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Alex Wathen

34 > 20, and other campaign finance news

I’ve added two more candidate reports to my campaign finance report spreadsheet, Robert Kane and KA Khan, both in District F. Each of them had filed paper reports instead of electronic reports. You can see a list of such reports here, and you can see scanned PDF copies of their reports here: for Khan and for Kane.

If you look at these reports, you will note that on the cover page, each candidate signs an affidavit that includes the following: “I swear or affirm that I have not accepted more than $20,000 in political contributions or made more than $20,000 in political expenditures in a calendar year.” If you then take a look at KA Khan’s report, down at the bottom he lists his total contributions as $34,010. I realize math can be a tricky subject for some people, but I don’t think it’s too hard to grasp the concept that $34,010 is bigger than $20,000. Yet Khan signed the affidavit swearing he did not and would not collect more than $20,000 in contributions. Seems to me something is wrong here. And as Greg notes, among other things, Khan has spent a bunch of money sending out six mail pieces, yet those expenses are not accounted for on his report. I’m told a complaint is being filed against Khan. Should be easy enough to make a determination in this one.

Now as was noted in the comments to this entry when I complained about some other obviously erroneous reports, the City Secretary apparently doesn’t have the authority to reject them even if it’s clear at a glance that there’s problems. But I don’t see why the City Attorney, or some other agency acting as an ombudsman, couldn’t do a review of the forms as they come in and take some kind of action to respond to the ones that have glaring errors. If the City Attorney is going to disqualify candidates from the ballot for dumb yet basically harmless errors on the filing form, why isn’t there an equivalent level of vigor with campaign finance reports, in which the potential for deception and malfeasance is vastly greater? Right now we have a system that relies on third parties – often people acting on behalf of a rival candidate – to file complaints, which take however long to resolve, usually well after the election in question. There needs to be a better way. If this requires a legislative fix, then so be it. They’ve already got one issue from this election that needs their attention, may as well add one more item to the list.

As noted at the beginning of this post, I found campaign finance reports for the two more candidates, which I added to my spreadsheet. That still leaves a bunch of candidates for whom I can find no report. The same thing happened in July, where a number of reports did not show up until more than a week after the reporting deadline. One candidate to whom this happened in July, and whose report isn’t visible today, is Alex Wathen in District A. Wathen has confirmed to me that he did submit his report on time – you can see a PDF of his receipt here – but that the City Secretary’s office has had trouble reading his file, as they had in July. Mills Worsham in G has also confirmed to me that he submitted his report and that the City Secretary’s office said they were having trouble with it, too. Interestingly, I called the City Secretary’s office yesterday to inquire about a few of the missing reports, and the person I spoke to told me they didn’t have one from Worsham, or from Roger Bowden (District B), Otis Jordan (District D), Lewis Cook (District F), or Peter Acquaro (District F). I don’t know exactly what’s going on here, but given the issues we saw in July that are affecting Wathen and Worsham now, this really needs to be investigated to get to the bottom of it. Technical issues should not be a barrier to the public’s access to this information.

Interview with Alex Wathen

Alex WathenMoving back to candidates for office, today I bring you a conversation with Alex Wathen, who is running in District A. Wathen is an attorney who has his own firm, where he specializes in bankruptcy law. He was the Republican candidate for Justice of the Peace in Harris County Precinct One, Place 2, in 2002 against incumbent Judge David Patronella, for which a local GOP activist kicked up a fuss. Wathen is a resident of Inwood Forest.

Download the MP3 file

PREVIOUSLY:

Karen Derr, At Large #1
Brad Bradford, At Large #4
Stephen Costello, At Large #1
Lane Lewis, District A
Lonnie Allsbrooks, At Large #1
Noel Freeman, At Large #4
Brenda Stardig, District A
Oliver Pennington, District G
Amy Peck, District A
Herman Litt, At Large #1
Natasha Kamrani, HISD Trustee in District I, not running for re-election

Another City Council lineup update

Time for our periodic check on who’s running for what this fall. The Memorial Examiner gets us started.

Five confirmed candidates are vying to replace Lawrence in District A.

Jeff Downing, Amy Peck, Bob Schellkopf, Brenda Stardig and Alex Wathen are campaign-ready, having filed campaign treasurer forms.

Not running in District A is P.M. Clinton, 58, a private investigator and longtime Spring Branch resident.

Clinton said Tuesday that he’s been asked to run, but feels he can do more by staying involved with a reactivated Spring Branch Revitalization Association.

In District G, Oliver Pennington and Mills Worsham have filed treasurer papers and are campaigning.

The story has basic bio information on all of them. Peck is the new name to me – she’s a district liaison for state Sen. Dan Patrick, and worked for Sen. Jon Lindsay before him. She’s also 24, which makes her a heck of a lot more focused and accomplished than I was at that age. Not surprisingly for someone with that resume, she lists cost reduction as her top priority.

I can add two names to this group: Lane Lewis for A, and Dexter Handy for G. Lewis, according to an email from Carl Whitmarsh, who broke the news of Lewis’ candidacy a few days ago, is the former Chair of the Houston Gay Lesbian BiSexual Transgendered Political Caucus, Democratic Chair and Election Judge in Oak Forest, and Professor of Government and Political Science at San Jacinto College where he will soon be teaching supervisor of his department. Handy ran for County Commissioner in Precinct 3 against Steve Radack last year. I’ve confirmed his candidacy via email. I interviewed Handy twice last year, once for the primary and once for the general. He’s a real good guy, and I’m glad to see him in the race.

Elsewhere, I’ve now heard of two candidates for At Large #1: former HCC Trustee and 2005 candidate for District C Herman Litt, and Steve Costello, who is the head of the Memorial Park Conservancy. There are two other entrants for At Large #4 as well, Jay Green and Sandy Dahlke, about whom I know nothing.

Finally, while there were no new entrants into the Mayor’s race that I know of, there was some action as current City Council member Peter Brown kicked off his campaign, and City Controller Annise Parker called on Governor Perry to make sure Houston got its fair share of the stimulus money. What are you hearing these days?

Stardig announces in A

We now have a third official candidate in City Council District A, businesswoman Brenda Stardig, who I am told is outgoing Council Member Toni Lawrence’s preferred choice. She joins Alex Wathen and Jeff Downing, who have already filed their Treasurer’s reports, and possible Bert Schoelkopf in the pursuit of this seat. Her press release is beneath the fold. I haven’t heard of any other new candidates lately; if you’re aware of some, please leave a comment and let me know. Thanks.

(more…)

City Council lineup update

Via Carl Whitmarsh, we have a third potential candidate for the to-be-open Council seat in District A, attorney Alex Wathen. Wathen joins Bob Schoelkopf and Jeffrey Downing in eyeing that seat. Wathen has been a candidate for City Council before – he ran for At Large #2 in 1999, finishing last in a field of 11 that was eventually won by Gordon Quan. He also ran for Justice of the Peace in 2002 against Justice David Patronella, garnering 33.66% of the vote and causing a bit of a stir as a local Republican wingnut put out a robocall urging other Republicans not to vote for Wathen on the grounds that Wathen is gay. (Shocking, I know.) A press release from the Log Cabin Republicans, of which Wathen was a local leader, noted the attack against him while mistakenly stating he’d won the election anyway.

Anyway. Here to the best of my recollection is an up-to-date list of declared and potential candidates for various city elections this year. Please chime in and let me know where I’ve missed something.

Mayor: The lineup is pretty stable at this point, with City Controller Annise Parker, At Large #1 City Council Member Peter Brown, and former City Attorneys Gene Locke and Benjamin Hall in the mix. Former Kemah Mayor Bill King has apparently dropped out, and former Governor Mark White was in there for a minute, but hasn’t been heard from in a few months.

City Controller: Not very much chatter about this one so far, but three of the remaining term-limited City Council members – Ronald Green in At Large #4, MJ Khan in District F, and Pam Holm in District G – have been mentioned as potential candidates.

City Council At Large: For sure, At Large #4 will be open. Noel Freeman is a declared candidate, while Terence Fontaine, the Deputy Chief of Staff to Mayor Bill White, and former candidates for District C George Hittner and Brian Cweren have all expressed interest in the past. More recently, former HPD Chief and District Attorney candidate CO Bradford has said he’s considering a run.

At Large #1 will be open unless Peter Brown makes like Michael Berry in 2003 and decides to run for re-election rather than pursue his Mayoral ambitions. Former State Rep. and Harris County Democratic Party chair Sue Schecter has said she’d be interested in running here. Bill King has apparently turned his attention towards an At Large Council race and may wind up here. HCDE Trustee and former At Large Council candidate Roy Morales has also expressed some interest in another Council run.

Finally, in At Large #5, freshman Member Jolanda Jones has drawn the attention of former State Rep. candidate Carlos Obando. And though I have not heard any names recently, there was definitely talk after the 2007 election that two-term Member Sue Lovell could draw a real challenger in At Large #2 after she won a surprisingly close race against perennial gadfly Griff Griffin. As yet, no word of an opponent for At Large #3 member Melissa Noriega.

District A: Covered above. For purposes of comparison, there were five candidates for the open seat race in 2003, which Toni Lawrence won outright after two unsuccessful attempts to unseat Bruce Tatro.

District F: Mike Laster is the only name I’ve heard so far. There were four candidates for this seat in 2003.

District G: Nada. If anyone is out there looking at this one, I’ve not heard about it yet. There were seven candidates in 2003.

District H: Karen Derr, Maverick Welsh, Ed Gonzalez, and Hugo Mojica are in. Gonzalo Camacho and Rick Rodriguez are reportedly in, while Yolanda Navarro Flores and Diana Davila Martinez are reportedly mulling it over, but I don’t have direct confirmation of their interest. There were six candidates in 2003, including Martinez and Camacho.

So that’s what I know about who is or may be running for a given city office this year. Who am I missing?