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Fernando Herrera

Endorsement watch: Firefighters for Turner

From the inbox:

Sylvester Turner

Sylvester Turner

HOUSTON, March 23, 2015 – State Rep. Sylvester Turner has earned the endorsement of the Houston Professional Fire Fighters Association in this year’s mayoral race, the HPFFA said today.

HPFFA President Alvin W. White, Jr. said 84 percent of voting fire fighters approved the recommendation of the HPFFA board of directors to endorse Turner after a review of the public safety records of the mayoral candidates.

“Sylvester has been a consistent friend of fire fighters and an advocate for public safety in Austin for 25 years,” White said. “He is clearly the best choice for us in this mayoral race. We also appreciate that he has built a coalition of Democrats and Republicans, business leaders, unions and community groups.”

White added, “Rep. Turner understands that Houston fire fighters are delivering excellent service to citizens, are good stewards of city resources, and are giving back to the community. He also has been a sensible voice – here and in Austin – in the debate about city employee pensions.”

Rep. Turner said, “I am proud to have earned the support of Houston’s firefighters. Together, we will work to keep our neighborhoods safe, teach our youth the values of courage and shared sacrifice and show the world that Houston is a place that working families are proud to call home.”

Rep. Turner has served 25 years in the Texas House of Representatives. He is a member of the Legislative Budget Board; Vice Chair of the House Appropriations Committee; Chair of the Subcommittee on Articles 1, 4 and 5 (General Government, Judiciary, Public Safety and Criminal Justice); and the House State Affairs Committee.

Born in the Acres Homes community of northwest Houston, Rep. Turner graduated from Klein High School, where he was valedictorian and student body president. He then attended the University of Houston and Harvard Law School. More information is available at www.sylvesterturner.com.

The press release is here, for when I get around to creating a 2015 Election page. I’m not going to note every endorsement that comes my way, but this one was of interest for two reasons. One is that it happened at all, especially this early on. I figure a lot of endorsing organizations are going to take their time – at the very least, until they’re sure if Adrian Garcia is in the race or not – and many may keep their powder dry till the runoff, since Lord only knows who might make it that far. The other is that it wasn’t clear early on who if anyone would be the firefighters’ preferred candidate, given the intense focus by several campaigns on the pension issue. Once the pension deal was announced that sort of settled that matter, but for awhile there it was not obvious.

This is a nice get for Turner, since every inch is going to count in a race where the difference between making the runoff and being a runnerup is likely to be small. That said, the firefighters’ record in recent Mayoral elections is not that great. They endorsed Gene Locke in 2009, Fernando Herrera in 2011, and Ben Hall in 2013; going back a bit more, they backed Orlando Sanchez in 2003. We’ll see if they have better luck this time.

The Mayor’s race in three numbers

1. Turnout

In the 2009 runoff, there were 155,670 votes cast for Mayor. Annise Parker got 82,175 and Gene Locke got 73,495. In the 2011 general election, there were 118,414 votes cast for Mayor. Annise Parker got 60,135 and the other candidates combined for 58,279.

To put this another way, there were 37,256 fewer votes in November 2011 than there were in December 2009. Of those 37,256 fewer votes, 22,040 did not go to Mayor Parker, and 15,216 did not go to somebody else.

There were certainly some people who voted for Mayor Parker in the 2009 runoff, then voted for someone else in the 2011 general election. It is highly likely, however, that the vast majority of those non-votes were people who would have voted for Mayor Parker in 2011 if they had bothered to vote. Job #1 for Team Annise is to identify those non-voters and persuade them to show up this time around.

2. The Gene Locke voters

In the 2009 runoff, Gene Locke won the two predominantly African-American Council districts (B and D) with 72% of the vote. He collected 26,618 votes in those two districts, compared to 10,400 votes for Mayor Parker.

In the 2011 runoff, Mayor Parker carried the now-three predominantly African-American Council districts (B, D, and K) with 50.7% of the vote, taking 16,792 votes out of 33,134. Her percentage in these districts almost exactly matched her overall citywide percentage of 50.8%.

Because of redistricting in 2011, these are not the same districts from one election to the next, and as such this is at best a rough comparison. The point I’m making is that there was some number of people who voted for Gene Locke in December 2009 and for Annise Parker in November 2011. Job #1 for Ben Hall is to identify those voters and convert them to Ben Hall voters. That may be enough to force a runoff, and it will be a necessary component to a Hall victory in December, but it’s not a sufficient condition to win. Mayor Parker, as noted in point 1, doesn’t need to get too many votes in these districts to win – she could have gotten less than 20% of the vote in the old B and D in 2009 and still won – but the smaller her deficit here, the better off she’ll be overall.

3. Latino voters

In the 2009 runoff, Mayor Parker carried the two predominantly Latino Council districts (H and I) with 12,354 to 8,989 votes for Gene Locke. She won easily in H with 63.9% of the vote, but lost I narrowly with 48.4%, a deficit of 256 votes in the latter.

In the 2011 runoff, Mayor Parker lost both H and I. She got 3,282 of 6,984 votes in H (47.3%) and 2,988 of 6,688 votes in I (44.7%), for a total of 6,270 votes out of 13,622, or 46.0%. Fernando Herrera, the runnerup in 2011 who had 14.24% of the vote overall, collected 4,049 votes in H and I for 29.7%.

Again, this is an inexact comparison. A chunk of Parker base voters in the Heights were cut from H and placed into District C in 2011, which no doubt skewed the results. Herrera didn’t have much of a campaign in 2011, but he had some presence including a campaign headquarters on the outskirts of District H, and he had run for State Rep in HD148, which overlaps both Council districts, in 2010. It’s likely his presence on the ballot, combined with Parker’s lack of a vigorous campaign in 2011, cost her some votes. There’s no Latino candidate for Mayor this year. Both campaigns would be wise to pay more attention to the voters in these districts.

Conclusion

I’m not simplistic enough to think that the entire race boils down to these three factors I’ve identified. Campaigns are more complex than that, and I’ve no doubt there are plenty of other things that each campaign is focusing on and that will have an effect on the outcome. But I’m a numbers guy, and these are the numbers that I have been thinking about. See Robert Miller if you need more numbers than these.

Endorsement watch: The firefighters still don’t like the Mayor

Last week, the Ben Hall campaign teased on its Facebook page that it was about to get a “game-changer” endorsement. This week, that endorsement was announced.

Ben Hall

The Houston Professional Fire Fighters Association announced they will be endorsing Ben Hall in his challenge to incumbent Mayor Annise Parker in this year’s mayoral campaign. This comes well after the Houston Police Officers’ Union endorsed the incumbent mayor back in March and just weeks after a fire that killed more firefighters than any single incident in Houston history.

Despite the fact that both organizations represent those who protect and serve the community, it is not surprising to see the HPOU and the HPFFA supporting different local candidates. It has happened numerous times in the past and usually has to do with how the current regime has supported both organizations. In this case, firefighters clearly believe Mayor Parker has not provided the department with the kind of support they need.

[…]

Hall was a city attorney and he seems to be fairly well organized with a good coalition of backers, but his challenge of the mayor is likely a long shot, as with most incumbents, particularly ones who were in office during an economic upswing. But the endorsement of the firefighters will no doubt help Hall boost his chances.

Perhaps. Generally speaking with endorsements, it’s better to have them than not to have them. However, a “game-changer” to me is one that is unexpected, particularly if the endorser in question had previously supported the other candidate, or otherwise would not have been expected to make this endorsement. That’s not really the case with the firefighters, since they endorsed Fernando Herrera in 2011, and endorsed Gene Locke in 2009. Mayor Parker won both of those elections without their support, so it’s not clear why this time is different. Good for Ben Hall, but it’s not in the same league as winning the endorsement of a previous supporter.

Speaking of which, if one is going to claim the endorsement of someone who had previously supported one’s opponent, it’s best to actually have the endorsement of that person. And when mistakes about endorsements happen, as they sometimes do during campaign, it’s best to correct them quickly lest they remain on the Internet long after they’re first noticed. I’m just saying. Texpatriate has more.

Precinct analysis: The 2011 Mayor’s race

I finally have a draft canvass of the 2011 Harris County vote. You know what that means. Here’s the breakdown in the Council districts for the Mayor’s race:

Dist Simms Ullman Wilson Herrera Parker O'Connor ===================================================== A 4.41% 1.28% 16.31% 18.03% 41.89% 18.09% B 22.41% 3.02% 11.92% 12.71% 43.80% 6.14% C 1.65% 0.83% 9.11% 11.21% 65.38% 11.83% D 15.33% 2.63% 11.07% 11.67% 50.84% 8.45% E 2.48% 0.81% 18.23% 15.03% 38.25% 25.20% F 5.20% 2.15% 10.81% 13.48% 48.78% 19.59% G 1.49% 0.51% 12.16% 9.43% 50.50% 25.91% H 6.04% 2.09% 7.70% 29.48% 47.33% 7.36% I 5.95% 2.47% 8.82% 29.98% 44.68% 8.10% J 5.82% 2.15% 13.27% 13.97% 50.05% 14.74% K 9.62% 1.99% 10.29% 11.00% 56.63% 10.47%

For comparison purposes, here’s my analysis of the 2009 Mayoral runoff. A couple of thoughts:

– As expected, Mayor Parker had her best showing in her District C stronghold, but let’s be honest: 65% against a bunch of no-names is nothing to write home about. Even on her friendliest turf, she failed to top the Lee Brown line. This is what I mean when I say that her problems begin with a lack of enthusiasm in her base. That needs to be Job One for her political team.

– All things considered, Parker did pretty well in the African-American districts, certainly compared to her 2009 head-to-head with Gene Locke. Obviously, not having a top tier African American candidate opposing her helped, but at least she can say she got a lot more support in these areas than before.

– On the flipside, the Mayor lost a lot of support in Republican areas, though she maintained a (slim) majority of the vote in District G. While there were no A listers among them, the fact that there were three conservative Republicans running against her was certainly a contributor. Seeing this makes me wonder why Republicans didn’t back Roy Morales more strongly in 2009. He’s no worse a candidate than any of the three Rs this time around were, and he’d run citywide before.

– The results in district H and I should concern Team Parker. How much of that was genuine dissatisfaction with the Mayor, and how much was Latinos voting Herrera’s name plus a lack of engagement from the Parker campaign? In my neighborhood, I saw a lot more Herrera signs than I did Parker signs. No question that a lot of the former was driven by the issues we’ve discussed before, but the latter I suspect was mostly about lack of outreach. I spend a lot of time in District C, and I barely saw any Parker signs there. What, other than run some TV ads, was her campaign team doing to reach out to voters?

– Looking at this, I wonder if the strategy of squeezing Parker out by running an African-American and a Republican against her – say, Ben Hall and Paul Bettencourt – would really have worked. I’ve no doubt that Hall could have taken a chunk of African-American votes away from Parker, but it’s not clear to me that Bettencourt had much room to improve on the performance of the three Republicans. For one thing, if you replace Wilson, O’Connor, and Herrera with Bettencourt, I’d bet he’d lose some of the Latino votes Herrera got in Districts I and J. He might do better in District G than the non-Parkers did, but maybe not. It’s also possible that the presence of a polarizing figure like Bettencourt, combined with the possibility that she might actually lose to this partisan, conservative Republican, could galvanize the Democratic vote in the Mayor’s favor. It’s anybody’s guess who would benefit from higher turnout, but I don’t think it would strongly favor any one candidate. I think the odds are very good that a Parker-Bettencourt-Hall race winds up in a runoff – Parker had very little margin for error, after all – but I think the most likely ordering would be Parker, then Bettencourt, then Hall – remember, it was Sylvester Turner that got squeezed out in 2003, not Bill White. In that scenario, I’d make Parker a solid favorite in the runoff. Ironically, if she went on to post a decent win in that hypothetical runoff, say 55-45, she might then have been perceived as stronger than she is right now. You can drive yourself crazy thinking about these things.

I’m sure I’ll have more things to say about this as I keep thinking about it. For now, this is what we have. I’ll run the numbers for the At Large races next. Greg has more.

Eight day finance reports, part II

Finishing what I started…

Fernando Herrera‘s report appeared on Tuesday. He raised $15,835, spent $27,185, and has $242.87 on hand. There were several expenditures on signs and a couple for “Advertising” that didn’t give me much of a clue about what kind of advertising they may be – there were two items totaling $4060 to Concepts In Advertising, $500 to St. Julien Communications, and $2500 to Van TV 55.2, whatever the heck that is. He also spent $500 on the Baptist Ministers Association of Houston and Vicinity for printing and poll workers.

– In addition to the airplane ad, Jack O’Connor spent $4K on yard signs. I’ve seen numerous Herrera yard signs around my neighborhood, but offhand I’m not sure I’ve seen any O’Connor signs, at least not in any actual yards. Maybe one, I’m not sure. But it’s a big city, and I only see a little piece of it in a normal day. Is there some hotbed of O’Connor support out there somewhere?

– Hatemeister/vanity candidate Dave Wilson spent $33K after loaning himself $35K in the 30 Day report. He dropped $4200 on signs, $14,400 on printing expenses, which I presume means direct mail, and $10,605 on advertising – $5965 at Clear Channel, $4640 at KSEV. This would be a good time to plug your iPod in while driving.

Kevin Simms spent $2000 on online ads, and $350 on phone banking. Good luck with that.

– As for the Mayor herself, her buys are a bit bigger. $686K on TV ads, $26K on radio ads, and $132K on direct mail. And she remains with $1.5 million in the bank, which any story that gets written after the election about potential challengers will have to mention as a barrier.

– District K candidate Larry Green used quite a bit of the green he’d been accumulating, spending $52K. That included three direct mail pieces, for a total of $15K, and three listings for radio ads, totaling $5850. His opponent Pat Frazier didn’t raise much, but between her 30 Day and her 8 Day she listed $25K in loans, borrowing $5K each from four individuals as well as giving herself another $5K. She bought $2K worth of radio ads, and most of the rest of her expenditures were for signs, door hangers, and card pushers.

– I don’t know if it’ll help me get a handle on who if anyone may have an edge in the At Large #2 scramble, but here’s a look at how those candidates are spending money on voter contact, according to their 8 day reports:

Bo Fraga – $9,039 on field, $5,350 on door hangers, $1,277 on signs.

Jenifer Pool – $6,775 on field, $1,455 on signs, and $150 on a print ad.

Kristi Thibaut – $34,599 on direct mail.

David Robinson – $6500 on print ads, $6000 of which went to the Texas Conservative Review, and $31K on “media”, which I know includes TV advertising. Far as I know, it’s him, CM Costello, and Mayor Parker on the tube. He also spent about five grand on postage, but I did not see any expenditures for direct mail, including in his 30 day report. I have no idea what all those stamps are being used for.

Griff Griffin – $1200 for signs, and a bunch of ad buys in neighborhood newspapers, including $633 for the Northwest Leader, $150 for Guidry’s, and $669 for the Bay Area Citizen. Oh, and $720 to the Sacred Heart Society for wine, which is my nominee for best expense report item so far. He’s still too dumb or lazy to list totals, however.

Andrew Burks – Five paid poll workers at $480 apiece plus another $850 for canvassers, and $800 for radio ads on KCOH. Burks had reported a $20K loan from his wife in July, which turns out to be a no-no, but an easily fixed one. He also has over $12K left unspent, which appears to be par for the course for him.

Eric Dick – Another $1700 to Ron the Sign Man, plus $187 on Facebook ads. Spend enough early on making the city your bulletin board, and you don’t have to spend much late. He also paid back a $15K loan to himself, and failed to give any totals on his form.

As of this publication, I do not see 8 day reports for Rozzy Shorter, Elizabeth Perez, or Gordon Goss.

– In At Large #1, Scott Boates spent $8500 on direct mail, $750 on phone banking, and $12K on radio ads, running on KSEV, all from personal funds.

– Finally, in At Large #5, Jolanda Jones spent $61K in all, including $23K on two direct mail pieces, $8K on radio ads, and $7K on polling. I’d kill to see that polling memo. Jack Christie spent almost $63K, $24,500 of which (for a direct mail piece) came from personal funds. He spent another $27,700 on mailers, and $6K on a Texas Conservative Review ad. I have not seen a finance report for Laurie Robinson or Bob Ryan as yet.

I think that does it for me with finance reports. I will post the list of non-filers tomorrow, to give everyone one last day.

Chron overview of the Mayor’s race

For the Sunday that is the last day before the start of early voting, the Chron brings us their overview of the Mayor’s race. And a theme we’ve seen expressed once or twice before.

Political analysts predict Mayor Annise Parker has a virtual lock on a second term, but she still has a lot at stake in next month’s election.

Winning isn’t enough, the experts say. She needs to win big to head off a challenge in 2013 and to give her a stronger hand with the City Council.

[…]

Too slim a majority in November, some observers say, could encourage a stronger challenge two years from now.

Lobbyist and blogger Robert Miller points to former Mayor Lee Brown, who in 1999 won re-election to a second term with just 67 percent of the vote against two largely unknown candidates.

As a result, Brown drew a stronger challenge in 2001 and was forced into a run-off to win re-election.

sigh I think I have a pretty good idea now how Leibniz must have felt. Maybe I need to register as a lobbyist.

Anyway. With the possible exception of what some of the other, minor characters in this race have to say, there’s probably not much in there that you didn’t already know. My interview with Mayor Parker is here, and my interview with Fernando Herrera is here.

KHOU polls the Mayor’s race

We have our first published poll of the season.

Mayor Annise Parker, leading the city during an era of budget cutbacks and high unemployment, has the lowest approval ratings of any Houston mayor in decades.

That’s the striking headline popping out of an exclusive poll conducted less than a month before the city’s Election Day. The mayor faces only token opposition, but the survey conducted by KHOU 11 News and KUHF Houston Public Radio indicates that a well-financed candidate could have seriously challenged Parker’s bid for re-election to her second term.

“She is down in almost every demographic and geographic area of the city,” said Bob Stein, the Rice University professor who supervised the poll.

The poll indicates fully half of likely Houston voters — 50 percent — rate Parker’s job performance “fair” or “poor,’ while 47 percent rate her “good” or “excellent.” That’s an unusually low approval rating for a first-term Houston mayor.

The mayor blames her low ratings mainly on general discontent with the economy. She also points out that fate has dealt her a difficult hand, forcing her to make politically unpopular decisions, like cutting services during an unprecedented budget crisis and imposing water conservation rules during an unprecedented drought.

Putting aside any specific disagreements one may have with the Mayor, I think there’s a lot to that. Every officeholder is less popular in bad times than they would be in good times. I’m not saying Mayor Parker would have Bill White/Bob Lanier levels of popularity, but she wouldn’t be upside down in a stronger economy. I’m sure she’d love to have the chance to be Mayor in some flush years.

As for election numbers, my advice is to reach for the salt shaker:

Perhaps as a result of that discontent, a whopping 50 percent of likely voters say they still haven’t made up their minds how they’ll cast their ballots in the mayor’s race. If the election were held tomorrow, the poll indicates the winner would be “Don’t Know.” Parker wins the support of 37 percent of voters. Her five opponents — little known and little funded — split 11 percent of the vote, but they’re all mired in single digits.

You can see some questions and their occasionally mismatched answers here. The critical numbers:

GENERIC BALLOT Frequency Percent Vote to reelect Parker 143 19% Vote for another candidate 118 16% Don't know 101 14% Refused 3 .3% Total 364 49% With Names Frequency Percent Kevin Simms 6 .8% Amanda Ulman 4 .6% Dave Wilson 6 .8% Fernando Herrera 17 2.3% Annise Parker 132 17.6% John 'Jack' O'Connor 7 .9% Do not know 178 23.8% Refused 4 .6% Total 353 47.3%

I presume what this means is that they asked about half of the sample the generic question, and for the other half they named names. Parker led the generic sample 39-32, and had 37% on the named ballot; Fernando Herrera was next with a shade under 5%.

The question is how to interpret these numbers. As Greg notes, one way to look at it is to take the generic Parker/not Parker result, which translates to a 55/45 split for the Mayor. This basically assumes that a lot of the “Don’t Know” respondents will stay home, which strikes me as a very reasonable assumption. Another thing to consider is that while “not Parker” got a fairly hefty total, the sum of her named opponents garnered a total of 11%, barely a third of the generic opposition. If you assume that most of the people who expressed some preference are likely to vote, then the question is what to the people who don’t care for Parker but don’t know any of the opponents do? My guess is some will randomly choose an opponent, some may have heard enough about one of them to enable them to make a choice – having someone handing out literature at all of the early voting locations might pay a dividend – and some of them will simply skip the race. That is to the Mayor’s benefit, and it suggests her actual level of support is higher than the generic re-elect total. If you combine all of the Parker/not Parker totals, you get a 275-158 split for her, which is 63.5% in her favor. Let’s call that the opening over/under line from Vegas.

(Yes, it’s possible that some people who say they support the Mayor are among the unlikely voters, and that this could shift the real percentages the other direction. But then the same might be true for some of the non-supporters of the Mayor, and who’s to say which group is greater? My assumption, as I said above, is that most of those who expressed a preference are likely to vote. I’ve got to assume something.)

Of course, all of this follows from another critical assumption, which I am not prepared to make, that this sample is made up of actual likely voters. Here’s the key question from the poll:

How likely are you to vote in the November City of Houston election? Would you say you are very likely to vote, somewhat likely to vote, or not likely to vote in this November’s election.

Frequency Percent
Very likely to vote 620 83%
Somewhat likely 127 17%

Total 748 100%

Funny how nobody answered “not likely”, isn’t it? Pollster Bob Stein says in the KHOU story that he “expects about 17 percent of voters to cast ballots, putting the turnout at about 125,000”. I’d say that puts him on the optimistic side of the equation, but regardless of that, how many of these people are really in that 125,000? I don’t have the crosstabs, though I have asked for them, and I don’t have any information about whether a pre-screen was done to narrow the sample down to those who really do tend to vote in odd numbered years. A poll of plain old registered voters is next to meaningless in a low turnout context, as we saw in 2009. For my money, even being a 2009 voter isn’t enough this year. If you were eligible to vote in Houston in 2007 and failed to do so, I don’t consider you a “likely” voter for polling purposes. Turnout in 2007 was 125,856, right in line with Dr. Stein’s projection. Polling any larger sample for anything other than a read on general attitudes is a waste of time, in my opinion. KUHF has more.

More 30 day finance reports for City of Houston races

Following up on yesterday’s report, here are the interesting, odd, and questionable things I’ve seen in the rest of the 30 day campaign finance reports.

  • Mayor Parker raised $469K, spent $526K, and maintained $2.3 million on hand. She appears to be gearing up to start airing ads – I saw two expenditures totaling nearly $49K to Storefront Political Media, plus a few more totaling about $52K to Rindy Miller, all for “advertising”. She also spent $41K on two separate transactions to Lake Research for polling.
  • Fernando Herrera initially had a report that did not list totals. That report has since disappeared from the city of Houston site and has been replaced by this report, which shows he raised $31K and spent $23K. By my count in that first report, he raised $6107 for the period and spent an amount that I didn’t take the time to add up but which definitely exceeded that – he paid $3000 to Phil Owens for consulting, and a shade over $4000 to Print-O-Rama for signs, just for starters. I presume that first report was uploaded prematurely, and that I just happened to check the city’s site during the time it was there.
  • Hatemonger/vanity Mayoral candidate Dave Wilson loaned himself $35,000, contributed another $5,000 to his campaign, and credited himself with a $400 in kind donation for an advertising expense. What he hopes to accomplish with any of that, I have no idea.
  • CM Jolanda Jones raised less than either of her opponents, taking in $21K. However, thanks to her strong July report, she still has $83K on hand.
  • CM Mike Sullivan, who is apparently going to run for Tax Assessor in the 2012 GOP primary, has $71K on hand and no opponent in this race. He’s free to bank up what he can for next March.
  • Also with a healthy balance is CM Wanda Adams, with $80K in the bank. I have no idea what if any future political plans she may have, but for what it’s worth, this would be her last term.
  • Jenifer Pool listed her total contributions ($31,350) and expenditures ($29,246), but did not list her contribution balance.
  • Pat Frazier was a late filer in District K, but did not indicate what office she sought on her report. She also did not list contribution or expenditure totals, though the amount she indicated for her contribution balance ($5,416.66) matched the sum of her contributions by my calculation. She had $15K in loans and by my calculation she spent $10,082.73, so adding her loan to $4,350 (her contribution total minus in kind donations) and subtracting the expenditures, she should have listed $9,267.27 on hand.
  • The following candidates do not have 30 Day finance reports posted on the city’s website as of this publication:

    Amanda Ullman, Mayor

    Ronald Green, City Controller

    Scott Boates, At Large #1

    James Partsch-Galvan, At Large #1

    Gordon Goss, At Large #2

    Robert Ryan, At Large #5

    Bob Schoellkopf, District A

    Phillip Bryant, District B

    Kenneth Perkins, District B

    Bryan Smart, District B

    James Joseph, District B

    Randy Locke, District C

    Larry McKinzie, District D

    Nguyen Thai Hoc, District F

    Alexander Gonik, District K

Greg has more on the city races, and School Zone has HISD finance reports. Before you ask, the answer is no, I am not going to put in another open records request for HCC finance reports. Hell, by the time I got them the 8 day reports would be out. You can also visit Erik Vidor’s spreadsheet for running totals on city races. I will continue to watch for late filings and will report on them when I see them.

Interview with Fernando Herrera

Fernando Herrera

For what I really do think will be my final interview with a candidate for municipal office, I bring you Fernando Herrera, who was the first declared opponent for Mayor Annise Parker. Herrera is a Deputy Chief with the Houston Fire Department, having graduated the Fire Academy in 1981. He is also a businessman, the Vice President of the Cottage Grove Civic Association, and was the Republican candidate for HD148 in 2010. Here’s the interview:

Download the MP3 file

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

Where the line is

Me, July 17:

I disagree that anyone who might think about challenging the Mayor will wait two years before taking action. They’ll simply wait to see how Parker does in November. Like all three of her predecessors in the term-limits era, Parker is running against non-entities for her first re-election. Two of those prior Mayors, Lanier and Bill White, cruised easily with around 90% of the vote, and had a similarly smooth ride for their second re-election. Brown, on the other hand, received only 67% of the vote against his two no-name foes, and was immediately seen as vulnerable for 2001; serious opposition, from Council Members Orlando Sanchez and Chris Bell, subsequently ensued.

So I believe that Parker’s 2013 opposition will be based, at least in part, on how she is perceived to have done this year by that standard. If the conventional wisdom says that she beat expectations, she’s less likely to face a real opponent in 2013. If not, you can expect someone, quite possibly more than one someone, to start campaigning against her fairly quickly.

What is the threshold she must achieve in order to meet or exceed expectations? I don’t know, and neither does anyone else. That will be determined by the local political hive mind after the election. It’s going to be a function of gut reaction more than anything else, so there’s no point trying to assign a number to it.

Robert Miller, August 8:

As of today, Mayor Parker has no politically credible opposition and will be reelected in November. Since the advent of term limits in Houston, every Mayor has served the maximum six years allowed — Bob Lanier (1992 – 97); Lee Brown (1998 – 2003); and Bill White (2004 – 09). Only Mayor Lee Brown was seriously contested after his first election. Mayor Lanier won his second term with 90.80% and his third term with 82.66%. Mayor White won his second term with 91.03% and his third term with 86.48%.

The race Mayor Parker is really running this fall is to be unopposed by credible opposition for her third and final term in the November 2013 election. Mayor Brown only won his second term with 67.29% against two non-credible candidates, Jack Terrence and Outlaw Josey Wales, IV. Brown was then perceived as vulnerable, and in his final election drew two strong opponents — Orlando Sanchez and Chris Bell — and was forced into a runoff squeaking by with 51.67% of the vote.

In my judgment, Mayor Parker needs to break 70% in her reelection on November 8 or the 2013 Mayoral election will immediately begin.

Despite my previous reluctance to assign a number to the threshold Mayor Parker must clear, I don’t have any quarrel with this analysis. I would just add two points. One is that there really isn’t any difference between, say, a 69.81% showing and a 70.23% showing. This is about perception, not metrics. Whatever total the Mayor gets, if enough people say to themselves “Geez, I thought she’d have done better than that”, then she will be seen as vulnerable and the wannabes will start emerging from the woodwork. If that’s not the reaction most people have, they won’t. Maybe assigning a number now will affix it in the consciousness of the arbiters of these things, but I still think we won’t know for sure what the consensus will be until after the election.

And two, there’s another factor that could make this line move around a bit, and that’s the credibility of Parker’s opposition. I’m not talking about a late entry from one of the campaign peacocks that have been flitting about, I’m talking about whether or not the local GOP decides to get behind Fernando Herrera the way they belatedly got behind Roy Morales in 2009. Right now, Herrera’s a no-name, with no obvious means of support, who can fairly be compared to Lee Brown’s 1999 opposition. But if the HCRP and maybe the Texas Conservative Review get behind him, that changes. He still wouldn’t be anything remotely formidable, but he’ll be taken much more seriously, by the Parker campaign and by those who cover the Parker campaign. If the perception of the race changes from “Parker versus nobody” to “Parker versus somebody with real institutional backing”, then the perception of the result changes, too. Now getting 70%, against a somebody who isn’t a nobody, looks much more impressive. Getting 60% looks pretty good, in fact. She might still be seen as vulnerable after that, but if so it won’t be because she couldn’t run up the score against an overmatched opponent. It will be because she didn’t have an overmatched opponent in the first place.

A closer look at finance reports: Elected officials

In addition to contributions from PACs, there was another class of donor that I thought was worth highlighting: Elected officials and candidates for public office. Basically, the idea is to see who “the establishment” is supporting, to see what we might learn from that. So without further ado, here’s a Google spreadsheet with all the details, as before sorted by both donor and recipient. Some notes:

– I only counted current candidates and officeholders. There are numerous donations in these reports from former (and possibly future) officeholders/candidates, such as Sylvia Garcia and Peter Brown, but I drew the line at current incumbency and candidacy.

– Also not included, partly because I wasn’t sure I’d recognize them all, were appointed officials. I saw a few – Janiece Longoria and Kase Lawal from the Port Commission, and J. Kent Friedman from the Sports Authority, all showed up multiple times – and probably missed many more. Unfortunately, having all this data in individual PDFs makes that kind of detailed analysis a lot harder to do.

– As with PACs, it should come as no surprise to learn that incumbent council members were the main beneficiaries, receiving about 75% of the donations from other politicians. Again, everyone likes to back a winner, and incumbents almost always win. And again, as open seat races sort themselves out, expect to see more involvement in them.

– It’s clear that CM Jolanda Jones knew going into this election that she had an arduous task ahead of her, and in keeping with that she tapped into the broadest network, receiving donations from ten different elected officials. CM Melissa Noriega was next with five; no other incumbent received more than three. Among non-incumbents, Larry Green in K (four) and Ellen Cohen in C (three) were the leaders.

– On the flip side, State Rep. Garnet Coleman was the most frequent giver, donating to nine different incumbents. He was an equal opportunity contributor, donating to five Democrats (Bradford, Gonzalez, Jones, Rodriguez, and Adams) and four Republicans (Costello, Stardig, Pennington, and Sullivan). Justice of the Peace Zinetta Burney was the next most frequent with five contributions, all Democrats: Bradford, Rodriguez, Jones, Adams, and Larry Green.

– The contributions listed from Ellen Cohen and Kristi Thibaut to themselves are transfers from their State Rep campaign accounts. Mayoral candidate Fernando Herrera was also a candidate for State Rep in 2010, but he did not list any such transfer, which I found curious since he listed more than twice as much in expenditures ($9206) as he did in contributions ($4550) and still claimed $3334 on hand despite having filed no report in January and claiming no loans. Leftover cash from his prior candidacy is the most logical source for the discrepancy, but if so he did not document this.

– The other curiosity about this class of contributor, which I have mentioned before, is the generosity of At Large #2 candidate Eric Dick, who gave a total of $640 to five candidates – Cohen, Jones, Green, Noriega, and District B candidate Phillip Paul Bryant, who received by far the biggest donation of $500. As we will see in a subsequent post, Dick did not limit his giving to city races. Among other candidates, Jack Christie donated to three campaigns (Hoang, Noriega, Sullivan), and Jenifer Pool to two (Gonzalez and Adams). CM Stephen Costello was the only Council member to donate to his colleagues, making contributions to CMs Noriega and Gonzalez.

– To be honest, I expected there to be more of this type of donation. Perhaps the 30 day and 8 day reports will be more in line with what I thought would be the case. If I had the capability, I’d love to expand this analysis to include all of the people who show up on multiple finance reports. You really do see the same names over and over again.

Starting with the next post in this series, I’ll take a look at expenditures. Let me know what you think.

The anti-gay stuff has already started

For the most part, we didn’t see any nasty homophobia in the 2009 Mayoral election until the runoff, at which point it oozed out from several locations. This time around, the gay bashers aren’t wasting any time. First, usual suspect Dave Wilson crawled out from under his rock to send a hateful letter about Mayor Parker, which in a nice bit of ju jitsu she then turned into a national fundraising appeal. More recently, one of her actual opponents in the race decided that gay tourists and their money are icky.

The Houston mayoral election is still four months away, but challenger Fernando Herrera must be getting desperate considering he’s already throwing anti-gay mud at incumbent Annise Parker. Herrera posted a picture to his campaign’s Facebook page (screen grab above) from the Greater Houston Convention & Visitors Bureau’s “My Gay Houston” campaign. The campaign features prominent LGBT Houstonians talking about what makes Houston great. Herrera captioned the photo as follows:

“The Gay Boy’s Weekend in H-Town?
The July 13th, 2011 City Council Agenda includes $420,000.00 for the Greater Houston Convention & Visitors Bureau. Yes…the same Bureau that launched the My Gay Houston campaign and website. See where your tax dollars are going –www.myGayHouston.com. Read all about it — http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/busi​ness/6780236.html
I’m just saying…”

Well, “I’m just saying” that most major cities in the U.S. are actively competing for the LGBT vacation dollar (including Chicago, Los Angeles, Los Vegas, Washington D.C., Dallas and even Salt Lake City), and if Houston is to be competitive as a vacation and convention destination it has to follow suit. I’m also “just saying” that gay-baiting the very popular Parker is a dumb political move that does little to legitimize Herrera’s struggling campaign.

Here’s the link to that photo in case you want to add your voice to the comments. It’ll be by far the most attention Herrera has gotten for his campaign. When you’re done, head over to My Gay Houston and see what exactly it is that he’s so afraid of.

Some early fundraising numbers

Today is the day that campaign finance reports are due for candidates in this November’s city of Houston elections. Some early filer’s reports are already up on the city’s Campaign Finance webpage. I’ve uploaded copies of these reports to my 2011 Election page; January reports are already uploaded and linked there. I will add more as they come in. In the meantime, here are a couple of highlights:

– CM Jolanda Jones took in $113,586, with $85,166 on hand. (See her report here.) That’s a much stronger showing than what she had at this time in 2009, when she reported raising $64K and having $54K on hand. Of course, she’s in a tougher position now than she was then, so this makes sense. She took in quite a bit from other elected officials and candidates – Farouk Shami contributed $5,000 to her, which was the biggest single donation I spotted. Among her opponents, Laurie Robinson and Jack Christie both had reports on file, but neither did any fundraising of consequence.

– CM Brenda Stardig was the only other early filer among incumbents. (See her report here.) She took in $52,315 and has $56,499 on hand.

– Among other candidates, Eric Dick had the most interesting report. He raised $20,620 and had $19,000 in outstanding loans, and also spent $63,695. A huge portion of his report is Schedule G, “Political Expenditures Made From Personal Funds”. He also made numerous contributions to other candidates’ campaigns, including those of Jolanda Jones, Ellen Cohen, Larry Green, and Annise Parker. (Chris Carmona reported receiving a contribution from Dick as well, but I didn’t see a corresponding expenditure, so perhaps that came from personal funds rather than campaign funds.) He also contributed to several incumbent judges and Republican candidate for Sheriff Carl Pittman, and gave $1000 to the Harris County GOP.

– Mayoral candidate Fernando Herrera raised $4,550. A grand total of twelve individuals contributed to his campaign. For a guy who’s a Deputy Chief in a fire department that doesn’t much care for the incumbent Mayor and who ran as a Republican candidate for State Rep last year, that’s pretty pathetic.

– I could not find a January report for CM Al Hoang. For whatever the reason, Hoang’s reports always seem to be late, but this is the first time I have not seen any report for him. The most recent report I can find for him is dated April 15, 2010. Why he filed one on that date (he did file a January 2010 report, on January 12) and not in July I could not tell you.

– All reports that I found were electronically filed. There were no non-electronically filed reports for 2011, at least not as of when I looked.

That’s all for now. Check out the 2011 Election page for further updates as they come in.

Apparently we do have an opponent for the Mayor

Deputy Fire Chief Fernando Herrera, who had previously said he was 95% sure he wasn’t running for Mayor, has now decided that he will in fact run for Mayor.

Houston Fire Department Deputy Chief Fernando Herrera plans to formally announce his candidacy for mayor on Thursday, according to a press release.

In his press release he says he can steer the city out of its budget mess without layoffs, furloughs or cuts in city services that would compromise public safety. At the same time, he says in the release, ”Nor should we put the burden on taxpayers, homeowners and businesses with tax increases, fees, or costly regulations.”

Herrera was not available Tuesday to explain how he would close a $130 million budget gap without raising fees or laying off employees, whose salaries and benefits account for the vast majority of the budget. Herrera could not spend time on political activity while on duty for the fire department Tuesday, a campaign aide explained.

Sadly, I’m not on his press release distribution list, so I can’t tell you what else he said. I did discuss his budget ideas before, and let’s just say that if you rule out raising revenue and cutting costs it can be difficult to bridge a budget gap. Maybe he’ll talk about some other ideas when he formally announces, like voucherizing Medicare or something.

Whatever. As a Republican, he’s guaranteed to get a certain amount of support, and maybe he’ll pull some Latino votes from Mayor Parker. I’ll be very interested to see what his June campaign finance report looks like. In the meantime, remember that just because someone says they’re running doesn’t mean they’ll run – see, for instance, Michael Berry’s Mayoral campaign of 2003. Until the filing deadline passes, anything can happen.

Do we have an opponent yet for the Mayor?

Probably not.

Houston Fire Department Deputy Chief Fernando Herrera has filed papers appointing a treasurer for a mayoral campaign fund-raising committee. He was the Republican candidate for District 148 state representative in 2010. He lost to incumbent Jessica Farrar.

However, Herrera said today he’s 95 percent sure he won’t run for mayor.

“It’s a difficult race to win, and one of the things that is very important, of course, is financing,” he said. “I’ll be starting from scratch and it’s already April.”

According to Noel Freeman, there is another person who has filed a Treasurer’s report for the office of Mayor, a person who may not be 18 years old yet and who lives in Houston’s ETJ and thus isn’t technically eligible.

As for Herrera, HD148 is my House district. His campaign had some visibility, by which I mean I saw some yard signs here and there. I was told at one point that he had people out there knocking on doors as well, but I personally did not see any evidence of that. Let’s take a look at the 2010 election returns in HD148 and see how he stacked up.

Candidate Votes R/D % Vote % ================================ Herrera 9,790 41.3 41.3 Dewhurst 10,281 45.0 43.0 Abbott 11,056 47.6 46.4 Patterson 10,023 44.2 42.7 Staples 9,808 43.8 42.3 Porter 9,379 42.4 40.3 Lehrmann 9,755 43.1 41.9 Green 9,510 42.2 41.0 Guzman 10,685 47.4 45.8 Keasler 9,751 43.9 42.6

“R/D %” is the straight-up two-party vote percentage; Herrera was the only candidate listed here who did not have at least one third party opponent as well. He outperformed only David Porter and Rick Green on an absolute basis, and lagged behind every statewide candidate on a two-party basis. In other words, nothing to write home about.

He said he differs from Parker in the way he’d attack the budget deficit. Herrera says he sees the mayor looking for cuts, while he’d look for revenue. Among his ideas is to sell advertising on emergency vehicles. He envisions a series of NASCAR-like decals promoting the tire, belt and oil companies that sponsor fire engines and other department vehicles, he said.

Herrera also said he’d consider charging non-city residents a higher fee to use recreational amenities within the city such as the zoo, museums or golf courses.

Another idea: Use of a font that uses less ink from city printers. Eco fonts save ink by leaving tiny holes in letters that are invisible in standard-size fonts.

As one who has championed the idea of selling ads on school buses and light rail cars, I’m certainly not going to turn my nose up at the idea of transforming fire engines into billboards. I can’t imagine there’s a whole lot of revenue to be had there, certainly not enough to make a noticeable dent in the projected shortfall for 2012, but hey, knock yourself out. Every little bit helps. As for charging visitors more to use the zoo and museums, um, how exactly would that work? Will people be required to show ID to buy a ticket to the zoo? What if they have a membership at another zoo where reciprocity applies? What about people who buy CityPass tickets? After we’ve been touted as a nice, cheap place to visit, I don’t see how that would make enough money to overcome the hit to our image. And the font thing, other than reminding me of a Dilbert comic, I have no problem with it. But as with these other “big ideas”, I also have no illusions that it would make any real difference.