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Early voting begins today for primary runoffs

From the inbox:

EarlyVoting

Harris County voters can prepare to vote in the May 27 Democratic and Republican Primary Runoff Elections by visiting www.HarrisVotes.com to view the contests which will appear on their ballot. Early Voting for the Primary Runoff Elections begins on Monday, May 19 and continues until Friday, May 23. During this period, 39 early voting locations will be open from 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. to serve the over 2 million registered voters in Harris County. Keep in mind, Election Day, May 27th, is the day after Memorial Day.

All voters are encouraged to vote early at one of the 39 early voting locations because the number of Election Day polling locations has been significantly reduced by the Democratic and Republican Parties to 12% of the usual number of polls on Election Day. Many voters will have to travel further than normal to vote on Election Day. To find all early voting locations and specific Election Day polling locations, visit www.HarrisVotes.com.

“Voters can use the “Find Your Poll and Ballot” link at www.HarrisVotes.com to print out their own personal ballot to review before going to the poll,” said Harris County Clerk Stanart, who is also the county’s Chief Elections Officer. All Democratic Party voters will have the same ballot in Harris County. For the Republican Party, there are 11 contests; 4 of which are not county-wide.

“The County Clerk’s Office has provided an enormous amount of information for the voters on our website to increase the voter’s knowledge and accessibility to the polls,” added Stanart. “Timely information about elections can be received by following our office on twitter @HarrisVotes.”

Stanart reminds voters “If you voted in the March Primary, you are only able to vote in the same party’s election for the Primary Runoff. If you did not participate in either Parties March 4th Election and are eligible to vote, you may participate in the Runoff Primary of your party choice.”

To view the early voting schedule, a list of acceptable forms of Photo ID that can be presented to vote at the poll, Election Day polling locations and other voting information, voters may visit www.HarrisVotes.com or call 713.755.6965.

See here for early voting locations and hours – it’s 7 AM to 7 PM each day. Two things to emphasize: There are only five days of early voting. It starts today and ends Friday. Runoff Day is Tuesday, May 27, which as noted is the day after Memorial Day, and you can expect that only a handful of precinct voting locations will be open. It’s very much in your interest to vote early if you plan to vote. I plan to do sol, and I’ll be voting for David Alameel and Kinky Friedman. I don’t expect a lot of company. From the Chron story, which is mostly about how the air will be a little safer to breathe once the toxic GOP Lite Guv runoff has finally concluded, comes this prediction about turnout:

Despite all of those races, and dozens of local ones – including for two Harris County state representatives and four Harris County judges – officials are expecting a very low turnout.

Harris County Clerk Stan Stanart is predicting that, at most, 75,000 Republicans and 20,000 Democrats will cast ballot, less than 5 percent of the county’s 2 million registered voters.

Stanart speculated that more than half of voters will vote early or by mail, a route that is becoming increasingly common.

“Historically, primary runoffs tend to not have a large number of people,” Stanart said. “But you never know what’s going to drive people to the polls.”

The only local runoffs in Harris County are Republican runoffs. We Dems only have the two statewide races. There are Dem runoffs for State Rep in Dallas and El Paso, but anything beyond that will be for local races. Be that as it may, I think Stanart’s prediction for Dem turnout may be a tad optimistic. The Harris County turnout for the “>2006 Democratic primary runoff, which also featured two low profile statewide races plus two local races, one of which was the fairly high-interest HD146 battle between Al Edwards and Borris Miles, was a pitiful 13,726. (GOP runoff turnout was even lower, but then their races that year were even lower profile.) I’d bet the under on a Dem turnout projection of 20,000, but I’ll buy that half or more of the voters will show up before May 27. Feel free to do your part to make my predictions look foolish.

July finance reports for At Large candidates

Still plowing my way through all the July finance reports. July and January are very busy months, since everybody has finance reports to do. After I’m done with the city candidates, I’ll be looking at HISD and HCC candidates, then Harris County officeholders and area legislators. Thank $deity the special sessions are finally over.

I’m going to split the At Large candidates into three groups – the three (so far) unchallenged incumbents, the At Large #2 candidates, and the open At Large #3 candidates. Here’s a summary of everyone’s finance reports so far:

Race Candidate Raised Spent On Hand Loan ------------------------------------------------------- AL1 Costello 155,590 42,389 161,646 15,000 AL2 Burks 40,910 17,867 18,042 0 AL2 Robinson 82,454 7,664 52,746 0 AL2 Gordon 1,540 100 1,078 0 AL2 Shabazz AL3 Kubosh 109,057 38,223 85,833 15,000 AL3 Calvert 83,906 18,587 75,318 10,000 AL3 Morales 37,625 2,413 35,211 0 AL3 Chavez 27,255 4,728 23,658 160 AL3 Pool 33,695 28,503 5,192 10,000 AL3 Carmona 0 0 0 0 AL3 Edwards AL4 Bradford 54,225 6,750 51,746 0 AL5 Christie 94,980 36,777 61,588 0

Unchallenged incumbents

Costello report
Bradford report
Christie report

All three are strong fundraisers, though clearly CM Costello is in a class by himself. If the rumblings I have heard about his future Mayoral ambitions are true, he’ll be very well placed in two years’ time. In addition to all of the usual PACs and big name players, with more donations of $1000+ than I’ve seen anywhere else save for perhaps Mayor Parker, the most interesting donation he got might have been the $40 he got from Stuart Rosenberg, who happens to be Mayor Parker’s campaign manager. I haven’t noticed Rosenberg’s name on any other report so far. Since I talked about consultant expenses in my post on Controller finance reports, I will note that Costello spent $36,500 on consultant fees, all of which were recurring expenses for his regular campaign operative. If you’re raising $150K+, that’s a sustainable amount.

CM Bradford, the other sitting Member with rumored Mayoral visions, raised about the same amount as he did in the same period in 2011. Thirty-six hundred of his total was in kind, for use of his personal vehicle and for office space. He had basically no expenses – that was the case for July 2011 as well – so I’m not sure why his cash on hand total isn’t higher. He didn’t file a January report as far as I can tell, and his January 2012 report showed a cash balance of $20K. I presume he had some expenses between then and January 2013, but I couldn’t tell you what they were. I can tell you that his July report showed no expenditures made on consultant services.

CM Christie also had a solid report, and like CM Bradford the last report I show for him is January 2012, when he had only $3K on hand after his bruising runoff win. He made numerous, mostly modest, contributions to various Republican groups, but I didn’t see any Republican officials among his donors. He spent $18K on consultant services, which represents six monthly payments to his primary person.

At Large #2

Burks report
Robinson report
Gordon report

There is a fourth candidate, Dr. Carolyn Evans-Shabazz, according to Campos‘ scouting of the filings with the City Secretary’s office. She did not have a report filed as of this publication. Note that Campos lists a Brent Gordon for At Large #2, and his political page has a Trebor Gordon in At Large #3. I think these are the same person, and he filed a second designation of treasurer to reflect that he switched races. But I’m just guessing.

CM Burks is in his first term after finally winning a race in 2011. This will be the first time he’s had to run as a serious candidate rather than as a gadfly. As you can see, compared to some others his report isn’t that impressive. He did get $17,500 in PAC donations ($5K each from HPD and HFD), which feels like it’s on the low end to me, but I didn’t do the math on the other candidates, so I could be wrong about that. I didn’t see any consultant fees, but he did list an expense of $1,250.65 for “placement of 4X8 signs around Houston”. You’ve probably seen a few of them adorning various hurricane fences around town.

David Robinson’s report is more like what you’d expect from an incumbent. You may recall that Robinson finished just out of the money in At Large #2 in 2011, and he made the calculation that I thought someone would that a rematch against now-CM Burks offered better odds than a multi-candidate pileup on AL3. He received contributions from numerous interesting people, including $3000 from Peter Brown, $500 from Anne Clutterbuck, $200 from Kristi Thibaut, and $100 from Sue Lovell, but none stood out to me more than the $1000 he got from chef/entrepreneur Bobby Heugel. I’m going to step out on a limb here and guess that Robinson will be a food truck supporter.

Gordon’s report omitted $8,610 worth of in kind donations, and $10K in pledged donations in its totals. There are always a few candidates who get confused about how to fill in these forms.

At Large #3

Kubosh report
Calvert report
Morales report
Chavez report
Pool report
Carmona report

Al Edwards and Trebor Gordon, if he is a distinct person from Brent Gordon, did not file reports as of publication.

At Large #3 is the one open At Large seat, and it has drawn a large crowd of candidates that can plausibly claim a path to victory. There’s quite a bit of variation in the finance reports, however.

Michael Kubosh

Michael Kubosh

Greg pointed out that Michael Kubosh’s report contained a $72,000 donation from “Felix M. Kubosh”, which would be illegal if it were a contribution from another person. (“Felix M. Kubosh” also made three more contributions, for another $24K, or $96K in total.) This drew a disdainful response from Big Jolly, because everybody knows that “Felix M. Kubosh” and “Michael Kubosh” are the same person. I mean, duh, right? So obvi.

Greg then fessed up to his sad lack of Kubosh family knowledge. I will simply note two things. One is that as far as I can tell, the name “Felix” is not to be found on the Kubosh for Council webpage. Similarly, a Google search for “Felix M Kubosh” does not display the name “Michael” on the first two result pages, though “Michael Felix” does appear on page 3. Suggestive, but hardly conclusive, since for all we know “Felix” is Michael Kubosh’s middle name, and the “M” in “Felix M Kubosh” could stand for Mark or Milton or Madagascar for all we know.

The other thing is that if you do a search on the name “Kubosh” at the Tax Assessor’s website, you will find not only a registration for Felix Michael Kubosh but also a registration for Christopher Michael Kubosh. Perhaps Big Jolly knows how to tell at a glance who is the One True Michael Kubosh, but I’m afraid that knowledge eludes a mere mortal such as myself. Thank goodness we have Big Jolly around to show us the way.

Be that as it may, the fact that Felix M. “Michael” Kubosh contributed $96K of his $109 total means he got $13K from everyone else, and if you subtract out the $5K he got from his brother Paul, he raised only $8K from people not named Kubosh. That casts his report in a rather different light. As to why he contributed to himself rather than loaning it to himself, or paying for things from personal funds with the intent to seek repayment later, since one can only repay a maximum of $15K on a loan to oneself for an At Large seat, I don’t know. I do know that Kubosh spent $19,500 on consultants, so perhaps they can explain the different options for self-funding to him. Kubosh also paid $3975 to one of those consultants for advertising and signage, and donated $5K to the Spring Branch Republicans.

That leaves Rogene Calvert with the strongest report among AL3 contenders. Like David Robinson, she had some interesting donors as well – $5K from Andrea White, $1K from Gordon Quan, and $100 from former County Clerk Beverly Kaufmann. Her expenses were fairly modest as well, so she should be in good position going forward. Remember, no one should ever overestimate their name ID in a race like this. Spend your money making sure the voters have at least heard of you.

One person that might be reasonably well known to the voters is former HCDE Trustee Roy Morales, who ran for At Large #3 twice in 2007, and for Mayor in 2011. He needed only 35 donors to generate that $37K in cash, for an average contribution by my calculation of $1077 per person.

Former Houston firefighter Roland Chavez received $10K from the HPFFA, which is the kind of support you’d expect them to show him, but it means they can’t give him any more unless he makes it to a runoff. He also got $200 from Sue Lovell and $100 from Bill White’s former chief of staff Michael Moore.

Jenifer Pool is one of two candidates in this race to have run for an At Large seat in 2011; Chris Carmona, who filed a report claiming no money raised or spent and who ran against AL3 incumbent Melissa Noriega last time, is the other. Pool’s contributions included $5K in kind. Though she spent a fair bit of money, she had no large single expenditures – I think I saw maybe one or two expenses that exceeded $1000. She had many small listings for consulting services that amounted to things like field work, social media, field supplies, and phone calls.

Al Edwards did not have a report filed as of this posting. I still don’t know what to make of his candidacy.

On a side note, PDiddie complains about the emphasis on finance reports as a proxy for candidate viability. He and I disagree on this point, which is fine and I don’t want to rehash any of that. I will simply note that finance reports are public information that candidates are required to disclose. I believe that information deserves to be reviewed and examined, so that anything questionable can be brought up. How else can we know if the candidates are doing what they’re supposed to do? You can assign any value you want to the contents of the report, I see this as an exercise in transparency.

That’s it for the citywide candidates. I’ll wrap up the Houston elections next with a look at the district races. Any questions or requests, let me know.

Midyear 2013 election update

Back in January, I took an early look at the 2013 elections in Houston. At the request of the folks at the Burnt Orange Report, who also printed my initial overview, here’s an update on the races in the city of Houston in 2013.

Mayor

Back in January, Mayor Parker had no declared opponents, though everyone expected former City Attorney Ben Hall to jump in, and there were whispers of other potential entrants. Hall made his candidacy official about two weeks after my initial report, and formally launched his campaign in March, though things have been fairly low key so far. Mayor Parker, who just kicked off her own campaign a couple of weeks ago, has been busy touting her achievements, of which there have been many in recent months, and pointing out all the glowing praise Houston is getting in the national media for its food scene, arts, employment opportunities, and affordable housing. Hall has been introducing himself to voters – he was the featured speaker at a recent event at HCDP headquarters; Mayor Parker will get her turn for that later in June – though thus far he has stuck to general themes and not presented much in the way of specific policy initiatives. He suffered some bad press a month ago when news of his frequent delinquency when paying property taxes surfaced. That subject, and the fact that Hall lived outside Houston in the tony suburb of Piney Point until last year – he was ineligible to vote in the 2009 city election – will likely come up again as the campaigns begin to engage with each other.

Two other candidates have joined the race as well. One is Green Party perennial Don Cook, who ran for an At Large Council seat in 2009 and 2011, for County Clerk in 2010, and for CD22 in 2012. The other is 2011 At Large #2 candidate Eric Dick, and you can keep the jokes to yourself, he’s way ahead of you on that. Besides his name, Dick is best known for covering the city with bandit campaign signs two years ago; the signs and the controversy that accompanied them did wonders for his name recognition and no doubt his law firm’s bottom line. It’s not clear if he intends to run a more serious campaign this time or if it’s just going to be another round of nailing things to utility poles and denying all knowledge of how they got there, but Dick’s emphasizing that he’s the “Republican” candidate in this nominally non-partisan race suggests that at least one person is thinking about the old pincer strategy.

We’ll have a better idea of where things stand when the campaign finance reports come out in six weeks. Hall has made much noise about his willingness to self-finance his campaign, but nothing says “broad-based support”, or the lack of it, than one’s list of small-dollar donors. It will also be interesting to see where the establishment goes, and if there are any defections from Parker 09 to Hall or Gene Locke 09 to Parker. Finally, on the subject of Republicans, it’s well known among insiders but not at all outside that circle that Hall has a couple of Republican operatives on his campaign payroll. I feel confident saying that fact will gain prominence after the July 15 reports begin to emerge. Until then, there’s the parody Ben Hall Twitter feed to keep those of you who are into that sort of thing amused.

City Controller

Incumbent Ronald Green, who like Mayor Parker is running for a third term, also now has an opponent, a Republican accountant by the name of Bill Frazer. Frazer now has a Facebook page for his campaign, but still no webpage that I can find. As noted before, Green has had some bad press, and he has never been a dynamic fundraiser or campaigner. He didn’t have a lot of cash on hand in January, and I don’t recall much activity there since then. He could conceivably be vulnerable to the right candidate and some bad luck. I don’t think Frazer is that candidate, and as far as luck goes all Green really needs is no more dirt to come out about him before November. Outside of open seat years, we really don’t have a history of Controller races in Houston. The office tends to get a lot less attention than Council does.

City Council At Large

I took an early look at At Large #3, the one open At Large seat, back in April, and nothing much has changed since then. It’s an interesting field, to say the least, with three candidates that have run citywide in the past, and the three that haven’t can credibly claim to have a base of support. There is no clear frontrunner, though the lack of a prominent African American candidate in the race is a factor that could ultimately affect its trajectory. I continue to believe that’s a void that will eventually be filled. Again, the campaign finance reports will bring a bit of focus to the picture, but most likely there will be not that much to see just yet. Generally speaking, the usual powers that be steer clear of these multi-candidate pileups until the runoff.

I noted before that there might be more opportunity in a head-to-head matchup against one of the two freshmen At Large Council members than in the wide open At Large #3 scramble. David Robinson, who finished fourth in the open At Large #2 race in 2011, has apparently taken that to heart and is challenging CM Andrew Burks for that seat. Burks has not particularly distinguished himself in his first term, but he is generally well liked and remains well known due to his many previous candidacies. So far, no one has emerged to take on Burks’ fellow freshman, CM Jack Christie, and the two members running for their third terms, CMs Stephen Costello and Brad Bradford, are also unopposed. Both Costello and Bradford are known to have future Mayoral ambitions, so the tea leaf readers will have some material to work with after the election. Actually, they’ll have some before it as well, since Bradford is listed as a Hall supporter, while Costello, along with CMs Ed Gonzalez and Al Hoang, are Parker supporters.

District City Council

There are only two open district Council seats thanks to the resignation of now-Harris County Tax Assessor Mike Sullivan, who was succeeded by CM Dave Martin last November. Martin will likely draw a challenger or two as the newbie on Council, but so far all of the action is elsewhere. I am aware of four candidates for the District D seat now held by CM Wanda Adams: businessman and former ReBuild Houston oversight board member Dwight Boykins, who had previously run for At Large #5 in 2003, losing to Michael Berry; Houston Housing Authority board member Assata Richards; photojournalist and businesswoman Georgia Provost; and community advocate Keith Caldwell, who ran for D in 2007 and finished fifth in the field of seven. There had been some buzz about former At Large #5 CM Jolanda Jones throwing her hat in and forcing a legal decision to clarify Houston’s term limits ordinance, but I haven’t heard anything about that in months and have no idea if it is still a possibility.

District I has proven to be the liveliest race so far, as candidates Graci Garces and Ben Mendez have already gotten into the kind of spat that one only sees in election years. Garces is the Chief of Staff to current District I member James Rodriguez, who in turn was Chief of Staff to State Rep. Carol Alvarado when she held that seat; Garces was also on Alvarado’s staff. Mendez is a businessman. They are joined in the race by community activist and Sheriff’s Department employee Robert Gallegos, and Leticia Ablaza. Ablaza is the former Chief of Staff to District A CM Helena Brown, who resigned from that position along with Deputy Chief of Staff RW Bray after less than five months on the job, and she challenged CM Rodriguez in 2011, finishing with 35% of the vote. To say the least, her presence in this race makes it one to watch.

Speaking of CM Helena Brown, the field for District A is big enough to make you think it was an open seat as well. In addition to the incumbent, candidates include former CM Brenda Stardig, who assured me on the phone a few weeks ago that she’s going to run a much more organized and focused campaign than she did in 2011 when Brown ousted her; Amy Peck, the District Director for Sen. Dan Patrick who finished third in District A in 2009; and Mike Knox, who has been an HPD officer, Board Member of the Houston Police Patrolmen’s Union, and Director of Community Service for the Spring Branch Management District. All three have good establishment Republican credentials, and I suspect the strategy for all three is to get into a runoff with Brown and hope to consolidate enough support against her to win. As always, the July finance report will tell an interesting tale, and this is one time where I think the usual suspects will not be on the sidelines early but will already be backing one horse or another.

HISD and HCC

There is one update to report on HISD races. District I Board Member and current Board President Anna Eastman is now opposed by community activist Hugo Mojica, who ran in the special election for City Council District H in May 2009 to succeed Sheriff Adrian Garcia and finished eighth in the field of nine. District I is my district, and while I think Hugo is a perfectly nice person, I think Anna Eastman is an outstanding Trustee, and I’ll be voting for her in the fall. There are no other active races I’m aware of, but the impending takeover of North Forest ISD will necessitate a redraw of Trustee districts that could force a special election in Districts II and VIII, where Rhonda Skillern-Jones and Juliet Stipeche now serve. Neither would be on the ballot in 2013 otherwise. I don’t know what all of the ramifications of this will be, but that’s a possibility to watch out for. Finally, while no one has yet announced a campaign against him, District IX Trustee Larry Marshall continues to provide ammunition for whoever does take the plunge.

Lastly, there are two developments in HCC. There is now a second special election on the ballot, as former Board President Richard Schechter stepped down in January after successfully leading the push for HCC’s bond referendum in November. The board appointed attorney and former General Counsel for HCC Leila Feldman to succeed Schechter. Feldman is also the daughter-in-law of Houston City Attorney David Feldman and is married to Cris Feldman, whom aficionados of all things Tom DeLay will recognize as a key player in bringing about his demise. In any event, she will be on the ballot in November along with appointee Herlinda Garcia, who succeeded State Rep. Mary Perez, and incumbents Bruce Austin, Neeta Sane, and Yolanda Navarro Flores. In the second development, Navarro has drawn two opponents, Zeph Capo, the vice-president and legislative director for the Houston Federation of Teachers, and community and Democratic activist Kevin Hoffman, who lost to Navarro Flores in 2007. HCC Trustee races never get much attention, but this one will be as high profile as these races get.

That’s all I have for now. I’ll be taking a close look at the finance reports when they come out.

UPDATE: Whenever I write one of these posts, I’m going by what I’ve seen and heard. Until the July finance reports come out, there’s no easy way to compile a list of candidate names, unless you drop in on the City Secretary and ask to see the dead tree document of people who have filed designation of campaign treasurer forms. As such, I’m going to miss some people, and I inevitably hear about them after I publish.

Three such names have come to my attention since I posted this. One is former State Rep. Al Edwards, who apparently is actively campaigning for At Large #3. The second is Clyde Lemon, who according to Burt Levine is going to run against HISD Trustee Larry Marshall. Neither has a webpage or a campaign Facebook page that I can find, and Google told me nothing about their efforts, so make of that what you will.

The third candidate I’ve heard of since posting is Ron Hale, who is running in the increasingly large District A field. Hale left a bizarre comment on Levine’s Facebook page, saying that I’m “another blogger trying to keep [his] name out of the article as if it hurts my campaign” and “one person in the district A race is a contributor to off the cuff (sic)”. I have no idea what he’s talking about – I am of course the only “contributor” to Off the Kuff – but whatever. Ron Hale is also running for District A, and now you know.

An early look at At Large #3

A little while back, Campos listed all of the people who had filed designations of treasurer for city office, which is the step you need to take before you can raise any money for a campaign. As expected, the field for City Council At Large #3, the only open At Large seat, is already crowded. I thought it would be interesting to take a look at the six candidates who have already expressed their intent to run for this seat. Here they are:

Chris Carmona

Chris CarmonaFacebookTwitter

Carmona is making his second run for At Large #3. He was one of two opponents to CM Melissa Noriega in 2011, receiving 26.20% of the vote. Carmona is a Republican, was involved in the petition drive to overturn the homeless feeding ordinance, and would undoubtedly be an antagonist of Mayor Parker if both were to win this November. He’s also not a fan of Metro, as the entry on his blog-like campaign website would indicate. I wanted to note that particular entry, in which he grouses about the city not being prepared for the NBA All-Star Game this past February, since subsequent events and post-weekend reviews proved him to be quite spectacularly wrong. Predicting the future is hard, y’all.

Roland Chavez

Roland ChavezFacebookTwitter

Chavez is a first-time candidate, who announced his retirement from the Houston Fire Department after 34 years at the same time as he announced his candidacy. His treasurer is the former chief of staff for the late Sen. Mario Gallegos, which will undoubtedly be a good connection for him to have for his campaign. He does not yet have a campaign website or Twitter account that I could find. Chavez is a Democrat but as we know the firefighters and the Mayor do not have a good relationship, so it will be interesting to see how that plays out.

UPDATE: The Chavez campaign has informed me that he does have a Twitter account, which is now listed above. My thanks to Priscilla for the feedback.

Michael Kubosh

Michael KuboshFacebook

One of the Fighting Kubosh Brothers, Michael Kubosh ran as a Democrat against Sen. Dan Patrick in 2006, but is more readily identified as a Republican. He does not yet have a campaign webpage, and in what may just be an oddity there is a – Twitter account in his name, but it has had no activity. I noted Kubosh’s announcement here. He’s best known for being a leader in the effort to ban red light cameras in Houston, and his brother Paul was the plaintiff in the now-dropped lawsuit against the city over the homeless feeding ordinance. Kubosh was at Ben Hall’s campaign announcement event, not that there was any question about what his relationship with Mayor Parker would be like.

Roy Morales

Roy Morales

It’s like old times having Roy run for city office again, isn’t it? He ran for At Large #3 in the special election in May, 2007, losing to CM Noriega in the June runoff, then again in a November rematch. He ran for Mayor in 2009, coming in fourth, and ran for CD29 in 2010. He finished serving a six-year term as HCDE Trustee at the end of last year. He doesn’t have a campaign Facebook page or a Twitter account that I could find, but he has used his personal Facebook page to make campaign announcements. He is a Republican, having run for HCDE and CD29 on the GOP ticket. While Morales has been an actual opponent of Mayor Parker from the 2009 campaign, it’s not quite clear what his relationship with her would be if he were elected to Council, since he’s largely been quiet about city issues since then. I guess we’ll find out soon enough.

Rogene Calvert

Rogene Calvert

Campos notes that Calvert did not list what office she was running for on her form, but I know this is the office she has in mind. She is a first time candidate, is on the UH Center for Public Policy Advisory Board and is a past President of the Asian Chamber of Commerce for Houston. She is a Democrat. I don’t know for sure but I would expect that she would be mostly an ally of Mayor Parker. If elected, she would be the first Asian-American to serve At Large since Gordon Quan.

Jenifer Pool

Jenifer Rene PoolFacebookTwitter

Pool ran for At Large #2 in 2011, finishing 7th in the field of nine with 7.06% of the vote. You can listen to the interview I did with her for that race here. She is a Democrat and a past President of the Houston GLBT Political Caucus, and is an ally of Mayor Parker. She was as far as I can tell the first entrant in this race.

That’s what I know right now. I expect there will be more entrants into this race – seems like the magic number has been nine candidates for open seat At Large races recently. Nancy Sims notes this KUHF story on At Large #3 that says there are eight candidates so far. I emailed Nancy to ask who else she knew about, and she replied by saying Laurie Robinson, who ran against Jolanda Jones in At Large #5 last year, has sent out an announcement of her intent to run; Nancy also mentioned that former State Rep. Al Edwards has been rumored to be looking at the race. Robinson’s Facebook page has no mention of her running for anything – for what it’s worth, the rumor I’d heard was that she’s looking at At Large #2 – and her campaign webpage is currently inactive. I’m going to file her as tentative and Edwards (Lord help us) as speculative for now.

For the other six candidates, all have a plausible case for making it to the runoff, though if we’ve learned anything from recent elections it’s that no one should overestimate their name ID, and in the absence of clear information voters can and will make random selections. Having said that, if there is one candidate in this race who can claim some name ID, it’s Roy Morales, and if this election were to be held tomorrow I’d put my chips on him making it to the runoff. Kubosh is probably the runnerup in the name ID department, but he and Carmona will be fishing from basically the same pool of voters as Morales, and I have a hard time seeing more than one of them emerge from the pack as a finalist. Kubosh has some inroads into the African American community from his anti-red light camera advocacy, but I don’t know how much that might add up to if someone like Robinson or Edwards gets into this race. In many open At Large races there has been a single dominant Democratic candidate – Peter Brown, Melissa Noriega, Jolanda Jones, Brad Bradford – but that doesn’t appear to be the case here. As always it will be interesting to see where the money and the institutional endorsements go. Finally, after all the recent concern about the lack of Latino representation on City Council, it’s good to see three viable Latino candidates running, even if two of them are not to my taste. No guarantees any of them will win, of course, but as they say about the lottery, you can’t win it if you’re not in it.

UPDATE: Laurie Robinson posted the letter she sent to supporters on my Facebook wall, in which she said she will not be a candidate in 2013, though she may run for something in the future. So take her off the list for this year.

30 day reports, Harris County candidates for state office

We’re now 26 days out from the May 29 primary, which means more campaign finance reports from candidates for state and county offices who are in contested primaries. I’m going to post about all of these, starting today with reports from Harris County candidates for state offices. Here are the Democrats, whose reports are linked from my 2012 Democratic primary election page:

Candidate Office Raised Spent Loans Cash ==================================================== Nilsson SBOE6 1,100 1,267 0 1,092 Jensen SBOE6 8,105 9,462 0 4,699 Scott SBOE6 200 474 0 346 Allen HD131 103,451 52,965 0 60,002 Adams HD131 17,930 70,768 411 24,110 Madden HD137 15,968 12,232 0 13,987 Smith HD137 29,352 24,993 0 6,255 Winkler HD137 15,575 4,170 20,000 35,914 Wu HD137 35,579 30,539 0 73,468 Perez HD144 48,120 20,238 0 40,729 Risner HD144 9,315 15,158 0 4,156 Ybarra HD144 4,650 7,586 0 27 Miles HD146 16,600 27,776 730,000 58,573 Edwards HD146 14,449 13,685 0 764 Coleman HD147 41,525 39,052 0 84,433 Hill HD147

My post on the January reports is here. Some thoughts about these reports:

I think we can say that Rep. Alma Allen has eradicated the early lead Wanda Adams had in cash on hand. The establishment has rallied to Rep. Allen’s side, as is usually the case with an incumbent in good standing. A lot of money has already been spent in this race, and I don’t expect that to change over the next four weeks.

Usually, establishment support and fundraising prowess go hand in hand, but not always. HD137 is one of the exceptions, as Gene Wu has been the strongest fundraiser despite garnering only one endorsement (that I’m aware of) so far – HAR, which is certainly a nice get but not a core Democratic group. Joe Madden and Jamaal Smith have racked up the endorsements but don’t have the financial support to match. Other than there will be a runoff, I have no idea what will happen in this race.

For a variety of reasons, many organizations have not endorsed in HD144. The candidates got off to a late start thanks to the changes made to the district in the second interim map, and no one had much to show in their January finance reports. HCC Trustee Mary Ann Perez, who has the backing of Annie’s List, clearly distinguished herself this cycle, which will undoubtedly help her in a part of town that’s not used to having competitive D primaries for State Rep. The other news of interest in this race has nothing to do with fundraising. Robert Miller reported on candidate Kevin Risner having had three arrests for DUI, a fact that I’m sure was going to come out sooner or later. Miller, who’s a Perez supporter, thinks Risner is in a good position to win the primary. I’m not sure I agree with his analysis, but we’ll see.

Poor Al Edwards. It’s hard running a race without Tom Craddick’s buddies, isn’t it? I think Rep. Miles is going to break the pattern of alternating victories this year. On a side note, the Observer’s Forrest Wilder listened to my interview with Rep. Miles, even if he didn’t link to it. I guess he’s not much of a fan of either candidate in this race.

As of this writing, Ray Hill had not filed a 30 Day report. He finally did file a January report that listed no money raised or spent.

Here are the Republicans:

Candidate Office Raised Spent Loans Cash ==================================================== Cargill SBOE8 4,474 10,059 0 18,626 Ellis SBOE8 6,614 2,795 0 5,224 McCool SD11 5,957 4,959 0 997 Norman SD11 6,200 44,086 30,000 1,007 Taylor SD11 344,708 330,586 0 169,468 Huberty HD127 77,536 44,423 0 64,691 Jordan HD127 791 1,731 0 0 Davis HD129 49,816 42,193 0 70,317 Huls HD129 1,482 1,314 0 167 Callegari HD132 67,385 27,632 0 258,286 Brown HD132 2,275 2,380 0 93 Murphy HD133 110,665 89,167 0 211,004 Witt HD133 9,043 139,943 240,100 34,207 Bohac HD138 38,975 18,931 0 44,094 Smith HD138 22,998 13,562 100,000 105,504 Salazar HD143 Weiskopf HD143 Pineda HD144 28,100 6,591 0 19,613 Pena HD144 3,968 1,368 0 0 Lee HD149 Williams HD149 Mullins HD149 Riddle HD150 8,175 24,461 0 92,216 Wilson HD150 11,900 8,520 1,100 4,272

Note that there are differences from the last time. In January, there was a four-way race for HD136, which was eliminated by the San Antonio court in each of the interim maps. Ann Witt, who had been one of the candidates in HD136, moved over to HD133 and replaced the previous challenger, who apparently un-filed during the second period. In that second period, HD144 incumbent Ken Legler decided to drop out, and incumbent Dwayne Bohac picked up an opponent, and multiple people filed in HDs 143, 144, and 149.

Candidates Frank Salazar in HD143 and Jack Lee in HD149 did not have reports filed as of posting time. Their opponents did have reports filed, but those reports are not viewable until each candidate in the race has filed.

Witt had loaned herself $100K as of January; she has since more than doubled that amount. Whet Smith dropped $100K on himself in his challenge against Bohac. Why he’d do that and not have spent any of it as of the reporting deadline is a question I can’t answer. His $23K raised is a decent amount for the time period, but having more cash on hand with 30 days to go than the amount you loaned yourself makes no sense to me.

I’m surprised there hasn’t been more money raised in HD144. That’s a key pickup opportunity for Dems. Gilbert Pena has run for office twice before – HD143 in 2010, and SD06 in 2008 – and I had assumed he’d be the frontrunner in this primary because of that. Am I missing something here?

That’s all I’ve got. I’ll work on the other Dem primaries in Texas and the Harris County races next.

Interview with Rep. Borris Miles

State Rep. Borris Miles

State Rep. Borris Miles is in his second term representing HD146, though his terms were not consecutive. He knocked off longtime Rep. Al Edwards in 2006, lost a rematch in 2008, then won again in 2010. He will face Edwards for a fourth time this May. Miles is a former police officer who owns an insurance agency in the Third Ward. In the 2011 session he championed criminal justice issues, among other things, and asked to serve on the Ag Committee so he could work on bills pertaining to urban agriculture. He succeeded in getting three such bills passed, though one was vetoed by Governor Perry. We talked about that and many other topics:

Download the MP3 file

You can find a list of all interviews for this cycle, plus other related information, on my 2012 Harris County Primary Elections page. You can also follow this blog by liking its Facebook page.

Edwards drops lawsuit to challenge election result in HD146

Former State Rep. Al Edwards, who had filed a lawsuit challenging his electoral loss in the HD146 primary to Rep.-elect Borris Miles, has now dropped the suit, which should clear Miles’ path to Austin.

Miles’ lawyer, Randall “Buck” Wood, of Austin, said he received notice Thursday afternoon that Edwards had dropped his suit, but he was not completely sure that was the end of the matter.

“I’m sitting here mystified,” Wood said. “I filed a motion Tuesday to dismiss, but I don’t know if they’ve actually dropped the lawsuit or they’re just trying to buy time. The thing is, they’re beyond the statute of limitations, so they can’t re-file it. I sure would like to know if something is going on.”

Edwards’ attorney Jay Beverly confirmed that Edwards had withdrawn his challenge.

“The Edwards lawsuit has been dismissed,” he said. “We believe there are good legal grounds for going forward, but Rep. Edwards has decided not to go forward for his own reasons.”

If that’s the case, then I wish him well. I was thinking that an election contest in the House might still be possible, but according to Texas law:

Sec. 241.003. PETITION. (a) The contestant must state the grounds for the contest in a petition in the same manner as a petition in an election contest in the district court.

(b) The contestant must file the petition with the secretary of state not later than the seventh day after the date the official result of the contested election is determined. The contestant must deliver a copy of the petition to the contestee by the same deadline.

That would suggest that the end of the lawsuit is the end of any remaining challenge Edwards may make. Congratulations to Rep.-elect Miles on his now-official victory.

Being the cynical type, I have to wonder what other reasons Edwards may have had for giving up his pursuit. One is money, though the word I’d heard was that funds would be available from interested parties – read: “Tom Craddick supporters” – for this challenge. The other possible reason I can think of is that pursuing this lawsuit meant digging up evidence to support allegations of electoral fraud. Given that meant accusing fellow Democrats of criminal behavior, it’s possible Edwards ran into some resistance. It’s probably a better strategy just to wait two more years and try again in what should be a higher-turnout race, which worked well for him last time, as Edwards was the familiar name for a lot of casual voters even though Miles was the incumbent. Miles is better known now, and one presumes he won’t have anything like the troubles he encountered during that one prior term in office, so maybe that won’t be so successful this time. It’s still probably the better shot, and it won’t alienate any potential voters. Besides, the upcoming session is going to be rough, what with budget and redistricting issues to deal with. If you’re going to pick one to miss, this would be the one.

Miles wins recount, Edwards sues

Mary Benton has the release from the Borris Miles campaign:

Borris Miles’ victory in the March 2010 Democratic Primary for State House District 146 has been confirmed by an official recount. The recount, conducted today by the Harris County Democratic Party with assistance from the Harris County Clerk’s Office, upheld Miles’ victory by 8 votes out of 10,788 ballots cast.

“I am grateful that due process was followed, and that the election result has been finalized,” Miles said. “I thank those from the Harris County Democratic Party and County Clerk’s Office for their hard work and dedication during this recount. Most of all, I thank the people of District 146 for the opportunity to serve them in Austin. I look forward to getting to work on their behalf.”

From eleven to ten to eight. Have I mentioned lately that every vote matters? Congratulations to Rep. Borris Miles.

Well, congratulations for now, anyway. Al Edwards still isn’t going away. He’s now claiming there was fraud in the election.

Edwards boils down whose votes were wrongfully counted into five categories:

One, voters who live outside of his district; two, voters who were improperly registered or whose registration had been canceled; three, voters who were ineligible to vote because of a felony conviction, four, voters who did not properly fill out early mail voting applications, and lastly, that ballots were cast for Miles that were procured by fraud or without the knowledge of the actual voter.

In the petition, Edwards also claims that he believes that votes cast for him by legal voters were not counted because of fraud and that illegal conduct prevented legal voters from casting their ballots.

Way to parrot a whole bunch of GOP talking points there, Al. I wonder who’s bankrolling this effort, because between it and the recount, it’s going to cost him a fair bit of money. Will it be followed by an election contest in the House if he loses again? We’ll just have to see how it goes.

Edwards asks for recount

No surprise.

State Rep. Al Edwards has asked for a recount of the primary election votes in the race he lost to Borris Miles by 10 votes.

Edwards filed the paperwork and submitted a $4,400 deposit this morning at the state Democratic Party headquarters in Austin, a spokeswoman confirmed.

[…]

Harris County Democratic Party Chairman Gerry Birnberg called a recount “a waste of money.”

“With electronic balloting, there’s nothing to recount,” Birnberg said.

Well, it’s his money, unless he wins. And there are a few absentee ballots – 1,381 of them in total, according to the County Clerk, and Edwards did win them by a decent amount, so who knows? This was to be expected, so let’s get it done. A statement from Rep. Edwards is beneath the fold.

(more…)

Miles wins by 10

Just call him Landslide Borris.

State Rep. Al Edwards, who lost his rematch with challenger Borris Miles by 11 votes in last week’s Democratic primary, saw that margin narrow by one vote Tuesday, after an early-voting ballot board canvassed provisional and mail ballots. After 39 votes were added to the total, the tally was 5,050 for Miles and 5,040 for Edwards.

[…]

I asked the veteran lawmaker just a few minutes ago what he plans to do. “I haven’t revealed that yet,” he said. “We’re looking at all different angles.”

Keir Murray, a Miles campaign consultant, said he wouldn’t expect a recount to change anything, since most of the votes were cast electronically. “We’d rather be in our position than Edwards’,” he said. “I guess anything can happen, but historically it’s been very difficult for results like these to be changed.”

I was unable to make it to the precinct chairs’ meeting tonight, so I can’t personally confirm that the result was accepted by the HCDP, but I haven’t heard anything to suggest it wasn’t, so I daresay it was. I’ve also heard that Edwards will formally request a recount on Monday. As Murray suggests, it probably won’t change anything, but you never know. We’ll see how it goes.

Recount coming in HD146?

It’s not official yet, but I can’t imagine there not being a recount in a race decided by 11 votes.

[Borris] Miles, a former police officer who owns an insurance business, said he had not yet received a concession call from [Rep. Al] Edwards, but looked forward to working with him “and getting him alongside me to work with me to address some of the issues in our community.”

Edwards did not return repeated calls seeking comment Wednesday, but in public remarks made shortly after the election, he indicated an interest in seeking a recount.

KTRK and KPRC also mention Edwards talking about a recount. I fully expect that to happen, though I presume it will wait until this election has been certified by the County Clerk.

Thirty-three Democratic voters cast provisional ballots in the race, said Hector DeLeon, a spokesman for the Harris County Clerk, which conducted the primary. A provisional ballot is used when a person tries to vote on election day when his or her name is not on a list of registered voters in that precinct. The clerk’s office, by law, also must wait five days after election day for ballots that could be mailed from overseas, DeLeon said.

A ballot board made up of Democrats appointed by the party is expected to meet Tuesday and decide which provisional and overseas ballots will be counted, said John German, the administrator of elections for the clerk’s office.

The official results are expected to be certified two days later, officials said, and either candidate can request a recount by March 13. That request would have to be made to Harris County Democratic Party Chair Gerald Birnberg.

Figure that overseas ballots are unlikely to make any difference. It’s hard to say with provisional ballots, but given how few of them there are, even if all of them were accepted, Edwards would have to receive two thirds of them to affect the outcome. I think his main hope will be that a recount of the absentee ballots will yield some changes, and if that’s not enough he may try an election contest. We’ve seen a few of those in recent years, though only the 2004 challenge by Talmadge Heflin against Hubert Vo actually proceeded to completion, and the result still stood. Anything can happen, but my money is on Miles. The Trib and Nancy Sims have more.

Election results: The Lege

There are way too many races to recap here, and since the Trib has done such a thorough job of it, I’ll leave the heavy lifting to them. A few highlights:

– Steve Ogden easily won re-nomination in SD5, and Kip Averitt was returned to the ballot in SD22. Each faced fringe opponents, so these are good results as far as maintaining a functioning Senate goes. Averitt as we know had sought to drop out. He may yet do that, at which time we’ll get appointed nominees from both parties; if he changes his mind, he’s in, as no Dem filed originally.

– Borris Miles won by a razor-thin margin over Al Edwards in HD146. The margin as of this morning was all of eleven votes. Yes, you can expect a recount, and that’s a small enough number that there’s a chance the outcome could change. Don’t carve anything into stone just yet. A statement from Miles’ campaign is beneath the fold.

– Despite some predictions that Rep. Terri Hodge, who recently pleaded guilty to lying on her tax returns and stated her intention to resign after being sentenced, would still win her primary, challenger Eric Johnson defeated her by a large margin. There is no Republican challenger, so Johnson will be sworn in next January.

– Rep. Betty Brown, best known for her inability to handle Asian names, lost. That’s good. Rep. Tommy Merritt of Longview, who had faced primary challenges every cycle this decade for his opposition to Tom Craddick and other acts of heresy, also lost. That’s not good. Rep. Delwin Jones is in a runoff. On the Democratic side, Reps. Dora Olivo of Fort Bend and Tara Rios Ybarra of South Padre Island lost, and Rep. Norma Chavez of El Paso is in a runoff. Go click those Trib links for more.

That’s all I’ve got for now. I’ll post links to more coverage later as I see them.

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Endorsement watch: Chron goes for Miles

I’m glad to see this.

Based on their comparative records over the past two legislative sessions, we believe [Borris] Miles would better deal with the enormous social service and infrastructure needs of [HD146].

Miles, who was born in the district, built one of the largest African-American-owned insurance agencies in the nation. As a businessman he has already played a key role in revitalizing two city blocks of retail property in his community and wants to bring similar upgrades to other areas as well.

[…]

Miles’ proven business acumen and leadership abilities make him the better-qualified candidate of the two. We urge Democratic primary voters to return him to the Legislature.

In terms of accomplishments, it’s not close. Miles did more in his one term than Edwards has done in his last half dozen or more. For all Edwards’ talk about seniority, I can’t think of a single bill he was a player on last year. If you want to get stuff done, Miles is the clear choice.

In other endorsement news, the Chron endorsed Sue Schechter for County Clerk, and went with the appointed incumbent and the hand-picked successor on the GOP side in the tax Assessor and County Clerk races.

HD146 overview

Here’s the Chron on the one local Democratic legislative primary, Round Three of Al Edwards versus Borris Miles.

Edwards has represented District 146 since 1979 — except for 2006-08, when Miles won the heavily black district. It has some of Harris County’s poorest neighborhoods, including much of Third Ward.

The 71-year-old Edwards, a lay minister and real estate broker, is third in seniority in the Legislature. “There’s no comparison in terms of abilities and skills and experience,” he said of Miles.

“Seniority is only as good as the person whose hands it’s in,” Miles scoffed. “If my representative is so powerful on the House floor, we should be a land of milk and honey. We’re not.”

Not really much to say here. With Tom Craddick on the sidelines, this race has not had the high profile it had in 2006 or 2008. Edwards doesn’t have that much money, certainly not compared to those previous years, and what he has is mostly PAC money, plus $15,000 from Bob and Doylene Perry. Of course, Miles is a self-funder, it’s just that he just won’t have to go toe-to-toe with the big moneybags that kept Team Craddick in power. As you know, Miles is my preferred choice. I don’t have a good feel for how this is going to play out, but for what it’s worth, more Democratic early votes have been cast in HD146 – 3,001 between the Fiesta Mart and the Sunnyside MSC through Wednesday – than any other early vote location. We’ll see how it goes.

Last minute poll numbers

Public Policy Polling takes a last look at the gubernatorial primaries.

Debra Medina is fading in the Texas Republican race for Governor, and it continues to look like the contest is headed for a runoff where Rick Perry will be a strong favorite over Kay Bailey Hutchison.

Perry leads with 40% to 31% for Hutchison and 20% for Medina. Compared to PPP’s look at the race two weeks ago Perry has gained a point, Hutchison has gone up three, and Medina’s standing has declined by four.

Unless Perry wins the remaining undecideds by an overwhelming margin and/or peels off more of Medina’s support it looks like he won’t get to the 50% needed for an outright victory next week. But he leads Hutchison 52-35 in a potential runoff thanks in large part to Medina’s supporters, who say Perry is their second choice by a 52-24 margin.

It’s been a rough couple of weeks for Medina’s standing. Her favorability spread in the previous poll was 40/9 for a +31 net positive. Now she’s at 36/30 for a net positive of just +6. A 25 point drop on your numbers in the span of just two weeks is pretty unusual.

Full crosstabs are here. Phillip thinks Medina has weathered the Glenn Beck/”9/11 truther” flap pretty well, and she is clearly still a factor. I confess, I underestimated her in the race. Bob Moser has a pretty good take on why she’s doing as well as she is.

PPP did not poll the general election. Rasmussen has a new set of numbers on that.

The latest Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of likely voters in the state shows incumbent GOP Governor Rick Perry leading White 47% to 41%. Five percent (5%) of voters prefer some other candidate, and seven percent (7%) are undecided. At the beginning of this month, Perry led White 48% to 39%.

Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, who is challenging Perry for the Republican nomination, now posts a 47% to 38% lead over White. Three weeks ago, she had a 49% to 36% lead. Given this match-up, eight percent (8%) like another candidate, and seven percent (7%) are undecided.

These findings mark little change from January just after White announced his candidacy for the race.

Another GOP hopeful, Tea Party activist Debra Medina, has stumbled following a gaffe on the Glenn Beck show. In the previous survey, she had a three-point advantage over White. Now Medina trails the Democrat by 10 points, 47% to 37%.

It’s still the case that neither Perry nor KBH can break 50% in the polls, even in Rasmussen, which has consistently shown their highest level of support in their results. One normally says that incumbents who don’t poll over 50% – and KBH counts as one for this race – are potentially in electoral danger. Perry still hasn’t received as much as 50% in any poll of the primary, either, but another Rasmussen poll has him pretty close to it.

A new Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of likely Republican Primary voters finds Perry leading Senate Kay Bailey Hutchison 48% to 27%, with Tea Party activist Debra Medina earning 16% of the vote. Nine percent (9%) of Texas GOP voters remain undecided.

At the beginning of the month, Perry lead 44% to Hutchison’s 29% and Medina’s 16%. In September, just after Hutchison traveled statewide to announce her candidacy for governor, she posted a 40% to 38% lead over Perry, but that was the high point of her support which has been declining ever since.

Early voting has already begun in the primary which wraps up on Tuesday. Turnout is often difficult to project for primaries, but among those who say they have already voted, Perry has earned 49% support, while Hutchison and Medina have picked up 24% and 20% respectively.

If the winning candidate fails to get 50% of the vote a run-off between the top two vote-getters will be held on April 13.

Burka thinks KBH may concede rather than keep fighting in a runoff if Perry is that close to 50%. For what it’s worth, I’ll note that Al Edwards (48.16% in the 2006 Democratic primary for HD146) and Henry Bonilla (48.60% in the November, 2006 CD23 special election) both lost runoffs after coming that close to winning outright. An incumbent who can’t get 50% is beatable, it’s as simple as that. Perry may well prevail anyway, but there’s no guarantee of it. And let’s not go overboard here – Rasmussen is one poll, making its own set of assumptions. As Come and Take It (an admitted KBH partisan) notes, Ras’ sample was done on one day, while PPP’s was done over the more traditional three days. Let’s see what the voters have to say, then we’ll see what KBH does. Remember, nobody ever knows what KBH will do.

Miles files

For the third straight cycle, former Rep. Borris Miles will face Rep. Al Edwards in the Democratic primary for HD146. Mary Benton has the details plus Miles’ press release. I like Miles, I thought he had a lot of potential to do good in the one term he had after winning in 2006, but I do hope he’s gotten his personal demons under control. I look forward to seeing how the rubber match plays out.

Has the TEC grown some teeth?

Well, no. But they do seem to be levying bigger fines, so maybe their gums are a little harder.

By every measure, the agency is issuing more — and larger — fines, the records show.

“There’s been a shift to focus more on enforcement and compliance,” said the commission’s chairman, San Antonio lawyer Ross Fischer.

He and others who know the agency believe a combination of factors are driving the trend, including technological advancements that make it easy for the public access to analyze records they previously couldn’t see. (The commission’s fine collections, it should be noted, go into the state’s general revenue pool, not the agency’s budget).

The commissioners are also receiving many more sworn complaints than they have in years past, especially during election years. In 2000, for example, 93 complaints were filed. Last year there were 388.

[…]

The commission, of course, is operating on rules crafted from laws passed by members of the Legislature — the folks among the most likely to face investigations and fines.

And not all of them think the system works.

State Rep. Al Edwards, D-Houston, received a $1,000 fine for listing a $25,000 contribution from Houston homebuilder Bob Perry, as “B Perry”. He also failed to disclose Perry’s occupation and title.

Both pieces of information are required for large contributors, according to state law, and watchdogs would argue that officials could skirt full disclosure by submitting partially completed filings.

Edwards calls it “nitpicking.”

“They should get the information — the reporting should be thorough — but it doesn’t have to be to the extent that they are doing,” he said of the commission. “The Legislature needs to go through and make sure they’re not going overboard.”

I have no sympathy for Al Edwards, whose basic error seems to be exactly the sort of thing that the TEC should be enforcing, since there’s no good reason to omit that kind of information in most cases, and in this specific instance there’s plenty of motivation to leave it out. Having said that, I will agree that it isn’t easy to get these forms right, and well-intentioned candidates can and do get tripped up by minutia. I marveled during this election about obviously problematic finance reports, and it seems clear to me that the right answer here is a software fix. Imagine a TurboTax-like program for filling out campaign finance reports in a complete and compliant manner, for instance. Even trivial validation checks like not allowing a form to be submitted if a required field is left blank or has an improper value in it would go a long way. This would require legislative action and a funding source, neither of which the Lege is likely to be anxious to do, but I feel that the promise of reducing “nitpicky” violations would have some momentum behind it. I mean seriously, what’s the argument against this?

Anyway. One of the new toys that the Trib has given us is a searchable database of ethics fines, which I’m sure will be popular among the oppo research crowd. Check it out.

Edwards gets a primary challenger in HD146

For the third straight election cycle, there will be a contested Democratic primary in HD146. Harvey Kronberg reports.

Billy Briscoe, who served as Paul Hobby’s travel aide during his campaign for Comptroller in 1998, says that he is running in the Democratic primary.

Briscoe worked for Public Strategies after leaving the Hobby campaign, representing telecomm and electric utility clients from 1999 to 2002. He currently is a partner at The Briscoe Law Firm, which he described as a boutique law firm providing help with business litigation and commercial transactions as well as lobbying services and strategic communications. The firm has offices in Houston, Austin and Dallas, he said.

He serves on both the Harris County Improvement District 12 and on Houston’s Affirmative Action Contract Compliance Commission.

Briscoe, 36, said that it’s time for people from his age group “to step forward and put forth new ideas.” He said that after thinking about his range of experience working in Austin, it only seemed natural for him to seek service in the Capitol.

He said he recognized the challenge in running against Edwards who is nothing short of an institution in his district. He said, though, that the key would be hard work. “If I don’t knock on several thousand doors,” he said, “on March 2, I won’t have a good night.”

He said that was placing a priority on improving the responsiveness of the district office to constituent needs. He said he didn’t mean that as an indictment of Edwards’ representation but he added that district residents have given him the sense that “we’ve missed responsiveness from our state representative.”

He added that he also planned to run on quality of life issues, such as jobs, economic development, good schools and improved social services.

The generational argument is an interesting one. I feel like it would have worked better last year, with Barack Obama on the ticket. Of course, Edwards waltzed to an easy victory over Borris Miles then, reclaiming the seat he’d lost in 2006, but I daresay that was more a referendum on Miles and his unfortunate self-destruction. Edwards is much less a polarizing figure now than he was when Miles defeated him in 2006, thanks to Tom Craddick’s defenestration. Given that the Speaker isn’t an issue, and that it’s now been four years since the infamous Sexy Cheerleading bill, I think the “time for a new generation of leadership” argument is as good as any. If Briscoe makes good on his plan to knock on all those doors, he’ll have a shot at it.

The Onion takes on Betty Brown

I suppose this was inevitable, given how low the fruit was hanging. But now that we’ve had all this fun at Rep. Betty Brown’s expense, I’ve got to agree with David Mauro in that this has largely served to reinforce negative stereotypes of Texas and Texans around the world. So for being this session’s Al Edwards, may I just say to Betty Brown: “Thanks a hell of a lot”.