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Election 2009

RIP, Peter Brown

A dedicated public servant and a heck of a nice guy.

Peter Brown

Former Houston city councilman, mayoral candidate and civic leader Peter Brown has died, his family said Tuesday.

Brown, an architect and urban planner, was 81.

“A loving father, committed public servant, and fearless advocate, former Council Member Brown passed on to the next life the same way he lived in this one – surrounded by his family in the city he loved most,” his son, the elected City Controller Chris Brown, said in a statement.

“The Brown family would like to thank everyone for their thoughts and prayers, and asks for privacy during this very difficult time.”

You can see Chris Brown’s statement here. After the 2009 Mayoral election, Peter Brown went back to his roots, talking about urban design and making city streets safer and more user-friendly for people on his Pedestrian Pete website. He was a visionary and an advocate for building a better city to the end. Rest in peace, Pedestrian Pete.

2017 EV daily report: Final numbers and our attempt at projecting turnout

Here are the final numbers. Believe it or not, people did vote on Friday despite the fact that the entire metro area appeared to be at the Astros parade. Here are the daily totals from previous years:






And here’s a select comparison:

Year    Early    Mail    Total   Mailed
2017   46,224  12,205   58,429   19,875
2015  164,104  29,859  193,963   43,280
2011   49,669   8,676   58,345   15,264
2007   43,420   6,844   50,264   13,870

So 2017 early voting is almost identical in total to 2011 and ahead of 2007, but the source of the votes are different. 2017 trails 2011 with in person voting but makes up for that in absentee ballots, and holds a sizable lead in absentee ballots over 2007. That’s a clear change in voter behavior, and something to continue to watch as we go forward.

One other difference to point out, which requires another set of numbers. Here are the last day in person totals for the odd year elections going back to 2007:

2017 = 9,092
2015 = 35,493
2013 = 18,893
2011 = 10,559
2009 = 17,072
2007 = 10,473

Even with more people voting early, this year’s last day totals are the weakest we’ve ever seen. I’d attribute some of that to the Astros parade, and some of it to the overall lack of campaign activity compared to previous years. One possible effect of this is that more people will wind up voting on Tuesday than we would have expected. Turnout wasn’t just lower than one might have thought on Friday, after all. The whole week was lighter than it might have been, and to the extent that was a real thing and not just the way this year would have played out anyway I’ll cite the World Series as a reason. Unless the term limits referendum gets thrown out and we get put back on two year terms, we’ll next have a chance to see what a non-Mayoral election year is like in 2021. And who knows, maybe the Astros will be in the World Series again then.

So we turn our attention to final turnout. For once, I’m not going to overthink this. As we’ve already established, city turnout in odd years is roughly 70% of the county; it ranges from about 67% in years where there isn’t something that specifically drives non-city voters to the polls to 73%, and we’re splitting the difference. In odd years past, early voting has been between 40 and 50 percent of final turnout. I continue to believe that early voting will be a higher share of this year’s tally, partly because of trends we’ve seen in other years and partly out of the belief that hardcore voters are more likely to vote early, but I’m not going to put all my eggs in that basket. If we assume the range of outcomes is that early voting will be between 40 and 60 percent of the final total, then when the dust clears we should expect between 54,000 and 81,000 voters. Which, again, corresponds pretty well to my original gut-feel estimates of 50 to 75 thousand. I love it when reality seems to line up with my intuition. All that said, I could be off in any number of directions, and that guesstimated range is wide enough to cover a lot of potential error. Feel free to make your own guesses in the comments.

2017 EV daily report: Day 10, and the first sign of an uptick

Here are the numbers through Wednesday. I know I said yesterday that I don’t usually report the latest results in Week 2 because they come in late, but like everyone else I was up late watching Game 7, so here you go. Here are the daily totals from previous years:






And here’s a select comparison:

Year    Early    Mail    Total   Mailed
2017   31,865  10,801   42,666   19,875
2015  107,086  26,508  133,594   43,280
2011   33,201   6,888   40,089   15,262
2007   27,522   5,625   33,147   13,870

First, let me note that I screwed up the Mailed totals for this year in yesterday’s post. I must have read from the Ballots Returned line – the County Clerk used to have the Ballots Mailed totals right underneath the in person totals, which never made sense, but they have since changed that. Anyway, Wednesday was the high-water mark for in person votes, with 4,172, but it followed a Tuesday in which only 3,250 people voted, and they had no World Series sleep deprivation to blame it on. In the other years I’ve featured, both Tuesday and Wednesday were new highs for in person voting. That trend continues in all years through the next two days. I expect that to happen here, but maybe we won’t have the big spike on Friday. Or maybe we will, I don’t know. If there is another World Series hangover, it would certainly be on those days. I’m pretty sure nobody has a turnout modeler that takes this sort of thing into account. I’ll report the final numbers on Sunday.

2017 EV daily report: Day 8, and one more look at a way to guess turnout

Here are the numbers through Monday. Now that we are in the second week of early voting, when the hours each day are 7 to 7, these reports arrive in my inbox later in the evening. Here are the daily totals from previous years:






And here’s a select comparison:

Year    Early    Mail    Total   Mailed
2017   24,442   8,201   32,643   21,320
2015   73,905  23,650   97,555   43,279
2011   23,621   4,958   28,579   14,609
2007   19,250   4,353   23,603   13,589

The first Monday of Week 2 was busier than all preceding days, by a lot in 2015 and by a little in 2011 and 2007. Each day after that was busier still. This year, the second Monday was less busy than Thursday and Friday last week. I suspect an Astros hangover from Sunday night may have had something to do with that – Lord knows, traffic on I-45 in the morning and in the downtown tunnels at lunchtime were both eerily mild – in which case we ought to see more of an uptick going forward.

As for the other way of guessing turnout, which would be my third model for thinking about it, we have the May 2004 special city charter election, called by Mayor White to make adjustments to the pension funds, in the immediate aftermath of reports that recent changes had greatly increased the city’s financial obligations. A total of 86,748 people showed up for that election. I seriously doubt we’ll approach that, but my initial guesses on turnout for this year before I started looking at any data were 50,000 to 75,000, so it’s not ridiculously out of the question. Let’s file this one away for next May, when we may have to vote on the firefighter’s pay parity proposal.

2017 EV daily report: Day 6

Here are the numbers through Saturday. Sunday’s numbers didn’t come in last night, but it’s the shortest EV day so its numbers are always the smallest. Here are the daily totals from previous years:






And here’s a select comparison:

Year    Early    Mail    Total   Mailed
2017   19,425   8,201   27,626   19,873
2015   57,657  21,141   78,798   42,938
2011   18,205   4,340   22,545   14,105
2007   14,235   3,555   17,790   13,097

No insights today, just a reminder that the next five days are always the busiest period for early voting, though sometimes that’s just the last day or two. It will be interesting to see how this plays out this year.

2017 EV daily report: Just remember, the reports we get are all of Harris County

Here are today’s numbers, and here are the daily totals from previous years:






And here’s a select comparison:

Year    Early    Mail    Total   Mailed
2017   11,953   7,513   19,466   19,581
2015   36,322  19,789   56,111   42,520
2011   10,818   3,823   14,641   13,697
2007    8,080   3,126   11,206   12,775

So 2011 appears to be the closest comparison so far. That might imply a much higher level of turnout than what I’ve been suggesting, but I’m not prepared to believe that yet. The main reason for this is that less than 40% of the vote was cast early in 2011, and I seriously doubt that’s what we’re going to get this time. Odd year elections skew more towards Election Day and less towards early voting than even year elections – in 2015, just over half of the vote was cast early – but I think this year we will see a higher percentage of the vote cast early. The message from the County Clerk is to take advantage of the early voting period because a number of polling sites are unavailable thanks to Harvey, and I think people will heed that. We’ll take our guesses about that later in the EV period, but for now just keep that in mind. 2017 may be a bit ahead of 2011 in early voting, but I suspect that’s because more people will be voting early than usual.

It should also be noted that these reports encompass all of Harris County, so some of those numbers above are not for Houston or HISD. I’ve gone through this exercise before, but let’s review the percentage of county turnout that was in Houston in these elections:

Year   Harris  Houston   Share
2015  421,460  268,872   63.8%
2013  260,437  174,620   67.0%
2011  164,971  121,468   73.6%
2009  257,312  178,777   69.5%
2007  193,945  123,413   63.6%
2005  332,154  189,046   56.9%
2003  374,459  298,110   79.6%

“Share” is just simply the percentage of the county vote that came from Houston. There’s a big span here, but that comes with an asterisk, because the conditions were not the same each year. For example, in 2015 and 2007, Harris County had bond elections in addition to the state constitutional amendments. In 2005, the notorious state anti-gay marriage referendum was on the ballot, which coupled with a non-competitive Mayoral election meant a much larger county share. Finally, in 2003 there was the Metro referendum, which covered all of the county. There were also no state constitutional amendments on the ballot, as those had been voted on in September, to enhance the odds of the tort “reform” amendment passing.

Bottom line, with boring constitutional amendments on the ballot, I’d suggest that county/city ratio will be like the other years, which is to say between 67 and 73 percent. Let’s say 70%, just to split the difference. That’s another thing we’ll have to take into account when we do our projections later on.

2017 EV daily report: Day One

Happy first day of early voting! If you’re expecting me to have today’s EV totals from Harris County, as well as EV totals from past elections, you’re right. Here are today’s numbers, and here are the daily totals from previous years:






And here’s a select comparison:

Year    Early    Mail    Total   Mailed
2017    2,718   5,355    8,073   18,665
2015    8,891  14,240   23,131   40,626
2011    2,557   2,079    4,633   12,041
2007    1,681     957    2,638   11,646

As you can see, 2017 is going to be a lot quieter than 2015, which is exactly what you’d expect given the lack of a contested Mayor’s race (or any city race) and a high-profile referendum. It was a little busier than 2011, at least in terms of in-person votes, and busier still than 2007, though the latter is almost surely due to a much greater prevalence for early voting nowadays. Note also the larger number of mail ballots sent and returned. As we have discussed before, I think a decent share of that is people shifting their behavior, and with the large number of displaced voters, it’s not hard to see why that would especially be the case this year.

Anyway. I will of course be tracking this data, and we’ll see how accurate my various flailing attempts at guessing turnout wind up. Maybe people will surprise us.

Precinct analysis: At Large #4 runoff

Here we have the least competitive runoff of the six that were citywide.

Dist   Edwards  Morales
A        6,322    6,153
B       14,660    1,761
C       17,813   10,238
D       18,341    2,882
E        7,688   13,231
F        4,046    3,080
G       11,996   15,203
H        5,610    3,903
I        4,371    3,774
J        3,070    2,287
K       12,150    3,830

A       50.68%   49.32%
B       89.28%   10.72%
C       63.50%   36.50%
D       86.42%   13.58%
E       36.75%   63.25%
F       56.78%   43.22%
G       44.10%   55.90%
H       58.97%   41.03%
I       53.66%   46.34%
J       57.31%   42.69%
K       76.03%   23.97%
Amanda Edwards

Amanda Edwards

As was the case in November, Edwards had a dominant performance in the runoff, winning every district except E and G, and she didn’t do too badly in them, either. I saw more ads on TV for her and for Controller-elect Chris Brown than I did for the two Mayoral candidates combined. That may have helped her achieve the rare distinction of getting more votes than any other candidate, a hard thing to do when there’s a contested Mayoral race on the ballot since the undervote is so much higher for At Large contests. With this strong win, Edwards joins CM Michael Kubosh as the early favorites to not get serious challengers in 2019. Four years is an eternity, and it’s also uncharted waters for us in Houston, so it’s a bit silly to say such things now. It’s always possible for things to go wrong for a Council member, and who knows what the electorate will be like in four years. That said, AL5 will be open, AL1 is sure to draw interest, and five district Council seats will also be up – A, B, C, J, and K. Assuming nothing crazy happens between now and then, I’d surely put any of those races higher on my priority list if I were inclined to run for something.

As for Roy, he’s beginning to edge into Andrew Burks/Griff Griffin territory. He’s been on a ballot for something in 2006, 2007, 2009, 2010, 2013, and 2015, winning his HCDE seat by forfeit in 2006 and making it into an At Large runoff in 2007, 2013, and now 2015. What I find fascinating, beyond the psychology of people who run for office cycle after cycle without any clear plan for a campaign or idea of how they might win, is how little support Morales seems to draw in some of these elections. The runoff in the special election in 2007 was closer than supporters of Melissa Noriega would have liked, but that was mostly about the usual problem of getting Democratic voters out to the polls at non-standard times, and she still won by ten points. He got a bit of late support in the 2009 Mayor’s race, enough to get his Election Day vote total to nudge past Peter Brown’s though not enough to threaten the top two finishers. He didn’t seem to make much of an impression in 2013 or this year. Morales was unlikely to win against Edwards, and I can certainly understand why Republican players might have put a higher priority on folks like King, Frazer, Knox, and Le. I still wonder, do they just not like the guy? Do they get the same Burks/Griff vibe that I get? Is it that he’s just not good at asking for support? Whatever the case, it’s another familiar result. I wonder if he’ll be back for more in 2019.

More candidates for Sheriff

We’re up to four now.

Lt. Jeff Stauber confirmed Thursday he is running for Harris County sheriff.

“It’s the job that I always wanted. There’s no doubt that I could lead this agency,” Stauber said.
Now a lieutenant assigned to the court division, Stauber, 52, has been with the Harris County Sheriff’s Office since 1986.

“I’m not a career politician. I’m a cop,” he said.


Stauber said an “outsider” to the Harris County Sheriff’s Office would have a steep learning curve.

“It’s almost like they are a fish out of water. I know how the Sheriff’s Office works. I’ve done everything,” he said.

He spent more than a decade patrolling the streets of Harris County – both as a deputy and sergeant – along with tours of duty as an investigator and at the jail.

If elected, Stauber, a Democrat, said he would transfer licensed deputies from “underwater basket-weaving positions.”

“There is too much fluff in different areas. I want to get back to the basics,” Stauber said. “We need more people on the streets.”

As we know, outgoing CM Ed Gonzalez announced his entry a couple of days ago. According to the HCDP primary filings page, two other candidates – Jerome Moore and Theodore “Ted” Perez – have also gotten in. This makes me a little nervous, since as we have seen from the various At Large Council races, having more candidates does not lead to better results, especially in races where most of the candidates are not well-known. Gonzalez has a bit of an edge here, but one City Council district is tiny compared to all of Harris County. Gonzalez got 9,388 votes running unopposed in 2009. That’s barely more than half the number of votes that Delores Jones got when she ran against then-Sheriff Adrian Garcia in the sleepy 2012 primary (go to page 20 to see Sheriff results). Assuming both Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders remain active on the ballot next year, it’s going to take a hell of a lot more votes than that to at least ensure getting into a runoff.

Stauber would be an acceptable candidate to me if it came to that, but I can find nothing on either Jerome Moore or Ted Perez in Google. The last thing we need here is an accident. The serious contenders in this race – Gonzalez (who had $20,290 on his July finance report) for sure, Stauber maybe – need to raise enough money to make sure the voters know who they are and that they’re running. Otherwise, it’s a crapshoot, and crap is what we may get. I’m sounding this alarm now because there’s no time to waste – Early Voting for the 2016 primaries begins February 16, 2016, which is barely more than two months from now. We have an excellent chance to take the Sheriff’s office back, as long as we don’t screw up and accidentally nominate a zero. Let’s make sure we get this right.

Final EV 2015 runoff totals

And we’re done:

Date    Early    Mail   Total   Mailed
11/15  61,008  21,141  82,149   42,938
12/15  86,233  27,153 113,386   39,649


The runoff numbers are here, and the final EV totals for November are here. I had guessed that the final EV total would be between 100,000 and 110,000, so I was off by a little bit. Remember again that about 100,000 in person early votes were cast in the last five days of November early voting, so don’t be alarmed by the disparity here. The total Houston early vote for November from Harris County was 134,105, so the runoff total was 84.55% of that. One way to guess final turnout would be to project it as 84.55% of November turnout, which would put us at 227,332. For what it’s worth, the December 2009 runoff total was 86.69% of the November 2009 election total, so that’s not a terrible guess. Guessing that December early voting was 49.9% of the final total as it was for November gets you an almost-identical total of 227,363. Of course, all of this may be a load of hooey, and with rain in the forecast for Saturday it’s entirely possible we’ve seen a bigger share of the final vote than other indicators might suggest. Who knows? We’re all just guessing here, and that’s as true of the guys with letters after their names as it is of amateur blowhards like myself. All the campaigns will now shift their efforts to Saturday, and if there are any late-arriving below-the-belt anonymous attack mailers, they’re already on their way. What’s your view of how thing stand?

Day 5 EV 2015 runoff totals

Two more early voting days to go:

Date    Early    Mail   Total   Mailed
11/15  48,027  21,141  69,168   42,938
12/15  50,257  22,116  72,373   39,649


The runoff numbers are here, and the final EV totals for November are here. Day Five of runoff early voting was the Sunday half-day, while Day Five of November early voting is a Friday, so that allowed the November totals to catch up a bit. Of course, the November totals are for all of Harris County while the runoff numbers are just Houston, so early turnout for the runoff is still comfortably ahead. That said, there are only two days of runoff early voting left, while at this point in November there were seven days to go. About 100,000 early votes were cast in the last five days of November early voting; these are days 8 through 12, which don’t exist for December. People are more likely to vote earlier in the runoff cycle than they are in November for the simple reason that they have less time to wait.

Looking at just the last two days of early voting, from this November and from 2009 (there are separate tabs for the November and December elections), a bit more than half of all early votes were cast on the last two days. Looking at 2013, it was a bit less than half of all votes. Based on that, since there are only so many data points to go on, I’d wildly estimate that the final EV total for Harris County will be between 100,000 and 110,000. Could be more, could possibly be less, but that’s my guess. Let’s go with the high end, just for grins. If the runoff versus November early pattern holds, then we’re looking at about 220,000 votes total; I know that’s for Harris County only, but there won’t be that much more in Fort Bend. All of this could be rubbish, of course, and I reserve the right to change my mind once I see the final EV numbers. But if you were to accost me on the street today and ask me how many votes I thought there’d be in this election, that would be my answer.

Day 3 EV 2015 runoff totals

Here we go:

Date    Early    Mail   Total   Mailed
11/15  27,596  18,196  45,792   41,994
12/15  35,756  22,116  57,872   39,649


The runoff numbers are here, and the final EV totals for November are here. Believe it or not, we’re almost halfway through early voting – basically, today is Hump Day for EV. After today, there are only two and a half days left, since the hours on Sunday are only one to six. Early voting has been pretty heavy, but as we’ve said before there just isn’t as much time for it to accumulate. The same is true for absentee ballots – note that only three more mail ballots have been sent out since Wednesday. The ceiling for mail ballots is going to be lower than it was in November.

It’s too early to talk turnout, but not too early to speculate about how much of the vote might be early as opposed to on Election Day. Are the early voting shares the same for runoffs as they are for November elections? Let’s take a look at some other elections:

Year    Early   E-Day   Total   Early%
2013   22,608  13,569  36,187   62.47%
2011   24,398  31,688  56,086   43.50%
2009   67,660  87,215 154,975   43.66%

Year    Early    E-Day    Total  Early%
2003   93,868  204,242  298,110   31.5%
2009   81,516   98,261  179,777   45.3%
2011   58,345   63,123  121,468   48.0%
2013  109,370   65,250  174,620   62.6%
2015  134,105  134,767  268,872   49.9%

The first table above has the numbers for runoffs, while the last table has November numbers. I hesitate to draw any broad conclusions, since turnout in runoffs can vary greatly depending on what races there are, but the shares for the last three elections are pretty darned similar for November and December. Is that a pattern or just an oddity? Hard to say, but if it is a pattern, then we can guess that about half of the votes will show up by Tuesday. I don’t know that I’d bet my own money on that proposition, but we’ll keep it in mind. Have you voted yet?

Precinct analysis: Where the voters came from

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

Precinct analysis: Old reliables, newcomers, and everyone else

I have three more views of the 2015 electorate, now that I have a copy of the voter roster. With that, and with the past rosters that I have, I can try to paint a more detailed picture of who voted in this election, and perhaps make some comparisons to past elections. Today we’re going to look at voting history. How many voters this year were new, how many had voted in one or more recent elections, and how do those numbers compare to previous years?

Year    All 3   1and2   1and3   2and3   Just1   Just2   Just3    None
2015   59,639  13,150  26,170   8,714  33,993   6,566  17,964 101,603
2013   46,582  22,044   4,721  13,148  12,239  20,690   6,046  48,662
2011   44,744   9,706  15,360   4,302  15,559   2,830   5,394  19,927
2009   55,117   5,818  22,122  25,227  10,907   7,684  20,218  38,755


Let me translate what those column headers mean. “All 3” is the number of people in that election who had voted in each of the three prior city elections. For the year 2015, that means the number of people who had voted in 2013, 2011, and 2009. For 2013, that means the number of people who had voted in 2011, 2009, and 2007. I trust you get the idea for 2011 and 2009; I have rosters going back to 2003, so that’s as far back as I can do this exercise. These are your old reliable voters – year in and year out, they show up and vote.

The next six columns specify one or more of these prior elections. A 1 refers to the election immediately before, a 2 refers to the election before that – i.e., two elections before – and a 3 is for three elections before. Again, for 2015, those elections are 2013 (“1”), 2011 (“2”), and 2009 (“3”). Thus, the column “1and2” means all the people who voted in 2013 and 2011, but not 2009. “1and3” means means all the people who voted in 2013 and 2009, but not 2011. “2and3” means all the people who voted in 2011 and 2009, but not 2013. Along similar lines, “Just1” means all the people who voted in 2013 but not 2011 or 2009, and so forth. Substitute other years as appropriate, and you’ve got it. Lastly, “None” means the people who had voted in none of the past three elections. These are your new voters.

I presume I don’t have to tell you that 2015 was indeed an outlier in this regard. We knew going in that years with high profile referenda have higher turnout than other years, and that’s what happened here. In addition, you have to remember that “high turnout” is a relative thing. Turnout for the Harris County portion of the city of Houston was 268,872, which is more than any odd-year election since 2003, but pales in comparison to the turnouts of recent even years in which city props have been on the ballot. In 2010, for example, 389,428 voters came out in the Harris County part of Houston – 40.9% turnout – with 343,481 casting a vote on the red light camera referendum. In 2012, for the four bond items and two charter amendments up for a vote, there were 565,741 voters, with as many as 435,836 ballots cast. Point being, there are a lot of even-year city voters. Some number of them decided to vote this year as well. I’m not in a position to quantify it further than that, but at a guess based on the other years, I’d say 30 to 50 thousand of those 101,603 were true newbies, while the rest had some prior voting history in Harris County. As we’ve discussed before, new people move in all the time, and some other people become newly eligible due to turning 18 or becoming citizens. If and when I get more details on that, I’ll be sure to share them.

Here’s another way of looking at the data: The proportion of each class of voter for these elections.

Year   All 3   2 of 3   1 of 3   0 of 3
2015   22.3%    17.9%    21.9%    37.9%
2013   26.8%    22.9%    22.4%    27.9%
2011   38.0%    24.9%    20.2%    16.9%
2009   29.7%    28.6%    20.9%    20.9%

“2 of 3” and “1 of 3″ refers to voters who had voted in two of the previous three elections, and one of the previous three elections, respectively. Again, the share of new voters this year was clearly higher than in other years. It’s no surprise that the share of new voters was so low in 2011. It was a low turnout year – just over 117,000 voters in total – so you’d expect that a large majority of them would be the regulars. By the same token, the old reliable share this year was lower than usual, for the same reason. I’m fascinated by how stable the 1 of 3” share was across the four races. As we saw in the table at the top, the one prior election in question can be any of the three predecessors. It’s not just folks who’d been new the year before. That number is directly affected by the turnout levels of the election in question and the one before it.

So that’s our first look at this data. I don’t have any broad conclusions to draw here, I just find this stuff amazing. Who would have guessed that over 2,800 people who voted in the low-turnout 2011 election had also voted in the low-turnout 2007 election, but not the higher-turnout 2009 or 2005 elections? Well, now you know. I’ll have more tomorrow.

Our partisan Mayoral runoff

I’m shocked, shocked to find that there are partisan interests in the Mayoral runoff.

Sylvester Turner

Sylvester Turner

Even though Houston elections officially are nonpartisan, the contest between Bill King and Sylvester Turner has evolved into a test of party might as voters prepare to elect the Bayou City’s first new mayor in six years.

King has framed the runoff as the choice between a businessman and a career politician, a common appeal by Republican candidates against Democratic incumbents. Trying to paint King as too extreme for Houston, Turner’s campaign has taken to invoking the tea party and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, the latter-day bogeymen of the Democratic Party.

Meanwhile, the local Republican and Democratic parties have endorsed their favorites and affiliated groups are gearing up their ground games to phone bank and knock on doors for their preferred candidates.

The result is a race without overt party identification, but with all of the trappings of a partisan battlefield.

“We’ve seen across the country the intensity of the partisan division grow,” University of Houston political scientist Richard Murray said. “It’s not that the overall population has become more partisan and polarized, but people who vote, particularly in a low-turnout election like a Houston mayor runoff, tend to be partisans.”

Murray said he expects turnout to be about 20 percent in the Dec. 12 runoff to replace term-limited Mayor Annise Parker, down from 27 percent on Nov. 3.


Murray said the race is more partisan than usual for city races, attributing the dynamic in part to the equal rights ordinance thought to have brought many conservative Republicans to the polls.

“It’s not surprising that the Democrats particularly, since they have a significant edge in partisanship within the city, would try to make this a partisan race,” Murray said. “And Republicans hope that they can counter and in a low-turnout election get enough of their partisans to go to the polls to squeak out a win.”

I will note that 20% turnout for the runoff will equate to over 190,000 votes, which would be higher turnout than the 2013 or 2009 November races. The 2003 runoff had 220,725 votes, while the 2001 runoff had 326,254 votes. I feel confident saying we won’t reach that level. Both races were D versus R like this one, with Bill White winning by a huge margin in 2003 and Lee Brown squeaking by in 2001. The latter election had “first Latino Mayor of Houston” possibilities (so did the 2003 one, but by then the shine had largely come off of Orlando Sanchez), and it was heavily polarized by race. This runoff certainly won’t reach 2001 levels, and probably won’t reach 2003 levels, but I doubt it will be low enough for it to be particularly favorable to Republicans. I’ll say again, I think for King to win he’s got to blunt Turner’s appeal outside of his African-American base. That was the intent of the Bell endorsement, except that a large number of Bell voters were repulsed by it. The partisans are going to turn out, as they always have in these races. If Democrats of all stripes back Turner, he ought to win. If King can cut into that enough, he can win. That’s how I see it.

And before anyone bemoans all those dirty partisans besmirching their innocent non-partisan city race, please note that there are also significant policy differences between the two. HERO, the revenue cap, and Rebuild Houston are the headliners for that, but the list doesn’t end there. I for one would rather have a Metro Board Chair nominated by Turner than one nominated by King. It’s not like these guys largely agree on things and it’s just a matter of whose flag they fly. Sylvester Turner’s Houston and Bill King’s Houston will be different places. By all means, base your choice on that. From my perspective at least, the two roads lead to the same destination.

Precinct analysis: At Large #5

Last but not least, At Large #5:

Dist  Batteau  Christie  Nassif   Moses
A       1,034     8,302   1,895   2,876
B       2,784     3,157   2,374   6,849
C       1,782    13,555  10,866   4,592
D       5,108     4,098   3,138   7,231
E       1,247    15,479   2,664   3,355
F         811     3,815   1,143   2,545
G       1,079    20,058   4,567   3,203
H       1,349     3,895   2,445   3,502
I       1,372     3,531   1,678   3,062
J         616     2,744     988   1,545
K       2,149     4,891   2,946   5,259
A       7.33%   58.85%   13.43%  20.39%
B      18.36%   20.82%   15.66%  45.17%
C       5.79%   44.02%   35.28%  14.91%
D      26.09%   20.93%   16.03%  36.94%
E       5.48%   68.05%   11.71%  14.75%
F       9.75%   45.89%   13.75%  30.61%
G       3.73%   69.39%   15.80%  11.08%
H      12.05%   34.80%   21.85%  31.29%
I      14.23%   36.62%   17.40%  31.75%
J      10.45%   46.56%   16.77%  26.22%
K      14.10%   32.08%   19.32%  34.50%
Jack Christie

Jack Christie

This is not Jack Christie’s first runoff. It’s his third, in fact: He lost narrowly to then-CM Jolanda Jones in 2009, the defeated her somewhat less narrowly in 2011. He won without a runoff in 2013, and is now back in a familiar position. A review of the precinct data from the two previous runoffs is instructive. The comparison between the two isn’t exact due to the Council redistricting of 2011, but the basics are the same: Christie was clobbered in the African-American parts of town, but did well enough everywhere else. In 2009, the higher overall turnout from the Mayoral runoff was enough to sink his ship by making the margins he had to overcome in B and D that much greater, but the lower turnout of 2011 plus his improved performance in other parts of the city were enough to give him the win. We will be in a turnout environment more like 2009 than 2011 this year, and with Sylvester Turner running that could well boost his opponent and give him problems as was the case in 2009, but this time he’s running against a little-known first-time candidate and not a high-profile incumbent, which ought to work to his benefit. I surely expect a higher undervote rate this year than in 2011 when the AL5 runoff was the main event. I make Christie the favorite, but his re-election is far from assured.

As for Sharon Moses, I’m still getting to know who she is. She sent out a campaign email earlier in the week, which I have pasted beneath the fold. Her challenge and her path to victory are basically the same as they are for Georgia Provost, except that 1) her opponent is a two-term incumbent; 2) her opponent is fairly moderate and has a history of winning crossover support; and 3) she herself is less known than Provost is. Moreover, while Provost has picked up all the Dem-friendly runoff endorsements that I have seen so far, Moses has been a bit less successful in that endeavor. Both Provost and Moses were endorsed by the HCDP and by the Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast Action Fund, but only Provost was endorsed by the Houston GLBT Political Caucus. I can see scenarios where they both get elected and where they both lose, but if only one of them wins I’d bet money it’s Provost and not Moses.

As for Philippe Nassif, it was a good effort by another first-time candidate, but the district view shows that he still had a ways to go. He did well in the friendly confines of District C, though not well enough to outdo Christie, but did not make enough of an impression elsewhere. If he wants to run again in 2019 – and he should, unless he gets elected to something else between now and then or moves to another city – my advice would be to stay engaged seek out opportunities to get his name out there. Take a more prominent and visible role in the 2016 and 2018 elections. Write some op-eds for the Chronicle. Find a cause and throw yourself into it. There are far more ultimately successful candidates who lost their first race (or races) than there are instant winners. Stay engaged, keep yourself out there, and you’ll enter 2019 more prepared than most. I hope to see you on my ballot again.


Precinct analysis: At Large #4

At Large #4 features a newcomer and a multi-time candidate in its runoff.

Dist  Edwards  Hansen  Blackmon  Robinson  Thompson  Murphy  Morales
A       3,707     572       662     2,378     2,565   1,844    2,702
B      10,732     306     1,296     2,109     1,160     327    1,477
C      11,309   1,226     1,189     6,688     3,891   2,967    3,911
D      12,636     400     2,691     2,618     1,559     542    1,902
E       3,612   1,054       960     3,197     5,033   5,288    4,158
F       2,673     438       542     1,368     1,370     713    1,675
G       4,914   1,150       960     7,210     5,746   4,073    4,193
H       4,121     304       475     1,397       982     468    4,664
I       3,187     302       537     1,022       895     418    4,568
J       1,911     281       325     1,031       909     408    1,339
K       8,357     395     1,444     2,555     1,730     646    1,900
A      25.69%   3.96%     4.59%    16.48%    17.78%  12.78%   18.72%
B      61.65%   1.76%     7.45%    12.12%     6.66%   1.88%    8.49%
C      36.27%   3.93%     3.81%    21.45%    12.48%   9.52%   12.54%
D      56.54%   1.79%    12.04%    11.71%     6.98%   2.43%    8.51%
E      15.50%   4.52%     4.12%    13.72%    21.60%  22.69%   17.84%
F      30.45%   4.99%     6.17%    15.58%    15.61%   8.12%   19.08%
G      17.40%   4.07%     3.40%    25.53%    20.34%  14.42%   14.84%
H      33.20%   2.45%     3.83%    11.26%     7.91%   3.77%   37.58%
I      29.16%   2.76%     4.91%     9.35%     8.19%   3.82%   41.80%
J      30.80%   4.53%     5.24%    16.62%    14.65%   6.58%   21.58%
K      49.08%   2.32%     8.48%    15.01%    10.16%   3.79%   11.16%
Amanda Edwards

Amanda Edwards

Amanda Edwards turns in an impressive performance, even more so for being a first time candidate. It occurred to me in looking at these numbers that Edwards has the kind of profile that would make for a strong challenger to Michael Kubosh – a progressive African-American with solid business/establishment credentials. Of course, a candidate with that profile would be a formidable opponent for anyone, which is a big part of the reason she did so well here. Every candidate in the runoff is at least somewhat dependent on the Mayor’s race, as that will do far more to determine who votes and how many of them there are, but Edwards’ first round performance makes her less dependent on that than most.

I suspect a lot of people (I was one) expected Laurie Robinson to do better than she did. She’d run before, she collected a decent number of endorsements, including a few from more conservative groups who apparently weren’t too impressed with the Republican candidates in the race, and it seemed likely she would collect a fair share of the vote in districts B and D. Instead, Edwards blew her out of the water, so much so that Robinson slipped into third place and out of the runoff. Robinson did slightly worse in these districts than she did in 2011, though here there were seven candidates including three African-Americans, while in 2011 there were four and two. One possible explanation for this is that people may have held a grudge against her for opposing then-CM Jolanda Jones, who was forced into a runoff she eventually lost. I have no way to test that hypothesis, so it’s just a guess. Whatever the case, if Robinson wants to take another crack at a Council campaign in 2019, her inability to do well in these districts is an issue she’s going to have to address.

With Roy Morales sneaking ahead of Laurie Robinson into the runoff, this race shapes up as D-versus-R, as are most of the others. In this case, while there were several Rs in the first round, they combined to score almost no endorsements from the Republican/conservative establishment; as noted above, Robinson did better with that crowd than Morales, Matt Murphy, Jonathan Hansen, and Evelyn Husband Thompson combined. They’re pulling together for Morales now, as they did at the tail end of the 2009 Mayor’s race, and Morales does have the advantage of picking up some low-information votes in districts H and I, but this is Morales’ third runoff out of five citywide races (2007 AL3 special election, 2007 AL3 November election, 2009 Mayor, 2013 AL3, and 2015 AL4, with the first, fourth, and fifth being the runoff races) and it’s hard to see him doing any better than he has done before. One should never take anything for granted, but I suspect the Vegas oddsmakers would install Edwards as a strong favorite in this race.

Precinct analysis: At Large #3

Only one candidate running for citywide office won outright in November. That candidate was first term CM Michael Kubosh in At Large #3. Here’s how he won:

Dist  Kubosh   LaRue  McElligott  Peterson
A      8,782   1,042         835     3,152
B      8,988   1,526       1,251     3,541
C     16,414   2,314       1,409    10,138
D     12,074   1,599       1,367     4,385
E     15,033   1,249       1,217     5,314
F      4,192     973         819     2,274
G     19,632   1,463       1,069     5,433
H      6,149   1,284         925     3,055
I      5,121   1,057         953     2,567
J      3,230     600         492     1,566
K      8,524   1,271         989     4,283
A     63.59%   7.54%       6.05%    22.82%
B     58.72%   9.97%       8.17%    23.13%
C     54.22%   7.64%       4.65%    33.49%
D     62.16%   8.23%       7.04%    22.57%
E     65.90%   5.47%       5.33%    23.29%
F     50.76%  11.78%       9.92%    27.54%
G     71.14%   5.30%       3.87%    19.69%
H     53.88%  11.25%       8.10%    26.77%
I     52.80%  10.90%       9.83%    26.47%
J     54.86%  10.19%       8.36%    26.60%
K     56.57%   8.44%       6.56%    28.43%
CM Michael Kubosh

CM Michael Kubosh

There’s not a whole lot to say here. Kubosh won a majority in every Council district, only coming close to not having a majority in District F. Some of this is a perk of high name ID, but said name ID was earned through work on the red light camera referendum and by being visible on Council. There have been a lot more people running for At Large seats in recent elections, challenging incumbents as well as piling up in open seat races. Since 2009, when CM Melissa Noriega ran unopposed, two At Large members have been dislodged, and every At Large incumbent save Steve Costello and Brad Bradford in 2013 have had at least two opponents. Sue Lovell and Jolanda Jones survived runoffs in 2009, while David Robinson and Jack Christie face them this year. In that context, Kubosh’s achievement as one of only two At Large incumbents to clear 60% against multiple opponents in this time frame (Bradford in 2011 is the other) is even more impressive. Give the man his due.

With all this recent interest in At Large races, and with the next election being four long years away (barring any further intervention from the Supreme Court), one wonders what the landscape will look like the next time these seats are up. As noted once before, CM Christie is the only At Large member whose term would be up in 2019, meaning that if he loses then every citywide officeholder as of January 2, 2016, can be on the ballot in 2019. (Like CM Kubosh, CM Robinson is in his first term, so regardless of the outcome in At Large #2, the incumbent in that seat can run for re-election.) With four years between races, one would think that there will be a lot of pent-up demand for Council offices, which may attract another truckload of citywide hopefuls. On the other hand, districts A, B, C, J (if CM Laster wins), and K will all be open then, so perhaps that will siphon off some of that demand. I really have no idea what it will be like, but barring anything strange, it seems reasonable to say that CM Kubosh will be a favorite to win a third term. Check back with me in January of 2019 and we’ll see how good that statement looks at that time.

Precinct analysis: Mayor’s race

I now have draft canvasses. You know what that means. All data is for Harris County only. First up, the Mayor’s race:

Dist  Hall  Turner  Garcia    King Costello    Bell
A    1,906   4,587   3,509   6,265    1,522   1,129
B    2,494  15,947   2,159     459      259     277
C    2,575  10,951   6,804  12,121    4,894   7,451
D    4,060  17,033   2,637   1,571      702   1,022
E    3,409   4,258   4,831  15,228    2,122   1,745
F    1,189   3,297   2,561   2,428      820     574
G    3,017   5,036   4,076  20,042    4,040   2,787
H    1,194   4,721   7,145   1,585      810   1,119
I    1,237   3,717   6,114   1,327      650     796
J      902   2,151   1,900   1,810      594     598
K    2,777   9,912   2,922   3,022    1,097   1,806
A    9.80%  23.58%  18.04%  32.20%    7.82%   5.80%
B   11.38%  72.75%   9.85%   2.09%    1.18%   1.26%
C    5.64%  24.00%  14.91%  26.56%   10.73%  16.33%
D   14.66%  61.50%   9.52%   5.67%    2.53%   3.69%
E   10.56%  13.19%  14.96%  47.17%    6.57%   5.41%
F    9.79%  27.14%  21.08%  19.99%    6.75%   4.73%
G    7.60%  12.68%  10.27%  50.48%   10.18%   7.02%
H    7.06%  27.93%  42.27%   9.38%    4.79%   6.62%
I    8.65%  25.98%  42.73%   9.28%    4.54%   5.56%
J   10.67%  25.45%  22.48%  21.41%    7.03%   7.07%
K   12.57%  44.87%  13.23%  13.68%    4.97%   8.18%
Sylvester Turner

Sylvester Turner

The seven other candidates combined for 2.57% of the vote, so for the sake of space and my sanity, I’m omitting them from these tables, but I will say a few words about them here. Hoc Thai Nguyen, who had the seventh-highest vote total, scored 6.60% of the vote in District F, and 3.02% in J, the two most Asian-heavy parts of town. As it happens, F (1.93%) and J (1.15%) were Marty McVey’s two best districts, too. Nguyen also broke out of the square root club (*) in A (1.01%) and I (1.08%). No other candidate reached 1% in any district. Demetria Smith, who ran for District D in 2013, came closest with 0.93% of the vote in D. At the bottom of the ladder were Joe Ferreira (240 votes) and Dale Steffes (302), but it was Steffes who had the worst performance in any district. Nearly half of his votes (143 of them) came in District G, and he collected all of 2 votes in J and 3 votes in B. Ferreira got 7 votes in B, but made it to double digits everywhere else. Neither he nor Rafael Munoz made it to triple digits in any district, however. I guarantee, this is the kind of analysis you won’t see anywhere else.

The conventional wisdom on Sylvester Turner is that he needed to broaden his appeal beyond African-American voters, who were expected to strongly support his candidacy. He certainly received their strong support, as the results in B and D attest. Turner also finished first in districts F, J, and K, and finished second in A, C, G, H, and I. That looks pretty reasonably broad to me. If you’re alarmed by him finishing behind King in C, I would simply note that there do exist Republicans in District C, and C was where both Chris Bell and Steve Costello had their strongest showings. I feel confident saying that much of that vote will transfer to Turner. Ben Hall didn’t dent Turner’s support in B and D; given that plenty of anti-HERO voters also supported Turner, it seems likely to me that he will pick up a fair bit of Hall’s support. And perhaps with some help from Adrian Garcia’s endorsement, Turner ought to do well in H and I. None of this is guaranteed, of course. People do actually have to come out and vote, and if there’s any sense of inevitability that might make some people think they needn’t bother to show up. For what it’s worth, I get the sense from too much Facebook reading that plenty of disappointed HERO supporters are not depressed but angry, and that they know their best chance of a second shot at an equal rights ordinance is with Mayor Turner, not Mayor King. I think they’ll show up. Runoff early voting starts December 2, so we’ll know soon enough.

A word about Garcia before I move on: If every single voter in H and I had voted for him, his Harris County total would have been 62,623. If you then subtract the votes Bill King got in H and I from his total, he’d be left with 62,954. Garcia gained a net 267 votes on King in Fort Bend and lost a net 26 votes in Montgomery, so when you add it all up, he’d still have been out of the money. Now I know that H and I aren’t solely made up of Latinos – hell, I live in H, and I’m almost as white as King – and there are plenty of Latino voters in other districts. There could also have been higher turnout in these districts; both were under the overall average. My point in using this bit of shorthand is to say that it was really Garcia who needed to broaden his support, and to that end his biggest problem was other Democrats, not any anti-HERO surge. I think Garcia was handicapped by his late entry into the race, much as Sylvester Turner was by his late entry into the 2003 Mayor’s race. By the time Turner jumped in, after the legislative session, Bill White had locked up a significant amount of support from Democratic voters, including a non-trivial number of black Democrats. By the time Garcia got in, he had to ask a lot of people to reconsider the decision they’d already made about whom to support for Mayor in order to ask them to support him. That’s a much harder thing to do. He had his reasons for getting in so late, and it’s always easy to be a Monday morning quarterback. I’m just saying the reasons why Garcia isn’t in the runoff go beyond simply counting the number of Latinos that voted.

And while we’re still talking about broadening appeal, there’s Bill King. Look at those numbers above. King did very well in E and G, fairly well in A, C, F, and J, and not so well anywhere else, including below-the-Hoc-Thai-Nguyen-in-F-line finishes in B and D. Where does King turn to sufficiently improve his performance in the runoff to have a shot at it? I feel like the basic model for this is Jack Christie’s runoff win against Jolanda Jones in 2011, which is to say broaden his appeal outside of his Republican base, maximize those votes, and limit Turner to his own base in B and D. Easier said than done, but it has been done. It’s been suggested to me that a factor that may have driven turnout at least as much as the HERO vote was Republican voters in the city having a real choice for Mayor for the first time since 2003. There may be something to that, but if so I’d note as before that King received just 30,000 more votes than Roy Morales did in 2009, which receiving 33,000 fewer votes than Orlando Sanchez did in 2003. Make of that what you will. King ought to have room to boost Republican turnout in the runoff – Republicans have a few candidates they might like to support elsewhere on the runoff ballot as well – but I don’t think that gets him over the line on its own. I think he can’t win unless he can take some votes away from Turner. How he might do that, I assume we’ll find out.

I’ve got more of these to do over the course of the week. Remember again, these are draft canvasses, so no overseas or provisional ballots, and these numbers are all Harris County only. If you like seeing pretty pictures instead of numbers, these two Chron stories ought to have what you want. Let me know if you have any questions about this. I’ll have the next post up tomorrow.

(*) This is an old Rice joke. The “square root club” referred to anyone for whom the square root of their GPA was higher than their actual GPA. This is a geeky way of saying “less than 1.0”, which for these purposes means “less than 1.00 percent”.

What happened to Adrian?

Not what he thought would happen, that’s for sure.

Adrian Garcia

Adrian Garcia

When Adrian Garcia announced in May that he would be giving up his job as sheriff and the top Democratic elected official in Harris County to run for mayor, he was heralded as an instant front-runner to replace term-limited Mayor Annise Parker.

Six months later, the man many thought could have been Houston’s first Hispanic mayor is out of the running and out of a job.

Garcia’s precipitous collapse, which left him more than 8 percentage points out of the runoff Tuesday, stunned even close race watchers and left the former lawman’s inner circle pondering where things went wrong.

“It’s a bitter pill to swallow,” said Massey Villarreal, Garcia’s campaign treasurer. “Nobody understood the big tsunami wave headed our way.”

Reflecting on the results, Garcia allies repeatedly pointed to the city’s polarizing equal rights ordinance, saying Garcia was swamped by the anti-HERO wave that swept the city ballot, buoying conservative candidates, including the one who ended up beating him out for the runoff.


The success of Garcia’s hotly anticipated candidacy depended on his ability to boost consistently low Hispanic turnout while assembling a coalition of other groups, an expensive task predicated in part on a robust get-out-the-vote effort.

Garcia’s campaign mounted a formidable fundraising effort, outraising his competitors by nearly $1 million through late October, and investing in an extensive field operation. Yet, turnout in predominantly Latino districts H and I still lagged behind participation in many conservative and African-American areas, as well as progressive District C.

“There was no way to anticipate the dramatic influx of voters in this election,” Garcia campaign manager Mary Bell said.

Citywide turnout topped 27 percent, an increase of 8 percentage points and more than 89,000 votes from six years ago, the time Houston had an open mayor’s race.

“Could they have done better? Yes,” Tameez said. “Would it change the math? Probably not.”

Tameez pointed to the fact that King captured more votes than Garcia and progressive former Congressman Chris Bell combined.

However, Tameez also spoke critically of how the campaign responded to a series of attacks that opponents began piling on Garcia about two months before election day, when a Turner-Garcia runoff still appeared the most likely outcome.

Bell and King repeatedly hit Garcia on everything from the sheriff’s office’s clearance rates to his handling of cases involving inmates who died or were mistreated while in jail.

Garcia’s campaign consistently was slow to respond, with staffers frequently declining to make the candidate Garcia available for interviews in response or speak to reporters on the record, waiting hours before issuing written statements.

It was not until the Friday before the start of early voting, when polls showed King moving into second place, that Garcia went on offense for the first time.

I’m not sure which “polls” this refers to, as only one of the last two polls had King ahead of Garcia, and that was by just one point. In retrospect, I’m not sure how useful most of these polls were. The HRBC poll, which clearly had a more conservative sample than the others, was the most accurate. The rest all had Turner in first, but that was the limit of their accuracy. And as I said before, it’s not clear to me that Garcia was truly in second based on the public polls, or if he was just the beneficiary of that one good initial poll. Doubt it matter that much at this point, and I doubt the polling will be any better in 2019. It’s the nature of the beast.

As for what happened to Garcia, there’s not much I disagree with above. That said, let’s be a bit more precise when we talk about a conservative voter “surge”:

Dist    2013   2013%    2015   2015%    Diff  13 Sh  15 Sh
A     13,560  19.17%  20,060  26.92%   6,500   7.8%   7.5%
B     13,780  14.40%  22,412  23.34%   8,632   7.9%   8.3%
C     32,489  25.30%  47,125  35.43%  14,636  18.6%  17.6%
D     19,681  17.78%  28,353  25.14%   8,672  11.3%  10.6%
E     18,712  17.75%  33,570  30.40%  14,858  10.7%  12.5%
F      7,794  11.61%  12,722  18.25%   4,928   4.5%   4.7%
G     27,348  23.59%  40,771  34.65%  13,423  15.7%  15.2%
H     10,271  14.27%  17,408  23.73%   7,137   5.9%   6.5%
I      9,553  15.20%  14,668  22.67%   5,115   5.5%   5.5%
J      5,947  13.01%   8,721  18.61%   2,774   3.4%   3.3%
K     15,485  19.62%  22,648  28.18%   7,163   8.9%   8.4%

The last two columns represent the share of the total vote for that district. The three Republican districts were 34.2% of the total Harris County vote in 2013, and 35.2% of that vote in 2015. To be sure, that’s a lot more total votes, I’m just saying that the proportions weren’t all out of whack. Now, there may well be a higher concentration of Republican-friendly voters within each district. I don’t have a good way to measure that, unfortunately. For what it’s worth, King received almost exactly 30,000 more votes than Roy Morales did in 2009; his total in 2009 would have been 37.8% of the vote. I don’t know that I have a point here, I’m just fiddling around.

Anyway. We’ll never know how Garcia might have done in a year that didn’t have HERO on the ballot. I’m sure it didn’t help him, but I can’t say how much it hurt. This election was another opportunity to wonder when Latinos will start to vote in numbers more proportionate to their share of the population. If I knew the answer to that, I’m sure I could make some good money as a consultant. This wasn’t the year, and Garcia wasn’t the candidate. Check back in 2019 or 2023, I guess. For now, Garcia has endorsed Turner for the runoff. What happens for him next I don’t know, but I feel pretty confident saying this wasn’t his last election.

Day 12 EV 2015 totals: Final turnout projections

The last day was another big one:

Year    Early    Mail    Total   Mailed
2015  164,104  29,859  193,963   43,280
2013   87,944  21,426  109,370   30,572

The running 2015 totals are here, the full 2013 totals are here, and for completeness the full 2009 totals are here. Before I go on, let me note that the numbers noted in the Chron story I blogged about on Friday were completely bogus. I have no idea where Mike Morris came up with them. Here’s a more accurate rendition, which please note reflects Harris County only:

Year     Early    E-Day    Total   Early%
2003    83,225  214,885  298,110    27.9%
2005    49,889  139,157  189,046    26.4%
2007    36,707   86,703  123,410    29.7%
2009    62,428  116,349  178,777    34.9%
2011    46,446   75,022  121,468    38.2%
2013    80,437   94,183  174,620    46.1%

2010   215,884  173,194  329,428    55.4%
2012   364,272  212,277  576,549    63.2%

I threw in 2005 and 2007 so we could see the trend. Morris’ overall totals were correct, but the way he apportioned mail, early in person, and Election Day subtotals was off the rails for some reason. I also included the two even years, both of which featured city of Houston ballot propositions, as a further point of comparison and to emphasize that there really is a lot of room for behavior shifting. My guess is that about 60% of all ballots have been cast as of now. Assuming about 140,000 of the early votes from Harris and elsewhere are Houston voters, that suggests a final city turnout of about 233,000. That’s in line with what the paid professionals are saying.


Political scientists projected between 220,000 and 250,000 city voters will head to the polls by election night’s close, up from more than 178,000 in 2009, the last time there was an open-seat mayor’s race.

Friday marked the close of two weeks of early voting in Harris County.

Early turnout was particularly strong in African American and conservative areas, political scientists said, a boon to Houston mayoral candidates Sylvester Turner and Bill King.

“I think Sylvester could get close to 30 percent of the vote,” Rice University political scientist Bob Stein said, noting that turnout by district so far “clearly advantages somebody like Bill King” for the second spot in a likely December runoff.

If those voting patterns continue through Election Day, the city’s equal rights ordinance, dubbed HERO, also is expected to face a tough road to passage.

“This may spell doom or defeat for the HERO ordinance,” TSU political scientist Michael Adams said, noting that turnout has been comparatively low among traditionally progressive inner-loop Anglo voters.

Citing a TSU analysis, Adams said about 53 percent of early city voters through Thursday were white, 28.5 percent were African American, 11.5 percent were Hispanic and 4 percent were Asian.

He also estimated that approximately 56 percent were Democrats, while 44 percent were Republicans.

As of September, more than two million Harris County residents were eligible to vote on Nov. 3, with more than 978,000 of them residing in Houston, according to the Harris County Clerk’s office.

The share of votes cast early or by mail in recent mayoral races has increased steadily, from 28 percent in 2003, to 46 percent in 2013.

These figures do not include the handful of city precincts outside of Harris County.

Though some have speculated that this year’s spike in early voting could portend low turnout on Election Day, Stein said he expects about half of those who cast a ballot will head to the polls on Tuesday.

I think it’s going to be a bit less than half, but we’ll see. I’ll spare you another discussion of the prospects for HERO, I’ll just note that the world is watching, so it would be nice for us to not look bad. I’ll also note again the overwhelming support for HERO from the business community, which 1) suggests that perhaps Republican voter support for HERO is being underestimated, and 2) suggests again that business leaders who have been supporting politicians like Dan Patrick and others who oppose so many of their interests really ought to rethink that. As for the effect on the Mayor’s race, put me donw for being slightly skeptical that robust Republican turnout necessarily benefits Bill King. Republicans are far from unanimous in their preference, and I’m not convinced that King has that much name recognition, especially with the less-frequent city voters. I’m not saying he won’t do well, just that it’s hardly a guarantee. Along these same lines, the effect of higher than usual turnout on the other citywide races, for Controller and At Large Council seats, is very much an open question. What do voters do when they don’t know the candidates, as will often be the case in these races, since it costs a lot of money to really get your name out there? I suspect that more than the usual number will skip these races – undervotes in the 30% range or higher, perhaps – and some will pick a name that sounds familiar to them. What effect that will have is anyone’s guess, but if there’s a goofy result or two, don’t be shocked.

Day 11 EV 2015 totals: So what do we think turnout will be, anyway?

One more day of early voting to go:

Year    Early    Mail    Total   Mailed
2015  128,611  27,952  156,563   43,280
2013   68,803  20,491   89,294   30,572

The running 2015 totals are here, the full 2013 totals are here, and for completeness the full 2009 totals are here. As noted yesterday, we have exceeded the 2013 early voting totals for Harris County as of Tuesday, and are up about 75% overall. How big is this thing going to get? Mike Morris takes a stab at it:

With two days of early voting left, Houston voters already have outpaced total votes cast in the November 2011 election. Are we on pace for a huge spike in turnout this fall?

Not necessarily.

As the chart shows, the city has seen a steady increase in the share of votes being cast early, as more Houstonians figure out that it’s easier to go to any of the open locations and often avoid a line than it is to vote at your assigned polling place on Election Day with all of your neighbors.

From 2003 forward, the share of votes cast early has steadily risen from less than one-third to nearly two-thirds during the last cycle in 2013.


It’s not really my job to guess, but political scientists have been estimating that this year’s turnout could fall between 180,000 and 240,000. With the early votes likely to come in today and tomorrow, that would track with a continuing share of people voting early.

I will note, however, that at this point if we only see 180,000 total votes (as we did in 2009) that will mean almost no one shows up on Tuesday, so expect a higher number than that.

Most observers have assumed a higher turnout is bad news for the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance, as city progressives already vote in high numbers. Thus, the next level of analysis is to see which early voting locations have seen spikes in turnout.

Actually, the next level is to get the daily rosters and figure it out at a more granular level, since as Morris notes you can’t go by EV locations except as a fairly rough estimate. Fortunately, Greg has done this work, and you should go look at his post. I’m going to take his main chart and add a little something to it:

============================================== Neighborhood 15EVTO% 13EVTO% 13TO% 13EV% ============================================== African-American Neighborhoods ---------------------------------------------- Southside AfrAm 9.7% 9.3% 18.9% 49.2% Northwest AfrAm 12.4% 9.6% 18.1% 53.0% Fifth Ward 8.9% 7.4% 16.2% 45.7% Hiram Clarke 10.2% 9.0% 17.8% 50.6% Hispanic/Latino Neighborhoods ---------------------------------------------- Lindale 8.7% 7.2% 16.4% 43.9% East End 6.2% 6.3% 15.2% 41.4% Anglo GOP Neighborhoods ---------------------------------------------- Kingwood 18.7% 11.8% 22.5% 52.4% Clear Lake 12.3% 11.6% 24.3% 47.7% West 14.3% 11.8% 27.1% 43.5% Anglo Dem/Swing Neighborhoods ---------------------------------------------- Sharpstown 9.9% 9.3% 19.9% 46.7% Meyerland 10.6% 12.5% 34.6% 36.1% Heights - C 9.0% 8.8% 25.3% 34.8% Montrose 12.3% 11.5% 27.6% 41.7%

My addition is that last column, which shows how much of the total vote in these locations (see Greg’s post for the exact precincts in question) comes early. For whatever the reason, the Heights and Meyerland seem to like voting on Election Day, or at least they did in 2013; in a subsequent post, Greg suggests Meyerland’s 2013 performance may have been an outlier. Regardless, this is especially noteworthy when you consider how much of the overall vote in 2013 came early. Here’s a look at that trend, based on the chart in Morris’ story:

Year    Early    E-Day    Total  Early%
2003   93,868  204,242  298,110   31.5%
2009   81,516   98,261  179,777   45.3%
2011   58,345   63,123  121,468   48.0%
2013  109,370   65,250  174,620   62.6%

One of those things is not like the others. Certainly, as Morris says, some people will vote on Election Day. Let’s guess that the early vote total, which includes absentee ballots, is between 65 and 70% of the final amount. I’ll run some number for that after all of early voting is done, but whatever reasonable figure you choose, turnout will be up by some amount. What does this mean for HERO? The third level of analysis would be to look at voting history, and to focus on the people who don’t have any history of voting in city elections. Those folks can be broken into two groups. The first group is those with no voting history at all. They will predominantly be new arrivals to Harris County, with a few people who are newly of age and a few others who for whatever the reason had not been registered before. In the absence of any polling data specifically on that type of new voter, I’m not going to guess what their HERO preference may be. The second group is those that have voted in even year elections, but not odd year elections. These are the people who have come out specifically for this election, and it’s fair to say that HERO is the most likely reason for that. One may then reasonably guess based on where they live and what other elections they have voted in which way they probably lean. How many of these people are there? I have no idea, but I’m certain that the various campaigns do. You want to get a sense of how the wind is blowing, that’s where you should put up your weather vane.

Day 7 EV 2015 totals

One week in:

Year    Early    Mail   Total   Mailed
2015   61,008  21,141  82,149   42,938
2013   37,928  14,342  52,270   30,544


The running 2015 totals are here, the full 2013 totals are here, and for completeness the full 2009 totals are here. Sunday is the low volume day for early voting, as EV hours are only 1 to 6. Despite the weather, there were 800 more votes cast this year than in 2013, an increase of about 31%. That’s a smaller rate of increase than we’ve been seeing, but it’s still an uptick, so whatever the effect of the weather was, it probably wasn’t that much.

Week two of early voting tends to be busier – in 2013, there were 50,000 in-person votes cast in the last five days. If that happens this year, then either Election Day will be rather quiet, or we’ll have a healthy increase in turnout overall. Remember that these numbers are all Harris County, not just Houston – historically, about 70% of the vote in odd numbered years comes from Houston – and that there are city of Houston voters in Fort Bend and Montgomery Counties as well. I’ll take a stab at guessing turnout later this week, once we see if historic trends hold or if the flame has burned out a bit. Have you voted yet?

Day 6 EV 2015 totals: Rain, rain, go away

Here are your rain-soaked Day Six totals:

Year    Early    Mail   Total   Mailed
2015   57,657  21,141  78,798   42,938
2013   35,376  14,342  49,728   30,544


The running 2015 totals are here, the full 2013 totals are here, and for completeness the full 2009 totals are here. No mail ballots sent or received today or tomorrow, and I believe the deadline to request a mail ballot is Tuesday, so that last column above isn’t going to change much. It’s unclear if today’s rains had any effect on the totals or not. I had expected the first Saturday numbers to be higher under good conditions, so at first blush I’d guess that today was slower than expected since there were two thousand fewer votes than there were yesterday, but a look back at 2009 and 2013 suggests that’s not necessarily the case – 2013’s Saturday was nearly identical to its first Friday, and 2009’s Saturday was up just a bit from its day before. We’ll never know what we might have had if yesterday had been a sunny day.

As far as today goes, Sunday is the short day for early voting – EV hours are from 1 to 6, so voting doesn’t interfere with church-going. An accompanying press release from the County Clerk’s office assures me that “As of this time, all Early Voting polling locations are scheduled to be open on Sunday, October 25th”, so go vote today if you planned to and if the weather allows it. EV hours are 7 AM to 7 PM Monday through Friday this week, so there will be other chances. Stay safe and wait till another day if the weather is bad.

Day 5 EV 2015 totals: Early voting is up (almost) everywhere

Here are your Day Five totals:

Year    Early    Mail   Total   Mailed
2015   48,027  21,141  69,168   42,938
2013   28,303  14,342  42,645   30,544


The running 2015 totals are here, the full 2013 totals are here, and for completeness the full 2009 totals are here. With one work week in the bag, it’s clear that early voting is a lot brisker than it was two years ago. You might think that it portends a much higher level of turnout this year. You might be right, though as you know I have been cautioning against reading too much into these numbers. More people are voting early now than they used to, and some of what we are seeing is merely the result of regular voters getting out earlier than usual and/or shifting to early voting from voting on Election Day.

Now to be sure, we do expect some higher level of turnout this year, thanks to the contested Mayor’s race and the HERO referendum. Indications I’ve gotten from people who have access to the daily voter rosters suggests that about 40% of the voters so far are not from the “at least two out of the last three elections” group. That’s actually not much higher than what we saw in 2009, when 36.1% of voters had not participated in either 2005 or 2007. It’s way too early to place your bets on what final turnout might be, but if I had to guess I’d lean more towards a modest increase, say from 180,000 to 200,000. Ask me again when the final early voting totals are in and I’ll take another guess then.

There’s another factor to consider here, and that’s that the increase in early voting in Harris County is not unique. Take a look at the four-day early voting totals from this year and from 2013 for the state’s biggest counties. The SOS is always a day behind on this, so all we have is the numbers through Thursday, but they tell the same basic story as in Harris County:

County   In person    Mail    Total    2013
Harris      36,316  19,789   56,105  34,412
Dallas      10,558   1,570   12,128   5,649
Tarrant     10,713   2,601   13,314   6,939
Bexar       11,285   2,865   14,150   9,117
Travis       7,231     164    7,395   9,880
Collin       7,374     168    7,542   4,546
El Paso      3,081     968    4,049   1,583
Denton       4,388     315    4,703   3,455
Fort Bend    4,780     691    5,471   2,890
Hidalgo      3,456     211    3,667   4,661
Montgomery   5,779     429    6,208   1,483
Williamson   4,192     116    4,308   3,402
Galveston    2,222      58    2,280   1,264
Nueces       1,072      51    1,123   4,978

Total      112,447  29,996  142,433  94,239

As Harris County’s EV totals are up 62% over the five day period, the top 14 counties have seen their four-day EV totals climb 51%. There’s some variation in there – I’m not sure what is causing the dip in Travis County, and the huge increase in Montgomery County is surely the result of their second contentious road bond proposal of the year – but still, that’s pretty sturdy. Harris County is up more than the overall total, and its increase is relatively larger if we take it out of the state total – the rest of the state’s EV total is up only 24% – but it remains the case that more people are voting early everywhere, not just here. And as always, the lesson is to not read too much into what’s happening in one place till we have more data.

Day 4 EV 2015 totals

Gonna be lazy for one more day.

Year    Early    Mail   Total   Mailed
2015   36,321  19,789  56,110   42,520
2013   21,193  13,322  34,515   30,096

The running 2015 totals are here, the full 2013 totals are here, and for completeness the full 2009 totals are here. I should have something to say about the five day totals tomorrow.

Day 3 EV 2015 totals

No fanfare today

Year    Early    Mail   Total   Mailed
2015   27,596  18,196  45,752   41,994
2013   15,595  12,033  27,628   29,538

The running 2015 totals are here, the full 2013 totals are here, and for completeness the full 2009 totals are here. I don’t have any fancy commentary today, so just enjoy the numbers for what they are.

Day 2 EV 2015 totals: Why I’m using 2013 as my basis for comparison and not 2009

But first, here’s yesterday’s Chron story about Day One turnout:


Turnout as of the first day of early voting in Harris County more than tripled from 2009, when Houston last elected a new mayor, though it is too soon to project whether overall participation will be up.

More than 23,000 county residents cast a ballot, 8,889 of whom voted in person Monday and another 14,240 by mail. By contrast, the county clerk recorded 4,089 in-person votes and 2,073 mail votes on the first day of early voting in 2009.

Political observers cautioned that a single day’s turnout is not necessarily predictive of how many votes will be cast.

“Usually these numbers aren’t a harbinger of anything except the competitiveness of the race,” University of Houston political scientist Brandon Rottinghaus said, adding that the share of ballots cast early has increased in recent years. “My guess is turnout will be up, but this may not be the best indicator of it.”

You may have noticed that I used 2013 as my basis of comparison for Day One; one commenter specifically asked why I didn’t use 2009, the last year with an open-seat Mayoral race as my basis. The short answer is that from a turnout perspective, the two years are nearly identical:

2009 ballots cast = 181,659
2013 ballots cast = 177,560

2009 Harris County voters = 257,312
2013 Harris County voters = 260,437

In addition, the trend in recent years is for more people to vote early, and there are more people voting by mail as well.

Year        Day One    Total   Day 1 %
2009 mail     2,073   11,445     18.1%
2009 EV       4,089   71,368      5.7%
2009 total    6,162   82,798      7.4%

2013 mail     8,560   24,022     35.6%
2013 EV       5,028   87,931      5.7%
2013 total   13,588  111,953     12.1%

Note that these are all Harris County totals, not city of Houston totals. We won’t know those for sure till we start seeing results on Election Day, though we can figure it out as we go if we have access to the daily roster. A spreadsheet of the daily totals for 2009 is here if you want to follow that along. As you can see, early voting in 2013 was up almost 40% over 2009, with higher mail totals and more Day One participation, but in the end total turnout in the city in both the city and the county were about the same. Another way of looking at this is to consider the share of early voting for each year:

Year            Mail   In person   All EV    Total   EV %
2009 Houston  10,152      52,276   62,428  178,777  34.9%
2009 Harris   11,445      71,353   82,798  257,312  32.2%

2013 Houston  20,297      60,140   80,437  174,620  46.1%
2013 Harris   24,022      87,931  111,953  260,437  43.0%

Note that these are the Harris County-only totals for Houston, which is why they are a bit less than the overall numbers cited above – they don’t include Fort Bend or Montgomery Counties. Basically, the share of all early voters – mail and in person – jumped by eleven percentage points between 2009 and 2013. I for one expect the share of early voters this year to be much closer to 2013 than 2009, so given the similarity in overall turnout, I prefer to use 2013 as my basis for comparison to this year.

And with all that said, here are your Day Two totals:

Year    Early    Mail   Total   Mailed
2015   18,283  16,065  34,348   41,563
2013   10,338  10,424  20,762   29,215

The running 2015 totals are here, and the full 2013 totals are here. The usual pattern for early voting is for it to be a bit flat, sometimes at a lower level than the first day and sometimes at a slightly higher level, until the last day or two. The last days in 2009 and 2013 were both much higher than any of the days preceding them. We’ll keep an eye on the pattern as we go along as well.

Chron overview of HCC Trustee races

As always, HCC Trustee races don’t get as much attention as they deserve.

Adriana Tamez

Adriana Tamez

Since the 2013 election put four new trustees – Zeph Capo, Robert Glaser, Dave Wilson and Adriana Tamez – on the board, one trustee, Carroll Robinson, has stepped down to campaign for city controller and two others – Chris Oliver and Sandie Mullins Moger – have launched bids for City Council seats.

Carolyn Evans-Shabazz, a real estate professional who attended HCC, took over Robinson’s seat in May and faces no challengers. John P. Hansen, a longtime Alief school board member, is uncontested in his bid for Moger’s seat on the board. If Oliver loses his council bid, he’ll remain on the HCC board; if he wins, the board will appoint a replacement.

Tamez and Eva Loredo, who has been on the board since 2009, each face challengers for their seats. This means that if Oliver wins his council race, longtime trustee Neeta Sane may be the only board member to have served longer than two years.

Eva Loredo

Eva Loredo


Tamez faces Florida “Flo” Cooper, a retired telecommunications consultant who ran unsuccessfully for a City Council seat in 2007. Cooper did not respond to multiple calls for an interview.


Loredo faces Art Aguilar, a Harris County sheriff’s deputy who ran unsuccessfully for constable in 2008. Aguilar, who did not respond to requests for an interview, is part of a slate of candidates that includes his sister, Diana Dávila, who is running for the Houston school board, and his brother-in-law Abel Dávila, a former HCC trustee now running for the City Council.

Cooper also ran for District D in 1997 against then incumbent CM Jew Don Boney, and in a special election for At Large #4 (eventually won by Chris Bell) in January of 1997. Aguilar is of course who Abel Davila tried to gift this Trustee seat to in 2009 via some last-minute filing shenanigans; Loredo won as a write-in candidate after Aguilar was forced to withdraw by the backlash. Neither is a serious candidate, which is why I highlighted their mentions in this article. Carolyn Evans-Shabazz and John Hansen are serious candidates, but both are unopposed – Moger won the position she is now departing as an unopposed candidate back in 2009 – and I just don’t like it when that happens for open seats. Be that as it may, my interview with Tamez is here and with Loredo is here. Both were endorsed by the Chron (and by most endorsing organizations), and both are worth your vote if you live in either district. Let’s please not elect any more accidental Trustees.

Race and runoffs and Turner

Everyone agrees that Sylvester Turner will be one of the candidates to make it to the runoff for Mayor this year. But what happens then?

Sylvester Turner

Sylvester Turner

Yet, to succeed term-limited Mayor Annise Parker, Turner, an African-American, will need to broaden his coalition beyond black voters – a challenge in a city where voting patterns often fall along racial lines.

“Since we don’t have party ID on the ballot, race is usually the No. 1 factor in predicting voter division patterns,” University of Houston political scientist Richard Murray said. “Campaigns exaggerate this natural inclination, because they hunt where the ducks are.”

Turner’s campaign says it is not conceding any vote.

“I’m not running a race-based campaign,” Turner said, pointing to his support from groups including the city’s three employee unions, the Houston GLBT political caucus, the Latino Labor Leadership Council and others.


From 1997 through 2009, black candidates running citywide in biracial elections earned an average of 89 percent of the vote in predominantly black precincts, 37 percent in predominantly white precincts and 32 percent in predominantly Hispanic precincts, according to a 2011 Texas Southern University study.

Those results suggest it is unlikely Turner or former City Attorney Ben Hall, who also is black, will receive significant general election support outside of the African-American community, said TSU political scientist Michael Adams, one of the study’s authors.

“Even with the extensive endorsed support Turner has received, the historical analysis of citywide races indicates that even for a candidate as well known as Turner, his prospects are dim outside the African-American community for this round,” Adams wrote in an email.

Turner thus faces the challenge of luring white and Hispanic progressives while solidifying his base. To safely advance to the runoff, he needs the support of more than 70 percent of black voters, Murray said.

Recent polls indicate Turner’s chances of pulling that off are good. Three surveys released in the last week show Turner either alone at the front of the pack or tied for the lead with former Harris County Sheriff Adrian Garcia.


“African-American candidates must be able to create broad multi-ethnic coalitions; in particular they must be able to structure the race in partisan terms to be successful,” Adams said, pointing to the 1991, 1997, 2001 and 2009 races, in which African-American mayoral candidates qualified for the runoff.

In 1997 and 2001, when the races were effectively partisan, with a black Democrat running against a white Republican, the black candidate won. Otherwise, the white Democrat prevailed.

I’m not sure about including the 2001 race in this set, since the Republican in question was Orlando Sanchez, and there was quite a bit of chatter about how he could become the first Latino Mayor of Houston. It’s true that he drew the lion’s share of the Anglo vote in that race, but it still feels weird grouping him in there.

I can’t find that 2011 study, so I can’t comment on it. I just want to point out that right now, Sylvester Turner and Ben Hall have at least some amount of support in the general election from outside the African-American community. The polling data that we have tells us this:

Poll Turner Hall Black Turner% Hall% ================================================ HAR 19 6 20 95% 30% HRBC 24 8 22 109% 36% KHOU 19 4 21 90% 19%

“Black” is the African-American share of the polling sample. “Turner%” and “Hall%” are each candidate’s share of the black vote. In all three cases, that total is greater than the black share of the electorate – from 109% of it to 145% of it – ergo, at least some of their support comes from outside that share. That doesn’t contradict the thesis that they won’t get a significant share of the non-black vote, but depending on how much of the black vote is going to Hall, it does suggest that a significant share of Turner’s support is coming from non-black voters. None of these polls break the data down that far, so we can only guess.

As for how things may shake out in a runoff, it really depends on who the other candidate is. Bill King and Steve Costello are the Republicans in this race, but King is running a Republican campaign and drawing mostly Republican support, while Costello (who supports HERO) is running a more non-partisan campaign and has picked up some support from traditionally Democratic groups. Chris Bell is the Anglo Dem, but with his lesser financial position and Turner’s dominance of the endorsement process, he would seem to be an underdog. And of course, Adrian Garcia is a wild card, being neither Anglo nor Republican. I don’t know how a Turner/Garcia runoff would play out, but I’d bet it would differ greatly from the Lee Brown/Orlando Sanchez matchup of 2001.

Mimi Swartz’s Mayoral campaign rant

Here it is.

Mayor Annise Parker

Mayor Annise Parker

What if they held a mayoral race and nobody came? That’s the question plaguing many people currently involved in Houston politics—even if no one else in town is asking it. This phenomenon isn’t entirely new: in 2009,* a measly 19 percent of Houston voters turned out for the general election to make a winner out of Annise Parker. That number could wind up looking downright spectacular, however, after the results of the 2015 mayoral race are tabulated on November 3. At this point—about a month out—no one can even use the traditional, if lame, “just-wait–til-Labor-Day” excuse; that holiday has come and gone, and if you ask the average person on the street who he is supporting, the answer is likely to be one big shrug followed by a puzzled squint, accompanied by “Who’s running again?”

One could say that the issues—at least the ones being discussed—aren’t all that compelling. Few people understand, or even want to understand, the pension crisis that is bleeding the city dry while keeping the bank accounts of retired firefighters and policemen safe and secure. Houstonians do know that traffic back-ups and potholes as dangerous as starving raptors now make it impossible to get from point A to point B (or C or D), but residents—especially the long-timers—also comfort themselves knowing that congestion equals growth equals prosperity. A future of potentially uneducated masses in a high-tech world? Isn’t that the school district’s cross to bear? Increased segregation between the haves and the have-nots in this oh-so-hospitable town? Come on! Once oil prices go back up, anyone will be able to buy a mansion in River Oaks.

I’ve covered this before, but what did the 2009 Mayoral election not have that the three preceding high-turnout Mayoral elections (2003, 2001, and 1997*) did? A high profile referendum that helped drive that turnout. In 2003, it was the Metro referendum; in 2001, it was on a charter amendment to ban domestic partner benefits for city employees; and in 1997 it was a charter amendment to ban affirmative action. Past performance does not guarantee future results, but I’d bet the over on 2009 turnout this year. If that doesn’t happen, then we’ll need to have a heart-to-heart talk about how disengaged our local voters are.

As or the rest, like most rants it’s more descriptive than prescriptive, so there’s no argument for me to evaluate. I don’t disagree with the description, but that doesn’t get us very far. Swartz correctly notes that our city voters are old, but gives no suggestion as to what if anything could be done to change that. I figure sooner or later a candidate will invest in that kind of work, and if it pays off then others will follow. Until then, what you see is what you get.

By the way, here’s another story about that 1997 affirmative action referendum, from just before the election. See if any of this sounds familiar to you.

There has never been any dispute about what Proposition A would do if it is approved by voters here on Tuesday: It would abolish affirmative action in Houston’s contracting and hiring.

Nonetheless, there has been a tumultuous fight over just how Proposition A should be worded, one that may well head for the courts even after all the votes are in. And at the core of this battle is a question that is reverberating in other cities and states where anti-affirmative-action measures are gathering steam: should opponents of affirmative action be able to define these measures by using the language of the civil rights movement?

That is exactly what happened in California last year with the passage of Proposition 209, the measure that dismantled state-sponsored affirmative action. Similarly, the conservative group promoting the measure in Houston drew up a proposition with words taken almost directly from the 1964 Civil Rights Act. It said voters should decide whether the city “shall not discriminate against or grant preferential treatment” to anyone “on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity or national origin.”

But by the time Mayor Bob Lanier, a staunch proponent of affirmative action, and the City Council were through, the wording on the proposition was totally revised.

So now, when voters in the nation’s fourth-largest city go to the polls on Tuesday, they will be asked whether the city charter should be amended “to end the use of affirmative action for women and minorities” in employment and contracting, “including ending the current program and any similar programs in the future.”

The measure’s proponents say the rewording by the Mayor and the Council is outrageous and heavy-handed, while those who favor the change say it is a more honest and straightforward way of describing what the proposition would do. Behind this fight over words are some striking polling statistics, which help to explain just why the fight has been so pitched and which offer a look at the voters’ complicated feelings about affirmative action.

Phrased as a nondiscrimination measure, Proposition A would likely pass with as much as 70 percent of the vote, according to joint polls conducted in recent weeks by the University of Houston and Rice University. But phrased as a measure to wipe out affirmative action, the results are starkly different: In separate polls conducted last month and earlier this week, 47.5 percent of voters described themselves as favoring that concept.

“Basically, what we found here is that the wording is incredibly important on this issue,” said Bob Stein, a political scientist and dean of the School of Social Sciences at Rice University. Like many pollsters here, he describes Tuesday’s vote as too close to call.

“The wording here defines the issue,” Professor Stein added, “and in defining the issue, you manipulate the symbols.”

In the poll this week of 831 registered voters, 47.5 percent said they would vote for Proposition A and 39.8 percent said they would vote against, with the rest undecided or of no stated opinion. The poll’s margin of error was plus or minus 3.6 percent.

Boy, the more things change, am I right? I wonder how many of the pro-Prop A people in 1997 are now anti-Prop 1 people this year. For the record, Prop A was defeated by a 55-45 margin, so consider that another example of how hard it is to get an accurate poll response in a city of Houston election. I’m trying to keep that in mind with polls about HERO, whatever they say.

(*) To be fair, the 1991 election, in which Bob Lanier defeated Sylvester Turner and ousted then-Mayor Kathy Whitmire, had turnout in excess of 300,000 as well, and there’s no report of a referendum on the results page. Maybe that year was different, or maybe there was something else going on that I don’t know about.

Endorsement watch: Our first twofer

My first clear misses, too.

Bill Frazer

Bill Frazer

For our next controller, voters should look for a candidate who can refocus the distracted office on the straight and narrow of Houston’s financial picture. In our current straits, we don’t have the luxury of electing a politician who wants to play public accountant. Controller has a specific job description and voters should limit their choices to the candidates who can boast an appropriate resume. This narrows the field of six candidates to two: Chris Brown and Bill Frazer.

We endorsed Frazer, 64, two years ago as a solid technician with impeccable qualifications. A retired accountant with 40-years experience as a certified public accountant, Frazer has worked as an auditor and as CFO for a series of oil industry companies. During his career he sat on the board of directors of the Texas Society of CPAs and served as president of the Houston CPA Society.

Chris Brown

Chris Brown

“The controller’s office should be one of credentials and one that has the ability to give the mayor and City Council clear and concise, understandable financial advice so they can make well-informed decisions and good decisions,” Frazer told the editorial board.

There’s little doubt that Frazer could do the job – he’s already done it for decades in the private sector.

Chris Brown, 40, currently serves as chief deputy controller under Green. He also served as chief of staff when Green was on council. While we’re wary of continuing Green’s tenure through his subordinates, Brown boasts a background in finance and experience in the controller’s office that would make him a fine fit for the job. Before he joined the ranks at City Hall, Brown worked as a trader for an investment bank and co-founded an equity trading firm, where he served as head of operations.


However, voters should avoid Carroll Robinson, a former city councilman and former Houston Community College trustee. When he served on the HCC board, Robinson was accused of redirecting a contract to an unqualified friend. In his current campaign, Robinson advocates for casino gambling – a policy far outside the purview of the controller’s office. And when he met with the editorial board, Robinson hinted at Ted Cruz-style obstructionism if elected by refusing to sign city checks.

I thought the Chron would go with Dwight Jefferson, so I whiffed on this one. In my defense, I did give Frazer and Brown some chances of being endorsed, and I predicted the diss on Carroll Robinson, so I do get partial credit. Judge me as you see fit. I will have interviews with all four candidates mentioned in this paragraph this week, so you can decide for yourself. As for the dual endorsement, this isn’t the first time the Chron has done this – remember the Parker/Locke twofer from 2009? – and to be fair, the Chron cites the certainty of a runoff (as they did in 2009) and the need to have the best choices in that race. Seeing this makes me wonder if they won’t do the same thing in this Mayor’s race as well. We’ll know soon enough. What do you think – is this feckless or a reasonable approach?

Interview with Eva Loredo

Eva Loredo

Eva Loredo

Of all the downballot races in odd numbered years, HCC Trustee elections have the greatest disparity between their importance and the amount of attention paid to them. The farce of Dave Wilson getting elected in 2013 is the lesson we all need to learn about that. There are two contested HCC races this year, both of which involve incumbents. Eva Loredo is my HCC Trustee, in District 8. A retired teacher and principal, Loredo won the strangest local election in my memory as an unopposed write-in candidate. See here, here, and here for the details of how that came to be. She’s running for re-election – officially on the ballot this time – against the person who would have been gifted the seat back in 2009. Here’s our conversation:

(Note: This interview took place before the most recent contretemps involving Dave Wilson.)

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

A broader overview of the Mayor’s race

The TL;dr version of this is basically “meh, not much happening”.

Mayor Annise Parker

Mayor Annise Parker

With a bevy of candidates and midyear fundraising that collectively topped $7 million, Houston’s 2015 mayoral race has been poised to be a blockbuster.

Yet, just five weeks before the start of early voting, the race has remained relatively stagnant.

For the most part, the candidates still are spending little, agreeing often and floating only modestly different visions for the city’s future.

“This election has unfolded so far to be an election of single-interest forum after single-interest forum,” said local political observer Darrin Hall, who previously worked for mayors Annise Parker and Bill White. “There’s not a big picture – four major points that any candidate is exposing – like in years past.”

Put another way, the race to succeed term-limited Parker, essentially, is a popularity contest that at least five candidates still have a shot at winning, Democratic political consultant Keir Murray said.

It goes on, and while it won’t tell you much you didn’t already know if you’ve been following the race, it’s a good overview and I broadly agree with it. I am a little surprised that with all the money in the race there hasn’t been more TV advertising. If there’s one thing we should have learned from the last couple of municipal elections in this town, it’s that nobody should overestimate their name ID. Outside of Adrian Garcia, none of the candidates should be too comfortable in the percentage of voters who have heard of them. I get the argument that they;re keeping their powder dry until a runoff, but the harsh fact is that only two people are going to need it for the runoff, and if as everyone seems to think one of them will be Sylvester Turner, then I’m not sure what the purpose of waiting is.

Beyond that, the big x factor is what effect HERO will have on turnout. I feel confident saying turnout will be up from 2009, but I have no idea by how much, nor do I have any idea how many HERO-motivated voters will bother to cast ballots in the actual races. The number of HERO-only voters could be quite large. Consider that in 2005, the year of the anti-gay-marriage constitutional amendment, turnout in Houston was an amazing 332,154 voters, or well over 30%, but only 181,841 people cast votes in the Mayor’s race. To be fair, that year’s Mayoral election was a king-size snoozer, as Bill White cruised to re-election with over 90% of the vote, but still. Over 40% of all people who turned out to vote that year couldn’t be bothered to cast a vote for Mayor. I seriously doubt that will be the case this year, but I do believe that while more people than usual will undervote, that will still leave a lot of people casting ballots. Just compare 2005 to 2007 to see what things might have been like in the absence of a high-profile ballot item. The bottom line is that some number of people will show up specifically to vote on HERO, and some number of them will then decide that as long as they’re there, they may as well vote in those other races, too. What effect that will have on the outcomes is anyone’s guess, and the sort of thing that drives campaign managers to guzzle Pepto-Bismol.