Off the Kuff Rotating Header Image

District C

Looking ahead to 2019

Yes, yes, I know. We’ve barely begun the 2018 cycle. Who in their right mind is thinking about 2019? I plead guilty to political insanity, but the beginning of the year is always the best time to look forward, and just as 2018 will be unlike any election year we’ve seen before, I think 2019 will be unusual, too. Let’s just take a moment to contemplate what lies ahead.

I’ve posted this list before, but just to review here are the Council members who are term-limited going into 2019:

Brenda Stardig – District A
Jerry Davis – District B
Ellen Cohen – District C
Mike Laster – District J
Larry Green – District K
Jack Christie – At Large #5

There is an opportunity for progressives to elect a candidate more favorable to them with CM Christie’s departure, and his At Large colleagues Mike Knox and Michael Kubosh will also draw attention. Against that, I would remind everyone that Bill King carried Districts C and J in 2015, so we’re going to have to play defense, too.

It is too early to start speculating about who might run where, but keep two things in mind. One is that there’s likely some pent-up demand for city offices, since there won’t have been an election since 2015, and two is that some number of people who are currently running for something in 2018 will find themselves on the sidelines by March or May, and some of them may decide to shift their focus to a more local race. The point I’m making here is expect there to be a lot of candidates, and not just for the term-limited offices. I don’t expect Mayor Turner to be seriously challenged, but I do expect the firefighters to find someone to support against him. Finally, I expect Pasadena to be a hotbed of action again for their May elections, as Democrats missed by seven votes in District B winning a majority on Pasadena City Council.

The following HISD Trustees are up for election in 2019:

Rhonda Skillern-Jones – District II
Sergio Lira – District III
Jolanda Jones – District IV
Diana Davila – District VIII

Skillern-Jones was forced into a runoff in 2015, but she then won that easily. Lira was elected this year to finish Manuel Rodriguez’s term. Jolanda is Jolanda, and no election that includes her will ever be boring. Davila sued to get on the Democratic primary ballot for Justice of the Peace, but was not successful. I have to assume whoever runs against her will make an issue of the fact that she was job-hopping in the interim.

The following HCC Trustees are up for election in 2019:

Zeph Capo – District 1
Dave Wilson – District 2
Neeta Sane – District 7

It is too early to think about who might be running for what in Houston and HISD. It is very much NOT too early to find and begin building support for a good candidate to run against Dave Wilson and kick his homophobic ass out of office. That is all.

Kill that trash subsidy

Works for me.

Mayor Sylvester Turner

Mayor Sylvester Turner

Mayor Sylvester Turner, working to close a $160 million budget deficit, has proposed scrapping payments that scores of Houston neighborhoods served by private trash haulers receive to help offset the cost of their waste contracts.

The idea when the program started in the 1970s was that residents should not have to pay property taxes for city trash services they were not receiving – particularly because they were already paying for waste pickup in their homeowner association dues. The city also came out ahead because the $6 monthly per-house subsidy was cheaper than the cost of the city serving each home itself, now estimated at $18 per home per month.

In scraping together a balanced budget for the fiscal year that starts in July, however, Turner felt the program was expendable. In many cases, the subsidies go to residents who have chosen to pay for more extensive services than those the city provides, such as having the trash picked up more frequently than once a week, or having workers walk up a resident’s driveway to retrieve the trash rather than the homeowner rolling a bin to the curb.

Cutting these “sponsorship” payments to the 48,000 homes participating would save the city $3.5 million.

“When I drilled down in every department and every line item and I saw that line item sticking out, my question was, ‘Is this one that people can give up without hurting them and the core services, things that are essential to the city?'” Turner said. “I decided this was something the city at this particular point in time was not in a position to continue to sponsor.”

City Council will begin hearings on Turner’s proposed budget on Monday, leading up to a final vote that could come as early as May 25.

[…]

“If they end up saying it’s that big of a difference, that they will give up their contracts and will turn to the city, then yeah, OK, more than likely I’ll remove it,” Turner said. “I’m not trying to make their situation bad, I’m simply trying to balance a budget that’s $160 million short, and I’ve asked people to engage in shared sacrifice.”

The mayor also suggested, wearing a slight grin, that reporters examine the subdivisions now receiving trash subsidies.

The three City Council districts home to 83 percent of the city’s sponsorship agreements, records show, also are the three districts with the highest median household incomes in the city: District G on the west side, District E in Kingwood and Clear Lake, and District C, which covers much of the western half of the Inner Loop.

[CM Dave] Martin acknowledged that he and many of his neighbors receiving private trash service in District E can cover a $6-per-month increase in their civic association dues.

“If you’re used to getting your trash picked up twice a week and you’re used to backdoor service, most people are probably going to say, ‘Keep my six bucks,'” Martin said. “They’re mostly the people that have the means to pay an extra $6 a month.”

Yes indeed. And now is the time for the city to say to these folks that we can no longer afford to subsidize their premium trash collection service. We all have to make sacrifices in these lean times, don’t you know. The irony is that if enough people decide that the sacrifice they’d prefer to make is the higher level of service, in return for saving a few bucks a month, then it won’t be worth the city’s effort to make them make that sacrifice. I suspect that the vast majority of them will take the original deal, of keeping the service but paying full price for it. If nothing else, it will allow those who are so inclined to piss and moan about how hard they have it now. Surely that’s worth the six bucks a month to them. KUHF has more.

Chron analysis of how Turner won

I suppose it’s a bit simplistic to say “he got more votes than the other guy”, but one way or the other that’s what happened.

Sylvester Turner

Sylvester Turner

Sylvester Turner’s 24-year quest for the mayor’s office was realized by a narrow margin Saturday night, driven by overwhelming support from black voters and a robust effort to push supporters to the polls.

The tallies showed Houston’s long trend of voting in racial blocs held in this year’s runoff, by far the closest in 12 years.

Conservative businessman Bill King took 71 percent of the vote in the city’s majority-white voting precincts, where residents also turned out in the highest numbers. Turner won a whopping 93 percent of the vote in majority-black precincts, however, erasing King’s turnout advantage. Turner also had an edge in the city’s two predominantly Latino council districts, giving him the boost he needed to secure a 4,100-vote victory.

[…]

Texas Southern University political scientist Michael Adams said the racial polarization reflected in the tallies is consistent with Houston’s electoral history. Adams’ research on black candidates’ performance in Houston elections from 1997 to 2009 shows Turner performed slightly worse than would be expected in Anglo precincts.

“Turner’s success in only a handful of majority-white precincts, all inside the 610 Loop, is interesting. He performed worse than other Democrats had in similar precincts,” Adams said. “His success is almost entirely attributable to the overwhelming vote in the African-American community.”

Turner lost the city’s progressive urban district west of downtown, District C, by more than 10 points, but Rice University political scientist Mark Jones said the tallies are not necessarily a sign of racial polarization.

“It had more to do with the effectiveness of the Bill King campaign,” Jones said. “King’s message regarding the city’s fiscal crisis resonated with those voters in part because District C is the most educated and arguably the most politically interested council district. If it was going to resonate with any district that was a non-core conservative district, it was District C.”

Here’s another map of how the precincts voted, if you’re into that sort of thing. I’m the wrong person to objectively evaluate King’s campaign, because I was never buying what he was selling. I will say three things about the race he ran, then move on:

1. The timing was good for him and his gloomy economic message. In 2015, with the local economy sputtering and some bills coming due for the city, voters were more receptive to his message than they likely would have been in, say, 2013. It also helped that the sky-is-falling crescendo about pensions has been incessantly drilled into people, thanks in no small part to King’s own column in the Chronicle and his apparent effect on their editorial board. This was a good year for that message.

2. King basically had the Republican vote to himself. Remember, at the start of the year Oliver Pennington was a candidate for Mayor. I think it’s fair to say that he would have eaten into King’s November vote total had he stayed on the ballot, and it’s quite reasonable to think that the two of them could have split the vote to the point of letting Adrian Garcia slip into second place. One need only look at At Large #1 this year and At Large #3 in 2013 to see the scenario I’m talking about. Yes, I know, Steve Costello is a Republican, but come on. He’s a pro-HERO, pro-“rain tax” Republican. Who else was going to get the Polland/Woodfill/Hotze vote? For that matter, King was lucky that the only true wingnut anti-HERO candidate on the ballot that could have sucked votes away from him on his right was Ben Hall, whom the local GOP establishment warned its voters away from for not being an actual Republican. Surely if an Eric Dick or Dave Wilson had decided to run, that would have made it harder for King to get into the final round.

3. Still and all, King ran a good campaign. I can’t think of any obvious mistakes he made, none that would have cost him any votes anyway. He might have unleashed some negative mail on Turner in the runoff, but looking at how he actually did in the Anglo Dem areas, it’s hard to say that he could have done much better. Unless things go badly wrong for Turner, I don’t think he’d have as much success in a rematch in 2019 (or in 2017, if term limits hadn’t been changed), but he took advantage of the opportunities he had at this time and came close to winning. There’s no shame in that.

Beyond that, every election is different. I’d be hesitant to draw any broad conclusions from this race. Barring legal intervention, the next city races are in 2019, and by then this year will be ancient history. Next year is completely different as well. Learn from what did and didn’t work and move on to the next election.

One more thing before I can move on to the next election: I have a nit to pick with this Daily Kos election roundup that states “Houston leans Democratic, but poor turnout from Team Blue almost allowed King to become the city’s first non-Democratic mayor since Republican Jim McConn left office in 1982.” This is what happens when out of towners try to make sense of our news. Turnout was fine in Democratic precincts. King did as well as he did in part by winning some Democratic crossover votes, and in part by giving Republicans a reason to vote. Both Turner and King had ground games going, and Turner’s was very effective. Let’s not fall into oversimplified narratives about what happened; that does no one any good.

Precinct analysis: Mayoral runoff

Believe it or not, the County Clerk’s office put out draft canvass reports last night. As a result, I can do the thing that I do. Here’s a look at the Mayor’s runoff race:


Dist    King   Turner
=====================
A      9,491    5,472
B      1,356   17,406
C     19,866   16,004
D      3,368   20,245
E     20,108    5,600
F      4,664    4,005
G     28,193    6,892
H      4,070    7,317
I      3,605    5,894
J      3,412    3,012
K      5,791   12,718
		
A     63.43%   36.57%
B      7.23%   92.77%
C     55.38%   44.62%
D     14.26%   85.74%
E     78.22%   21.78%
F     53.80%   46.20%
G     80.36%   19.64%
H     35.74%   64.26%
I     37.95%   62.05%
J     53.11%   46.89%
K     31.29%   68.71%
Sylvester Turner

Sylvester Turner

The Chron used this data to create some maps – a City Council district map, a precinct map, and a turnout map.

Remember as always that this is Harris County data only. Turner did win Harris County, by a small amount. The bulk of his margin is in Fort Bend, which is mostly in District K. You have to give King some credit. He won F and J after having trailed in them in November, and he carried C by a fairly healthy amount. I thought if he won in C he’d be in a strong position to win overall, and he came close to that. In November I suggested that King needed to duplicate Jack Christie’s 2011 runoff performance against Jolanda Jones to win. A performance like Christie had in District C would have done it for King, but he had some other avenues as well. Two questions to ponder in analyzing this result: How many previous supporters of Garcia and Bell and Costello did King move to his column, and how many new voters did he bring out? I will try to get a handle on that when I get a copy of the voter roster. A question I’m not sure how to answer is why did King do better on Election Day than he did in early voting, despite the expectations of some pundits? Turner clearly did a good job getting his voters out early. Maybe that’s all there was to it.

As for Turner, he did what he had to do. His margins in districts B and D were awesome, but it wasn’t just about the percentage, it was about the absolute total. It’s clear Turner needed the high turnout he got in those districts, but I think it’s an oversimplification to credit his win to “high turnout”, as I’d argue that King benefited from it as well. I’d love to see someone dig up precinct information from the 2001 Mayoral runoff between Lee Brown and Orlando Sanchez and do a side by side comparison with this year. I’m guessing there would be a lot of overlap.

I’ll be looking at the other races over the coming days. This result is understandable by looking at the numbers, as both candidates did what they needed to do, with Turner ending up on top. Some of the others are more of a puzzle, especially given the context of the Mayoral race. But we’ll get to that when we get to that. What are your impressions?

Precinct analysis: Where the voters came from

Yesterday we looked at the voting history of the people who participated in the 2015 election. Today we’re going to take a look at how those numbers broke down by Council district.


Dist   All 3    None    Rest   Total
====================================
A      4,686   7,238   8,173  20,097
B      4,873   8,829   8,738  22,440
C     11,471  17,129  18,588  47,188
D      6,988  10,196  11,204  28,388
E      5,906  14,302  13,392  33,600
F      2,348   5,456   4,942  12,746
G      9,703  13,523  17,630  40,856
H      3,035   7,452   6,958  17,445
I      2,897   5,939   5,856  14,692
J      2,001   3,437   3,305   8,743
K      5,730   8,101   8,846  22,677

Total 59,639 101,603 107,630 268,872

vote-button

Just a reminder, “All 3” refers to voters who had also participated in the 2013, 2011, and 2009 elections; “None” refers to voters who voted in none of those three elections; “Rest” refers to the people who voted in one or two of those elections, but not all three. The first thing to notice is something I hadn’t noticed till I started working on this post, which is that for all the talk about “new” voters, there were a lot of “sometimes” voters in this election. Perhaps one of our oft-quoted poli sci professors could put a grad student or two on the question of why people vote in some city elections but not others. Obviously, some people are new to town or are newly eligible to vote, but what about the others? Why skip one election but vote in another? I don’t understand it. I wish someone would make the effort to try.

The other number that jumps out at you is the number of “None” voters in District E. It’s fair to assume a significant number of these were anti-HERO voters. Notice that E wasn’t the only district that saw the number of new voters be more than double the number of old reliables – F, H, and I also fit that bill. Why might that be? Could be any number of reasons – HERO, a disproportionate number of new and/or newly-eligible residents, the fact that there weren’t that many old reliables to begin with, some other reason. Of course, even the district that had a lot of old reliables, like C and D and G, saw a lot of newbies show up as well. What can you say? There were a lot of new voters. Even in this high-for-Houston-elections-turnout environment, there are still a lot of other people who vote in other years.

Another way of looking at this: The share in each district of each kind of voter:


Dist   All 3    None    Rest   Total
====================================
A      7.86%   7.12%   7.59%   7.47%
B      8.17%   8.69%   8.12%   8.35%
C     19.23%  16.86%  17.27%  17.55%
D     11.72%  10.04%  10.41%  10.56%
E      9.90%  14.08%  12.44%  12.50%
F      3.94%   5.37%   4.59%   4.74%
G     16.27%  13.31%  16.38%  15.20%
H      5.09%   7.33%   6.46%   6.49%
I      4.86%   5.84%   5.44%   5.46%
J      3.36%   3.38%   3.07%   3.25%
K      9.61%   7.97%   8.22%   8.43%

Again, you can see the differential in E. No matter how you slice it, District C is the leader, but who comes in second and third and by how much C leads the way varies. Again, I have no broad conclusions to draw, I just think this is interesting. What do you think?

Tomorrow we’ll have a look at how old the voters were this year. Let me know if you have any questions.

Precinct analysis: Controller

Moving on to the office that is both second in prominence and last in ballot placement, the City Controller:


Dist  Khan   Brown  Frazer   Boney Jefferson Robinson
=====================================================
A    2,749   3,406   6,588     798       602    1,573
B    1,836   4,042   1,047   4,275     1,057    5,154
C    6,143  12,574  12,181   1,194       838    2,387
D    2,338   5,139   2,180   6,242     1,547    5,358
E    4,595   4,121  13,436     659       653    1,895
F    2,485   2,118   2,493     670       497    1,246
G    5,105   6,416  17,965     596       666    1,615
H    2,514   4,304   2,094   1,047       525    2,220
I    2,082   3,452   1,685   1,098       573    2,087
J    1,885   1,478   1,925     483       273      782
K    2,941   4,508   3,276   3,028       855    3,309
						
A   17.49%  21.67%  41.92%   5.08%     3.83%   10.01%
B   10.55%  23.22%   6.01%  24.55%     6.07%   29.60%
C   17.39%  35.60%  34.49%   3.38%     2.37%    6.76%
D   10.25%  22.54%   9.56%  27.37%     6.78%   23.50%
E   18.12%  16.25%  52.98%   2.60%     2.58%    7.47%
F   26.13%  22.27%  26.22%   7.05%     5.23%   13.10%
G   15.77%  19.83%  55.51%   1.84%     2.06%    4.99%
H   19.79%  33.88%  16.48%   8.24%     4.13%   17.47%
I   18.97%  31.45%  15.35%  10.00%     5.22%   19.01%
J   27.62%  21.65%  28.20%   7.08%     4.00%   11.46%
K   16.41%  25.61%  18.28%  16.90%     4.77%   18.47%
Bill Frazer

Bill Frazer

Remember how I said earlier that if you combined Lane Lewis, Tom McCasland, and Jenifer Pool in the At Large #1 race you’d have a leading candidate going into the runoff? The same can be said here for Jew Don Boney, Carroll Robinson, and Dwight Jefferson; just the first two together would be enough. Robinson was in the race first and had a more visible campaign, but Boney received some late-breaking endorsements from groups that likely moved a few votes. However you want to look at it, they basically canceled each other out.

MJ Khan got something for his party-like-it’s-2009 campaign strategy, just not nearly enough. He nudges ahead of Frazer in his old Council district once you add in Fort Bend, but then falls behind Chris Brown there. (Insert sad trombone sound effect.) The good news is that his timelessly generic TV ad that blanketed the airwaves over the past few weeks could easily be hauled out and reused in 2019 and/or 2023 as needed. He could be the model for campaigning in the Andrew Burks/Griff Griffin style with an actual budget to spend.

Here’s my three-point plan for Chris Brown to win next month:

Chris Brown

Chris Brown

1. Make sure Democrats know who he is and that he’s the only Dem in the race. Bill Frazer did about eight points better in District C than Bill King did. Putting it another, and more alarming way, Frazer plus Khan was almost 52% of the vote in C, while King plus Costello was 37%; even counting Ben Hall as a Republican only gets you to 43%. I can’t see a path to victory for Brown that doesn’t include a strong showing in C. The HCDP sent out an email on Monday saying that they would make recommendations now in races that have a single Dem in them, which will help a little, but I’d plan a blitz of mail targeting Democratic likely voters making sure they know which team each candidate in this race is playing for.

2. Deploy surrogates. First and foremost, do whatever is needed to get Brown’s soon-to-be-former boss Ronald Green to cut a radio ad or two for heavy rotation on KCOH and Majic 102 and so forth. Get Peter Brown to star in a mailer or two to voters who were known to like him from 2009 and his days on Council, and also from his days now advocating for sustainable urbanism. Chris Brown’s wife Divya is Indian-American; she and their baby daughter were in a standard family photo in Brown’s November mailings. I’d consider sending some mail to voters in F and J (where there is a high proportion of Asian voters as well as two district Council runoffs) that featured her more prominently. If a few voters there wind up thinking she’s the one they’d be voting for in this race, that would not be a bad outcome.

3. Make sure the police and firefighters are invested in this runoff. Frazer’s campaign is in large part based on the need for drastic action on pensions; there’s not much space between him and King on this issue. The police and firefighters’ unions backed Sylvester Turner for Mayor, but (as far as I know) did not take a position in the Controller’s race. Brown seems like a much better fit for them in the runoff. They may be gearing up to act anyway, but I’d be sure to talk to them and try to get them involved.

As for Frazer, he’s the frontrunner and thus only needs two bullet points: Make sure Republicans know who he is, and otherwise keep on doing what he’s been doing, which is to focus on the issues as he defines them and his qualifications as a CPA. The bad news for Frazer is that the runoff electorate is likely to be more favorable for Democratic candidates. The good news is that there’s no guarantee that voters who supported Robinson or Boney will necessarily transfer for Brown – one possibility is that they vote for Turner and one or more of the African-American Council runoff candidates and then stop there; Robinson recently sent an email urging support for Georgia Provost, Amanda Edwards, and Sharon Moses, but didn’t mention the Controller’s race at all – but Khan voters ought to have a home with him. What he’s done so far, in 2013 and this year, has worked pretty well for him. Don’t overthink it, and don’t do anything stupid, that’s my advice.

Day 8 EV 2015 totals: Breaking it down to districts

Day One of Week Two:


Year    Early    Mail   Total   Mailed
======================================
2015   73,903  23,560  97,553   43,279
2013   45,571  16,076  61,647   30,548

EarlyVoting

The running 2015 totals are here, the full 2013 totals are here, and for completeness the full 2009 totals are here. The second Monday in person totals for this year (12,895) are greater than for 2013 (7,643), but some of that may be leftover demand from the weekend. In addition, both this Monday and the second Monday of 2013 are just a smidge higher than the previous Fridays (11,705 this year, 7,110 in 2013). We continue to run well ahead of 2013, but I continue to wonder if we’ll peak. That remains to be seen.

I don’t get the daily rosters, but Greg does, and he provides a breakdown of the vote as of Sunday by Council district. Go look for yourself, but the takeaway is that as of the end of the first full week, the share of the vote coming from Districts B and E was higher than it was in 2013, and the share of the vote coming from District C is down. See this post of mine from 2013 to see how things shook out per district in 2013. Note that the 2013 totals Greg cites are final, end of voting numbers, whereas what we have now is just a week of early voting. It is entirely possible that C is just a little slower to get to the polls than some other districts – it’s what the numbers are at the end that counts, after all – but this is worth watching. District B overlaps HD139, so it’s fair to say this represents a bump from the Turner campaign. District E is likely to be more motivated by HERO than anything else, and not in the way I’d prefer. Note that even with these trends, the overall numbers from C and E are nearly identical, and history suggests the voters in C will show up. So we’ll see.

Endorsement watch: For Ellen

The Chron endorses CM Ellen Cohen for a third term.

CM Ellen Cohen

CM Ellen Cohen

District council members don’t usually make national headlines, but last summer Councilwoman Ellen Cohen got her 15 minutes of fame while questioning Pastor Betty Riggle’s opposition to Houston’s equal rights ordinance.

Riggle was arguing at City Hall that shopkeepers should be allowed to follow their religious beliefs when it came to discriminating against customers. The councilwoman took that rationale to its logical ends, and asked whether Riggle would defend discrimination against people like Cohen, who are of the Jewish faith.

“No, I’m not saying – yes, I am saying that. But that is not the issue that we’re talking about,” Riggle clumsily responded.

The exchange made headlines in publications like The Daily Beast and the Jewish Daily Forward, broadcasting Cohen’s quick wit and tough questioning to a national audience. However, Cohen’s constituents are probably more impressed by her ability to draw down 22 percent of the capital improvement plan budget for District C.

[…]

After four years, Cohen remains an exemplar on council and deserves two more years at City Hall.

Here’s a reminder (with video) about that interaction with Betty Riggle, who committed the classic political gaffe of telling the truth. You don’t need me to remind you that I called this endorsement correctly, do you? Though I didn’t interview CM Cohen this cycle – here’s the interview I did with her in 2013 if you want to give it a listen – I’ve been a fan since she first ran for State Rep in 2006. I’m a couple of blocks east of District C, but if I lived there I’d be happy to vote for her.

July 2013 finance reports for district Council candidates

We move now to the remaining Council races, which are the district races. Here are the July finance reports for candidates in District Council races. Please note that all reports now appear on my newly-published Election 2013 page. Refer to that page for future updates, candidate interviews, and so forth.

Dist Candidate Raised Spent On Hand Loan ------------------------------------------------------- A Brown 67,446 29,633 46,674 0 A Stardig * 56,650 21,206 60,439 0 A Knox 41,666 13,139 35,624 12,500 A Peck 4,481 3,526 9,163 5,000 A Hale 2,670 3,438 137 0 B Davis 52,600 7,990 104,820 0 B B-Daniels 5,000 2,564 5,000 5,000 C Cohen 128,064 33,716 106,696 0 C Sosa D Boykins 150,155 52,262 100,592 0 D Richards 37,108 10,318 18,294 0 D Provost 20,916 17,618 2,378 9,000 D McGee 4,560 4,570 1,369 0 D White 780 780 780 0 D Caldwell 2,725 2,234 490 0 E Martin 53,950 6,225 23,710 5,000 F Hoang 13,480 2,100 11,399 0 G Pennington 185,500 44,455 249,059 0 G Taef 150 755 150 0 H Gonzalez 79,639 20,524 73,364 0 I Mendez 94,632 43,092 12,048 0 I Ablaza 27,230 4,574 16,582 0 I Gallegos 16,945 7,649 9,295 4,379 I Garces 18,917 13,195 4,272 0 J Laster 66,403 12,916 80,858 0 K Green

For reasons unclear, CMs Cohen and Green do not have finance reports posted as yet. I’m sure they will show up eventually. I was able to inquire with CM Cohen’s staff and get a copy of her report, which they had submitted on time; I did not get to do that with CM Green. There are several other candidates in District D, including Lana Edwards, wife of At Large #3 candidate and former State Rep. Al Edwards, and perennial candidate Larry McKinzie; I’ve just listed the candidates whose reports I could find. Let’s go through these in some more detail.

District A

Brown report
Stardig report
Stardig SPAC report
Knox report
Peck report
Hale report

Note that former District A CM Brenda Stardig filed two reports, one of which is for a special purpose PAC. That one had all the contributions and a portion of her expenditures, while the other one, which is the same basic form everyone else submitted, had the bulk of her expenditures. She’s clearly spending more on actual campaign outreach, which stands in contrast to her July 2011 report. Stardig took in $6,500 in PAC money, and also received $1,000 from Peter Brown, $1,000 from Rusty Hardin, and $20 from Orlando Sanchez.

I may have to recalibrate my estimate of CM Helena Brown and her odds of winning, because that’s a pretty decent haul she’s got. Only $4,750 of it was PAC money, which is less than what former CM Stardig got. You can look at that as the establishment being unwilling to back her, or as evidence of her ability to connect with individual supporters. She got no money from incumbent officeholders, but did get donations from activist types like Steven Hotze, Don Sumners, and Dave Wilson. Unlike last time, when she filed at the last minute and came out of nowhere based on pure disgruntlement and dissatisfaction with the incumbent, Brown has to run a “real” campaign this time around. Towards that end, she spent $9,600 on consulting services, mostly to an outfit called Colonnade. I don’t recall seeing that name on other forms, so we’ll see if this is their breakout moment, or their fleeting moment of fame.

Mike Knox also had a good report. Among his contributions were several with oddly specific amounts, which showed up more than once, including such figures as $92.25, $471.25, and six donations of $47.13 each. I have no idea what that’s about. $2,100 of his contributions were in kind. Most of his expenditures, including $2,900 for consulting services, were made from personal funds with the intent to seek reimbursement.

I’m puzzled by Amy Peck’s lack of fundraising success. You’d think the District Director for Sen. Dan Patrick would have more connections to utilize. She did receive $500 from SBOE Member Donna Bahorich, but there was nothing and no one of interest beyond that. In what may be a sign of a newer-generation approach to campaigning, she spent $463.05 on Facebook ads, and $438.90 on T-shirts. Make of that what you will.

Ron Hale contributed $730 to his campaign, and spent a bit more than $900 from personal funds.

District B

Davis report
Blueford-Daniels report

While at least two other district Council members have opponents so far (Cohen in C and Pennington in G), I consider first term CM Jerry Davis’ situation to be more like Brown’s than like theirs, since Davis won as an outsider in 2011, and there are members of the establishment in B that don’t like him. He has a credible opponent in Kathy Blueford-Daniels, who didn’t make the runoff in 2011 but was the Chron’s endorsed candidate in November. He’s definitely taking his task seriously, judging by his report. Of his contributions, $21,000 came from PACs, including $250 from Planned Parenthood PAC. I note that mostly because I don’t recall seeing anyone else receive money from them as yet. He also received $750 from Peter Brown. No major expenditures – mostly event sponsorships and other related expenses. The only entry I saw that had anything related to consulting in it was $8 for a birthday cake for his consultant. Awww.

Kathy Blueford-Daniels had nothing particularly notable on her report. She had $5K in pledges in addition to her contributions. She hasn’t been campaigning for long – I got a note to like her campaign Facebook page on June 25 – so perhaps her 30 day report will tell a different story.

District D

Boykins report
Richards report
Provost report
McGee report
White report
Caldwell report

This is Dwight Boykins’ fourth run for Council, and first time vying for a district seat. He finished third in At Large #5 in 1997, lost in the runoff to Gordon Quan in 1999, and lost to Michael Berry in At Large #5 in 2003. He’s clearly separated himself from the pack here, however. Of his astonishingly large haul, $14K of it is PAC money, with another $8,375 in business donations. He spent $20,051 on consulting fees, some of which were “field operations” and “printing expenses”. He probably doesn’t have to raise another dime the rest of the way, but what he can do is aim for 50% in the first round by flooding the district with name recognition-boosting ads.

Assata Richards’ total would have been a standout in some other years. As it was, she did receive $3,500 from Peter Brown, $1,500 from David Mincberg, plus another $324 in kind, $100 from Sue Lovell, and $50 from Sue Davis, who is one of the key members of Team Annise Parker. She spent most of her money on advertising – website design, push cards, yard signs, and the like.

Georgia Provost had the distinction of receiving a $1,000 donation from Ben Hall. She also put a lot of her money into advertising, but she was a bit more old school than Richards, with ads on radio station KCOH and in the Forward Times, in addition to push cards, yard signs, and robocalls. She also donated $25 to Battleground Texas, which bumps her up a notch in my estimation. The loan she received was from Justin Jordan.

District I

Mendez report
Abalaza report
Gallegos report
Garces report

Ben Mendez had the most complicated non-Mayoral report so far. Of his generally impressive total, $37,100 was in kind, most of which appears to be items for a fundraising auction. That includes items such as $100 for a yoga mat and $150 for an hourlong massage, both of which strike me as overvalued, though that doesn’t really make much difference to the bottom line. There were also in kind donations of $5K for website design and $3500 for campaign advertising/digital marketing, the former of which also strikes me as high. Most of the other reports had website design figures in the $1000 to $2000 range. Mendez also received contributions of $500 from State Rep. Ron Reynolds, and $100 from HCDE Trustee Erica Lee. He spent $19,500 for consultants.

Leticia Ablaza is back for a second try at District I, with a solid if not terribly interesting report. $7,660 of her contributions were in kind, and she received a $100 donation from At Large #3 candidate Chris Carmona. Not much of interest beyond that.

Neither Robert Gallegos nor Graci Garces did anything spectacular. Gallegos, a former staffer for now-Sen. Sylvia Garcia, received $500 from her and from Peter Brown, plus a few bucks from some current Garcia staffers. $2K of the loan he reported is from James Dinkins. Garces got $500 from Drayton McLane and spent $6,800 on consulting fees.

Other districts

Cohen report
Martin report
Hoang report
Pennington report
Gonzalez report
Laster report

The lobby made newest CM Dave Martin feel welcome, with $30,200 in contributions to him from PACS. He spent $1,500 on consultants.

I don’t quite understand why CM Al Hoang doesn’t have more campaign cash. Be that as it may, he got $7,500 from the PACs, and also spent $1,500 on the same consultants as CM Martin, Blakemore and Associates.

CM Oliver Pennington continues to be a fundraising machine. He got $30,900 in PAC and business donations, and many, many four-figure contributions from individuals, among them $1000 each from Patricia Dewhurst and Bob McNair. I just scanned his expenses since his form was so long, and spotted recurring fees of $3K to Sarah Tropoli (his daughter) and $2K to Richard Cron for consulting; $2500 and $500 to Walden and Associates for fundraising and office rent, respectively. Clearly, the fundraising fees are money well spent.

Also a prodigious fundraiser is CM Ellen Cohen, and she keeps that up here. In addition to $24,900 from PACs, she got $100 each from Kathryn McNeil, the campaign consultant for CM Stephen Costello; Sallie Alcorn, CM Costello’s chief of staff; and Sue Davis. She also got $100 from Ann Johnson, the 2012 Democratic nominee for HD134, Cohen’s former legislative seat, $500 from Peter Brown, and $20 from Stuart Rosenberg, Mayor Parker’s campaign manager.

CM Ed Gonzalez, my Council member, had another one of those solid reports that didn’t have anything terribly interesting to blog about. He took in- $28,500 from PACs and $20 from Stuart Rosenberg. He spent $8,321 on consulting fees.

Last but not least is CM Mike Laster, another solid performer. He received $250 from Peter Brown, $100 from Sue Lovell, $100 Rodrigo Canedo, who was one of his opponents in 2011, and the customary $20 from Stuart Rosenberg. He also got $31,750 in PAC money, and spent $4,644 in consulting fees.

And that’s all I’ve got for this report. Still to come are a look at the reports filed by people not running in 2013, a closer look at the Mayoral reports, and looks at the reports filed by officeholders and candidates in HISD, HCC, Harris County, and the Legislature. Did I mention that July was a busy time of year? As always, any questions or requests, leave ’em in the comments.

Interview with CM Ellen Cohen

CM Ellen Cohen

CM Ellen Cohen

Welcome to the start of the 2013 interview season. Things are going to be a little different for me this year, because my personal schedule is not as flexible as it has been in years past. What that means is that it’s going to be more of a challenge for me to schedule interviews, and at this time I can’t make any guarantees about what interviews I’ll be able to do. I’ll do my best as always, but I’ll get to what I get to, and that’s about all there is to it.

Kicking things off this year is a person I’ve had the pleasure of interviewing several times in the past, first term District C Council Member Ellen Cohen. Cohen is a former two-term State Representative who was elected to the new District C in 2011, scoring a solid majority in a five-candidate race. As was the case in the Capitol, Cohen has jumped right in and gotten busy at City Hall, staying on top of the concerns of her demanding district and working to create a Parking Benefit District in the Washington Avenue corridor, among other things. Here’s what we talked about:

Ellen Cohen Interview

Putting together a dedicated page for my interviews and the candidates’ campaign finance reports is somewhere near the top of my to do list, but it’s not been done yet. Check back later for that.

More thoughts on the Council elections

One district at a time…

– I confess that I did not see the District A result coming. Helena Brown did raise a decent amount of money since entering the race at the filing deadline, about $22K through the end of October, which makes me wonder how she might have fared if she had gotten in the race sooner. For what it’s worth, she’s at a big financial disadvantage in the runoff, as CM Brenda Stardig reported over $67K on hand in her 8 Day report, while Brown listed only $1378 on hers. Maybe Stardig needed to spend more during regulation time. Brown has received donations from the two previous District A members, Bruce Tatro and Toni Lawrence, the latter of whom apparently had a falling out with Stardig a few months back. If Brown wins she will be a big success story for the anti-Renew Houston forces. She would probably like for the runoff to be a low turnout affair in which she can campaign like it’s a Republican primary. Stardig will likely need to persuade some Democrats that she’s worth voting for; I would also expect the Houston Association of Realtors to try to come to her rescue. I have a bad feeling about this one for the incumbent.

– A lot of endorsing organizations avoided choosing a candidate in District B for November. I presume that part of the reason for that was that it was a crowded race with no obvious frontrunner and multiple contenders who might have a shot at making it to the runoff. Now that it’s narrowed down to Alvin Byrd and Jerry Davis, who received the bulk of the endorsements that were made, it’ll be interesting to see who lines up behind whom. Davis had an email out yesterday touting the fact that former competitors Kenneth Perkins, Phillip Paul Bryant, Bryan Smart, and Charles Ingram were all now supporting him. Also up for grabs now are the HBAD and Chronicle endorsements, both of which had gone to third place finisher (and currently unaligned, as far as I know) Kathy Daniels.

– Moving to the non-runoff districts, I’m still not sure if I’m surprised or not that Ellen Cohen won in C without a runoff. I had no doubt that it was possible, but I had no good feel for what the likelihood of it was. I do have a feeling that Cohen’s next two elections will be much easier to prognosticate.

– Given how a few other first-termers did, CM Al Hoang’s 56% win in District F has to be seen as a pretty strong performance, but much like Helena Brown in A, I wonder how Peter Lyn René might have fared if he had entered the race earlier. He missed out on the opportunity to screen for an awful lot of Democrat-friendly endorsements. I’m not saying he would have won, but a swing of less than 300 votes away from Hoang would have put him into a runoff. Surely that was achievable with a few months’ extra time to organize and fundraise.

– I’m just going to point you to what Greg says about District J, because there really isn’t anything I can add to it. I hope CM-elect Mike Laster makes an offer to Criselda Romero to be on his staff so that she can be in a good position to succeed him in 2017.

– Regarding the At Large runoffs, it’s easy to see the AL2 and AL5 races in racial terms, with the fates of the candidates entwined. Here’s Greg again:

As an aside in looking at the At Large runoffs together, I have a hard time seeing the needle threading such that both JoJo and Kristi win, though that’s obviously the outcome I’d most love to see. The more JoJo voters there are, then theoretically, the better the odds are for Andrew Burks. And the better things look for Kristi, the harder they look for JoJo. I really hope I’m wrong on this.

I think it’s a little more complex than that, for the simple reason that Burks isn’t a particularly good candidate. To put it another way, while I would agree that there will be a correlation between the vote totals of Burks and CM Jones, there will also be a lag between their totals. I believe a fair number of people who show up to vote for Jones will not bother to vote for Burks. As evidence, I cite the district returns from the 2009 runoffs, which featured both Burks and Jones as well as Ronald Green and Gene Locke. Take a look at these numbers, which I compiled from these earlier posts:

Candidate B votes D votes ============================ Locke 11,395 15,223 Green 10,017 16,935 Burks 7,773 11,974 Jones 10,673 17,653

Burks received less that 75% of Jones’ vote total in the African-American districts in the 2009 runoff, and he was running against someone who is not nearly as well-liked as Kristi Thibaut. He isn’t anywhere near Jones’ league. Maybe this time it will be different, but I see a lot of room for Jones to win and Burks to lose. And like District B, there are now a bunch of endorsements up for grabs. Thibaut, who had more endorsements by my count than other candidates going into the November election, counted HBAD among her supporters. She has since picked up the support of former candidates Bo Fraga, Jenifer Pool, and David Robinson; a whole host of Democratic elected officials, including numerous African-Americans (Rodney Ellis, Alma Allen, Garnet Coleman, Harold Dutton, Ron Reynolds, and Senfronia Thompson); and the Oak Forest Dems and Democracy for Houston endorsements; both of those groups reaffirmed their support of CM Jones as well. I think that says something, and about Burks’ ability to keep up with Jones.

As far as CM Jones goes, the playbook is the same for her as was two years ago: Run up the score in the friendly precincts, and hope it’s enough. Without a Gene Locke at the top of the ticket to drive turnout, that could be harder to achieve. She does have the benefit of the runoff in B to help her, but that may be canceled out by the action in A. It’s a crapshoot. I wouldn’t bet against her, but boy this is a tough way to go about it.

Chron overview of District C

The Ashby Highrise is casting its shadow over the race for the open seat in District C.

Even with substantially redrawn boundaries, which in January will extend from north of Loop 610 down through the Heights and south to the Braeswood area, District C still is ground zero for the battle over height regulations. After a two-year dormancy, plans for the 23-story Ashby high-rise have been revived as apartments instead of condos.

[Ellen] Cohen called the Ashby high-rise a “poor idea,” but said the city must be fair to developers who follow city rules and not “move the goalposts” by changing rules midstream. She also produced a 2007 “Dear Neighbor” letter she wrote as a legislator in which she urged then-Mayor Bill White and the council “to do everything within their power to stop this development.”

Most of the other candidates followed Cohen’s two-pronged answer of personally opposing the project, but warning against being arbitrary with development regulations.

The Ashby sure is the gift that keeps on giving, isn’t it? If by “gift” you mean “political pain in the ass for which there is no solution”, anyway. Barring anything unusual, this thing is going to get built one way or another. The only thing for a candidate to talk about is what if anything they’d do to affect or prevent the next such unwanted-by-its-neighbors project.

Anyway. I did interviews with four of the five candidates in District C:

Ellen Cohen
Brian Cweren
Karen Derr
Joshua Verde

The conventional wisdom on this race is that it’s Cohen’s to lose. She’s got a lot going for her – strong fundraising, name ID, etc – but her opponents are pretty good too, and they’re certainly not conceding anything. I see a lot of yard signs in the district – most of them in actual yards, thank you very much – and I’d say Cohen is winning that competition, at least in the parts of the district I tend to travel through, followed by Derr and then Cweren. The 30 Day reports are up for the four that I interviewed: Cohen, Derr, Verde, and Cweren; as noted before, Cohen once again lapped the field. What are your thoughts on this race?

30 day finance reports for City of Houston races

The 30 day campaign finance reports for City of Houston elections were due last week, and they are now mostly up on the city’s campaign finance report website, with a large number showing up today. Already I’m seeing questionable, curious, and interesting things in the reports. Some highlights so far:

  • Helena Brown, the late-filing candidate in District A, reported a quite respectable $15,848 raised, but she did not file a Schedule A report, so you can’t see who gave her how much.
  • Griff Griffin, who failed to file a report in July, did not include any totals on his report. I did the math and counted $2522 in contributions along with $6443 in expenditures. As he did not report any loans or expenditures from personal funds, there’s no way to reconcile these numbers in the absence of a cash on hand balance from an earlier report. Which Griff, who’s run for Council approximately three thousand times and very well may be carrying a balance from those prior efforts, really ought to know. Perhaps one of the consultants whom he lists as a payee could advise him on this.
  • Jack O’Connor, who switched from At Large #5 to the Mayor’s race just before the filing deadline, also failed to list totals on his report, even though he did so correctly in July. By my count, he raised $7866 and spent $11,195, of which $5295 came from raised funds and the remaining $5900 were personal expenditures.
  • Bo Fraga took in a very respectable $55K in the period. He also reported a $35K loan from Lupe Fraga of Tejas Office Products, which I am told may be a problem because loans are apparently subject to the same $5,000 limit as contributions. I’m not a lawyer and I haven’t read the ordinances myself so don’t take my word for this, but I will say that’s the biggest non-personal loan I can recall seeing offhand.
  • Both of CM Jolanda Jones’ challengers had decent reports. Laurie Robinson raised almost $81K, though a bit over $30K of that was in kind. Jack Christie took in $40K, and unlike last time he’s not loaning himself big bucks. Of interest is that former Council member and Mayoral candidate Peter Brown showed up as a contributor to each. CM Jones’ report is not up yet, so I can’t say yet if Brown went for the hat trick or not.
  • The only thing interesting on Brad Batteau‘s report, which showed no money raise or spent, is that he declared himself a candidate in At Large #3, not District B. There may come a day when I will quit harping on this, but that day is not here yet.
  • Ellen Cohen continues to be a fundraising machine, raking in over $92K for the period. I didn’t scroll through the whole thing, but at first glance she appeared to have quite a few small dollar donors as well. She also continues to be a one woman economic stimulus package, spending $104K since July 1. She still has nearly $93K on hand for the home stretch.
  • CM Al Hoang raised a surprisingly small $10,950, and has less than $14K on hand. Both of his opponents were deadline day filers, so I don’t expect either of them to have that much, but it wouldn’t be that hard to have outraised him. I’ll let you know when I see their reports.
  • CM Oliver Pennington raised a fairly modest $33K, but thanks to previous fundraising prowess and not spending a huge amount, he has $185K on hand. Other than Mayor Parker, no one is going to come close to that.
  • Finally, we have one report from a non-candidate, Jim Bigham, who was going to run in District J but had to drop out because his voter registration had been purged by the Tax Assessor and could not be restored in time. Let this be a lesson to all of us, kids: As long as it is the philosophy of the Tax Assessor that it is better to purge nine eligible voters in order to ensure one ineligible one is removed, no one should take their registration status for granted. Today at 5 PM was the deadline to be registered for this election. I hope none of my readers will find out that they have suffered a similar fate.

That’s enough for now, as this post is getting long. I will follow up with another review post tomorrow, to cover the later report ones and to report on additional oddities and other things that merit comment. I will also be adding all reports to the 2011 Election pageand you can visit this spreadsheet put together by my pal Erik Vidor to see everyone’s running totals so far.

Endorsement watch: Cohen and Adams

It’s a twofer, and it’s apparent confirmation that the Chron is going alphabetically by district. First, they tap Ellen Cohen for the reconfigured District C.

Among a strong field of candidates for Houston City Council District C – the district that includes Montrose, Meyerland, Braeswood, Oak Forest, Southampton and parts of the Heights – Ellen Cohen’s track record separates her from the rest. We endorse Cohen on the strength of that record.

Most important, given the city’s painful lack of money, is Cohen’s experience handling big, difficult budgets. As president and CEO of the Houston Area Women’s Center for 18 years, she managed a $6.2 million budget and a 120-person staff. And in the Texas Legislature, she served on the Appropriations Committee that, in 2009, crafted a budget bill that won unanimous passage in the House.

[…]

In a strong field, Cohen is an exceptionally strong candidate.

And they recommend a third term for CM Wanda Adams in D.

The significantly reconfigured Houston City Council District D, in the city’s south-central area, has been represented ably these past four years by Councilmember Wanda Adams.

We endorse Adams for a third and final term representing the diverse, rapidly changing district, which includes the Texas Medical Center and extends southward to Beltway 8. Adams, a District D native, has shown unstinting energy during her two terms.

[…]

We like Adams’ qualities as a team player in her work on City Council, as well as her commitment to the District D community, whether as a councilmember, a Sunday school teacher or a volunteer.

Wanda Adams well deserves two more years at City Hall.

The next question is whether they will bother to endorse in the uncontested races, of which the first example is District E. At the rate they’re going, they should easily finish by the start of Early Voting on October 24. Kudos to them for that.

UPDATE: Forgot to mention, my interview with CM Adams is here, and my interview with Cohen is here.

Interview with Brian Cweren

Brian Cweren

We wrap up our tour of District C with the candidate who ran for Council here before it was reconfigured. Brian Cweren was a candidate in C the last time it was open, back in 2005, finishing fifth but only a few points out of the money in a field of seven. Cweren is a graduate of UT Law School and runs his own law firm, and has been appointed to the City of Houston Ethics Committee and the City of Houston Police Department Citizen Review Committee, where he served as its Chair. Here’s our conversation:

Download the MP3 file

You can find a list of all interviews for this cycle, plus other related information, on my 2011 Elections page.

Interview with Joshua Verde

Joshua Verde

Joshua Verde is the newcomer to politics in the District C field. A former pilot with Continental’s ExpressJet, Verde has worked for the Houston Airport System and is now a student at the South Texas College of Law. He lives in Montrose. This was our conversation:

Download the MP3 file

You can find a list of all interviews for this cycle, plus other related information, on my 2011 Elections page.

Interview with Karen Derr

Karen Derr

Karen Derr wound up in District C after redistricting by living in the western portion of the Heights. She ran for At Large #1 in 2009, losing in the runoff to CM Stephen Costello. She is the founder of Karen Derr and Associates Realty and serves on the board of numerous associations in Houston. Here’s what we talked about:

Download the MP3 file

You can find a list of all interviews for this cycle, plus other related information, on my 2011 Elections page.

Interview with Ellen Cohen

Ellen Cohen

We move now into District C, where a newly-drawn inner Loop district has drawn a fair amount of interest. First up is former two-term State Rep. Ellen Cohen, who represented a fair piece of this district while serving in HD134. Cohen’s candidacy drew some national attention early on, but really, this is just another open seat Council race, with the usual assortment of candidates vying to define themselves. Cohen has the advantages of name recognition and strong fundraising, but she has the same task as all of the District C hopefuls, to introduce herself and let them know what she’s about. With that in mind, here’s her interview:

Download the MP3 file

You can find a list of all interviews for this cycle, plus other related information, on my 2011 Elections page.

Council officially approves new redistricting map

Let the filings begin!

The Houston City Council approved a new political map for the city on Wednesday that expands the council by two seats and gives Houston’s burgeoning Latino population what community leaders see as its best opportunity to capture a third seat in November elections.

[…]

The City Council’s approval of the new District J, which takes in Gulfton, Sharpstown and other southwest Houston communities, creates a political subdivision where 63 percent of the residents are Hispanics, though only 17 percent of the registered voters have Hispanic surnames.

“It doesn’t mean there will one immediately elected, but this is an opportunity for the Latino community to have a good candidate in this district,” said Councilman Al Hoang.

Councilman James Rodriguez said a “wanted” email has circulated among Hispanic leaders seeking the right person for the District J job.

Now that we have actual lines, and no immediate threat that they may be undone by a lawsuit, we will probably see a bunch of candidates pop up for the new and redrawn districts. Along those lines, Ellen Cohen has confirmed she’s running in District C; her press release is beneath the fold. I’m not yet aware of any candidates for Districts J or K yet; Noel Freeman’s roundup of treasurer filings lists a couple of rumored-to-be-candidates, but nothing solid yet. That will change soon enough. A statement from CM James Rodriguez is also beneath the fold. Greg has more.

UPDATE: Stace has more.

(more…)

Mayor presents revised Council map

Here’s the release. There was a press conference today at 10 to roll it out.

Mayor Annise Parker today revealed a second version of the staff redistricting map that incorporates recommendations from members of various Houston communities. The new plan includes four districts in which the total population and voting age population is majority Hispanic; two are majority African American and another is nearing majority African American; one district contains a large and significant Asian population; and three districts have Anglo majorities.

“This new map reflects Houston’s ethnic diversity,” said Mayor Parker. “I am amazed at the level of public participation in this process. It was truly a community effort. I am proud to have presided over a process that was entirely transparent and accessible. I especially thank the members of the Redistricting Oversight Committee, as well as community members as a whole, for their time and input.”

One of the most notable differences between the consensus map and the original is that the consensus map preserves the Hispanic majorities in Districts H and I, respects neighborhood concerns and increases the ability of Hispanics to elect council members in two other districts.

“We are very pleased the mayor and city staff sat with members of Houston’s Hispanic community to find a way to address our representation concerns,” said Laura Murillo, President and CEO, Houston Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. “We support this consensus map, and hope that City Council approves the changes.”

More than 1000 Houstonians attended the City’s 10 town hall meetings – one in every council district – intended to solicit public input before creating the original staff plan. Citizens voiced concerns about neighborhoods, the Voting Rights Act and the ability to elect a council that reflects the diversity of Houston. After the proposal was submitted to Council more than 100 community members came and spoke at the three public hearings.

“The Asian American community of Houston came together to ensure our voice was heard at every opportunity,” said Rogene Calvert, Director, Texas Asian American Redistricting Initiative. “We appreciate the Mayor’s outreach to all communities to produce the best map possible. Redistricting can’t meet everyone’s needs but today we join other Houston minority communities to support this redistricting plan.”

For the first time, Houstonians had access to a computer kiosk loaded with redistricting software and 2010 Census information. Numerous ordinary citizens took the time to draw their own maps and 13 plans were officially submitted for consideration and analysis. Nine met the minimum requirements.

“It is important for Houstonians to know the intricacies of this process, and how hard this committee worked to ensure everyone had the opportunity for equal representation,” said Anthony Hall, Chair, Mayor’s Redistricting Oversight Committee.

The Mayor’s Redistricting Oversight Committee was formed at the beginning of the process to assist and advise the demographer, Jerry Wood, and the mayor. Members include: Anthony Hall (Chair), Roman Martinez, Dr. Adolfo Santos, Zinetta Burney, Sue Schechter, Penny Butler, Gordon Quan, Mace Meeks and Pat Sanchez.

And here’s the map, which is an update to the Robert Jara plan that had been presented to Council last month. You can see the original version of that at Greg’s place. As noted by Marc Campos, CM James Rodriguez has endorsed this plan as well. Ellen Cohen is back where she started in District C, and I remain as always in District H. I don’t know if this means that the 16 single-member district plan is buried or not, but I do expect this plan to be approved, if not tomorrow then next week. Greg has more.

UPDATE: Now Greg has some preliminary data.

Don’t claim endorsements you don’t have

Seems like that lesson needs to be re-learned every cycle. We already have two examples of it this cycle. Here’s example one:

City Council candidate Eric Dick apologized for advertising an upcoming fund-raiser by sending out a mailer featuring a photo of Sheriff Adrian Garcia standing with Dick in front of City Hall.

“I didn’t mean that to suggest that he’s endorsing or that he’d be at the fundraiser,” Dick said. “I’m sorry if he didn’t want it in there.”

He didn’t.

And here’s example two, from Bill White’s Facebook page:

Houston City Council District C candidate Brian Cweren placed my photo in a local weekly, beside the words “I’m backing Brian.” Well, no. I never talked to him about the race, but I have talked about city issues with another candidate, my friend Ellen Cohen, a public servant with integrity. There will be “big shoes to fill” in that district when Ann Clutterbuck leaves. Mr. Cweren also had run against her.

Houston Politics noted it a few days later. I take both candidates at their word when they say they didn’t mean to imply anything, and I’m sure that this will be forgotten long before November. But please, all of you people who aren’t candidates for something yet, take note. This isn’t that hard to figure out.

Cohen looking at City Council

Former State Rep. Ellen Cohen is exploring a run for City Council in the updated District C.

“It has a real appeal to me,” added Cohen.

Potential candidates do not have to register until August at the earliest, though Cohen may act long before.

“I’ll know where I’m heading on this soon,” she said.

Cohen, 70, was head of the Houston Area Women’s Center for 18 years prior to her four-year stint in the Legislature.

“I can’t possibly see me not being as involved as I feel I can be,” said Cohen. “What I enjoy most about serving is constituent service. At the state level that means, if I’m involved in passing a bill, you might bump into someone who benefited from that bill, and you really feel good about it. If you take that to the local level, then you’re involved in things that someone mentions to you directly, and I love that.

“There’s that expression that when one door closes, another opens. I’m really excited about what I was able to do in the Legislature, and it’s exciting to think about bringing that home.”

Cohen, who has lived in Houston since 1977, has taken a preliminary, world-view of common issues facing the city.

“We’ll have to see what the next 11 months bring, but obviously the budget issues are critical,” said Cohen. “As with anything, whether you live in the city of Houston or the three cities I’ve been involved with (Bellaire, West University Place and Southside Place) people still want a strong infrastructure.

“You want strong police and security, and people still go to parks and breathe the air, and want a good environment.”

I spoke with her about this a few weeks ago, when she was first beginning to think about it. Clearly, she’s getting a good response to the trial balloon.

The story doesn’t say what Council office she might seek, but the logical choice would be the next version of District C. If so, the first obstacle for her would be redistricting. As I said before, what is now District C could get radically altered since there is no incumbent seeking re-election in it. If she’s unlucky, Cohen may not get drawn into the district she’d want to represent – as Greg notes, it’s conceivable she could get put into the same district as Oliver Pennington – and it’s already too late to move into it after the fact. We just won’t know for a few more months. I’m a fan of Cohen’s so I hope this all works out for her. We’ll see how it goes.

UPDATE: That didn’t take long.

[Cohen] filed Thursday for the District C seat up for grabs in November.

I wish her the best of luck.

UPDATE: For clarity, my understanding is that she has filed a designation of treasurer, which is the required first step. You cannot begin fundraising until February 1, and the official filing deadline is in August, with the filing period beginning (I believe) 60 days before that. In other words, it’s possible Cohen may wind up not running for anything. Nothing is final until August.

Interview with Progressive Coalition candidates

(l-r) Donald Cook, Deb Shafto, Alfred Molison

(l-r) Donald Cook, Deb Shafto, Alfred Molison

I know I said I was finished with Council candidate interviews, but I wound up with one more, and will have two more HISD Trustee interviews to run next week as well. Today’s interview is a bit of a departure, in that it is with three candidates at once. They are Donald Cook, Deborah Shafto, and Alfred Molison, and they are running as the Progressive Coalition for Houston City Council. Cook is a candidate for At Large #1, Shafto for At Large #4, and Molison is running as a write-in candidate in District C. Their platform and priorities are a little different than the other candidates I’ve spoken to, so it was a very interesting change of pace. Give them a listen and see what you think.

Download the MP3 file.

PREVIOUSLY:

Karen Derr, At Large #1
Brad Bradford, At Large #4
Stephen Costello, At Large #1
Lane Lewis, District A
Lonnie Allsbrooks, At Large #1
Noel Freeman, At Large #4
Brenda Stardig, District A
Oliver Pennington, District G
Amy Peck, District A
Herman Litt, At Large #1
Natasha Kamrani, HISD Trustee in District I, not running for re-election
Alex Wathen, District A
Robert Kane, District F
Council Member Melissa Noriega, At Large #3
Jeff Downing, District A
Mike Laster, District F
Council Member Jolanda Jones, At Large #5
Mills Worsham, District G
Rick Rodriguez, At Large #1
Council Member Sue Lovell, At Large #2
Carlos Obando, At Large #5
Richard Sedita, District G
Jack Christie, At Large #5
Dexter Handy, District G
George Foulard, District G
Alma Lara, HISD Trustee District I
Anna Eastman, HISD Trustee District I
Linda Toyota, HISD Trustee District I
Council Member Ed Gonzalez, District H
Council Member Wanda Adams, District D
Council Member Anne Clutterbuck, District C

Interview with Council Member Anne Clutterbuck

Anne Clutterbuck

Anne Clutterbuck

Today’s interview subject is Council Member Anne Clutterbuck, who is serving her second term in District C. There’s been a lot of action in her district of late – the Ashby highrise, the rebuild of Kirby Drive, the Universities rail line – so we had quite a bit to talk about. Clutterbuck has one opponent on the ballot, and another who will run as a write-in.

Download the MP3 file.

PREVIOUSLY:

Karen Derr, At Large #1
Brad Bradford, At Large #4
Stephen Costello, At Large #1
Lane Lewis, District A
Lonnie Allsbrooks, At Large #1
Noel Freeman, At Large #4
Brenda Stardig, District A
Oliver Pennington, District G
Amy Peck, District A
Herman Litt, At Large #1
Natasha Kamrani, HISD Trustee in District I, not running for re-election
Alex Wathen, District A
Robert Kane, District F
Council Member Melissa Noriega, At Large #3
Jeff Downing, District A
Mike Laster, District F
Council Member Jolanda Jones, At Large #5
Mills Worsham, District G
Rick Rodriguez, At Large #1
Council Member Sue Lovell, At Large #2
Carlos Obando, At Large #5
Richard Sedita, District G
Jack Christie, At Large #5
Dexter Handy, District G
George Foulard, District G
Alma Lara, HISD Trustee District I
Anna Eastman, HISD Trustee District I
Linda Toyota, HISD Trustee District I
Council Member Ed Gonzalez, District H
Council Member Wanda Adams, District D

Interview with Herman Litt

Herman LittMy next interview subject is Herman Litt, who is running for At Large #1. Litt is a rehabilitation counselor and hospital administrator who was elected to the HCC Board of Trustees in 1999 and served for awhile as its Chair. He ran for the District C seat in 2005 and finished fourth in the field of seven, but less than four points behind eventual winner and first-place finisher Anne Clutterbuck. Litt is a resident of Meyerland.

Download the MP3 file.

PREVIOUSLY:

Karen Derr, At Large #1
Brad Bradford, At Large #4
Stephen Costello, At Large #1
Lane Lewis, District A
Lonnie Allsbrooks, At Large #1
Noel Freeman, At Large #4
Brenda Stardig, District A
Oliver Pennington, District G
Amy Peck, District A

City campaign finance reports followup

A few things to add to last night’s post.

– Ronald Green’s numbers for City Controller are now in – my spreadsheet has been updated to reflect that. He took in $48,515 and has $32,700 on hand. Which is to say, about 10% of what each of his opponents has. You can do the math from there.

– Here’s the Chron story about the fundraising totals, which is all about the Mayor’s race. I agree with Professor Murray that the city’s Republican voters are largely up for grabs. I think even with his non-existent fundraising, Roy Morales will get his share of them – he’s basically the “none of the above” choice for these voters. I also agree with Greg that a lot of these folks may simply not turn out, though with interesting races in Districts A and G, plus a challenge to incumbent Mike Sullivan in E, I don’t think their turnout will be too dampened. It’ll be interesting to see if the Mayor’s race gets fewer votes than the Council races in those districts, however. And who knows what the effect of runoffs in A and G might have on the eventual Mayoral runoff. That may be an even bigger factor down the line.

– I’ve added in all Council incumbents to the spreadsheet, which I didn’t have time to do last night. No real surprises among the reports that were present. Anne Clutterbuck has the most cash on hand so far, while Ed Gonzalez, who was only elected a month ago, has the least. He did report over $50K raised, which I presume is since his previous report on June 5, and I am unaware of anyone currently planning to run against him, so he’s in good shape.

– Clutterbuck, who has Green Party candidate Alfred Molison (no report yet) running against her, and Sullivan are the only district Council incumbents to have opponents so far. Sullivan raised $75,550 and has $83,900 in the bank. His opponent, Phillip Garrison, raised $24,190 and has $21,085 on hand. That would make him a contender in some other races, but he trails the money race by a decent margin here.

– The At Large races are still up in the air. I’m a bit surprised at how little has been raised in At Large #4. Like Greg, I think there may be an opening in that race. I’ve said before that it was awfully late for someone to jump into a race by now, but as neither candidate has piled up a lot of cash, a late entrant would not start out as far behind. A potentially more likely scenario is for one of the #1 candidates to switch over. Neither Karen Derr nor Herman Litt, who clearly has some high profile supporters behind him, have reported yet. Given Steve Costello’s impressive haul, it would not be ridiculous for one of them to think this race has gotten a little crowded, and to contemplate other options.

– Likewise, I’m surprised at the relative lack of cash in District A. I have to assume that will pick up in the next few months. I’ll reserve judgment on F and G until I see some more reports.

– Finally, I think I’ve identified all the candidates in my spreadsheet, though of course we won’t know for sure till the filing deadline. I actually found another candidate in A while searching through the reports, a fellow named Darrell Rodriguez. If I’m missing anyone you know of, please leave a comment and tell me who it is. Thanks!

UPDATE: I’ve made a correction to the earlier post to note tha MJ Khan’s cash on hand is $353K, not $312K.

Turner not running for Mayor

The Mayoral field for this November should now be set.

State Rep. Sylvester Turner announced today he would not attempt a run for mayor of Houston.

The 11-term Democrat representative’s announcement comes a little more than three weeks after he publicly acknowledged he was weighing a third run for mayor. Turner said he was considering a campaign after being asked by community supporters to get in the race.

“Although I believe the race is eminently winnable, a late entry into the campaign would have required that I drop every other project in which I am involved, community endeavors such as the Houston Astros Urban Youth Baseball Academy in Acres Homes and continuing my work in the Texas Legislature, to which I am deeply committed and thoroughly enjoy,” Turner said in a statement issued this morning.

Had he opted to run, Turner would have joined an already crowded field. Announced candidates include former city attorney Gene Locke, Councilman Peter Brown, City Controller Annise Parker, Harris County Department of Education Trustee Roy Morales and businessman T.J. Huntley. The filing deadline is in late September.

Earlier this month, Turner said he promised potential supporters he would consider a run after the legislative session concluded earlier this month.

I’ve got Turner’s full statement beneath the fold. I’d heard a couple of weeks ago that he was making calls to potential campaign contributors, as nobody serious gets into a race like this without some assurance that the resources needed to run a campaign will be there. Maybe he wasn’t getting the response he thought he’d need, or maybe he really just didn’t think he could commit to the race. I was somewhat skeptical that he’d jump in, so I can’t say that this surprises me. Greg has more, including some possible candidates in other races:

African Americans Rozy Shorter and Andrew Burks are considering contesting Sue Lovell for at large 2.

Green Party gay activist Alfred Molison has filed his treasurer designation to oppose District C City Council Member Anne Clutterbuck.

African American former assistant Texas Attorney General Lewis Cook has designated his treasurer to run for the District F seat MJ Khan is leaving and Richard Sedita has designated his treasurer for District G, the seat Pam Holm is leaving.

Shorter has been out there for awhile. Burks is a perennial candidate; his last race was for HCDE Trustee against Roy Morales in 2006. Molison ran twice in 2007, once in the May special election for At Large #3, where he finished tenth, and again in November where he was one of two candidates who ran against Clutterbuck, getting a shade under 6% of the vote. Cook has been in the race for awhile, but I don’t know much about him. Sedita makes five in District G, joining Mills Worsham, Oliver Pennington, Dexter Handy, and George Foulard.

(more…)

Litt announces for At Large #1

Former HCC Trustee Herman Litt has been a potential candidate for City Council this year for some time. Last night, in an email to Carl Whitmarsh’s list, he made his official announcement:

I am announcing my decision to run for City Council At-Large Position 1 and hope that you will help let everyone know of my plans.

I am a native Houstonian with a masters degree in psychology and rehabilitation counseling. My career has included developing and managing programs for the physically disabled, drug and alcohol abuse, and mental health experiences in business development and hospital based administration. I directed the efforts of business and industry and other area agencies in the Job Fair for the Handicapped.

Elected to the Houston Community College Board in 1999, I was fortunate to serve for six years and was elected Chairman of the Board in 2004. Achievements included economic and community development projects, the first Early College/High School collaboration with the Houston Independent School District, adopting LEED’s standards for new building projects, and reaching out to underserved communities to increase enrollment, and calling for a performance audit by the State Comptroller that identified about $31 million in projected saving for tax payers over a five year period.

More recently I have served several years as a board member & president of Southwest Houston 2000, a coalition of civic groups and community organizations working and dedicated to improving the quality of life through economic development, crime prevention, and safety and security in the Fondren Southwest area of Houston.

For the past two years I have chaired the annual Johnson-Rayburn-Richards Dinner, helping raise funds for the Democratic Party and helping elect our Democratic office holders in the county elections. Last year’s Dinner was the most successful ever, having the highest attendance in history (1,110).

I believe there are some key issues which are very important to the city of Houston and will be an integral part of my campaign. Crime Prevention and safe neighborhoods are a must if we are to progress as a city and ensure that our residents are safe.

Economic development & jobs is another issue which has become even more significant as we face our current economic crisis. We must encourage increased development in the city which will lead to more badly needed revenue for the city budget and increase job opportunities for our residents.

I am a proponent of a regional approach to government, where the city, county and other government entities come together to collaborate on funding solutions to problems such as crime, mobility, economic development, etc. I have always been committed to other quality of life issues such as clean air and beautification of our city.

Houston is one of the great cities of America. I want to serve on City Council to help find ways to make it even better, a place where all of its residents will be able to take part in the vast array of opportunities that exist here.

Litt joins Karen Derr and Steve Costello in seeking this seat. He last ran for District C in 2005, finishing just out of the money. Litt’s email included a fair number of people who will be supporting him, so I think he’ll be a strong contender for this seat.

Precinct analysis: The City Council districts

I’d been wondering for a long time how the 2008 vote broke down by City Council districts, as well as for the city of Houston versus non-Houston Harris County. I finally did something about it awhile ago and made a call to Hector de Leon at the Harris County Clerk’s office to ask him if precinct data was available from the 2007 election that could help me answer these questions. He very kindly provided me with a spreadsheet that gave all the 2007 results by precinct, and I was off to the races. Here’s what I found out.

There’s one key point that needs to be understood before I get into this: Precinct boundaries do not conform to City of Houston boundaries. In other words, a given precinct may have voters who live inside the City of Houston, and voters who do not. The effect of this on my analysis, since my data is only granular to the precinct level, is that about half again as many votes were counted as “City of Houston” than they were as “Harris County”. That’s because if a precinct had votes in it for the 2007 election in a city race, it was counted in its entirity towards the City of Houston total in 2008. Had this not been the case, I would have expected a roughly equal amount of votes inside and out of Houston in Harris County. I just don’t have any way to make a distinction within a precinct, so we have to live with that.

That raises the interesting question of whether or not this skews the numbers I generated, and if so by how much? Precincts are geographically small, so these Houston/not Houston voters in the same precinct are basically neighbors for the most part. What’s the bigger factor in determining their voting behavior: proximity or city limits? There’s probably a master’s thesis in that. In any event, my rough guess is that the results I’ve generated probably underestimate the Democratic-ness of the city of Houston and overstate it for its complement, but not by very much.

I note here I’m still using draft canvass numbers from 2008, which is basically all of the non-provisional votes. I don’t think this makes much difference, either, but I wanted to mention it just to be clear. And so, without further ado…

District Obama Noriega Garcia Judicials ============================================ Houston 58.5 59.3 63.5 58.4 Harris 39.0 40.1 45.3 39.3 A 39.5 40.2 46.3 39.0 B 86.8 87.7 89.4 87.8 C 60.6 59.9 64.5 58.5 D 87.7 87.1 88.7 87.0 E 41.3 43.2 48.1 41.8 F 63.6 65.1 68.7 65.0 G 42.3 40.7 45.6 39.2 H 68.8 72.4 77.6 70.9 I 72.7 79.0 81.6 76.5

The numbers given are percentages of the vote, for Barack Obama, Rick Noriega, Adrian Garcia, and the county Democratic judicial candidates. A few thoughts:

– I had previously thought that District A would be amenable to electing a Democrat this year to replace the term-limited Toni Lawrence. That doesn’t appear to be the case here. I was surprised to see that A was the most GOP of the districts – I’d have guessed it would have been E or G. It may be that the precincts that encompass District A also happen to include some strongly Republican non-Houston turf, more so than E or G, I can’t say. But it does put a bit of a damper on my hopes for Jeff Downing and Lane Lewis.

– I expected Districts C and F to skew Democratic, but I was surprised by how much they did. Given that C’s precincts likely include some pieces of West U and Bellaire, that’s even more impressive. Democrats – and as that stands right now, that means Mike Laster – ought to win F this year, and I’d give good odds on winning C in 2011 when Anne Clutterbuck terms out.

– In the meantime, despite their inability to compete citywide, Republicans have overperformed a bit in winning district Council races, as they have five seats but are only a majority in three. As noted, I think that’s a temporary situation, and given Adrian Garcia’s showing in those three red districts, they shouldn’t be taken for granted by anyone, either.

– Of course, the electorate for a historic Presidential race and the electorate for city races, even one with a wide-open Mayoral campaign, are two very different things. All things considered, that probably gives a more Republican tilt overall, one which is more pronounced in the years that don’t have a Mayoral melee at the top of the ticket. How big an effect that is, and how much it’s being counteracted by demographic trends, I couldn’t say.

– Finally, I thought I’d add one more table, showing how many votes were cast in each Council district in the Presidential race, again bearing in mind all the caveats from above:

District Votes ================== A 118,019 B 72,743 C 73,627 D 81,009 E 113,438 F 43,704 G 99,061 H 47,409 I 35,492

Even if you assume some districts are more bolstered by precincts with non-Houston voters than others, there are still some pretty huge differences there. Let’s just say I foresee large challenges for those who are tasked with redrawing City Council districts, whenever that may be.