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Angelique Bartholomew

Board of Disciplinary Appeals suspends Rep. Reynolds’ law license

More bad news.

Rep. Ron Reynolds

Convicted of five misdemeanor counts of illegally soliciting clients to his personal injury law practice, state Rep. Ron Reynolds is now without a license to practice law.

As Reynolds appeals his convictions, the Texas Supreme Court’s Board of Disciplinary Appeals has suspended the Missouri City Democrat’s law license, saying it would render a final judgment when the appeals process is done.

The embattled Democratic lawmaker has spent years fighting accusations of wrongdoing in his work as an attorney in the Houston area. In November, a Montgomery County jury found him guilty of five barratry counts in an “ambulance-chasing for profit” scheme and sentenced him to one year in jail and a $4,000 fine.

Reynolds attended the April 29 Disciplinary Appeals Board hearing in Austin, in which he asked the board to not suspend his law license while his appeal is pending.

Click here for all things Ron Reynolds. You know how I feel, so I’ll spare you the tedium. This action was not unexpected, and all I can say is that I hope Reynolds has a way to provide for his family while he can’t practice law. Both the Trib last week and the Observer this week covered the HD27 runoff, which despite everything remains Reynolds’ to lose. If he does win, then I hope he’s able to actually serve, because despite his continued assertions of innocence and prosecutorial zeaoltry, he’s still got a jail sentence hanging over his head, and Democrats are going to need all hands on deck next session. And I’ll stop here so I don’t violate my promise from the second sentence above. We’ll know soon enough.

Endorsement watch: Still saying No to Reynolds

The Chron reiterates its opposition to Rep. Ron Reynolds in the HD27 primary runoff.

Angelique Bartholomew

Angelique Bartholomew

Texas’ Attorney General Ken Paxton has been indicted for securities fraud. Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller is under criminal investigation by the Texas Rangers for misusing state funds.

When corruption and criminality become the go-to descriptors for statewide Republicans, it becomes that much easier for Democrats to claim a moral high ground.

State Rep. Ron Reynolds makes it that much harder.

[…]

If Democratic voters want to show that theirs is the moral compass that points to true north, then they should vote out Reynolds and replace him with his challenger in the runoff for District 27: Angelique Bartholomew.

Bartholomew, 46, is a certified mediator and director of compliance for a medical firm. A mother of five, she has degrees from Fisk University and Miles Law School and has been endorsed by Annie’s List. She’s running for office on a platform of meat-and-potatoes issues such as education and affordable healthcare.

The Chron had previously endorsed Steve Brown in HD27, but he did not make it to the runoff. You know how I feel about this, so I won’t belabor it. Reynolds was recently profiled by the Trib, in which he expressed confidence about the runoff. He nearly made it over the 50% line in March, so all his issues aside, he’s got to be seen as the favorite in this race. As always, it’s a matter of who is motivated to show up for this election. I’m hoping those who are motivated are ready for a change.

Roundup of runoff candidate interviews and Q&As

vote-button

As we know, early voting for the primary runoffs begins in a week. I did my usual series of interviews and judicial Q&As for the primary, but there were a few candidates I didn’t get to for one reason or another. So, to refresh everyone’s memory and to give another chance to get acquainted with who will be on the Democratic runoff ballot, here are links to all those interviews and Q&As for your convenience. Remember that turnout in this election is likely to be quite low, so your vote really matters.

SBOE 6

Dakota Carter
Jasmine Jenkins

HD27

Rep. Ron Reynolds
Angelique Brtholomew

(Note: Rep. Reynolds declined a request for an interview.)

HD139

Kimberly Willis
Jarvis Johnson

District Judge, 11th Judicial District

Kristen Hawkins
Rabeea Collier

District Judge, 61st Judicial District

Julie Countiss
Fredericka Phillips

District Judge, 215th Judicial District

Judge Elaine Palmer
JoAnn Storey

Sheriff

Ed Gonzalez
Jerome Moore

Justice of the Peace, Precinct 1, Place 1

Eric William Carter
Tanya Makany-Rivera

Reynolds hit with $500K judgment

Geez.

Rep. Ron Reynolds

State Rep. Ron Reynolds has been ordered to pay $504,000 in damages for failing to give a grieving mother her share of settlement money from a 2010 lawsuit.

The embattled lawmaker, who is also an attorney, failed to give his former client, Nancy Ann Calloway, her share of a $250,000 settlement from a lawsuit stemming from her 23-year-old daughter’s death in a car crash, a Harris County judge ruled Friday.

After the award was handed down, the 55-year-old flight attendant teared up as she described Reynolds repeatedly putting her off when she asked for money that she had earmarked for a tombstone for her daughter, April Cherisse.

“It’s more pain in a painful situation,” Calloway said. “It’s a tragedy.”

[…]

State District Judge Grant Dorfman agreed with Calloway that the lawyer owed her $168,000 in actual damages and $336,000 in punitive damages.

Reynolds had given Calloway about $82,000 – about half of what he owed her – about 18 months after he received the settlement check, according to testimony.

On Friday, the judge agreed that Reynolds should forfeit his share of the mediated settlement because of his misdeeds.

After he ruled, the judge told Calloway that he had seen other consumers wronged by unethical business practices, but said Calloway’s circumstances were “crueler” than most.

“It’s especially troubling that it is a member of the state bar, much less a state rep,” the judge said.

It was in his capacity as a state representative that Reynolds approached Calloway, she testified Friday. He came to her home to console her two days after her daughter’s death in his role as her local legislator, she said. He then offered to represent her in a lawsuit.

Calloway’s attorney, Jim Culpepper, said authorities may also look at the case as another charge of barratry or in a grievance to the state bar, the agency that licenses attorneys and has the power to disbar them. Culpepper said he has not pursued those kinds of actions because he did not want to be accused of seeking criminal charges to leverage his position in the lawsuit.

As you know, I’ve been following both the primary and runoff in HD27, between Rep. Reynolds and Angelique Bartholomew, and the ongoing saga of Ron Reynolds’ legal problems – see here for plenty of related posts. I’ve said before that I like Rep. Reynolds personally, and I understand why his friends have continued to support him. But I have to say, with each of these stories, it gets harder for me to understand it. Beneath the fold is a long missive from Annie’s List, which is backing Bartholomew, detailing Reynolds’ history of judgments against him by former clients. To be as blunt as I can, this shit is unacceptable. I don’t know all the facts in all these cases, and I’m sure that as his political opponents in this runoff, Annie’s List has put everything in as unflattering a light for Reynolds as they can. But you can grant all the mitigating circumstances and more-to-the-story explanations you like, the pattern of behavior is clear, and we haven’t even mentioned the barratry conviction. Just look at the list of excuses and justifications Reynolds gives in this Trib story, and you’ll see that he’s still not willing to own the problems he has caused. I’m sorry it’s come to this, and I feel terrible for Rep. Reynolds’ family, but we do him no favors by continuing to support his political career. He needs to drop out of the runoff, and get his affairs in order. He owes that to his constituents, his clients, his family and friends and supporters, and himself.

(more…)

Runoff watch: Legislative races

I’m going to spend a few posts looking at the runoff elections that will be on the ballot this May. Primary runoffs are completely different than regular primaries, mostly because the races involved are low profile and only the hardest of hardcore voters come out for them. Remember how much time we spent this primary cycle talking about the 2008 Democratic primary and how off-the-charts high the turnout was? Well, turnout for the 2008 Democratic primary runoff in Harris County, which decided one District Judge nomination and one Justice of the Peace nomination, as well as voting on the nomination for Railroad Commissioner, drew all of 9,670 votes. Republican primary runoff turnout that year was 40,457, considerably higher but still quite paltry. The exception to this rule is when there is an actual high-profile race on the ballot, such as in 2012 when Ted Cruz and David Dewhurst went into overtime for the US Senate nomination. That year, in a runoff that happened in July, over 135,000 people came out to vote. The Democratic runoff, which also included a Senate race, drew 30,000 votes. Point being: Don’t expect much this year.

The bottom line is that there are two types of primary runoff voters: Those who are super plugged into the process and who turn out any time there’s an election, and those who are brought out by a campaign. In the absence of a high-profile campaign, the kind that draws news coverage and maybe TV advertising, the main kind of campaign that will draw out voters is one with a ground game. Legislative races are the best for that. There are three legislative runoffs of interest, two in Harris County and one in Fort Bend.

HD128 – Republican runoff

Rep. Wayne Smith

I don’t pay that much attention to most Republican primary races, and even if I did I doubt I’d have given this one much thought. Rep. Wayne Smith in HD128 is a low-key guy, serving as the Chair of the Licensing & Administrative Procedures Committee and generally not doing much to attract my attention. He hadn’t had a competitive primary since he was first elected in 2002, and hadn’t had a non-third party opponent since 2004. Yet there he was on Election Day, trailing some guy named Brisco Cain by four points and coming close to losing outright in a three-candidate field. What happened?

I’ll leave you to read this Big Jolly post to get an idea. Basically, it’s one part Smith not being “conservative” enough – Cain drew a ton of support from the “grassroots” organizations – and one part this being yet another proxy fight over Speaker Joe Straus. That’s likely to be how the runoff plays out, though so far it’s been as under the radar from the perspective of an interested outsider like myself as the March race was. Smith’s best chance, it seems to me, is for Straus’ money to buy him some voter outreach, and get as many people who think he’s been good for Baytown to the polls. Cain, who ran for HD129 in 2014 but finished fourth in the seven-candidate primary, needs to harness the same seething anger that propels candidacies like his. He had a 500-vote lead on March 1, and the kind of people that vote for the kind of candidate that he is tend to be highly motivated to turn out, so I see this as Cain’s race to lose. I predict there will be at least one controversy over a mailer or online ad attacking Smith, because that’s the way these things tend to go and also because groups like Empower Texans are backing Cain. If you’re a Republican, how do you see this race?

HD139 – Democratic runoff

This is the race for Mayor Turner’s open seat, with the winner of the primary runoff the winner of the office, since there is no Republican running. (The same is true for the HD128 runoff.) Candidate Randy Bates collected the most institutional support, and he led the field when the initial results, from early and absentee voting, were published. He then collected only 20% of the vote on Election Day, and slid into third place behind Kimberly Willis and Jarvis Johnson. I’m not sure what happened there, but if I had to guess I’d posit that 1) Willis had a better ground game, and 2) Johnson benefited from the high turnout on Election Day, as perhaps it featured a higher percentage of voters who were voting for a familiar name. Like I said, that’s just a guess.

I could see this runoff going either way. I have not yet seen updated endorsements from the groups that had backed Bates in March, but I’ll be surprised if it isn’t the case that Willis cleans up among them. She has been by far the more active campaigner of the two, and Johnson’s legacy as Council member isn’t the best. I think Willis will be able to turn out some voters for this race, and that gives her the edge, but Johnson’s name recognition can’t be denied. Willis’ model needs to be Erica Lee’s runoff win for HCDE in 2012, which she accomplished despite Johnson nearly taking a majority in the first round. If she can reach enough voters, she can win.

On a side note, there is a complicating factor for this race, and that’s the special election to fill out the remainder of Turner’s term, which will be held on May 7, a mere 17 days before the primary runoff. I don’t know when the filing deadline is for this, and I don’t know who all will be in that race, but surely Willis and Johnson will file for it. If nothing else, it’s another opportunity to get out there before the voters. As long as they understand that their obligation doesn’t end with that race and they come out again on May 24, that is.

HD27 – Democratic runoff

The one non-Harris County race of interest, and the one with the highest profile so far. You know the story – three-term Rep. Ron Reynolds and his tsuris, with Annie’s List-backed Angelique Bartholomew the last candidate standing against him. Reynolds, like Briscoe Cain in HD128, was above 50% for most of the night on March 1. In fact, I went to bed around midnight having stated that Reynolds had pulled it out. Not so fast, as it happened.

What Reynolds has going for him is that a lot of people still genuinely like him – for all his self-inflicted wounds, even his opponents have compassion for him – and he hasn’t lost the support of elected officials and many establishment groups. What he has going against him, besides his conviction for barratry, is at least one establishment group that is sure to spend money to try to defeat him, money that he doesn’t have and probably won’t be able to raise. There’s also ammunition to use against him that goes beyond the barratry issue. I think he’s buoyant enough that this is still his race to lose – again, he came very close to winning outright in the first place – but he’s not invulnerable. If there are any further cracks in his support, it could shatter on him.

2016 primary reactions and initial impressions

First, a couple of minor notes. Rep. Byron Cook ultimately pulled out a win in his nasty and high-profile primary. That’s good news for Speaker Joe Straus and the general forces of “government that isn’t like a three-year-old coming off a sugar high”. Rep. Wayne Smith was forced into a runoff but did not lose outright. Also forced into a runoff was Rep. Doug Miller in HD73 – I missed that one on Tuesday night – and on the Democratic side, Rep. Ron Reynolds in HD27. That one apparently happened after midnight; Reynolds will face Angelique Bartholomew in May.

With all 7,963 now having reported, Democratic primary turnout statewide was 1,433,827, with over 800,000 votes coming on Election Day. To put that into some perspective, since the only point of reference any news story I’ve seen lately seems to be the off-the-charts year of 2008, here’s was turnout was for every Democratic primary through 1992, which is as far back as the SOS archives go:


Year      Turnout
=================
2016    1,433,827
2014      554,014
2012      590,164
2010      680,548
2008    2,874,986
2006      508,602
2004      839,231
2002    1,003,388
2000      786,890
1998      654,154
1996      921,256
1994    1,036,907
1992    1,483,047

In other words, 2016 will have had the second highest turnout in any Democratic primary since 1992. Yes, I know, there are a lot more voters now than there were in 1992, but still. That’s not too shabby. Republican turnout with all precincts in was 2,832,234, so while it’s obviously a record-breaker for them, it falls short of the Dem number from 2008. So there.

One thing to touch on here is that in both primaries, well more than half the vote came on Election Day, which as a result meant that the final turnout projections were low. Over 1.6 million Republicans voted on E-Day, so in both primaries about 43% of the vote was early, and 57% came on Election Day. You may recall that the early/E-Day split was similar in 2008, whereas in 2012 the early vote was about 52% of the total. The two lessons I would draw from this are 1) Final turnout projections are always a guess that should always be taken with a healthy serving of salt, and 2) The more hotly contested and high-profile a race is, the more likely that people will wait till the last minute to decide. Someone with more resources than I have should take a closer look at the makeup of the early and late voters to see what percentage of each are the hardcore and the casual voters; my guess, based on a completely unscientific survey of my Facebook friends, is that more hardcore voters than you might think waited till Tuesday. There’s an opportunity here for someone with an enterprising spirit and some number-crunching skillz.

Also on the matter of turnout, 226,825 Democrats and 329,014 Republicans cast ballots in Harris County. 61.4% of all Democratic votes and 59.1% of all Republican votes were cast on Tuesday. See my previous paragraph for what that means to me.

On the matter of the Republican primaries for Court of Criminal Appeals, here’s what Grits had to say during early voting:

Statewide, I’ll be watching the Sid Harle/Sid Smith race on the Court of Criminal Appeals to see if Texas GOP voters have flat-out lost their minds, and the Keel-Oldner-Wheless race to see if Judge Wheless’ strategy of ignoring the establishment and seeking Tea Party, pro-life and generally conservative movement support is enough to win a primary in a low spending, low-profile race.

Well, of the four candidates running in the primary for Judge, Court of Criminal Appeals Place 5, Steve Smith and Sid Harle came in third and fourth, respectively. A couple of guys named Scott Walker and Brent Webster will be in the runoff. As for Judge, Court of Criminal Appeals Place 2, Raymond Wheless came in second and will face Mary Lou Keel in the runoff, while Chris Oldner of Ken Paxton grand jury fame is on the outside looking in. I’ll leave it to Grits to tell me What It All Means.

There were a few races on the Dem side that had people shaking their heads or their fists, but there weren’t any truly bizarre results. For sure, there was nothing on the Dem side that compares to this:

The newly elected chair of the Republican Party in the county that includes the Texas Capitol spent most of election night tweeting about former Gov. Rick Perry’s sexual orientation and former President Bill Clinton’s penis, and insisting that members of the Bush family should be in jail.

He also found time to call Hillary Clinton an “angry bull dyke” and accuse his county vice chair of betraying the values of the Republican Party.

“The people have spoken,” Robert Morrow, who won the helm of the Travis County GOP with 54 percent of the vote, told The Texas Tribune. “My friends and neighbors and political supporters — they wanted Robert Morrow.”

Morrow’s election as Republican chair of the fifth-largest county in Texas left several members of the Travis County GOP, including vice chair Matt Mackowiak, apoplectic. Mackowiak, a Republican strategist, immediately announced over social media that he would do everything in his power to remove Morrow from office.

“We will explore every single option that exists, whether it be persuading him to resign, trying to force him to resign, constraining his power, removing his ability to spend money or resisting any attempt for him to access data or our social media account,” Mackowiak told the Tribune. “I’m treating this as a coup and as a hostile takeover.”

“Tell them they can go fuck themselves,” Morrow told the Tribune.

All righty then. Morrow, whose comedic stylings are collected here, was a regular inhabitant of the comment section at BurkaBlog, back when Paul Burka was still writing it. He was also Exhibit A for why one should never read the comments. I’d feel sorry for Travis County Republicans, but as the story notes Morrow is now Greg Abbott’s county party chair, and that’s just too hilarious for me to be empathetic about. Have fun with that, y’all, because there’s not much you can do to make him leave before his term expires. Trail Blazers has more.

I’ll start digging into the data tomorrow, when I hope all the precinct results will be in for the SOS website, and when I get a draft canvass from the Harris County Clerk. The Trib has a graphical view for the Presidential race if you can’t wait for me. Any other results or tidbits you want me to look at? Let me know. David Collins lists the races that will go to runoffs, and Harold Cook, Marc Campos, PDiddie, the Obserer, and the Current have more.

Endorsement watch: What Brown can do for you

The Chron picks its favorite among the challengers in HD27.

Steve Brown

Steve Brown

[Rep. Ron] Reynolds, a three-term incumbent, was named Freshman of the Year by the House Democratic Caucus at the end of the 2011 session; two years later he landed on Texas Monthly’s “Worst” list. This year he needs to attend to his own problems while someone else takes on the task of representing District 27. The district covers most of Missouri City and parts of Houston and Sugar Land.

Challenging the incumbent are first-time candidate Angelique Bartholomew, 46, a certified mediator and director of compliance for a medical firm; Chris Henderson, 30, an assistant district attorney in Galveston County who also is running for the first time; and Steve Brown, 40, a former White House intern who owns a public affairs firm. The former Democratic Party chairman of Fort Bend County, Brown also worked as a budget analyst for then-state Rep. Sylvester Turner and was the Democratic nominee for a seat on the Texas Railroad Commission in 2014.

Our choice for the Democratic primary is Brown. With 15 years of experience in politics and public affairs, including an unsuccessful run for the District 27 seat in 2006, he’s conversant with issues that resonate in this diverse, fast-growing district, including education and school finance, health care and economic development.

My interview with Steve Brown is here, and with Angelique Bartholomoew is here. The Chron has been pretty harsh on Reynolds lately – they begged people to challenge him after he was sentenced to jail time for barratry – so it was just a matter of who they liked. They had some good options here.

And as long as we’re discussing candidates the Chron doesn’t like:

Candance White brings a broad perspective and a wealth of experience to her quest to secure the Democratic party’s nomination for [Justice, 14th Court of Appeals District, Place 2]. White, 49, who graduated from the University of Texas School of Law and obtained a master’s in law from the University of Houston Law Center, began her career as an environmental lawyer. She has worked in private practice, served as a city of Houston municipal court judge, as an attorney for Adult Protective Services and as the inter-regional managing attorney for both Adult Protective Services and Child Protective Services. Currently, White serves as the Child Welfare Director for Protective Services for Harris County. “I know how to make complex decisions. I make them every day,” White told the editorial board. Her record is even more impressive when compared to that of her primary opponent. Former state appellate court judge Jim Sharp – booted out of office by voters following an episode of bullying behavior – lacks the necessary temperament to hold judicial office. Primary voters should unite behind White and give her a chance to serve on this important bench.

That was from last week. Strictly speaking, Sharp lost a general election in which all Democratic candidates for the 1st and 14th Courts of Appeal were defeated, so the Chron is assuming facts not in evidence. Be that as it may, it was clear who they were going to pick in that race.

Interview with Angelique Bartholomew

Angelique Bartholomew

Angelique Bartholomew

As noted, three-term Rep. Ron Reynolds has drawn three challengers in HD27. You’re aware of Rep. Reynolds’ recent issues, and he is aware of what I have said about him here. As such, he declined to be interviewed. You can check out the interview I did with him for his first campaign in 2008 here if you’re interested. My interview for today is with Angelique Bartholomew, who is a certified mediator and director of compliance at a medical firm. A resident of Missouri City and the mother of five, Bartholomew has led the Angels of Education Auxiliary and served as a community mediator for the Houston Police Department. She was also recently endorsed by Annie’s List. Here’s the interview:

You can see all of my interviews as well as finance reports and other information on candidates on my 2016 Election page.

Chron overview of HD27 primary

Also known as Ron Reynolds versus the world.

Rep. Ron Reynolds

“This is the biggest challenge of my political career,” Reynolds said. “It will be an uphill climb, but I’m confident.”

The March 1 primary includes lawyer Angelique Bartholomew, prosecutor Christopher Henderson and Steve Brown, former chairman of the Fort Bend County Democrats. House District 27 covers most of Missouri City and parts of Houston and Sugar Land.

[…]

Despite the legal mess, Reynolds said he has held onto the support of many local Democratic officials, including Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner and U.S. Reps. Sheila Jackson Lee and Al Green.

“No one has told me to resign,” Reynolds said. “It has been the opposite. They tell me, ‘You have got to keep fighting.’ They see (the conviction) for what it really is. They know the history of Montgomery County, and they know the charge.”

Prosecutors and media, he said, “made it appear that I was convicted of a heinous felony. It was a misdemeanor.”

Reynolds, 42, is well-known and well-liked within the district, said Don Bankston, chairman of the Fort Bend County Democrats. Still, the lawmaker is taking the challengers seriously.

“Reynolds is all over the place,” Bankston said. “His signs are everywhere, and he attends every event.”

[…]

Whether Reynolds’ criminal case matters to voters remains to be seen. While campaigning door-to-door, Brown said he has heard few people bring it up.

“People hear bits and pieces of it, but I don’t think they know details,” said Brown, who entered the race in part because he considers Reynolds’ legal problems a distraction. “I’m sympathetic. But we have to separate sympathy from being able to move forward as a district.”

Bartholomew, a first-time candidate who has raised money for other Democrats, said she also was concerned about how well Reynolds can serve the district with legal and professional problems swirling about him.

“Distractions like that are difficult for anyone to manage,” she said.

Bartholomew has not mentioned Reynolds in her campaign. Instead she has focused on fixing the school finance system and reducing class sizes, often using the hashtag #allschoolsmatter on Twitter.

“I’m focused on what is important to the district and families like mine,” said Bartholomew, who has five children, ages 7 to 18.

Henderson, meanwhile, has made an issue of the incumbent’s legal woes. On his campaign site, he wrote that barratry is the legal profession’s version of fraud because attorneys are “duping” clients into hiring them.

Anyone committing fraud should not be allowed to hold public office, wrote Henderson, an assistant district attorney in Galveston County. “Elected officials are put in place to create the law. They must also follow the laws they create.”

I will have interviews with Brown and Bartholomew (who was recently endorsed by Annie’s List) next week. I inquired with Rep. Reynolds to do an interview with him as well, but he declined.

I’ll say again, I like Rep. Reynolds and I respect his service in the Lege, but I believe it’s time for a change in HD27. Of course, I don’t live there and I don’t vote there, so it’s not up to me. Objectively, Rep. Reynolds ought to be in political trouble, but it doesn’t always work that way. His legal woes have certainly been news, but they’ve hardly drawn the kind of coverage that Rick Perry or Ken Paxton have for their cases. It’s likely that a fair number of voters know little about his barratry conviction. That’s just the way things are. Those who do know of his travails may well agree with him that he’s being railroaded, or they may decide that this issue doesn’t affect his ability to serve in the Legislature, or that his good service outweighs this problem, or that he’s still the better choice than his opponents. People will make their own decisions for their own reasons, and it doesn’t matter what you or I think. What I do think is that everyone would be better off if Rep. Reynolds dropped out to focus on taking care of his personal business. I think he’s still a favorite to win, though he’ll probably have to survive a runoff to do that. We’ll see what the voters think.