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Borris Miles

House passes its budget

The Trib has a good writeup of how it went down on Sunday. Mot of the heavy lifting was done before then, in the bills that closed the books on the previous biennium and allocated Rainy Day funds for them and in Friday night’s session, when the articles that deal with public education and health and human services were debated. So far, Democrats have done what they’ve needed to do politically. They’ve offered amendments that show their contrasting priorities and try to mitigate the damage being done, nearly all of which have gone down on a straight party line vote and a few of which generated some whining from Republicans who knew they were being forced to take bad votes. They voted unanimously against HB1 (two Republicans joined them) and made numerous statements about how bad it is, several of which I’ve reproduced beneath the fold. That needs to continue, in a steady drumbeat, all the way through next November, and it needs to directly refute this:

“It lives within the available revenue that we have to work with,” [House Appropriations Chair Jim] Pitts said. “…This budget is the result of the worst recession that anyone in this room has ever experienced.”

No. It was the result of deliberate policy choices made by the Republicans, who for the most part still haven’t acknowledged, much less taken steps to fix, the structural deficit caused by the 2006 property tax cut. We will be in the same position two years from now regardless of how good the economy is because of that. We will also see hundreds of thousands of jobs lost due to the choices the Republicans have made. And there was a lot more revenue available that the Republicans refused to take, from another $6 billion in the Rainy Day Fund to many billions more in outdated and inefficient tax expenditures, plus whatever non-tax revenue the Senate manages to scrape up. Speaking of which, Rep. Harold Dutton gets credit for best line of the night when he said “Thank God for the Senate” as things wrapped up. That will put the lie to Pitts’ assertion about available revenue, and it will make everyone feel a little better, but it will still fall far short of what we need to do. The budget is a failure in every way. Here’s the LSG analysis of the budget again to remind you just what it will do. PDiddie, Martha, Bob Moser, and Abby Rapoport have more. Read on for the Democratic statements.

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Budget debate resumes tomorrow

Postcards:

The Texas House [has called] it a night.

They finished up the section of the budget bill that deals with public and higher education around 12:40 a.m. then adjourned until Sunday.

Some members were planning to attend a Saturday morning funeral in Houston for the late husband of Democratic state Rep. Alma Allen.

There is plenty more work to do when the members return to work at 4 p.m. Sunday. They will start with the judiciary but have finished with the behemoths of education and health and human services.

A lot of the time was spent moving funds from one place to another, since adding revenues was off the table. Many Democrats refused to vote on a number of these amendments.

Symbolic protest votes by many Democrats on Friday could not derail the Republicans in the Texas House as they chugged through hundreds of amendments to the 2012-13 budget.

Outnumbered and overpowered, almost all of the Democratic House members repeatedly registered as “present, not voting” on the Republican amendments to House Bill 1 that sought to move money — mostly from family planning — to other priorities.

“I will not be put in the position of pulling from one need to (give to) another,” said Rep. Sylvester Turner, a Houston Democrat and the vice chairman of the budget-writing Appropriations Committee.

[…]

Family planning programs sustained a devastating blow by the Republican money-shifting, losing $61 million out of their $99 million in funding. The amendments redirected the money to other programs, including mental health services for children and programs for autistic children.

Rep. John Zerwas, R-Richmond, said the discussion was inherently political because some of the clinics that would lose funding might recommend abortions, though the abortions are not state-funded.

But for all the politics, the money would end up going “to something that was worthy,” Zerwas said.

Democrats protested the shifts in funding.

Rep. Dawnna Dukes, D-Austin, said family planning services that would be lost were used by almost 200,000 women last year.

She noted that the services wouldn’t include abortion, but rather procedures such as cancer screenings, mammograms and Pap smears.

This is the fundamental difference between the House and Senate approaches. The Senate has decided it doesn’t want to have to make these kinds of choices if it doesn’t have to, which is why it’s looking for more funds. The House is perfectly happy to live with self-imposed, arbitrary limits on funding, and thus spent the evening robbing Peter to pay Paul. Turner described it as Solomon’s choice, wondering “What would Solomon say to the two mothers?” Something about “living within our means” and “we were elected to make tough choices like this” would be my guess. There’s material here for a thousand campaign ads.

There’s also a different approach that won’t be considered.

Democratic state Reps. Yvonne Davis of Dallas and Borris Miles of Houston have filed a bill that would collect an additional $23 billion a year of revenue for Texas by repealing assorted exemptions from sales, franchise and property taxes.

The bill would help the state fix its fiscal crisis by letting Texas “stop the bleeding and collect the money!” Davis said Friday.

She and Miles said deep cuts in the House budget to public schools and nursing homes are unacceptable, and blamed state GOP leaders for poor fiscal management in recent years.

It’d be nice to at least have a debate about a bill like this, but we won’t get one. On the plus side, an amendment by Rep. Mike Villarreal that “directs the Comptroller to determine whether current tax loopholes accomplish their intended purpose; whether they are inefficient, ineffective, or unnecessary; and what the impact is on jobs and economic development” did get passed, so that’s something. Statements from Reps. Garnet Coleman, Mike Villarreal, and Borris Miles about what has transpired so far are beneath the fold. Get ready for another all nighter tomorrow.

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Edwards drops lawsuit to challenge election result in HD146

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Miles wins recount, Edwards sues

Mary Benton has the release from the Borris Miles campaign:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Edwards asks for recount

No surprise.

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

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

[…]

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

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

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

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Miles wins by 10

Just call him Landslide Borris.

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

[…]

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

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

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

Recount coming in HD146?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Election results: The Lege

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Endorsement watch: Chron goes for Miles

I’m glad to see this.

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

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

[…]

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

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

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

HD146 overview

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

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

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

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

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

Interview with Borris Miles

Borris Miles

Borris Miles

There aren’t a whole lot of interesting Democratic primaries for State Rep seats this year, perhaps because Tom Craddick is no longer on the main stage. But we do have one such race in Harris County, the rubber match between former State Rep. Borris Miles and current Rep. Al Edwards for the seat that they have each won once since 2008. There was a lot to talk about with Rep. Miles, and you can listen to it here:

Download the MP3 file

A full list of the interviews I have done is on the 2010 Election page. As always, your feedback is appreciated. For more on this race, check out Elise Hu’s video story in the Trib.

Endorsement watch: H-BAD and Tejano Dems

We’re getting close to the start of early voting for the primaries, and that means endorsements are coming out from various groups. Today I got press releases from the Houston-Black American Democrats (H-BAD) and the Harris County Tejano Democrats with their recommended slates. I’ve uploaded their releases here (H-BAD) and here (HCTD). Of note, both groups endorsed Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, and both groups endorsed former State Rep. Borris Miles in his rubber match against Rep. Al Edwards. I have updated the 2010 Election page to show which candidates received what endorsements. I expect to do the same for when the Houston GLBT Political Caucus makes its choices, and may or may not add any others – sending me a press release so I can see who all got endorsed is a good start.

Speaking of Rep. Jackson Lee, she also received endorsements from several Latino elected officials and the Latino Labor Leadership Council. It’s not terribly surprising to see folks like this back an incumbent, barring issues of scandal or heresy, but it’s still a good indicator that she’s in a strong position for her contested primary.

Miles files

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

Edwards gets a primary challenger in HD146

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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