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attack mailers

Someone really doesn’t like the Paxton case judge

It’s dirty tricks time.

Best mugshot ever

An anonymous campaign-like piece of mail has begun appearing in Texas attacking the judge overseeing Attorney General Ken Paxton’s criminal securities fraud trial, discrediting the Tarrant County jurist who has said he plans to stay with the case as it moves to Houston this fall.

The sepia tone flier that alleges state District Judge George Gallagher’s court is “rigged against Texas” comes as Paxton fights to remove the judge from the bench overseeing his case.

“It’s definitely done with the goal of affecting the Paxton case,” said Mark Jones, a political scientist at Rice University, citing Gallagher’s next election is three years away. “It’s probably an attempt to either get Gallagher to resign from the case or to begin to affect the jury pool.”

[…]

First reported by the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, the mailer has been sighted in Tarrant County and elsewhere in the state.

Absent from the flier is a reference to who sent it, which is information required on political mailers that advocate people “vote for,” “elect,” “support,” “defeat” or “reject” a candidate or proposition. The flier uses none of those words, nor does it encourage people take a specific action.

“The general guideline is that political advertising that includes an express advocacy has to include a disclosure statement,” said Ian Steusloff, general counsel for the Texas Ethics Commission, which examines complaints about political mailers. He declined to comment on whether the anonymous mailer is legal and said he cannot comment on whether the agency has received a complaint on the flier.

The mailer alleges Gallagher is “trying to Fix” the attorney general’s trial and cites a series of rulings by the 2nd and 7th Courts of Appeals dating to 2003 saying he “abused” his discretion.

Empower Texans, a conservative Republican group, embraced the message of the flier, but denied it had any involvement with it.

“The Paxton prosecution is a travesty and an embarrassment to the Texas criminal justice system. Whatever the source, Gallagher deserves the criticism he is receiving for his role in it,” read an essay from Michael Quinn Sullivan, president of the conservative group and defender of Paxton.

Yes, I’m sure those upstanding citizens at Empower Texans have nothing at all to do with this, and you can’t prove that they did. There’s a reason why they fight like crazed wolverines against any attempt to increase disclosure requirements. Bud Kennedy has a partial image of one of the flyers, which is right out of the ominous-voiceover-TV-attack-ad school. I doubt even these jokers would try to blanket the county with their lame hit pieces, but keep an eye on your mailboxes anyway. Why they think the judge is the root of Ken Paxton’s problems is beyond me, but they do have an investment to protect so here we are. The Press, which has further images of the mailer and some context to the BS charges it raises, has more.

Precinct 1 Commissioners Court race update

HarrisCounty

Three items of interest:

1. There will be a public forum on Sunday, May 22, from 3 to 5 PM at CWA Local 6222- 1730 Jefferson St, Houston, TX 77002, to meet the people who have expressed interest in being named to fill the ballot in place of the late El Franco Lee. The four that have shared their interest with the HCDP so far are Sen. Rodney Ellis, interim Commissioner Gene Locke, Nathaniel West, Sr., and Georgia Provost. Everybody knows that CM Dwight Boykins is also interested in this nomination, but thanks to state law and the city’s new four-year terms for Council members, he can’t say that out loud just yet without (maybe) having to resign his seat. Nobody knows for sure if state law applies to this situation, as this election is unlike all others, but he understandably doesn’t want to take an unnecessary risk. That said, I am sure that CM Boykins will be in attendance next Sunday.

2. Another name I can add to this list is the Rev. DeWayne Lark, who is having a meet-and-greet this Sunday with (I presume) precinct chairs. I’m not able to attend, so that’s all the information I have at this time.

3. On Monday, I received in the mail a photocopy of a Chronicle story from April about Sen. Ellis and his bond work, which I blogged about here. Just a photocopy of the print story, no writing on the single piece of paper and no return address on the envelope. An attack mailer, clearly, one that does not meet legal requirements. This has got to be the cheapest election ever for sending attack mail, I figure. The entire voting universe is 130 or so people, and you know exactly who they are. It’s probably not the only piece of mail I’ll get between now and June 25.

Getting nasty in Pasadena

Pasadena Mayor Johnny Isbell is not on the ballot this year, but he’s definitely involved in the Council elections.

A political action committee (PAC) with ties to Pasadena Mayor Johnny Isbell contributed more than $20,000 to three candidates in the current city council election and funded a series of attack ads targeting Pasadena City Councilmember Cody Ray Wheeler, who is running for re-election to his second term as the District D representative.

The Citizens to Keep Pasadena Strong received only one contribution during the last reporting period, a $35,000 donation from the Johnny Isbell campaign account on March 11, according to recent campaign finance reports.

The PAC’s expenditures totaled $21,302.56 and included contributions totaling $7,153 to District E candidate Cary Bass, $7,111.46 to District D candidate J.E. “Bear” Hebert and $7,037.25 to District C candidate Emilio Carmona.

Campaign records indicate from the total, each candidate received $3,500 for “in-kind grassroots development” with the remainder spent for direct-mailers for each candidate.

Although several direct mail pieces sent by the PAC target incumbent District D candidate Cody Ray Wheeler, his opponent “Bear” Hebert said he had nothing to do with the contents of the mailers.

See here, here, and here for the background. The story neither shows the other side of this mailer, which is where whatever evidence the attackers have for their allegation would likely go, nor explores the truth value of it, so there’s not much for the casual reader to go on here. Wheeler has responded with two mailers of his own – there are others against him similar to the one shown above that have been sent as well – but he could easily be outspent; he tells me that Isbell has shelled out over $66K in this election, a huge amount for a small city like Pasadena.

In some sense the specifics of all this mail don’t matter, since this is really all about Mayor Isbell and his ongoing efforts to consolidate power by installing a more amenable Council for himself. The redistricting scheme was a part of that as well. The best antidote for that is for Isbell’s opponents to win their elections. Early voting is over in Pasadena – I have no idea how it’s going, as that information is not readily available – and Election Day is Saturday, May 9. If you’re in Pasadena and you want a Council that isn’t just a bunch of yes men for the Mayor, then CM Cody Wheeler is one of the candidates you ought to be supporting.

Falkenberg on Wilson and the NDO

Lisa Falkenberg weighs in on the “Reverend RJ Ballard” email.

Dave Wilson

Dave Wilson

The e-mail is the handiwork of Houstonians for Family Values, the group affiliated with none other than Dave Wilson. You may remember him as the old white anti-gay activist who got elected to the Houston Community College board last year in a predominantly black district by leading voters to believe he was black.

He’s still up to his old tricks. He told me this week he’s gotten 10,000 signatures for his anti-ordinance petition, and he’s getting ready to drop a new batch of mail.

“What’s the old adage?” he said, almost gleefully. “Strike while the hammer is hot?”

Yes, this is the guy speaking for “the families.” An affable but bigoted trouble-maker who deals in racial caricatures, and his little friend – Portrait of Man Pointing.

As it happens, the Chron ran a correction on Saturday, which noted that while Wilson did indeed send an email campaigning against the NDO, he denied having sent this particular email that I’ve now reviewed twice. Falkenberg called me on Friday to give me a heads up about that since I had forwarded the email to her and pointed out some of its obvious falsehoods. I looked over the email again after I got her message, and when I called her back I told her that it was possible he was telling the truth. The reason for that, which I hadn’t given any thought to till her call, was that the email in question was sent via Mail Chimp, which as we know from before isn’t secure. Well, crap.

I hadn’t given the matter any thought before this because unlike our previous experience with mysterious Mail Chimp emails, this could hardly be an attempt to slander Dave Wilson. As noted in the correction, Wilson agreed with what was said in the “Reverend RJ Ballard” email and made similar points in the email he did admit to sending. Why would anyone pretend to be Dave Wilson for these purposes? If this was a forgery – and while I have no inclination to give Dave Wilson the benefit of the doubt, I also can’t think of a reason why he’d bother to lie about this – it had to be deliberate – why else include Wilson’s mailing address in the email? I’ve thought about it all weekend, and I can come up with three semi-plausible scenarios:

– The email was sent by someone who has a public reputation for being pro-equality but who secretly wants the NDO to be defeated, and so sent this out under the cover of a well-known bigot figuring his or her tracks would be covered. It sounds even less believable having typed that sentence than it did in my head, but it was the first thing I came up with, so there you have it.

– It was sent by some other Anglo conservative in an attempt to mobilize a group with which he or she has no credibility or influence, done more as a flattering imitation of Dave Wilson than as a forgery. I can almost believe that, but I still get hung up on why the author would bother to include Wilson’s address. You’re already sending it out under a phony name, why confuse things by pointing a finger at someone? Maybe the answer to that is that the sender knew that some smartypants on the Internet would make the Wilson connection and that would serve to amplify the effect of the email. I guess that’s possible, but I’m reluctant to give this hypothetical second emailer that much credit for intelligence.

– Finally, perhaps it was sent by a supporter of the NDO who feared that energy among its proponents was flagging, and s/he thought this might be a shot in the arm for their advocacy efforts. Seems pretty convoluted and with a potentially high downside, but I suppose someone could see it that way. For what it’s worth, even after the second delay, I haven’t seen any signs of proponents losing fervor for the fight, but perhaps someone else saw that differently.

As before, we’ll likely never know the answer to this. If you think you know something about it, by all means leave a comment or drop me an email. And for the record, while Wilson’s denial is plausible, I’m not ready to let him off the hook. Even if he didn’t send this, one way or another he inspired who sent it.

Back to Falkenberg’s column, and her conversation with one of the email’s targets, CM Jerry Davis. Davis says what needs to be said about this:

“The god I serve, to me, loves everyone,” Davis said. “And it’s hard for me to believe that he’s telling me to discriminate against people.”

Yet, his constituents are saying something different: When he polled them, 47 percent came out against the ordinance and about 30 percent for it.

Then there’s other feedback: “Some of the phone calls I’ve received in the last few weeks, it sounds like the same group of people who said ‘we believe in equal rights, but not for blacks; they weren’t meant to be equal to us.’ ”

And isn’t that the classic argument? We believe in rights. Just not for those people.

“I want to make sure I’m not one of those persons who are doing that,” Davis told me.

Good for you, Jerry Davis. People certainly do make some ridiculous arguments when they try to argue against the basic humanity of others. The website Good As You caught a great example of that during the Council meeting, in which CM Ellen Cohen got Pastor Becky Riggle to admit that opponents of the NDO like herself was equally arguing for the right to discriminate against people whose religion they disagreed with. You’d think with all the huffing and puffing lately about folks like Condoleeza Rice beind denied the right to collect a fat speaker’s fee at a commencement ceremony that it might occur to the Becy Riggles of the world that a right to discriminate includes the right to discriminate against them, but somehow that connection never gets made. Just another downside to lacking empathy, I suppose.

And the same old crap begins in Steven Kirkland’s race

Lone Star Q reports that Steven Kirkland received the endorsement of the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund, just as the same kind of attacks on his character that he dealt with in 2012 cranked up again.

Steven Kirkland

Kirkland, a close friend of Houston Mayor Annise Parker’s, served as a Harris County state district judge from 2009 until 2013. He was defeated in the 2012 Democratic Primary by Elaine Palmer, who ran an anti-gay campaign funded by a vindictive attorney against whom Kirkland had entered a judgment. Kirkland says that same attorney, George Fleming, is financing his current opponent in the March 4 primary, Lori Gray.

In recent days, Kirkland has been the target of misleading robo calls, radio ads and mailers calling attention to his arrests for drunken driving and public intoxication 30 years ago. The ads, paid for by a PAC tied to Fleming, reportedly suggest the arrests were far more recent. Kirkland, who has been sober for 29 years, details his recovery on his campaign website. He also details Fleming’s vendetta against him.

“How can Lori Gray be a fair judge if she allows her campaign manager to keep spreading lies? How can she be the defender of justice when she is part of Fleming’s effort to buy judges?” Kirkland writes. “Justice in Harris County should not be for sale. Judges should be selected on their qualifications, not lies and deceptions. I’m putting my faith in the people to join me and protect our courts.”

There’s no question that Fleming is financing Lori Gray’s campaign. You just have to look at Gray’s campaign finance reports – her only other donor of any significance is Paul Kubosh, who was also a contributor to Elaine Palmer in 2012 – the finance reports for the Texans For Good Leaders PAC, and the finance reports for the Moving Texas Forward PAC, which appears to be the financier of those calls, ads, and mailers.

Speaking of mailers, I got a copy of that nasty and misleading attack mailer that Texpatriate wrote about. You can see it here and here. Note the lack of any date on the arrest files, plus the 2012 date on the photo of Kirkland; very classy, that. Clearly, Lisa Falkenberg wrote that column too soon. Claiming she had no connection to Fleming was questionable at best to begin with, but now that Fleming has gotten up to his usual tricks means Lori Gray cannot avoid the association at all. As Mark Bennett likes to say, when you outsource your marketing, you outsource your ethics. If you don’t approve of what someone else is doing on your behalf, it’s your responsibility to get them to stop, and if they refuse it’s your responsibility to publicly distance yourself from what they’re doing. In the absence of any such action on her part, it’s fair to assume that Lori Gray approves of what George Fleming is doing. She deserves as much approbation as Fleming.

Why stealth campaigns can work

Here’s the Chron story about the HCC Trustee election results. See if you can spot what’s missing.

A total of 13 candidates, including the four incumbents, vied for the five open seats on the nine-member board. Many ran on a platform that called for more transparency, a stronger ethics policy and hiring a new chancellor who can move the institution forward.

The candidates agreed HCC is an asset to the community. As one of the nation’s largest community college systems with 75,000 students, HCC plays a critical role in producing skilled employees and degree holders who are prepared to enter the workforce, they said.

The HCC board has been dysfunctional, and some board members have engaged in unethical practices by awarding contracts to relatives, friends and political allies in recent years, damaging the community’s trust, said many candidates. They vowed to restore that trust.

In the District 1 race, incumbent Yolanda Navarro Flores was headed for a runoff against Zeph Capo, based on final unofficial results. Flores, who was censured by the board for unethical behavior in 2011, could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

District 2 incumbent Bruce Austin, first elected in 1989, narrowly lost to small-business owner Dave Wilson. Austin, 60, had said the district has to work on ways to get students to graduate on time and to improve developmental education. Transparency is also an issue, he had said, noting that the board requires ethics training for board candidates.

So a 24-year incumbent gets ousted in a race decided by 26 votes, and what do we learn about his victorious opponent? Just that he’s a “small-business owner”. Not that he’s a notorious, longtime anti-gay activist who ran against Mayor Parker in 2011 and is currently embroiled in a legal battle against the Harris County Democratic Party over his attempts to run for County Commissioner while claiming his business address as his residence. Not the fact that he meddled in the HCC 1 race by sending one of his patented attack mailers, sliming Zeph Capo and Kevin Hoffman for being gay. Not the fact that the mail he sent on his own behalf would make you think he himself was African-American, which he is not. Just, you know, a “small-business owner”. Nothing to see here, folks.

Barring anything strange from the provisional and overseas ballots, we appear to be stuck with this asshole for the next six years. I call on all the other Trustees to do everything they can within the rules to marginalize him and prevent him from doing any damage to the HCC system or its students. I also remind everyone that while Wilson might have snuck into office, you can at least help oust the incumbent candidate he tried to help. If you live in HCC 1 – and if you’re not sure, check your voter registration card now or go to the Tax Assessor webpage to find out – be sure to show up in December and vote for Zeph Capo against Yolanda Navarro Flores. Because these races do matter, and bad things can happen when we’re not paying attention.

Response from Carroll Robinson

A few days ago, I noted that notorious gay-hater Dave Wilson was up to his usual tricks in the HCC 1 race, even though he himself was running in HCC 2. Wilson sent out an attack mailer against Zeph Capo and Kevin Hoffman, and then incumbent Yolanda Navarro Flores sent out some of her own mail that emphasized her “traditional” marriage, and a second mailer listing her prominent supporters. I wanted to know if those supporters knew what else was going on in that campaign and if they had anything to say about it. Last night, I got this letter from HCC Trustee Carroll Robinson, addressing the questions I asked in my post. I appreciate the response, and I hope the others on that list follow suit.

Dave Wilson is up to his usual tricks

Yolanda Navarro Flores

As you know, Dave Wilson is running against incumbent HCC Trustee Bruce Austin in HCC District 2. I wasn’t sure at first if it was that Dave Wilson or not, but it unquestionably is. The fact that he’s running in HCC 2 isn’t stopping him from meddling in his usual slimy way in the HCC 1 race, where Zeph Capo and Kevin Hoffman are challenging scandal-prone incumbent Yolanda Navarro Flores. Here are front and back scans of a mailer Wilson has sent to voters in HCC 1:

Wilson mailer 1

Wilson mailer 2

Like fleas on a rat, Dave Wilson continues to cling to the body politic. Yolanda Navarro Flores then followed the path Wilson blazed:

Flores mailer 1

Flores mailer 2

She has also sent out a mailer touting the endorsement of some current and former elected officials:

Flored endorsement mailer

I wonder if these folks have any idea what else is being said on behalf of Yolanda Navarro Flores. Since she herself has (as far as I know) not asked Dave Wilson to stop saying hateful things about her opponents, perhaps her supporters might. So let me ask the following people:

HCC Trustees Carroll Robinson and Eva Loredo, whom I might add is my Trustee
Constables May Walker and Ruben Davis
CM Andrew Burks
Harris County District Clerk Chris Daniel
Harris County Treasurer Orlando Sanchez

Do you have anything to say about what Dave Wilson is doing in support of Yolanda Navarro Flores? Leave a comment, send me an email, post it on Facebook, just let me know one way or another and I’ll be happy to echo your sentiments. To be clear, I’m not calling on anyone to rescind their endorsement of Navarro Flores. I have no problem with anyone supporting her for whatever the reason. I am saying that I hope these folks would want to distance themselves from the Dave Wilson campaign playbook from which Navarro Flores is drawing. I don’t think it’s too much to ask to say that this kind of campaign rhetoric, like what HISD Trustee Manuel Rodriguez employed two years ago against Ramiro Fonseca, has no place in decent society. I especially don’t think it’s too much for Navarro Flores’ Democratic supporters, most especially those that will be on my ballot at some point in the future, to denounce such tactics. (Democratic voters in HCC 2 that have not cast their ballots yet might also note Navarro Flores’ support from the Texas Conservative Review. I’m just saying.) I look forward to hearing from you.

Runoff overview: At Large #5

The fifth time is for all the marbles. Again.

For the fifth time since 2007, counting general elections and runoffs, Jolanda Jones and Jack Christie are running against each other for the At-Large Position 5 seat on Houston City Council.

Christie is a Republican, a resident of the Memorial City area and white. He makes the pitch that he plays better in the sandbox than Jones does, that he’s comfortable in the halls of power and friendly with those who rule there. Senators take his calls, he said.

“This isn’t about fighting,” Christie said, “This is about getting along with the mayor, getting along with the City Council” to get the city’s business done.

Jones, who won the previous four face-offs, is a Democrat, a resident of the Third Ward neighborhood where she grew up, black, and boasts that she’s fearless in those same halls and defiant of those who rule there when they get it wrong.

“I have the ball,” said Jones, a former high school All-American athlete fond of sports metaphors. “I expect they will try to tackle me.”

I doubt anyone reading this needs to make up their minds for this one. It’s all about who gets more of their supporters to the polls. Based on the first day early vote totals, this race may be a bigger draw on its own than I originally expected. Both candidates have been busy with mail – Christie sent out one piece a few days ago that attacked Jones up one side and down the other, and this week he has one out that touts the endorsement of famed criminal defense attorney Rusty Hardin; Jones has one out this week that highlights her accomplishments and the Chron endorsement of her. I can’t wait to see their eight day reports. Like I said, I doubt anyone has to decide whom to support in this one, it’s only a matter of whether they take that support to the polls or not.

HISD Trustee Rodriguez sends anti-gay mailer

I figured there was going to be more anti-gay stuff in this election. I just wasn’t expecting it in an HISD Trustee race.

Some Houston residents are calling for the resignation of Trustee Manuel Rodriguez from the Houston school board after the incumbent distributed a campaign flyer to his constituents earlier this week that included language critical of gay people.

“His records show he spent years advocating for gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, transgender rights… not kids,” the campaign brochure says about Ramiro Fonseca, Rodriguez’s opponent in Tuesday’s election for the District III seat of Houston school system’s Board of Trustees.

The flyer states Fonseca has received the endorsement of the Houston GLBT Political Caucus, “the South’s oldest civil rights organization dedicated solely to the advancement of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender rights.” (The underlined words are underlined in the flyer.)

Fonseca, an administrator for Houston Community College, could not be reached immediately today for comment.

Rodriguez said today that the brochure isn’t anti-gay.

“It’s the truth,” Rodriguez said during a phone interview, adding that he is not anti-gay. “I am not bashing gay people.”

Rodriguez said that the flyer emphasized the endorsement of the Houston GLBT Political Caucus to “indicate who (Fonseca) represents.”

The incumbent said he underlined the words, ‘gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender rights’ “to make sure parents know who’s going to make policy for their children.”

You can see the flyer here. This is just sad on so many levels. It’s sad that an incumbent feels that running on his record isn’t enough. It’s sad that Trustee Rodriguez doesn’t recognize what he’s done. It’s sad that he thinks not being a parent is a disqualification for being a Trustee – would he advocate a vote against his colleague Juliet Stipeche on the grounds that she hasn’t reproduced, too? It’s a multi-faceted fail.

A statement from the Houston GLBT Political Caucus is beneath the fold. I agree with their call to the Chron to reconsider their endorsement in this race. Every time I think we’re getting past this stuff as a society, I’m reminded that it never goes away, it just goes into hiding. School Zone has more.

UPDATE: Stace and PDiddie add on. And good for Juliet Stipeche, who as noted would not be considered qualified under the conditions set out by Rodriguez.

(more…)

Lineup update

The Chron story that ran in yesterday’s news is now updated online to reflect the fact that CM Melissa Noriega does have two opponents, Brad Batteau and Chris Carmona. I emailed reporter Chris Moran yesterday to ask about that discrepancy, and he replied that it was just an error on his part, for which he apologized to Carmona. The City Secretary‘s candidate listing hasn’t changed since yesterday, so I would assume at this point that what you see is what you’re going to get.

In my writeup yesterday, I noted that I could not find a voter registration online for now-former HISD candidate Art Huerta. Fred King with the Tax Assessor’s office emailed me to say that Huerta had requested some time ago that his registration certificate info be suppressed online, which is why it was not visible to me. He also confirmed for me that Huerta’s registration info listed him in HISD District VIII. Now I’m not sure why he thought he was in IV to begin with, since apparently the redistricting did not affect his address. HISD needs to get itself some better quality maps. My thanks to Fred King for the information.

I still have no idea if any new HCC Trustee candidates emerged at the last minute. There’s no listing of filed candidates for these races that I can see. If you Google “HCC Trustee Candidates”, you can find this page that tells you how to file to run, but nothing that tells you who has done so. I guess I need to send someone another email, but frankly I find it ridiculous that this information isn’t out there somewhere.

Having said all that, a Google search of “HISD Trustee Candidates” doesn’t find anything, either, but at least those races got reported on. My presumption is there’s nothing new to report, and the lineup we already knew about – Richard Schechter and Chris Oliver running unopposed, Carroll Robinson and Jew Don Boney running for the seat being vacated by Michael Williams – is the same. It would still be nice to have confirmation.

And finally, we have our first official attack mailer of the season, from the Houston Police Officers Union against CM Jolanda Jones. Both HPOU and the HPFFA have endorsed Jones’ opponent Laurie Robinson. There are a lot of interesting races this year, but it’s hard to top At Large #5 for drama and intrigue.

UPDATE: So I wake up this morning and there’s an email to Whitmarsh’s list that announces the endorsements made by the Harris County Tejano Democrats (not listed on their website yet), and one of the endorsed candidates is a fellow named Wendell Robbins, III, who is apparently running for HCC Trustee in District IX, against Chris Oliver. I found nothing useful about him or his candidacy via Google; he’s on Facebook but his last wall posting is from May; and of course as noted there’s no listing of HCC Trustee candidates anywhere. Awesome. Anyone know anything about this?

Hail to the (interim) Chief

As expected, HPD Chief Harold Hurtt has quietly slipped out the door in advance of Mayor-Elect Annise Parker taking the reins of the city. Until she names his replacement, here’s who will fill in.

Executive Assistant Chief C.A. McClelland will take over the reins at HPD, at least until Mayor-elect Annise Parker formally chooses the department’s next chief.

McClelland, 54, got the acting promotion because his name was next on a rotating list of executive assistant chiefs who fill in when the chief’s office is temporarily vacant — whether for vacation, illness, or any other reason, officials said.

“He (McClelland) was not chosen by either the mayor or the mayor-elect to be the interim chief,” said Patrick Trahan, a spokesman for White.

Doesn’t mean McClelland couldn’t be a contender for the job, but his is not a name that has been dropped as a potential successor.

Houston Police Officers’ Union president Gary Blankinship said rank-and-file officers are solidly behind Parker’s pledge to name an HPD officer to the top spot.

“I don’t think we can afford to lose six months to a year letting someone learn the job,” Blankinship said. “There are critical decisions that need to be made right now.”

Blankinship predicts Parker will make her decision by the end of January if not sooner.

“I know she considers that a very important appointment. I think she’s going to be very serious and do her due diligence. I also think she’ll move very quickly,” Blankinship said.

You may recall that Blankinship and the HPOU were not supporters of Parker; in fact, they all but accused her of plotting to hand the city over to the crooks during the runoff campaign. Funny how quickly bygones can become bygones, isn’t it?

Chron on the Jones pileup

Here’s the Chron story about the mailers being sent out opposing Jolanda Jones.

The effort by five council members to oust Jones, arguably the most controversial and well-known figure on council, was virtually unprecedented in the past several decades, according to several City Hall veterans. The only comparable moment came in 1989, when supporters and colleagues of Councilman Jim Westmoreland fled after he made a racial slur during a council discussion on a memorial for the late U.S. Rep. Mickey Leland.

“I’m running my campaign based on issues voters care about and have no comment on the actions of some of my fellow council members,” Jones said Wednesday. “I think voters care about issues. … If the people need for me to speak up for them, then I’m happy to serve them in that way.”

I remember that incident. Westmoreland lost that year to Beverly Clark, who turned out to be a bit of a nut herself. She drew multiple challengers in 1991, and lost in a runoff to Gracie Saenz after leading Round One by a 42-19 margin.

Democratic political consultant Keir Murray said the public repudiation of Jones “is, at best, highly unusual and may prove problematic” for Lovell, an elected statewide member of the Democratic National Committee.

“Council member Lovell is in her own runoff race in which the outcome is not assured for anyone, so it defies logic that she would expend campaign resources on a race other than her own,” said Murray, who is unaffiliated with any council races this year but worked for Lovell’s opponent in 2005. “The rule is, you take care of your own business before you worry about anybody else’s.”

Lovell said the mailer has nothing to do with party politics but is one council member calling out another for making “inappropriate” comments. She also said the piece should not be seen as an endorsement of Christie, only an effort to support Houston firefighters.

All due respect, but that’s disingenuous at best. Jones is in a runoff. Any support she does not get as a result of Lovell’s mailer, which I will note did not mention Jack Christie at all, helps Christie. If enough people follow Lovell’s recommendation, Christie will win. Had this been sent prior to the general election, when there were four candidates running for At Large #5, you could reasonably claim to be not endorsing any specific opponent. In the context of a two-person race, when people are actually voting, saying “Don’t vote for Candidate A” is an implicit endorsement for Candidate B. There’s no two ways around that.

Of course, Lovell couldn’t send her mailer out any earlier than she did, because she knew there would be a backlash against her for doing so. Indeed, I have heard a number of people express regret for having voted for her. You can view her action as a courageous stand against an unworthy incumbent, or you can view it as a crass act of vindictiveness fueled by the feud between the two that Lovell denies but everyone knows about. It’s mostly a matter of how you feel about the two principals. You know how I feel about it, and at this time that’s about all I want to say. More from the Houston Politics blog and from KHOU. You’ll note that they mention my blog in that story. I got a call from Courtney Zubowski yesterday afternoon asking if they could use the images from the mailers, which they had found here, and I said yes. That’s all there is to that.

Holmes fibs about his donation history to Hotze

As we know, Ned Holmes, the finance chair for the Gene Locke campaign, made a $20,000 donation to Steven Hotze’s Conservative Republicans of Harris County PAC just before Hotze sent out his homophobic mailer to voters. Holmes claims that the timing is coincidental because he’s a longtime supporter of Hotze. How that’s supposed to make me feel better about the Locke-Hotze relationship is unclear, but it doesn’t really matter because it’s also not true.

Reports filed with the Texas Ethics Commission, however, show that prior to his Nov. 24 contribution of $20,000, Holmes had donated to the PAC only once in the past eight years. He made a $2,000 contribution on April 20, 2000. Holmes denied to Olson that his most recent contribution was connected to the mail piece.

Well, I guess that one donation in 2000 was a long time ago. And maybe he always intended to be a once-every-9.5-years kind of longtime supporter. Which he kept secret from everyone, including his candidate. Yeah, that must be it.

Rick Casey is not impressed.

According to Hotze’s report, his committee was flat broke as of three weeks ago. Since then he raised $56,000, of which $40,000 came from Locke’s two backers.

Hotze’s report shows about $9,700 in expenses for the mailing in November and a balance of $44,285 in the bank.

I hope there are some unpaid bills for the mailer. I don’t want it on Locke’s conscience if his backers inadvertently bankrolled Hotze’s next hit piece.

I think Nick Anderson sums it up the best. I’ll just leave it at that. Nancy Sims has a few related words.

Jolanda versus the world

If you’re on Carl Whitmarsh’s mailing list, you’ve probably seen this, which is one of several mailers being sent out by the Jack Christie campaign. That one is going to the Heights, Montrose, and District C. The others are this one, being sent to voters in Council Districts A and G; this one, being sent to voters in District E; and this one, also being sent to voters in District C.

Looking at all of these, I think it’s safe to say that Council Member Jones has alienated a number of her colleagues. I can’t recall anything like this in recent years, where sitting members have openly support a challenger to a colleague. (Did anyone do this to Shelley Sekula Gibbs in 2003 when Peter Brown ran against her?) What’s damning about it is that much like the earlier mailer Christie sent out, it uses Jones’ own words and actions against her. I like CM Jones. I think she has a lot of talent, I think she represents a constituency that otherwise doesn’t have much of a voice, and I think she has the potential to do a lot of good. But she has definitely provided her critics with a lot of ammunition, and it’s stunning to see so many of her fellow Council members try to oust her like this. If she does survive, it’ll be very interesting to see what her relationship with these members will be like going forward. I’m thinking it’ll be awkward for awhile.

With all that said, I don’t think anyone has too much trouble with CMs Lawrence, Clutterbuck, Sullivan, and Holm, all of whom are on the opposite side of the political fence as Jones and none of whom are currently involved in an election of their own, supporting a fellow member of their party. The mailer by CM Lovell is the explosive one. It’s a little bizarre to think that at this time in 2007, Lovell was working to help Jones get elected. The relationship fell apart pretty quickly after the election, and the two have been feuding ever since. I happen to think that Sue Lovell is also a pretty good Council member, but it’s no secret that she is not the forgiving type. She has reportedly been telling donors not to contribute to Jones. I’m not going to defend what Jones said about HPFFA President Jeff Caynon, which is the basis of Lovell’s attack on her, though I will note that Jones did get a $1000 contribution from the Houston chapter of the International Association of Black Professional Fire Fighters. But I believe Lovell crossed a line here, and judging from what I’ve seen elsewhere, that may be one of the more restrained reactions to this. If Lovell was still thinking about running for County Clerk next year, something that already seemed unlikely with the entrance of Sue Schechter and her show of strength early on, I’d say her odds of getting nominated just got a lot longer. Not to mention the fact that she still has an election of her own to win. She’s certainly stuck her neck out, I’ll say that much.

I guess what really bothers me about this is precisely that both Jones and Lovell are talented Council members. All of this is just a needless distraction and a waste of energy. I wish Jones had not put herself in this position but had instead channeled her energy and passion on Council in more productive ways. I hope that should she survive this election, it will spur her to do exactly that. I wish Lovell would learn to put things behind her and focus on what’s ahead. I hope whatever happens in their respective races, the next City Council finds a way to work together and help the new Mayor deal with the challenges that we face. Surely we all deserve that.

UPDATE: The Lovell mailer was sent out by her campaign, not by Christie’s. My apologies for the confusion.

Eight days out finance reports, At Large candidates

Continuing on with our look at the eight days out reports, here’s how things stack up for the At Large Council candidates in the runoffs.

Candidate Raised Spent Loans Cash PAC $$ PAC % =============================================================== Derr 26,692 13,034 5,000 5,487 8,650 32.4 Costello 193,225 165,200 15,000 16,065 71,000 36.7 Candidate TV Radio Mail Phone Field ==================================================== Derr 0 0 0 0 250 Costello 125,000 0 0 4,200 6,000

First, if I didn’t already know Costello was an engineer, I might have guessed it from his exceedingly orderly finance report, in which PAC and corporate donations were separated from individual ones, and each were alphabetized. As with the general election, he continues to raise money like gangbusters, and is putting a lot of it into TV ads. I have no idea what Derr is doing beyond having a presence at the early vote locations and all those yard signs that have been in place for months. It’s almost bizarre comparing the finances of these two candidates, in that if you knew nothing else you’d expect Costello to win without breaking a sweat. But Derr has nearly all of the establishment Democratic support, and with the primary history of early voters being roughly 60D/30R, with the rest having no primary history, that may be enough. Here are the current and former officeholders and candidates who have donated to each:

Derr – State Rep. Garnet Coleman (500), State Rep. Ana Hernandez (100), former At Large #4 candidate Deborah Shafto (50)

Costello – Lonnie Allsbrooks (200), former Council Member Gracie Saenz (75), UH Board of Trustees President Welcome Wilson (250)

Coleman’s name will appear on the report of every candidate he endorsed. Rep. Hernandez’s husband Greg Luna also chipped in $100 to Derr. Allsbrooks held a meet-and-greet for Costello at Beer Island over the weekend, according to a postcard I got in the mail from Allsbrooks. That’s more mail than either candidate has apparently sent recently.

Moving on to At Large #2:

Candidate Raised Spent Loans Cash PAC $$ PAC % =============================================================== Lovell 75,104 59,791 0 102,896 39,758 52.9 Burks 12,030 13,118 10,000 964 1,750 14.5 Candidate TV Radio Mail Phone Field ==================================================== Lovell 51,255 0 1,500 0 0 Burks 0 1,959 3,000 1,250 430

Again, no real contest in terms of who raised what, though in this case it really is the case that Lovell ought to win, if not that easily. I confess, I don’t get why she’s sitting on $100K in cash – that $51K won’t buy that much TV time (though I did finally see one of her ads on the air, during “The Closer” last night), and there’s little else to her outreach. I might have sent some mail or done some phonebanking or something. We’ll see how it goes for her. Here’s the officeholder/candidate list for each:

Lovell – Coleman (1000), Council Member Jarvis Johnson (100), Don Large (100), District Judge Randy Roll (50), State Rep. Ellen Cohen (50)

Burks – Dexter Handy (100), Justice of the Peace Zinetta Burney (100), Constable May Walker (250), Farouk Shami (1000)

I have no idea what the Shami-Burks connection is. Anyone want to guess?

And finally, At Large #5:

Candidate Raised Spent Loans Cash PAC $$ PAC % =============================================================== Jones 80,248 33,016 0 49,957 22,358 27.9 Christie 42,925 68,714 500 35,844 10,500 24.5 Candidate TV Radio Mail Phone Field ==================================================== Jones 0 8,000 20,000 0 0 Christie 0 956 56,267 5,310 0

Jones has raised a respectable amount, but Christie has spent more, putting a huge sum into an effective attack mailer. She’s still got to be the favorite based on partisan affinity, but this may be the tightest race of the bunch. The list of who gave what to whom contains a couple of interesting bits:

Jones – Burney (150), Saenz (50), Handy (100), Coleman (1000), Ron Reynolds, Democratic candidate for State Rep. in Fort Bend, (250), State Rep. Kristi Thibaut (1000), District Judge Steve Kirkland (250), State Sen. John Whitmire (1000), State Rep. Sylvester Turner (400), Saenz (75), John Sharp (3000), US Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (250), Wilson (500), Roll (50), former State Rep. (running again in 2010) Borris Miles (1000)

Christie – Council Member Anne Clutterbuck (10,000), Chase Untermeyer (250), State Rep. Beverly Woolley (500)

Clutterbuck’s $10K donation from her campaign fund is by far the biggest donation from any of the politicos, and is nearly 25% of Christie’s total haul for this period. It’s also the only example I saw of a Council member donating to the opponent of a sitting member. That could liven up some future committee meetings. I guess I have to take back what I said about Ronald Green getting the most donations from colleagues, as it sure looks like Jones has him beat on that score.

Just the district Council races to go. I should have those tomorrow.

Locke backers funded Hotze

Nice.

The finance chairman and a finance committee member of Gene Locke’s mayoral campaign helped bankroll the conservative political action committee that sent out an anti-gay mailer targeting City Controller Annise Parker and other municipal candidates earlier this month, according to Texas Ethics Commission documents.

[…]

Locke has been dogged by Parker, her supporters and some uncommitted Democrats for seeking the endorsement of conservative activist Steven Hotze, who has a long history of opposing gay candidates and causes. A mail piece Hotze sent out last week urged voters not to choose Parker and several others seeking municipal offices because they were “endorsed by gay lesbian political action committee,” a reference to Houston’s Gay Lesbian Bisexual Transgender Political Caucus. It labeled others as “radical liberals” and supported some candidates based on a record of fiscal conservatism.

According to financial documents, Hotze’s political action committee received a $20,000 donation about a week before the mail pieces went out from Ned Holmes, finance chairman of Locke’s campaign, and $20,000 from James Dannenbaum, who is on Locke’s finance committee.

Hotze’s PAC, Conservative Republicans of Harris County, lists $56,000 in donations between Oct. 25 and Dec. 2. Only two other donors, who contributed a total of $16,000, are listed.

Martha has scans of the Hotze mailer, while Erik has the finance report for Hotze’s GPAC, which shows the contributions. Surely no one thinks the timing of the donations is a coincidence, right? Maybe Hotze could have found some other sugar daddies to help him peddle his bigotry, but he didn’t. It’s now clear why Locke never denounced Hotze.

As for the countercharges from Locke’s campaign that Annise Parker helped pay for the Roy Morales mailer, well, that’s true. You can see the disclaimer on the mailer that it was paid for by his campaign and hers. Roy’s a twit, but he’s no Hotze. Team Locke complains in the story that Roy demanded an unreasonably large fee, which they claim and he denies would have gone towards Roy’s campaign debt, to be included in the mailer. Maybe that’s true, I don’t know. If their objection was the price, they’re not claiming a parallel to Hotze. The answers Parker gave on Roy’s mailer are consistent with what she’s been saying on those issues all along, so I’m not sure what the problem is. Stace and John have more.

Eight days out finance reports, Green and Khan

We’ve seen the eight days out finance reports for the Mayor’s race, now here’s the same thing for the Controller’s race. As before, the campaign finance spreadsheet has been updated with all of the raw data. Here’s how it breaks down for Ronald Green and MJ Khan:

Candidate Raised Spent Loans Cash PAC $$ PAC % =============================================================== Green 76,273 71,418 0 40,269 30,158 39.5% Khan 182,740 229,593 75,000 57,220 49,750 27.2% Candidate TV Radio Mail Phone Field ==================================================== Green 0 2,000 45,117 1,930 2,200 Khan 70,264 625 96,588 0 16,619

Looking at this, you’d almost wonder how it is there’s any doubt about who ought to win. It still boggles my mind that Green has had such a weak fundraising track record, but there you have it. He has done a lot better this time around, with some help from various PACs, and more donations from current and former officeholders and candidates than I’ve seen for anyone else. Here are some of the people you know who have donated to Ronald Green:

Jarvis Johnson – $100
Pam Holm – $600 (in kind, radio ad)
Gerald Birnberg – $500
Garnet Coleman – $1000
Peter Brown – $3000
Peter Brown – $185.06 (in kind, food for breakfast)
Kristi Thibaut – $1000
Carol Alvarado – $500
Zinetta Burney – $50
David Mincberg – $500
Borris Miles – $1000
Morris Overstreet – $100

The Pam Holm in kind donation stems from an incident before the general election (the donation is dated October 30) in which Holm had a date to appear on KCOH and challenged Green to come on the air with her to discuss his tax issues. According to Keir Murray, with whom I inquired about this item, since Green repeatedly asked listeners to vote for him, and since Holm had paid for the radio time, they felt obligated to report it as an in kind donation. Sometimes, I really love politics. Anyway, I note that even though Holm endorsed Khan, she has not given him any money. Neither had any other elected official, as far as I could see. I don’t know that it matters, but I thought it was interesting.

Khan’s strategy appears to be what it was in the general, which is to boost his name recognition as much as possible. He’s also started attacking Green over his tax issues in the mail he’s sent out, according to what I’ve heard – I’ve not received one of Khan’s mailers myself. As noted before, he has a lot of paid field workers, too. He has to do all this because he’s not fighting on a level playing field. As we know, while Khan does very well among Republican voters, there are a lot more Democrats actually voting, and he needs to hold his losses there in order to win.

The flip side of that is Green’s strategy, which is largely to remind Democratic voters which candidate is on which team. I got a Green mailer last week that was mostly positive about him, but also had a bit that highlighted Khan’s GOP credentials. The message is pretty clear, and so is the need for it to work for Green. I still think he’s the favorite to win, but if you’d told me a year ago it was going to be this hard for him, I wouldn’t have believed you.

Next up, a peek at the Council reports. Let me know what you think.

Hotze endorses Locke

It’s what we’ve all been waiting for, and now it’s on its way to a mailbox near you, as local hatemeister Steven Hotze has endorsed candidates in all six City of Houston runoffs and sent a mail piece out touting his preferred slate. Martha has all of the scans of the mailers. Pay particular attention to these two images, which capture the case Hotze makes for and against each candidate. He uses the phrase “radical liberal” six times – interestingly, the one candidate he doesn’t affix that label to is Annise Parker, though he does say she’s “supported by liberal Chicago labor union interests”, whatever that means – and he makes a point of noting that all seven candidates he opposes have been endorsed by the “Gay Lesbian political action committee”. I don’t think you need an advanced degree in literature to be able to read the subtext here.

The question now is whether Gene Locke will live up to his previous statement that he “rejects any association” with this style of campaigning and repudiates Hotze’s endorsement. If he does, he’ll follow the example set by At Large #1 candidate Steven Costello, who to his great credit sent out the following statement:

Today, some people received a mail piece from Steven Hotze with his endorsements in the upcoming city runoff elections. I did not seek this endorsement and I specifically asked not be endorsed by Mr. Hotze. I am running to represent all Houstonians and my door at City Hall will be open to everyone.

Now that’s how you do it. Note that Costello is a member of the Republican Leadership Council, according to the local GOP. Rejecting Hotze like this, when he’s sending mail to people who would have been inclined to support Costello anyway, took real courage, and I salute him for that. Of course, the problem for Locke is that he did in fact seek out Hotze’s endorsement, so this mailer represents him getting what he wanted. This is why Democrats – and that includes Andrew Burks – need to stay the hell away from Steven Hotze and all that he represents. No good can come from associating with him. So what are you going to do about it now, Gene?

There isn’t a story about this in the Chron yet; hopefully, they will fill in some blanks, such as how many pieces Hotze intends to mail. I don’t know if he’s required to fill out a finance report for a city election – I see some SPAC filings among the city campaign finance reports of recent years, but I’m not sure if he falls under that rubric or not. We may not know for sure what he’s up to unless he brags to a newsie about it. If you receive this mailer, please leave a comment and let me know. Thanks very much.

Six questions for the runoffs

Six questions that I can think of, anyway.

1. What will Peter do?

Will Peter Brown endorse someone in the runoff? If so, how vigorously does he support that person? He’s in a position to have an effect on the outcome if he chooses to do so. What will he do?

His won’t be the only endorsement that will be sought out and may make a difference. As you know, I don’t think Roy’s voters will be inclined to come back out in December, but I could be wrong about that. It is worth wondering what, if anything, Roy will do at this point. Beyond that, will Pam Holm pick a side in the Controller’s runoff? So far she hasn’t, but that could certainly change. Will the Democrats who sided with Herman Litt or Rick Rodriguez reposition themselves in At Large #1? Will Linda Toyota back a candidate in HISD I? Not all endorsements matter, and of those that do, some count for more than others. I believe these count for something, and I expect there’s a lot of inter-campaign conversation going on right now.

2. Where’s the money?

Gene Locke reported $391,969.75 on hand in his eight days out report. Parker had $83,229.73. I strongly suspect both of them are running lower than that now, and needless to say neither can write their own check. How much fundraising can they do over the next (say) three weeks, and which one can get back on the air first? What’s their plan to get their voters out if they can’t afford airtime?

3. What about the Republicans?

I estimate Roy won something like 55-60% of the Republican vote in this election, based on the fact that folks with a Republican primary history made up about 31% of early voters, and that Roy did better on Election Day (22.86%) than he did in early voting (15.37%). That’s a significant bloc if they decide they have a preference for one or the other remaining candidates. It doesn’t come without risk, however – there are still way more Democratic voters in this city, and a high-profile embrace of Roy might turn some of them off. There have been rumors for a couple of weeks that the likes of Steven Hotze and Dan Patrick will stump for Locke. I have no idea if there’s any truth to that, but it would very much be a double-edged sword for him. I can’t think of a better way to fire up Parker’s supporters than that.

Republicans may aim a little lower and try to win the Controller’s office, while knocking off incumbent Council member Jolanda Jones. Both are doable, though I don’t think either will be easy. They may also work to hold MJ Khan’s District F seat by supporting Al Hoang against Mike Laster. I consider Brenda Stardig the favorite to win against Lane Lewis in District A, but if there’s little Republican interest at the top of the ticket, Lewis may get some coattails from the dual Democratic Mayoral campaigns.

4. How negative are things going to get?

Hard to say. While all of the Mayoral candidates attacked each other, the main image I have of negativity is Brown’s ad campaign against Locke. You figure Parker and Locke have to attack each other, it’s just a question of how and how much. I will say this, since several people have asked me about it: I don’t expect Parker’s sexuality to be any more of an issue in the runoff than it was in the general. For one, that’s not who Gene Locke is, and for two, I don’t think it would be a successful strategy.

Similarly in the Controller’s race, the main source of attack ads is now out. Does Khan pick up the theme from Holm, or does he decide she didn’t gain anything from it and stick to his “I’m the most qualified” theme? For that matter, does Green bring up the residency issue against Khan? I think if the one happens then the other does, but it’s not clear if the one happens, or which campaign shoots first.

I definitely expect some negativity in the Council races, where a last minute attack on Sue Lovell may have helped keep her below 50%. If Jack Christie, or someone on his behalf, doesn’t send out at least one mailer attacking Jolanda Jones, I’ll be shocked.

Finally, remember that negativity doesn’t mean lower turnout. If this election doesn’t drive a stake in the heart of the notion that voters are turned off by negative campaigns and prefer nice, quiet, issues-oriented ones, I don’t know what would.

5. Who will the Chron endorse?

Time to get off the fence, fellas. Who’s it gonna be, Parker or Locke, and how long will you make us wait? Will any other endorsing entity that declined to pick a side in the first go-round commit to one candidate or the other in overtime? My guess on the latter question is No, but surely the Chron won’t weasel out again. Or maybe they will, if their editorial board is sufficiently divided. I can’t wait to see what they do.

6. What will early voting look like?

As noted, 31% of all votes in Houston were cast early, which is a significant uptick from previous city elections. My guess is that an increasing number of the more habitual voters, who needless to say were the bulk of this electorate, have shifted their habits towards early voting. I would guess that a similar share of the runoff vote, perhaps more, will vote early.

Those are my questions. Prof. Murray has a few as well. What are yours?

UPDATE: I get some answers to one of my questions via press release from Karen Derr:

Candidate Karen Derr for Houston City Council At-Large Position 1 has received mounting support from a broad base of organizations and elected officials. Karen Derr has gained the endorsement of the Houston GLBT Political Caucus, Democracy for Houston, and the Houston AFL-CIO. In addition, Karen Derr has also received the endorsements from State Representatives Garnet Coleman and Ana Hernandez.

The HGLBT Political Caucus endorsed Herman Litt in the first go-round; I’m not sure about the other groups offhand. But this is a pretty clear sign to me that much of Litt’s support will transfer to Derr.

Don’t mess with Bill

As everyone expected, Mayor White has stayed the heck out of the race to replace him. So it’s a pretty big deal when he feels compelled to speak up about something that is happening in the race.

Mayor Bill White […] injected himself into the race for the first time to fact-check a mailer City Councilman Peter Brown sent out criticizing his opponents. The mail piece accuses City Controller Annise Parker of missing reporting deadlines for annual audits and “significant deficiencies” that left “Houston’s financial security at risk.”

“The city has not been put at financial risk,” White said in an e-mail released by Parker’s campaign. The mayor, who is term-limited and has not endorsed a candidate, added that the delays in the audits were caused by the implementation of new financial accounting software.

“The Controller is not responsible for these delays and the reasons for delays were discussed openly at City Council meetings with some frequency,” the e-mail says.

You can see the mailer in question here, a copy of Mayor White’s email to Controller Parker here, and Parker’s rebuttal to Brown’s charges here. I have to say, I’ve generally admired the campaign Brown has run, but this was bush league. I find demagoguery about taxes to be tiresome in general, but especially in this election when everyone agrees the city has financial difficulties now and ahead of it, everyone has plans to do stuff that will cost money – things like flood abatement, for instance, which everyone agrees is a big priority – and no one has a plan to pay for any of it besides cutting “waste”, finding efficiencies, and hoping to bring new businesses to town. I find the claim about Houston having a $1.5 billion operating deficit to be mostly crankery, but even if it’s not, it’s not something that just cropped up in the last few months. A two-term member of Council could have been speaking about about that problem for quite some time if it were such a concern. I personally thought the trash pickup fee was an idea worth pursuing. In case it’s not clear, I don’t find much merit in the claims Brown is making in his mailer.

One more thing from the story:

Burt Keller, a former city councilman who supports Locke, said that while some people are quick to criticize negative campaigning, it often is the most efficient way to distinguish between candidates. Voters, he said, are not always as put off as one might think.

“It’s what they expect,” he said. “It’s just like football or boxing. People who watch it like seeing people get tackled, or in boxing, they like watching people get hit in the face.”

If nothing else, attacks force you to really decide whether you like a candidate or not. It’s a lot harder to have vague feelings about a candidate when he or she is under attack, or attacking someone else. Nothing turns a soft supporter into a passionate one faster than a belief that his or her preferred candidate is being unfairly maligned.

Time to throw out the first attack mailer of the season

So we got a weird little piece of mail Saturday. Addressed to both of us, in a plain envelope with no return address was a one-page letter that attacked Carl Whitmarsh, best know for his prodigious Democratic email list, and consultant Marc Campos. Using questionable grammar and a lot of underlining, it basically accused Carl and Marc of being in cahoots, specifically that Marc bankrolls Carl’s email operations, while Carl plugs Marc’s clients to his list. I don’t have a scanner, so I can’t show you the letter just yet, but I can tell you it contained the following closing, reprinted exactly as it appears:

Paid political news brought to you by Don Carpenter & M. Rodriguez – Owners Investigations Inc. Houston, Texas — Marc & Carl your gig is up, the truth is out now.

If this really was a paid piece, I have a feeling it didn’t exactly fulfill state disclosure requirements, but never mind that for now. It was also as plain as can be – nothing but black type, all one font, on ordinary white paper. Printing an email looks fancier than this. If someone was paid to produce this, he or she didn’t waste any effort on production values, that’s for sure. Whatever the case, the letter promises more to come, for which I can hardly wait. Crankery is usually entertaining, and that’s what this looks like. I seriously doubt they can back up their claims.

I don’t know who these guys are – Google searches on “Investigations Inc Houston” and on “Don Carpenter investigations Houston” yielded nothing useful – and I don’t know what their beef is or what interest they may have in the District H race. I assume this has something to do with that since the one clue as to their motivation comes from the following paragraph, again reprinted exactly as it appears:

Marc bashes good Democrats (via Carl’s list) like Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee & Senator Mario Gallegos just to name a couple of recent ones via Carl’s list. Why? Marc did this cause the Senator kicked Marc’s & Carl’s client Yolanda’s arse before. They want a client candidate to run at Sheila & Mario in order for them to make some $.

You know about the Jackson Lee kerfuffle. The other reference is to this Daily Commentary entry from March 12.

The proponents of bi-annual Lone Star State legislative sessions usually don’t have to go far for ammo. Check out what an astute legislative observer sent Commentary yesterday:

“Wanted you to know, because someone may ask, Mario (Gallegos) filed legislation (SB 1895) today that would require any member of HISD or HCC board to resign if they were to become a candidate for a municipal, state or federal office.

He did it last session, and it’s clearly a personal attack bill, but of course it’s not going anywhere. Just a heads up should someone get a hold of it.”

This bill is clearly aimed at HCC Trustee Yolanda Navarro Flores who is running in the H-Town City Council District H Special Election that is scheduled for May 9. I don’t know why anyone up in the legislature would want to weigh in on a local council race. This isn’t exactly a major public policy crisis that needs addressing. If Gallegos was to ever have a hearing on the bill, I sure would love to see the witness list and their talking points. There are quite a few of Gallegos’ constituents that are supporting Yolanda. I wonder what they think. All this bill does is energize Yolanda’s family, friends, and supporters. It sounds like Gallegos has a case of the insecurities if you ask me. Commentary would have a little respect for this if Gallegos had included H-Town city officials. Of course, that would have meant calling out the Mayor. This is clearly one of the silliest bills of this session.

He doesn’t mention it here (though I believe he has done so in previous Commentaries), but Campos is Yolanda Navarro Flores’ campaign consultant for the District H race. That entry drew a long response, which Carl duly forwarded to his list, from Lillian Villarreal, who is Sen. Gallegos’ sister and who said Campos took advantage of the fact that Carl forwards his commentaries to distribute a “political piece” that touted his paid client. Campos responded to that here.

Anyway. I can only presume this has something to do with that. Assuming there is a coherent motive behind all that, that is – as I said, this looks like the work of a crank who is just trying to stir up trouble. Whether there will be more than this, or whether the identity and motivations of the senders comes out, I don’t know either. Heck, I don’t even know how widespread this was – the last time there was this kind of mail related to a District H race, back in the 2003 election, other people who’d gotten the mail emailed me to inquire about it. So far, I’ve heard from one other recipient, so at least I know they didn’t just send it to me. I’ll try to find a scanner this week so I can post the whole thing for your perusal. In the meantime, if anyone else got this, please leave a comment and let me know. Thanks.

One last thing: The reason I’m blogging about this is that I dislike anonymous attack pieces, and I think it’s best to shine light on them. This one had names attached to it, but so far those names don’t tell me anything, so it may as well have been anonymous. I also don’t care for the way this piece went about making its charges but merely teasing about proof. If you’re going to accuse someone of something, show me the evidence. Don’t just claim you’ve got it then say you’ll get back to me. Put up or shut up, and give the people you’re accusing a chance to respond. In the meantime, I say it’s the senders who look bad. If and when I get more on this, I’ll let you know and we’ll go from there.