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District G

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.

Turner’s Council

So what kind of City Council will Mayor-elect Sylvester Turner have to work with?

Sylvester Turner

Sylvester Turner

In addition to Turner replacing term-limited Mayor Annise Parker, the council also will gain five new faces, four thanks to term limits and one who defeated an incumbent. Political analysts, however, sensed little ideological shift among the 16-member body.

How city government will function or fail to do so, observers say, thus circles back to Turner. With a looming $126 million budget deficit to close by June, the 26-year Texas House veteran will be tested quickly.

“Having a career legislator lead the council is likely to have a significant change in how the city operates,” said Mustafa Tameez, a Houston political consultant. “He’s likely to lean on his experience and run the council as a legislative chamber versus, in the past, other mayors saw it as an executive office and the council may have been a nuisance.”

[…]

If the political tilt of the council shifted with Saturday’s results, analysts said, it may have been slightly to the right. Conservative former policeman Mike Knox will replace moderate Steve Costello in the At-Large 1 seat; physician Steve Le, who opposed the city’s nondiscrimination ordinance, ousted District F incumbent Richard Nguyen, who voted for it. As a counterbalance, the analysts said, municipal finance lawyer Amanda Edwards’ replacement of C.O. Bradford in the At-Large 4 race is a shift to the left.

In conservative District G, where lawyer Greg Travis replaces Oliver Pennington, and in progressive-leaning District H, where educator Karla Cisneros replaces Ed Gonzalez, observers saw little ideological change.

Observers guessed the general split to be roughly 10 to 11 progressive votes and six to seven conservative ones, depending on the issue, though council members are known to invoke the adage that there is no Republican or Democratic way to fill a pothole.

The new council will have four years to work out the kinks, thanks to voters, who approved a move from a maximum of three two-year terms of office to two four-year terms on Nov. 3.

That change, coupled with the loss of rules banning campaign fundraising during certain months – known as a blackout period – will bring the biggest changes to City Hall, Tameez said.

Let me start by saying I completely agree with Tameez here. I believe the change to four-year terms is going to have a big effect on how our municipal government operates and how our elections are conducted. I have no idea what those changes will look like, and neither does anyone else. It’s just going to be different, and we won’t begin to understand how until four years from now.

As for the makeup of Council, again I basically agree with what’s being said here. Mike Knox is to the right of Steve Costello, but I’d argue Amanda Edwards is to the left of C.O. Bradford. Losing Richard Nguyen hurts, but District F has always operated as a Republican-friendly district. Nguyen only declared himself to be a Democrat in 2014 – he was a political enigma when he was elected. It’s a loss, but we were playing with house money.

And to a large extent, none of that matters very much anyway. The Mayor still sets the agenda, and as long as the Mayor can get nine votes for whatever is on that agenda, it gets enacted. It will be interesting to see if Turner, a master of dealmaking and getting things done in a hostile environment, adopts a collaborative Lege-like approach to Mayoring (*), as that would be a great departure from every other Mayor in my memory, or if he exercises the power of the office like all his predecessors have done. Usually there’s at least one Council member who acts as a foil to the Mayor; of the holdover Members, Michael Kubosh and Dave Martin were the main antagonists to Mayor Parker. Will one or both of them maintain that role with Mayor Turner, or will someone else pick up the baton? The next budget gets adopted in June, so we ought to have some idea soon enough. Feel free to speculate on these topics in the comments.

(*) If “Presidenting” can be a word, then so can “Mayoring”.

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.

Omnibus election results post

I’m going to take the easy way out here, because it’s been a long day/week/month and I’m hoping to get some sleep tonight, and just hit the highlights. There will be plenty of time for deeper analysis later, and of course we are now officially in runoff season. There’s absolutely no rest for the political junkie.

– Obviously, the HERO result is deeply disappointing. I’ll leave the Monday morning quarterbacking to others, but I will say this: Whatever you think about this issue, get ready for Jared Woodfill to be the public face of Houston for a few days. There’s no way this is good for anyone.

– It’s Sylvester versus King in the Mayoral runoff. The runoff will basically be the campaign we should have had in November, which will be dominated by the Mayor’s race and not the HERO campaign and the avalanche of lies that accompanied it. Don’t expect the same crowd to show up in December – if I had to guess it would be turnout in the 150K range, as it was in 2009.

– The Controller’s race was reasonably according to form, with Bill Frazer and Chris Brown in the runoff.

– Four out of five At Large races will go to runoffs, with CM Michael Kubosh being the only candidate who can take November off. I suggested there might be some goofy results in these races, and we have them, in ALs 1 and 5, where candidates who didn’t do much if any campaigning are in the runoffs. The single best result of the night is Amanda Edwards’ big lead. She will face Roy Morales, who sneaked past Laurie Robinson into second place, in December.

– And the single worst result from last night, even worse than the HERO result, is Juliet Stipeche losing her race to Diana Davila. A terrible blow for the HISD Board. Jolanda Jones won easily, Rhonda Skillern-Jones leads but is in a runoff, and Manuel Rodriguez also leads but is in a runoff, with Jose Leal and nor Ramiro Fonseca. What a weird night. On the plus side, both Adriana Tamez and Eva Loredo won re-election to the HCC board easily.

– Mike Laster and Richard Nguyen are both in runoffs, in J and F. I feel pretty good about Laster’s chances, less so about Nguyen’s. Greg Travis is a close winner in G, and Karla Cisneros leads in H, Jason Cisneroz holding off Roland Chavez for second place; the difference between the two was in double digits most of the night. If there’s one race on the ballot where someone calls for a recount, it’ll be this one.

– I guess if you really wanted to change Houston’s term limits law, this was the election to do it. There was absolutely no campaign either way, and for all the shouting about “ballot language” in the HERO and Renew Houston elections, I’ll bet a large chunk of the people who voted for Prop 2 had no idea what they were voting for.

– All the county bond issues passed, as did all the state props, and Montgomery County finally got a road bond to pass. Hope it’s all you want it to be, MontCo.

I will have more to say later. For now, this is all the energy I have. I’m going to be looking for national reaction stories to the HERO referendum. I strongly suspect it will be ugly, and I expect the likes of Dan Patrick and Jared Woodfill to keep lying about it in the face of such blowback. But we’ll see. Thanks for reading, and I’ll post precinct analyses as soon as I can get my hands on the canvass. On to the runoffs!

Chron race overview: District G

Only two open district Council seats this cycle, and the open District G race has only two candidates.

Sandie Mullins Moger

Sandie Mullins Moger

Sandie Mullins Moger and Greg Travis, candidates for Houston City Council District G, have similar objectives in their bids to represent the district, saying they want to improve the city’s infrastructure, reduce spending and increase public safety.

Their differences lie in how each would go about decreasing the city’s debt if they were elected in the Nov. 3 election.

“We need to sit down and look at that budget and maybe purge the budget a little bit and say, ‘Hey, let’s not automatically reach out to the taxpayers,'” Moger said. “Let’s work with the money we’ve got and have a plan and a process to fix our infrastructure system.”

Travis has a more specific plan, proposing privatizing trash pickup, and perhaps the mowing of public grass, if it could save the city money.

Greg Travis

Greg Travis

“Certain areas you’re not going to privatize – the fire department, police, water and sewers – nor should you,” Travis said. “But we have seven guys doing a sidewalk that’s only about 6 feet long. If you’re a private company, you wouldn’t have seven guys spend three days on a 6-foot sidewalk.”

[…]

Both candidates identify as conservatives. Moger, 50, is a Houston Community College trustee; Travis, 52, is a lawyer who sought a council seat in 1999, missing a runoff by fewer than 100 votes.

Both candidates oppose the city’s embattled equal rights ordinance (known as HERO), saying it is bad for business.

My interview with Moger is here and with Travis is here. He has the Chron endorsement, she has the Hotze endorsement. They’re both competent and qualified, and I enjoyed meeting and talking with them, but stories like this remind me why I’m so glad to live in a part of town where nearly all of my district elected officials do a good job of representing my interests. I’m lucky to be someplace where my choices are not always between candidates I don’t agree with and maybe a few candidates that have no chance of winning. It’s a small consolation, since there are many things that could be improved in our processes for drawing the various district boundaries, and Lord knows my team is on the short end of the stick. But there it is.

Endorsement watch: A close choice

The Chron endorses Greg Travis in a close call in District G.

Greg Travis

Greg Travis

Attorney Greg Travis, 52, is going head-to-head against media consultant and current Houston Community College Trustee Sandie Mullins Moger, 50. Each candidate brought an excellent resume and knowledge of government to our editorial board screening. We give the nod to Travis in a race that almost is too close to call.

It was an encounter that thousands of us regularly face that served as Travis’ call to action. He hit a pothole that blew out a tire and paid more than $700 for repairs. Days later, in another auto shop, he overheard a woman who was spending hundreds of dollars because of a similar experience. “I watched her face when she handed over her credit card … she was reprioritizing. I got angry and said, I’ve got time and money. I’m going to run for City Council to stop this.”

This is not Travis’ first venture into partisan politics. The University of Texas Law School graduate missed a runoff by fewer than 100 votes in a 1999 run for Houston City Council.

Travis understands that in a strong-mayor system, “one city councilman can’t solve all of the problems.” But he promises to work tirelessly to identify budget excesses. “We don’t have a revenue problem, we have a spending problem,” he said, as one of the few candidates to sound an alarm bell about the slumping energy market.

[…]

Both candidates oppose the Houston equal right ordinance but Travis does so on procedural grounds. Moger, however, bases her opposition on unfounded fear-mongering that lowers the standard of debate.

As for those nagging potholes, Travis says the solution will come with better management of Rebuild Houston, a task he promises to embrace.

Moger bills herself as a “motorcycle-riding, gun-shooting girl.” That may have worked for Ann Richards, but the attraction has faded.

Travis tells that pothole story – it’s a good one, and a good reason to want to run for office – in the interview I did with him. I made Travis to be a 55-45 favorite over Sandie Moger for the endorsement, so it’s another win for me, but I called it for the wrong reason. It wasn’t Moger’s involvement with the HCC Board that the Chron didn’t like, it was one part swagger and one part tone about HERO. They work in mysterious ways over there, that’s all I can say.

Interview with Greg Travis

Greg Travis

Greg Travis

We come now to our second and final interview in District G. There are only two candidates for this open seat, which is a lot fewer than you might normally expect. It’s quality that matters more than quantity, of course, and both contenders here are well qualified. Today’s interview subject is Greg Travis. Travis is a former officer in the Air Force who is now an attorney managing his own firm. He has taught Business Law at Houston Community College, and has served on the board of directors of Justice for All. Here’s what we talked about:

You can see all of my interviews as well as finance reports and other information on candidates on my 2015 Election page.

Interview with Sandie Mullins Moger

Sandie Mullins Moger

Sandie Mullins Moger

We move on now to the other open district seat, which is District G, currently held by CM Oliver Pennington. G is a Republican district stretching out to the west, just south of I-10, encompassing the Energy Corridor, the Galleria, and Memorial Park inside the Loop. There are two candidates running, and I have interviews with both of them. First up is Sandie Mullins Moger, who is completing a term of office as HCC Trustee. Moger a longtime neighborhood and community activist, having served as President for Super Neighborhood 17 and the Houston West Chamber of Commerce, among others. She is now a member of the executive team of MogerMedia Advertising Agency, which produces HomeShow Radio with Tom Tynan. Here’s the interview:

You can see all of my interviews as well as finance reports and other information on candidates on my 2015 Election page.

Finance reports come trickling in

As always, the Mayoral reports lead the story.

BagOfMoney

Former Harris County Sheriff Adrian Garcia closed out the first half of the year with more than $1.3 million in the bank, eclipsing City Councilman Stephen Costello by a mere $7,423.

According to their campaign finance reports, Garcia raised $1.5 million and spent just over $122,000, while Costello raised about $30,000 less in contributions, was loaned $90,000 and spent $496,000.

State Rep. Sylvester Turner and former mayor of Kemah Bill King trailed in cash on hand, reporting $1.1 million and $544,000, respectively.

[…]

Costello’s campaign previously said his funds include a $250,000 personal contribution and a $262,000 transfer from his council account.

Among those with reports already in, King spent the most in the first half of the year, coughing up more than $680,000. He raised more than $755,000 and lent himself an additional $500,000.

Turner’s expenditures came in just under King’s, at $601,000, according to his report. However, his campaign noted that $125,000 of those expenditures were related to his state office, not his mayoral campaign.

After starting the race with about $900,000 in the bank from his legislative account, Turner raised an additional $763,000 in the nine days between when his state fundraising blackout period ended and the close of the reporting period.

See here for more. As previously noted, the reports are not in their usual place due to changes in state law and the reporting system. For now, you can see the reports that the city has posted here. I’ve linked to them on my Election 2015 page and will keep updating that as more of them appear. I’ll do a more in depth look at the reports once they’re all there, starting with the Mayorals, which were added to that page as of last night. Expect that for next week.

The Chron story has a spreadsheet embedded in it with totals for candidates who had turned in reports by publication time. Among the other Mayorals, Chris Bell had raised $381K and had $190K on hand; Ben Hall raised $94K and loaned himself $850K to have $812K on hand; and Mary McVey had raised $60K and loaned himself $1.075M to have $1.071M on hand. Forget the price of oil, this Mayoral campaign will be stimulating the local economy over the next few months.

So far, mayoral fundraising has far overshadowed that for Houston’s second-highest political post, city controller.

Deputy controller Chris Brown reported raising $270,000 and spending $22,000, leaving him with more than $222,000 in cash on hand.

Meanwhile, Bill Frazer, runner-up in the 2013 controller’s race, raised $129,000, received $32,000 in loans, spent $120,000 and closed out the first half of the year with more than $53,000 in the bank.

Former Metro board member Dwight Jefferson lagged behind with $11,000 raised $1,800 loaned and $9,000 spent. It was unclear how much cash he had on hand.

Carroll Robinson had raised $50K and had $5K on hand; Jew Don Boney did not have totals posted. Other hauls of note: Amanda Edwards dominated At Large #4 with $165K raised and $118K on hand. Laurie Robinson was the runnerup with $43K and $26K, respectively. In At Large #1, Tom McCasland ($141K raised, $98K on hand) and Lane Lewis ($104K raised, $62K on hand) were far out in front; Chris Oliver raised $37K and had $23K on hand, while Jenifer Pool had not yet reported. CM Michael Kubosh was the only one with any money in At Large #3, raising $63K and banking $44K. Philippe Nassif had a very respectable $73K raised in At Large #5, but only $12K of it remained, far less than CM Jack Christie’s $100K cash on $124K raised; Durrel Douglas had not yet reported.

For district races, CM Mike Laster had a big haul and an equally big financial lead in J, while CM Richard Nguyen had a decent total in F. His opponent, Steven Le, did not have a report up as of last night. There was surprisingly little money raised in the two-person District G race; Greg Travis led in cash on hand over Sandie Moger thanks to a $41K loan to himself. Roland Chavez had the most raised and the most on hand in H, with Karla Cisneros and Jason Cisneroz a notch back. Abel Davila raised a small amount but loaned himself $20K to be even in cash on hand with the other two.

That’s it for now. For the other races, HISD and HCC reports lag behind the city’s – HISD by a little, HCC by a lot – so I’ll keep an eye on those and update as needed. As always, fundraising is just one aspect of one’s candidacy, and is in no way predictive in many races. We only get a few chances a year to see who’s funding whom, and this is one of them. I’ll have more when I can.

Robinson resigns from HCC Board

Yeah, it’s campaign season.

Carroll Robinson

Carroll Robinson

Carroll Robinson, who has served as a Houston Community College trustee since 2012, will leave the college board to focus on his run for city controller, he announced Friday.

In a letter announcing his resignation, Robinson counted among his accomplishments helping with the creation of a sixth-grade pre-admission program, pushing to increase funding for scholarships and his involvement in establishing the Texas Academic Scholarship Day.

“All these things have helped bring a greater focus to improving the graduation rate and job placement rates for HCC students,” Robinson said. “The policies I implemented at HCC are a part of my broader commitment to ensuring that all Houstonians — our families, children, entrepreneurs and businesses — have An Opportunity To Do Better.”

There’s a full field for Controller, including Bill Frazer, Jew Don Boney, Dwight Jefferson, and Chris Brown, so one can understand the reason behind the resignation. As the story notes, Robinson’s brief tenure on the HCC Board has not been without some controversy. Robinson;s departure means that the Board will appoint a replacement Trustee, who (I believe) will be on the November ballot. That makes four Trustee elections on tap; as noted in January, fellow Trustees Adriana Tamez (who won a special election in 2013 to complete the unfinished term of now-former State Rep. Mary Ann Perez), Eva Loredo, and Sandie Mullins Moger (formerly Meyers), are up for re-election. Moger, however, is now confirmed to be running for City Council District G, so someone else will run for that position. Chris Oliver, who is not up for re-election, is as we know running for Council At Large #1, so there may be another vacancy to fill next year. And finally, as long as I’m mentioning At Large #1, this seems like as good a place as any to note that candidate Tom McCasland, who had announced his intention to run without specifying an office, has now officially declared AL1 to be his target. So there you have it.

Where are the women?

I have several things to say about this.

Mayor Annise Parker

Mayor Annise Parker

The slate running to replace Mayor Annise Parker features a globetrotting sailor, a triathlete grandfather, a millionaire minister and no women.

Despite the most-crowded pack of mayoral contenders in decades, no female candidates are expected to announce bids this spring, a reality that all but guarantees women will have fewer positions of power at City Hall next year than they had during the last six.

“You are sending a message,” said Kathryn McNeil, a longtime fundraiser who helped elect Parker. “My niece is now 16. For the last six years, she’s seen a strong woman running the city. There’s no question in her mind that a woman could be mayor.”

Though more than 10 candidates likely will appear on November’s ballot, few women even seriously considered the race, which some call a reminder of how much more work Houston’s women must do to achieve political equality.

Some say it creates a less compassionate and less personal, even if equally qualified, field of candidates. It also affects the strength of the democratic process, limiting the diversity of the candidates that voters can choose from when they imagine whom they would like as their next mayor.

“Regardless of who actually wins the race, not having a viable woman candidate can be a disservice for everyone,” said Dee Dee Grays, the incoming president of Women Professionals in Government in Houston.

For the record, in the eleven city elections post-Kathy Whitmire (i.e., since 1993), there has been at least one female Mayoral candidate not named Annise Parker in eight of them:

2013 – Charyl Drab, Keryl Douglas, Victoria Lane
2011 – Amanda Ulman
2009 – Amanda Ulman
2007 – Amanda Ulman
2005 – Gladys House
2003 – Veronique Gregory
2001 – None
1999 – None
1997 – Helen Huey, Gracie Saenz
1995 – Elizabeth Spates
1993 – None

Now, most of these were fringe candidacies – only term-limited Council members Helen Huey and Gracie Saenz in 1997 could have been considered viable, and they were both crushed in the wake of the Lee Brown/Rob Mosbacher/George Greanias campaigns. But for what it’s worth, history does suggest there will be at least one female name on the ballot this year.

Research shows that women nationally need to be recruited to run for office much more than men. That especially is true for executive positions, such as governor or mayor.

Amber Mostyn, the former chair of Annie’s List, a statewide organization that recruits and backs Democratic female candidates, said there is a need for local versions of the organization that would encourage qualified women to make bids for mayor.

“You’ll see men throwing their hat in the ring when they’ve never done the job before and say, ‘I’ll figure it out,’ ” said Mostyn, a Houston lawyer and prominent donor. “Women are very reluctant to do that.”

I’m well aware of the research regarding the recruitment of female candidates. It’s definitely an issue, though I wonder if it will turn out to be a generational one. Perhaps today’s girls and younger women won’t need the same kind of encouragement that their elders currently require. Be that as it may, if there was ever a bad year for that dynamic in the Mayor’s race, it’s this year. I mean, nearly the entire field, not to mention Adrian Garcia, has been known to be planning to run for a long time now. With that many candidates already at the starting line, and presumably working to collect commitments and financial support and campaign advisers, it would undoubtedly be that much harder to make a case for someone else to gear up now and thrown her hat in the ring. As I’ve said many times already, there’s only so much room for viable candidates in this race.

Cindy Clifford, a public relations executive and City Hall lobbyist, said the key to electing a female mayor is to first focus on recruiting women for lower-level elected office and to serve on boards and commissions. That requires a commitment by the city’s leaders to tapping individual women and showing them that they have support.

“If we’re not doing it, no one’s going to come and look for us,” Clifford said. “I always think the cream rises once they’re in the process.”

Council members Brenda Stardig and Ellen Cohen could be joined next year by several top-tier female candidates in council elections this fall, but some worry that the political “pipeline” of female candidates is thin, with few who conceivably could have run for mayor this year. One, Laura Murillo, the head of Houston’s Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, did publicly explore a mayoral bid last summer before deciding against it.

I would point out that one of the top tier candidates for Mayor this year is someone whose entire political career has been in the Legislature, and that the three main candidates currently running for Mayor in San Antonio include two former legislators and one former County Commissioner. One doesn’t have to be a city officeholder to be a viable Mayoral candidate, is what I’m saying. Hell, none of the three Mayors before Annise Parker had been elected to anything before running for the top job, let alone running for Council. The size of the “pipeline” is as much a matter of framing as anything else. Note also that several women who were once elected to city offices now hold office elsewhere – I’m thinking specifically of Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, Sen. Sylvia Garcia, Rep. Carol Alvarado, and HISD Trustee Wanda Adams. Pipelines can flow in both directions.

As for the four open Council slots, the seat most likely to be won by a female candidate as things stand right now is At Large #4, where two of the three announced candidates so far are women. Jenifer Pool is running in At Large #1, but if I were forced to make a prediction about it now, I’d say that a Lane Lewis/Chris Oliver runoff is the single most likely outcome. Two of the three candidates that I know of in District H are male – Roland Chavez and Jason Cisneroz – and the third candidate, former HISD Trustee Diana Davila, is ethically challenged. One’s commitment to diversity does not include supporting someone one doesn’t trust. I have no idea at this time who may be running in District G, which is the other term-limited seat. Beyond those races, any additional women will have to get there by knocking off an incumbent.

One last thing: There may not be room for another viable candidate for Mayor, but that isn’t the case for City Controller. There are three known candidates at this time, with two more thinking about it, all men. A Controller campaign would take less time and money, and would therefore likely be fairly ripe for recruitment, especially given that a female candidate in that race would have immediate prominence. As Mayor Parker, and for that matter former Mayor Whitmire, can attest, that office can be a pretty good stepping stone. Just a thought.

UPDATE: It has come to my attention that HCC Trustee Sandie Mullins is planning to run in District G. That not only adds another female candidate for Council, it also indicates that an HCC seat will be open this fall.

Endorsement watch: Pennington

The Chron endorses CM Oliver Pennington for a third term.

CM Oliver Pennington

CM Oliver Pennington

For the past four years, District G has been ably represented by attorney Oliver Pennington. We recommend a vote for Pennington to continue his service at city hall.

Pennington, a retired Fulbright & Jaworski partner and 40-year District G resident, brings decades of invaluable experience in municipal finance, municipal law and environmental law, as well as time spent representing local governments.

These are precisely the skills City Council will require as it faces issues such as city employee pension reform and ongoing issues related to water and drainage infrastructure.

In a third and final term, we would also encourage Pennington to be active in city efforts to manage the traffic congestion brought by the construction of numerous midrise apartment buildings across Inner Loop Houston.

This growth, while welcome, is threatening mobility on inner city thoroughfares, with consequences that extend to school and neighborhood safety as frustrated drivers seek cut-throughs to avoid delays on main routes.

I did not interview CM Pennington this time around, as my schedule was fuller and less accommodating this year. Here’s the interview I did in 2011 with him if you can’t bear the thought of not hearing me speak with him. I think CM Pennington has done a good job, and I’d vote for him if I lived in District G. One thing I appreciate about Pennington, and it’s something I appreciate more each day as we watch the ongoing train wreck in Congress and the already-nauseating Republican statewide primaries here is that he considers it his job to make things work better. He’s not there to tear things down, or obstruct for the sake of obstruction, or otherwise refuse to accept that not everyone sees the world as he does. He’s conservative and he operates as a conservative, but in the service of getting things done and making city government function effectively and efficiently. I wouldn’t want him to be Mayor, but people like him are needed on Council.

Another way to look at it, from my perspective anyway, is this: In any legislative body where people are elected from districts, any district map is going to include places where candidates that would represent my point of view are not going to get elected. The best outcome in those districts, especially in a legislative body where my kind of legislators are in the minority, is for those representatives to be more like Oliver Pennington and less like Ted Cruz. It’s not a matter of conservatism, at least for any definition of “conservatism” that makes sense, but of nihilism and radicalism. That point was driven home the other day as I read this Trib story about Sen. Tommy Williams, whose retirement announcement caught everyone by surprise. Look at who is being mentioned as a possible successor:

Williams was on the conservative end of the spectrum when he came into the Senate, but the spectrum moved with the elections of senators like Brian Birdwell, Kelly Hancock and [Ken] Paxton. He could be replaced by someone whose politics are more like theirs than his. The line is already forming, sort of: Rep. Brandon Creighton, R-Conroe, might give up his bid for agriculture commissioner and run for SD-4 instead; Rep. Steve Toth, R-The Woodlands, is looking; Ben Streusand, a serial Republican candidate who doesn’t hold office, is also considering it.

Tommy Williams is hardly my ideal Senator, but for a guy who represents the district he does, we could do worse. And if the likes of Steve Toth or Ben Streusand get elected, we’ll see just how much worse. Toth has already demonstrated that after his ouster of Rob Eissler. As I said after Sen. Donna Campbell defeated Jeff Wentworth, it’s not about the Senate getting more conservative, it’s about the Senate getting more stupid, and more mean. We’ve seen the effect in Congress. We’re seeing it in the Lege. I for one do not want to see it on City Council.

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.

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: René and Pennington

Today we learned that the Chron is apparently not endorsing in uncontested elections, as they skipped over CM Mike Sullivan in District E, and we got our first endorsement of a challenger over an incumbent.

After a series of controversies involving incumbent Al Hoang divided his Vietnamese-American base, Hoang indicated he would not stand for re-election. Though he later changed his mind, we think his initial decision was the right one. The district, which has demanding infrastructure and economic development needs, requires new, focused leadership at City Hall.

Fortunately, voters have the opportunity to elect such a person, businessman and community activist Peter “Lyn” René. Born on the Caribbean island of St. Lucia, René came to Houston in 1979 and graduated from Westbury High School and UH-Downtown.

[…]

René promises to be a strong voice at City Hall for street repair and district beautification. To counter budget cuts that have closed community centers and after-school programs, he says he would use his skills as a grant writer to solicit funds from corporations and foundations to continue vital municipal youth services.

With his technical skills and record of community service, René is, from our point of view, the best choice on the ballot to represent District F constituents.

I’m going to step out on a limb here and infer that the Chron is telegraphing its forthcoming endorsement in At Large #5 for Laurie Robinson. Who disagrees with me about that? In any event, you can listen to my interview with René, who was a deadline day filer, here.

The Chron stayed with incumbent CM Oliver Pennington in G.

Pennington is a retired lawyer who spent much of his career at Fulbright & Jaworski working on issues related to municipal governance. That familiarity with the ways of City Hall has allowed him to tackle complex issues with knowledge and experience that benefit his district and the city as a whole.

[…]

Pennington well understands the need for Houston officials to work with our state lawmakers to better manage employee pension expenses that threaten to bankrupt city coffers. There is no more pressing long-term fiscal issue.

Finally, Pennington also backs important quality-of-life difference-makers, such as preservation of our city’s architectural heritage and green spaces.

The Chronicle recommends that District G voters return Oliver Pennington to City Hall.

My interview with CM Pennington is here. Of note in that endorsement is the Chron’s complimentary mention of Pennington’s late-filing opponent, Clyde Bryan. As you’ve seen in earlier endorsements, they don’t usually bother to do that.

Former CM Pam Holm to run for HD136

So says Robert Miller.

Pam Holm, who represented District G on the Houston City Council from 2004 through 2009, has decided to run to replace Speaker Beverly Woolley in Texas HD 136.

Ms. Holm was a prolific fundraiser the three successful campaigns she ran for City Council and in her unsuccessful race for City Controller in 2009. She was also a tireless door to door campaigner when first elected in 2003, knocking on 19,000 doors in her winning campaign against 6 male opponents. At campaign forums, she would describe the field as “six guys and a winner.” Many of those doors are still in HD 136 because of the strong overlap between District G and HD 136.

Miller lists some other folks who are also sniffing around this race. I would expect a crowded field. Holm should be able to raise a bunch of money, she has excellent taste in campaign swag, and I agree with Miller’s assessment that she’s the frontrunner. Having said that, I’ll say again that a Democrat needs to look at this one as well. It’s a long shot to be sure, but you can’t win if you don’t play.

Interview with CM Oliver Pennington

CM Oliver Pennington

CM Oliver Pennington was elected in 2009 as the Council member for District G. Pennington was a partner at the law firm of Fulbright & Jaworski, where he specialized in various aspects of municipal law. He’s also a graduate of Rice University, which as you know always counts for a little extra with me. Here’s what we discussed:

Download the MP3 file

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

Endorsement watch: ABCDEFG

I’ve been hard on the Chron lately for being so lackadaisical about getting to some of their endorsements. In my opinion, they should all be done before Early Voting begins, or else their value erodes. So I’m pleased to see that they have made their endorsements for all contested District Council races today. This means they could get them all done in time, say with At Large races tomorrow, the Mayor’s race on Sunday, and HISD/HCC Trustee races on Monday. So kudos – tentatively, and conditionally on that schedule – to them for their punctuality. May it herald a new trend.

And here are the endorsements themselves. They skipped Districts H and I, where incumbent Council Members Ed Gonzalez and James Rodriguez are unopposed. In addition to recommending the incumbents who do have opponents – Jarvis Johnson in B, Anne Clutterbuck in C, Wanda Adams in D, and Mike Sullivan in E – they gave the following nods in the open seat races:

District A

• In the race to replace outgoing Councilwoman Toni Lawrence in this northwest Houston district beset with high crime and flooding concerns, the Chronicle endorses social worker and educator Lane Lewis.

Lewis has served as a mayoral appointee on police oversight committees and promises to concentrate on projects to revitalize blighted areas in the district. He is a proponent of the city acquiring an abandoned golf course in the Inwood Forest area and converting it to park space and retention ponds to help control area flooding. He believes it could become the nucleus of a redevelopment zone that would improve land values and decrease crime. “We would have a whole new area ripe for redevelopment,” says Lewis. “That is a solution that is affordable, accessible, and accountable to the needs of the people.”

District F

• In this open far Southwest district seat being vacated by term-limited incumbent and controller candidate M.J. Khan, the Chronicle endorses lawyer Mike Laster.

A former senior assistant city attorney, Laster has had extensive community involvement and serves as chairman of the Sharpstown TIRZ that provides more than $50 million for infrastructure and development in the area. If elected, Laster promises to make public safety, business and commercial development, and constituent services his primary focus. He has an impressive roster of endorsements, including firefighter and police groups, as well as labor and business associations.

District G

• In the five-candidate contest to replace outgoing incumbent and controller candidate Pam Holm, the Chronicle endorses attorney Oliver Pennington, a retired partner for Fulbright & Jaworski and a former chairman of the city’s Civil Service Commission.

Pennington cites his legal experience in municipal finance and law as an asset in being an effective member of council. “I’m accustomed to hard work, going to nightly meetings, getting engaged and getting things done,” says Pennington. “My record shows I can deliver.” If elected, Pennington promises to work to put more police patrols in the district while concentrating on improving infrastructure and drainage. A former board member of the Memorial Park Conservancy, he wants to encourage increased public-private sector support for parks and recreational areas.

All of these endorsements make sense to me. From where I sit, Lewis has worked the hardest in his race. He’s run an impressive campaign, he’s raised more money than anyone else, and he’s collected a ton of endorsements, including a bunch from nonpartisan groups. He’ll still have a hard time winning a runoff, but it won’t be for lack of effort.

It was hard to imagine the Chron picking anyone else in District F. Laster is the strongest candidate, and like Lewis has done very well with fundraising and group endorsements. He also has an easier path to winning, as District F is much more Democratic than A is, though you never know what can happen in a runoff.

District G could have gone a number of ways, though again the choice they made is not surprising to me. Basically, Pennington is the kind of candidate they like. He’s a Republican in a Republican district, and he’s more of a moderate, “let’s work together to get things done” type than Mills Worsham is. At least, that was the impression I got from their interviews. He too has had the most success in fundraising – yeah, that may be a pattern – and has gathered a lot of endorsements as well.

So there you have it. Anyone want to predict who they’ll go for in the At Large and Mayoral races? My guesses, and I’m totally pulling these out of my ear, are Costello, Lovell, Noriega (if they make an endorsement in the uncontested At Large #3), Freeman, and Jones for Council, and Parker for Mayor. Of those, I feel the least confident about At Large #1 and Mayor. What do you think?

UPDATE: Made some edits to shorten the original post.

34 > 20, and other campaign finance news

I’ve added two more candidate reports to my campaign finance report spreadsheet, Robert Kane and KA Khan, both in District F. Each of them had filed paper reports instead of electronic reports. You can see a list of such reports here, and you can see scanned PDF copies of their reports here: for Khan and for Kane.

If you look at these reports, you will note that on the cover page, each candidate signs an affidavit that includes the following: “I swear or affirm that I have not accepted more than $20,000 in political contributions or made more than $20,000 in political expenditures in a calendar year.” If you then take a look at KA Khan’s report, down at the bottom he lists his total contributions as $34,010. I realize math can be a tricky subject for some people, but I don’t think it’s too hard to grasp the concept that $34,010 is bigger than $20,000. Yet Khan signed the affidavit swearing he did not and would not collect more than $20,000 in contributions. Seems to me something is wrong here. And as Greg notes, among other things, Khan has spent a bunch of money sending out six mail pieces, yet those expenses are not accounted for on his report. I’m told a complaint is being filed against Khan. Should be easy enough to make a determination in this one.

Now as was noted in the comments to this entry when I complained about some other obviously erroneous reports, the City Secretary apparently doesn’t have the authority to reject them even if it’s clear at a glance that there’s problems. But I don’t see why the City Attorney, or some other agency acting as an ombudsman, couldn’t do a review of the forms as they come in and take some kind of action to respond to the ones that have glaring errors. If the City Attorney is going to disqualify candidates from the ballot for dumb yet basically harmless errors on the filing form, why isn’t there an equivalent level of vigor with campaign finance reports, in which the potential for deception and malfeasance is vastly greater? Right now we have a system that relies on third parties – often people acting on behalf of a rival candidate – to file complaints, which take however long to resolve, usually well after the election in question. There needs to be a better way. If this requires a legislative fix, then so be it. They’ve already got one issue from this election that needs their attention, may as well add one more item to the list.

As noted at the beginning of this post, I found campaign finance reports for the two more candidates, which I added to my spreadsheet. That still leaves a bunch of candidates for whom I can find no report. The same thing happened in July, where a number of reports did not show up until more than a week after the reporting deadline. One candidate to whom this happened in July, and whose report isn’t visible today, is Alex Wathen in District A. Wathen has confirmed to me that he did submit his report on time – you can see a PDF of his receipt here – but that the City Secretary’s office has had trouble reading his file, as they had in July. Mills Worsham in G has also confirmed to me that he submitted his report and that the City Secretary’s office said they were having trouble with it, too. Interestingly, I called the City Secretary’s office yesterday to inquire about a few of the missing reports, and the person I spoke to told me they didn’t have one from Worsham, or from Roger Bowden (District B), Otis Jordan (District D), Lewis Cook (District F), or Peter Acquaro (District F). I don’t know exactly what’s going on here, but given the issues we saw in July that are affecting Wathen and Worsham now, this really needs to be investigated to get to the bottom of it. Technical issues should not be a barrier to the public’s access to this information.

So who will the Republicans vote for in this election?

This article can basically be summarized as “Republican voters in Houston have a choice between three serious candidates who are all Democrats, and Roy Morales, and neither of those choices is particularly appealing to them”. I’ll put aside my sense of schadenfreude for a moment to make a couple of observations. One is that all three of the leading candidates will likely do all right among these voters. Gene Locke has as the story notes picked up a bunch of endorsements from Republican-leaning groups like the Houston Police Officers Union and the C Club, not to mention the backing of Bob Lanier, the last (final?) Republican mayor of Houston. Parker will do well with female voters, which will include a non-trivial number of Republican women. Brown’s dominance of the airwaves and mailboxes should help him get votes from those who like his vision. These votes aren’t going to Roy, and they’re going to go somewhere.

Having said that, it will be very interesting to see how the vote goes in heavily Republican areas like Districts A and G in the runoff, as those locations will have Council runoffs as well as the Mayoral one. I’ll be looking to see if there’s a higher rate of undervoting in the Mayoral race in those districts, as there’s always the choice of not making a choice at all.

And even if Republicans punt on the Mayor’s race, they can still exert some influence over the next Mayor’s ability to get things done by their choices in the Council and Controller’s races. I certainly got the impression from all the interviews I did that some of the candidates in Districts A and G are more likely to work with the next Mayor, and some are more likely to be resistant. Go back and give them a listen and draw your own conclusions. There’s also the Controller’s race, in which Pam Holm has sent a clear signal about how she intends to act in office. I wonder how many of them have paid attention to these possibilities.

And here’s Locke’s first ad

We were told that the Gene Locke campaign would begin running an ad on TV next week. It’s on YouTube now, so have a peek:

It’s a good effort. The spot is biographical, and Locke has a substantive resume to discuss, so it touches on a number of accomplishments that has has. Locke comes across a competent, gets-things-done kind of guy. He’s going to need to start talking about issues, but I expect that will follow shortly. This ad did what it was intended to do, now it’s just a matter of making sure it gets seen enough, since Peter Brown’s spots have been so ubiquitous. Greg, KT, Nancy Sims, musings, and Hair Balls have more. Relatedly, David Ortez, who’s been busy with law school, gives his take on Parker and Brown’s first ads. I look forward to his review of this one.

Elsewhere in campaign videos is this second spot by At Large #1 candidate Stephen Costello. It occurs to me that I’m a little surprised more candidates haven’t done this – Greg notes that C.O. Bradford in At Large #4 and Dexter Handy in District G have each done one – as it’s fairly cheap and if done well can get you a decent amount of exposure. Costello’s spot, which is about flooding and drainage, is worth watching. It’s an important if often overlooked issue, and it’s in his wheelhouse as a civil engineer. Check it out.

UPDATE: And here’s David Ortez’s take on Locke’s ad.

Interview with George Foulard

George FoulardFor my last City Council candidate interview, we have George Foulard, who is running in District G. Foulard is a political newcomer who has worked in the international commodities industry and is currently employed as an operations manager. He is a founder and Chief Information Officer of the Higher Learning Foundation, which he and some college friends created to help public school graduates afford college tuition. Foulard lives in Royden Oaks.

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

Interview with Dexter Handy

Dexter HandyMy penultimate City Council candidate interview is with Dexter Handy, who is running in District G. Handy is a retired Lieutenant Colonel in the Air Force where he had a distinguished 28-year career that included a stint as Chief of the Department of Defense’s Computer Emergency Response Team. Handy was the Democratic candidate for Commissioners Court last year in Precinct 3 against Steve Radack. He resides in Rice Military.

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

Interview with Richard Sedita

Richard SeditaRichard Sedita is a candidate for District G. He is an Army veteran who served in the Korean DMZ from 1967-69 as a medic. Since then, he has been a registered nurse and has worked as an ER Director, ICU nurse, quality assurance director, and currently as a case manager. Sedita lives in the Westchase area.

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

Interview with Mills Worsham

Mills WorshamNext up is Mills Worsham, who is a candidate in District G. Worsham is the Houston Community College Trustee representing District 6, succeeding Jim Murphy after the latter’s election to the State Legislature in 2006. He is a native Houstonian who was educated in HISD and who graduated from the University of Houston, and a 20-year partner in Worsham Interests, Ltd. Worsham is a resident of Briargrove Park.

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

Jack Christie to run in At Large #5

The field in At Large #5, which currently includes incumbent Council Member Jolanda Jones and challengers Carlos Obando and Davetta Daniels, has just gotten bigger as Jack Christie has filed to run for the seat as well. Christie is a chiropractor who was in the race for At Large #5 in 2007 before dropping out amid questions about his residency and homestead exemption, then dropping back in when it turned out his name was going to be on the ballot anyway. I’m told a press release will be forthcoming, and I will print it when I get it. Christie wound up finishing fourth in the field of eight in 2007. He has the potential to raise some money, and could make it into a runoff, where as a Republican the expected runoffs in Districts A and G would presumably help him. Keep an eye on him, this could get interesting.

Interview with Oliver Pennington

Oliver PenningtonMoving over to District G, my next interview is with Oliver Pennnington. Pennington is a retired attorney, a partner at Fulbright and Jaworski, whose practice focused on municipal law, and a Rice alumnus. Pennington has lived in District G for 40 years and now resides in River Oaks.

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

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.

City campaign finance reports come rolling in

As the campaign finance reports for City of Houston races come online, I’ve been collecting all the reports and putting them together into an easier-to-read format. I’ve also received a bunch of press releases, which I’ll be reproducing beneath the fold. Here are some quick hits.

– According to his press release, Houston Mayoral candidate Gene Locke raised $1.15 million for the six-month reporting period that just ended. That’s about $200K more than Annise Parker raised, and is a very strong showing, especially for a first time candidate.

Peter Brown‘s press release reports $477,000 raised and over $1.7 million cash on hand. He also reported a loan of $765,000. Even without that, he’d have a sizable lead in COH, as Locke has $574K and Parker $602K.

– All of the Mayoral candidates can claim success, and indeed all of them have – Parker put out another release later in the day today comparing her achievements with those of Locke and Brown. I think they all did pretty well in a tough environment, and I feel confident you’ll be seeing and hearing a lot from all three of them starting real soon.

– By the way, in case you’re curious, Roy Morales raised $18,720 and has a smidge under $10K on hand. He’s not going to be a factor. I could not find a report for TJ Huntley as yet.

– On the Controller side, Pam Holm raised $292K, with $348K on hand; MJ Khan raised $87,350 and has $312K $353K on hand. Ronald Green had not yet filed a report. As I said before, he’s got his work cut out for him.

(UPDATE: Fixed MJ Khan’s cash on hand number. My thanks to Andre Castro from his campaign for the correction.)

– For the At Large races, there are several reports missing. The biggest money-raiser so far is Stephen Costello in #1, who hauled in a fairly impressive $156K, with $106K on hand. The only other report I’ve seen so far is for Rick Rodriguez, who raised very little. In At Large #4, Noel Freeman sent out a release claiming $35,985.75 from nearly 175 donors, which edged out Brad Bradford’s $31,285.

– At Large incumbents Sue Lovell and Melissa Noriega each raised over $100K, with Jolanda Jones pulling in $64K. Roslyn Shorter, who is an announced candidate against Lovell, raised no money; Carlos Obando, running against Jones, had not yet filed his report.

– Finally, among the open district seats, the leading fundraisers were Lane Lewis in District A with $34,858 raised and $13,066 cash on hand; Mike Laster in F with $38,629 raised and $31,608 on hand; and Oliver Pennington in G with an impressive $182K raised and $101K on hand. Not everyone in those races has reported yet, so there could wind up being a reshuffling. I’ve put what I’ve got so far in this Google spreadsheet, so check that for further updates.

Beneath the fold are all of the press releases I got. If I get any more, I’ll add them as well. Let me know what you think about how the candidates have done.

UPDATE: Nancy Sims and Greg Wythe weigh in.

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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.

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Foulard announces in G, Khan for Controller

With the Legislature out of session (hopefully till 2011) and the District H special election about to wrap up, it’s time to refocus on the November elections for Houston. I think we will have a pretty good idea of who all the candidates are going to be very shortly, modulo a potential surprise or two. One newcomer to add to the mix is a fellow named George Foulard, who becomes by my count the fourth candidate for District G. I actually became aware of him a couple of days ago when he followed me on Twitter, and now I’ve gotten the more traditional press release about him, which I’ve reproduced below. We may get a couple more announcements like this in the next few weeks, but I’d say the window for a serious candidate rollout won’t be open much past July 4. Other than Rick Rodriguez, the former District H candidate who is reportedly looking at At Large #1, anyone hearing of new possibilities out there? Leave a comment and let me know.

Meanwhie, District F City Council member MJ Khan made the formal announcement of his campaign for City Controller in an email to supporters, which I’ve reproduced below as well. Khan’s interest in this office has been known for a long time, so this was just a confirmation of it. He joins fellow Republican Pam Holm, the outgoing City Council member in District G, and Democrat Ronald Green, who is term-limited out of At Large #4, in the race. I find it interesting that there are more Republicans running for Controller than Democrats, given that no prominent Republicans are running for Mayor (sorry, Roy). Bill King, at least, didn’t think that it was winnable for a Republican like him. I think Green is the clear favorite here, but we’ll see if the Controller’s race is any different.

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Who should represent District H?

That’s the question, isn’t it?

It took only a few minutes at the District H candidate forum Thursday morning for discussion to turn to the elephant in the room.

“District H is supposed to be a Hispanic district,” said Edgar Colon, chairman of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce’s Political Action Committee, reading a question on behalf of an audience member. “Should it be represented by a Hispanic?”

In what is shaping up as a hard-fought runoff campaign between Houston police officer Ed Gonzalez and former public high school teacher Maverick Welsh to fill the City Council seat vacated by Adrian Garcia, that question looms as large as any other in a district originally drawn to elect a Latino.

Stace gives a nice answer to that.

I’ll be the first one to say it. No! It doesn’t have to be represented by an Hispanic. But when you have a highly qualified, progressive-minded product of the district, why not?

As a highly-educated Chicano myself, I’ve been proud to click on a Anglo candidate running against a brown person, especially when the brown person is not a progressive (cough-cough, Roy and/or Danny More-or-Less Mexicano). So, no, it’s not about race, or in this case, ethnicity. As a voter, I’m interested in having a highly qualified candidate with whom I can identify, whether it by that candidate’s story, or something else.

Stace supports Ed Gonzalez. As you know, I broke the tie in favor of Maverick Welsh. You can’t really go wrong either way. I was at that forum, and I thought both candidates answered the question deftly, without getting trapped by it. The right answer to me is that this district, like all of the others, should be represented by someone who can serve the needs of everyone in it. One could just as easily ask the question should District G be represented by an Anglo? Who should represent the city, in which no racial or ethnic group comprises a majority? I say the answer is the same across the board. In this particular case, we have two candidates who I think would fit the bill nicely. It’s up to all of us to ensure that whoever wins lives up to that.

Currently, District I Councilman James Rodriguez is the only Latino among 14 council members, in a city where Hispanics make up nearly 42 percent of the population.

The Department of Justice helped create District H when it forced the city to undertake redistricting in 1979, part of an effort to correct historic voting inequities in Houston and ensure more minority representation on the council. But the district, which includes the Heights, much of the old Second Ward just east of downtown and a wide swath that extends midway between the inner and outer loops around Interstate 45, has undergone dramatic changes since then.

Here’s something you may not know. I didn’t know it until I went looking through the historical election returns on the City Secretary’s webpage. The first election for District H in 1979 was won by Dale Gorczynski, who is now a Justice of the Peace in JP Precinct 1. Here are the returns from that election:


James M. Goins 1,181 Willie D. Hatchett 1,719 Herman Lauhoff 3,977 Russel Stanley 305 Anne Wheeler 2,824 Dale M. Gorczynski 3,274

Gorczynski won the runoff, then held the seat through the 1991 election, after which he did not run again. The first time that a Hispanic candidate won the District H seat was as far as I could tell the first time that a candidate with a recognizably Hispanic surname ran for it, in the open seat contest of 1993 in which Felix Fraga emerged victorious. I knew Gorczynski had been the District H member before Fraga, but I hadn’t realized he was the original Council member.

You can make of all that what you will. I found it interesting that this district that was drawn to be represented by a Hispanic has only recently been actually represented by a Hispanic for a majority of its existence. David Ortez has some tangential thoughts.

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.

Another City Council lineup update

Time for our periodic check on who’s running for what this fall. The Memorial Examiner gets us started.

Five confirmed candidates are vying to replace Lawrence in District A.

Jeff Downing, Amy Peck, Bob Schellkopf, Brenda Stardig and Alex Wathen are campaign-ready, having filed campaign treasurer forms.

Not running in District A is P.M. Clinton, 58, a private investigator and longtime Spring Branch resident.

Clinton said Tuesday that he’s been asked to run, but feels he can do more by staying involved with a reactivated Spring Branch Revitalization Association.

In District G, Oliver Pennington and Mills Worsham have filed treasurer papers and are campaigning.

The story has basic bio information on all of them. Peck is the new name to me – she’s a district liaison for state Sen. Dan Patrick, and worked for Sen. Jon Lindsay before him. She’s also 24, which makes her a heck of a lot more focused and accomplished than I was at that age. Not surprisingly for someone with that resume, she lists cost reduction as her top priority.

I can add two names to this group: Lane Lewis for A, and Dexter Handy for G. Lewis, according to an email from Carl Whitmarsh, who broke the news of Lewis’ candidacy a few days ago, is the former Chair of the Houston Gay Lesbian BiSexual Transgendered Political Caucus, Democratic Chair and Election Judge in Oak Forest, and Professor of Government and Political Science at San Jacinto College where he will soon be teaching supervisor of his department. Handy ran for County Commissioner in Precinct 3 against Steve Radack last year. I’ve confirmed his candidacy via email. I interviewed Handy twice last year, once for the primary and once for the general. He’s a real good guy, and I’m glad to see him in the race.

Elsewhere, I’ve now heard of two candidates for At Large #1: former HCC Trustee and 2005 candidate for District C Herman Litt, and Steve Costello, who is the head of the Memorial Park Conservancy. There are two other entrants for At Large #4 as well, Jay Green and Sandy Dahlke, about whom I know nothing.

Finally, while there were no new entrants into the Mayor’s race that I know of, there was some action as current City Council member Peter Brown kicked off his campaign, and City Controller Annise Parker called on Governor Perry to make sure Houston got its fair share of the stimulus money. What are you hearing these days?