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Gene Green

On CD02 and CD29

The Trib asks whether there’s a race worth watching in CD29 or not.

Sen. Sylvia Garcia

Months ago, [Sen. Sylvia] Garcia appeared poised to easily win this race, but something happened along the way to the nomination: Out of nowhere, health care executive Tahir Javed, declared his candidacy for the seat and has, so far, raised $1.2 million, most of that his own money.

Garcia is widely expected to take first place here on Tuesday, but the operative question is will she win by enough to avoid a runoff?

“We’re still confident we can get out of this without a runoff,” she said. “It’s a crowded field but we’ve worked it really hard.”

[…]

Beyond Javed and Garcia, several other candidates are running: businesswoman Dominique Garcia, attorney Roel Garcia, educator Hector Adrian Morales, veteran Augustine Reyes and small business owner Pedro Valencia. All have raised under $60,000, but they could collectively keep the majority of the vote out of Sylvia Garcia’s grasp.

[…]

The race, oddly, has drawn the attention of two well-known New Yorkers.

Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer of New York endorsed Javed just as early voting began. It was widely perceived as a nod to the extensive fundraising Javed has done over the years for the party – but it nonetheless enraged many Texas Democrats, including Green.

Green used to serve with Schumer when the New Yorker was in the U.S. House.

“Chuck ought to stay out of our business,” Green said. “I cannot imagine Chuck Schumer influencing one vote in our district.”

But Schumer’s fellow Democratic New York senator, Kirsten Gillibrand, also got in the game and donated to Garcia’s campaign.

“I’ve made my choice,” said Gillibrand when recently asked by the Texas Tribune about the split with her senior senator.

The other reason this race matters beyond the district is that Garcia could become the first first Latina elected to Congress from Texas. She could also be, this year, among a class of the first Texas females elected to a full term in Congress since 1996.

I’ve dealt with that last point so many times I feel like the writers of these stories are just trolling me now. Sylvia Garcia could be the first Latina elected to Congress from Texas. So could Veronica Escobar in CD16. I suppose if one wins in March and the other in May, we can declare that one the official “first Latina”. If not, if they both win in March or they both win in May, they get to share that designation. Why it’s so hard to acknowledge that there’s more than one contender with a legitimate shot at this is utterly baffling to me.

As far as this race goes, let me say this. I have lunch once a month or so with a group of political types. We got together this past Friday, and the CD29 race was one of the things we discussed. We were split on whether Garcia would win in March or not, but the person most of us thought might push her into a runoff was not Tahir Javed but Augustine Reyes, son of former City Council member Ben Reyes. That’s a name a lot of people recognize, with ties at least as deep to the district. I’ll confess that I hadn’t thought much about Reyes before then, but it makes sense to me. We’ll know soon enough.

Meanwhile, in CD02:

There’s an etiquette to campaigning against a primary opponent in the same polling station parking lot.

On this windy Tuesday afternoon in a conservative stronghold in Texas’ 2nd Congressional District, State Rep. Kevin Roberts and environmental consultant Rick Walker each worked the Kingwood Community Center parking lot hard while still allowing his rival to also speak to voters uninterrupted.

“At the end of the day, we want to elect the most qualified person that’s going to represent us, because whoever wins is going to represent us,” said Roberts, a Houston Republican.

But also, the two men had a common feeling about their race to replace retiring U.S. Rep. Ted Poe of Humble, whether it was overt or implied: intense frustration at another of their competitors, Republican donor and technology consultant Kathaleen Wall, who has dominated the field by spending nearly $6 million of her own money.

Walker went so far to suggest that if Wall was unable to draw the majority of the vote needed to avoid a runoff, the rest of the field would coalesce behind whomever is the opposing Republican candidate.

“We all want to win, but we understand we’ve got to live with each other in the long run,” said Walker. “And with a nine-person race, there’s going to be a runoff, and so the runoff is probably going to be against the one person trying to buy the race.”

“And so we’ve got to keep the personalities out of it,” he added. “So we may take digs on each other once in awhile, but in the long run we know we’re going to have to be working together.”

[…]

There are, to be sure, a host of other candidates running for this seat beyond those three. Health care executive David Balat, retired Navy SEAL Dan Crenshaw and veteran Jonny Havens make up the second tier of candidates when it comes to fundraising, pulling somewhere in the ballpark of $150,000 in each of their campaigns.

Three others – investment banker Justin Lurie, doctor and lawyer Jon Spiers and lawyer Malcolm Edwin Whittaker – are also running for the Republican nomination.

Besides Wall’s self-funding, the top issues in this district are immigration and the post-Hurricane Harvey recovery effort. From that voting station parking lot, Walker pointed to an HEB across the way that flooded in late August amid the hurricane.

All the while, some national Republicans and Democrats have begun cautiously wondering whether this race is one to watch in November.

Poe easily held the seat for years and Republican Donald Trump carried the district by about nine points in 2016. That should be a healthy enough margin to protect it from Democratic control.

Even so, spikes in early voting turnout among Democrats in urban areas like Harris County have spurred questions as to whether this could shape up to be a sleeper race.

Democrats have five candidates running, including one named Todd Litton who has raised over $400,000 and is running a polished campaign. That is not the largest sum in the country, but it is a substantive amount, particularly given the partisan history of the district.

I feel like I have PTSD from constant exposure to Wall’s TV ads, which have been a constant and unwelcome presence through the Olympics and on basketball games, both college and the Rockets. I keep the TiVo remote by my side so I can hit pause as soon as I recognize one of her awful spots, then fast forward past it. I of course don’t live in CD02, so either Comcast needs to tighten up its distribution maps or Wall has been getting fleeced by her ad-buying consultants (if the latter, I can’t say I’m sorry for her). In any event, I’m hoping to be spared for the runoff, but I’m not expecting it.

The same folks I had lunch with on Friday all mentioned Crenshaw as a dark horse candidate in this one. We’re not Republicans – I know, you’re shocked – so take that for what it’s worth. And brace yourself for more Wall ads.

More on Tahir Javed

Raising a lot of money is certainly one way to get noticed in a crowded election field.

Tahir Javed

Twenty-six years ago, a Houston political fixture named Sylvia Garcia ran for Congress. She came up short, placing third in the Democratic primary and missed her shot at the runoff.

Now a state senator, Garcia is running for Congress again and, until recently, some in Houston were predicting she would effectively swamp the other six Democrats in the race, winning the party’s nomination in a clear shot on the March 6 primary and avoiding a runoff.

The wildcard appears to be Tahir Javed, an outspoken healthcare executive who told the Tribune that he will “spend whatever it takes” to win the seat U.S. Rep. Gene Green, D-Houston, is giving up after 25 years.

“I have invested in people all my life, and I want to do it one more time,” said Javed, CEO of Riceland Healthcare.

In the face of Javed’s promises to spend heavily on direct mail, television and radio advertising, some local Houston political insiders are beginning to wonder if Garcia’s path will be far tougher than anyone anticipated even just a few weeks ago.

She remains confident that the race will end on March 6.

“We take nothing for granted,” Garcia said in an interview. “We keep working like everyone of our opponents are not first-time candidates, but seasoned candidates. We’re ready. We’re confident we are going to win, and we are going to win without a runoff.”

[…]

The historical stakes are high for Garcia’s candidacy: She would be the first Hispanic woman to serve in Congress from Texas and the first Hispanic altogether to represent the Houston area of Congress.

But Javed could make history as well. Texas has yet to elect an Asian-American to Congress.

He has national Democratic ties as a donor and fundraiser for party causes and candidates.

He outpaced Garcia in fourth quarter fundraising in individual contributions. She raised $201,000 to his $248,000. But he also loaned his campaign an additional $400,000, while she donated and loaned to her own campaign about $53,000.

The end result is that Javed ended the quarter with $553,000 in cash on hand, compared to Garcia’s $210,000 haul.

[…]

Javed touted that his lowest-paid employees make well above the minimum wage.

“I’m running because this is exactly what I’ve done…I’m a health care professional who has done [a] whole bunch of times bringing the health care to the underserved areas, and I have done it very well with top-notch health care there,” Javed said.

He was quick to rattle off unflattering statistics about the district. Intended or not, his negative assessments – specifically on health care – are implicit criticisms of Green, who is one of the most powerful House Democrats as the ranking member of the Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health.

Javed also repeatedly ripped the pollution and cancer rates in the district – an attack used against Green in his own primary two years ago.

“Pasadena? They call it Stinkadena,” Javed said, of the need to clean up the refinery-heavy region.

When asked if Green was responsible for the problems in the district, Javed said: “I don’t want to point fingers, honestly speaking, on anyone, but my question to all of the elected officials [is]: How do you justify it?”

He then cited statistics of the district’s poverty and high-school drop out rates.

“It’s either his fault or somebody else before him or some state senators or state reps or school districts.”

See here for some background. Tahir’s Q4 finance report is here, and Garcia’s is here. For some reason I can’t see individual contributors in Javed’s report, so I can’t say how many of his contributions are local. I can say that Garcia also has $204K in her state campaign fund, so the gap between them is less than the story reports. I think this is one of those times where having a lot of money won’t mean much. I’ve seen Javed’s TV ad, and let’s just say he’s not the most compelling speaker I’ve ever heard. I’m also hard pressed to think of a context in which saying “Stinkadena” will be taken positively by the voters, even if it is wrapped in a legitimate criticism of the outgoing Congressman and the status quo as a whole, of which Garcia is a part. The subtlety will be lost, is what I’m saying.

On a side note, I’m tired of stories that mention that a particular candidate in this cycle could be the first person of a category to be elected to something from Texas without acknowledging that said person is not the only candidate who qualifies for that category. Sylvia Garcia could be the first Latina elected to Congress from Texas, but so could Veronica Escobar or Lillian Salerno or Judy Canales. Fran Watson could be the first LGBT person elected to the State Senate, but so could Mark Phariss. Tahir Javed could be the first Asian-American elected to Congress from Texas, but so could Gina Ortiz Jones or Sri Kulkarni or Chetan Panda or Silky Malik or Ali Khorasani. You get the idea. Just recognize that there’s more than one way this could happen, that’s all that I ask.

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

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

Sheriff Lupe Valdez

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

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

Valdez could not be reached for comment Wednesday night.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rep. Walle files for re-election, not CD29

From the inbox:

Rep. Armando Walle

State Representative Armando Walle (D-Houston) released the following statement to announce his run for re-election to the Texas House of Representatives:

After much consultation and consideration with my family, friends, and community, I have decided to run for re-election to the Texas House to represent House District 140 for my sixth term. My experience and knowledge will be more important than ever given the work that remains at the state level in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey as well as in our fight for strong neighborhood schools, good-paying jobs, and quality healthcare for our families.

Through 9 years in elected office, my passion for serving and representing the neighborhoods where I grew up has not wavered. From helping lay ground work for the Aldine Town Center, to taking out water utilities preying on customers, to refurbishing cherished neighborhood parks, I hope my neighbors in north Houston and Aldine will send me back to keep working hard for them in Austin.

Over the years, I have had the opportunity to meet with my neighbors and community members of north and east Harris County where we live, work, and worship. We will dearly miss Congressman Gene Green’s experience, strong work ethic, and commitment to the people of the 29th Congressional District of Texas. Since his retirement announcement, I have seen optimism and excitement for a new generation of leadership. I look forward to continuing engagement with the community on how we can best move forward.

Rep. Walle had originally announced his intention to run in CD29. I presume he has assessed the landscape and come to the conclusion that Sen. Sylvia Garcia was a strong favorite to win, and as such it made more sense to return to his current position. Among other things, this means he could later run in a special election for SD06 after Garcia steps down, without automatically giving up his seat. I think we can say at this point that no one with a realistic chance of winning in CD29 is likely to file at this point. As a fan of Rep. Walle’s, I’m glad he’ll still be around in the Lege.

An incomplete filing update

First, a little Republican action in CD02.

Rep. Ted Poe

Hurricane Harvey is reshaping congressional campaigns in Houston.

When the flood waters socked the Meyerland area, it also washed out the home of former hospital CEO David Balat, a Republican, who was hoping to unseat fellow Republican and current U.S. Rep. John Culberson, R-Houston.

“Like so many people, we’re being forced to relocate because of Hurricane Harvey,” Balat said. “We’re having to start over.”

Balat is now in the market for a new home and he’s had to revise his political plans. He’s still running for Congress, Balat has amended his campaign paperwork with the Federal Election Commission and announced he is instead running for a different congressional district. Instead of Culberson’s 7th District – a mostly west Houston and western Harris County seat – Balat is now among a growing list of GOP candidates hoping to replace Rep. Ted Poe, R-Atascocita.

[…]

Last week, Rick Walker jumped into the race. The self-identified conservative Republican, said he will focus on more efficient government spending, smaller government and “cutting bureaucratic waste.” Walker, 38, is the CEO of GreenEfficient, a company that helps commercial businesses obtain Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification.

Also, Texas Rep. Kevin Roberts, R-Houston, earlier this month filed papers to run for the 2nd Congressional District as well.

I figured there would be a big field on the Republican side for CD02. There are four now for CD02, the three mentioned in this story plus Kathaleen Wall, according to the county GOP filing page, and I would guess there will be more. I am a little surprised that only one current or former officeholder has filed for it, however.

Two other notes of interest on the Republican side: Sam Harless, husband of former State Rep. Patricia Harless, has filed for HD126, the seat Patricia H held and that Kevin Roberts is leaving behind. Former Rep. Gilbert Pena, who knocked off Rep. Mary Ann Perez in HD144 in 2014 and then lost to her in 2016, is back for the rubber match.

On the Democratic side, we once again refer to the SOS filings page, hence the “incomplete” appellation in the title. Let’s do this bullet-point-style:

– Todd Litton remains the only Dem to file in CD02 so far. I’m sure he won’t mind if that stays the case. Five of the six known hopefuls in CD07 have made it official: Alex Triantaphyllis, Laura Moser, Jason Westin, Lizzie Fletcher, and James Cargas. Sylvia Garcia has filed in CD29, and she is joined by Hector Morales and Dominique Garcia, who got 4% of the vote as the third candidate in the 2016 primary; Armando Walle has not yet filed. Someone named Richard Johnson has filed to challenge Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee in CD18. Dayna Steele filed in CD36; I expect Jon Powell to follow suit after the HCDP office reopens on Monday.

– It’s not on the SOS page yet, but Fran Watson posted on Facebook that she filed (in Austin) for SD17. Ahmad Hassan has also filed for that seat.

– We will have a rematch in HD139 as Randy Bates has filed for a second shot at that seat, against freshman Rep. Jarvis Johnson. Rep. Garnet Coleman in HD147 also has an opponent, a Daniel Espinoza. There will be contested primaries in HDs 133 and 138, with Martin Schexnayder and Sandra Moore in the former and Adam Milasincic and Jenifer Pool in the latter. Undrai F. Fizer has filed in HD126, and Fred Infortunio in HD130.

– We have a candidate for Commissioners Court in Precinct 2, a Daniel Box. Google tells me nothing about him, but there is someone local and of a seemingly appropriate geographical and ideological profile on Facebook.

That’s the news of interest as I know it. Feel free to tell me what else is happening.

The potential Sylvia effect

Sen. Sylvia Garcia

As we know, Rep. Gene Green is retiring, and as we also know, Sen. Sylvia Garcia is one of the contenders to succeed him. As noted before, this is a free shot for Garcia, as she would not otherwise be on the ballot in 2018. If she loses, she gets to go back to being Sen. Garcia, until she has to run again in 2020. The same cannot be said for at least one of her opponents, Rep. Armando Walle, who will not file for re-election in HD140 as the price for pursuing CD29. Unlike Garcia, the downside for Walle is that he would become private citizen Walle in 2019. The same is true for Rep. Carol Alvarado if she joins in.

This post is about what happens if Sen. Garcia wins, because unlike the losing scenario she would step down from her job. Again, the same is true for Rep. Walle, but the difference is that Walle’s successor will be chosen (or headed to a runoff) at the same time Walle’s fate is decided. His successor will be in place to take the oath of office for HD140 in January of 2019, having been officially elected in November.

There is no potential successor for Garcia on the horizon, because her term is not up till the 2020 election. There will only be a need for a successor if she wins. Because of this, the process will be different, and Garcia has some control over it.

For these purposes, we will assume Garcia wins the primary for CD29, which is tantamount to winning the general election; the Rs don’t have a candidate as of this writing, and it doesn’t really matter if they come up with one, given the partisan lean of the district. So what happens when Sylvia wins?

Well, strictly speaking, she doesn’t have to resign from the Senate until the moment before she takes the oath of office for CD29. At that moment, her Senate seat will become vacant and a special election would be needed to fill it. That election would probably be in early March, with a runoff in April, leaving SD06 mostly unrepresented during the 2019 session.

Of course, there’s no chance that Garcia would resign in January. Most likely, she’d want to act like a typical Congressperson-elect, which would suggest she’d step down in November, probably right after the election. That would put SD06 in roughly the same position as SD26 was in following Leticia Van de Putte’s resignation to run for Mayor of San Antonio. The special election there was on January 6, with eventual winner Jose Menendez being sworn in two months later.

She could also resign earlier than that, perhaps after she wins the nomination in March or (more likely) May. Doing that would ensure that her successor was in place before January; indeed, doing it this way would give her successor a seniority advantage over any new members from the class of 2018. I think this is less likely, but I’m sure she’d consider it, precisely for that reason.

Whatever schedule to-be-Rep. Garcia chose to leave the Senate, we would not be done with special election considerations. As was the case with SD26 in 2015, it is at least possible that Garcia’s eventual successor would be a sitting State Rep, which means – you guessed it – that person would then resign that seat and need to be replaced. We could wind up having quite the full calendar through 2018 and into early 2019. The second special election would not be a sure thing, as one top contender could well be soon-to-be-former Rep. Walle, who will spend the next few months campaigning in that area – CD29 and SD06 have quite a bit of overlap – but I figure Reps. Carol Alvarado and Ana Hernandez would be in the mix as well, possibly Jessica Farrar, too.

So there you have it. We could have up to four extra elections in the next twelve to fourteen months. Be prepared for it

Who’s in for CD29?

Start your engines, y’all.

Rep. Gene Green

State Sen. Sylvia Garcia and state Rep. Armando Walle threw their hats in the ring Tuesday to represent the district that covers much of eastern Houston and part of Pasadena.

State Rep. Carol Alvarado, meanwhile considering running, and former Harris County Sheriff Adrian Garcia has asked the county party for filing paperwork.

“I hope that whoever is running realizes this is a very, very, very important opportunity for the Latino community to get not only descriptive representation, but also substantive representation,” University of Houston political scientist Jeronimo Cortina said. “What we don’t know yet is how the primary is going to be dealt with. It could be ugly, but it also could be very amicable.”

[…]

Adrian Garcia, 56, tried last year to oust Green after an unsuccessful Houston mayoral bid – a controversial decision among local Democrats – but fell to the longtime congressman by 19 percentage points.

Harris County Democratic Party Chair Lillie Schechter said the former sheriff requested filing paperwork Monday, and one local television station reported he planned to run again.

Garcia did not return multiple requests for comment, however.

Alvarado, for her part, said in a statement Tuesday that she was “humbled by the encouragement” she had received, but did not commit to a bid.

“I will continue to visit with key stakeholders in our community and will be making an announcement on my candidacy in the coming days,” said Alvarado, 50.

See here for the background. As noted before, this is a free shot for Sen. Garcia, while Rep. Walle and if she runs Rep. Alvarado would have to give up their seats for this. We’ll see who files in HD140 and if need be HD145; I live in the latter, so this is of particular interest to me. Garcia has no office to give up, but boy howdy would I rather see him run for County Commissioner in Precinct 2. (You can get stuff done! You can live at home! You get to be a pain in the ass to Steve Radack! What more could you want?) I should note that a fellow named Hector Morales had been in the race for some time before Rep. Green’s announcement; his Q# finance report is here. I suspect he’s about to get buried under the avalanche of higher-profile candidates, but there he is nonetheless.

With her entry, Sen. Garcia – and Rep. Alvarado if she takes the plunge – also has a chance to become the first Latina elected to Congress from Texas. Along with Veronica Escobar in CD16, Gina Ortiz Jones in CD23, and Lillian Salerno in CD32, we could go from never having elected a Latina to Congress to having as many as four of them there. Another way in which 2018 will be – one hopes – an historic year.

Rep. Gene Green to retire

I said there would be surprises.

Rep. Gene Green

One of the two longest serving Democrats from Texas in the U.S. Congress won’t seek re-election.

U.S. Rep. Gene Green, D-Houston, announced Monday that he will not seek re-election in 2018. Green was first elected to Congress in 1992 and represents a district that includes South Houston, Pasadena and loops up to pick up Aldine.

“I have been fortunate to have never lost an election since 1972 and I am confident that I still have the support of my constituents and would be successful if I ran for another term in Congress,” Green said in a statement. “However, I have decided that I will not be filing for re-election in 2018. I think that it is time for me to be more involved in the lives of our children and grandchildren. I have had to miss so many of their activities and after 26 years in Congress it is time to devote more time to my most important job of being a husband, father and grandfather.”

[…]

In his statement, Green stressed his years of constituent service in Houston.

“The goal of every elected official should be to serve and help your constituency to have a better life for their families,” Green said. “I am proud of sponsoring events in our district such as having Immunization Day each year for the past 20 years to provide free vaccinations for children and Citizenship Day each year for the past 22 years to help legal residents to become citizens of our great country.”

Didn’t see this one coming. I guess Rep. Green just had enough, because if the Dems retake the majority he’d surely have been in line for a committee chair. As you might imagine, for this strong Dem seat (it’s bluer than Hensarling’s is red), the rumors and gossip about who may be running started in earnest.

Sources confirm to the Texas Tribune that among those considering a run for the seat: Garcia, state Reps. Carol Alvarado and Ana Hernandez, state Sen. Sylvia Garcia, and attorney Beto Cardenas, who served as a staffer for U.S. Rep. Frank Tejeda, former President Bill Clinton and former U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison.

Democratic pollster Zac McCrary worked on Green’s re-election campaign last year and knows the electorate well.

“There’s no shortage of strong, ambitious Democrats in that district who have been eyeing that seat for years,” he said. “I imagine the dam will break and we’ll see a lot of strong candidates there.”

Noting that there is a glut of candidates in even the most Republican seats, he suggested the field could be one of the most crowded Texas primaries seen in years.

“An open seat, in a very strongly Democratic seat, you might have double-digit strong candidates deciding to give it a try.”

I’ve heard that Sen. Garcia is already in; it’s a free shot for her, as she’s not on the ballot this year otherwise. State Reps like Alvarado and Hernandez would have to make a choice. Adrian Garcia didn’t get a mention in this story but I’m sure he’s thinking about it. Everyone has till December 11 to decide. All I know is that my schedule for doing primary interviews just got a lot busier. My thanks to Rep. Gene Green for his service, and my very best wishes for a happy and healthy retirement.

Another look at redistricting in Texas

We’re in the spotlight right now.

The odd shapes tell the story.

A huge Republican majority in the Houston-area 2nd congressional district represented by Ted Poe curls around the region from Lake Houston, northeast of the city, makes a meandering, snakelike loop out to the western suburbs, and ends south of downtown near Loop 610.

Nearby, the 29th congressional district has a big Democratic majority and is represented by Gene Green. It resembles a partially-eaten doughnut, forming an undulating shape from north to east to south.

Like virtually all 36 congressional districts in Texas – Republican Will Hurd’s West Texas district being the only exception – neither Poe’s nor Green’s district is particularly competitive in general elections.

The political art of drawing boundaries to protect incumbents is called gerrymandering – a word derived from salamanders, lizard-like creatures known for their slender bodies and short limbs. The whole idea behind the practice is to carve up the political map for partisan advantage.

It happens everywhere, and has been the subject of legal challenges for years.

And now the U.S. Supreme Court has signaled it may take a fresh look in a Wisconsin redistricting case that has the potential to fundamentally alter the political landscape from Texas to Washington, D.C.

[…]

“Clearly the Texas congressional map, and the state House map and state Senate map, are partisanly gerrymandered, and they are way out of balance with the political performance of the state,” said Matt Angle, head of the Lone Star Project, which seeks to make Democratic gains in Texas.

Some Republicans downplay the significance of the Wisconsin case, saying that they believe Texas’ political boundaries are already fair and, most importantly, legal.

“Unless the court does some serious overreach, we shouldn’t be facing needing to redraw those lines at all,” said James Dickey, the newly-elected chairman of the Texas Republican Party.

The problem for Texas Republicans is that the state’s congressional district boundaries already are under legal challenge over alleged racial discrimination for the way minorities were packed into a limited number of urban districts.

Some of the boundaries drawn in 2011 already have been ruled intentionally discriminatory, and a federal court is set to hear a challenge next month on a new map drawn in 2013.

Unlike the Texas challenge, which focuses in the racial makeup of political districts, the legal fight in Wisconsin is over the partisan makeup of the state’s boundaries, which also favor Republicans.

But the two criteria are closely related. “If you correct for the racial discrimination in Texas, you go a long way toward balancing the partisan makeup of these districts,” Angle said.

[…]

In Texas, Angle argues, “There’s no question what’s happened is you’ve got safe districts created, Democrats packed into as few districts as possible, and the rest of them cracked into as many safe Republican districts as possible, and what that’s done is it’s made the primaries matter the most, and primaries are driven by the most ideological people within their party.”

In the Wisconsin case, Gill v. Whitford, the court will be asked to look at the allegedly skewed results of the state’s recent elections. In 2012, Republicans won 60 of 99 legislative seats despite winning only 48.6 percent of the state’s two-party statewide vote. In 2014, Republicans won 63 seats with only 52 percent of the statewide vote.

Texas Democrats say they could make the same case. While Democratic presidential candidates won more than 40 percent of the statewide vote in the past three elections, Democratic voters were distributed in such a way that their party controls only about a third of the state’s legislative and congressional seats.

Critics call that an “efficiency gap,” which can only be explained by partisan gerrymandering. Now before the high court, they hope to find a way to close the gap.

“This is a historic opportunity to address one of the biggest problems in our electoral system,” said Wendy Weiser of the Brennan Center for Justice, a left-leaning law and public policy institute at the New York University School of Law. “Gerrymandering has become so aggressive, extreme and effective that there is an urgent need for the Supreme Court to step in and set boundaries.”

Conservative groups argue that there is no way to estimate what each party “should” win in a fair election. The redistricting tests that have been proposed to close the “efficiency gap” in Wisconsin, they say, are arbitrary.

See here for more on the Wisconsin case, which will not affect the ongoing Texas litigation at this time. Poe’s district is certainly a Republican one, and for most of this decade it was deep red, but after a significant Democratic shift in 2016, it’s still very favorable to Republicans but not overwhelmingly so. Given the overall trends in Harris County, I suspect that the fate of CD02 in the 2021 redistricting cycle will be to take on a piece of Montgomery County in order to keep it sufficiently Republican, much as Pete Sessions’ CD32 needed to incorporate some of Collin County in 2011 to stay red.

It’s really hard to say what will happen going forward. Between the Texas case and the Wisconsin and North Carolina cases, the range of outcomes stretches from “no real difference” to multiple seats flipping this year with fewer ways for the Republicans to put their thumb on the scale in 2021. As I’ve noted before, Texas isn’t all that out of whack in terms of how many seats each party wins, but Republicans have gained a huge advantage in multiple swing states thanks to having gained control of those states’ legislatures in 2010. SCOTUS could put a stop to that going forward, or they could just apply a remedy to Texas for its own brand of egregious gerrymandering, or they could shrug their shoulders and decline to get involved. We’ll just have to wait and see.

Endorsement watch: The Congress you expect

The Chron makes the most predictable endorsements of the season, for Congress. Here’s Part 1:

United States Representative, District 2: Ted Poe

Consider this not just an endorsement for Ted Poe, but also heartfelt support as the six-term congressman recovers from treatment for leukemia. A former criminal district judge known for his creative sentences and shaming tactics, Poe has cut a niche for himself as a dedicated public servant who is leading the fight against sex trafficking and who listens to the constituents of his sprawling district, which spirals around from Atascocita through west Harris County, northwest Houston, Montrose and Southampton.

United States Representative, District 7: James Cargas

John Culberson didn’t receive our endorsement in the contested Republican primary, and we don’t plan on changing our minds for the general election. But this showdown will be Democrat James Cargas’ third attempt to replace the eight-term Republican congressman, and, frankly, it is starting to get a bit repetitive.

United States Representative, District 9: Al Green

If you’re worried about flooding in Houston, then Al Green is your man in Washington. Over the past year, he’s been working with his fellow Democrats, and across the aisle with Republicans, to push a bill that would prioritize federal spending on Houston’s bayous. Now in his six-term, Green has inserted similar language into the must-pass Water Resources Development Act of 2016. Don’t expect any of this to make major headlines, but if it ends up in the final bill, it will save homes and lives in our swampy city. Green’s goal-oriented, dedicated attitude deserves praise – and re-election – from voters.

United States Representative,District 10: Michael T. McCaul

Over his six terms in Congress, Michael T. McCaul has distinguished himself as a steely and smart leader on foreign policy. As chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, the former federal prosecutor is on path to become the Republican face of international relations and national security. His sprawling district, which extends between Houston and Austin suburbs, grants him a certain luxury of being able to focus on these national and international issues.

And here’s Part 2:

United States Representative, District 14: Randy Weber

We agree with Randy Weber on one thing: There may be no congressman in the Texas delegation who has a more important district. His territory, which stretches from the Louisiana border to an area just west of Freeport, covers a mix of precious but vulnerable wetlands in addition to five key ports.

United States Representative, District 29: Gene Green

Gene Green is frustrated with the Affordable Care Act. More specifically, the 12-term Democratic congressman is frustrated that Congress won’t try to improve it.

“Any law that you ever pass, you typically go back to it and fix it,” Green told the editorial board. “We haven’t had that opportunity. In the last six years, they’ve tried to repeal it 60-plus times.”

Representing a largely Hispanic and blue-collar district that circles from north Houston around through Pasadena and east Houston, Green puts his focus on those meat-and-potato issues that help keep his constituents healthy and the Port of Houston humming.

United States Representative, District 18: Sheila Jackson Lee

“Sheila Jackson Lee is stalking me.”

Those are the words of John Podesta, Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman, courtesy of Wikileaks. He was complaining that Houston’s own Jackson Lee wanted to be “involved in everything” and wouldn’t stop hounding him about Clinton accepting the Barbara Jordan Medallion for Service at Texas Southern University.

Whether you call it tenacity or stalking, it worked: Clinton showed up in person at TSU to receive the award.

United States Representative, District 22: Pete Olson

Incumbent Pete Olson did not meet with the Houston Chronicle editorial board, but he nonetheless earned our endorsement over his Democratic challenger, Mark Gibson.

I was going to say something about this, but it’s too boring. Move along, nothing to see here.

Endorsement watch: Labor for Thompson, the Mayor for Miles

From the inbox:

Rep. Senfronia Thompson

Rep. Senfronia Thompson

The Texas Gulf Coast Area Labor Federation, AFL-CIO today announced their support of Senfronia Thompson for State Senator District 13.

“Our unions screened two candidates for Senate District 13 — Representatives Senfronia Thompson and Borris Miles,” said Zeph Capo, President of the Area Labor Federation. “Both candidates have been steadfast allies in our efforts to give workers a voice on the job, raise wages for all, adequately fund public services, and defend civil rights. Ultimately, Thompson’s deep experience and long record as a champion for working families led us to back her.”

“Over her twenty-two terms of public service, Senfronia Thompson has been an energetic and consistent advocate of initiatives to help better the lives of working families,” said John Patrick, President of the Texas AFL-CIO. “She is one of the most reliable, influential, and effective leaders with whom I have ever worked. Her knowledge of how state government works is what sets her apart from the other candidates.”

“Representative Thompson has the integrity, the vision, and the will to advocate for all of SD 13’s constituents. Labor will work hard to get her elected to office and help her achieve that goal,” added Hany Khalil, Executive Director of the Area Labor Federation.

The release, which came out on Thursday, is here. It was followed on Friday by this:

Rep. Borris Miles

Rep. Borris Miles

Dear Fellow Democrat,

Please join me in supporting Borris Miles for State Senate, District 13.

With the departure of Senator Rodney Ellis to join Commissioners Court, we need to make sure that we have an energetic warrior for the people representing us in the State Senate. That’s my friend and former House colleague, Borris Miles.

I’ve worked with Borris for years and watched his commitment and skill in moving our Democratic priorities forward.

From giving misguided kids a second chance at a better life, to doubling fines for outsiders who dump their trash in our neighborhoods, to increasing access to health care and expanding educational opportunities for us all – Borris gets the job done.

Believe me, it’s tough getting things done as a Democrat in a Republican-controlled legislature. But that’s exactly what our communities deserve.

I’m for Borris because Borris is a warrior for the people. That’s why I respectfully ask you to cast your vote for Borris as the Democratic Party’s nominee for State Senate, District 13.

Warm regards,

Mayor Sylvester Turner

But wait! There’s still more!

Thompson, who first was elected in 1972, has picked up a slew of endorsements from area Democratic congressmen and state legislators.

They include U.S. Reps. Al Green and Gene Green, as well as state Reps. Alma Allen, Garnet Coleman, Harold Dutton, Jessica Farrar, Ana Hernandez, Ron Reynolds, Hubert Vo, Armando Walle and Gene Wu.

Fort Bend County Commissioner Grady Prestage and the Texas Gulf Coast Area Labor Federation and the also have endorsed Thompson, among others.

[…]

Miles also touted Dutton’s support, in addition to that of former Mayor Annise Parker, state Sen. John Whitmire and state Rep. Jarvis Johnson, among others.

Dutton could not immediately be reached for comment to clarify which candidate he has in fact backed.

Asked if he has received any endorsements, Green said he is focused on earning precinct chairs’ support.

I’m a little surprised at how active Mayor Turner has been in intra-Democratic elections so far. Mayor Parker was a lot more circumspect, and Mayor White basically recused himself from party politics for his six years in office. I guess I’m not that surprised – the Lege was his bailiwick for a long time – and while these family fights often get nasty, I’m sure he’s fully aware of the pros and cons of getting involved. Whatever the case, this race just got a lot more interesting.

The high-speed rail fight has officially shifted to Congress

Nothing like a little eminent domain action to spur some people on.

In the four years Texas Central Railway unveiled plans to link Dallas and Houston with the country’s first bullet train, officials with the private company have talked a lot about how quickly the line will whisk travelers between two of the country’s largest, fastest-growing urban areas, about how darn Texan the early investors are, about the stellar safety record of the Japanese rail technology they’ll be using.

By contrast, the company has talked very little about its planned use of eminent domain, which is the legal term for when a government, or frequently a private company that has the government’s endorsement, takes someone’s land. When the topic has come up, the company has typically responded by stressing its strong preference for negotiating with landowners to find a mutually agreeable price for their land.

The problem with that response is that it fails to acknowledge some fundamental truths about human beings in general and landowners in the rural areas along the bullet train’s proposed route in particular. People, as a rule, don’t like having their property sliced in two by large infrastructure projects. People in places like Ellis and Grimes counties really, really don’t like having their property sliced in two by a private, Japanese-backed venture whose only benefit for them will be the privilege of marveling at the wondrous bullet-train technology as it zooms by atop a 14-foot berm. If the line is ever going to get built, Texas Central will have to use eminent domain against hundreds, maybe thousands, of landowners.

Texas Central now admits as much. In filings last month with the federal Surface Transportation Board, which regulates the operations of the freight and passenger rail market, the company indicated that it’s ready to start acquiring right-of-way for its track.

“In many cases, that involves negotiating agreements with landowners who are willing sellers,” the company wrote. “Texas Central is already beginning those negotiations. Inevitably, however, some landowners along the route will not be willing to sell, or even negotiate. If some of those negotiations reach an impasse, Texas Central plans to use its statutory eminent domain powers to establish the properties’ condemnation value.”

In the weeks since the filling, the Surface Transportation Board has become the site of a pitched battle between Texas Central and its opponents, with powerful surrogates on both sides. Several members of Texas’ congressional delegation, and about a dozen state legislators, have waded into the debate. Congressmen Joe Barton of Ennis and Kevin Bradyof suburban Houston have filed letters opposing Texas Central while Dallas’Eddie Bernice Johnson and Corpus Christi’s Blake Farenthold offering statements of support.

The stakes are high. Texas Central says it needs Surface Transportation Board approval in order to begin using eminent domain under Texas law, an obvious prerequisite for actually building and operating a railroad.That means the Surface Transportation Board represents a regulatory choke point, a rare point where opponents can conceivably derail the project in one fell swoop.

See here for some background. If you look at Rep. Johnson’s letter, you will see that it was also signed by Rep. Gene Green of Houston. No surprise, since urban Democrats have been big supporters of the rail line so far. The surprise was Rep. Farenthold, as his district isn’t in the path of the train and is more rural than urban. Gotta give him credit for that – he didn’t have to get involved, and having at least one Republican in their corner will help TCR make its case. I don’t know what the timeine is for the Surface Transportation Board, but I agree that this is a potential choke point, and it could have a disproportionate effect on the ultimate outcome. I’ll keep an eye on that.

Don’t expect any flood project funding from Congress, either

Nice thought, but ain’t gonna happen.

Rep. Gene Green

Rep. Gene Green

As the flood threat across much of the Houston region lessened Friday, local leaders began shifting their focus to recovery and two Houston congressmen announced legislation to fund more than $300 million worth of regional flood control projects.

U.S. Reps. Al Green and Gene Green said their bill, which they filed Thursday, might mitigate devastation like that caused by this week’s deluge they called the “Tax Day floods”: 240 billion gallons of rain water, more than 17 inches in some areas, drenched the county in the most significant downpour in 15 years.

“It’s important for us to say that we want to take care of our city,” said Al Green.

[…]

The Houston congressmens’ bill would appropriate $311 million projects on several bayous across the county, including an ongoing widening project on Brays Bayou. Earlier this week, the bayou spilled over its banks, flooding dozens of homes, as it did last Memorial Day, when swaths of Meyerland were inundated by flood waters.

Funds would also go toward bridge replacements, detention ponds and widening and deepening measures on Clear Creek, Greens Bayou, Hunting Bayou and White Oak Bayou.

President Barack Obama’s 2017 budget currently does not allocate funds despite multimillion dollar need, a challenge local officials said was part of an ongoing struggle

The Brays Bayou project was initially expected to be finished in 2016, but the completion is now anticipated for 2021, according to flood control district executive director Mike Talbott, in large part due to funding constraints.

Flood control district spokeswoman Kim Jackson said work on the Hunting Bayou – specifically an alteration to the shape of the channel that would allow water to better flow through – is also on hold due to lack of federal dollars. So are improvements to the White Oak Bayou, including a work on the channel from Cole Creek to upstream of Jones Road and the construction of one detention basin.

“We keep designing, designing and we’ll construct as we can,” Jackson said. “That’s what’s kind of gotten us behind.”

It’s not to say bayou improvements have not been made over the years. Three flood control basins have been built as part of the Brays Bayou project, along with 12.3 miles of improvements to the channel. Almost $212 million in federal dollars have gone toward the project since 1998.

The flood control district estimates that without some of the improvements, 2,000 homes and business would have been flooded during last year’s Memorial Day flood last year.

But flood control officials say more work is needed. If passed, the $311 million in the legislation would provide a steady stream of funding for a decade, boosting many of the projects toward completion.

Despite enthusiasm for the bill’s passage from both Congressmen, University of Houston – Victoria political science professor Craig Goodman said it would be an uphill battle, in part because the sponsors are Democrats in a Republican-controlled legislature.

“Appropriations is going to be really tough in this Congress,” Goodman said.

As with the coastal floodgate proposals, the first problem is simple partisanship. Democratic-written infrastructure bills have no chance of being passed in a Republican Congress. There are scenarios under which some of these things get some funding, but they all involve some level of Republican support. What do you think are the odds of that? KUHF has more.

Reps. Green and Green want investigation of voting machine shortage

I have three things to say about this.

eSlateImage

Two Houston congressmen are asking the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate whether unequal distribution of voting machines and polling locations in Harris County disenfranchised minority voters during the March 1 primary election.

In a letter dated March 15, U.S. Reps. Al Green and Gene Green, both Houston Democrats, blamed insufficient voting machines and polling locations for “excessively long lines” in predominantly Hispanic and black precincts in Harris County. Citing local news reports, the congressmen indicated that long lines “deterred” minority voters from “exercising their right to vote that day.”

“The failure to distribute sufficient voting machines in predominantly Hispanic and African-American precincts in Harris County, in comparison to the resources made available in more affluent, predominantly Anglo precincts in the county, had a discriminatory impact on our constituents’ ability to participate in the political process,” the congressmen wrote.

[…]

The increased turnout — fueled by a heated Republican presidential race — left election officials scrambling to deliver additional voting machines to polling locations with long lines on election day. Still, some voters in Houston did not cast their votes until after 9:30 p.m. — hours after polls closed. Others reportedly abandoned their place in line without voting after waiting for hours.

The distribution of polling locations in primary elections is a responsibility of each county’s political party, according to the Texas Secretary of State’s Office, which oversees elections and voting. Using a formula based on previous voter turnout, county parties are charged with estimating voter turnout and determining the number of voting machines and polling locations needed.

Individual county parties ultimately decide whether that estimate should be higher or lower depending on other factors, such as a contested presidential primary, said Alicia Pierce, a spokeswoman for the state agency

County and party officials estimated that about 144,000 voters would cast a Democratic primary ballot. But more than 227,000 Democratic voters made it to the polls for the primary election.

On the Republican side, officials estimated 265,000 voters would turn out but almost 330,000 voters actually cast a ballot.

Lane Lewis, chairman of the Harris County Democratic Party, pushed back on allegations of unequal distribution of polling locations, saying there was nothing “nefarious” behind the wait times.

The long lines were a result of higher than expected turnout, he added, and there was little indication from early voting figures that voter turnout would be so high.

1. The formula is based in part on “the percentage of voter turnout for the office that received the most votes in the most recent comparable party primary election”, which in this case would be 2012. I don’t think the initial estimates were terrible at the time they were made, which as I understand it was late last year; in fact, I think they were quite defensible. The problem was that there was no way to adjust those estimates based on the on-the-ground and at-the-time conditions. And even taking that into consideration, the general consensus in the days between the end of early voting and Tuesday, March 1 was that more than half of the people who were going to vote had already voted. That was the real problem, as a good 57% of the vote was cast on Tuesday. To me, the main learning from this needs to be that the hotter the election, the more likely that people will show up on Election Day.

2. Compounding the problem was the consolidation of Election Day voting locations. Roughly half of Republican voting locations were folded into others, while the same was true for well more than half of Democratic precincts. This was also an effect of the initial underestimation of turnout, but because there are so few voting machines at Election Day polling locations, and because these were primaries where you had to consider each race individually – no “straight party” option – it made the lines longer. One can make a good case that voting centers, as they have in Fort Bend and other places but which are still “under consideration” in Harris County, could have greatly ameliorated this problem, if for no other reason than they will have more voting machines available at each location.

3. All that said, it’s wholly appropriate for the Justice Department to investigate, and make whatever recommendations they can. In the end, however, this is a problem that needs to be addressed locally. Trail Blazers has more.

UPDATE: The Chron story is here, and the Press has more, including a copy of the letter that was sent.

What’s next for Adrian Garcia?

We haven’t seen the last of him, I suspect.

Adrian Garcia

Adrian Garcia

In less than a year, former Harris County Sheriff Adrian Garcia has gone from being the top Democratic elected official in Harris County to an also-ran in back-to-back elections.

Garcia’s resounding primary loss to U.S. Rep. Gene Green on Tuesday leaves him politically precarious, having alienated several onetime allies by resigning the sheriff’s post last May to run for Houston mayor and later challenging an incumbent in a safe Democratic seat.

“When you take an oath, you run and take an oath to hold an office, it’s supposed to mean something,” said state Sen. John Whitmire, who backed Green. “And to leave in the middle and look like an opportunist and want to run for mayor, and then you don’t make that, and then you run against a congressman that most people felt was doing a very good job, a congressman that actually endorsed you for mayor … I think Adrian’s got real problems.”

Garcia’s campaign said he was unavailable for comment Wednesday, but he said at his election watch party Tuesday night the race was not personal and that he planned to rest before assessing future options.

“Will this be my last campaign? I doubt it,” he said to applause. “I lost two campaigns, but I jumped in always with the idea of doing more. I took a chance. My heart was in the right place.”

[…]

Many of the former sheriff’s attacks were biting. “Gene Green perpetuates the cradle to prison pipeline,” read a news release from late February. Another, from January, declared, “Gene Green protects polluters, not Pasadena.”

Facing limited financial resources, as well as opposition from many Democratic officeholders and area unions, however, Garcia was unable to outmaneuver Green, who outspent him $585,000 to $171,000 during the first six weeks of the year.

Those affiliated with Garcia’s campaign framed that financial shortfall as critical.

“We had a lot of factors working against us. We were in an extremely short two-month race against a 23-year incumbent who’d accumulated significant financial resources, and, yet, we made significant strides and held Congressman Green to 58 points,” Garcia campaign spokesman Sergio Cantu said in an email. “The message and the messenger were not the problems. We are proud of what we achieved, and we hope this opens the door to see change on the issues in this district.”

Several of the former sheriff’s supporters remained optimistic about Garcia’s political future.

“Will he run again? He might if it’s the right place for him to serve,” Garcia consultant Mustafa Tameez said. “That’s the nature of politics. You win some and you lose some. But he’s demonstrated his ability to raise money. He’s demonstrated his ability to get the votes.”

It’s true that after leaving the Sheriff’s office and having it handed to a Republican as well as running what were basically two contested Democratic primaries in the space of five months, Garcia has a few bridges to rebuild with past allies. But let’s not forget, he won five November elections before this, plus two contested primaries, so there’s no reason to believe he’s finished just because those last two elections did not go his way. There’s a very simple way for Garcia to get back into the good graces of his fellow Democrats, and that’s by working, vigorously and visibly, to help elect Democrats up and down the ballot this fall. Hold fundraisers, donate to candidates, attend as many campaign events for the party and for candidates as possible. Continue working on engaging with and boosting turnout in the Latino community. Keep talking about the issues that drove those two campaigns, and the good work that was done as Sheriff. Do those things, and I guarantee, bygones will be bygones.

Assuming we get to that point, then what office might Garcia reasonably seek in the near future? Before he resigned as Sheriff, when his Mayoral campaign was still in the rumor-has-it stage, I suggested Garcia stay in office, declare he wasn’t running for re-election in 2016, then at his first opportunity declare his candidacy for County Judge in 2018. He could still do that, but as we know there are some other people – Annise Parker, for one – who have expressed interest in that office as well. Now, there’s no reason why Garcia couldn’t declare for County Judge. No one is entitled to anything, and he’s be as strong a candidate as anyone we could put forth. But if we’re looking to maintain some harmony, if we’re trying to ensure that the reservoir of goodwill that he just finished refilling doesn’t get immediately drained, then we should at least consider a Plan B.

Which is why my suggestion is: County Commissioner, Precinct 2, the seat formerly held by Sen. Sylvia Garcia. It’s still a county office, which given Garcia’s tenure as Sheriff is a good fit, he’d be extremely likely to have a clear path to the nomination, and if we also have a strong candidate for County Judge it would put thoughts of having a Democratic majority on Commissioners Court in people’s heads, which is sure to get folks fired up. When I say this seat is a good fit for Garcia because of his time as Sheriff, I’m particularly thinking of all the crap he had to endure as Sheriff from the rest of the Court, which was generally hostile to him and got even more so after Jack Morman knocked off Sylvia Garcia in 2010. As a former Sheriff and a candidate for Commissioners Court, Garcia could turn a lot of the criticism they gave him back on them, in terms of budgeting, putting pressure on the criminal court judges to use Pretrial Services and set reasonable bail, and screaming from the rooftops in favor of Medicaid expansion and the much-needed boost for mental health funding and treatment it would bring. I can’t think of anyone better positioned to make these arguments in a Commissioners Court race, or anyone who could pose a bigger threat to a sitting Commissioner. We know Garcia can raise money, and the people who are grumbling about his Mayoral and Congressional races now would surely be willing to pitch in and help him in a race like this. If I had the power to do so, I would absolutely make this happen.

I don’t have that power, of course, I’m just another schmoe in the cheap seats making noise. But this is my scenario for Adrian Garcia, for whatever it’s worth. The path I’m highlighting is easy this year and a lot harder after that, but it’s all doable. What he chooses to do is up to him, but if he wants to know what I think, here it is.

2016 primaries: Congress

Rep. Gene Green

Rep. Gene Green

The big story here is that Rep. Gene Green not only survived, but won big. He was up 65% to 32% in early voting, a margin of about 4,000 votes; in the end he won by about 58-38, for a margin of about 5,000 votes. I had a hard time getting a feel for this race. Green was on TV a lot, but I saw more people than I might have expected expressing support for Garcia on Facebook. Garcia homed in on some issues for which Green might have been vulnerable, and as I said before, he ran the campaign I’d have had him run if I’d have been running his campaign. In the end, people weren’t ready to fire Gene Green. I doubt he faces any more serious challengers between now and whenever he decides to hang ’em up. The Press has more.

The only other Democratic Congressional primary of interest was in CD15, where Rep. Ruben Hinojosa declined to run for re-election. Vicente Gonzalez and Dolly Elizondo were leading the pack, with Gonzalez over 40% and Elizondo at 25%. As noted before, Elizondo would be the first Latina elected to Congress from Texas if she won, but she has a lot of ground to make up in the runoff if she wants to get there.

On the Republican side, multiple incumbents faced challengers of varying levels of crazy. The only one who appeared to be threatened as of when I turned it was Rep. Kevin Brady in CD08, who eventually made it above the 50% mark against three challengers, the leader of whom was former State Rep. (and loony bird) Steve Toth. That would have been one butt-ugly runoff if it had come to that, but it won’t. Reps. John Culberson and Blake Farenthold were winning but with less than 60%. No one else was in a close race.

The one Republican open seat was in CD19, where the three top contenders were Jody Arrington, Glen Robertson, and Michael Bob Starr. Of the latter, John Wright noted the following for the Observer before the results began to come in (scroll down a ways to see):

Finally, in West Texas’ Congressional District 19, retired Col. Michael Bob Starr has come under fire from other GOP candidates for participating in LGBT Pride runs when he served as a commander at Dyess Air Force Base in Abilene. If Starr wins, one of the nation’s most conservative districts would be represented by someone who is arguably moderate on LGBT issues, and the outcome could serve as a barometer of where the movement stands.

Starr was running third when last I checked, but he was behind the leader by fewer than 2,000 votes, so the situation was fluid. That said, as interesting as a Starr victory would be, he’d have to survive a runoff first, and I’d be mighty pessimistic about that. But we’ll see.

Democratic statewide resultsRepublican statewide results

Once again with CD29

It’s all about the turnout.

Rep. Gene Green

Rep. Gene Green

On a Gulfgate-area side street lined with union halls, Hillary Clinton’s Houston field office and U.S. Rep. Gene Green’s congressional re-election outfit sit mere doors apart, a coincidental marker of the anticipated link between their races.

Green is squaring off against former Harris County Sheriff Adrian Garcia in the region’s marquee congressional primary, the outcome of which is expected to be swayed by the strength of the Democratic presidential fight in Texas.

The increasingly competitive contest between Clinton and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders stands to boost turnout in the 77-percent Latino 29th Congressional District, political observers said, likely shifting the electorate more Hispanic.

“Typically in Democratic primaries, the vote is only about 45 percent Hispanic,” local Democratic strategist Keir Murray said of the 29th District. “However, if you have something, an external factor like a hot presidential race that increases the overall turnout … because of the makeup of the population and the list of registered voters, the percentage of Hispanic voters is going to go up. There’s almost no way it can’t.”

Adrian Garcia

Adrian Garcia

Such a boost in Hispanic voting is expected to help Garcia.

“If this were a nonpresidential cycle, the advantage would clearly be with Green because of the historical turnout in the district,” Texas Southern University political scientist Jay Aiyer said.

However, he said, “The increased turnout is disproportionately low-propensity Latino voters. … And so that benefits Garcia over Green.”

Democratic participation in the 29th District, which curls around eastern Houston, hit a high-water mark in 2008, when nearly 54,000 voters cast a primary ballot, up from 5,000 two years earlier.

Few expect this year’s turnout to be quite as high.

Green’s campaign is anticipating between 35,000 and 50,000 Democratic primary voters, while Garcia’s expects between 12,000 and 54,000, the turnouts in 2012 and 2008, respectively.

We can’t have all this talk about turnout without looking at some numbers, right? I was curious what the relationship was between turnout in CD29 and turnout overall in Harris County. Here’s what it looks like:


Year    CD29    Harris     Pct
==============================
2002  11,891    95,396  12.46%
2004  10,682    78,692  13.57%
2006   5,037    35,447  14.21%
2008  53,855   410,908  13.11%
2010  11,777   101,263  11.63%
2012  12,194    76,486  15.94%
2014   6,808    53,788  12.66%

With the exception of 2002, the “CD29” number represents total ballots cast in CD29 in that year; in 2002, the County Clerk only reported ballots cast for the candidates, so undervotes weren’t included. “Harris” is the total turnout for the Democratic primary in Harris County that year, and “Pct” is the percentage of the total vote that came from CD29. Given that Gene Green was unopposed in each of those years, it’s reasonable to assume that his share of the total vote will creep up a bit. Let’s say it’s 15% of the overall total. If so, then Green’s team is projecting countywide turnout at between 233,000 and 333,000, while Garcia’s people have the much wider spread of 80,000 to 360,000. You can fiddle around with the numbers a bit, but I’d say the range that Team Green is predicting is likely to be on the mark. The early voting returns we’re about to start seeing will tell us much more. What’s your turnout guess?

Checking in on Garcia v Green

An update on how the biggest primary fight in the county is going.

Rep. Gene Green

Rep. Gene Green

U.S. Congressman Gene Green has taken Texas’ 29th District Democratic primary to television, leveraging his substantial financial advantage over challenger Adrian Garcia to pour more than $240,000 into network and cable advertising over the next three weeks.

Green’s English- and Spanish-language ads focus on his involvement in the community, providing a contrast to Garcia’s more aggressive negative messaging about the incumbent.

Seeking to fend off his first primary challenge in two decades, Green is relying on his war chest and deep roots in the 77-percent Hispanic district that curls around eastern Houston from the near north side to the Hobby Airport area.

“Welcome to my office. To solve problems, you have to get out in the community,” Green says in an ad that is set to begin airing Wednesday on Comcast. “That’s how we turned a cantina into a thriving clinic expanding access to health care.”

Green has spent $141,000 on cable ads running in the North Houston, Baytown, Pasadena and Pearland areas, and another $100,000 on ads set to begin airing on KHOU-11 next week, records show. The campaign expects to spend a total of $350,000 on television advertising by the end of the week, including on Spanish-language channels.

Adrian Garcia

Adrian Garcia

“Getting people’s attention is going to be hard,” Green consultant Robert Jara said, noting that the presidential race soon will hit Texas in full force. “We wanted to make sure we got things locked in before the presidential candidates started moving into Texas.”

[…]

Comcast and Federal Communications Commission files for major Houston-area channels had no record of advertising purchases by Garcia’s campaign.

Instead, Garcia, who was sitting on just $73,000 in his campaign account at the end of last year, has focused on free media, sending near-daily campaign announcements and news releases, many of which attack Green on issues ranging from gun safety to the environment.

“Benzene Gene is not for District 29,” read a Garcia press release emailed Tuesday afternoon.

For what it’s worth, I think both candidates have run the kind of race they’ve needed to run (yeah, there’s a third candidate, but he’s not done much of anything). Green has rolled out a bajillion endorsements, and now he’s hitting the airwaves to remind people that he’s good at his job and they’ve never had any complaints about him before now. Garcia has been busy attacking him on issues like marriage equality, gun control, and the environment, where Green’s record is not exactly in line with many primary-voting Democrats. He’s also made the pitch to be the first Latino member of Congress from the Houston area – this Trib story from a few days ago sums up that aspect of the race well – and has thrown in some economic inequality stuff as well. It’s all what I’d have done if he’d have asked for my opinion.

The identity politics stuff is interesting and necessarily dominates the discussion. It may work well in this race, though it will be hard to tell exactly by how much. I’m more intrigued by the issues arguments. A few years ago I had a conversation with the founder of a lefty 527 PAC, who wanted to pick my brains about finding someone to challenge Gene Green from the left. I told him that wouldn’t be easy, for all the reasons you’d expect – Green was well-liked, he performed very well in elections, all of the potential challengers you could think of were allied with him, etc – and also noted that CD29 wasn’t exactly a hotbed of liberal agitation. Green’s more conservative record, on the issues mentioned above and on other things, was in line with the district, I said. The question now is whether that’s still the case. Nationally, the Democratic base has shifted to the left – one need only look at the Presidential primary to see that. That doesn’t mean that said shift is uniform, or universal. CD29 is the kind of place where you might not see such a difference – it’s blue collar, working class, and heavily dependent on the oil patch for its jobs. Yet that’s part of what’s driving this race. Whether that will have any effect one way or the other on the outcome, and whether that effect will be part of the postmortem, is unclear to me. But it is happening, and we should keep an eye on it.

Some Latino political power trends

The Latino electorate keeps on growing.

The Latino electorate is bigger and better-educated than ever before, according to a new report by Pew Research Center.

It’s also young. Adults age 18-35 make up nearly half of the record 27.3 million Latinos eligible to vote in this year’s presidential election, the report found.

But although the number of Latinos eligible to vote is surging – 40 percent higher than it was just eight years ago – and education levels are rising, the percentage likely to actually cast ballots in November continues to lag behind other major racial and ethnic groups, the report found.

That’s partly because young people don’t vote as consistently as older people do, but also because Latino eligible voters are heavily concentrated in states – including California, Texas and New York – that are not prime election battlegrounds.

[…]

The explosive growth of the Latino electorate is largely driven by young people born in the U.S. Between 2012 and November of this year, about 3.2 million U.S.-citizen Latinos will have turned 18 and become eligible to vote, according to the report’s projections.

Millennials – adults born in 1981 or later – will account for 44 percent of the Latino electorate by November, according to the report. By comparison, millennials will make up only 27 percent of the white electorate.

The number of Latino potential voters is also being driven by immigrants who are in the U.S. legally and decide to become U.S. citizens. Between 2012 and 2016, some 1.2 million will have done so, according to the report.

Although most new voters are not immigrants, a majority of Latino voters have a direct connection to the immigrant experience, the report noted. That’s an important fact in an election cycle that has been dominated by debates over what do with the estimated 11 million immigrants who entered the U.S. without authorization.

The full report is here. One result of the harsh rhetoric on immigration, and the specter of a Donald Trump candidacy, is a greater push for gaining citizenship among those who are eligible to do so but had not before now.

In what campaigners are calling a “naturalization blitz”, workshops are being hosted across the country to facilitate Hispanic immigrants who are legal, permanent residents and will only qualify to vote in the 2016 presidential election if they upgrade their immigration status.

Citizenship clinics will take place in Nevada, Colorado, Texas and California later this month, with other states expected to host classes in February and early March in order to make the citizenship deadline required to vote in November.

The Republican frontrunner’s hostile remarks about Latino immigrants is driving people to the workshops.

[…]

“Our messaging will be very sharply tied to the political moment, urging immigrants and Latinos to respond to hate with political action and power,” said Maria Ponce of iAmerica Action, an immigrant rights campaign sponsored by the Service Employees International Union.

Several labor unions and advocacy groups are collaborating on the project. In Las Vegas, organizers also intend to hold mock caucuses to educate new voters on the state’s complicated primary process. Nevada is the first early voting state to feature a large Latino population, and that group is eager to make itself known.

“This is a big deal,” said Jocelyn Sida of Mi Familia Vota, a partner in the Nevada event. “We as Latinos are always being told that we’re taking jobs or we’re anchor babies, and all these things are very hurtful. It’s getting to the point where folks are frustrated with that type of rhetoric. They realize the only way they can stop this is by getting involved civically.”

Efforts to increase minority participation in swing state elections are nothing new. Nevada’s powerful Culinary Union has been holding such events for its 57,000 members and their families since 2001. Yet never before has there been a galvanizing figure of the bogeyman variety quite like Trump.

At least he’s good for something. Getting more Latinos to vote (and Asians, too – the report also touches on that) is one thing. Getting more of them elected to office is another.

A new report from a nonpartisan organization focused on getting more Asian-American and Latinos elected to state and local offices found that the two groups are facing obstacles as they seek to achieve greater representation to match their fast-growing populations.

The report, by the New American Leaders Project, found that the groups’ numbers have not grown substantially in those offices — fewer than 2 percent of the 500,000 seats nationally in state and local offices are held by Asian-Americans or Hispanics. Those voters make up more than 20 percent of the United States population, the report notes. Both groups of voters are considered key to the emerging Democratic coalition in national races.

Among the barriers members of these groups faced is that they were less likely to come up with the idea of running for office themselves — usually only doing so if the idea was suggested by another person. Hispanic women also were likelier to report being discouraged “by their political party more than any other group,” the report noted.

Th candidates also tended to rely strongly on support from unions and community groups to be successful, and they found fund-raising one of the most difficult hurdles. That was particularly true among Hispanic women, according to the report.

The report is here. A lot of the barriers, as well as the recommended solutions (see page 21), are similar to those that have been long reported for female candidates. We know the answers, we just need to actually apply them.

All of these are background for how I think about this.

Adrian Garcia

Adrian Garcia

Months after mounting a passive, ultimately unsuccessful Houston mayoral campaign, Adrian Garcia has swiftly taken on the role of attack dog in his bid to oust longtime U.S. Rep. Gene Green from the 29th District in the Democratic primary.

A Garcia press release out Monday morning proclaimed in all caps, “GENE GREEN SHOULD HAVE BEEN FIRED A LONG TIME AGO,” the latest in a series of statements slamming the incumbent’s record on issues ranging from gun safety to the environment.

Political observers said Garcia’s about-face reflects lessons learned from his recent loss and the nature of a quick primary challenge.

“He needs to give folks a reason not to vote for the entrenched incumbent, so he’s trying to create a differentiation based on policy,” Texas Southern University political scientist Jay Aiyer said of Garcia.

“If you think you lost last time because you were too passive, this time you’re going to be more aggressive, and I think there’s a certain element of that involved, as well.”

[…]

Over the last three weeks, Garcia has criticized Green’s voting record on gun safety and environmental legislation while tying him to the district’s comparatively high poverty rate and low rate of educational attainment, among other issues.

“When you know that you’ve got one in three children living in poverty, you’re expecting some leadership from that point,” Garcia said after a press conference Monday announcing the backing of several Latino community leaders. “I’m just speaking to the record.”

I don’t know if Adrian Garcia can beat Gene Green. Green has been a skillful member of Congress for a long time, and Democrats tend to value seniority and experience a lot more than Republicans do. He also hasn’t had to run a campaign in 20 years, and it is unquestionable that the Houston area should have had a Latino member of Congress by now, one way or another. Green has done all the things you’d expect him to do in this race, and he has a ton of support from Latino elected officials (though not unanimous support) and an overall strong record. If we’ve learned anything by now, it’s that this isn’t a business-as-usual election year. So who knows? I wish there were some trustworthy polling available for this race, but I suspect we’re going to have to wait till voting starts to get a feel for this one.

Endorsement watch: Going Green

The Chron sticks with incumbent Rep. Gene Green in CD29.

Rep. Gene Green

Rep. Gene Green

Former Harris County Sheriff Adrian Garcia can point to 23 years on the Houston police force, six years on City Council, where he served as mayor pro tem, and six years as sheriff of Harris County, the third-largest sheriff’s department in the country. Despite long-festering problems in the Harris County Jail he ultimately was unable to resolve, his is a stellar record of public service.

Now he wants to extend it. In the wake of his unsuccessful run for mayor, the 55-year-old native Houstonian announced that he would challenge veteran congressman Gene Green, a fellow Democrat and family friend, in a bid to represent the 29th Congressional District. Also running is political neophyte Dominique Garcia.

Why? That’s the question local political junkies are asking about the former sheriff. Why now and why this seat? That’s also the question district voters will have to ponder as they decide whether to replace an experienced elected official with a solid record of service and a well-earned reputation for responding to his constituents’ needs.

[…]

Garcia contends that it’s time for the district to elect an Hispanic, particularly in the face of mounting insults and attacks on Hispanics from the likes of Donald Trump. He also insists that the incumbent has been too cozy with the National Rifle Association. In addition to gun safety, his priorities include boosting educational opportunity, reforming immigration procedures, dealing with traffic congestion and growing the economy.

We’re glad that both challengers are running; in principle, the process works best when incumbents have to respond to challenges, particularly when they’ve been in office for a long time. This particular district, though, has been well served by the incumbent.

[…]

We respect Adrian Garcia’s record of service to the community, service that we expect will continue in one form or another, but we see no need at this time to make a change in the 29th Congressional District. Along with the financial arm of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and a number of local Hispanic organizations, we endorse Gene Green.

I can’t say I’m surprised by this. If you frame the question the way the Chron has – why here, and why now? – you’re probably going to answer it in favor of the incumbent, who is very well regarded and has a lot of institutional support. I think Garcia is smart to hit Green over guns – if there was ever a time to make that an issue in a Democratic primary, it’s now – and also on environmental issues. He’d have a trifecta if he could attack Green cleanly on immigration matters, but as we know, he can’t manage that, and in fact he has taken some fire from Green for his enthusiastic support of 287(g) while Sheriff. Whatever the outcome here – I make Green the favorite, but I agree with those who say that higher turnout will benefit Garcia – I’m glad to see these topics get discussed. Family fights like this can be painful and awkward, but they’re also necessary.

Is Green v Garcia about “the power of the Latino vote”?

To some degree, but I wouldn’t overstate it.

Rep. Gene Green

Rep. Gene Green

When Adrian Garcia called last month asking for support in his congressional bid, East End community activist Jessica Hulsey did not hesitate.

“I said, ‘Adrian, you’re my brother,’ ” Hulsey, 65, recalled. “ ’I identify with you, and I identify the need.’ ”

Fresh off an unsuccessful Houston mayoral run, the former Harris County sheriff is looking to fill that need by empowering a growing Latino community in the 29th Congressional District.

His bid to unseat longtime Democratic Congressman Gene Green promises to again test the burgeoning power of the Hispanic vote.

Drawn in 1991 to reflect the area’s Hispanic population, the 29th District never has had a Latino representative, despite the influx of Hispanic residents.

From 1992, when Green was first elected, to 2012, the Latino share of the district’s population climbed 16 percentage points to more than 76 percent, higher than all but four congressional districts nationwide, according to the Pew Research Center. Hispanics make up about 61 percent of the 29th District’s eligible voters.

[…]

Adrian Garcia

Adrian Garcia

“Garcia has structural advantages in this race that make the race tilt in his favor,” Texas Southern University political scientist Michael Adams said, pointing to the fact that the area was designed as a Hispanic-opportunity district.

However, University of Houston political scientist Richard Murray said that even with demographics on Garcia’s side, it may be difficult for him to overcome Green’s financial advantage, familiarity with the district and establishment backing.

The fundraising arm of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus recently endorsed Green, who had $1.2 million in the bank as of last September, and many of the local elected officials whose districts overlap with Green’s quickly lined up behind the congressman. They included state Sens. Sylvia Garcia and John Whitmire, and state Reps. Carol Alvarado, Garnet Coleman, Ana Hernandez and Armando Walle.

“You can’t block up the Latino vote very easily if a bunch of the opinion leaders are saying, ‘No, no, yeah we want a Hispanic district, but not with this Hispanic,’ ” Murray said. “In terms of winning this district in a short fuse, one-on-one primary, that’s gonna be tough.”

Garcia’s candidacy also has created some enmity among local Democrats with long-standing ties to Green.

“Gene Green, everybody loves Gene Green,” said Freddy Blanco, a Democratic precinct chair in the East End. “No elected official responds the way he responds immediately.”

I’ll say again, as with just about every election involving an incumbent, it’s about whether the voters want to replace this person with that person. They’ll have their own criteria for that. This district was drawn to elect a Latino, and the historic nature of Adrian Garcia being elected may well sway some folks, but Gene Green isn’t a 20+ year incumbent by accident. He’s popular among the voters in CD29 and he will get plenty of Latino votes – he’s already received a lot of institutional Latino support. I’d be wary about drawing any conclusions about “the power of the Latino vote” regardless of the outcome in this race.

One more thing:

Without a contested Democratic primary in more than two decades, it is difficult to project March turnout. Yet Rice University political scientist Bob Stein estimated that 37,500 to 40,000 ballots would be cast in the district in the Democratic primary, about 53 to 57 percent of them by Hispanic voters.

About 42,000 voters cast a ballot in 29th district Democratic primary in 2008. That figure dropped to just 6,200 in 2014.

Of course, Democrats broke records for primary turnout in 2008, with over 400,000 March ballots being cast in Harris County. With Clinton/Sanders likely to be still burning bright, I’d expect decent turnout in the county, though not at that level. Maybe 200,000 overall? That might be high, but I don’t think it’s out of the question. I’m totally guessing. Whatever the case, I do agree that CD29 will be leading the pack.

Endorsement watch: Collegiality and cover

More support for Rep. Gene Green.

Rep. Gene Green

Rep. Gene Green

Congressional Hispanics are lining up behind U.S. Rep. Gene Green as he seeks to fend off a primary challenge from former Harris County Sheriff Adrian Garcia.

BOLD PAC, the political arm of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, endorsed Green on Wednesday. The group’s news release features supportive quotes from most of the highest-ranking Latinos in Congress.

“As a leader of the labor movement, I have known and worked with Gene Green for many years,” said caucus chairwoman Linda Sanchez, a California Democrat. “Ensuring Gene Green returns to the House to continue delivering outstanding results, whether through legislative efforts or casework, for his constituents, is a must.”

[…]

Members of Congress rarely oppose colleagues from their own parties in primaries. But the caucus does have an opportunity to boost its size if Garcia is elected — and it’s supporting Green anyway.

A Democratic Capitol Hill staffer familiar with the members’ thinking said the decision to stick with Green came down to his relationships and work on issues of importance to the Hispanic community.

“Would they like to see a Latino in that seat? Yeah,” said the staffer, who was not authorized to speak on the record. “But not necessarily at the cost of a member they work well with.”

I mostly know BOLD PAC from the incessant fundraising emails they send me. By definition, these are folks who neither live in nor represent CD29 – most of them are not in Texas, in fact – so the practical effect of this is likely to be nil. Mostly what it does is continue the narrative that people are basically satisfied with Rep. Green and his representation, and that there’s no compelling argument to make a change. In that sense, it’s a lot like the endorsements Rep. Green got from local Latino elected officials, though less visible. Does it move any votes to Gene Green? No, but it may keep some votes from moving away from him, and that’s more than good enough. The Chron has more.

Endorsement watch: Latino electeds for Gene Green

Not a big surprise.

Rep. Gene Green

Rep. Gene Green

U.S. Rep. Gene Green, a Houston Democrat, will pick up support from several Houston political players Tuesday.

The 12-term congressman faces what could be a formidable primary challenge in the form of former Harris County Sheriff Adrian Garcia. According to a Green campaign press release, seven Houston Democrats are ready to back his re-election: state Sens. Sylvia R. Garcia and John Whitmire, state Reps. Ana Hernandez, Garnet F. Coleman, Armando Walle and Carol Alvarado, and Harris County Constable Chris Diaz.

The endorsements’ apparent aim is to give Green cover against Garcia’s argument that the mostly-Hispanic district would be better served with Hispanic congressional representation. With residual name identification from his unsuccessful run for Houston mayor, Garcia could pose a viable threat to Green’s re-election.

I received a copy of the press release as well as the pre-release on Friday that didn’t contain the officials’ names. The event will take place at 11 AM at the Vecino Health Center (Denver Harbor Family Clinic), 424 Hahlo St., in case anyone wants to attend. As I said before, I was looking to see who might be endorsing whom in this race. Whatever the effect is on the final result, this does affect the narrative of the race. Reps. Walle, Hernandez, and Alvarado all once worked for Green, so their solidarity with their former boss is to be expected, but Sylvia Garcia was one of the candidates for the seat back in 1992; she finished third, behind Green and Ben Reyes, whom Green then defeated in the runoff and again in the 1994 primary. She had previously been talked about as a potential opponent for Green in more recent years, before her election to the State Senate. Make of that what you will.

Going back through my archives, I came across this post from 2014 about Green representing a Latino district and when that might change. Here’s what Campos, who is now working on the Garcia campaign, said at the time:

Having a Dem Latino or Latina in Congress from the H-Town area would be empowering to the community. What is missing is an articulate voice for us in Congress like on a day when the immigration issue is front and center. Who is going to argue with that?

I don’t buy into the notion that just because the local Latino leaders aren’t for something, it won’t happen. I can still recall the spontaneous immigration marches a few years ago that local Latino leaders were scrambling to lead.

I can picture a scenario where an articulate bilingual Latino or Latina leader steps up, grabs an issue and captures the attention of the community. That is certainly not racist, that’s politics. This discussion isn’t going away.

And my comment on that:

Sure, that could happen, and I agree that if it were to happen it would likely be a talented newcomer who can inspire people to pose a serious threat to Rep. Green. The problem is that that’s not sufficient. Look at the recent history of Democratic primary challenges in Texas legislative races, and you’ll see that there are generally two paths to knocking off an incumbent that don’t rely on them getting hosed in redistricting. One is via the self-inflicted wounds of an incumbent with some kind of ethics problems – think Gabi Canales or Naomi Gonzales, for example – or an incumbent that has genuinely lost touch with the base. In the past decade in Texas that has mostly meant Craddick Democrats, though one could argue that Rep. Beto O’Rourke’s win over Silvestre Reyes had elements of that.

What I’m saying is simply that there has to be a reason to dump the current officeholder. Look no further than the other Anglo Texas Democrat in Congress for that. The GOP has marked Rep. Lloyd Doggett for extinction twice, each time drawing him into a heavily Latino district in the hope of seeing him get knocked off in a primary. He survived the DeLay re-redistricting of 2003, then he faced the same kind of challenge again in 2012. His opponent, Sylvia Romo, was an experienced officeholder running in a district that was drawn to elect a Hispanic candidate from Bexar County. Having interviewed her, I can attest that she’d have made a perfectly fine member of Congress. But she never identified a policy item on which she disagreed with Doggett, and she never could give an answer to the question why the voters should replace their existing perfectly good member of Congress and his boatload of seniority with a rookie, however promising.

That’s the question any theoretical opponent to Gene Green will have to answer as well.

I think both my statement and Marc’s would stand up today. I’d say we’re likely to hear some form of these arguments over the next two months. In the meantime, I wonder if Garcia will roll out his own list of supporters soon. Better still if that list is accompanied by reasons why Garcia is the superior choice, and where he differs in matters of policy. I know that’s what I’d want to hear about if I lived in that district.

More on Green versus Garcia

The Trib talks to Rep. Gene Green about the primary challenge he faces from Adrian Garcia.

Rep. Gene Green

Rep. Gene Green

“I was surprised when he called me yesterday a little before he was going to file, and we talked, and I expressed disappointment,” Green said in a phone interview with The Texas Tribune on Tuesday.

Garcia confirmed making the call and said Green asked him to reconsider.

“I went to Mass yesterday … I went to go visit my father’s grave site, who supported Gene in some of his early campaigns,” Garcia said. “So it was not an easy decision by any stretch of the imagination.

“But what I learned during my mayoral campaign was that the Hispanic community was excited to have their candidate.”

Garcia insisted the race is neither personal nor about policy, saying he agreed with Green on many issues. Instead, it’s about demographics and real estate mogul Donald Trump’s incendiary comments about the Hispanic community on the presidential campaign trail.

“I’m not against Gene Green. This is not about him,” Garcia said. “This is about the fact that with the national issues that we have, Donald Trump just spreading vitriol and his vitriol that’s directed in the Hispanic community — and since 78 percent of the 29th Congressional District is individuals who are Hispanic — he’s speaking to us, to those folks in the community.”

But for Green, 68, who recalled he and Garcia watching each other’s children grow up, it is indeed personal. Trump is a smokescreen.

“I’m not Donald Trump,” the incumbent said. “If he wants to run against Donald Trump, he needs to go file in the Republican primary.”

Green pointed to his years of loyalty to Garcia. He praised his newfound rival’s public service, albeit lacing his compliments with what could be a coming political attack.

“I supported him when he ran for city council, when he retired from the Houston Police Department, and I supported him when he ran for sheriff,” Green said. “He was a good sheriff — he had some problems with the jail — and I supported him for mayor.”

See here for the background. You have to admire Green’s more-in-sorrow-than-in-anger response here. There are a lot of ways to react to a surprise like this that would have made him look bad, but he didn’t do that. I am certain that this race will get nasty and will leave some scars, but that’s politics.

As for why Garcia might take this shot, putting aside the answers that he himself has already given, from a practical standpoint the choice is between waiting for Green to announce his departure, which for all we know could be a decade from now, and then slug it out with four or five other people who have been waiting for Green to step down as well, and taking his chances one on one in the here and now. If he loses it might wind up being his political epitaph, but the potential reward is pretty enticing. No one ever said this would be easy.

As I said, I will be interested to see who lines up with whom on this. Garcia says he’s been reaching out to other electeds, and I’m sure that’s true. I wish I could have listened in on some of those conversations. I expect we’ll have a reasonably high turnout for this primary, especially if the Presidential nomination hasn’t been settled yet. That can cause odd things to happen in some races, but I doubt that would happen here when both candidates are well known. It’s just a question of who can get more of those folks on their side. The Chron has more.

Garcia to challenge Green in CD29

This will be interesting to watch.

Adrian Garcia

Adrian Garcia

Former Harris County Sheriff Adrian Garcia is challenging 23-year Democratic Congressman Gene Green in the 29th district, he told the Chronicle Monday, a risky intra-party challenge of a popular incumbent.

The move comes less than two months after Garcia’s third-place finish in the Houston mayor’s race, which already had created some ill will among local Democrats upset that he gave up his post as sheriff, costing the party the highest-profile countywide office. The GOP-led Harris County Commissioners Court appointed Republican Ron Hickman, the former Precinct 4 constable, to the sheriff’s post.

“What I am doing is with all the intention to strengthen the party and help cultivate a Hispanic electorate that can help move the country forward and be a part of the process of addressing the critical issues that are a challenge throughout,” Garcia told the Chronicle from the Harris County Democratic Party headquarters. “I’m not challenging Gene Green. I’m challenging Donald Trump with all of his vitriol, rhetoric, dividing the community and insulting hardworking men and women.”

I’d been hearing some chatter about this over the past couple of weeks, so I can’t say this took me by surprise. It’s still a big enough deal to make you step back and whistle. There are already several interesting primaries on the Democratic ballot this March – Kim Ogg versus Morris Overstreet for DA, AL5 candidate Philippe Nassif challenging Lane Lewis for HCDP Chair, and the open seat in HD139 to succeed Mayor-elect Sylvester Turner, to name three – but I think it’s fair to say this one will command a lot of attention. My initial thoughts:

– It’s a little hard to avoid a flashback to Leticia Van de Putte, who left her Senate seat to run for Lite Guv while denying she was really interested in running for Mayor of San Antonio, then ran for Mayor after losing the Lite Guv race. One of Garcia’s stated reasons for stepping down as Sheriff, which as noted did upset some folks given that it changed partisan hands when he left, was that the job he really wanted was Mayor…and now he’s running for Congress. I get it, and I get that there are only so many chances to make a difference in life, but I guarantee you, some people will think about that. There can be a fine line between being opportunistic, and being an opportunist.

– This is one of those times when endorsements from other elected officials, in particular Latino elected officials, will be worth watching. Gene Green hasn’t survived this long in an office that was intended to be held by a Latino politician by sitting on his laurels. He’s got deep roots in the community, and a long list of folks involved in politics and public service, including more than a few elected officials, who once worked for him. His endorsement of State Rep. Armando Walle in 2008 was a difference maker in that primary. Against that, Garcia would be the first Latino Member of Congress ever elected from the Houston area. What wins out, loyalty or history? That’s the question.

– Regardless of Garcia’s words about Donald Trump, elections are about “vote for me and not that other guy”. We don’t know yet what issues Garcia may campaign on, but I do know of one clear difference between them. Green is one of the last Democratic holdouts on marriage equality, while Garcia is a longtime champion of LGBT rights, who won plaudits for his policies regarding LGBT inmates in the county jail. Green’s view may track the 29th District’s, but one way or another that’s a big difference between them. How does that play out in a primary?

There will undoubtedly be more to talk about in the coming weeks, but this is what I’ve got for now, that and the sense that I’m already behind in scheduling interviews for the primaries. The Trib and Trail Blazers have more on this and other filings of interest.

On Gene Green and representing Latino districts

I’ve been meaning to blog about this story about Rep. Gene Green and CD29 and how the Houston area has never sent a Latino to Congress, but I kept getting stuck and I finally decided I was overthinking it.

Rep. Gene Green

Rep. Gene Green

Two decades after local political leaders thought they had solved the demographic puzzle with a new “opportunity district” that is today three-quarters Latino, no Hispanic has represented it.

As of this election cycle, Houston remains the most Hispanic major metropolitan area in the country without a Latino elected to Congress, a distinction that could revitalize concerns about how historic the 1991 redistricting truly was. The dozen congressional lawmakers who represent Greater Houston’s 2.2 million Hispanics can say they are voices for the community, but Latino leaders worry that because none of them are of the community, Hispanics’ voice in Washington may be muffled.

“When people see the growth … where we’re at politically, I think more and more people are opining, ‘Hey, when are we going to do it?’ ” said Democratic consultant Marc Campos. “People are becoming a little bit more sophisticated about the demographics and what it means for our community.”

What it means is that potential Latino candidates, mollified with political savvy and dispirited by political incumbency, have demurred from challenging the non-Hispanic – Gene Green – who represents them in Congress, and according to some, has served his constituents well. But with each successive election, the path to reversing the trend seems increasingly daunting.

And it draws fresh attention to the challenge that animates community organizers, Democratic groups and even apolitical Hispanics who would like to see a more representative Houston metropolitan area, a lawmaker who can bellow into a megaphone in Spanish on the population’s behalf.

[…]

And every two years for the past 20, Hispanic voters in the 29th district have sent Green back to Congress. He does not speak Spanish, but political observers note how Green has shrewdly won over the Hispanic community by co-opting threatening Latino leaders and hustling to keep tabs on the community’s pulse. That has kept Hispanic challengers at bay.

“He’s a very smart politician and has done his homework in terms of coming home,” said Maria Jimenez, a longtime Hispanic organizer in Houston.

The district is rich with potential Latino candidates, such as Harris County Sheriff Adrian Garcia and state Sen. Sylvia Garcia and Rep. Carol Alvarado. Hispanic leaders say there is a steady drumbeat of chatter about a Latino challenging Green in a primary, but Green has hired many of these prominent Hispanics over the decades and has built personal loyalties that area Latinos are reluctant to violate.

There is also a harsher political reality: Everyone knows Gene Green.

“If there’s five people meeting in the civic club, I tell you: Gene Green is there,” said Armando Walle, a Hispanic state representative from Houston who once worked for Green. “He can continue to be a member of Congress as long as he wants.”

Green, 66, returns to the district every weekend when Congress is in session and has earned a reputation as a workhorse. Green maintains that is what matters in his district.

“It’s more of a service-oriented district. People want to know what you’re doing to help,” Green said. “I don’t think I’d get re-elected or elected if I wasn’t doing the job.”

That philosophy is echoed in Hispanic Houston, where activists say Green has represented Latinos well in Washington despite not being a member of their community. Politically, that representation means that Green has not created an impetus for change – even if the seat was designed with a Latino lawmaker in mind.

“If you have a good member of Congress that represents their district well, I think it really comes down to – who is clamoring for change?” asked Joaquin Guerra, political director for the Texas Organizing Project in Houston. “When you have a 20-plus congressional incumbent, obviously they seem to be doing something right.”

You should read the whole thing if you missed it the first time around, it’s worth your time. At this point I’d say the betting odds are on Rep. Green representing CD29 until he retires, which would then trigger a gigantic free-for-all to succeed him. You never know with politics, of course, so it’s possible someone could successfully primary him. Campos doesn’t think people will want to wait.

Having a Dem Latino or Latina in Congress from the H-Town area would be empowering to the community. What is missing is an articulate voice for us in Congress like on a day when the immigration issue is front and center. Who is going to argue with that?

I don’t buy into the notion that just because the local Latino leaders aren’t for something, it won’t happen. I can still recall the spontaneous immigration marches a few years ago that local Latino leaders were scrambling to lead.

I can picture a scenario where an articulate bilingual Latino or Latina leader steps up, grabs an issue and captures the attention of the community. That is certainly not racist, that’s politics. This discussion isn’t going away.

Sure, that could happen, and I agree that if it were to happen it would likely be a talented newcomer who can inspire people to pose a serious threat to Rep. Green. The problem is that that’s not sufficient. Look at the recent history of Democratic primary challenges in Texas legislative races, and you’ll see that there are generally two paths to knocking off an incumbent that don’t rely on them getting hosed in redistricting. One is via the self-inflicted wounds of an incumbent with some kind of ethics problems – think Gabi Canales or Naomi Gonzales, for example – or an incumbent that has genuinely lost touch with the base. In the past decade in Texas that has mostly meant Craddick Democrats, though one could argue that Rep. Beto O’Rourke’s win over Silvestre Reyes had elements of that.

What I’m saying is simply that there has to be a reason to dump the current officeholder. Look no further than the other Anglo Texas Democrat in Congress for that. The GOP has marked Rep. Lloyd Doggett for extinction twice, each time drawing him into a heavily Latino district in the hope of seeing him get knocked off in a primary. He survived the DeLay re-redistricting of 2003, then he faced the same kind of challenge again in 2012. His opponent, Sylvia Romo, was an experienced officeholder running in a district that was drawn to elect a Hispanic candidate from Bexar County. Having interviewed her, I can attest that she’d have made a perfectly fine member of Congress. But she never identified a policy item on which she disagreed with Doggett, and she never could give an answer to the question why the voters should replace their existing perfectly good member of Congress and his boatload of seniority with a rookie, however promising.

That’s the question any theoretical opponent to Gene Green will have to answer as well. You need to do that to convince the voters, but even before you get to the voters you need to do that to convince the people who write checks and the people and organizations that offer endorsements, volunteers, credibility, and other kinds of support. I’m not saying that could never happen – anyone can get complacent or can fail to recognize when the political ground has shifted underneath them – I’m saying it has to happen for said candidate to have a chance. In the meantime, I don’t think anyone is going to get rich betting against Gene Green.

The farm team

Roll Call takes a look at the Texas Democrats of the future.

Rep. Joaquin Castro

Rep. Joaquin Castro

Democrats rarely fielded competitive Senate candidates over the past two decades — the party’s three best performers in that time span received 44 percent, 43 percent and 43 percent — but that may change by the next midterm cycle. State and national Democrats are gearing up for a competitive Senate bid as early as 2018, when Republican Sen. Ted Cruz is up.

The first potential candidate names out of the mouths of most operatives are the Castro twins, San Antonio Mayor Julián Castro and freshman Rep. Joaquin Castro — though there are mixed opinions about which one is more likely to jump. Wendy Davis’ name comes up as well, should she comes up short in this year’s gubernatorial race, and the buzz in some Democratic circles is that Davis’ running mate, state Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, has as promising a political future as Davis.

Beyond those four, there is a second tier of candidates who could possibly run statewide but don’t quite yet have the same star power. It includes freshman Rep. Beto O’Rourke, who ousted eight-term Rep. Silvestre Reyes in 2012. He is young and attractive, but his geographic base is weak — El Paso is remote and actually closer to the Pacific Ocean than it is to the Louisiana border.

Democrats also named state Reps. Trey Martinez Fischer and Chris Turner as possible statewide contenders and pointed to Houston Mayor Annise Parker, albeit with caution. Parker is openly gay, and some say that while Texas is evolving on a number of issues, gay rights is not likely to be one of them in the immediate future.

We’ve discussed the 2018 election before. Based on her comments so far, I don’t see Mayor Parker as a potential candidate for the US Senate. I see her as a candidate for Governor or Comptroller, assuming those offices are not occupied by Democrats.

Among the future contenders for [Rep. Gene] Green’s seat, Democrats identified state Reps. Armando Walle, Carol Alvarado and Ana Hernandez, plus Harris County Sheriff Adrian Garcia.

There is perpetual scuttlebutt in the state that [Rep. Lloyd] Doggett is vulnerable to a Hispanic primary challenge. Other Democratic strategists discount that line of thinking, citing Doggett’s war chest and ability to weather whatever lines he’s drawn into.

Whenever he leaves office, Democrats named Martinez Fischer and state Rep. Mike Villarreal as likely contenders. Martinez Fischer could also run in Joaquin Castro’s 20th District if he seeks higher office.

As for Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee’s Houston-based 18th District, state operatives pointed to state Reps. Sylvester Turner and Garnet F. Coleman, who could also run for Rep. Al Green’s seat.

Working backwards, Rep. Sylvester Turner is running for Mayor in 2015. That would not preclude a future run for Congress, of course, but I doubt it’s on his mind right now. I love Rep. Garnet Coleman, but I’ve never really gotten the impression that he has his eye on Washington, DC. Among other things, he has school-age kids at home, and I’m not sure how much the idea of commuting to DC appeals to him. The same is true for Sen. Rodney Ellis, whose district has a lot of overlap with Rep. Al Green’s CD09. Ellis has by far the biggest campaign warchest among them, which is one reason why I had once suggested he run statewide this year. Beyond them, there’s a long list of current and former elected officials – Ronald Green, Brad Bradford, Jolanda Jones, Wanda Adams, Carroll Robinson, etc etc etc – that would surely express interest in either CD09 or CD18 if it became open. About the only thing that might alter this dynamic is if County Commissioner El Franco Lee decided to retire; the line for that office is longer than I-10.

As for Rep. Gene Green, I’d add Rep. Carol Alvarado and James Rodriguez to the list of people who’d at least consider a run to replace him. I’m less sure about Sheriff Garcia. I think everyone expects him to run for something else someday – he’s starting to get the John Sharp Obligatory Mention treatment – but I have no idea if he has any interest in Congress. And as for Rep. Doggett, all I’ll say is that he’s shown himself to be pretty hard to beat in a primary.

Texas’ 23rd, which includes much of the state’s border with Texas, is the only competitive district in the state and turns over regularly. If Democratic Rep. Pete Gallego lost re-election and Democrats were on the hunt for a new recruit, one could be state Rep. Mary González.

Should 11-term Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson retire, Democrats said attorney Taj Clayton, along with state Reps. Yvonne Davis and Eric Johnson would be likely contenders for her Dallas-based 30th District.

State Rep. Armando “Mando” Martinez is also a rising star. But his local seat in the Brownsville-based 34th District is unlikely to open up any time soon — Rep. Filemon Vela, from a well-known family in South Texas, was elected in 2012.

The great hope for Democrats is that continued Texas redistricting litigation will provide an additional majority Hispanic district based in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. State Rep. Rafael Anchia is the obvious choice for that hypothetical seat, along with Tarrant County Justice of the Peace Sergio L. De Leon.

And then there are a handful of Texas Democrats who stir up chatter but have no obvious place to run for federal office. Democrats put former state Rep. Mark Strama and Jane Hamilton, the current chief of staff to Rep. Marc Veasey, in this category.

Democratic National Committee spokeswoman Lily Adams, granddaughter of Ann Richards, is a respected political operative in Washington, D.C., and recently earned attention as a possible candidate talent.

I’m rooting for Rep. Gallego to win re-election this fall, but no question I’d love to see Rep. González run for higher office at some point. Taj Clayton ran against Rep. Johnson in 2012, getting support from the Campaign for Primary Accountability (which appears to be in a resting state now), along with Rep. Beto O’Rourke, who also appears in this story as someone to watch. Rep. Anchia is someone I’ve been rooting for and would love to see get a promotion. Mark Strama is off doing Google Fiber in Austin. I have no idea if he’d want to get back in the game – like several other folks I’ve mentioned, he has young kids – but he’s been mentioned as a possible candidate for Mayor in Austin before; if he does re-enter politics, and if he has an eye on something bigger down the line, that would be a good way to go for it. Lily Adams is 27 years old and has never run for any office before, but she’s got an excellent pedigree and has apparently impressed some folks. In baseball terms, she’s tearing up it in short season A ball, but needs to show what she can do on a bigger stage before anyone gets carried away.

Anyway. Stuff like this is necessarily speculative, and that speculation about 2018 is necessarily dependent on what happens this year. If Democrats manage to beat expectations and score some wins, statewide hopefuls may find themselves waiting longer than they might have thought. If Democrats have a crappy year, by which one in which no measurable progress in getting out the vote and narrowing the gap is made, some of these folks may decide they have better things to do in 2018. As for the Congressional understudies, unless they want to go the Beto O’Rourke route and mount a primary challenge to someone, who knows how long they may have to wait. It’s entirely possible all this talk will look silly four years from now. We’ll just have to wait and see.

It’s still Gene Green’s world

I have three things to say about this story about Rep. Gene Green.

Rep. Gene Green

Rep. Gene Green

The affable, low-key former printer’s apprentice is a legend across his gritty, blue-collar domain along the 54-mile Houston Ship Channel, where he represents the most heavily Hispanic congressional district in the nation that has not elected a Hispanic to Congress.

By virtue of his seniority and Republican control of every statewide office, Green is effectively the highest ranking Democrat in Texas politics.

“Whatever I do in Congress doesn’t help people unless I’m also back in my district doing things for them,” Green said. “It’s one of the reasons people have developed a trust relationship with me.”

Green, who is not fluent in Spanish, has organized citizenship days to help legal residents apply for U.S. citizenship in a district that is 76 percent Hispanic. He helped conduct a forum in mid-November that enabled hundreds of Houston-area residents to learn about and register for Affordable Care Act coverage in a state with 6.3 million uninsured. And he has sponsored job fairs twice a year to help the unemployed find work.

“We do a lot of things that provide service to people in my district – and that brings visibility,” said Green, who was a member of the Texas Legislature for 20 years.

Green is well known for his constituent service, and I have no doubt that it is a big part of the reason why he has been so successful in office, both in terms of electoral performance and keeping potential primary challengers at bay. But it’s not just about doing well by your constituents, it’s also about getting along with your peers and would-be rivals. Green works well with others, and has mentored or otherwise directly assisted numerous current officeholders. One example of such is State Rep. Armando Walle, whom Rep. Green supported in his successful primary election against Craddick Dem Kevin Bailey. I tend to think of former Rep. Bailey, who was basically a do-nothing that got crosswise with many of his peers for his support of then-Speaker Tom Craddick and who represented a district as Latino as CD29 is, as something like the anti-Gene Green. It’s not really a mystery why some folks are more successful, and thus long-tenured, than others.

Texas has 12 Democratic House members, but “Green stands out as a pragmatist who is not afraid to break with the liberal Democratic House leadership when he disagrees with its position on an issue,” said Rice University political scientist Mark Jones.

Indeed, Green has voted with the House Democratic leadership only 81 percent of the time – well below the 92 percent loyalty of Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Houston, or the 91 percent loyalty of Rep. Al Green, D-Houston.

Green, a loyal oil-patch lawmaker, has backed the Keystone XL Pipeline as well as legislation that would delay implementation of key components of the Clean Air Act related to cross-state air pollution and pollution standards for power plants.

“At least once a week in the Energy and Commerce Committee, I forget that Gene is a Democrat,” said Rep. Pete Olson, R-Sugar Land, who shares many of Green’s pro-energy positions.

Green’s devotion to helping Houston is apparent to colleagues, too.

“Though Gene and I often disagree on policy, he’s always ready to work across the aisle to get things done when it comes to what’s best for the Houston region and Texas,” said Rep. Kevin Brady, R-The Woodlands, who has served with Green for 16 years. “I’ve found his word to be as good as gold.”

Bipartisanship is a means to an end, not an end unto itself. Whether it’s a good thing or a bad thing depends on the particulars. Be that as it may, are there any Republican members of Texas’ Congressional delegation that could be described in similar terms as Rep. Green was in those paragraphs? Hell, are there any Republican members of Congress from any state that could be described in those terms? I’m thinking the answer is No, but feel free to supply an example if you think one exists. Honestly, if there were any such Republicans, I’d expect they’d be getting primaried within an inch of their lives about now.

When the time comes for Green to step down, at least seven Hispanics are widely expected to eye the seat, led by Harris County Sheriff Adrian Garcia, a former Houston police officer and City Council member who has outpolled Barack Obama in Harris County.

Other potential contenders include state Sen. Sylvia Garcia, a former municipal court judge and Houston city controller; term-limited Houston City Council member James Rodriguez; Houston City Council member Ed Gonzalez, a former police officer; and three state representatives: Carol Alvarado, Jessica Farrar and Ana Hernandez.

I’m sure there’s a long line of hopefuls for CD29 when Rep. Green decides to hang up his spurs. This is the first time I can recall seeing Sheriff Garcia’s name associated with this seat, however. Most of the talk I hear about him and other offices he might someday seek center on the Mayor’s office in 2015. If he has his eyes on a statewide office down the line, I’m not sure what the best springboard for him would be. I think he’s in pretty good shape where he is right now, and staying put until he’s ready for something bigger means he’s not putting anything at risk in the meantime, but I’m not his political adviser and I don’t know what he has in mind for the future. As for the other possibilities, I’ll just reiterate what I’ve said before about generational issues. Generally speaking, all things being equal otherwise, I would prefer a candidate that has statewide ambitions in his or her future to one who doesn’t. Our bench isn’t going to build itself, after all.

The remaining holdouts on marriage equality

Last week, we talked about the Democratic members of the Legislature that had voted for the anti-gay marriage Constitutional amendment of 2005, and where they stood now. Along those lines, The Hill checks on the situation in Congress.

Eleven House Democrats are on record as opposing gay marriage, even as support within their party for the issue builds.

Another nine haven’t taken definitive positions in support of or against gay marriage.

[…]

Nine Democrats who voted in 2011 to uphold the Defense of Marriage Act that denies federal benefits to gay couples haven’t publicly changed their positions: Reps. John Barrow (Ga.), Sanford Bishop (Ga.), Henry Cuellar (Texas), Gene Green (Texas), Dan Lipinski (Ill.), Jim Matheson (Utah), Mike McIntyre (N.C.), Collin Peterson (Minn.) and Nick Rahall (W.Va.).

Another two freshmen Democrats voiced opposition to same-sex marriage during their 2012 campaigns: Reps. Bill Enyart (Ill.) and Pete Gallego (Texas).

The nine Democrats who haven’t taken a definitive position on gay marriage are Reps. Jim Costa (Calif.), Ron Kind (Wis.), Cedric Richmond (La.), Kurt Schrader (Ore.), David Scott (Ga.), Terry Sewell (Ala.), Bennie Thompson (Miss.), Pete Visclosky (Ind.) and freshman Filemon Vela (Texas).

Five of these Democrats hail from districts that voted for GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney in 2012, and they are perennial GOP targets: Barrow, Matheson, McIntyre, Peterson and Rahall. Obama narrowly carried Enyart’s district.

[…]

The Hill contacted all 20 offices this week as the Supreme Court considered two gay marriage cases and several Democratic senators made headlines by announcing their support for gay marriage.

Matheson, Rahall, and Gallego’s offices said they continue to oppose legalizing gay marriage.

Green said the choice should be left to the individual states but didn’t address DOMA, which he’d voted to uphold, or say whether he personally supported gay marriage.

It should be noted that Romney carried Rep. Gallego’s district, which makes his stance unsurprising, but still disappointing. I discussed the issue with Rep. Green when I interviewed him last year; he said he was thinking about it but “wasn’t there yet”. As for Rep. Cuellar, well, this is another example of why so many of us are regularly frustrated by him. There’s no political reason for him to maintain this stance. I hope someone follows up with Rep. Vela on this – his lightly-used official Facebook page is here if you’re interested – because you don’t get to not have an answer. Favoring marriage equality is now the almost unanimous position among Democratic Senators, some of whom represent pretty red states. My sincere advice to Reps. Gallego, Green, Cuellar, and Vela is not to be the last Democrat to get right on this. History only waits so long. Link via Texpatriate.

At the Battleground Texas kickoff meeting

I attended the Battleground Texas kickoff meeting for Houston on Saturday. Houston was one of the last stops on their statewide introduction tour. I estimated about 300 people in attendance; BGTX gives it as 350, which is probably the more accurate number since they have the sign-in sheets. Numerous elected officials were also in attendance, including most prominently Reps. Sheila Jackson Lee and Gene Green, Sen. Sylvia Garcia, and Rep. Gene Wu. I took the picture embedded in this post from the back of the room; I couldn’t quite fit the whole crowd in, but you get the idea.

If one of their goals was to get people excited about their mission, they succeeded in spades – you could feel the energy in the room. Battleground Texas has done an excellent job spreading the word about themselves, aided in part by a national media that’s fascinated by the idea of former Obama campaign people coming to Texas (“of all places”, they don’t quite say but which you can detect anyway) to work the same magic here as they did in Ohio and Florida. Last week there were stories in the Wall Street Journal and the Economist; BGTX Executive Director Jenn Brown, who led the meeting, said that a reporter from Bloomberg News was also in the state. That doesn’t necessarily mean that local media will follow – I see nothing in the Chronicle, and a search of Google news says that only KTRK, which also had a preview/analysis story by Dr. Richard Murray, provided any reports. Well, we did identify scarcity of media coverage as an obstacle in the breakout session I was in.

The BGTX message is simple: The best way to get someone to vote is for a neighbor or someone they know to talk to them about voting and ask them to vote. Connect what’s important to them to the campaign issues and what the candidates stand for, and help them see that their vote really does matter. Easier said than done, of course, and there’s a lot of work that needs to be done before that in registering voters and identifying those who will likely by receptive to your message, but that’s what it comes down to, and it’s what was done with so much success elsewhere. We know the potential for this exists in Texas – one of the things that BGTX people like Jeremy Bird have been saying all along is that one of the reasons why they came here to do this work is that there had been so much done in Texas and by Texans in 2012 to help with efforts in other states, and so much desire on the part of these people to be able to do that here. Jenn Brown gave the statistic that 400,000 phone calls had been made in Texas to Florida during the 2012 campaign. The people power is here, it just needs to be tapped.

But again, it’s the personal touch that matters. We went to a party at the home of a couple we’ve been friends with for several years last night. I was telling one of the hosts about the BGTX meeting at the party. He had actually traveled to Ohio (where he’s from) for the week leading up to Election Day last year, working with the Obama campaign on GOTV efforts. But he hadn’t heard about Battleground Texas. I promised to email him information about it. I took that as a reminder of the importance of telling people about BGTX as the first step. Not everyone gets the same information you do, so don’t assume everyone has heard about the same things as you. Start spreading the news now, because it most definitely isn’t too early.

The federal option for gambling expansion in Texas

There is a way to expand gambling in Texas without going through the Legislature.

For decades the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe fought hard to make the federal government acknowledge that it illegally developed more than 5 million acres of the tribe’s aboriginal land.

The East Texas tribe eventually won when a court said Congress owed the tribe $270 million in compensation.

But now in an extraordinary move, the tribe’s leaders say they will forgo the gigantic sum of money and forget the past if allowed to open a casino to secure their future.

U.S. Rep. Steve Stockman, R-Friendswood, and Rep. Gene Green, D-Houston, introduced legislation this month to amend the tribe’s federal recognition to include the gaming rights allowed hundreds of other Native American governments, but under one important condition: Alabama-Coushatta drops claim to the $270 million in damages a federal court recommended U.S. Congress pay in 2002 and another land-based lawsuit filed last year.

“Nobody pounded us and said, ‘This is what you’re going to do,’ ” said Andy Taylor, an attorney for the tribe. “The tribe is saying, ‘We’re this serious.’ We are willing to forget 200 years of mistreatment. All we want is economic independence.”

At times pausing to fight back tears, members of the Alabama-Coushatta Tribal Council said securing an economic mechanism to move the tribe away from dependency on quick-to-change and slow-to-grow federal appropriations cinched the difficult decision to draft what they see as a generous compromise, catch-all bill.

“With the sequestration and the situation of the federal government, we understand they don’t have $270.6 million to give to an individual tribe,” said Kyle Williams, tribal council chairman. “If we have to go after each individual issue, it would never happen and we would still be pursuing these issues 20 years from now.”

The tribe opened a casino in 2001, but a court order shut it down the next year. This bill could remove the obstacle that led to the closing of that casino. The tribe would still be limited as to what kind of games they could offer, pending action from the Legislature, but they would be able to have a casino, which would undoubtedly help them make a lot of money. The one thing that I’m curious about that wasn’t addressed in the story was what the other gambling interests in Texas think about this. I suppose if the bill in question begins to gain traction, we’ll find out.

On Latinos not winning Latino Congressional districts

I have a problem with this analysis by Nathan Gonzales, at least as it pertains to the three Texas districts included.

Rep. Lloyd Doggett

Even though a record number of Latinos are serving in the 113th Congress, Hispanic candidates are significantly underperforming in heavily Hispanic districts, particularly compared to other minority groups.

Nationwide, just 41 percent of congressional districts (24 of 58) with a Hispanic voting age population (VAP) of at least 30 percent are represented by a Hispanic member of Congress. In comparison, 72 percent of districts (32 of 44) with a black VAP of at least 30 percent are represented by a black member.

Why can’t Latinos get elected to Latino congressional districts?

[…]

In Texas’ 33rd, party leaders supported African-American state Rep. Marc Veasey over former state Rep. Domingo Garcia in a Dallas-area district that is 61 Hispanic and just 17 percent black. It helped that black voters outnumbered Latino voters in the primary, runoff, and general elections, according to analysis by the Lone Star Project. In Texas’ 34th, party leaders supported longtime Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D), even though his newly-drawn district is 59 percent Hispanic.

Another challenge is turnout. As the race in Texas 33 showed, the Hispanic percentage of a district’s population can overstate the strength of the Latino electorate, because Latinos don’t vote in the same numbers as other minority groups. In some cases, savvy Latino candidates don’t even run because they know the opportunity isn’t as good as it looks on paper.

[…]

But even when Hispanics dominate a district, sometimes it isn’t enough to secure a Latino victory. Nine districts with over 50 percent Latino VAP are represented by non-Latinos. Just two districts with a black VAP of at least 50 percent are represented by non-black Members.

For example, Texas’ 16th District is now represented by Beto O’Rourke after he defeated longtime Rep. Silvestre Reyes in the Democratic primary last year, even though the seat is 78 Hispanic.

Until Latino voters get more organized and start voting with more frequency, simply citing the population figures of a district can lead to misleading analysis.

Yes it can, and that leads to a second problem I have with this article, but first things first. The problem that I said I have with this is that nowhere does Gonzales take the individual candidates into account when discussing the outcomes in Texas. I’ve discussed two of these races before, so I’m going to quote myself. Here’s what I said about Rep. Doggett’s victory, which by the way was in CD35, not CD34.

The main reason for [Sylvia] Romo’s defeat is that she was up against a very strong opponent. It wasn’t just that Rep. Doggett had name ID and a ton of money, it was also that he had a long record of doing things that Democratic voters tend to like. Though he had to move to run in CD35, he was generally perceived – or at least generally portrayed – as the incumbent, and the first rule of beating an incumbent is that there has to be a good reason to fire that incumbent. Doggett’s voting record has no obvious black marks on it – none that Romo articulated, anyway – and there were no issues of personal behavior to exploit. Having interviewed Romo, I agree that she’s a perfectly well qualified candidate and I think she’d have made a perfectly fine member of Congress, but I don’t think she ever adequately answered the question why voters should choose to replace a perfectly fine sitting Congressperson with seniority, a good record, and a history of making Republicans mad enough to try twice to kill him off via redistricting.

Doggett faced the same challenge in 2004 when Republicans drew him into a district that contained large swaths of South Texas. As was the case last year, he faced off against an established Latina elected official from the new district turf, and he won easily. You’re not going to beat Lloyd Doggett without a good reason to beat Lloyd Doggett.

And here is what I said about O’Rourke versus Reyes in CD16:

I’m pretty sure none of the people involved in redistricting, including the litigants, foresaw [the possibility of Reyes losing to O’Rourke] though at least one blogger did. But Rep. Reyes didn’t lose because the new map made CD16 more hostile to Latinos and more amenable to Anglos. Rep. Reyes had some baggage, O’Rourke ran a strong campaign, and he had some help from a third party. These things happen. Perhaps from here O’Rourke does a good job and becomes an entrenched incumbent, or he sees his star rise and takes a crack at statewide office in a few years, or he himself gets challenged by an ambitious pol in 2014, presumably a Latino, and loses. Point being, Latino voters made the choice here, and they will continue to be able to do so.

I think Rep. Reyes’ baggage was a big factor here, but you have to give credit to Rep. O’Rourke for running a strong race and giving the voters a reason to fire the incumbent and install him instead. I won’t be surprised if Rep. O’Rourke is challenged by a Latino in the 2014 primary, just as Rep. Gene Green was challenged in 1994 and 1996 in the heavily Latino CD29 after winning it in 1992. CD16 is still a district drawn for a Latino, after all. If Rep. O’Rourke does a good job he might be able to have a career like Rep. Green, who hasn’t faced a primary challenge since 1996. If not, he’ll be one and done if a better Latino candidate comes around to run against him.

As for CD33, it’s a similar story to CD16. Rep. Marc Veasey was a compelling candidate whose time in the Texas Legislature was marked by strong advocacy for progressive causes. Former State Rep. Domingo Garcia had a decent record in the Lege when he was there, but it had been awhile and he had his share of baggage as well. He had a reputation for divisiveness and was far from universally beloved among Latino politicos – just look at the large number of Latino State Reps that endorsed Veasey. If African-American turnout in the primary runoff was higher than Latino turnout despite the numerical advantage for Latinos, that didn’t happen by magic.

The other problem I had with Gonzales’ article comes from this paragraph:

Five out of six congressional districts that have both Hispanic and black populations of at least 30 percent each are represented by black Members, including Florida’s 24th and Texas’ 9th, 18th, and 30th districts.

The fallacy of that statement, which Gonzales himself alludes to in his concluding statement, which I quoted above, can be summed up by this document. Here are the Citizen Voting Age Populations (CVAPs) for the three Texas districts, estimated from the 2007-2011 American Community Survey:

CD09 – 50.6% African-American, 19.5% white, 19.2% Hispanic
CD18 – 49.2% African-American, 25.0% white, 20.7% Hispanic
CD30 – 53.5% African-American, 25.5% white, 18.1% Hispanic

You tell me what kind of person you’d expect to win in these districts. Total population is far less relevant than CVAP is. Gonzales knows this, and he should have known better. Via NewsTaco.

Precinct analysis: A closer look at the Latino districts

Here’s a more in-depth look at the Latino districts in Harris County. I’m particularly interested in the question of how President Obama did in comparison to the other Dems on the ballot, since as we know he lagged behind them in 2008, but we’ll see what else the data tells us.

CD29 Votes Pct ======================== Green 85,920 73.40 Garcia 81,353 73.29 Ryan 76,188 69.01 Trautman 75,904 68.97 Obama 75,464 66.60 Bennett 74,691 68.48 Petty 74,275 69.19 Hampton 73,917 67.97 Oliver 72,971 66.19 Henry 72,581 67.46 Sadler 71,382 64.73 08Obama 70,286 62.20 08Noriega 75,881 68.30 08Houston 73,493 67.70 SD06 Votes Pct ======================== Garcia 95,602 73.28 Gallegos 93,136 70.94 Ryan 90,047 69.29 Trautman 89,853 69.31 Obama 89,584 67.14 Bennett 88,289 68.78 Petty 87,920 69.55 Hampton 87,456 68.37 Oliver 86,390 66.56 Henry 85,891 67.84 Sadler 84,671 65.26 08Obama 85,445 63.50 08Noriega 91,173 68.80 08Houston 88,565 68.30 HD140 Votes Pct ======================== Garcia 17,674 76.57 Walle 18,297 75.67 Ryan 16,719 70.92 Trautman 16,653 72.89 Obama 16,548 70.74 Bennett 16,481 72.57 Petty 16,341 73.07 Hampton 16,225 71.63 Oliver 16,184 70.75 Henry 16,131 71.96 Sadler 15,668 68.64 08Obama 15,399 66.20 08Noriega 16,209 71.00 08Houston 15,967 71.00 HD143 Votes Pct ======================== Garcia 22,258 74.89 Luna 21,844 72.94 Ryan 20,902 70.92 Trautman 20,731 70.57 Obama 20,597 67.82 Bennett 20,580 70.51 Petty 20,377 70.97 Hampton 20,335 69.97 Oliver 20,077 68.19 Henry 19,971 69.18 Sadler 19,597 66.40 08Obama 20,070 64.10 08Noriega 21,525 70.10 08Houston 21,130 70.20 HD144 Votes Pct ======================== Garcia 13,555 57.96 Ryan 12,668 53.96 Trautman 12,663 54.18 Perez 12,425 53.35 Bennett 12,382 53.63 Petty 12,328 54.27 Obama 12,281 51.47 Hampton 12,226 53.24 Oliver 11,966 51.07 Henry 11,919 52.49 Sadler 11,761 50.50 08Obama 11,983 48.00 08Noriega 13,197 53.60 08Houston 13,129 54.50 HD145 Votes Pct ======================== Alvarado 20,829 68.86 Garcia 19,180 67.67 Ryan 17,860 63.04 Trautman 17,886 63.30 Petty 17,254 63.03 Bennett 17,252 61.90 Hampton 17,154 61.85 Obama 17,890 61.13 Henry 16,624 60.63 Oliver 16,778 59.22 Sadler 16,655 58.79 08Obama 16,749 57.10 08Noriega 18,427 63.70 08Houston 17,315 61.70 HD148 Votes Pct ======================== Farrar 25,921 64.56 Garcia 23,776 63.87 Ryan 22,413 59.91 Trautman 22,199 59.77 Petty 21,013 58.89 Hampton 21,219 58.49 Obama 22,393 57.92 Bennett 21,061 57.80 Sadler 21,210 56.51 Henry 19,888 55.55 Oliver 19,848 53.34 08Obama 22,338 57.50 08Noriega 22,949 60.10 08Houston 21,887 59.20

My thoughts:

– First, a point of clarification: Reps. Armando Walle and Carol Alvarado were unopposed, while Rep. Jessica Farrar had only a Green Party opponent. In those cases, I used their percentage of the total vote. Also the 2008 vote percentages on the Texas Legislative Council site are only given to one decimal place, so I added the extra zero at the end to make everything line up.

– In 2008, there was a noticeable difference between the performance of Barack Obama and the rest of the Democratic ticket in Latino districts. Obama underperformed the Democratic average by several points, as you can see from the above totals. This year, in addition to the overall improvement that I’ve noted before, President Obama’s performance is more or less in line with his overall standing at the countywide level. Generally speaking, those who did better than he did overall also did better in these districts. Obama’s vote percentage is still a notch lower in general, but this is mostly a function of undervoting or third-party voting downballot. What all this suggests to me is that whatever issues Obama had with Latino voters in 2008, he did not have them in 2012. This is consistent with everything else we’d seen and been told up till now, but it’s still nice to have hard numbers to back it up.

– Paul Sadler’s issues, on the other hand, come into sharper relief here. We know that Ted Cruz got some crossover votes in Latino areas, though the total number of such votes was fairly small. I continue to believe that this has as much to do with Sadler’s lack of resources as anything, but if you want an even more in-depth look at the question, go read Greg.

It’s still Gene Green’s world. That’s all that needs to be said about that.

– I have to think that Mike Anderson left some votes on the table here. Some targeted mailers into these areas that highlighted some of Lloyd Oliver’s, ah, eccentricities, would likely have paid dividends. Didn’t matter in the end, but if it had you’d have to look at this as a missed opportunity.

All the interviews for 2012

As we begin early voting for the November election, here are all the interviews I conducted for candidates who are on the ballot as well as for the referenda. These include interviews that were done for the primary as well as the ones done after the primary. I hope you found them useful.

Senate: Paul SadlerWebMP3

CD02: Jim DoughertyWebMP3

CD07: James CargasWebMP3

CD10 – Tawana CadienWebMP3

CD14: Nick LampsonWebMP3

CD20: Joaquin CastroWebMP3

CD21: Candace DuvalWebMP3

CD23: Pete GallegoWebMP3

CD27: Rose Meza HarrisonWebMP3

CD29: Rep. Gene GreenWebMP3

CD33: Marc VeaseyWebMP3

CD36: Max MartinWebMP3

SBOE6: Traci JensenWebMP3

SD10: Sen. Wendy DavisWebMP3

SD25: John CourageWebMP3

HD23: Rep. Craig EilandWebMP3

HD26: Vy NguyenWebMP3

HD127: Cody PogueWebMP3

HD131: Rep. Alma AllenWebMP3

HD134: Ann JohnsonWebMP3

HD137: Gene WuWebMP3

HD144: Mary Ann PerezWebMP3

HD146: Rep. Borris MilesWebMP3

HD147: Rep. Garnet ColemanWebMP3

HD150: Brad NealWebMP3

Harris County Sheriff: Sheriff Adrian GarciaWebMP3

Harris County District Attorney: Mike AndersonWebMP3

Harris County Attorney: Vince RyanWebMP3

Harris County Tax Assessor: Ann Harris BennettWebMP3

HCDE Position 3, At Large: Diane TrautmanWebMP3

HCDE Position 6, Precinct 1: Erica LeeWebMP3

Harris County Commissioner, Precinct 4: Sean HammerleWebMP3

Constable, Precinct 1: Alan RosenWebMP3

HISD Bond Referendum: Interview with Terry GrierMP3

City of Houston Bond and Charter Referenda: Interview with Mayor Annise ParkerMP3

HCC Bond Referendum: Interview with Richard SchechterMP3

Metro Referendum: Interviews with David Crossley, Gilbert Garcia and Christof Spieler, Sue Lovell, and County Commissioner Steve Radack