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Gordon Quan

Hassan drops out of County Judge race

I’m okay with this.

Ahmad Hassan

Ahmad Hassan

Democrat Ahmad Hassan has ended his campaign for Harris County judge, saying incumbent Republican Ed Emmett should be given another four-year term to finish projects vital to the community.

Hassan, owner of the Katy-based Alexandria Realty and Mortgage, said he decided to withdraw after a recent meeting with Emmett, the county’s top administrator since 2007.

“It was not an easy decision,” Hassan said. “I am a leader. I’ve never withdrawn from anything.”

[…]

With Hassan’s withdrawal, Emmett will run unopposed in November.

Emmett said he met with Hassan earlier this week.

“I do have things I’m trying to accomplish – the mental health pilot program at the jail, regional governance, the Astrodome,” Emmett said. “I thanked him. I thought it was an honorable thing to do. He is a successful person, and he truly wants to give back. I can appreciate that.”

I agree that Ahmad Hassan is a well-meaning person who wants to do good. Having interviewed him in 2010, however, he is not qualified for the office of County Judge. He had no grasp of the issues and no idea what he would do if he were elected. This would have been his third run for County Judge – he lost in the Democratic primary in 2008 to David Mincberg and in 2010 to Gordon Quan – and he has also run for Congress in 2006 as a Republican, and for Commissioners Court in 2012, again losing in the Democratic primary. I appreciate how difficult it is to run for office and what a huge burden it can be on a candidate and his or her family. I believe it’s best for all candidates to have to earn the job they seek by defeating one or more qualified opponents, and as a Democrat I hate seeing Republicans go unchallenged. But Ahmad Hassan was nothing more than a name on a ballot. He’d raised no money this year, which was typical for him, he had no campaign website or Facebook page that I could find, and the only campaign activity I can recall him engaging in was some emails plus reaching out to me for an interview in 2010. There are candidates like him all over the ballot, but he actually had a non-zero chance of winning, given the partisan splits in Harris County. Remember when Dallas accidentally elected a candidate like that to be their County Judge in 2006? However unlikely that would have been here, I didn’t want it to happen. Someone has to be a counterweight to the rest of Commissioners Court, and whether you like him or planned to vote for him or not, Judge Emmett does that. Ahmad Hassan would not have been able to do that.

Ideally, there would have been a much stronger candidate on the ballot to oppose Emmett, someone like Mincberg or Quan, but it’s not hard to understand why no one of that caliber stepped in. Even in a good Democratic year, you’d be an underdog against Emmett, who has a sizable campaign treasury and demonstrated crossover appeal. He’s also made it clear that this will be his final term, so why risk going down in flames when you can take a shot an an open seat in 2018? Finally, not to put too fine a point on it, but Emmett’s been a pretty good County Judge, and unlike a few other Republicans I could name he’s put the job ahead of partisan interests – he supports Medicaid expansion, he has been a big advocate for mental health treatment over incarceration, and so on. I have plenty of policy disagreements with him and would rather have someone closer to my own perspective in that office, but we could do an awful lot worse than Ed Emmett.

It should be noted that Emmett is not actually unopposed, despite what the story says. There is a Green Party candidate on the ballot – David Collins, who was the GP candidate for US Senate in 2012 – so if you really can’t stand the idea of voting for Ed Emmett, you do still have a choice. PDiddie and Texpatriate have more.

Susan Criss to file in HD23

Some excellent news from the inbox, via Carl Whitmarsh:

Susan Criss

For fifteen years I was honored to wear a black robe for the people of Galveston County. Four times I raised my hand and swore, so help me God, to faithfully execute the duties of the office of the 212th District Court of Galveston County, Texas and to the best of my ability protect, preserve and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States and of Texas.

While I dearly love this job it is time for me to serve my community in a different capacity. In order to do that I am required by law to resign from this position before December 9, 2013. I sent a letter to Governor Perry resigning from this bench effective at 5 pm December 6, 2013. I ask that he appoint someone to fill this term.

On Sunday December 8, 2013 at 2:00 p.m. I will file for the office of State Representative of District 23 at the Texas Democratic Party office in Austin.

For a decade and a half I administered justice to the best of my ability. I tried to be fair to everyone who appeared before my bench. When I was a young prosecutor Judge Raymond Magee told me that the man who drives to the courthouse in a pickup truck deserves the same justice as the man who drove there in a Cadillac. I never forgot his words and aspired to live up to them every day.

I was addressed as “Your Honor”. That was an appropriate term but not because I was special. It truly was my greatest honor to be able to serve the people of Galveston County in our justice system. I loved this job, the people I worked with, the lawyers who appeared before me and the people I served.

One sign on the door of my courtroom reads “This court belongs to the people.” The other has a quote by Sam Houston, “Do right and risk the consequences.” Both signs reflect my beliefs about justice and about government service.

The pink granite building in Austin also belongs to the people, the ones who drive Cadillacs, the ones who drive pickup trucks and the ones who cannot drive at all.

The people of District 23 deserve strong effective representation in the Texas House. I am excited about working hard to ensure that District 23’s voices are heard in Austin

She also posted that on her Facebook wall, along with that badass picture embedded above. I had wondered if anyone had filed in HD23, and I’m delighted to see a positive answer to that. Retaining this seat that’s being vacated by Rep. Craig Eiland will not be easy, but Judge Criss is as strong a candidate as one could want to make the effort. The Chron has picked up the story, and PDiddie was on it before that.

In other filing news, we have a couple more contested primaries in Harris County. An Azuwuike Okorafor, who may be this attorney, has filed to challenge Rep. Alma Allen in HD131. Allen easily turned back a campaign by Council Member Wanda Adams in 2012, so barring anything unexpected I don’t think this time will be any different. Also, a Lily Leal, who may be this person, filed to run for HCDE Trustee At Large Position 7, which is the seat formerly held by Jim Henley for which 2012 SBOE candidate Traci Jensen filed earlier in the period.

Democrats now also have a candidate for County Judge. Unfortunately, that candidate is Ahmad Hassan, the former Republican (he ran against Sheila Jackson Lee in 2006) who ran for County Judge in 2008 and 2010, losing in each primary to David Mincberg and Gordon Quan, respectively. He’s a perfectly nice person but has no real qualifications for this job or understanding of what it is – give a listen to the interview I did with him in 2010 to see what I mean. I don’t think there’s much appetite among Dems to run against incumbent County Judge Ed Emmett, and I can’t blame them – Emmett is generally well-liked, very well-funded, and was easily the top Republican votegetter both times he was on the ballot. I think 2014 is more likely to be a good year in Harris County than not, and while I expect Ed Emmett to run ahead of the GOP pack, it’s certainly possible he could lose. If he lost to a Mincberg or a Quan that would be one thing. Losing to Hassan would not be a good thing, and would invite comparisons to Jim Foster. This is one primary race that I would very much prefer to be a contested race.

Elsewhere, Trail Blazers confirms that LaRouchie wacko Kesha Rogers has indeed filed to run for the Senate. I will reiterate what I said yesterday that it’s everyone’s job to make sure she doesn’t make it to a runoff, let alone wins the nomination. Ignorance cannot be an excuse, y’all. BOR reports that the Democrats “will indeed be fielding several statewide judicial candidates, who are in the process of gathering the signatures required to run”. I have heard that El Paso District Court Judge Bill Moody was running again, and I had heard there were at least some other Supreme Court candidates out there, but that’s all I know. No clue whether we’ll have any CCA candidates. Finally, Tom Pauken has ended his quest for the GOP gubernatorial nomination on the very reasonable grounds that he had no chance of winning. I can’t claim to have been a fan, but it was better to have more critics of Greg Abbott out there, so to that extent I’m sorry to see him go. Texpatriate has more.

County Judge race overview

Here’s the Chron overview of the race for Harris County Judge.

Incumbent Ed Emmett, a Republican, talks of double-tracking bridges for freight, attracting foreign investment to build toll roads, and planning commuter rail in such a way that it can be considered a precursor to high-speed rail and can qualify for federal funding.

“Our region’s future is tied directly to us becoming the gateway to North America,” Emmett said. As more international trade comes in ever-bigger ships from places such as India, Brazil and Africa, Emmett said, shippers will want to make one stop on this continent, and if Harris County wants to be that stop, it will need to invest in transportation and infrastructure.

Part of that investment may come at the toll plaza.

“I know people don’t like paying tolls, but they’d rather pay tolls and have roads to drive on than not have roads to drive on at all,” Emmett said.

Gordon Quan, a Democrat, said that as county judge he would promote greater foreign investment in Houston and Harris County through a visa program run by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. The program awards green cards, which confer lawful permanent residency, to immigrants who invest $1 million in a business that creates jobs for at least 10 U.S. workers. He is working on it in private practice but said he could continue working as the county judge to make the entire county a zone where indirect as well as direct jobs created would count, thereby making it a more attractive location for investors.

“It’s not green cards for sale. It’s creating jobs in America for American workers,” Quan said. “It’s economic input, the infusion of capital to create more jobs here.” The businesses and workers will pay property taxes that will help fund county government services, he said.

For more information, I refer you to my interviews with Gordon Quan and with Judge Emmett.

Interview with Gordon Quan

Gordon Quan

We begin the wrapup of county candidates with Gordon Quan, who is running for County Judge. I interviewed him for the primary as well. As I said then, Quan has lived in Harris County since his family came here from China in 1951, when he was 3. He is an immigration attorney with the firm Foster & Quan, served as Mayor Pro Tem while on Council, has been the Chair of the Asian Chamber of Commerce, and has a master’s in education in addition to his law degree. On a personal note, my cousin Kate worked for Quan while he was on Council. Here’s the interview:

Download the MP3 file

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

I-Day Houston

From the Inbox, from the League of Women Voters:

The League of Women Voters of the Houston Area and the American Society of Civil Engineers are set to host two debates, a candidate meet-and-greet, and infrastructure townhall meetings during the Infrastructure Day Houston (I-Day) event at the George R. Brown Convention Center on Sat., Sept. 18, 2010. The first of two debates will begin at 6:00pm. Candidate meet-and-greet opportunities and infrastructure townhall meetings will begin as early as at 3:00 pm. The event is free and open to the public.

The League is hosting and facilitating two debates for the offices of the Harris County Judge and Harris County Tax Assessor-Collector. Elisabeth MacNamara, National President of the League of Women Voters of the United States, is introducing the candidates. Laurie Johnson, host of NPR’s All Things Considered, is moderating the debates. The Tax Assessor-Collector debate with Don Sumners and Diane Trautman is from 6:00 to 7:00 pm. The County Judge Debate with Ed Emmett and Gordon Quan is from 7:00 to 8:00 p.m.

Prior to the debates, the candidate meet-and-greet and the infrastructure-related townhall meetings will run from 3:00 to 5:30 pm. Voters will be able to meet over 150 candidates running for public office in Harris County for the election being held on November 2, 2010. The townhall meetings will focus on topics including: Transportation, Energy, Ports and Airports, and Storm and Waste Water. Experts, including Dr. John Lienhard, host of the Engines of Our Ingenuity program on National Public Radio, will lead the discussions and information sessions.

Free t-shirts will be given at the door for the first 100 attendees. For more information on the event, visit our website www.lwvhouston.org.

The Facebook invitation for this event is here. I had received a press release about this last month but didn’t post about it at the time because the event was so far off. It’s not so far off any more. Some of you will note that Saturday is also Yom Kippur. It’s unfortunate that this event, which may include the only debates of this kind, falls on a day when a significant number of people cannot attend, including State Reps. Ellen Cohen and Scott Hochberg. But this is when it is, so if you can make it I hope you will do so.

Fundraising: Harris County

The top story for the Harris County money race is that County Judge Ed Emmett has a big lead in financial resources over challenger Gordon Quan.

Gordon Quan said he knew from the start that challenging County Judge Ed Emmett would be a David and Goliath race. Their bank accounts now confirm this: Quan has $63,000 to sling against Emmett’s million-dollar might.

[…]

“The onus is on Gordon to close that gap, and quickly, if he’s going to have a shot,” said political consultant Keir Murray, who is not affiliated with either campaign.

Nonetheless, Murray and others said, the race is not over before it really has started. Quan still has time to raise money.

County races also are influenced by top-of-the-ticket contests, such as this year’s gubernatorial election between Republican incumbent Gov. Rick Perry and Democrat Bill White. Emmett and Quan’s names are deep into a ballot that in some places will be dozens of pages long.

“When you have a ballot with over 100 names on it, I don’t know that people are going to be looking for just my name or his name,” Quan said.

The surgery took him away from the campaign for six weeks, Quan said, but he now is in the midst of a schedule of speaking at ethnic gatherings, Democratic club meetings and senior citizens events.

You can see Quan’s report here and Emmett’s very large report here. Prevailing conditions, straight ticket voting, and GOTV efforts will likely have more of an effect on the county races than campaign finances will, but as we saw in 2008 that only goes so far. Emmett has incumbency, greater name recognition, and modulo what may happen this season, he still wears a halo from his performance during Hurricane Ike. He’s got to like the position he’s in right now.

Nobody else has anywhere near Emmett’s resources, which is not surprising given that with the possible exception of Tax Assessor, none of these offices are high profile enough to draw a lot of interest from the contributing classes. Here’s what I found poking through the county’s campaign finance reports page.

Ann Harris Bennett Contributions - 34,010.00 Expenditures - 7,130.36 Loans - 0.00 Cash on hand - 26,728.24 Stan Stanart Contributions - 2,425.00 Expenditures - 2,314.81 Loans - 20,000.00 Cash on hand - 13,415.56

Bennett got $10,000 from Annie’s List, $3,000 from the ROADWomen PAC, $1,500 from EMILY’s List, and a decent assortment of other donations besides. About half of Stanart’s expenditures were listed on the Schedule G form, which is for expenditures made from personal funds. He likes the Spaghetti Warehouse – I counted a dozen entries for what I presume was lunch for himself there, ten on the Schedule Fs and two on the Gs. His loan must have been made in a previous reporting period, as it was not documented in this report.

Diane Trautman Contributions - 60,566.00 Expenditures - 18,323.00 Loans - 0.00 Cash on hand - 74,766.04 Don Sumners Contributions - 1,500.00 Expenditures - 2,501.76 Loans - 0.00 Cash on hand - 1,500.00

Sumners had four contributors – former Coucil Member Bruce Tatro, both Kubosh brothers, and a woman named Mary Williams. Trautman had nearly 50 pages’ worth of contributors, including the same donations as Bennett from Annie’s List, EMILY’s List, and the ROADWomen. She also got $1000 from her peeps in the Kingwood Area Democrats. I am deeply gratified to see her do so well in comparison to Sumners.

Loren Jackson Contributions - 63,030.16 Expenditures - 42,617.70 Loans - 0.00 Cash on hand - 49,396.30 Chris Daniel Contributions - 32,000.00 Expenditures - 45,989.86 Loans - 20,000.00 Cash on hand - 2,148.56

The money race between Loren Jackson and Chris Daniel may appear competitive, but if you go through Daniel’s report, you’ll see he had two enormous contributions from family members (his mom, and I believe his sister), totaling $29,100. As it happens, one of his expenditures is for that exact amount, with the explanation that it’s the payment of loans from earlier in the cycle. In other words, taking out that bit of churn, Daniel raised less than $3,000 and spent about $17,000 on actual campaign-related things, $5,000 of which was money going into Allen Blakemore’s pocket. Jackson had a $4,500 contribution from the Texas Democratic Party plus a few $2,500 donations.

Billy Briscoe Contributions - 16,445.76 Expenditures - 13,671.74 Loans - 2,500.00 Cash on hand - 3,024.02 Orlando Sanchez Contributions - 1,850.00 Expenditures - 1,054.53 Loans - 5,175.00 Cash on hand - 933.76

I had no idea what to expect from Briscoe, who’s seeking the least useful office in Harris County. His total contributions looks good, except that $14,195.76 of it is listed as coming from “Campaign Account of Billy Briscoe”. I guess that’s a transfer from a previous campaign, but I don’t know for sure. As for Orlando, clearly he’s as diligent about fundraising as he is at his job. Having said that, his expenditures report had the best single line item I’ve seen. On page six, the third entry down is $16.00 for a subscription to “Glamour” magazine. I guess he has to do something to while away those lonely hours. All I know is I couldn’t make this stuff up.

UPDATE: Briscoe’s $14,195.76 came from his campaign for State Rep. Thanks to PDiddie in the comments for reminding me about that.

UPDATE: Orlando speaks to the Press about his “Glamour” subscription. Why he didn’t just buy the one issue he says he needed from a newsstand remains a mystery, but at least we now know why he subscribed.

Get well soon, Gordon!

I was not aware of this.

Gordon Quan, the Democratic candidate for county judge, had multiple-bypass heart surgery in late May and said today that he expects to be back to campaigning and working after Independence Day.

“My cardiologist says I’m doing great. I hope to be back in the swing of things in a couple of weeks,” said Quan, 62. He said he has known about his heart disease for some time, but decided to have the surgery now to recover in advance of the fall campaign season.

My very best wishes for a full and speedy recovery. Get well soon, Gordon!

Election results: Harris County

It was a bad day to be the establishment candidate for Harris County Clerk, let me tell you. Ann Harris Bennett crushed Sue Schechter for the Democratic nomination, winning with 63% of the vote. On the Republican side, wingnut Stan Stanart, who lost a 2008 race for the HCDE Board of Trustees after taking out a mainstream incumbent in that primary, won over 60% of the vote against Beverly Kaufmann’s hand-picked successor, Kevin Mauzy. Look for some scrambling to occur in both parties. I confess, I did not get to know Ms. Bennett, and did not see her victory coming. My bad on that one.

Meanwhile, Harris County Tax Assessor Leo Vasquez suffered the same fate as Victor Carrillo.

Don Sumners won the Republican nomination for county tax assessor-collector Tuesday, ousting incumbent Leo Vasquez on his promises to continue the anti-tax crusade that characterized his tenure as county treasurer in the 1990s.

Sumners campaigned on a slogan of “I was Tea Party before Tea Party was cool.”

As treasurer, he publicly criticized Commissioners Court for increasing the tax rate and was an outspoken opponent of a bond measure that approved hotel and car rental taxes to fund football, basketball and baseball stadiums.

Summers will face Diane Trautman. Let’s just say that these are two races I’d really like for the Democrats to win. Elsewhere, Gordon Quan won a convincing victory in the Democratic primary for County Judge, and Republican Chris Daniel won the nomination for District Clerk for the right to face extremely well-qualified Democratic incumbent Loren Jackson.

I’ll try to sort out the judicial races later. The other big result in Harris County was Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee winning easily in her primary.

As of late Tuesday, the veteran lawmaker had about 68 percent of the vote, fending off a challenge by [City Council Member Jarvis] Johnson that featured claims that Jackson Lee’s showboating style had impaired her ability to deliver for her hard-pressed inner city district.

Jackson Lee also defeated a political newcomer, Houston attorney Sean Roberts. Votes counted as of 10:30 p.m, showed she likely would face GOP challenger John Faulk, an accountant, in the predominantly Democratic district.

“The job is not finished. We promise you a fight in Washington to bring good health care to this district and to preserve NASA and the jobs that are ours,” Jackson Lee told supporters Tuesday night.

Faulk does appear to be the GOP winner. For purposes of comparison, there were 9,105 total votes cast in the GOP primary for CD18. Johnson collected 9,073 by himself in getting 28.33% against SJL.

In other Congressional news, we will have Roy Morales to kick around for a few more months, as the man who never met an election he didn’t like won the nomination in CD29 in a five-person field. He gets to be stomped by Rep. Gene Green in November before he decides what city race to pick for 2011.

Finally, Harris County GOP Chair Jared Woodfill is in a runoff with Ed Hubbard. That’ll be fun to watch.

Chron overview of County Judge primary

There’s been a whole lot of attention paid to the Governor’s races recently, but there are plenty of other contests of interest. The Chron gives its take on the Democratic primary for Harris County Judge.

Hassan, 57, of Katy, wants an end to what he calls good-old-boy government. He is an affable, voluble immigrant from Egypt, who pledges to answer calls and receive visitors in his office who are not monied interests. He calls himself a post-partisan candidate who can draw voters from both parties because he has run as a both a Democrat (in the 2008 primary for county judge) and a Republican (against Sheila Jackson Lee for Congress in 2006).

“It’s good to try both because I’m new to this,” Hassan said.

Quan, 61, who lives in the Memorial area, said his Asian identity will put a new face on Harris County that will make the area more attractive for international investors.

Quan is not new to this. He served three terms on the Houston City Council.

The story does a pretty good job of covering some of the issues and the candidates’ positions, about which you can hear more in my interviews with them – here’s Quan‘s and here’s Hassan‘s. I just have to ask, though: Could the Chron have possibly found worse photos of the two of them? Seriously, the picture of Quan looks like it was scanned from a yearbook, and the one of Hassan…I just have no idea. I admit, I don’t have that great a photo of Hassan, either, but it was at least one he sent to me. As for Quan, if the Chron didn’t have a decent pic from their own archives, they could have grabbed one from Facebook. I mean, jeez.

Interview with Gordon Quan

Gordon Quan

Gordon Quan

This week I have interviews with the two Democratic candidates for Harris County Judge. First up is former Houston City Council member Gordon Quan. Quan has lived in Harris County since his family came here from China in 1951, when he was 3. He is an immigration attorney with the firm Foster & Quan, served as Mayor Pro Tem while on Council, has been the Chair of the Asian Chamber of Commerce, and has a master’s in education in addition to his law degree. On a personal note, my cousin Kate worked for Quan while he was on Council. Here’s the interview:

Download the MP3 file

A full list of the interviews I have done is on the 2010 Election page. As always, your feedback is appreciated.

January City of Houston campaign finance reports

In addition to state and federal officeholders/candidates, January 15 was also the deadline for City of Houston folks to file their campaign finance reports as well. As there are no elections coming up any time soon, I will not be going into obsessive levels of detail about them, but here are some highlights:

– Annise Parker had $66,249.27 in the bank as of 12/31, after raising $448,973.52 and spending $804,587.59 in December. Gene Locke maintained $82,853.40 after raising $520,810.76 and spending $757,361.19.

– Some people who filed reports are now running for other offices. Bill White, for example. As it happens, his account showed no money and no activity. I didn’t go looking, but my recollection is that he had already transferred his funds to his Senate campaign.

– As for the others who are now seeking greener pastures: Jarvis Johnson had $18,960.51 in his account. I did not see any transfer to his Congressional campaign, but he filed for that after December 31, so if he does move some money around, we’ll have to look for it elsewhere. Similarly, Roy Morales made no transfers to his Congressional account, either, but he only had $305.02 on hand, so it’s not like it matters. Finally, former Council Member Gordon Quan transferred $6,205.79 to his campaign for Harris County Judge. He had a few other small expenditures in there, and that should basically close out his city account.

– Al Hoang still hasn’t figured out how to submit a proper campaign finance report. It’s still done cumulatively instead of from the date of the previous report. The same questionable entries are still there. The Chron had a brief story about CM Hoang’s updated finance report yesterday:

Among the problems first raised by a blogger, who also questioned Hoang’s most recent report, was a lack of information about donors who gave Hoang contributions totaling more than $100,000. In his previous reports, there were no dates, occupations or employers listed for the donors, as required by city ordinance. In the latest report, posted last week, that information is included for all but a few donors.

Hoang acknowledged that several donations incorrectly listed as expenditures will be corrected in an amended report. He said his campaign treasurer is planning to meet with a campaign finance expert to ensure his future reports are in compliance.

This is too generous to Hoang. Yes, there are now dates listed for his campaign contributions, but that information is still meaningless. Only four dates are given, with all donations being listed for one of them – 57 donations on October 1, 216 donations on October 25, 82 donations on December 5, and 38 donations on January 7. These aren’t the actual dates those contributions were made, they’re the dates the last four reports were due. In addition, his cash on hand is given as zero, of which I am dubious. Slampo, who is the blogger referenced in the story but certainly not the only one that’s been pointing out Hoang’s amateurish finance reports, found a few more flaws with this one as well. This is ridiculous. Al Hoang is an elected official now. There are no excuses for not doing a better job.

– Hoang may claim no cash on hand, but he’s alone in that distinction. Here are the cash on hand figures for all current members of city government not listed above:

Ronald Green – $17,307.49

Stephen Costello – $1,700.00, plus $15,000 outstanding loan
Sue Lovell – $77,909.30
Melissa Noriega – $30,455.32, plus $15,000 outstanding loan
C.O. Bradford – $7,818.79
Jolanda Jones – $16,015.44

Brenda Stardig – $10,446.67
Anne Clutterbuck – $119,277.23
Wanda Adams – $11,013.48
Mike Sullivan – $801.60, plus $10,000 outstanding loan
Oliver Pennington – $17,459.49
Ed Gonzalez – $8,966.67
James Rodriguez – $52,974.00

Clutterbuck and Lovell are in their final terms, barring any dispensation from the term limits review crew, while Rodriguez can run for re-election one more time. They have enough cash on hand to merit keeping an eye on for whatever future plans they may have. Everyone else, I expect, will be busy replenishing the coffers.

Quan officially files

I had lunch today at the Post Oak Grill on Milam so I could be there for Gordon Quan’s official announcement that he is running for Harris County Judge. In fact, as Martha noted, he submitted his paperwork and paid his filing fee to be on the Democratic primary ballot. (Quan will have an opponent in March, Ahmad Hassan, who lost the 2008 primary to David Mincberg.) Here’s a copy of the press release about the event, and here’s a draft copy of the speech Quan gave at the event. I want to highlight this bit, which was right at the beginning:

I want to bring new ideas to the County Government and look to address the root causes of the problems to develop solutions and not just put a bandage on the problem.

Our jail is under court supervision and is overcrowded. While voters had previously defeated a bond election for a new jail, I believe they spoke out against the manner criminal justice was administered in Harris County.

I want to work to hand-in-hand with the commissioners, Sheriff Garcia, District Attorney Lykos, the local municipalities and the courts and elected officials like Senator Ellis to set criteria for fines versus confinement for minor offenses, a centralized jail system for more rapid bonding, the development of a public defender system and a regional D.N.A. lab to avoid wrongful confinement.

On top of these issues, I want to look at methods to remove from the criminal justice system people who are homeless and suffering from mental health issues. A proactive approach of investing in affordable housing with supportive services would remove “frequent flyers” from our jails and emergency rooms where they run up hundreds of thousands of dollars in cost for tax payers.

As you might imagine, this is something I’m very glad to hear. This isn’t just a matter of justice, it’s also a matter of fiscal responsibility. We’re paying millions of dollars to lock up people who don’t need to be locked up, which was always a bad idea but is now an urgent priority given the county’s financial situation. I’m really looking forward to seeing Quan push this issue.

An unexpected treat from this event was seeing local sports legend Barry Warner act as emcee and introduce Quan. I had no idea that Warner was so active in the Asian-American community, but he is, and he’s a longtime friend of Quan’s. I shook Warner’s hand after the event, which was nearly as cool as getting my picture taken with Lisa Malosky at Rep. Ellen Cohen’s campaign kickoff event nearly four years ago.

Anyway. Quan will have a tough race against incumbent Judge Ed Emmett, who is generally well regarded and has his performance during Hurricane Ike as Exhibit A for his re-election. I don’t know what kind of fundraising chops Quan has, but he will need to pile up some dough to get his name and message out there. From what I saw of him at this event, I thought his message was a strong one, his challenge will be to convince enough people to change horses. I think he’s about as good a candidate as the Democratic Party could have hoped for this year, and the crowd at this event was certainly fired up about him. We’ll see how it goes.

Quan will be in for County Judge

We knew former City Council member Gordon Quan was strongly considering a race for Harris County Judge. It would appear that he has made up his mind, because today I received an invitation via Facebook to attend an event called “Gordon Quan Announces for Harris County County Judge!” It will be on Tuesday the 29th at noon at the Post Oak Grill on Milam, and since this was listed as an open event, you can be there as well. Far as I know, all of the countywide offices in Harris for next year are now covered. May we have as much luck with the statewide ticket.

UPDATE: Miya was on this earlier today.

Quan considering a run for County Judge

Miya has the story.

Former City Council Member Gordon Quan is THISCLOSE to throwing his hat in the ring for Harris County Judge. I heard the rumors a few days ago, but confirmed with Quan this morning.

[…]

When we spoke earlier today, I asked him what prompted him to consider challenging Ed Emmett. He replied, “Well, I’m thinking it’s now, or never.” However, Quan was quick to point out that this is not a “done deal.” He’s getting legal opinions on what relationship he can maintain with his firm. He’s also looking at the quality of campaign consultants that would be available. In addition, he’s got to convince his family members, who are often tough cookies.

Quan says he will make a decision in the next two weeks on whether or not to jump in the race. If he does, he says he will make a call to Judge Ed Emmett first, as it is the proper thing to do.

I too had been hearing these rumors for awhile. My guess is that the likelihood of Bill White running for Governor, which would presumably be a boost to Democratic turnout in Harris County, was going to push someone into this race, and Quan is at the front of the line if he wants it. If he ultimately decides against running, I do hope someone else of his quality gets in, because of this.

Businessman Ahmad Hassan, who ran in the Democratic primary election for county judge last year, has filed the paperwork appointing a campaign treasurer for another run for county judge.

Like most people, I think Ed Emmett has done a pretty good job as County Judge. But that is a partisan office, and partisan issues do come up, so as a Democrat, I’d rather have a Democratic County Judge. As a resident of Harris County, I want a competent person in that job. I’ll be happy to support a strong Democratic candidate like Gordon Quan if he decides to run. I won’t support a mediocre candidate against Emmett, however. Hassan, who previously ran as a Republican against Sheila Jackson Lee in 2006 and strikes me as a perennial candidate in the making, doesn’t measure up.

Anyway. Dems still need a candidate for County Treasurer against Orlando Sanchez. I’ve heard several names for that race, including 2006 candidate Richard Garcia, but have not heard anything new on this in a few weeks, so who knows where it stands right now. The filing period opens this Friday, the 4th, so we’ll know soon enough.

Dems versus Vasquez

Looks like we’re not ready to make nice with the Harris County Tax Assessor’s office over their handling of voter registration last year.

Any honeymoon between Democrats and the new Harris County voter registrar ended suddenly today.

Democratic state Reps. Garnet Coleman and Ana Hernandez of Houston said Leo Vasquez, who is tax assessor-collector and voter registration chief, is responsible for staffers who allegedly misled state legislators considering whether to require voters to offer more proof of identification before casting ballots.

“It is up to (Vasquez) to clean up his office,” Coleman and Hernandez said in a news media handout. “Otherwise, Leo needs to go.”

[…]

Vasquez, saying he is running the registration agency without regard to politics and will not join the GOP frontlines, since has expanded voter registration efforts and hired a Democrat to help with community outreach.

He said today that testimony in Austin last week on the “voter ID” bill by voter registration staffers George Hammerlein and Ed Johnson was no partisan move. The pair, called to testify by Republican lawmakers, took no position on the bill and provided facts as requested, Vasquez said.

Coleman and Hernandez never have taken their concerns to him, Vasquez said, and they owe his staffers an apology for making baseless allegations.

The Democrats today zeroed in on Hammerlein’s legislative testimony, several hours into hearing that ran past midnight, that thousands of Harris County residents who registered to vote on time were not eligible to participate in early voting two weeks later because they applied relatively late.

Hammerlein acknowledged today that his statement was wrong and said it was due to the strange hour rather than any attempt to mislead the Legislature.

I’ve reprinted the press release beneath the fold, and a copy of the doc that spelled out the allegations against Hammerlein and Johnson is here. I’ve been hearing some grumbling about the way things have been run at the Tax Assessor’s office, in particular complaints about being told that deputy registrars could not deliver new registration forms to annex offices. That turned out to be a case of miscommunication between the head office and the annexes. Perhaps that’s to be expected with a change in command, but it wasn’t a good first impression and it didn’t help alleviate any of the lingering mistrust left over from the Bettencourt days. It’s not surprising, given the stakes in the voter ID fight, that Vasquez isn’t being cut any slack. Stace has more.

Meanwhile, immigration attorney and former Houston City Council member Gordon Quan has an op-ed about voter ID and the Betty Brown incident.

While some will argue that this increases the integrity of the ballot, in reality, voter ID requirements have been overwhelmingly shown to disproportionately disenfranchise older Americans, individuals with disabilities, low income and homeless people, students, married women, minorities and most poignantly, those who, for cultural reasons, may have differing names on differing identification documents. According to the nation’s largest exit poll of Asian Americans, nearly 70 percent of Asian voters were asked for ID at the polls — in states where no ID was required!

Voter ID requirements put an inordinate amount of discretion in the hands of already overworked poll workers. Our state and county election offices already find themselves constantly struggling to find the resources to adequately train poll workers and to recruit diverse poll workers who are versed in every possible cultural circumstance that they may encounter. This legislation would take precious funds away from those programs as well as from real priorities such as transportation and education. As evidenced by this episode with Brown and the Elections Committee, even individuals as well versed in the law as they are were unable to understand the complexities associated with Asian names as they relate to voting. Just imagine the difficulty a poll worker would have and how they could easily not allow an eligible voter even with a valid voter registration card to vote.

If you want to discuss this issue in more detail, there will be a conference call Thursday night with Ramey Ko, US Rep. Mike Honda, State Rep. Hubert Vo, Mini Timmaraju of the Asian American Democrats of Texas, and others. The AAA Fund blog has the details. You can submit a question for Ramey Ko ahead of time, but you must RSVP to join the call, so click over for the info if you’re interested.

UPDATE: Vince has more on Hammerlein’s testimony.