Off the Kuff Rotating Header Image

Dwayne Bohac

On straight tickets and other votes

I have and will continue to have more to say about straight ticket votes. Part of me is reluctant to talk about this stuff, because I feel like we’ve reached a point where straight ticket votes are seen as less than other votes, and I don’t want to contribute in any way to that. But given all the talk we’ve already had, and the unending stream of baloney about the ridiculously outsized effect they supposedly had in this election, I feel like I need to shed what light I can on what the data actually says. So onward we go.

Today I want to look at a few districts of interest, and separate out the straight ticket votes from the other votes. Again, I hesitated to do this at first because I object so strenuously to the trope that straight ticket votes tipped an election in a particular way, to the detriment of the losing candidate. If a plethora of straight ticket votes helped propel a candidate to victory, it’s because there was a surplus of voters who supported that candidate, and not because of anything nefarious. We call that “winning the election”, and it stems from the condition of having more people vote for you than for the other person. Anyone who claims otherwise is marinating in sour grapes.

So. With that said, here’s a look at how the vote broke down in certain districts.


CD02:

Straight R = 109,529
Straight D =  87,667

Crenshaw      29,659
Litton        32,325

CD07:

Straight R =  90,933
Straight D =  86,640

Culberson     24,709
Fletcher      41,319

If you want to believe in the fiction that straight ticket votes determined the elections, and not the totality of the voters in the given political entity, then please enjoy the result in CD02, where Dan Crenshaw rode the straight ticket vote to victory. Those of us who refuse to engage in such nonsense will merely note that CD02 remained a Republican district despite two cycles of clear movement in a Democratic direction. And then there’s CD07, which stands in opposition to the claim that straight ticket votes are destiny, for if they were then John Culberson would not be shuffling off to the Former Congressman’s Home.


HD126:

Straight R =  24,093
Straight D =  19,491

Harless        6,306
Hurtado        5,544

HD132:

Straight R =  27,287
Straight D =  26,561

Schofield      5,441
Calanni        6,280

HD134:

Straight R =  27,315
Straight D =  30,634

Davis         19,962
Sawyer        11,003

HD135:

Straight R =  22,035
Straight D =  22,541

Elkins         4,666
Rosenthal      5,932

HD138:

Straight R =  18,837
Straight D =  18,746

Bohac          5,385
Milasincic     5,429

HD126 and HD135 were consistent, with straight ticket and non-straight ticket votes pointing in the same direction. Gina Calanni was able to overcome Mike Schofield’s straight ticket lead, while Adam Milasincic was not quite able to do the same. As for HD134, this is one part a testament to Sarah Davis’ crossover appeal, and one part a warning to her that this district may not be what it once was. Republicans are going to have some tough decisions to make in the 2021 redistricting if they want to hold onto this district.


CC2:

Straight R =  86,756
Straight D =  92,927

Morman        25,981
Garcia        21,887

CC3:

Straight R = 132,207
Straight D = 122,325

Flynn         32,964
Duhon         40,989

CC4:

Straight R = 144,217
Straight D = 122,999

Cagle         42,545
Shaw          34,448

Finally, a Democrat gets a boost from straight ticket voting. I had figured Adrian Garcia would run ahead of the pack in Commissioners Court Precinct 2, but that wasn’t the case. I attribute Jack Morman’s resiliency to his two terms as incumbent and his millions in campaign cash, but in the end they weren’t enough. As was the case with CD02 for Dan Crenshaw, CC2 was too Democratic for Morman. That’s a shift from 2016, where Republicans generally led the way in the precinct, and shows another aspect of the Republican decline in the county. You see that also in CC3, where many Dems did win a majority and Andrea Duhon came close, and in CC4, which is at this point the last stronghold for Republicans. Democrats are pulling their weight out west, and that had repercussions this year that will continue to be felt in 2020 and beyond.

There’s still more to the straight ticket voting data that I want to explore. I keep thinking I’m done, then I keep realizing I’m not. Hope this has been useful to you.

An update on the close races

Good news from Harris County.

Gina Calanni

Fresh tallies of absentee and provisional ballots narrowed state Rep. Dwayne Bohac’s margin over Democrat Adam Milasincic to 47 votes, while incumbent Republican Mike Schofield of Katy trailed Democratic challenger Gina Calanni by 113 votes.

Harris County Commissioners Court will make the results official Friday, according to the county clerk’s office. Candidates may request a recount if they trail by less than 10 percent of the total number of votes received by the leading candidate, meaning both races are well within the requisite margin.

As it stood Thursday, Bohac’s lead amounted to less than one tenth of a percent, out of 48,417 votes. Calanni led by a more comfortable .17 percent, among 66,675 votes. Election night returns had showed Bohac leading by 72 votes and Calanni up by 97 votes.

Either way, the results mark a dramatic shift from 2014, when Schofield and Bohac, R-Houston, last faced Democratic foes. That year, the two Republicans won by more than 30 percentage points, each roughly doubling their opponents’ vote totals.

[…]

In the 108th House District, Democrat Joanna Cattanach requested a recount Wednesday, the Dallas Morning News reported. She trailed incumbent state Rep. Morgan Meyer, R-Dallas, by 221 votes, according to Dallas County elections results updated Wednesday.

In Collin County, state Rep. Matt Shaheen, R-Plano, led Democrat Sharon Hirsch by 391 votes in the 66th House District, according to the county’s elections site. Hirsch had not conceded as of Thursday morning.

Cattanach is the first candidate to request a recount, but she won’t be the last. Expect her to have some company after the results around the state are certified Tuesday.

Meanwhile, in CD23:

The political roller coaster in Congressional District 23 continued Thursday when Gina Ortiz Jones’ campaign turned its attention to election officials in Medina County.

Commissioners in Medina declined to certify the county’s results, temporarily raising the possibility of a recount in the Republican stronghold. The commissioners were given two different figures for the number of absentee voters — 1,034 and 1,010.

Jones trails incumbent Republican Will Hurd by around 1,000 votes in the race, which remains too close to call.

There’s no other choice but for this department to have a recount,” Republican Commissioner Tim Neuman said after finding the variation.

But a couple hours later, Medina Elections Administrator Lupe Torres said they were able to identify the discrepancy and would reschedule the canvassing for Monday, a plan Neuman said he agreed with.

[…]

On Thursday, the [Jones] campaign accused Medina County of breaching protocol after counting 981 mail ballots on election night. Early voting ballot boards are the small, bipartisan groups charged with reviewing and qualifying those ballots, along with provisional votes.

At the end of the night, the ballot board usually turns off the machine it used to count the ballots, as is protocol, according to affidavits from the two Democratic-appointed board members, which the campaign provided.

Instead, Torres told them to leave the machine running. Torres told them he needed to run 29 “limited” ballots through the machine, bringing the number to 1,010.

Limited ballots are cast by people who have recently moved from another county but have not switched their registration.

Torres initially denied those claims, but he later said he would “correct himself” and admitted it happened. When asked why about the denials, he said: “That’s what I thought had happened.

I don’t even know what to make of that. Just add it to the weirdness pile for this election. We’ll know more soon.

CD23 update

Today is the last day to cure a provisional ballot. In the meantime, the counting goes on in the closest Texas Congressional race.

Gina Ortiz Jones

Election officials in 29 Texas counties are furiously counting outstanding votes in the Congressional District 23 election, in which Republican Rep. Will Hurd holds a narrow lead with at least 859 ballots outstanding.

Hurd, a two-term incumbent, thought he had a comfortable win Tuesday night, when the Associated Press called the race for him around 11 p.m.

But the contest tightened in the early morning hours Wednesday, and it appeared — for a half-hour — that Democratic challenger Gina Ortiz Jones had pulled off an upset.

Then the lead changed hands again, and the state’s unofficial results showed Hurd winning by 689 votes. Later Wednesday, a tabulation error in Jones’ favor was discovered in Culberson County. Once the error was corrected, Hurd’s margin had increased to 1,150 votes — out of more than 200,000 cast.

[…]

On Friday, Bexar County — which accounts for more than half the votes in the district — updated its tally to reflect 446 ballots counted since election night. Hurd received 183, Jones 253 and Libertarian candidate Ruben Corvalan 10.

Jones gained a net 70 votes, reducing Hurd’s overall margin to 1,080.

Bexar County Elections Administrator Jacque Callanen said there’s been a steady stream of lawyers and campaign workers at the county’s Elections Department asking questions about the uncounted ballots.

“We haven’t seen so many lawyers in here since forever,” she said.

At least 859 ballots are still outstanding, according to county elections officials across the district, but it’s unclear how many will ultimately be included in the final count.

See here for some background. The SOS still shows Hurd with a 1,150 vote lead, but as you can see the Bexar County elections page shows more votes counted, so the SOS page is a bit out of date. Ortiz Jones is pushing for more information about the provisional voters, though Bexar County officials say they’re just following the rules about what can and cannot be disclosed at this time. I still don’t expect there the be enough uncounted votes to make it likely that she could catch up, but we’ll know soon enough.

In the meantime, the HD138 and HD108 races remain in contention, while Gina Calanni’s lead in HD132 has increased to 97 votes. Dallas County Democratic Party Chair Carol Donovan put out a statement yesterday about the HD108 race that included this curious bit:

One of the hold-ups is caused by the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles. Though Texas law allows people to register to vote when renewing their drivers license, the DMV is notorious for sitting on these registrations and failing to turn them in to the election department of the counties in which they operate. Without this documentation, the local election departments are unable to determine if certain provisional ballots should be counted. In Dallas County, it is estimated that approximately 1,000 provisional ballots are being held, pending the documentation from the DMV. This number is significantly higher than the number of votes that separate the candidates in House District 108.

Not really sure what to make of that, but as I said, we should at least get some official numbers by the end of the day today. Stay tuned.

How many recounts might there be?

More than one, is my guess.

Rep. Morgan Meyer

On Wednesday, Dallas state Rep. Morgan Meyer, a Republican, tweeted that he was “honored and grateful” voters had decided to send him back to the Texas Legislature for another term in office.

But his Democratic opponent in the race, Joanna Cattanach, isn’t ready to concede in House District 108, which includes Park Cities, Uptown Dallas, parts of downtown and Old East Dallas.

[…]

In Houston, Republican state Rep. Dwayne Bohac inched ahead of Democratic challenger Adam Milasincic on election night with 137 votes. Milasincic, too, is waiting on all votes to come in.

“I want to see the final numbers before we make any determination one way or another,” Milasincic said, adding that he hadn’t expected the count to draw out this long.

In Houston, Republican state Rep. Dwayne Bohac inched ahead of Democratic challenger Adam Milasincic on election night with 137 votes. Milasincic, too, is waiting on all votes to come in.

“I want to see the final numbers before we make any determination one way or another,” Milasincic said, adding that he hadn’t expected the count to draw out this long.

“I wish it had been over on election night,” he said.

In Collin County, state Rep. Matt Shaheen, R-Plano, with 378 more votes in unofficial returns, declared victory over Democrat Sharon Hirsch.

But Hirsch posted a message on her website noting the close margin and adding that she is “waiting until this process concludes before making any final remarks.”

[…]

State Rep. Mike Schofield, R-Houston, who trailed Democrat Gina Calanni by 49 votes, told his supporters on social media Thursday morning that “Tuesday’s results are not final yet.”

“The Harris County Clerk advises me that there are many votes yet to be counted — more absentee ballots and provisional ballots. We will continue to wait for a final vote count.”

And of course there’s the still-unsettled CD23 race. Meyer leads Cattanach by 440 votes, which is the widest margin of the it-ain’t-over-till-it’s-over State Rep races. I can’t think of an example of a race that was materially affected by overseas and provisional ballots – my impression is that such votes tend to be countable on one’s fingers – but I suppose there has to be a first time at some point. The last successful recount that I can think of was the 2004 Dem primary between Henry Cuellar and Ciro Rodriguez, in which a bunch of ballots were found after Election Day. This is all part of the process and people are entitled to ask for recounts. I just don’t ever expect them to change anything.

Endorsement watch: Three for four

Four endorsements for the State House, and this time the Dems collect three recommendations from the Chron. All are challengers to incumbents, and all are in districts that have been trending blue.

HD132: Gina Calanni

Gina Calanni

Gina Calanni has written several novels, is a single mother with three boys and is making her first political run to represent this westside district. She has the backing of some major women’s organizations – Emily’s List, for example – and a number of local political groups. Add us to the list.

Calanni, 41, supports plenty of a reasonable plans we’ve heard from Democrats and Republicans alike running for House seats: She wants to bring soaring property taxes back to Earth by restoring the state’s full share of funding to public schools – it’s paying 37 percent of the school tab versus the usual 50 percent —and making corporations pay taxes on the full value of their properties. She has a dedicated focus on passing laws to help fight sex trafficking.

Calanni also told us that she wants the state to expand Medicaid, and is desperate for construction of the much-discussed third flood-control reservoir for Houston. It could be somewhere in or near her district, which runs north-south from Katy to Cypress, is bisected by the Grand Parkway, and was hit hard by Harvey.

“We don’t need any more studies; we need to build it right now,” Calanni said during her candidate interview.

They dinged Rep. Mike Schofield, whom they had previously endorsed, for meddling with the pension reform bill and redirecting clean air funds to “crisis pregnancy centers”.

HD135: Jon Rosenthal

Jon Rosenthal

Rosenthal is a 55-year-old mechanical engineer who has worked mostly in the oil industry and is making his first run at political office. Like just about everybody, Rosenthal complains about rising property taxes, which he blames in part on state leaders giving big corporations tax breaks by allowing them to greatly undervalue their properties, while at the same time directing money that should be going to public schools to charter schools.

Charter schools were supposed to be centers of innovation that would boost educational achievement, Rosenthal said, but their students are not doing any better on standardized tests than those in public schools. Rosenthal also said he wants to look at other ways of raising money to help fund schools, including the legalization of marijuana.

“I’m down with making it legal and regulating and taxing it just like we do with tobacco,” he said. “I’m an ex-hippie.”

He does not agree with plans to raise sales taxes because he thinks it will hurt the poor and the elderly. We found Rosenthal to be congenial, bright, well informed and very committed to the idea of making Texas a better place.

They really went to town on Rep. Gary Elkins, giving him one star and ending with an all-caps plea to all to not vote for him. As you know, I couldn’t agree more.

HD138: Adam Milasincic

First-time candidate Adam Milasincic has the potential to become a top-notch member of the Texas House of Representatives and voters in this district shouldn’t pass on the opportunity to see what he can do in Austin. Milasincic, 34, is a super smart, well-spoken lawyer with lots of good ideas and probably the savvy to get some of them through a Republican-dominated Legislature.

Milasincic has already stepped up to help his fellow Houstonians by volunteering to represent hurricane victims cheated by landlords.

Like most Democratic candidates — and plenty of moderate Republicans in the Texas House — Milasincic wants to restore the state’s share of school funding and reduce thetax burden on homeowners. He opposes school vouchers and what he calls “other schemes to privatize or def-und our public schools.”

On flooding, Milasincic also told us that he wants a regional flood control district, stricter rules on development in flood prone areas and a third flood control dam northwest of the city.

Incumbent Rep. Dwayne Bohac is another one the Chron has endorsed before, and as with Schofield they knocked him for meddling with the pension bill. You had one job, guys!

The one Republican incumbent they went for (in this round; there are four more Democratic challengers, plus a few Republican contestants) was Rep. Dennis Paul in HD129, though they gave an equal star rating to Democrat Alex Karjeker and had good things to say about him. I don’t know if the Chron plans to go outside Harris County in these races – Lord knows, they have plenty right here to keep them busy – but they’re making progress. You can find my interview with Calanni here, my interview with Rosenthal here, my interview with Milasincic here, and my interview with Karjeker here.

Filing news: The “What’s up with Lupe Valdez?” edition

On Wednesday, we were told that Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez had resigned her post in preparation for an announcement that she would be filing to run for Governor. Later that day, the story changed – she had not resigned, there was no news. As of yesterday, there’s still no news, though there are plans in place if there is news.

Sheriff Lupe Valdez

Candidates are lining up to replace Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez if she resigns to file for governor.

Valdez, who has led the department since 2005, has said she is considering the next stage — and earlier this month said she was looking at the governor’s race. Her office said Wednesday night no decision has been made.

Valdez could not be reached for comment Wednesday night.

On Wednesday afternoon, media outlets, including The Dallas Morning News and WFAA (Ch. 8) reported that Valdez had resigned.

Lawyer Pete Schulte announced his candidacy Wednesday but later walked his intentions back after it became clear Valdez had not resigned.

He tweeted “Trying to find out how @dallasdemocrats Chair confirmed to some media today about @SheriffLupe retirement to run for Governor. Let me be clear: I have NO plans to run for DalCo Sheriff unless the Sheriff does retire early and will only run in 2020 IF Sheriff chooses to retire.”

At this point, I’m almost as interested in how the news got misreported as I am in actually seeing Valdez announce. Someone either said something that was true but premature, or not true for whatever the reason. I assume some level of fact-checking happened before the first story hit, so someone somewhere, perhaps several someones, has some explaining to do. I have to figure we’ll know for sure by Monday or so.

Anyway. In other news, from Glen Maxey on Facebook:

For the first time in decades, there are a full slate of candidates in the Third Court of Appeals (Austin), the Fifth Court (Dallas area) and the First and Fourteenth (Houston area). We can win control of those courts this election. This is where we start to see justice when we win back these courts! (We may have full slates in the El Paso, Corpus, San Antonio, etc courts, too. Just haven’t looked).

That’s a big deal, and it offers the potential for a lot of gains. But even just one or two pickups would be a step forward, and as these judges serve six-year terms with no resign-to-run requirements, they’re the natural farm team for the statewide benches.

From Montgomery County Democratic Party Chair Marc Meyer, in response to an earlier filing news post:

News from the frozen tundra (of Democratic politics, at least):
– Jay Stittleburg has filed to run for County Judge. This is the Montgomery County Democratic Party’s first candidate for County Judge since 1990.
– Steven David (Harris County) is running for CD08 against Kevin Brady. He has not filed for a spot on the ballot, yet, but has filed with the FEC.
– All three state house districts in the county will be contested by Democrats, but I’m not able to release names at this time.
– We have a candidate for District Clerk as well – he has filed a CTA, but is trying to get signed petitions to get on the ballot.
– We are still working on more down-ballot races, so hopefully there will be more news, soon.

It’s one thing to get Democrats to sign up in places like Harris and Fort Bend that have gone or may go blue. It’s another to get people to sign up in a dark crimson county like Montgomery. Kudos to Chair Meyer and his slate of candidates.

Speaking of Harris County, the big news is in County Commissioners Court Precinct 2, where Pasadena City Council member Sammy Casados has entered the primary. As you know, I’ve been pining for Adrian Garcia to get into this race. There’s no word on what if anything he’ll be doing next year, but that’s all right. CM Casados will be a great candidate. Go give his Facebook page a like and follow his campaign. He’ll have to win in March first, so I assume he’ll be hitting the ground running.

Adrian Garcia was known to have at least some interest in CD29 after Rep. Gene Green announced his retirement. I don’t know if that is still the case, but at this point he’s basically the last potential obstacle to Sen. Sylvia Garcia’s election. Rep. Carol Alvarado, who lost in SD06 to Sylvia Garcia following Mario Gallegos’ death, announced that she was filing for re-election in HD145; earlier in the day, Sylvia Garcia announced that Rep. Green had endorsed her to succeed him. I have to assume that Rep. Alvarado, like her fellow might-have-been contender in CD29 Rep. Armando Walle, is looking ahead to the future special election for Sen. Garcia’s seat. By the way, I keep specifying my Garcias in this post because two of Sylvia’s opponents in the primary are also named Garcia. If Adrian does jump in, there would be four of them. That has to be some kind of record.

Finally, in something other than filing news, HD138 candidate Adam Milasincic informs me that Greg Abbott has endorsed HD138 incumbent Rep. Dwayne Bohac. Abbott has pledged to be more active this cycle, as we’ve seen in HD134 and a few other districts, but Bohac has no primary opponent at this time. Bohac does have good reason to be worried about his chances next year, so it’s probably not a coincidence that Abbott stepped in this early to lend him a hand. Milasincic’s response is here, which you should at least watch to learn how to pronounce “Milasincic”.

UPDATE: I didn’t read all the way to the end of the statement I received from Rep. Alvarado concerning her decision to file for re-election. Here’s what it says at the very end:

I also look forward to following through on the encouragement that many of you have given to me about laying the groundwork for a campaign for a possible vacancy in Senate District 6.

As expected and now confirmed. Thanks to Campos for the reminder.

Senate rejects House changes to Houston pension reform bill

Conference committee, here we come.

Mayor Sylvester Turner

The Texas Senate on Wednesday refused to concur with House-passed amendments to a reform bill designed to resolve financial problems for Houston’s pension system.

Sen. Joan Huffman, a Houston Republican who is the author of the legislation, said the House changes would be too costly and would derail a tentative agreement brokered by Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner.

Huffman, saying the passage of the bill “is absolutely essential to the city’s future,” said one of the House amendments alone would add an additional $26.7 million to the cost of the reforms, an unaffordable amount.

Huffman was appointed chair for Senate negotiators assigned to negotiate a final version of the bill, joined by Sens. Jane Nelson, Charles Schwertner, Kelly Hancock and Carlos Uresti.

See here for the background. The amendment in question was authored by Rep. Dwayne Bohac; the Chron called for its removal, so there’s that. My guess is that the final version of the bill will be more or less the Senate version, and it ought to be approved without too much difficulty.

30 day finance reports: Pro- and anti-HERO

Some good news here.

HoustonUnites

Supporters of Houston’s contentious equal rights ordinance raked in $1.26 million during seven weeks of official fundraising, more than doubling opponents’ efforts and fueling a fierce and frenzied media campaign to court voters before the law hits the November ballot.

In campaign finance reports filed Monday that reflect late summer totals, both sides spent more than $550,000, largely on dueling TV and radio ads. But the more than $521,000 that supporters of the law still had left in campaign coffers as of Sept. 25 dwarfed the $58,000 that opponents reported in cash-on-hand.

[…]

In the battle over the city’s equal rights ordinance, Jared Woodfill, spokesman for opponents, said the campaign is unfazed by supporters’ significant fundraising totals.

Opponents reported a $100,000 donation from conservative developer Al Hartman, $25,000 from Harris County Commissioner Jack Cagle and $5,000 from Houston state Rep. Gary Elkins, among others. Longtime anti-gay activist Steve Hotze also loaned the campaign $50,000.

“We’re absolutely not intimidated at this point,” Woodfill said. “I believe the momentum is in our favor and clearly this is an ordinance that the people in Houston don’t want.”

In a news release, the Houston Unites campaign said it expected to spend $2 million before the November election.

The campaign said 80 percent of its nearly 700 donors are Houston residents.

But its efforts were also fueled by big-ticket contributions from national groups and figures.

The Washington, D.C.- based Human Rights Campaign contributed more than $200,000, and New York philanthropist Jon Stryker, a frequent donor to LGBT causes, pitched in $100,000. Colorado’s Gill Action and New York-based American Unity Fund, both LGBT advocacy groups, donated a combined $200,000.

Campaign manager Richard Carlbom, in a written statement, said the group had “certainly done well on the money front so far.”

“But, there is a great sense of urgency around fundraising this week and next,” Carlbom said. “We know from past ballot campaigns that equal rights opponents spend significant dollars in the final weeks. We must remain competitive with them in what will, no doubt, be a close election.”

The story has some highlights of candidate finance reports as well. Those can be found here, same place as the July reports. Reports for PACs can be found on the usual city finance webpage – here’s the Advanced Search link; select either the “Specific-Purpose Political Committee” or “Both” radio button, then click the “Search” button next to the “Candidate/Committee” name boxes. Latest results are on the last pages, so go to page 4; the only relevant result on page 3 is for Brenda Stardig’s campaign PAC.

There are three PACs of interest regarding HERO. Two are pro-HERO: the Houston Unites Against Discrimination PAC and the Human Rights Campaign Houston Equal Rights PAC. One is anti-HERO, the Campaign for Houston PAC. There is a “No on Houston Prop 1” PAC that shows up in the search results, but it reports no funds raised or spent.

Here’s a summary of the reports for the three active PACs mentioned above:

PAC name Raised Spent Loans On Hand ============================================================== Houston Unites 1,262,893 597,299 0 521,462 Human Rights Campaign 218,480 205,810 0 11,503 Campaign for Houston 274,785 492,231 50,000 18,494

Houston Unites had $901K in cash contributions and $359K in kind. It also reports $6,800 in loans on summary page 3, though I didn’t see any explanation of that. Some of their big donors are as follows:

Human Rights Campaign 205,810 Gill Action LLC 100,000 American Unity Fund 100,000 ACLU of Texas 95,000 Freedom For All Americans 50,000 Wes Milliken 50,000 Texas Freedom Network 25,000 Equality Texas 12,500 Annise Parker campaign 5,000 Robert Gallegos campaign 1,000

So basically, the HRC PAC was a passthrough, as all the funds they raised ($200K of which came from themselves) went to the Houston Unites PAC. A lot of these same big donors were also the main suppliers of in kind contributions, which mostly amounted to staff time and office space:

ACLU Texas 137,187 Freedom for All Americans 124,017 Human Rights Campaign 50,144 ACLU (national office) 16,750 Texas Freedom Network 15,139 Equality Texas 10,625

The expenses listed were fairly straightforward. About $360K was allocated for advertising. Some $158K was for consulting to a group called Block by Block; there were some smaller consultant expenses as well. There was about $37K for printing, and $5K for polling.

And here are the big donors for Campaign for Houston:

Allen R Hartman 100,000 Jack Cagle PAC 25,000 Ralph Schmidt 25,000 Mickey Ellis 20,000 Texans for Family Values PAC 10,000 Mac Haik Ford 10,000 Law Office of Melanie Flowers 10,000 Ryan Sitton 10,000 Anthony McCorvey 10,000 Johnny Baker 10,000 Edd Hendee 5,000 Paul Pressler 5,000 Dan Huberty 5,000 William Carl 5,000 Jay E. Mincks 5,000 Malcolm Morris 5,000 Gary Elkins 5,000 Dwayne Bohac 1,000 Jodie L. Jiles 1,000 Norman Adams 1,000

That’s $268K of the $275K they reported raising. Grassroots, they ain’t. There are some familiar names in this list. Jack Cagle is County Commissioner in Precinct 4. Ryan Sitton is a Railroad Commissioner. Dan Huberty, Gary Elkins, and Dwayne Bohac are all State Reps. Texans for Family Values is the main source of anti-gay wingnuttery at a state level. Edd Hendee is (was? I don’t listen to AM radio) a talk radio host and the owner of the Taste of Texas restaurant. I don’t recognize a lot of the other names, but I’m glad I’ve never bought a car from Mac Haik or sought legal services from Melanie Flowers.

The expense side of their report is weird. Two line items totaling $200,350.50 are to American Express for unitemized expenses. I mean, these are presumably credit card bills, so they could be for just about anything – office supplies, food, consulting expenses, strippers and porn downloads, who knows? It’s their responsibility – requirement, actually – to specify what these expenses are. My guess, if I were forced to make one, is that these are their line items for advertising costs, as there’s basically nothing else for that. But that’s just a guess, and I should note that while they listed $492,231 in total expenses on their summary page, the individual expense items only add up to $291,880. Is there an error in their form, or are there another $200K in expenditures they’re not reporting? Like I said, it’s on them to tell us. I for one will feel free to speculate wildly until they do so.

Those are the highlights for now. I am posting 30 day reports as I find them to the Election 2015 webpage. I’ll have a closer look at the reports for citywide candidates next week. Any questions about this, leave ’em in the comments.

30 day reports, Harris County candidates for state office

We’re now 26 days out from the May 29 primary, which means more campaign finance reports from candidates for state and county offices who are in contested primaries. I’m going to post about all of these, starting today with reports from Harris County candidates for state offices. Here are the Democrats, whose reports are linked from my 2012 Democratic primary election page:

Candidate Office Raised Spent Loans Cash ==================================================== Nilsson SBOE6 1,100 1,267 0 1,092 Jensen SBOE6 8,105 9,462 0 4,699 Scott SBOE6 200 474 0 346 Allen HD131 103,451 52,965 0 60,002 Adams HD131 17,930 70,768 411 24,110 Madden HD137 15,968 12,232 0 13,987 Smith HD137 29,352 24,993 0 6,255 Winkler HD137 15,575 4,170 20,000 35,914 Wu HD137 35,579 30,539 0 73,468 Perez HD144 48,120 20,238 0 40,729 Risner HD144 9,315 15,158 0 4,156 Ybarra HD144 4,650 7,586 0 27 Miles HD146 16,600 27,776 730,000 58,573 Edwards HD146 14,449 13,685 0 764 Coleman HD147 41,525 39,052 0 84,433 Hill HD147

My post on the January reports is here. Some thoughts about these reports:

I think we can say that Rep. Alma Allen has eradicated the early lead Wanda Adams had in cash on hand. The establishment has rallied to Rep. Allen’s side, as is usually the case with an incumbent in good standing. A lot of money has already been spent in this race, and I don’t expect that to change over the next four weeks.

Usually, establishment support and fundraising prowess go hand in hand, but not always. HD137 is one of the exceptions, as Gene Wu has been the strongest fundraiser despite garnering only one endorsement (that I’m aware of) so far – HAR, which is certainly a nice get but not a core Democratic group. Joe Madden and Jamaal Smith have racked up the endorsements but don’t have the financial support to match. Other than there will be a runoff, I have no idea what will happen in this race.

For a variety of reasons, many organizations have not endorsed in HD144. The candidates got off to a late start thanks to the changes made to the district in the second interim map, and no one had much to show in their January finance reports. HCC Trustee Mary Ann Perez, who has the backing of Annie’s List, clearly distinguished herself this cycle, which will undoubtedly help her in a part of town that’s not used to having competitive D primaries for State Rep. The other news of interest in this race has nothing to do with fundraising. Robert Miller reported on candidate Kevin Risner having had three arrests for DUI, a fact that I’m sure was going to come out sooner or later. Miller, who’s a Perez supporter, thinks Risner is in a good position to win the primary. I’m not sure I agree with his analysis, but we’ll see.

Poor Al Edwards. It’s hard running a race without Tom Craddick’s buddies, isn’t it? I think Rep. Miles is going to break the pattern of alternating victories this year. On a side note, the Observer’s Forrest Wilder listened to my interview with Rep. Miles, even if he didn’t link to it. I guess he’s not much of a fan of either candidate in this race.

As of this writing, Ray Hill had not filed a 30 Day report. He finally did file a January report that listed no money raised or spent.

Here are the Republicans:

Candidate Office Raised Spent Loans Cash ==================================================== Cargill SBOE8 4,474 10,059 0 18,626 Ellis SBOE8 6,614 2,795 0 5,224 McCool SD11 5,957 4,959 0 997 Norman SD11 6,200 44,086 30,000 1,007 Taylor SD11 344,708 330,586 0 169,468 Huberty HD127 77,536 44,423 0 64,691 Jordan HD127 791 1,731 0 0 Davis HD129 49,816 42,193 0 70,317 Huls HD129 1,482 1,314 0 167 Callegari HD132 67,385 27,632 0 258,286 Brown HD132 2,275 2,380 0 93 Murphy HD133 110,665 89,167 0 211,004 Witt HD133 9,043 139,943 240,100 34,207 Bohac HD138 38,975 18,931 0 44,094 Smith HD138 22,998 13,562 100,000 105,504 Salazar HD143 Weiskopf HD143 Pineda HD144 28,100 6,591 0 19,613 Pena HD144 3,968 1,368 0 0 Lee HD149 Williams HD149 Mullins HD149 Riddle HD150 8,175 24,461 0 92,216 Wilson HD150 11,900 8,520 1,100 4,272

Note that there are differences from the last time. In January, there was a four-way race for HD136, which was eliminated by the San Antonio court in each of the interim maps. Ann Witt, who had been one of the candidates in HD136, moved over to HD133 and replaced the previous challenger, who apparently un-filed during the second period. In that second period, HD144 incumbent Ken Legler decided to drop out, and incumbent Dwayne Bohac picked up an opponent, and multiple people filed in HDs 143, 144, and 149.

Candidates Frank Salazar in HD143 and Jack Lee in HD149 did not have reports filed as of posting time. Their opponents did have reports filed, but those reports are not viewable until each candidate in the race has filed.

Witt had loaned herself $100K as of January; she has since more than doubled that amount. Whet Smith dropped $100K on himself in his challenge against Bohac. Why he’d do that and not have spent any of it as of the reporting deadline is a question I can’t answer. His $23K raised is a decent amount for the time period, but having more cash on hand with 30 days to go than the amount you loaned yourself makes no sense to me.

I’m surprised there hasn’t been more money raised in HD144. That’s a key pickup opportunity for Dems. Gilbert Pena has run for office twice before – HD143 in 2010, and SD06 in 2008 – and I had assumed he’d be the frontrunner in this primary because of that. Am I missing something here?

That’s all I’ve got. I’ll work on the other Dem primaries in Texas and the Harris County races next.

Class size issues are everywhere

We know that waiver requests to exceed the 22 student class size limit are way up. But that mandated limit is only for grades K through 4. What about higher grade levels? Patricia Kilday Hart reports that those classrooms are more crowded, too.

Lamar High Principal James McSwain estimates his classes are on average 8 to 10 students larger. Susan Kellner, Spring Branch ISD board president, says her district’s middle school classes have jumped in size – with as many as 35 students in one class.

At Bellaire, [Principal Tim] Salem trimmed as few teachers as possible, but that meant he had to cut other staff positions, like a school counselor. Counselors manage class schedules and meet with kids in crisis; they are also the one adult constant in a student’s high school career. “That’s their graduation compass,” Salem told me. Each Bellaire counselor now has a caseload of 450 to 500 students.

Salem said Bellaire has some classes with 40 and 41 students; math teacher Kathy Gardner told me she had a pre-AP geometry class that started the year with 43 students (though the class dwindled to 35 as students reacted to the workload.)

What’s it like in a classroom with that many teenagers?

“I can’t even walk between the desks,” U.S. history teacher Lori Good told me. “I’ve tripped on backpacks twice.”

The mantra of those who defend the budget cuts and minimize concerns about class sizes is that teacher quality matters more than the number of students. The problem is that at some point, even the best teachers can’t operate effectively. And some of them will decide that rather than have to deal with all this extra work for no extra pay, there must be a better deal for them elsewhere. Which means that the super-sized classrooms may have negative effects that last well past the point of a hoped-for future budgetary fix.

But before we can realistically hope for a budgetary fix, we need to make sure everyone understands what the problem is that needs to be fixed. This is a good start:

[T]he Spring Branch board president said she is hearing complaints from parents who are “worried that their children are going to get less attention.”

Those concerns should be directed at state lawmakers, many of whom argued that reducing per-student funding wouldn’t really alter life in a Texas public school.

“I tell parents to tell their legislators what it looks like in reality and not just in theory,” says Kellner. “This was a state decision.”

For Spring Branch, that would be State Rep. Dwayne Bohac, and he voted to create the problem. If you want it fixed, you should vote accordingly in 2012. If you live somewhere else, find out who your State Rep and State Senators are, and if they were part of the problem as well, make yourself and your vote part of the solution next year. Nothing will change until that happens.

New map, new opportunities: Harris County

For our last stop on this tour we look at Harris County, which provided several pickup opportunities for Democrats last decade. How will they fare this time around?

Harris County's new districts

Republicans started the last decade with a 14-11 advantage – they intended it to be 15-10 after drawing Scott Hochberg out of his seat, but he moved into HD137, drawn at the time to be a 50-50 district, won it, and watched it grow more Democratic with each election. Democrats picked up seats in 2004, 2006, and 2008, then lost two of them in 2010, ending the decade at a 13-12 disadvantage. This map shrinks the Harris delegation to 24 seats and in doing so forces the only Dem-on-Dem pairing, as Hochberg and Hubert Vo were thrown together. At this point I don’t know who is going to do what. I’ve heard rumors about Hochberg moving to 134, which includes a fair amount of turf from his pre-2001 district, but that’s all they are. We won’t know till much later, and I doubt anyone will commit to a course of action until the Justice Department has weighed in.

Assuming there are no changes, the Republicans had some work to do to shore up their members. With the current map, Jim Murphy in 133 and Sarah Davis in 134 would be heavily targeted, with Dwayne Bohac in 138 and Ken Legler in 144 also likely to face stiff competition. By virtue of shifting districts west, where the population has grown and where the Republicans have more strength, they bought themselves some time. Here’s a look at the 2004 Molina numbers for the old districts versus the 2008 Sam Houston numbers in both the old and the new ones.

Dist 04 Molina Old Houston New Houston ======================================== 126 32.9 42.0 37.9 127 28.3 33.3 32.4 128 35.5 38.9 38.0 129 33.4 36.8 38.6 130 23.6 29.5 26.4 132 30.3 41.4 40.6 133 44.0 51.2 41.6 134 43.3 44.7 42.6 135 35.5 42.1 39.5 136 28.1 31.7 40.0 138 41.1 44.8 40.3 144 39.9 45.1 42.1 150 28.4 36.4 33.0

A couple of massive shifts, in 133 to protect Murphy, and in 136 where Beverly Woolley gave up some turf to help out Bohac and Davis. Some Democratic districts got even bluer, though not all of them; losing a district allowed voters of all stripes to be spread around more. Woolley and Davis’ districts cover neighborhoods that are unlikely to change much, so what you see there is likely to be what you’ll get. Everywhere else, especially in the western territories – 132, 133, 135, and 138 – are likely to see change similar to what we saw last decade. I wouldn’t be surprised if their partisan numbers are already different. The question is how much time have the Republicans bought themselves, and how much effort and resources the Democrats will put into reaching the new residents out there; not much had been done in the past. Other than perhaps Davis, who will surely be attacked for voting mostly in lockstep with the rest of the Republicans, it’s not clear that any of these seats are winnable next year, but the results we get at that time may tell us when they’ll be ripe for the picking. I expect we’ll see some turnover over time, but I don’t know how much.

Taco trucks and city regulations

Lisa Gray writes about the food truck craze in Houston, and the obstacles that these foodie entrepreneurs must overcome.

Food trucks can be a serious urban amenity, a quick way to bring life to a street, parking lot or underused park. But some of Houston’s rules seem hellbent on preventing such outbreaks of civility.

Consider, for instance, the weird sanitation rule that prevents mobile food vendors from operating within 100 feet of outdoor seating – never mind setting up their own tables, chairs and umbrellas. Nobody seems to know why sanitation officials would consider tables near a truck less sanitary than a restaurant’s outdoor seating or a park’s picnic area. But there you have it: a law that not only discourages one of the great pleasures of urban life, but actually encourages people to get back in their cars and eat while driving. That’s supposed to make us safer and healthier?

The Boys also complain that they can’t set up shop in either downtown or the Medical Center, the two pedestrian-dense places in Houston. City rules make it prohibitively expensive for food trucks to get a license to use propane tanks in either the Medical Center or downtown. Never mind that New York and Chicago haven’t had much trouble with exploding hot-dog vendors.

You’d think that Houston would be eager to bring food trucks to its neighborhood parks. As a slew of renewal projects have proven – think Market Square Park, Discovery Green, Hermann Park – food is a powerful people magnet, able to draw people to what might otherwise be a spooky, underused place. But yet another city rule prevents food trucks from parking on a street for more than an hour while they do business. For the Eatsie Boys, that’s a serious barrier: Before the trailer can roll, they have to spend 20 minutes bungee-cording all the loose stuff in the kitchen. And it’s not worth it if they can only stay in a spot for an hour.

[…]

Instead, every day that they operate, they have to tow the trailer to a city-approved “commissary” – essentially, a big car wash – where they hose the truck down, then receive a green inspection sticker that says they’re good for that day. The process, including bungee-cording anything in the rolling kitchen that might fall, as well as the round-trip drive, takes about two hours out of their business day. It’d be way more efficient, Alex says, just to hook up water at their own site and wash the trailer down there.

As it happens, I recently attended a presentation by a lawyer from the Institute for Justice, which bills itself as “the nation’s only libertarian, civil liberties, public interest law firm”, on the subject of the city’s regulatory environment and its effect on entrepreneurs. You can see the booklet he handed out with the talk here. The subject of food trucks, in particular taco trucks, was covered in the lecture – that material starts on page 6 of the document. It should be noted that a number of these onerous regulations, in particular the daily trek to the city’s commissary, were imposed on the city by the Legislature, thanks to a bill passed by Rep. Dwayne Bohac at the request of then-Council Member Toni Lawrence. There was a lawsuit filed in 2007 after the legislation was enacted by some of the taco truck owners.

State Rep. Dwayne Bohac says he was protecting the public’s health when he co-authored two new state laws to tighten regulation of taco wagons in Houston and Harris County.

But more than 60 Hispanic owners of mobile taquerias have challenged the new state laws in federal court, contending they are more about racial intolerance than food safety. Their attorney says there has not been a single report of someone getting sick from eating at a taco wagon.

“Certain legislators don’t like these Hispanic-run businesses in their neighborhoods — they think they’re too low class,” said Houston attorney David Mestemaker, who is representing the taco truck owners suing the city, county and state over the new regulations.

The city ordinances that were required by Bohac’s law were allowed to go into effect, and as far as I know the litigation is still pending. I was thinking as I listened to the Institute for Justice fellow speak that there sure were a lot of food trucks popping up around town despite the regulatory muddle. You have to wonder how many more there might be without that 2007 law.

Push for HB275

HB275 is the bill by Rep. Jim Pitts to spend money from the Rainy Day Fund to close the budget shortfall from the 2010-11 biennium. Here’s an update about it from a group called Spring Branch Speaks, sent to me via email:

UPDATE ON HB  275:

We were informed late last night that the hearing for HB 275 (use of the “Rainy Day Fund”) has been postponed.  We are concerned about this action.

If you have not made advocacy phone calls or emails to the Representatives of the House Appropriations Committee, it’s even more important to do so now.

We must keep up the pressure!  Make your voice heard by contacting the members of the House Appropriations Committee at the email addresses/phone numbers below and ask them to:

  1. Send HB 275 to the House of Representatives for consideration.
  2. Spend the “Rainy Day Fund” to protect this year’s budget and the next two year’s budget for funding public education.
  3. Don’t pass up this investment in the future of Texas and our community schools.

Thank you to those of you who already emailed or called.  We appreciate the quick work – the path of legislative bills is unpredictable; information regarding the process is often at the last minute as political changes occur.

FYI – RALLY ON SATURDAY

If you are in town for Spring Break, please consider attending the “Save Texas Schools” rally in Austin this Saturday, March 12th (see details below).  Free transportation is available if you RSVP by Friday!

The House Appropriations Committee:
Rep. Jim Pitts Jim.Pitts@house.state.tx.us 512-463-0516
Rep. Sylvester Turner Sylvester.Turner@house.state.tx.us 512-463-0554
Rep. Jimmie Don Aycock Jimmie.Aycock@house.state.tx.us 512-463-0684
Rep. Angie Chen Button Angie.Button@house.state.tx.us 512-463-0486
Rep. Warren Chisum Warren.Chisum@house.state.tx.us 512-463-0736
Rep. Myra Crownover Myra.Crownover@house.state.tx.us 512-463-0582
Rep. Drew Darby Drew.Darby@house.state.tx.us 512-463-0331
Rep. Dawnna Dukes Dawnna.Dukes@house.state.tx.us 512-463-0506
Rep. Craig Eiland Craig.Eiland@house.state.tx.us 512-463-0502
Rep. Helen Giddings Helen.Giddings@house.state.tx.us 512-463-0953
Rep. Lance Gooden Lance.Gooden@house.state.tx.us 512-463-0458
Rep. Scott Hochberg Scott.Hochberg@house.state.tx.us 512-463-0492
Rep. Eric Johnson Eric.Johnson@house.state.tx.us 512-463-0586
Rep. Susan King Susan.King@house.state.tx.us 512-463-0718
Rep. Dee Margo Dee.Margo@house.state.tx.us 512-463-0728
Rep. Armando Martinez Mando.Martinez@house.state.tx.us 512-463-0530
Rep. Ruth Jones McClendon Ruth.McClendon@house.state.tx.us 512-463-0708
Rep. Doug Miller Doug.Miller@house.state.tx.us 512-463-0325
Rep. Geanie Morrison Geanie.Morrison@house.state.tx.us 512-463-0456
Rep. John Otto John.Otto@house.state.tx.us 512-463-0570
Rep. Diane Patrick Diane.Patrick@house.state.tx.us 512-463-0624
Rep. Debbie Riddle Debbie.Riddle@house.state.tx.us 512-463-0572
Rep. Charles Schwertner Charles.Schwertner@house.state.tx.us 512-463-0309
Rep. Mark Shelton Mark.Shelton@house.state.tx.us 512-463-0608
Rep. Raul Torres Raul.Torres@house.state.tx.us 512-463-0484
Rep. Mike Villarreal Michael.Villarreal@house.state.tx.us 512-463-0532
Rep. John Zerwas John.Zerwas@house.state.tx.us 512-463-0657
For additional information please click on these links:
Save Texas Schools

**Parents for Public Schools of Houston, a non-profit, is providing 2 buses for interested persons to attend the rally. Buses Leave at 7:00 am from the Hattie Mae White HISD Administration Bldg. located at 4400 West 18th St. (across from Northwest Mall)  Buses expected to return by 5:30 pm.

To ride these buses you must RSVP by Friday, March 11, to Nancy Lomax by email at rlomax@comcast.net, or call 713-668-7075.  This is a family friendly event.  Children over the age of 4 may accompany their parent on the bus.  Please bring: a pillow, a sack lunch, drinks, and snacks because there will be no opportunity to buy food in Austin.  (These items may be left on the bus during the Rally.)  And don’t forget your umbrella or signs!  It’s raining on the future of Texas.

Statewide March & Rally Austin, TX
Saturday, March 12
March: 11:00 a.m. starting at 12th & Trinity

Rally: Noon-2:00 p.m. at State Capitol Bldg, 11th & Congress

Texas students are tough, but they’ve never faced a crisis like this. In communities across the state, the same grim headlines repeat: campus closures, teacher layoffs, deep cuts to core academic programs.

There is help for Texas students – IF our leaders have the courage to use it – and you can make a difference.

On Saturday, March 12th, join thousands of Texans for a march and rally at the State Capitol to send a clear message to our leaders:

*  Make education a top priority!

*  Use the $9.3 billion Texas “Rainy Day” Fund to support schools.

*  Sign the paperwork for $830 Million in federal aid for teachers.

*  Fix school funding laws to be fair to all districts and to our growing student population.

Plan now to be part of this historic event! Talk to your family, friends, students, co-workers, teachers, neighbors, business leaders, members of your faith community and more. Ask them to join you in Austin on March 12th to show our leaders what matters to Texas.

Together, we can make a difference. Please stand up for Texas schools on March 12th at the State Capitol.  Our future depends on it!

————————————————————————————-

For more information on how you can get involved in spreading the word please visit the Save TX Schools website for more information.

Thank you,

Spring Branch Speaks

Parent-organized community outreach with SBISD in mind.

Also sent to me in email, the following call for those in Rep. Dwayne Bohac’s district (HD138) to call his office and let him know that you support using the Rainy Day Fund to help mitigate the cuts to public education:

If you live in zip code 77018- Garden Oaks, Oak Forest, Shepherd Park Plaza, Candlelight Plaza, and the surrounding neighborhoods you are most likely in district 138. It also includes people living in 77043, 77080, 77092 and some in 77040 and 77041. His district includes parts in Houston ISD, Cyfair ISD and Spring Branch ISD,
it stretches all the way to HWY 6. Please call Dwayne Bohac today. 512-463-0727 dwayne.bohac@house.state.tx.us

He is not getting enough calls from constituents. Please call or email him and call the office to tell them your name and that you just emailed. Governor Perry just addressed the Republican caucus and pleaded with them not to use the rainy day fund. Bohac needs to hear from his constituents, the real people who made him an elected official. You can also go to the state capitol Monday-Thursday, with or without an appointment. Arrive early. Call ahead if you want to make sure you see him personally. Be prepared to speak to a staffer if he is not available. Staffers are important and will relay your message.

He needs to know what you want him to do:

In 2006, a structural deficit was created when they lowered property taxes and restructured the business enterprise taxes. In theory, the business taxes were suppose to generate enough revenue to make up for the loss revenue in lowered property taxes. This has never happened and a 10 billion structural deficit occurs. It will continue to occur until they fix it. You can find more about this at

http://sunshinereview.org/index.php/Texas_state_budget
For the short term they need to utilize the rainy day fund, a fund that replenishes and whose purpose is to help in lean years. They can also accept $830 million in federal money to help supplement public education funding.

For the the long term they need to close exemptions and loopholes for large businesses, restructure taxes to generate the revenue they lost when they cut property taxes. They can also find additional sources of new revenue, such as taxing voluntary goods/ services ( cigarettes, sodas, etc.).

Please let your friends, neighbors and community members know the importance of this issue and urge them to contact Bohac soon. Please forward this email. Below is a District map. It is a fairly large district. Please share this info with anyone in these areas. If you want to help efforts in your area please contact mlwomack@gmail.com or llomax-bream@comcast.net or martha@meyers-hamilton.com

Thank you again for helping support our public schools.

http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/saveourschools_investpublic_edutx_bohac138/
For constituents in House District 138. This petition list will be given to Representative Dwayne Bohac in person. If you live in zip code 77018- Garden Oaks, Oak Forest, Shepherd Park Plaza, Candlelight Plaza, and the surrounding neighborhoods you are most likely in district 138. It also includes people living in 77043, 77080, 77092 and some in 77040 and 77041. His district includes parts in Houston ISD, Cyfair ISD and Spring Branch ISD. If you know people in any of these zip codes please send them the link to the district 138 petition. (Please also sign the general list for all HISD delegates)

The rally in Austin is Saturday. The more noise we make, not just then but all through the session, the better.

Harris County minus one?

Despite essentially keeping up with the state growth rate, Harris County may lose a legislative seat in the next round of redistricting.

As Texas lawmakers turn their attention to the complex and contentious task of redrawing their own districts, that loss will set in motion a game of musical chairs to determine who has a place among the 150 House seats. That number does not change despite a 20 percent increase in population statewide, which means the kaleidoscope of voters each lawmaker represents will shift. Harris County is expected to go from 25 to 24 state House seats.

Legislative districts, redrawn every 10 years in the wake of federal census results, must be roughly the same size, somewhere near 167,637 people per district. Although Harris County is home to more people than in 2000, its growth lags behind such suburban areas as Fort Bend and Montgomery counties.

Much of the redistricting process is a legalistic one involving adherence to federal law and state redistricting principles, said Trey Trainor, an Austin lawyer who advises Republicans on redistricting.

“From a political standpoint,” Trainor said, “it gets bloody when you start looking at population loss, and you have members of the Legislature who just don’t have the sheer numbers in their district, and you’ve got to go someplace else to get them. You start cutting into core constituencies of other members.”

In Harris County, the question is, who will be the odd man (or woman) out?

“It’s not necessarily that the seat goes away,” Trainor said, “but you’re going to end up with one or two incumbents in the same district having to run against each other, if they decide to do that. Of course, you know a lot of times what happens in these cases is somebody who’s been here awhile decides to retire and makes it easier on everybody else.”

A few thoughts:

Greg saw this coming months ago. The final Census totals put Harris County right on the knife’s edge of maintaining 25 seats, so I suppose it’s still possible that could happen. We still haven’t heard anything from those that are actually going to draw the maps, and dealmaking is always a possibility. I’m inclined to think that 24 is more likely than 25, however. Remember, for big counties like Harris state law forbids State Rep districts from crossing county boundaries, so sharing a district with Fort Bend or Montgomery is not an option.

– The story suggests that Republicans may target Rep. Scott Hochberg, the only Anglo Democrat currently serving in Harris County, for elimination. I say it’s far too early to write anyone’s political obituary. Hochberg was similarly drawn out of a district in 2001, but found a new home and won there. You just never know.

– Having said that, I might suggest that one person with a reason to be nervous is two-term State Rep. Ken Legler, whose district is centered in Pasadena. While the west, northwest, and north ends of Harris County grew like gangbusters, the eastern portion stagnated or shrunk; what growth there was out that way was mostly nonAnglo. It may be awfully hard to draw two sufficiently Republican districts with enough population out there to support both Legler and Rep. Wayne Smith, whose Baytown area is easily the redder. Again, you never know. My point is that there are a lot of moving parts to this, and you can’t affect one district without affecting all of them.

– Trainor is correct that sometimes these problems solve themselves via a member’s retirement, whether voluntary or not. Retirement isn’t the only way that a member may decide to free up a seat, however. There may be a different office available to them, for instance. Who do you suppose might become Ed Emmett’s bestest buddy in the event that Jerry Eversole gets convicted in his trial, which was actually supposed to begin this past week? Dwayne Bohac has been rumored to be interested in that job; I’m certain he’s not alone in that desire. Keep an eye on this.

– As we’ve seen, electoral results can differ greatly in Presidential and non-Presidential years. If nothing were changing this year, the most endangered incumbent in Harris County would be Jim Murphy, whose track record so far is winning in 2006 and 2010 and losing in 2008. As I said before, figuring out which electoral data to base the boundaries on will be extra challenging this time around, and could lead to some districts whose predisposition is dependent on the year.

All that and we haven’t even had the barest hint of a possible draft map yet. Just wait till that starts to happen. Greg and PDiddie have more.

Here comes the late money

The 8 days out finance reports are in, and it’s about what you’d expect.

Millions of dollars poured into Texas legislative campaigns during the past month as interest groups tried to maximize their influence and partisans readied for the upcoming fight over the redrawing of House and Senate districts.

Those millions, predominantly from business owners and trial lawyers, have allowed candidates in the Austin area and across the state to clog the television airwaves with their closing pitches before Tuesday’s election.

“Money flows late because late money follows the races that are being run effectively,” said Republican consultant Ted Delisi. “Because we have two weeks of early voting and we have a lot of polling, you can understand which campaigns are gaining traction and which ones aren’t, so you’re not betting blindly.”

Big-dollar donors and interest groups also give late so that the donors themselves don’t become lightning rods in the campaigns. Candidates did not have to publicly disclose contributions they received after Sept. 23 until Monday, when early voting was more than halfway over.

“The general consensus among operatives is, it’s too late to do anything with it,” Delisi said. “The election is 30 to 35 percent over right now.”

Yeah, this is the time to do the stuff you’re least proud of, because the potential for blowback decreases greatly with each passing day. There’s stuff about particular races in that story, and the DMN and EoW have more. As I didn’t see anything specific to Harris County, I figured I’d spot check a few races here to see who’s getting what. Here are the amounts raised since the 30 day reports:

Kristi Thibaut, $119,649
Jim Murphy, $172,222

Ellen Cohen, $100,279
Sarah Davis, $69,116

Dwayne Bohac, $113,955
Kendra Yarbrough Camarena, $36,815

Ken Legler, $178,299
Rick Molina, $85,969

Legler also collected $184,885 as of the 30 days out report after only taking in $82,135 for the first six months of the year. I’ve heard a rumble or two that he’s in a tighter race than originally thought. Make of this what you will.

Hubert Vo, $109,135
Jack O’Connor, $183,938

O’Connor is a great example of how the late money train works. Almost $170,000 of that total comes from five sources:

– Associated Republicans of Texas Campaign Fund, $40,000 cash
– Conservative Republicans of Texas, approximately $35,000 in kind
– Republican Party of Texas, $23,000 cash plus another $2,066 in kind
– Robert Rowling of Irving, TN (that’s Tennessee, not Texas), $25,000 cash
– Texans for Lawsuit Reform PAC, $40,000 cash plus $2,300 in kind

All for a guy who had raised about $65,000 on his own all year. He’s not the only one, of course – Legler got $125,000 from Speaker Straus. Murphy got a lot of assorted PAC money plus $25,000 from the Republican Party of Texas Texas Victory State Account plus a $9200 mailer from the RPT, $20,000 from Bob Perry, $10,500 from three members of the Trammel Crow family in Dallas, and $10,000 from TLR. Bohac also got help from the Speaker, $25,000 worth. I didn’t notice any other donations larger than $5K for him, nor did I see anything of the magnitude noted here for Davis. Again, draw your own conclusions about who sees what opportunities and threats.

Finally, on a tangential note, one unfamiliar name I saw in four of the five Republican reports (all but O’Connor) was a Curtis Mewbourne, of Mewbourne Oil, who handed out 16 donations of $5K each to various legislative candidates (plus a $75K gift to David Dewhurst) since September 24, all but two (incumbents Joe Heflin and Mark Homer) to Republicans. I note his name for future reference, since you know that sooner or later there’ll be some pro quo for all that quid.

Interview with Kendra Yarbrough Camarena

Kendra Yarbrough Camarena

Texas Democrats have made large gains in the Legislature this decade, picking up a total of 12 seats in the last three election cycles. One of the top targets the party has identified for this cycle is HD138, currently held by Rep. Dwayne Bohac. He’s being challenged by Kendra Yarbrough Camarena, who is an 8th grade social studies teacher and the daughter of former Rep. Ken Yarbrough, who represented HD138 before Bohac. She is a lifetime resident of the district and was one of the top fundraising challengers in the last reporting period, collecting over $100K. Here’s what we talked about:

Download the MP3 file

You can find a list of all interviews for this cycle on the 2010 Elections page.

Fundraising: Harris County State Reps

I’ve collected fundraising reports for Harris County State Rep races of interest; they’re all beneath the fold. Here are the highlights:

– In the rubber match between State Rep. Kristi Thibaut in HD133 and former State Rep. Jim Murphy, Thibaut has a slight lead in fundraising – she collected $116K to Murphy’s $112K – and cash on hand, $150K to $125K. I’m actually a little surprised there wasn’t more money raised in this race, but I figure by the time it’s all done at least double the amount raised so far will have been hauled in.

– Ellen Cohen has a commanding lead over Sarah Davis. Cohen took in $230K and has $265K on hand. Davis collected $54K, but thanks to a total of $114K in loans, all coming from Kent and Edie Adams beginning with the January 15 reporting period, she has $103K on hand.

– In HD138, Kendra Yarbrough Camarena did well, raising $106K, with $120K on hand. Dwayne Bohac clearly wasn’t taking any chances, as he raked in $201K, with $228K on hand.

– Possibly the biggest surprise was in HD144, where challenger Rick Molina out-raised first-term incumbent Ken Legler, $92K to $82K, and also held more cash, $23,597 to $11,545. It’s not clear to me why Molina’s COH figure isn’t higher, since he only spent $36K; Legler spent almost as much as he raised, $81K in all.

– As of last night, the reports for Hubert Vo and Jack O’Connor in HD149 were not available. According to the explanation, “the Ethics Commission may not make a report filed with the Commission available on the Internet unless all candidates and related specific-purpose political committees in a race have filed. To date, all reports in this race have not been filed. Therefore, this report is not currently viewable.” Note that there is a Libertarian candidate in this race as well. I’ll add these reports to the post when I find them.

As I said, other races of interest are posted below. Overall, I’d say the Democratic candidates have done a good job, with Republicans other than Legler and his puzzling cash shortage in decent shape, too. With no Congressional races of interest, and the County Judge race not evenly matched early on, these may be the highest profile contests in the county this year.

UPDATE: Vo and O’Connor’s totals are in. Vo raised $15K and has $37K on hand. He’s always done some self-funding, and has $95K in loans outstanding. O’Connor took in $12K and has $6500 on hand, but those numbers are a bit misleading. $10K of O’Connor’s contributions were two $5K in-kind donations, each for a month’s rent. He also reported $6K in a loan to himself on his detailed report, but for some odd reason that didn’t show up in the summary.

(more…)

Harris County voter registration issues get national coverage

Lou Dubose, onetime editor of the Texas Observer and Tom DeLay biographer has written a story for the Washington Spectator about the shenanigans in the Harris County Tax Assessor’s office with voter registration. You can read it here (PDF), thanks to the Lone Star Project. There’s some information in there I hadn’t seen before, and it’s a good overview if you’re just tuning in now. Check it out.

Lone Star Project on Bohac

Last week, the Lone Star Project took a look at how now-reassigned Associate Voter Registrar Ed Johnson got his hands on drivers license data, which he and his business partner State Rep. Dwayne Bohac then used to sell campaign data services to various Republican candidates. Now they’re taking a closer look at what Bohac has done in the Lege to further their enterprise.

Bohac’s “Catch 22” Bill
Dwayne Bohac wrote and passed a bill to alter voter registration forms, thereby creating a bureaucratic loophole later used to deny thousands of Harris County voter registration applications.

  • During the 2005 Texas Legislative Session, Bohac authored HB 1268, which, on its face, seemed rather innocuous but created a confusing “Catch 22” technical requirement that voter registration applicants must “check” a new box on the form based on whether they provided a driver’s license number or a Social Security number on the form to verify their eligibility to vote. With the passage of the bill, voter registrars could choose to reject as incomplete any application where new voters failed to “check” a box – or “checked” the box when they shouldn’t have – even if the application otherwise included the driver’s license or social security information needed to verify the applicant’s eligibility.
  • In fact, Bohac was referenced in a letter from the Secretary of State’s Office to the U.S. Department of Justice during the preclearance process of the bill.
  • Bohac’s “inside man” AND business partner at Campaign Data Systems, Ed Johnson, who was the Associate Voter Registrar in Harris County until being reassigned last week, aggressively used the Bohac “Catch 22” bill to help reject more than 70,000 Harris County registration applications. By comparison, Dallas County did not reject applications based only upon the Bohac “Catch 22” provision and, as a result rejected only 1,800 registration applications.

Bohac Calls on Business Partner to Testify
Bohac uses his “inside man” for more than just business, as Johnson has also been involved in Bohac’s legislative work. In the past two legislative sessions, Johnson has registered to testify in favor of eight bills that his boss, Bohac, authored. In four of the hearings, he was the only person to testify in favor of Bohac’s bills. There is no evidence that Dwayne Bohac or Ed Johnson disclosed their business partnership. Article 3, Sec. 22 of the Texas Constitution states that “A member who has a personal or private interest in any measure or bill, proposed, or pending before the Legislature” must disclose the relationship and cannot vote on the legislation.

I wonder at what point the Attorney General should be getting involved in this. Of course, Bohac isn’t a Democrat, so Greg Abbott is unlikely to be interested. But in theory, one wonders at what point the AG should be getting involved.

Hammerlein, too

The Chron confirms the Lone Star Project report about Ed Johnson being reassigned in the Harris County Tax Assessor’s office, and adds on to it.

Two Harris County officials at the center of an ongoing dispute over what the Texas Democratic Party claims was an orchestrated effort to purge thousands of voters for partisan political reasons have been reassigned to duties outside the voter registration office, Tax Assessor-Collector Leo Vasquez said Friday.

Vasquez insisted the removal of Ed Johnson and George Hammerlein from voter registration duties was part of a larger office reorganization and was not related to a federal lawsuit by the Texas Democratic Party challenging the way the office handles the voter rolls.

Johnson’s impartiality has been questioned by Democratic Party officials, who noted that the associate voter registrar also was a paid director for Computer Data Systems, a private company owned by state Rep. Dwayne Bohac, R-Houston, that sells voter registration data to Republican candidates.

“It has absolutely nothing to do with any outside influence,“ Vasquez said of the personnel shuffle. “Two of the people in the voter registration office, I thought their skill sets were better used elsewhere.”

The reorganization, he said, involves 20 employees.

Mighty convenient for this sort of thing to happen now and to have nothing to do with any pending legal dispute, that’s all I can say. Getting those two away from voter registration data did need to happen, though, so as far as that goes it’s all good.

LSP says Johnson reassigned from voter registration duties

Here’s their report.

The Lone Star Project has learned that Republican Tax Assessor-Collector Leo Vasquez has reassigned Associate Voter Registrar Ed Johnson from voter registration duties to a communications role. Johnson was exposed by the Lone Star Project as “the inside man” to Republican elected officials, particularly State Rep. Dwayne Bohac (HD138-Houston).

Vasquez’s actions appear to be a cynical attempt to distract attention from an ongoing lawsuit in which Vasquez is seeking to withhold documents and other records that would likely confirm that his office improperly rejected as many as 70,000 voter registration applications and improperly handled more than 1,200 provisional ballots.

I haven’t seen this reported anywhere else as yet, so it’s an unconfirmed report. But not a surprising one.

Where’d that driver’s license data come from?

The Lone Star Project revisits the matter of Ed Johnson and Dwayne Bohac and their cozy relationship as business partners with a real in at the Harris County Tax Assessor’s office.

Last month, the Lone Star Project revealed that Harris County Associate Voter Registrar, Ed Johnson, is a paid employee of a GOP political consulting firm, Campaign Data Systems (CDS), owned by Republican State Representative Dwayne Bohac.  On the firm’s website Bohac boasted that the CDS voter data file is enhanced by information culled from “driver license” records.  The contact name provided to obtain the data is Ed Johnson, Bohac’s business partner AND the Harris County Associate Voter Registrar. How did CDS get the drivers license records? It appears that Bohac obtained the records improperly by way of his “man on the inside” Ed Johnson.  Here are the relevant facts and documents:

  • Under Texas law, official driver license records can be obtained ONLY from the Department of Public Safety (DPS) after paying a considerable fee and signing an agreement that the records will not be sold or given to other individuals or organizations.
  • Documents obtained from the DPS by the Lone Star Project confirm that the Harris County Elections office obtained and received regular updates of Texas driver license records. When obtaining the records, Ed Johnson himself signed an agreement on behalf Harris County that he WOULD NOT make the information available to any other individual or organization.
  • The DPS also confirmed that neither Campaign Data Systems, Dwayne Bohac nor any CDS clients individually requested or received driver license records at any time.
  • The only direct link between driver license records and Campaign Data Systems is Ed Johnson, who appears to have improperly used driver license records from the Harris County Elections Office to enhance voter data sold by Campaign Data Systems.

Did Dwayne Bohac and Ed Johnson break the law?
Dwayne Bohac must either produce evidence that CDS obtained Texas Drivers License records from a source other than the Harris County Elections office OR admit that he lied to clients and did not enhance their voter data with driver license records. Otherwise, Dwayne Bohac and Ed Johnson conspired to illegally obtain Texas Driver License records and use them for commercial political purposes which is a violation under the Texas Transportation Code, Sec. 730.013, and the federal Driver Privacy Protection Act of 1994.

You can click over to see the documents themselves. More will be coming next week.

Saturday video break: Who are you working for, Dwayne?

I know I’ve been using these for mostly silly and/or amusing music videos, but given recent developments, I figured this was a good fit for the day.

Now we just need someone to do something similar for Leo Vasquez.

Chron opines on Ed Johnson

The Chron follows up its story on Ed Johnson, the local GOP’s ace in the hole in the Tax Assessor’s office, with an editorial that recaps the story and gently chides Tax Assessor Leo Vasquez.

Given the recent history of his office, perhaps it’s not surprising that Vasquez would see nothing amiss in having a staffer responsible for voter registration involved in partisan campaign work on the side.

When the tax assessor stands for re-election next year, voters will have the opportunity to express their own views of such activities. In the meantime, Vasquez should order Johnson to choose between his public and private gigs and eliminate the appearance of a conflict of interest.

I think the Tax Assessor’s office deserves no benefit of the doubt, and as such Johnson should be let go, but making him choose between one job and the other would be minimally acceptable. For sure, the current setup cannot continue. It’s up to you, Leo – do you want to run a clean office or not?

What about Dwayne?

The Lone Star Project turns its attention to Ed Johnson‘s partner, State Rep. Dwayne Bohac.

[Friday], the Lone Star Project formally submitted open records requests of Dwayne Bohac, Tax Assessor Collector Leo Vasquez, Harris County DA Pat Lykos -a CDS client, and others. Given the refusal of Harris County Republican officials and Dwayne Bohac to respond responsibly to media inquiries about Ed Johnson, they must be compelled to produce records before evidence is destroyed or otherwise withheld from public or legal scrutiny.

[…]

To this point, Dwayne Bohac has said nothing to the press about his company, his activities or his employees, despite all being implicated in the scandal.  Bohac owes Harris County voters answers to at least the following questions.

Why does Bohac only sell to Harris County campaigns?
CDS claims to sell voter lists and software services, which should be applicable all over the state.  However, CDS only sells to Republican campaigns in Harris County. Is this because Ed Johnson is only available to help in Harris County?

What Harris County voter information has Bohac and Johnson obtained?
The Campaign Data Systems’ website claimed that, “Most data providers allow you to target using only registered voter data and voter history. However, CDS gives you two additional lists—drivers license data and property tax records.” (See the website) Ed Johnson’s position the with the Harris County Tax Assessor Collector, who oversees the voter registration department, may give him access to property tax data, vehicle registration data and other information in addition to the voter data for which he has full access. Bohac should tell Harris County residents what public data he has obtained and where he obtained it.

Why is Dwayne Bohac routing money through Decide Consulting?
Dwayne Bohac has never paid Campaign Data Systems from his campaign account.   Instead, he has suspiciously paid Decide Consulting more than $27,000 since 2004. Decide Consulting was founded by another Bohac business partner, David Moise.  This firm is described as a, “software management and consulting business.” Decide has no other political business listed on its website or on Texas Ethics Commission filings. These payments may be an effort by Bohac to steer profits to his business and business associates, while circumventing Texas Ethics Opinion 35 which prohibits payments to a business when the candidate owns more than a 10% stake for more than actual expenditures. As the opinion says, “the business may not make any profit on such a transaction.”

Good questions. I wonder when someone other than Pat “Conflict? What conflict?” Lykos or Leo Vasquez’s spokesperson will answer any of them. Campos has more.

More on Ed Johnson

As expected, the Lone Star Project adds quite a bit to the Ed Johnson story from yesterday. Boy, do they ever.

[Johnson] is a paid Republican campaign consultant. His company, Campaign Data Systems (CDS), has numerous Harris County Republican candidate as clients, including the Conservative Republicans of Harris County PAC, Senator Dan Patrick, and Congressman Michael McCaul. Republican State Representative Dwayne Bohac (HD 138) is also a principal owner of CDS. Johnson and Bohac are both listed on the Articles of Organization and on the CDS website as a person to contact. It is unacceptable that a county employee with unimpeded access to Voter Registration records, who can grant or deny the ability to vote to an individual, also works as a partisan political consultant.

Johnson Reviews Ballots for Harris County Races

Ed Johnson is a high-level employee in the Harris County voter registration department. In sworn testimony he has been described as, “pretty much the one that does everything.” (Deposition of Elizabeth Hernandez. Clerk/Processor)

It was also revealed that Johnson reviews provisional ballots in Harris County. Michelle Dixon, a 12 year veteran of the voter registration department said under oath that Johnson “opens the sealed envelopes of provisional ballot affidavits.” 17 year employee Kim Shoemaker said that “Ed Johnson will stand over us” during provisional ballot review. (Depositions of Michelle Dixon and Kim Shoemaker). The Houston Chronicle reported that white out was used on many provisional ballots before delivery to the Ballot Board. (Houston Chronicle, 11/12/08) Dixon also said that Johnson was in charge of purging voters from the system. (Depositions of Michelle Dixon)

You can see more excerpts from the depositions here; all such links are PDFs. This ought to be a dumb question, but does anyone really think that it’s okay for a person who works for candidates and interest groups of one political party to have that kind of influence over provisional ballots and the voter rolls? How is this not a massive conflict of interest? I know, another dumb question.

I don’t expect Johnson or anyone else in the Tax Assessor’s office, or the County Clerk’s office for that matter, to be apolitical. These are elected offices, and while the tasks they perform are clerical and should be done in a professional and nonpartisan manner, it’s fine and dandy for those tasks to be done by people who supported those elected officials. But being on the payroll of candidates and other political interests that depend on that job is going way too far. What Johnson is doing is wrong. What Dwayne Bohac did in not disclosing his business relationship with Johnson before he testified in Austin is wrong. What Leo Vasquez, and Paul Bettencourt before him, did in turning a blind eye to this (or worse, approving of it) is wrong. Johnson can work in the Tax Assessor’s office, or he can work for CDS. He can’t do both. EoW has more.

Oh, and by the way, you might notice that the links to the CDS company profile, and indeed to its home page are now 404’ing. I don’t know if this is a crude attempt to cover tracks or not, but there’s always Google cache when you need it. Nice try, Dwayne.

Ed Johnson’s conflict of interest

As you know, there was a lawsuit filed against Paul Bettencourt and the Harris County Tax Assessor’s office over allegations of illegal mishandling of provisional ballots in the past November election. That suit was later expanded to include allegations of voter disenfranchisement by Bettencourt’s office. According to KHOU, some mighty interesting facts have come out so far in the deposition phase.

“This is as blatant a case of election corruption that I have seen,” said Matt Angle of the Lone Star Project, a Democrat activist group.

The Lone Star Project’s complaint revolves around Ed Johnson.

Johnson is the associate voter registrar at the Harris County Tax Assessor Collectors office, but according to state documents, that’s just his day job. Johnson is also a paid director of a small company that provides voter data to Republican candidates for office. That company, Campaign Data Systems, billed at least $140,000 in 2008.

Campaign Data Systems happens to be owned by Republican State Rep. Dwayne Bohac, who also happens to be one of the big pushers of voter ID bills. Johnson testified before the Senate about supposed instances of vote fraud. He tells the Republicans what they want to hear in the guise of a nonpartisan election official, while being on their payroll. Nice little scam they’ve got going there, no? I think we all have a better idea now why State Reps. Garnet Coleman and Ana Hernandez called for appointed Tax Assessor Leo Vasquez’s resignation over Johnson’s (and George Hammerlein’s) testimony, and it makes Vasquez’s response look that much weaker.

I’m sure the Lone Star Project will have plenty more to say on this soon, and I’m looking forward to it. In the meantime, I’m thinking the campaign ads against Vasquez next year are going to write themselves. This is going to be fun.

One more from Annie’s List

Annie’s List announced their first endorsed candidate for 2010 over the weekend. Now they have a second, and she’s in Houston. From their email:

Annie’s List is proud to announce our endorsement of Kendra Yarbrough Camarena for State House District 138 in Houston. Kendra is a life-long resident of the district that includes Spring Branch, Garden Oaks and the Oak Forest areas of Northwest Houston outside of Loop 610.

She is also a mother of two beautiful children, a highly regarded middle school teacher, a volunteer little league coach for her son’s team (Go Cardinals!), a life member of the Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo, a former member of the SDEC and certainly no stranger to the rough and tumble world of politics. Her father, Ken Yarbrough, held this seat in the 90’s, and while earning her degree at the University of Texas, she worked in the Capitol for an East Texas Democrat.

In recent elections, Democratic candidates have won increased support in HD-138 and Sheriff Adrian Garcia carried the district last year with 52.8% of the vote. And, hometown Democrats like Senator John Whitmire and J.P. David Patronella typically run well ahead of the Democratic ticket in the middle class swing precincts. It is also worth mentioning that Democrats actually perform better in non-presidential elections here where Republican straight ticket voting advantage is nullified.

Additionally, tremendous demographic changes are occurring in this portion of Houston (now a combined minority Voting Age Population over 50%), and mobile young professionals and GLBT families (getting priced out of the Heights and Montrose) are revitalizing older neighborhoods just outside Loop 610. All of that combined with the fact that the Republican incumbent, Dwayne Bohac, has never been forced to defend his extremist record against a well funded, hometown Democratic challenger, and it is pretty clear this race can be won.

Bohac has had challengers in the last two elections, Mark McDavid in 2006 and Ginny McDavid last year, but neither had any real funding. He also ran better than the average Republican in his district in each of those years, and he’s got strong ties to the district as well. And as for the assertion about straight ticket voting, I took a look at the 2008 and 2006 numbers, and this is what I got:

Year Straight R Straight D R Pct Bohac McDavid Bohac % ============================================================= 2006 5,412 3,975 57.7 7,087 4,308 62.2 2008 11,699 9,521 55.1 9,929 5,497 64.4

Those are the straight-ticket vote numbers in HD138, and the Bohac/McDavid numbers with the straight-ticket tallies subtracted. Dems actually closed the straight ticket gap somewhat last year, which I think is a tribute to the overall HCDP county coordinated effort. But by the same token, Bohac won a higher percentage of the ticket splitters in 2008 than he did in 2006. Convincing those voters to switch will need to be as big a part of this effort as getting out the base Democratic vote.

There’s an ActBlue page for Camarena, and Annie’s List will be matching contributions through June 30. They’re definitely out of the gate early, so we’ll see how successful the effort is to get a jump on fundraising.

Why it really is about suppressing the vote

Once the voter ID debate shifts over to the House, there will be several bills there for them to consider as companions to SB362. One such bill is HB1414 by Rep. Dwayne Bohac, which is as far as I can tell essentially identical to the Fraser/Estes bill. Bohac has been filing such legislation for several sessions, so this is old hat to him. Of perhaps more interest is another Elections bill Bohac has in the hopper, HB488, which is about eligibility to act as a deputy vote registrar. The key bit from the text:

To be eligible for appointment as a volunteer deputy registrar, a person must be eligible to register to vote in the county served by the registrar [18 years of age or older].

So where today one need only be of legal voting age to register others to vote, Bohac would limit you to registering people in your own county; this would also eliminate any non-citizens from acting as deputy registrars. Want to organize a registration drive? No more importing talent for it. Make do with what you’ve got.

Now, while the case for voter ID legislation falls apart under the slightest scrutiny, the rationale for it is at least understandable. The only rationale I can see for this is to make it harder to register voters. How does that serve the public interest? If you say that ensuring all registrars are citizens is worthwhile, then this bill should simply change “18 years of age or older” to be “eligible to register to vote”. It’s the restriction on registering voters outside of the county in which you are registered that is unnecessary and frankly offensive. Again, the only reason I can see for this is to make it harder to register voters, which in turn will make it harder for people to get registered to vote. That’s the mentality that people like Dwayne Bohac have, and that’s one of the reasons why the push for voter ID is about voter suppression. They want to make it harder, and in doing so make it so that fewer people vote. And last year, in what was possibly the most exciting Presidential race ever, millions of people were prevented from voting thanks to tactics like this. That’s what it’s all about.