actual businesses lured here would be a bonus. Trail Blazers, Texas Politics, Hair Balls, and BOR, all of which have videos of the ads in question (and may I just say again what an awesome “Democrat” Farouk Shami was and is), have more.

Welcome to Houston, Lisa

Remember that promotional advertising campaign for Houston that’s running right now in various national publications? The New York Times lets us know who the intended audience for those ads is.

Not this Lisa

The new tack was prompted by the results of a research study, says Holly Clapham, vice president for marketing at the bureau, which is undertaken each year to help determine the effectiveness of the bureau’s initiatives.

The study, conducted by the research organization TNS, found that people visit Houston for two primary reasons: its culinary offerings and its arts and culture scene.

Leisure visitors are primarily women, Ms. Clapham says, and the bureau has created a profile of a prototypical visitor, Lisa, who is 46 years old and has an average annual household income of $86,000 to $120,000.

“She’s very active,” Ms. Clapham says of Lisa, and “likes ‘girlfriend getaways.’ ”

And she will “pay more for quality,” Ms. Clapham says, but also “likes to see value” in what she buys.

With all that in mind, the bureau decided that the next iteration of its image campaign — or, as Ms. Clapham puts it, “ ‘My Houston’ 2.0” — ought to celebrate the Houstonians who are the driving forces behind the restaurants, museums, galleries and other attractions that Lisa comes to visit rather than the stars who call, or once called, Houston home.

“It’s not about who everyone knows,” Ms. Clapham says. “It’s about who’s working to move Houston forward.”

See here and here for the background. This would be why I went into IT instead of marketing. I’m pretty sure I never would have thought of that. Link via Swamplot.

The case against Metro advertising

Ed Wulfe isn’t happy with talk about Metro putting ads on buses and trains.

In the late 1970s, Houston voters overwhelmingly defeated a local referendum to allow ads on bus shelters. Soon after, Houston City Council banned all new billboards within the city limits, then extended the prohibition to the limits of the city’s extraterritorial jurisdiction. In the years since, Houston and Harris County have also created Scenic Districts with signage constraints and ongoing landscaping enhancement efforts.

As a result of these measures, the number of billboards in greater Houston has been reduced an astounding 84 percent over the past 30 years, from more than 10,000 to less than 1,500 – and the number continues to decrease. This dramatic reduction in visual clutter has been accompanied by infrastructure investments that further enhance Houstonians’ quality of life. For example, our city’s parks continue to grow and will become even better and more accessible in the years ahead, thanks to the overwhelming support of Houston voters in the most recent bond elections.

Given this extraordinary progress, it is very troubling that Houston Metro is now considering selling ad space on its taxpayer-funded bus and train fleet. The desire for new sources of revenue is understandable, but this should not occur at the expense of Houston’s visual environment. Paid advertising on the sides of buses would not only be unsightly; it would also create additional distractions for drivers, not to mention opening up our city to a variety of challenges relating to deciding who can advertise and what types of ads would be permitted.

For all of these reasons and more, advertising on the exterior of Metro’s vehicles is unacceptable and should not be allowed. Instead, Houston Metro should explore other revenue-generating opportunities that have fewer negative consequences. Options such as providing naming rights on park and ride facilities and selling advertising on the interior of buses should be considered, for example. I am also confident that Metro’s administrative and board leadership can find ways to reduce their operational expenses a minimal amount to offset any potential revenue sources from damaging advertising on the sides of buses.

See here for the background. I don’t share the concerns about ads on buses and trains, though I do concede that the occasional controversy about what does or does not get advertised is inevitable and unpleasant. But this isn’t a hill I want to die on. If there’s no objection to selling station naming rights, or to ads on the inside of buses and trains, then I’m fine with that. Giving up that small piece of revenue is worth it to avoid a fight and maintain goodwill. Let’s move forward with those things.

Metro moving forward with advertising

This has been in the works for a long time.

Depending on what Metropolitan Transit Authority officials decide regarding a new revenue plan, your light rail trip could end at the Taco Bell Station, or some similarly named stop.

Officials in early 2013 are expected to receive more information on a revenue plan exploring potential corporate partnerships and advertising. Board members, at a meeting in November, stressed they are considering options carefully, knowing any talk of adding ads to the sides of buses will raise concerns.

“The only reason why we are considering this is because there are potential benefits to our riders and the public,” board member Christof Spieler said during a recent committee meeting.

Allowing advertising could generate up to about $10 million a year for the agency, which has a roughly $300 million operating budget.

Limiting ads to corporate sponsorships, such as renaming routes or lines, and minimal branding might bring in about half that sum, according to analysts with the consulting firm IMG Worldwide.

Critics of advertising proliferation in Houston worry that if Metro opens the door to some advertising, it will set back anti-billboard efforts.

“This is a city where you form your impressions through a windshield,” said Anne Culver, executive director of Scenic Houston, a group focused on eliminating what it considers visual blight in the city.

“Houston has a great tradition of keeping the city free of billboards and of visual clutter,” said Ray Hankamer, a Scenic Houston board member. “This is the camel getting its nose under the tent.”

Like I said, this has been in the pipe for a long time. Last discussion of it that I’m aware of was in October of 2010, with a story from earlier that year referring to 2005. It came up before then in November of 2008. I have been a proponent of this all along, first suggesting that Metro put ads in its light rail cars in 2007. I respect Scenic Houston and I support their work, but I disagree with them on this. I don’t see it as being anything like billboards, which had been permanent fixtures in many neighborhoods. Putting signs on the sides of buses, or on bus shelters, isn’t going to change your view. The “naming rights” concept is new and I’ll admit to having a bit of unease about it, but in a world where every stadium, arena, and concert venue is named for this corporation or that utility, it’s hard to get too worked up about in. As I’ve browsed my archives on this, it seems like the reluctance to go forward has been one part resistance from City Council, and one part disinterest from outgoing CEO George Greanias. Neither Council members nor the interim Metro CEO were quoted in this story, so we’ll have to see what those potential obstacles look like this time around. For the record, I hope Metro goes forward with it. It makes good sense, and if they’re serious about building the University Line, then every extra dollar matters.

More frontiers in school bus advertising

This had not occurred to me.

Why not?

The rooftop of a suburban high school is not a location that companies usually consider prime advertising real estate. But in Humble Independent School District, it may be. The district’s high school is directly in a flight path for Houston’s Bush Intercontinental Airport.

Although the rooftop plan has yet to come to fruition, Humble ISD has already sold the naming rights to nearly every piece of its football stadium, including the entryway, the press box and the turf. Its school buses carry advertisements for the Houston Astros and local hospitals, among others.

The school district is pioneering a practice that an increasing number of districts across the state are adopting: selling advertisements on pieces of school property to help make up for some of the money lost through state budget cuts.

Advertising revenue can benefit school districts that primarily have two sources of income — what they receive from local taxpayers and what they get from the state and federal government. But with school leaders under pressure to find creative financing sources and few state-level guidelines about what is appropriate, some researchers who study the impact of ads in schools question whether schools fully grasp the consequences of commercialism creeping into public schools.

You have to admire the creativity. Humble ISD has apparently taken in over a million bucks in advertising revenue since 2007. Other school districts have done well with advertising, some not as well as they’d expected. Even for the more successful district advertising programs, however, it just represents a drop in the bucket. Here’s a timely bit of news from Public Citizen:

In “School Commercialism: High Costs, Low Revenues,” Public Citizen found that school advertising programs are providing less than half of one percent of school revenues, and often far less. Public Citizen surveyed the nation’s 25 largest school districts; 10 reported that they maintained in-school advertising programs or were considering such programs. No program reported raising more than $250,000. No program reported raising more than 0.03 percent of the school system’s overall budget.

Those school systems that report having in-school advertising programs include: Cypress Fairbanks, Texas, Independent School District; Dallas Independent School District; Houston Independent School District; Jefferson County, Colo., Public Schools and Orange County, Fla., Public Schools.

You can read their report here. They’re pretty negative about the whole thing. As you know, I have no problem with this practice. We do need to keep it in perspective, however. No amount of ads can come close to making up for the funding cuts imposed by last year’s Legislature.

School bus ads come to Comal County

Given the budget cuts from the Legislature, I figure we’ll see a lot more school districts hop on the bus, as it were.

This year, 10 Comal school district buses that deliver students to school and home also will be delivering a word from the district’s sponsors.
The full-color placards, promoting banking services, sandwiches and flooring, were unveiled Monday.

Under a plan that initially will net the district around $2,100 a month, advertising space has been sold on the traditional yellow school buses. If ad space can be sold on each of the district’s 245 buses, said Transportation Director Gus Rodriguez, the district could pocket an extra $300,000 annually.

That’s a nice piece of change, and I hope they are able to get every penny of it. To put it in some perspective, however, Comal ISD had a budget of over $120 million for the 2010-2011 fiscal year, and was staring at an operating shortfall of $16.8 million for the 2011-2012 FY. In other words, this is a very limited solution. Indeed, this Fox Business story says that school bus ad revenue will be used to buy more school buses in Comal ISD. Point being, they’re not hiring any teachers or other staffers back based on this.

As we know, HISD approved a school bus ad program in May. I presume we’ll see them in force this fall. Other districts have been doing this for a couple of years now. It may not be a whole lot of money in the grand scheme of things, but I can’t think of a good reason why any school district would leave it on the table at this point.

RIP, Bubba Smith

Football great and actor Bubba Smith has passed away.

Bubba Smith, an outsize presence in the National Football League who went on to a prolific career in television and the movies, was found dead on Wednesday at his home in Los Angeles. He was 66.

The cause was not yet known, a spokesman for the Los Angeles County coroner’s office said, adding, “There is no indication of anything other than natural death.”

A 6-foot-7 (or possibly 6-8), nearly 300-pound behemoth of a man, Smith, a defensive lineman, was the No. 1 draft pick for the Baltimore Colts in 1967. He spent nine seasons in the N.F.L., playing on two Pro Bowl teams, in 1970 and 1971. In 1971 he helped propel the Colts to a 16-13 victory over the Dallas Cowboys in Super Bowl V.

Traded to the Oakland Raiders before the start of the 1972 season, Smith played two seasons with them before winding up his career with the Houston Oilers. He retired after the 1976 season.

Afterward, Smith made a career of playing rather large men on film and television. He was best known for his role as Moses Hightower, the mild-mannered florist-turned-lawman in the film comedy “Police Academy” (1984) and many of its sequels.

As a child of the 80s I am of course familiar with his work in “Police Academy”, but I must say this is how I will always remember Bubba Smith:

See also here and here, and see how many faces you recognize. Rest in peace, Bubba Smith.

HISD gets ready to roll out bus ads

Last year, I noted that the HISD Board of Trustees had approved a plan to allow advertising on its school buses. They are now finally ready to get this going.

HISD has partnered with Steep Creek Media to offer advertising space on the district’s school bus fleet, which boasts more than 1,000 vehicles that travel an average of 70,000 miles a day in the greater Houston area.

Prices begin at $175 per month, but high volume discounts are available. Buses can be targeted based upon the area of the city in which they travel (e.g. around Loop 610, near Hobby Airport, etc.) so that your business can get wider or more localized exposure, depending on your preference. The typical turnaround time for ads to go public is three to four weeks.

To place an ad or request more information, including details on pricing, content restrictions (i.e. must be family friendly and age-appropriate), and other FAQ, please contact Steep Creek Media directly at 281-962-4390 or click the links above.

Approximately 70 percent of all revenues collected will be returned to the district to support student achievement.

I received an email from Steep Creek Media about this, which says there will be a press conference about this tomorrow at 11 AM at the Hattie Mae White Educational Support Center, 4400 W. 18th, 77092. Other info of interest from the email:

Since Steep Creek Media began the program in 2008 with Humble ISD, many other districts have followed suit including: Anahuac, Cy-Fair, Friendswood, Houston, Huffman, Pasadena and Spring ISDs.

School bus ad sizes, placement and content are carefully monitored. The state mandates where and what size the ads can be, while each sign must be approved by district officials before being placed on a bus.

So there you have it. As you know, I favor this tactic, as long as HISD’s cut of the revenue is acceptable, which it appears to be. What do you think?

Your digital ad here

Lisa Gray alerts us to the latest bright idea from Austin.

Like all of Texas’ big cities, we have regulations that ban digital billboards – both because they’re painfully ugly and because they’re designed to take drivers’ eyes off the road.

But now our freedom from those distracting eyesores is in danger. A pair of bills in the Texas Legislature would allow digital billboards to weasel their way into those cities.

And the sneak attack is disguised, of all things, as a safety measure.

The bills look harmless at first: Both House Bill 1765 and Senate Bill 971 describe an “emergency public safety messaging network” that would notify drivers of evacuation plans, Amber alerts and such – never mind that the Texas Department of Transportation already has a network of less-distracting emergency signs to do just that. Or that notice-worthy emergencies exist only about 1 percent of the time.

What would those digital billboards display during the other 99 percent?

“Commercial digital messages,” the legislation explains, deep on page 4. And the private contractor would pocket 95 percent of the resulting ad revenue, leaving the state and city to split the crumbs.

Under the bill, the approval of just one executive – an area’s “emergency management director,” usually either a city mayor or county judge – would be all that’s needed to make an end run around local sign codes and building ordinances, state billboard law and even the Lady Bird Johnson Highway Beautification Act.

Here’s HB1765 and SB971. The good news is that so far neither of these bills has come up for a vote in committee. The bad news is that the Senate has already shown that it’s happy to meddle in the affairs of cities, so there’s no reason why they couldn’t pass. These bills seem like silly little attempts to generate a few pennies for the state rather than perform a necessary or useful function. Like Lisa, I hope they go nowhere, but as always it’s never a bad idea to let your elected officials know how you feel about these things.

Saturday video break: Let’s have a little talk about tweetle beetles

I give you Dr. Seuss’ “Fox in Socks”, read by someone who can read it a lot faster than I can:

She goes so fast I can’t really swear that she’s actually reading what’s on the pages in question. The loud reactions from the audience don’t help, either. It’s still pretty damned impressive. Those of you of a certain age may be reminded of this classic commercial:

You think maybe she could be his daughter?

You can’t say that about cheeseburgers!

Local TV stations are not lovin’ an anti-McDonald’s ad.

The advertisement from Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, titled “Consequences,” displays a doctor and a weeping woman standing over a corpse clutching a cheeseburger in its right hand.

The 30-second spot ends with a picture of the McDonald’s logo, the words “I was lovin’ it,” a parody of the company’s “I’m lovin’ it” slogan, and the voiceover, “High cholesterol, high blood pressure, heart attacks. Tonight, make it vegetarian.”

[…]

Susan Levin, director of nutrition of education for the Washington, D.C., nonprofit, said all four of Houston’s major network affiliates turned down “Consequences,” which she said has aired in Chicago and Washington and was rejected by stations in Miami. The group was prepared to pay $5,000 to air the ad locally.

Houston was selected for the campaign, the group said, because of its market size, its reputation as having one of the nation’s highest obesity rates and because it has 149 McDonald’s outlets, more than any city in the nation other than New York.

Houston was the only Texas city in which the group attempted to place the advertisement.

“We don’t know why it wasn’t allowed to be aired,” Levin said. “If it’s because they are afraid of their own financial interests that might be tied to McDonald’s, we couldn’t have predicted that. There is nothing about the content of the ad that is outlandish.”

Here’s the ad in question:

The group’s YouTube channel is here, but I had to find a copy of that video elsewhere to embed it. Personally, I think it’s a little over the top, but no more or less “appropriate” than any other ad, so I don’t see why it was denied. Of course, I find ads for diamonds to be offensive, so maybe I’m not the best measuring stick. Be that as it may, as is so often the case they’re likely to get a lot more publicity from being turned down than they’d have ever gotten from running the ad, so I suppose in the end everyone got what they wanted. What do you think?

More on Latino turnout

Greg adds in his opinion on the Latino turnout question, and as usual it’s worth your time to read in full. Two things for me to comment on. First:

If there is a one point that I’ve been reluctant to air publicly, it’s this: The two worst classes of people to talk to about Hispanic outreach are 1) Hispanic politicians, and 2) Hispanic political consultants. While there is certainly insight to be gained from both, neither has much of an idea of how to make the dream of massive electoral turnout among Hispanics happen.

In discussing Kuff’s blog post from earlier this month on the topic with him a while back, I made the point that one reason you never hear the alleged master plans for ginning up turnout being talked about is because too often, there’s a golden goose at stake. In other words, there are groups and individuals out there that will promise you massive increases in turnout among Hispanics. And for a small (or large) sum, they’ll promise to put it into action. With their people, with their plan, with their supervision, and often … with little accountability. If the candidate wins, then no questions are asked. If the candidate loses, you just move on down the line and pitch the next moneybag candidate. This isn’t solely the case in Hispanic politics, mind you. It’s predominant among a number of base-partisan communities of all colors and all stripes.

One reason why I suggested that we begin thinking about this problem by thinking about raising money address it is because I think to some extent the question of Latino voting needs to be removed from individual candidates and campaigns in favor of a more holistic and ongoing approach. I don’t know how much the Democratic community as a whole learns about what works and what doesn’t from one campaign to the next, I don’t know how much of what does get learned gets transmitted from one campaign to another, and I don’t know how much of what gets learned is worth learning. Wouldn’t it be nice to institutionalize that? Tell me if you think I’m off base here.

I doubt that I’ll ever get too deeply into the retelling of events from the last campaign I worked on, but one move that I think served our opponent well was that he hired consumer marketers as part of their Hispanic outreach. For Dems, that type of move doesn’t fully substitute for the need to knock on doors and make phone calls. But I do think it’s a wiser move than relying on the conventional, in-house political wisdom of what moves Hispanic voters.

One point I’ll throw into the mix for now: the concept of where Hispanic voters are is something that tends to get oversimplified and this often skews the understanding of what issues, values, and language motivate them as well as what network of people they surround themselves with. In other words, East End or Northside activists probably aren’t your best bet to talk the talk to the more numerous number of Hispanic voters that live in the suburbs.

I’ll be introducing some research over the week to make this point more fully. For now, here’s three maps to compare and contrast some 2000 Census data for Harris County on where high-density concentrations of Hispanic population live and where the more diffuse populations are. They show census tracts where the Hispanic population represents 65% of the total population, 35% of the population, and 25% of the population. My point, boiled down to it’s core, is this: We do a great job as a part of speaking to those areas where we are at 65% and a not-so-good job to those where we are at 25% and 35%. And the scary part of that premise is that there are more Hispanics that live in the more diffuse areas than there are that live in the concentrated areas.

I made the point that Latinos are on average younger than us non-Latinos, and as such they don’t necessarily consume news and media the same way us old fogeys do. NewsTaco enhances that observation:

Latinos are the fastest growing digital technology user group in the country. It hasn’t taken long for someone to begin picking Latino on line behavior apart; proven markets with a potential for growth will do that. ComScore is the latest someone to do it. Here’s what comScore, that calls itself “a global leader in measuring the digital world and the preferred source of digital marketing intelligence,” has to say about Latino on line activity in a recent website post: “Hispanic consumers are more receptive to online advertising than non-Hispanic internet users.”

In other words, Latinos click and read on line advertisements more than others – what marketers call click rates. Or as RICG.com puts it, “Whereas 31 percent of Hispanic Americans enjoy watching online advertisements, only 19 percent of the broader consumer audience agreed with that statement. Hispanics were also more likely to base their purchase decisions on digital marketing initiatives (30 percent compared to 15 percent) and remember advertised products when shopping (35 percent compared to 22 percent).”

Seems to me we could learn something from that.