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District I

Revisiting City Council redistricting

This would be interesting.

At Wednesday’s council meeting, District E Councilmember Dave Martin said the city should consider redrawing city council district boundaries, particularly in his own district.

District E includes two far-flung suburbs, Kingwood and Clear Lake. Martin said it’s a “ridiculously arranged council district” where it is difficult to coordinate meetings.

“I’ve always felt that the folks in Clear Lake do indeed deserve their own representation there, because it is tough for someone to drive 60 miles on a weekend to get to a certain area,” Martin said.

Mayor Sylvester Turner agreed with Martin’s assessment of District E.

“I will tell you it is an interesting drawing,” Turner said. “Because you certainly cannot go from Kingwood to Clear Lake for a town hall meeting, two town hall meetings.”

Turner said he would support taking a look at the map after the 2020 census.

“I don’t know what the thinking was back then,” Turner said. “But it does seem to be not in the best interest of two areas that are so geographically separated. I think it’s worth taking a look at.”

There’s a copy of the map embedded in the story, and you can also see it here, with links to individual district maps here. It’s true that District E is this two-headed amalgam of far-apart suburbs, with a bit of connecting tissue in between, but any proposed solution to address that is complicated. The problem is that the Kingwood part of E abuts District B, and the Clear Lake part borders on Districts D and I. Any redesign of the current map that would split District E into separate parts has to take into account merging a bunch of white Republicans with a bunch of black and Latinx Democrats. Even before we take Voting Rights Act requirements into consideration, I can guarantee you that a substantial number of people would be unhappy with any alternative.

What you could do is reduce the size of individual districts to be roughly the size of the Kingwood and Clear Lake pieces, then redraw the map with however many districts there would be with such smaller population requirements. That would result in a map with anywhere from 15 to 21 districts, depending on how much you padded out the two halves of E. We can debate whether that’s a good idea or a bad idea, but we’d also probably need a charter amendment to make it happen.

Personally, I’d be willing to at least explore the idea, and maybe have someone draw a few sample maps, to give a picture of what this might look like. Honestly, I think we ought to consider the same for the Legislature, where individual districts have grown in population quite a lot in recent years. This is especially true for Senate districts, which used to be smaller than Congressional districts but are now larger and will get more so in 2021 when Texas is given additional seats in Congress. It’ll never happen of course, but that doesn’t mean we should never think about it.

July 2019 campaign finance reports: Incumbents and challengers for Council and Controller

Let me start by saying that I began this post before Amanda Edwards became a candidate for Senate. I’m going to keep the AL4 race in here, in part to include Edwards’ June report totals, and in part because I’m just stubborn that way. I did add in the candidates who have jumped into AL4, so this is as up to date as I am. Feel free to tell me who I’ve missed.

As before, my look at the January 2019 finance reports for Houston candidates is here, and all of the finance reports that I have downloaded and reviewed are in this Google folder. Except for the reports that were filed non-electronically, which you can find here. Erik Manning’s invaluable spreadsheet remains my source for who’s in what race.

Dave Martin – District E
Sam Cleveland – District E
Ryan Lee – District E

Greg Travis – District G

Karla Cisneros – District H
Isabel Longoria – District H
Cynthia Reyes-Revilla – District H

Robert Gallegos – District I
Rick Gonzales – District I

Martha Castex-Tatum – District K

Mike Knox – At Large #1
Michelle Bonton – At Large #1
Georgia Provost – At Large #1
Raj Salhotra – At Large #1

David Robinson – At Large #2
Willie Davis – At Large #2
Emily Detoto – At Large #2

Michael Kubosh – At Large #3
Janaeya Carmouche – At Large #3
Marcel McClinton – At Large #3
Goku Sankar – At Large #3

Amanda Edwards – At Large #4
Christel Bastida – At Large #4
Tiko Reynolds-Hausman – At Large #4
Ericka McCrutcheon – At Large #4
Jason Rowe – At Large #4
Nick Hellyar – At Large #4
Letitia Plummer – At Large #4

Chris Brown – Controller
Amparo Gasca – Controller


Candidate     Raised      Spent     Loan     On Hand
====================================================
Martin        49,450     18,939        0     151,184
Cleveland
Lee

Travis        68,234     15,749   21,000     131,691

Cisneros      54,325      8,959        0     109,471
Longoria
R-Revilla     19,408      1,859        0      17,130

Gallegos      65,100     25,016        0     145,090
Gonzales         400      3,627    3,510         400

C-Tatum       37,200     13,664        0      40,128

Knox          40,295     45,555        0      41,171
Bonton
Provost
Salhotra     220,377     30,340        0     178,539

Robinson      88,616     27,043        0     262,221
Davis         10,250      3,051    3,000         807
Detoto         2,600      2,660      500         439

Kubosh        43,875     20,319  276,000     122,870
Carmouche      8,950      5,397    1,000       3,706
McClinton     25,823     21,739        0       8,675
Sankar

Edwards       73,807     42,179        0     192,791
Bastida        1,103         51      200         750
R-Hausman
McCrutcheon    5,100      7,225    5,000
Rowe               0          0        0           0
Hellyar       37,017     34,446        0      20,501
Plummer       64,519     36,356        0      43,795

Brown         66,611     36,522   75,000     234,350
Gasca

I know Tiko Reynolds-Hausman and Isabel Longoria entered their races in July, so they have no reports yet. That may be true for some others as well, but if so I’m not aware of them.

Let’s get the easy ones out of the way first. Greg Travis and Martha Castex-Tatum don’t have opponents. Chris Brown, Dave Martin, and Robert Gallegos may as well not have them, either. I know, there’s still a few months to go before the election, but none of the purported challengers appear to be doing much. Heck, only Sam Cleveland even has a website, though Ryan Lee and Rick Gonzales do at least have Facebook pages. So yeah, nothing to see here.

David Robinson and Michael Kubosh have opponents who have been a bit more active – Willie Davis is a repeat candidate, having run in 2015 against Robinson – but so far don’t appear to pose too much of a threat.

The threat to Karla Cisneros is greater, and potentially severe. I’ve already seen a couple of signs for her opponents in my neighborhood, and while Isabel Longoria hasn’t had a chance to post a finance report yet, Cynthia Reyes-Revilla’s totals are OK. Not terrifying if you’re the incumbent, but not nothing. Keep this one in your back pocket, and we’ll revisit when the 30 day reports are posted.

Had Amanda Edwards decided to stay in Houston and run for re-election, I’d have grouped her with the not-really-challenged incumbents. With AL4 now an open seat, and the field likely to expand further (*checks the Manning spreadsheet one last time to make sure no one else has entered the race*), it’s also open in the sense that there’s no clear frontrunner. Nick Hellyar and Letitia Plummer, who had started out in other races, have the early fundraising lead, but not enough to present a significant obstacle. Hellyar has picked up multiple endorsements from current and former elected officials, which ought to boost his coffers, but we’ll see what that means in practice. We really don’t know anything about this race right now.

And then there’s At Large #1. If you knew nothing about this election and I told you that Raj Salhotra was the incumbent and Mike Know was a challenger, you’d believe me based on their numbers. I can’t recall the last time an incumbent was so thoroughly outclassed in this regard. That’s great for Salhotra, whose biggest challenge isn’t Knox as much as it is Georgia Provost, who nudged past four better-funded candidates as well as ultra-perennial candidate Griff Griffin to make it into the runoff in 2015. She’s going to get her share of votes, especially if the voters don’t know the other candidates on the ballot. Salhotra is well on his way to having the resources to run a sufficient citywide campaign and introduce himself to the electorate. In what should be a prelude to another runoff, he just needs to finish in the top two. So far, so good.

I’ll break up the open seat races into two or three more posts. Did I mention there were a crap-ton of candidates this year? Let me know what you think.

Off and running for Council

I confess I haven’t paid very much attention to the Houston city races so far. Part of that is the existential angst I feel at being forced to take seriously anything Bill King or Tony Buzbee says, and part of that is because the Council races haven’t really started taking shape yet. Oh, there are plenty of candidates, as this Chron story details, but right now it’s basically spring training, as everyone works to raise some money and put up a website and start making the rounds to civic groups and political clubs and what have you.

This is going to be a weird election, because it’s been four years since the last city election and it’s the first time we’ve experienced that, because of the contested Mayor’s race, and because our city elections are by definition a little weird. It’s just that like Tolstoy’s unhappy families, every city of Houston election is weird in its own way.

Mayor Sylvester Turner

More than six months remain until Nov. 5, when voters will cast ballots in the races for mayor, controller and 16 city council seats, but challengers already are taking swings at incumbents and candidates are lining up to replace term-limited office-holders.

“The mayoral race got off to an early start, and that’s having a contagion effect on the council races,” said Mark Jones, a political science professor at Rice University. “In some ways, it’s this big collective action problem. I think most people would prefer not to get mixed up in the process so early, but, for instance, if one person starts running hard for At-Large Position 5, everyone else has to, lest they get left behind.”

Activity on the campaign trail has started earlier than ever, prompted by a pace-setting mayoral race that has seen candidates Tony Buzbee and Bill King repeatedly lambast incumbent Mayor Sylvester Turner, saying he has mismanaged the long-running Proposition B firefighter pay parity feud and accusing him of failing to adequately distance City Hall from campaign donors. Turner has denied both charges.

District D Councilman Dwight Boykins also could join the mayoral field and will decide sometime in June whether to mount a run or seek re-election to his council seat, he said Monday. Also mulling a run for higher office is At-Large Councilwoman Amanda Edwards, who said she has yet to decide whether to take a swing at the U.S. Senate seat held by Republican Sen. John Cornyn.

Prospective candidates for those two seats may be waiting on the sidelines, or seeking other council seats for now, as they wait on the incumbents’ decisions, said Brandon Rottinghaus, a political science professor at the University of Houston.

“It’s a domino effect,” Rottinghaus said. “There are a couple of offices that are holding up decisions on other races down the ballot, and Edwards is an example of that.”

[…]

So far, five incumbent council members remain without official challengers: Greg Travis (District G), Karla Cisneros (District H), Robert Gallegos (District I), Martha Castex-Tatum (District K) and Edwards.

Travis, Cisneros and Edwards each are coming to the end of their first four-year terms on city council. Castex-Tatum won a special election year to replace former Councilman Larry Green, who died of a drug overdose.

Gallegos, meanwhile, is one of a handful of council incumbents first elected in 2013 who still is eligible for another term.

The shift to four-year terms likely has emboldened potential challengers who ordinarily would wait out an incumbent’s two-year term, but are less keen to sit on the sidelines for four years, Rottinghaus said. More than half the incumbents seeking re-election have drawn opponents.

You can read on for more about the Council candidates, but bear a couple of things in mind. One is that the only “official” candidate list is maintained on paper by the City Secretary. Filing a designation of treasurer is a necessary condition for running, but doesn’t mean you’ll actually file by the deadline, and it doesn’t mean you’ll file for the race you now say you’re running for. People jump in and drop out and change races all the time up till deadline day. Civic heroes like Erik Manning maintain candidate databases, for which we are all grateful, but in the end nothing is official till the filing deadline passes. You will get some idea of who is out there and who is serious about it when the June finance reports get posted, but again, things can and will change between then and the end of August.

Anyway. I really don’t know what I’m going to do about interviews – there are just too many candidates for the amount of time I will have. I’ll figure something out, and should start doing interviews in July. I’ll put up my own Election 2019 page sometime before then. In the meantime, start familiarizing yourself with these names. We’re all going to have a lot of decisions to make in November.

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.

Endorsement watch: Gallegos in I

The Chron endorses CM Robert Gallegos for re-election in District I.

Robert Gallegos

Robert Gallegos

Two years ago we wrote that District I was the face of Houston’s future, filled with key landmarks, booming growth and changing neighborhoods. During his first term on City Council, Robert Gallegos has seen that transformation accelerate even as the oil economy took a hit – apartments are shooting up downtown, light rail lines have opened, Broadway Street is getting a beautification upgrade and Hobby airport’s first international flights begin on Oct. 15. This dynamic district needs an informed and involved councilman, and Gallegos is right for the job.

While his district undergoes this dramatic change, Gallegos, 56, has worked to remove blight while preserving parts of the community that his constituents want to keep. For example, he successfully pushed Council to save the Gus Wortham golf course from being turned into a botanical garden. But instead of just stopping that forward momentum, Gallegos helped redirect efforts to develop a garden at the Glenbrook golf course.

[…]

With one term under his belt, Gallegos has proven himself a capable and knowledgeable member of council who can build important bridges for the city. Re-elect Gallegos.

With only the Mayor’s race to go, I think we can say that I did pretty well in guessing the endorsements. Good thing I wrote that when I did, too – the Chron did a nice job of getting these all done early. I suppose they will weigh in on the state constitutional amendments, and there are still the term limits and Harris County bond issues here. Anyway, I did not interview CM Gallegos this time – he was still unopposed when I started out, and by the time his opponent jumped in it was far too late for me to go back and do interviews in the races I’d skipped. Here’s the interview I did with him in 2013 if you want to review that. I concur on all points above regarding CM Gallegos and would happily vote for him if I lived in District I.

Runoff results: Rough day for incumbents

I have no complaint about the results.

Brenda Stardig

Brenda Stardig

With all precincts reporting, controversial first-term council incumbents Helena Brown, in northwest Houston’s District A, and Andrew C. Burks Jr., in At-Large Position 2, fell to their challengers, as did HCC trustees Yolanda Navarro Flores and Herlinda Garcia.

Brown lost her rematch with Brenda Stardig, the incumbent she defeated to gain the seat two years ago.

“We’re very proud of the work we’ve done on our campaign and we wanted to get back out there and support our community,” Stardig said. “We’ve had the support of police and fire and so many in our community.”

[…]

Burks fell to challenger David W. Robinson, a civic leader and former city planning commissioner. Robinson raised far more campaign cash than did Burks, who had run unsuccessfully numerous times before winning his seat two years ago. Both men were among the 10 candidates who sought the post when it was an open seat two years ago.

[…]

In the At-Large 3 runoff, bail bondsman and civic activist Michael Kubosh, best known for leading the charge against Houston’s red-light cameras, topped former Harris County Department of Education trustee and former mayoral candidate Roy Morales.

“I appreciate all the people who have supported me and all of my staff that’s worked so hard through the last few months,” Kubosh said. “I’m looking very forward to working on City Council and getting things done.”

[…]

In south Houston’s District D, lobbyist Dwight Boykins bested businesswoman Georgia D. Provost. Boykins had thumped the 11 other candidates in fundraising heading into November. Term-limited District D Councilwoman Wanda Adams was elected to the Houston ISD board.

In a very low-turnout race in the East End’s District I, Harris County jailer and civic activist Robert Gallegos beat Graci Garcés, who is chief of staff for the term-limited James Rodriguez.

So I was three for four in my prognostications. I can’t say I’m unhappy to have been wrong about District A. I am curious about one thing, however, and that’s whether or not Brenda Stardig is eligible under the term limits amendment to run for election again in 2015. If you consider her situation to be analogous to that of former CM Jolanda Jones, and you go by the interpretation given by City Attorney David Feldman, the answer would seem to be No. I made an inquiry about this with the City Attorney’s office several weeks ago, but they have never gotten back to me. Guess I need to try again. Anyway, congratulations to CMs-elect Stardig, Boykins, Gallegos, Robinson, and Kubosh.

The results I’m really happy about are these:

In the Houston Community College contests, District 1 incumbent Flores lost to challenger Zeph Capo, a vice president of the Houston Federation of Teachers. In District 3, Adriana Tamez, an education consultant, beat incumbent Garcia, who was appointed to the post after the resignation of the prior trustee. In the runoff for the open District 5 seat, businessman Robert Glaser topped commercial real estate agent Phil Kunetka.

Capo over Flores is a huge step up, and Tamez is an upgrade as well. Both Flores and Herlinda Garcia were palling around with Dave Wilson, so having them both lose makes the HCC Board of Trustees a better place. Major congrats to Zeph Capo, Adriana Tamez, and Robert Glaser.

Here are the unofficial Harris County results. There were an additional 308 votes cast in Fort Bend, so the final turnout is right at 37,000. Here’s an update to that table I published Friday:

Year Absent Early E-Day Total Absent% Early% E-Day% ============================================================ 2005 5,350 8,722 24,215 38,287 13.97% 22.78% 62.25% 2007s 5,464 7,420 11,981 24,865 21.97% 29.84% 48.18% 2007 4,456 6,921 13,313 24,690 18.05% 28.03% 53.92% 2011 8,700 15,698 31,688 56,086 15.51% 27.99% 56.50% 2013 9,883 10,143 13,517 36,123 27.36% 28.08% 37.42%

See, that’s the kind of pattern I was expecting for the November election. I guess the turnout was too high for it. Gotta tip your hat to whichever candidate’s mail program generated all those votes. It’s good to be surprised sometimes.

District I runoff overview

It’s runoff and a rivalry, all in one.

Robert Gallegos

Robert Gallegos

Saturday’s runoff in City Council District I, which covers downtown and the East End, pits the protégés of two pillars of Hispanic politics against each other in the sort of showdown political observers love.

Surviving the November ballot’s tightest race, in which just 341 votes separated first from last among the four candidates, were Graci Garces and Robert Gallegos.

Gallegos, 54, a civic activist and Harris County jailer, served eight years as an aide to former eastside Harris County Commissioner and now-state Sen. Sylvia Garcia. Garces, 33, is chief of staff for term-limited District I Councilman James Rodriguez; both Garces and Rodriguez worked for former council member and now-State Rep. Carol Alvarado.

Graci Garces

Graci Garces

Alvarado and Garcia waged a bitterly contested campaign earlier this year for the post Garcia now holds, a history that frames Saturday’s runoff.

“It’s going to be machine politics at its purest: Which machine can mobilize more people to turn out to vote?” said Rice University political scientist Mark Jones, who added that turnout is expected to be dismal. “Probably 2,500 votes gets you the seat, perhaps even less. That’s a small number of people to be electing a City Council member in a city the size of Houston.”

Gallegos acknowledges Garcia is promoting him, just as Garces acknowledges Alvarado has block-walked and Rodriguez has made fundraising calls. Yet, both candidates say they have waged their own campaigns, just as both suggest their opponent’s support has come mostly thanks to their mentor’s influence.

I suspect most observers who aren’t directly connected to either camp, especially those who like both Sen. Garcia and Rep. Alvarado, are more weary of this ongoing rivalry than looking forward to another round of it, but maybe that’s just me. I don’t even know what to make of stuff like this. I’m just glad that today is the last day of it. Be that as it may, as with District D there’s not much separation between these two on the issues, for the most part anyway. I’ve noticed that posts on the District I race generate a lot of heated comments. People pick a side, and that’s just how it is. We’ll see whose side is bigger, at least in this case. Texpatriate has more.

Runoff 8 Day Finance Reports

I did not get to looking at the 8 day finance reports for the November election – too many candidates, not enough time. But there was no reason I couldn’t take a gander at the 8 day reports for the runoff. Here’s the summary:

Candidate Office Raised Spent Loan On Hand ===================================================== Burks AL2 27,150 14,933 0 21,563 Robinson AL2 93,720 71,771 0 73,536 Kubosh AL3 60,045 59,221 15,000 13,192 Morales AL3 50,030 31,540 3,300 22,274 Brown Dist A 38,928 29,875 0 30,272 Stardig Dist A 35,909 15,102 0 45,321 Boykins Dist D 81,175 65,667 0 25,974 Provost Dist D 24,600 19,047 18,535 2,258 Garces Dist I 53,355 42,056 0 20,071 Gallegos Dist I 35,196 12,348 1,252 18,518

My comments, with links to the reports, is below.

BagOfMoney

Andrew Burks – Received $8,000 from Houston Fire Fighters Political Action Fund, $3,500 from Across The Track PAC, $1,000 from HAA Better Government Fund. He also got $375 from CM Bradford’s campaign, $250 from Justice of the Peace Zinetta Burney, and $250 from Jeri Brooks, who was the manager of Mayor Parker’s 2009 campaign and who is now working on behalf of the payday lenders. Burks’ wife Lillie contributed $1,500.

David Robinson – As has been the case all along, Robinson’s finance report reads as if he is the incumbent. He got $8,500 from TREPAC, $5,000 from Houston Council of Engineering Companies, $2,500 from HOME PAC, $2,500 from Houston Associated General Contractors PAC, $2,000 from HOME PAC, $1,500 from Allen Boone Humphries Robinson LLC, $1,000 from LAN PAC, $1,000 from Pipefitters’ Local Union No. 211 COPE Account, $500 from Bracewell & Giuliani Committee, $500 from Cobb Fendley PAC, $500 from HOUCON PAC, $500 from Houstonians For Responsible Growth-PAC, $500 from Amegy Bank of Texas PAC, and $250 each from Associated Builders & Contractors PAC, CDM Smith Inc. PAC Account, Houston Westside PAC, and Huitt Zollars Inc. Texas PAC. He also got $5,000 from Peter Brown, $1,000 from Locke Lord, which is Robert Miller’s firm, and $500 from Marcie Zlotnick, who I believe is CM Ellen Cohen’s daughter.

Michael Kubosh – $47,000 of the amount raised was his own contributions. He got $2,500 from the HPOU PAC, $1,000 from the IEC TX Gulf Coast PAC, $500 from the BOMA PAC, $1,000 from the Baker Botts Amicus Fund, and $1,000 from lobbyist/attorney/blogger Robert Miller, who is also currently working on behalf of the payday lenders.

Roy Morales – $5,000 from Houston Council of Engineering Companies Inc PAC, $1,000 from HVJ PAC, $2,300 from HOME PAC, $250 from Associated Builders & Contractors PAC, and $1,000 from himself. I did not see any contributions from Democratic-aligned PACs or prominent progressives on either his report or Kubosh’s. I’ll be very interested to see what the undervote rate is like in this race.

Helena Brown – $1,000 from IEC Texas Gulf Coast PAC, $500 from BAC-PAC, $250 from Seafarers PAC, $500 from Greater Houston Mobility PAC, $1,000 from Group 1 Automotive, Inc. PAC, $500 each from Linebarger Goggan Blair & Sampson LLP and Locke Lord Bissell & Liddell LLP (Robert Miller’s firm), and $1,000 from TREPAC, which remember is the realtors. She also got $500 from Toni Lawrence’s campaign and $100 from Bruce Tatro, meaning that her predecessors that backed her in 2011 are backing her again after sitting out the regular election cycle. Finally, she too received $250 from Jeri Brooks. I think it’s fair to say the payday lenders are choosing sides in these races.

Brenda Stardig – $10,000 from HPOU PAC, $5,000 from Houston Fire Fighters Political Action Fund, $2,000 from Houston Council of Engineering Companies PAC, $500 from Houston Westside PAC, $500 from Amegy Bank of Texas PAC, $250 from Arcadis G&M, Inc. Texas PAC, $500 from Associated Builders & Contractors of Greater Houston PAC, $250 from CDM Smith, Inc PAC, and $250 from Huitt-Zollars, Inc. Texas PAC. She has about $2,800 listed as expenses for postcards plus $200 from radio ads, but I don’t see much else that looks like voter outreach. Once again I wonder why she’s sitting on so much cash.

Dwight Boykins – Another report that looks like it belongs to an incumbent. Boykins raked in (deep breath) $5,000 from Houston Council of Engineering Companies Inc. – PAC, $5,000 from TREPAC, $2,750 from HOME PAC, $2,000 from BEPC LLC, $1,500 from HOUCONPAC, $2,000 from HAA Better Government Fund, $500 from Fulbright & Jaworski LLP Texas Committee, $500 from Andrews & Kurth Texas PAC, $1,000 from Linebarger Goggan Blair & Sampson, LLP, $250 from Houston Westside PAC, $1,000 from Pipefitters’ Local Union No. 211, $500 from Greenberg Taurig LLP Texas PAC, $250 from Cobb Fendley PAC, $500 from Bracewell & Giuliani Committee, $250 from CDM Smith Inc. PAC Account, $500 from LAN-PAC, $1,000 from Plumbers Local Union No. 68, $500 from Arcadis G & M, Inc. Texas PAC, $500 from Locke Lord (Robert Miller’s firm), $1,500 from Allen Boone Humphries Robinson, $1,000 from I.L.A. Local 26 P.A.C. Fund, $1,000 from Baker Botts Amicus Fund, $250 from Huitt-Zollars, Inc Texas PAC, $1,000 from HVJ Political Action Committee, $1,000 from Southwest Laborers District Council PAC, and $2,500 from HPCP Investments LLC. Whew! He also received $1,000 from CM Stephen Costello, and $500 from Anthony Robinson, who I guess did ultimately endorse in the runoff.

Georgia Provost – $1,000 from Woodpest Inc PAC was her only PAC contribution. She got $4,000 each from Alan and Renee Helfman; Alan Helfman is her campaign treasurer. She also received $1,500 from Peter Brown, and $250 from Anthony Robinson. Maybe Robinson didn’t pick a side in the runoff after all.

Graci Garces – $8,000 from TREPAC, $2,000 from Texas Taxi PAC, $500 from Seafarers PAC, $1,000 from Wolpert Inc PAC, $500 from Linebarger Goggan Blair & Sampson, LLP, $5,000 from Houston Fire Fighters Political Action Fund, $2,000 from HAA Better Government Fund, $2,500 from HPOU PAC, $2,000 from Across The Track PAC, and $2,500 from HOME PAC. She also got $500 from the James Rodriguez campaign – no surprise there – and $250 from One World Strategy, which is Jeri Brooks’ firm. In other business-pending-before-Council news, in addition to the Texas Taxi PAC money, Garces got $2,000 from Roman Martinez, the President of Texas Taxis, $1,000 from his wife Diana Davila Martinez (also Garces’ treasurer), and $1,000 each from Rick Barrett (VP of Texas Taxis), Duane Kamins (owner of Yellow Cab), and Ricky Kamins (owner of Liberty Cab). I’m thinking she might be a No vote on Uber.

Robert Gallegos – $4,539.72 in kind from TOP PAC, $1,500 from Teamsters Local $988, $1,000 from Plumbers Local Union No 68, $500 from LAN-PAC, $500 from Linebarger Goggan Blair & Sampson, LLP, $1,000 from Pipefitters Local 211, $2,500 from HPCP Investments LLC, and $1,500 from Houston Dock and Marine Council PAC Fund. He also received $4,400 from Peter Brown, and $225 in kind from Sen. Sylvia Garcia.

You may be wondering why I highlighted donations from people associated with the payday lenders. Isn’t that supposed to come up for a vote with this Council? Well, maybe and maybe not. And maybe the votes on Council will be according to the contributions, and maybe not. But at least now you know.

Runoff voting is underway

So early voting is underway for the City of Houston and HCC runoffs. Day One totals are here, and Campos ponders their locations. I’ll take a crack at projecting turnout once the EV totals are in, but if you don’t want to wait that long, here’s a quick and dirty shortcut. In three of the last four runoffs that didn’t involve a Mayoral race – the 2005, 2007 AL3 special, and 2007 runoffs – turnout was between 25,000 and 40,000 votes. In the 2011 runoff, which was boosted by the Jolanda Jones/Jack Christie race, turnout was about 57,000. I don’t think any race in this year’s runoff will be as high interest as that one, so my seat of the pants guess is “between 25,000 and 40,000”. I reserve the right to revise that once I see the EV numbers.

Here’s the Chron story on the runoffs, in case you missed it. They also reiterated their endorsements if you care about that sort of thing, as did the Houston Association of Realtors.

If you want more information, I collected all my first round interviews here, and you saw my Q&A with Roy Morales yesterday. I’m still hoping to receive Michael Kubosh’s responses. Other recommendations come from Rey Guerra, PDiddie, Stace, John Coby, and Texpatriate.

Early voting begins today for Council and HCC runoffs

EarlyVoting

Here’s the map. Note that only City of Houston locations are open, since the only runoffs are for City Council and HCC Trustee. Early voting runs from today through next Tuesday, December 10, from 7 AM to 7 PM each day except for Sunday the 8th, when it is from 1 to 6 PM. Odds are pretty good you won’t encounter any lines whenever you go to vote. Remember that precinct locations are likely to be heavily consolidated on Runoff Day itself, December 14, so voting early will avoid confusion for you.

All City of Houston voters will have at least two races on their ballot, the two At Large runoffs. There are also runoffs in Districts A, D, and I, plus the three HCC Trustee runoffs, in HCC 1, 3, and 5. I will say again, if you live in HCC 1 I strongly urge you to vote for Zeph Capo. Let’s limit the number of friends Dave Wilson has on the board.

Here are the interviews I conducted with the various runoff candidates:

At Large #2
CM Andrew Burks
David Robinson

At Large #3
Michael Kubosh
Roy Morales

District A
CM Helena Brown
Brenda Stardig

District D
Dwight Boykins
Georgia Provost

District I
Robert Gallegos
Graci Garces

HCC 1
Zeph Capo

Get out there and vote, y’all. A press release from the Harris County Clerk is beneath the fold, and Hair Balls has more.

(more…)

Bob Stein on the District I runoff

I’ll cut to the chase and just excerpt the conclusion of Rice poli sci prof Bob Stein’s analysis of the District I runoff between Graci Garces and Robert Gallegos.

The runoff election in District I should be highly competitive with the slight advantage to Garces. Gallegos must rely on turning out [Leticia] Ablaza’s supporters, who appear to be more likely to support his candidacy over Garces. Voter turnout in District I was only 9 percent, well below the citywide voter turnout at 18 percent. [Sen. Sylvia] Garcia’s support of Gallegos should be instrumental in providing Gallegos the resources needed to turn out Ablaza’s supporters for the runoff. [Rep. Carol] Alvarado’s support of Garces and her history of support in the district (she was District I city council member for six years) and Ablaza’s voters past support of Alvarado provides Garces a potential advantage.

He arrives at those conclusions via some heavier-duty math than what I usually bring, but don’t worry, it’s all summed up in graphs. Check it out. Via Campos.

Who’s supporting whom in District D

The Chron checks with the ten candidates that did not make the runoff in District D to see who is endorsing frontrunner Dwight Boykins and who is going with runnerup Georgia Provost.

DwightBoykins

[Keith] Caldwell and [Demetria] Smith are supporting Boykins.

“I will be endorsing Mr. Boykins at this time,” Smith said, adding that she will aid in his runoff campaign.

Caldwell said Boykins “has a pretty good plan and that’s something I can live with: Somebody with a plan. … As voters, we can make him what we need him to be. He has a vision I can live with, right now, until I decide to run again.”

Four others – [Ivis] Johnson, [Travis] McGee, [Larry] McKinzie and [Christina] Sanders – have declared support for Provost.

Georgia Provost

Georgia Provost

“I have to decided to, without a doubt, support Georgia Provost for this election. If she is not elected, there will not be a black woman on Houston City Council,” Sanders said, adding that she is working to get her supporters back to the polls next month to vote for Provost. “We’ve got a lot of critical things happening in the district, particularly when it comes to development, and we need to make sure that we have somebody who is going to really have the community in mind and at heart if people are interested in buying and taking property.”

McGee called her “the best option” and had strong opposition to Boykins prevailing in next month’s runoff.

“He has too many special interests out there, too many favors to pay back and those are the people he’s going to pay attention to,” McGee said. “If Mrs. Provost can do this, it will also show that everybody can’t be bought. When has there ever been a time that a special interest group has ever put that much money behind a candidate for a predominantly black district like District D?”

McKinzie said he considers Provost “the more truthful candidate.”

Neither Assata Richards, who came in third, nor Lana Edwards are endorsing anyone in the runoff. Richards had been endorsed by former District D CM Ada Edwards, who sent out an email on Tuesday announcing that she was endorsing Boykins. As for the other candidates, Kirk White hadn’t made a decision yet, and Anthony Robinson said he was going to wait to see which candidate addressed the issues that were most important to him. As a reminder, my interview with Dwight Boykins is here – he also spoke with New Media Texas and did a Q&A with Texpatriate – and my interview with Georgia Provost is here. The Chron endorsed Anthony Robinson in November, so they have to name their second choice as well.

As for the other races and other candidates, if there have been any announcements in the At Large races on in District A, I have not seen them. In District I, Ben Mendez announced his endorsement of Robert Gallegos. His opponent, Graci Garces, released an open letter to him accusing him of letting people believe he is related to the late Sen. Mario Gallegos. If you are aware of any endorsements for a runoff by a candidate from November, please leave a comment or drop me a note.

Re-endorsement watch: Three Council repeats

The Chron reiterates its endorsement in three Council races.

David Robinson:

In the run-off for At-large Council Position 2, there is an especially clear choice facing city voters. Architect David Robinson has the professional skills and lengthy experience as a civic leader to make significant contributions at the council table from Day One.

We endorse Robinson for the Position 2 seat.

Brenda Stardig:

Brenda Stardig has the experience to get things done and deserves voters’ support in the runoff. Stardig has worked her way up the community government ladder, serving as civic club president, head of a superneighborhood, member of the Memorial City TIRZ and the Houston-Galveston Area Council’s Transportation Policy Council. That transportation policy experience will come in handy for her commuter-heavy constituents. For all her sound and fury, incumbent Helena Brown accomplishes little at City Hall. She has not pushed hard for her district, nor has she been an effective force for fiscal responsibility. In our strong mayor form of city government, a single renegade council member cannot hurt the mayor. She can only hurt her constituents.

Graci Garces:

District I promises to encompass some of Houston’s greatest growth over the next six years. Extending from downtown into the East End, the skyscrapers, landmarks and booming neighborhoods of District I make this city council race one of the most important of the election season. Graci Garces will be able to hit the ground running for both the district’s Hispanic families and its Fortune 500 corporations.

These were the easy ones, since the Chron had already endorsed Robinson, Stardig, and Garces in Round One. There are two more Council runoffs, and in those the Chron will need to pick someone else, as they had endorsed Anthony Robinson in D and Rogene Calvert in At Large #3, but neither made the runoff. I have no idea what they might do in these last two races.

Three questions for the runoffs

There are eight runoff elections on the ballot in Houston – two At Large Council races, three District Council races, and three HCC Trustee races. As we transition into runoff mode, there are three questions on my mind for the races that will conclude in December.

1. Where will the vote come from?

November turnout is driven by Mayoral races. December turnout is also driven by Mayoral races. In runoffs where there isn’t a Mayoral race, turnout is driven by the district Council races, but at a much more modest level. You can go door to door in a District race as opposed to an At Large race, you don’t need as much money to get your message out, and people tend to think about district Council members as “their” Council member in a way they generally don’t about At Large members. District runoffs are in A, D, and I, with the bulk of the turnout likely to come from A and D. Turnout in D will benefit Michael Kubosh and CM Andrew Burks; turnout in A probably won’t strongly favor one candidate over another in either race; turnout in I will probably benefit Roy Morales. David Robinson’s base is deepest in District C – I’ll have the precinct analysis for the At Large races tomorrow – and it’s not clear where Morales will want to go to find his voters. I have a thought on that, which I will explore in item 2. I don’t expect the HCC runoffs to play a significant role in any of the Council races.

But the key is that runoff turnout will be lower, a lot lower than what we just saw. Turnout for the 2011 runoffs, which exceeded 50,000 thanks to the unusually high profile of the At Large #5 runoff. Thirty thousand votes would not be out of line for this year’s runoffs, so all of these races can be won with a very small number. Getting your voters out, whether or not there’s another race that might motivate them, is the goal.

2. Does Mayor Parker get involved?

Mayor Annise Parker

Mayor Annise Parker

With five Council runoffs, the December races could have a significant effect on the makeup of Council, and therefore of Mayor Parker’s third term ambitions. Incumbent officeholders are often reluctant to involve themselves in these races – not always, but often – and for good reason, since no one wants to voluntarily add to one’s enemies list. But Mayor Parker has a stake in the outcome of at least two races, arguably three races, and she will never appear on a City of Houston ballot again, though perhaps she will run for something else someday. Given the scope of her ambitions and the need for a Council that will work with her, I’d argue she can’t afford to sit out the runoffs. Let’s look more closely at the races she might want to get involved in.

– District A. This is practically a no-brainer. Mayor Parker helped out then-CM Brenda Stardig in the 2011 runoff, though it was too little too late, so there’s no argument that neutrality is the default position. Stardig would be an ally on Council. CM Helena Brown is not, and unless there are some detente talks going on that I haven’t heard of, she will continue to not be an ally whether Parker meddles in this race or not. Brown is one of Parker’s main problems on Council, and this is an opportunity to solve that problem. I don’t know why she wouldn’t try.

– At Large #2. CM Burks isn’t an antagonist like CM Brown is, but he’s not a reliable vote for the Mayor. He opposes her food trucks ordinance and while he stated support for a comprehensive non-discrimination ordinance in his Texas Leftist candidate questionnaire, he was non-committal about repealing the 2001 charter amendment that forbids the city from offering domestic partner benefits in the interview he did with me. I don’t know where he would stand on new regulatory items like the wage theft or payday lending ordinances. Even if he is on board with these other parts of the Mayor’s agenda, David Robinson unquestionably would be an ally, and would not need to be worked for a vote. Robinson is an upgrade from Parker’s perspective, but the decision here is not as clear because Burks does vote with the Mayor more often than not, and if he survives the runoff he likely would become a stronger opponent of hers if she works against his re-election. It’s a calculated risk, and I could see going either way. For sure, unlike in A, the safe choice is to stay out of it.

– At Large #3. At first glance, it would not appear that there’s anything to be done here, as the runoff is between two Republicans, but I don’t think that’s necessarily the case. Clearly, Michael Kubosh would stand in opposition to Mayor Parker. He’s been a vocal and active critic, fighting against the red light cameras and the homeless feeding ordinance. He endorsed Ben Hall this year, and has contributed financially to Helena Brown. Like CM Brown, I don’t think anything would change in his behavior or their relationship if Mayor Parker actively opposed him in December. Roy Morales ran against Parker in 2009, but then Peter Brown ran against her in 2009 and he was a supporter of hers this year. I certainly don’t see Morales as an ally, but there’s nothing to suggest he’s be an all-out opponent, either. He came across as a fairly mainstream right-of-center type in the interview I did with him. He would almost certainly be an upgrade over Kubosh from the Mayor’s perspective, perhaps a significant one. It can’t hurt for the Mayor to send an envoy to him and see what possibilities for cooperation might exist.

What it comes down to is this: Kubosh has campaigned as an opponent of the Mayor. His voters will have a reason to come out in December. Morales has a smaller base than Kubosh, and there’s not an obvious catalyst that would push his voters to the polls. That’s where Mayor Parker, who just won an election with 57% of the vote, can help him. Let her tell her supporters that a vote for Morales means a vote for supporting the Mayor, and this runoff gets a lot more interesting. There are no guarantees here – Parker would be trying to sell a guy that has held office and run for other offices as a Republican to a mostly Democratic group of voters, and they will have every reason to be skeptical of that – but a message that Morales would be better for the Mayor (assuming, of course, that he would be agreeable to this) than Kubosh is clear enough. This is all my thinking, I have no idea what the Mayor might make of this. But that’s how I see it.

Again, there are no guarantees. If the Mayor gets involved in any of these races and her candidates lose, that will start her third term off with a negative story line, that her support was unhelpful, possibly even hurtful. Some people, especially other officeholders, believe strongly that incumbents should avoid butting in on races like this, so even if she picks winners there will be some blowback. Surely CMs Brown and Burks have friends on Council, and they may not like the Mayor going after them. Playing in these races is a risk. It’s just a question of how the risk stacks up against the potential reward.

3. Will the HCC races finally get some attention?

As far as I can tell, the HCC Trustee races were not covered at all by the Chronicle before the election. No stories, not even a cursory one-paragraphs-about-each-candidate overview story of the five slots that were on the ballot, which is two more than usual thanks to the departures of Rep. Mary Ann Perez and Richard Schechter. Even after the election, with three runoffs and the victory by hatemonger Dave Wilson, there’s not much out there about these races. All things considered, I’m not that hopeful that we’ll get a more complete picture of the candidates that are running for these six-year-term offices.

As noted in item 2, one can make a case for Mayor Parker to get involved in some of the Council runoffs. I think there’s an even more compelling case for her to get involved with at least one of the HCC runoffs as well. Sure, they don’t directly intersect with city business, but this isn’t about that. It’s about Dave Wilson, who has been an opponent of equality in general, and of Annise Parker in particular, for many years now. We can’t do anything about Wilson’s election now, but something can be done to prevent him from having allies on the HCC Board of Trustees. We know he supported Yolanda Navarro Flores. There are now reports that Wilson supported Herlinda Garcia in HCC 3 as well. Given that, I can’t think of any good reason for Mayor Parker to sit on the sidelines. She needs to directly support the efforts of Zeph Capo, and if the reports in HCC 3 are true, of Adriana Tamez. The risks are the same as in the Council runoffs, but the case for action couldn’t be clearer. Let’s shine a nice, bright spotlight on these races and these candidates and who supports what, because letting these races go on under cover of darkness does us all no good.

Chron overview of District I

The Chron covers the District I race.

CM James Rodriguez

CM James Rodriguez

The contrasts in this eastside, heavily-Latino council district are dramatic: from the gleaming George R. Brown Convention Center in the heart of downtown, to older neighborhoods lacking modern street drainage where vacant lots become clandestine dump sites.

Four candidates are campaigning to represent a historic slice of central Houston they all agree has both huge potential and a long list of improvements. The near completion of a multimillion-dollar extension of Metro’s light rail passenger line into the district holds the promise of increased economic development, as well as an anticipated influx of travelers who will use the $156 million international terminal under construction at William Hobby Airport.

Demographics explain some of the challenges facing District I and its 180,000 residents.

The average household income of $36,900 annually is $6,000 lower than the citywide average of $42,960. Educational attainment, while improving, is still low with 45 percent of residents lacking a high school diploma. The district is 77 percent Hispanic, the highest concentration of Latinos in any of the council districts, and, not surprisingly, Spanish is the primary language in 68 percent of the homes.

The incumbent, James Rodriguez, is term-limited. The election is Nov. 5.

The ballot features a longtime community worker/activist turned county jailer, a City Council aide with a decade of experience in the district office, and a private businessman with years of managing large city and school district building projects. Rounding out the race is a grass-roots candidate, who polled a surprising 35 percent of the vote against the well-financed incumbent in the 2011 election.

I interviewed all four candidates in this race – Robert Gallegos, Graci Garces, Ben Mendez, Leticia Ablaza. All but Ablaza also did at least one Q&A with Texpatriate or Texas Leftist; you can find those links on my 2013 Election page. The Chron endorsed Garces in the race.

I found the comment about Ablaza and her “surprising” 35% against CM Rodriguez in 2011 to be interesting. As we know, 2011 was a pretty good year to run against an incumbent Council member, as two of them lost and three others at the citywide level (Mayor Parker, CM Costello, CM Noriega) were re-elected with 55% or less. In all these cases, the incumbent had multiple opponents, so even though the not-incumbent vote was 45% or more, it was split multiple ways, often among candidates with minimal resources. A possibly useful comparison is in District H, where like CM Rodriguez, CM Ed Gonzalez had a lone opponent. Here’s how those races compared:

Dist Candidate Votes Pct ================================== H E Gonzalez 4,347 68.24% H P Rodriguez 2,023 31.76% I J Rodriguez 4,050 64.46% I L Ablaza 2,233 35.54%

So Patricia Rodriguez, who as far as I could tell in 2011 ran no campaign and raised $500 on the one finance report she filed, received 31.76% of the vote. Leticia Ablaza, who did run a campaign and who raised over $7,500 on the two reports she filed, received 35.54%. You tell me if that qualifies as a surprise. I will further note that neither CM Rodriguez nor CM Gonzalez had an opponent in November 2009 (CM Gonzalez of course won a special election in a June 2009 runoff to succeed now-Sheriff Adrian Garcia), but the undervote in each case (see page 6) was 36.52% for Gonzalez and 37.56% for Rodriguez. Again, you tell me what it all means.

To put this all another way, suppose there had been a third candidate in District I in 2011, and suppose that candidate had been of the no-name, no-campaign variety. How do you think the final outcome would have differed? Would you expect it to be something like 65-33-2, 63-35-2, 65-25-10, 55-35-10, or something else? I’ll say this much – if Leticia Ablaza matches her 2011 percentage, she’s not just a lock for the runoff, she’s almost surely leading the pack. I think that’s certainly possible, but I have no idea how likely it is. We’ll know soon enough.

Endorsement watch: Brad and Graci

Another endorsement twofer from the Chron, this time an incumbent and an open seat. First up, the Chron endorses CM Brad Bradford for a third term.

CM C.O. "Brad" Bradford

CM C.O. “Brad” Bradford

The duties of an at-large council member are not as specific as those of a district council member and At-large Council Member C.O. “Brad” Bradford has some ideas about changing that, which we’ll return to a minute.

But first things first. Bradford, the former chief of the Houston Police Department, has continued to serve this city well in two terms in At-large Position 4. He deserves to be returned to City Hall for a third and final two years at the council table.

[…]

[T]he council member has presented an ambitious proposal to change the Houston City Charter.

Among the ideas? Giving the five at-large council members specific portfolios such as public safety, budget and finance, parks and recreation, etc.

Bradford has drawn a worthy opponent in Issa Dadoush, a former director of the city of Houston General Services Department who is a licensed professional engineer and an MBA.

We encourage Dadoush, now in the private sector, to remain interested in elective service at City Hall. But for the next two years, our clear recommendation for voters is C.O. “Brad” Bradford for City Council At-large Position 4.

I was beginning to wonder when the Chron would get around to the last four races. For this race at least I didn’t expect anything unusual. I don’t have much to add to the Chron’s endorsement. CM Bradford is a sharp guy, and while I don’t always agree with him, he does bring a lot to the table. My interview with CM Bradford is here.

The Chron also endorsed Graci Garces in District I.

Graci Garces

Graci Garces

Whoever represents District I should have no learning curve at City Hall, and be ready to serve families in the district’s Hispanic communities and also booming downtown businesses. An inexperienced city council member risks killing the goose that laid the golden egg. We believe that Graci Garces, with her years of service within local government, is the best candidate for District I.

Once represented by Hispanic political kingpin Ben Reyes, before he was busted in a federal bribery sting, District I has been held by a clean line of succession for the past 12 years. State Rep. Carol Alvarado was elected to that seat for three terms, followed by her chief of staff, James G. Rodriguez, who is completing his third and final term on council. Garces, Rodriguez’s chief of staff, would continue the Alvarado dynasty at City Hall.

That isn’t necessarily a good thing. Lifelong staffers like Garces, 33, lack important private sector experience, and may have a greater sense of loyalty to their mentors than their constituents.

But Garces hasn’t been some behind-the-scenes insider. For the past 10 years, she’s been the eyes and ears for City Hall in District I. Her specific, localized ideas go beyond the usual infrastructure and jobs agenda, with goals of reducing animal overpopulation in neighborhoods and tearing down blight. She’s walked the streets for a decade and knows the area well. After working in D.C. and Austin for a host of Hispanic representatives, Garces will be able to serve as a bridge between government and the community.

Here’s my interview with Graci Garces. The Chron also gave a shoutout to Ben Mendez in their endorsement. Garces is a strong candidate, but as I’ll mention in a subsequent post, I don’t see any of the four having a clearcut edge over the others. Perhaps this will give her a boost towards the runoff. If you live in District I, who is your preferred choice?

Interview with Leticia Ablaza

Leticia Ablaza

Leticia Ablaza

For my last City Council interview for the 2013 cycle, I return to District I for a conversation with Leticia Ablaza. Ablaza turned her activism against the historic preservation ordinance into a filing-deadline candidacy for I in 2011, eventually getting 35.5% against CM James Rodriguez. She then spent four months as Chief of Staff to CM Helena Brown. A native of Mexico and a graduate of the University of St. Thomas, Ablaza has worked in the securities industry doing fraud investigations, and is currently the operations manager for a real estate firm. Here’s what we talked about:

Leticia Ablaza interview

You can see all of my interviews as well as finance reports and other information on candidates on my 2013 Election page.

Interview with Ben Mendez

Ben Mendez

Ben Mendez

My third and at least for now final interview in District I is with Ben Mendez. I’ve sent two emails to Leticia Ablaza and left two voice mail messages to arrange an interview, but as of this writing we have not been able to set an interview date. If and when we do, I’ll publish her interview later. As for Mendez, he is the owner of a construction services firm, having previously managed the Design and Construction Division at the Houston Police Department. He has also been a Council Member’s aide and a high school math teacher, and he serves on a number of non-profit and community-related boards. Here’s the interview:

Ben Mendez interview

You can see all of my interviews as well as finance reports and other information on candidates on my 2013 Election page.

Interview with Robert Gallegos

Robert Gallegos

Robert Gallegos

Next up in District I is Robert Gallegos. Gallegos works for the Harris County Sheriff’s Department, having previously been a Community Liaison for then-County Commissioner Sylvia Garcia. Before his stint in government service, he spent 25 years in Logistics Sales in Motor Freight and International Trade. He is also a longtime community activist, as the President of Houston Country Club Place Civic Club (HCCP) for 15 years, the founder and first President of the Greater Eastwood Super Neighborhood 64/Lawndale Wayside Super Neighborhood 88, and more. Here’s what we talked about:

Robert Gallegos interview

You can see all of my interviews as well as finance reports and other information on candidates on my 2013 Election page.

Interview with Graci Garces

Graci Garces

Graci Garces

The final open District Council seat is in District I, where CM James Rodriguez is termed out. Four candidates vie to succeed him, including one from 2011. The first candidate for review here is Graci Garces. Garces is the Chief of Staff to CM Rodriguez, having previously worked for then-CM Carol Alvarado. Prior to that, she was a legislative staffer in Austin, working for the late Rep. Irma Rangel, Rep. Juan Escobar, and Rep. Dora Olivo. The nature of the city’s relationship with the state legislature was among the things we talked about in the interview:

Graci Garces interview

You can see all of my interviews as well as finance reports and other information on candidates on my 2013 Election page.

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.

Midyear 2013 election update

Back in January, I took an early look at the 2013 elections in Houston. At the request of the folks at the Burnt Orange Report, who also printed my initial overview, here’s an update on the races in the city of Houston in 2013.

Mayor

Back in January, Mayor Parker had no declared opponents, though everyone expected former City Attorney Ben Hall to jump in, and there were whispers of other potential entrants. Hall made his candidacy official about two weeks after my initial report, and formally launched his campaign in March, though things have been fairly low key so far. Mayor Parker, who just kicked off her own campaign a couple of weeks ago, has been busy touting her achievements, of which there have been many in recent months, and pointing out all the glowing praise Houston is getting in the national media for its food scene, arts, employment opportunities, and affordable housing. Hall has been introducing himself to voters – he was the featured speaker at a recent event at HCDP headquarters; Mayor Parker will get her turn for that later in June – though thus far he has stuck to general themes and not presented much in the way of specific policy initiatives. He suffered some bad press a month ago when news of his frequent delinquency when paying property taxes surfaced. That subject, and the fact that Hall lived outside Houston in the tony suburb of Piney Point until last year – he was ineligible to vote in the 2009 city election – will likely come up again as the campaigns begin to engage with each other.

Two other candidates have joined the race as well. One is Green Party perennial Don Cook, who ran for an At Large Council seat in 2009 and 2011, for County Clerk in 2010, and for CD22 in 2012. The other is 2011 At Large #2 candidate Eric Dick, and you can keep the jokes to yourself, he’s way ahead of you on that. Besides his name, Dick is best known for covering the city with bandit campaign signs two years ago; the signs and the controversy that accompanied them did wonders for his name recognition and no doubt his law firm’s bottom line. It’s not clear if he intends to run a more serious campaign this time or if it’s just going to be another round of nailing things to utility poles and denying all knowledge of how they got there, but Dick’s emphasizing that he’s the “Republican” candidate in this nominally non-partisan race suggests that at least one person is thinking about the old pincer strategy.

We’ll have a better idea of where things stand when the campaign finance reports come out in six weeks. Hall has made much noise about his willingness to self-finance his campaign, but nothing says “broad-based support”, or the lack of it, than one’s list of small-dollar donors. It will also be interesting to see where the establishment goes, and if there are any defections from Parker 09 to Hall or Gene Locke 09 to Parker. Finally, on the subject of Republicans, it’s well known among insiders but not at all outside that circle that Hall has a couple of Republican operatives on his campaign payroll. I feel confident saying that fact will gain prominence after the July 15 reports begin to emerge. Until then, there’s the parody Ben Hall Twitter feed to keep those of you who are into that sort of thing amused.

City Controller

Incumbent Ronald Green, who like Mayor Parker is running for a third term, also now has an opponent, a Republican accountant by the name of Bill Frazer. Frazer now has a Facebook page for his campaign, but still no webpage that I can find. As noted before, Green has had some bad press, and he has never been a dynamic fundraiser or campaigner. He didn’t have a lot of cash on hand in January, and I don’t recall much activity there since then. He could conceivably be vulnerable to the right candidate and some bad luck. I don’t think Frazer is that candidate, and as far as luck goes all Green really needs is no more dirt to come out about him before November. Outside of open seat years, we really don’t have a history of Controller races in Houston. The office tends to get a lot less attention than Council does.

City Council At Large

I took an early look at At Large #3, the one open At Large seat, back in April, and nothing much has changed since then. It’s an interesting field, to say the least, with three candidates that have run citywide in the past, and the three that haven’t can credibly claim to have a base of support. There is no clear frontrunner, though the lack of a prominent African American candidate in the race is a factor that could ultimately affect its trajectory. I continue to believe that’s a void that will eventually be filled. Again, the campaign finance reports will bring a bit of focus to the picture, but most likely there will be not that much to see just yet. Generally speaking, the usual powers that be steer clear of these multi-candidate pileups until the runoff.

I noted before that there might be more opportunity in a head-to-head matchup against one of the two freshmen At Large Council members than in the wide open At Large #3 scramble. David Robinson, who finished fourth in the open At Large #2 race in 2011, has apparently taken that to heart and is challenging CM Andrew Burks for that seat. Burks has not particularly distinguished himself in his first term, but he is generally well liked and remains well known due to his many previous candidacies. So far, no one has emerged to take on Burks’ fellow freshman, CM Jack Christie, and the two members running for their third terms, CMs Stephen Costello and Brad Bradford, are also unopposed. Both Costello and Bradford are known to have future Mayoral ambitions, so the tea leaf readers will have some material to work with after the election. Actually, they’ll have some before it as well, since Bradford is listed as a Hall supporter, while Costello, along with CMs Ed Gonzalez and Al Hoang, are Parker supporters.

District City Council

There are only two open district Council seats thanks to the resignation of now-Harris County Tax Assessor Mike Sullivan, who was succeeded by CM Dave Martin last November. Martin will likely draw a challenger or two as the newbie on Council, but so far all of the action is elsewhere. I am aware of four candidates for the District D seat now held by CM Wanda Adams: businessman and former ReBuild Houston oversight board member Dwight Boykins, who had previously run for At Large #5 in 2003, losing to Michael Berry; Houston Housing Authority board member Assata Richards; photojournalist and businesswoman Georgia Provost; and community advocate Keith Caldwell, who ran for D in 2007 and finished fifth in the field of seven. There had been some buzz about former At Large #5 CM Jolanda Jones throwing her hat in and forcing a legal decision to clarify Houston’s term limits ordinance, but I haven’t heard anything about that in months and have no idea if it is still a possibility.

District I has proven to be the liveliest race so far, as candidates Graci Garces and Ben Mendez have already gotten into the kind of spat that one only sees in election years. Garces is the Chief of Staff to current District I member James Rodriguez, who in turn was Chief of Staff to State Rep. Carol Alvarado when she held that seat; Garces was also on Alvarado’s staff. Mendez is a businessman. They are joined in the race by community activist and Sheriff’s Department employee Robert Gallegos, and Leticia Ablaza. Ablaza is the former Chief of Staff to District A CM Helena Brown, who resigned from that position along with Deputy Chief of Staff RW Bray after less than five months on the job, and she challenged CM Rodriguez in 2011, finishing with 35% of the vote. To say the least, her presence in this race makes it one to watch.

Speaking of CM Helena Brown, the field for District A is big enough to make you think it was an open seat as well. In addition to the incumbent, candidates include former CM Brenda Stardig, who assured me on the phone a few weeks ago that she’s going to run a much more organized and focused campaign than she did in 2011 when Brown ousted her; Amy Peck, the District Director for Sen. Dan Patrick who finished third in District A in 2009; and Mike Knox, who has been an HPD officer, Board Member of the Houston Police Patrolmen’s Union, and Director of Community Service for the Spring Branch Management District. All three have good establishment Republican credentials, and I suspect the strategy for all three is to get into a runoff with Brown and hope to consolidate enough support against her to win. As always, the July finance report will tell an interesting tale, and this is one time where I think the usual suspects will not be on the sidelines early but will already be backing one horse or another.

HISD and HCC

There is one update to report on HISD races. District I Board Member and current Board President Anna Eastman is now opposed by community activist Hugo Mojica, who ran in the special election for City Council District H in May 2009 to succeed Sheriff Adrian Garcia and finished eighth in the field of nine. District I is my district, and while I think Hugo is a perfectly nice person, I think Anna Eastman is an outstanding Trustee, and I’ll be voting for her in the fall. There are no other active races I’m aware of, but the impending takeover of North Forest ISD will necessitate a redraw of Trustee districts that could force a special election in Districts II and VIII, where Rhonda Skillern-Jones and Juliet Stipeche now serve. Neither would be on the ballot in 2013 otherwise. I don’t know what all of the ramifications of this will be, but that’s a possibility to watch out for. Finally, while no one has yet announced a campaign against him, District IX Trustee Larry Marshall continues to provide ammunition for whoever does take the plunge.

Lastly, there are two developments in HCC. There is now a second special election on the ballot, as former Board President Richard Schechter stepped down in January after successfully leading the push for HCC’s bond referendum in November. The board appointed attorney and former General Counsel for HCC Leila Feldman to succeed Schechter. Feldman is also the daughter-in-law of Houston City Attorney David Feldman and is married to Cris Feldman, whom aficionados of all things Tom DeLay will recognize as a key player in bringing about his demise. In any event, she will be on the ballot in November along with appointee Herlinda Garcia, who succeeded State Rep. Mary Perez, and incumbents Bruce Austin, Neeta Sane, and Yolanda Navarro Flores. In the second development, Navarro has drawn two opponents, Zeph Capo, the vice-president and legislative director for the Houston Federation of Teachers, and community and Democratic activist Kevin Hoffman, who lost to Navarro Flores in 2007. HCC Trustee races never get much attention, but this one will be as high profile as these races get.

That’s all I have for now. I’ll be taking a close look at the finance reports when they come out.

UPDATE: Whenever I write one of these posts, I’m going by what I’ve seen and heard. Until the July finance reports come out, there’s no easy way to compile a list of candidate names, unless you drop in on the City Secretary and ask to see the dead tree document of people who have filed designation of campaign treasurer forms. As such, I’m going to miss some people, and I inevitably hear about them after I publish.

Three such names have come to my attention since I posted this. One is former State Rep. Al Edwards, who apparently is actively campaigning for At Large #3. The second is Clyde Lemon, who according to Burt Levine is going to run against HISD Trustee Larry Marshall. Neither has a webpage or a campaign Facebook page that I can find, and Google told me nothing about their efforts, so make of that what you will.

The third candidate I’ve heard of since posting is Ron Hale, who is running in the increasingly large District A field. Hale left a bizarre comment on Levine’s Facebook page, saying that I’m “another blogger trying to keep [his] name out of the article as if it hurts my campaign” and “one person in the district A race is a contributor to off the cuff (sic)”. I have no idea what he’s talking about – I am of course the only “contributor” to Off the Kuff – but whatever. Ron Hale is also running for District A, and now you know.

Garces and Mendez spar over a photo

Usually, the city election season doesn’t get into full swing until summertime, safely after the legislative session has ended. But clearly, it’s on in District I.

The photo in question

Houston City Council District I candidate Graci Garces is calling for opponent Ben Mendez’s apology after Mendez — or someone with his campaign — allegedly e-mail blasted a photo of….um, Garces enjoying a meal at a restaurant.

“I was appalled that Ben Mendez and his campaign would distribute a photo of me that is intended to bully, harass, and discriminate,” Garces explained in her statement.

She continued: “The Mendez campaign crossed the line of decency and should be held accountable.”

Hair Balls has to admit: we’re a little confused by the whole thing. We’re not sure what the Mendez hoped to gain by distributing the photo, or if it was just someone’s idea of a joke. What’s the message of this photo? That Garces is not a size 2, and therefore is a freak of nature whose very existence must be documented and shared with the rest of the world?

We think Garces and her supporters — some of whom have written their own open letter demanding an apology — are raising too much of a stink over this, but that’s politics. What bothers us most of all is the way Mendez’s campaign is(n’t) dealing with this.

Campos, who is Graci Garces’ campaign manager, has copies of the open letters. The first one has links to pages that talk about bullying and fat shaming, which is the direction I assume Garces intends to go with this. You can see the photo embedded above, which was included in the open letters. Garces is not a size zero, and nobody looks good in a photo taken while eating, especially a non-thin person and double especially a non-thin female person, who is likely to be reduced to an object of ridicule and derision by some number of people who see said photo. (See, for example, some of the comments on that Hair Balls post.) Garces wants to head that off, and I understand and admire that impulse. On the other hand, she herself has now made that photo of her more widely known than it was likely to become without her actions, and it’s not clear that the message she’s sending with it will accompany all of those images or sink in with the people who see them. One can argue that from a strategic perspective, she should have let it go. I think her course of action was the right thing to do, but not necessarily the best way to win the election.

As for Mendez, I don’t know the story behind this, and if you read through that Hair Balls piece, you can see that his campaign is not exactly on top of things response-wise. Whatever his intent was, let’s hope this steers the campaign for this open seat back to more substantive matters. District I voters – really, all of us – deserve that much. Texpatriate has more.

Two for I

Yeah, we’re still two weeks out from the start of early voting for 2012. But that hasn’t stopped two people from announcing their candidacies for City Council District I next year.

Leticia Ablaza

Graciana ”Graci” Garces, chief of staff for District I Councilman James Rodriguez, is running to succeed him next year when he’s termed out.

If Garces wins, she would continue an intra-office line of succession. Rodriguez had been the chief of staff for his predecessor, Carol Alvarado, who is now a state representative.

Leticia Ablaza, who challenged Rodriguez last year, is also running, she confirmed. Ablaza served as chief of staff for District A Councilwoman Helena Brown for four months before resigning to work on the campaign of Texas Supreme Court Justice David Medina. Ablaza, 39, lives in Glenbrook Valley and has lived in District I for 37 years.

Garces doesn’t live in District I yet, but she will next week, when she moves from Humble into a loft on the edge of Glenbrook Valley. That’s just in time to give her the year’s residency requirement to run for the seat.

Ablaza got less than 30% of the vote in her challenge to CM Rodriguez last year, but she was a first-time candidate and filed late. She certainly has room to grow, and I daresay she’ll be better funded this time around. Garces’ experience in the office and her connections to CMs Rodriguez and Alvarado is the sort of thing that’s usually a big asset, except in those times when the people are in a mood for a fresh face, in which case it’s not. We’ll see how it goes. Other open Council seats will be in At Large #3 and District D; District E would have been open, but CM Sullivan is resigning effective January 2, so his replacement will be elected this year. Finally, as we know, there is already chatter about a challenge in District A. Any other candidate scuttlebutt out there that you’re hearing? Leave a comment and let us know. Campos, who will be working with Garces, has more.

Endorsement watch: Rodriguez in I

The Chron votes for experience in District I.

District I is the cradle of Hispanic municipal political power in Houston, initially represented by Ben Reyes and since then by a string of Latino successors. It encompasses most of downtown as well as east and southeast neighborhoods.

The district has been ably represented for the past four years by native East End resident James Rodriguez, a graduate of Milby High School and the University of Houston. Rodriguez served as chief of staff for four years to former District I councilmember and current state Rep. Carol Alvarado.

[…]

We believe Rodriguez has successfully used his long experience in municipal governance for the benefit of the residents of District I. They will be well served by returning him to office for a final term.

My interview with CM Rodriguez is here.

Interview with Leticia Gutierrez Ablaza

Leticia Ablaza

Leticia Gutierrez Ablaza was a deadline day filer for Houston City Council in District I. A resident of Glenbrook Valley, she became politically involved during the fight over the historic preservation ordinance in that neighborhood. She has a degree in finance and has worked in the financial services industry. Here’s our conversation:

Download the MP3 file

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

Interview with CM James Rodriguez

CM James Rodriguez

CM James Rodriguez is running for his third term in District I. He was Chief of Staff for his predecessor, Rep. Carol Alvarado, so he has actually been serving the district a lot longer than that. Rodriguez has been in the thick of a number of things from the last few years, from Metro to redistricting to Dynamo Stadium, and his district includes the fast growing neighborhoods of EaDo. We talked about all of these things and more in our conversation:

Download the MP3 file

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

More on the new Council map

Here’s the Chron story about the proposed new Council map. Reactions were about what you’d expect for the most part.

“There’s two Latino council members and you have, currently, nine districts,” [District I Council Member James Rodriguez] said. “We’re moving to 11, and we’re going to stay the same. I don’t think that’s progress.”

[Mayor Annise] Parker said a key priority in the proposal, in addition to fairness, was keeping neighborhoods intact.

“We have four majority-Hispanic districts,” Parker said of the plan, noting that the portion of seats in play for Latino voters equates to Hispanics’ 40 percent share of the city’s voting-age population. “Whether or not they are represented by Hispanic public officials, the opportunity is there.”

[Demographer and map designer Jerry] Wood said two key factors make the creation of a third reliably Hispanic district difficult. First, he said, the Hispanic population is integrated throughout the city, leaving few concentrated pockets around which to draw districts. Second, he said, half of Houston’s Hispanic residents were born outside the United States, driving down the number of registered voters.

No voting precinct in the proposed A or F districts — the two most likely to elect a Latino other than the existing H and I strongholds – has a majority of Spanish surnames among its registered voters, Wood said.

A few thoughts here. It is difficult to draw a third seat that would be favored to elect a Latino, for all of the reasons Wood cites, but it is possible to do so. The city has apparently chosen to prioritize keeping neighborhoods together over finding a way to draw a third Latino district. That’s certainly not indefensible, though it is muddied by the fact that one neighborhood did get sliced up, against the wishes of an activist group that attended nearly all of the district meetings on redistricting to advocate for keeping it whole. I’m speaking of the Heights, whose bifurcation allowed the city to restore some Latino voting strength to District H while contributing to the Anglo concentration in J. If you’re willing to do that, why aren’t you willing to do the same in service of a real Latino opportunity district?

But Districts A and F have Latino majorities in them, you say. Well, yes they do. They have them today, in the current map, too. They don’t feel very opportunistic for Latino candidates because while the overall numbers skew that way, the more critical citizen voting age population (CVAP) numbers do not. Here’s a first pass at what the CVAP numbers for the four “Latino opportunity districts” look like. Two of those things are not like the others. It’s disingenuous to claim that A and F represent something new. And I have to say it makes me a little squeamish to see a district that has elected Asian-Americans as its Council member in the last two cycles also be touted as a Latino district. The Asian population is a lot smaller than the Latino population, but it too has grown considerably in the last decade. Can’t we have a map that reflects that growth as well as that of the Latinos?

I know this is hard, and I know that the Planning Department has put heroic amounts of work into creating a map that can never satisfy everyone. I don’t want to sound like I’m blaming them for anything, because I’m not. I also know they’re taking direction from the Mayor’s office, and if the Mayor tells them to tweak things, they can and will. If a third Latino district can’t be created in a way that satisfies the other requirements, let’s be clear about that instead of pointing at illusory opportunities.

Finally, I can’t let this go without mentioning turnout. I have a lot of sympathy for folks like CM James Rodriguez, who says the proposed map “is a plan that Latino leaders, activists and the overall Latino community should not support”, though I note that Stace has a somewhat different take. I strongly believe this process would be easier if Latino turnout in city elections were better, as this would allow smaller CVAP numbers to be relevant. Turnout of registered voters in H and I are always on the low end of the scale. Remember the pathetic turnout for the 2009 special election in District H? That shouldn’t happen. I hope that part of the discussion about how to craft a more representative map also includes a conversation about how to get more people actually involved in the political process. We’re just going through the motions otherwise.

I’m sure there will be plenty more to be said before this is all over. Besides the three Council meetings over the next two Wednesdays devoted to this, there are still approvals to be gotten and a vote by Council to finalize the boundaries. There are still plenty of opportunities to be heard if you want to be. A statement from Council Member Ed Gonzalez is here.

Interview with Council Member James Rodriguez

James Rodriguez

James Rodriguez

Next we have Council Member James Rodriguez, who is serving his first term in District I. He’s been busy on a number of fronts, including the construction of the Harrisburg light rail line and the pending Dynamo Stadium deal, as well as becoming a father for the first time in August. Rodriguez is unopposed this November.

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PREVIOUSLY:

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

Endorsement watch: Ed again

The Chron reiterates its earlier endorsement of Ed Gonzalez for the District H special election runoff.

In a matchup of two well qualified candidates to replace former District H council member and now Harris County Sheriff Adrian Garcia, the Chronicle believes Houston police homicide investigator Ed Gonzalez is the best choice.

Gonzalez led former school teacher and Heights civic leader Maverick Welsh by a narrow margin in a field of nine candidates last month. They are vying to serve out the final six months of Garcia’s term, and the winner will have to run again for a full two-year term in November.

[…]

In the first round only 4.4 percent of nearly 94,000 registered voters in the district cast ballots and even fewer are expected to do so this time. That will greatly multiply the impact of each individual who does vote.

We’re up to 903 early votes after three days. It’s possible we could exceed my projection for turnout before Runoff Day. That would still make this a very low turnout affair, of course, but better than most would expect for a runoff.

Gonzalez, who lives in Lindale Park with his family, is endorsed for the council seat by the former incumbent, Sheriff Garcia, whom he served as a council community liaison. He’s also backed by an impressive roster of area elected officials, including U.S. Rep. Gene Green, Harris County Constable Victor Trevino, Harris County Commissioner Sylvia Garcia and State Reps. Ana Hernandez and Armando Walle.

In addition to his 18 years of service as a Houston policeman, Gonzalez would provide needed diversity on a 15-member City Council with only one current Hispanic member, District I’s James Rodriguez. In a city that is more than 40 percent Hispanic, an added Latino council member would be a positive development.

Well, that’s certainly been a big theme of this election. I’ll note here that the rumor mill has informed me that Rick Rodriguez, who was one of the nine original candidates for this race and who finished in fourth place with 9.54% in the first go-round, is considering a run for At Large #1 this fall. I don’t know if this is true or not, but I do know that the only way we’re going to truly increase Hispanic representation on Council is to get more Hispanic candidates to run for Council seats that aren’t H and I. For that reason, I hope that he, or someone like him, is at least considering the possibility.