Off the Kuff Rotating Header Image

Christi Craddick

2018 primary results: Statewide

Rep. Beto O’Rourke

Statewide Dem totals
Statewide GOP totals

Harris County Dem totals
Harris County GOP totals

(Please note that all results were coming in very slowly. I expect there will still be some precincts not yet reported by the time this publishes. So, I’m going to be less specific than usual, and may have to make a correction or two by Thursday.)

No real surprises here. Lupe Valdez and Andrew White will fight it out in the runoff. They combined for about 70% of the vote. Beto O’Rourke was a bit over 60% on his way to the Senate nomination. To be honest, I thought he’d score higher than that, but whatever. Statewide primaries are hard.

Miguel Suazo was near 70% for Land Commissioner, and Roman McAllen was near 60% for Railroad Commissioner. Mike Collier was leading by about seven points for Lt. Governor. The closest race was for Comptroller, where Joi Chevalier had a tiny lead over Tim Mahoney.

On the Republican side, Greg Abbott (90%), Ted Cruz (85%), Dan Patrick (75%), and Railroad Commissioner Christi Craddick (75%), who I didn’t even realize had an opponent, all cruised. Baby Bush and Sid Miller were in the high 50’s and so also on their way to renomination. That means the only statewide runoff will be for the Democratic gubernatorial race.

One note on turnout: In 2014, there were 554,014 total votes cast in the Democratic primary for Governor. The early vote tally for the Dem gubernatorial primary was 555,002. So yeah, turnout was up. Republicans will probably have 30-40% more total turnout statewide, but I fully expect Dems to top one million at this point.

Legislative quick hits

This is the time of the session where there’s lots happening, and there isn’t always the time or space to stay on top of it all. So here are a few quick updates on things that are happening in an attempt to at least not be too far behind.

A bill to give Tesla Motors an opportunity to operate in Texas moves out of committee in the House.

The House Business and Industry Committee advanced a bill on Tuesday that would allow Tesla Motors to circumvent the state’s franchise dealer system and sell cars directly to Texans, giving a shot in the arm to the company’s efforts to operate in the state.

Tesla says an exemption from the franchise dealer system is the only way the company can operate successfully in Texas, but the owners of state auto dealer franchises have objected, saying the effort weakens a business model that has been key to their success.

House Bill 3351, by state Rep. Eddie Rodriguez, D-Austin, was replaced by a committee substitute that offered auto dealers another layer of protection: If Tesla ever sells more than 5,000 cars a year in the state, it will become subject to existing regulation and must start to franchise its operations.

With Tesla projecting sales of only a few hundred cars a year in the state, the bill’s supporters, including Diarmuid O’Connell, the vice president of business development for Tesla motors, called this a workable approach.

“This would give us the space we need to introduce our technology in the state,” he said.

See here for the background. I’m rooting for this one.

A bill to allow online voter registration has passed the Senate.

[Tuesday] afternoon, the Texas senate approved SB 315, a bill proposed by State Sen. Carlos Uresti (D-San Antonio) to allow holders of unexpired Texas driver’s licenses or state-issued IDs to register to vote online.

Currently, registered voters in Texas may change their addresses online if they move within the same county but must complete a paper application if they are registering to vote for the first time or have moved to a different county.

In testimony on the proposed bill, election administrators said the legislation would both save significant money by reducing the need to manually enter information and eliminate transcription mistakes that happen with the current process.

The version of the bill approved by the Texas senate differs slightly from the original filed version in that the passed bill no longer requires voters to use the address listed on their license or ID as their voter registration address.

A similar bill – HB 313 – by State Rep. Mark Strama (D-Austin) is currently pending in the state house.

See here for the background. Another bill I’m rooting for. BOR has more.

Sen. Dan Patrick’s charter school expansion bill had its hearing in the House

Lawmakers didn’t let on too much of their feelings about the bill—but Killeen Republican Jimmy Don Aycock, chair of the House Public Education Committee, said he didn’t consider the bill watered-down, because it allows the state’s charter network to grow. Charter school officials seemed to agree.

The bill still gives charter schools priority access to unused public school facilities, which Kathleen Zimmerman, executive director of NYOS Charter School, said is the bill’s most important improvement. Zimmerman said she has to give up her office for tutoring sessions because unlike public schools, charters don’t get facilities funding.

Under the Senate version, the education commissioner would revoke charters of schools that performed poorly in three out of five years.

Zimmerman said she didn’t focus on those higher standards because she wanted to highlight the positives. But, she said, “as a charter operator, I don’t want poor performing charters either.”

Rep. Alma Allen (D-Houston) said she’s concerned that charters may have a hard time getting loans because some banks want them to plan to be open for more than five years.

Charles Pulliam, chief development officer of Life School charter in Dallas, said that prospect would undermine the flexibility charters need to test out innovative education strategies.

“It scares me a little,” Pulliam said. “To have one blanket way of determining if they are successful is a mistake.”

The bill is SB 2, and it easily passed the Senate after adding a bunch of mostly Democratic amendments. It is pending in the House Public Ed committee.

Speaking of charter schools, a bill to limit the role ex-SBOE members can play at one has advanced.

A measure to bar former State Board of Education members from taking a job at a charter school or related foundation within two years of serving on the board is headed to the full Senate.

Senate Bill 1725 by state Sen. Bob Deuell, R-Greenville, is intended to close the revolving door between the SBOE and charter schools.

An amendment by Sen. Leticia Van De Putte, D-San Antonio, would allow former board members to take a job at a charter school within the two-year period so long as that member did not vote to create that particular school.

The Senate Education Committee passed the bill 6-3 late Tuesday.

The three nays all came from Republicans, which suggests this bill could have problems getting any farther.

The Lege has been trying to change the name of the Railroad Commission to something more reflective of reality for as long as I can remember. They’re still trying, and working on some other reforms as well.

The bill, SB 212 by State Sen. Robert Nichols, R-Jacksonville, embodies a previous Sunset review of the Railroad Commission that didn’t pass in the last legislative session that would forbid certain campaign contributions. For instance, commissioners could not accept donations from a party involved in a contested case hearing. It would also limit campaign contributions to the 17 months before an election and 30 days after. Commissioners are elected to six-year terms.

A contested case hearing is the way citizens protest against an oil and gas company permit or action.

Barry Smitherman, Chairman of the Railroad Commission, said during testimony that the campaign restrictions were “tricky” because the commissioner position is elected statewide, the state is big, travel is necessary and commissioners must raise money.

State Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston, who sits on the committee, said the Sunset Commission had thought hard about how to put reasonable limits on the campaign financing.

“Sitting there for a six-year term, being able to raise unlimited amounts of money from the industry that they regulate, there clearly is a perception problem,” said Ellis.

The Railroad Commission should be subject to restrictions that differ from other statewide elected officials, like senators and representatives, because the nature of the commission is unique, Nichols said, because the commissioners have six-year terms, they regulate a specific industry and they set rates.

Similar Sunset legislation for the commission originating in the House, HB 2166 by State Rep. Dennis Bonnen, R-Angleton, recently passed out of committee, but largely stripped of the campaign and ethics reform, according to Texas Energy Report. That bill could end up competing with the Senate bill discussed Tuesday.

[…]

No one testified specifically against the name-change provision. [Commissioner Christi] Craddick suggested the more succinct Texas Energy Commission. State Sen. Glen Hegar, R-Katy, who worked on the Sunset review that failed to pass in the last legislative session, also suggested a new name.

“I’d like to change it to Texas Department on Oil and Gas because it sounds cool … TDOG,” Hegar said.

The official name in the bill is Texas Energy Resources Commission. But I like Sen. Hegar’s suggestion.

We close with two from the inbox. First, from Equality Texas:

Moments ago, the House Committee on Criminal Jurisprudence advanced House Bill 2403 by Rep. Mary González of El Paso on a committee vote of 5-3.

HB 2403 would remove existing inequity in Texas’ “Romeo & Juliet” Affirmative Defense law. The “Romeo & Juliet” Affirmative Defense is a logical approach to the reality that adolescents sometimes make sexual decisions that adults wish they had not made, but that adolescents have been making since the beginning of time.

Under current law, if teen sweethearts are of opposite sexes, consensual intimate contact remains a matter between parents and their children. However, the “Romeo & Juliet” Affirmative Defense is not currently available to dating teens of the same gender. The state should not intrude on the right of parents to instill their values about sex into their children. Nor should the state interfere if teenage sweethearts make decisions that their parents believe are not what is best for them.

This needs to be a conversation between parents and their children. Not between parents, their children, an arresting officer, a prosecuting attorney, and a trial judge. That is why the “Romeo & Juliet” Affirmative Defense exists.

HB 2301 will ensure that it applies equally to straight & gay teens.

Today’s House committee action follows advancement of identical legislation by the Senate Committee on Criminal Justice. On April 9th, Senate Bill 1316 by Senator John Whitmire of Houston was advanced by the committee on a 4-1 vote. SB 1316 is on the Senate Intent Calendar for Tuesday, April 23, 2013.

See here for more. As far as I can tell, the full Senate has not taken up SB1316 as yet.

Last but not least, a non-good bill from Empower the Vote Texas:

HB 148 by Rep. Burkett is scheduled to be voted on by the full House tomorrow, April 25th. Please contact your State Representative and tell them to vote NO on this bill. If you are not sure who is your State Rep, you can use the “Who Represents Me” lookup tool. Emails addresses for all House members are firstname.lastname @ house.state.tx.us, however phone calls are much more effective.

Attached are the letter ETVT sent to all Representatives opposing this bill along with supporting documents. The original text of the bill as introduced, the new text of the committee substitute, witness list, and bill analysis can be found here.

A copy of the letter is here. The hearing is today, so we’ll see how it goes.

Precinct analysis: City and county

If you know a little something about Excel (or in my case, OpenOffice Calc, which has the same basic functionality), it’s fairly straightforward to calculate the vote totals and percentages for various candidates in various county, state, or federal districts. These districts are well-defined, and by that I mean they contain a certain number of precincts in their entirity, and two districts of the same classification (i.e., two State Rep districts) have no overlap between them. (That actually isn’t exactly right, but it’s close enough to not worry about.) It’s not the same for determining the vote in the city of Houston versus the rest of Harris County. City boundaries do not conform to precinct boundaries. There are numerous precincts that are part Houston and part not-Houston. When I first tried to do this, after the 2008 election, I wound up counting a number of non-Houston votes as being from the city, which had the effect of underestimating the Democratic percentage by two or three points. After getting some feedback on this, I refined my methodology and got a result that I thought was more accurate. It’s definitely an estimate, but I’m confident it’s in the ballpark.

This year, I have the benefit of the city of Houston bonds and charter amendments on the ballot, which identify all of the precincts that contain city of Houston voters. Obviously, I don’t want to count all of the votes in each of those precincts as being city of Houston, for the reasons given above. You can look at the individual precincts and see a handful of bond votes but hundreds or thousands of Presidential votes, so you know you can’t count the whole precincts. What I wound up doing was counting the votes in any precinct that had at least ten Yes votes for Proposition B, the parks bond that was the biggest winner among the bonds, as Houston precincts. It’s not exact, but it’s close enough. Here’s what I got from doing that:

Candidate Votes R Votes Pct ===================================== Garcia 381,103 211,886 64.3% Obama 371,755 242,953 60.7% Ryan 370,181 225,952 62.1% Trautman 367,587 226,185 61.9% Hampton 359,110 227,134 61.2% Sadler 356,630 242,658 59.5% Petty 356,110 225,061 61.3% Bennett 353,317 234,256 60.5% Henry 342,986 240,103 58.8% Oliver 342,701 252,168 57.6%

By this calculation, which remember is as much approximation as anything else, Obama lost 0.3 percentage points from 2008, while Adrian Garcia lost about a point and a half. This is consistent with the amount they lost overall from 2008, so again I feel pretty confident. You can see that Garcia, Vince Ryan, and Diane Trautman all attracted some Republican support, while Mike Anderson, Christi Craddick, and Mike Sullivan all drew Democratic support.

Here’s the flipside, non-Houston Harris County, which is simply the totals above subtracted from the overalls:

Candidate Votes R Votes Pct ===================================== Garcia 230,860 310,551 42.6% Ryan 215,781 326,609 39.8% Trautman 214,896 326,012 39.7% Obama 213,696 341,913 38.5% Petty 208,702 321,146 39.4% Hampton 207,229 326,415 38.1% Bennett 206,689 328,248 38.6% Sadler 206,325 338,539 37.9% Oliver 199,443 343,351 36.7% Henry 198,206 334,588 37.2%

Pretty much what you’d expect based on the first set of results, with the exception of Paul Sadler sliding down a few spots, for which I’d blame – again – his lack of resources. I read these amazing stories about the turnout effort in Ohio, and I ask myself again what that might look like if it were ever tried here. I don’t really have anything more to add to this, so I’ll leave it here and we’ll continue with more analysis later.

Ethics and finance bills to get their turn

One never really expects bills relating to ethics and campaign finance reform to make it through the process, but it’s still a good idea to keep an eye on them.

In the last session, for example, at least 105 bills related to general ethics, lobbying or campaign-finance were filed. Only nineteen became law.

This session, members of the House and Senate again are considering more than 100 bills.

Among them are bills that would places caps on individual campaign donations to candidates, prohibit former lawmakers from immediately becoming lobbyists and prevent campaign payments to relatives.

Another bill, filed by Charlie Geren, R-River Oaks, would make lawmakers who run afoul of the ethics rules pay fines to the Texas Ethics Commission with personal funds, rather than with campaign donations.

“It makes a bigger impression on you if you write your own check rather than out of campaign dollars,” he said. “It doesn’t make any sense to me to fine me $500, or $50,000, and I can just go down the hall, raise it and pay it.”

Geren said some of his colleagues strongly objected to his bill. Among the other bills that could face challenges is a measure that would explicitly prohibit any payments of campaign funds to relatives.

The bill, by state Rep. Senfronia Thompson, D-Houston, is a reaction to recent ethics findings against lawmakers who, for example, hired their wives as campaign bookkeepers.

“We’re trying to make sure that campaign contributions are used in furtherance of another cause, and that it’s not a slush fund to pay members of your family,” she said.

Another bill would restrict the most prolific donors from giving more than $100,000 in total to all candidates during an election cycle.

Houston homebuilder Bob Perry, for example, has donated more than $2.1 million to elected officials from both parties since January 2008, according to campaign finance reports.

Geren’s bill is HB477, Thompson’s is HB3178. It’s hard to argue with Geren’s bill, since what he describes is generally what happens. I will say that TEC enforcement, such as it is, tends to be a bit capricious, and their guidelines are not nearly as concise as they should be; as such, I’m at least somewhat sympathetic to claims that this will be unfair to the members who aren’t as well-heeled as some of their colleagues. Still, I think the general principle is correct. As for Rep. Thompson’s bill, the poster child here is Christi Craddick (latter link is a PDF). Were it not for abuses like that, I wouldn’t care much about a bill like that, but if it weren’t for abuses like that such a bill likely wouldn’t exist in the first place.

The contributions limit bill is HB391, by Reps. Mike Villarreal and Mark Strama; both have introduced legislation like this in previous sessions. It’s something I’ve been calling for myself for some time now, so I’ll be rooting for it. As with the others, I don’t really expect it to get anywhere, but bills like these serve a useful purpose regardless. If nothing else, I look forward to hearing what the opponents have to say about it.