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HD130

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.

Turner prepares his exit from the Lege

Looks like we’ll have at least one more legislative special election this year.

Rep. Sylvester Turner

Rep. Sylvester Turner

In 2003, state Rep. Sylvester Turner of Houston made the most definitive decision of his political career.

Turner had arrived in the Texas House 14 years earlier, when he and his fellow Democrats outnumbered Republicans 91 to 59, Gib Lewis was speaker and Democrats still ran the show. But by 2003, the tide hadn’t just turned against Democrats — it was running away without them.

Republicans took the chamber’s majority for the first time in more than a century, Democrat Pete Laney, the previous session’s speaker, was about to become just another member, and Tom Craddick was poised to take the top post.

Reading the political winds, Turner led a group of Democrats who became known as the “Craddick D’s” who cast their support behind the Midland conservative in hopes of salvaging some level of access and influence.

It was a pivotal moment for Turner, and some in his party were not at all happy with him.

But as Turner prepares to leave the House after more than a quarter century, that decision captures the politician’s essence — a savvy personability that allowed him to emerge as a Democratic pillar in the Republican-controlled House.

The 60-year-old Harvard Law School graduate will give up his seat in a few weeks to run for mayor of his hometown, a post he’s unsuccessfully sought before. His departure will leave a gaping hole that House Democrats will be hard-pressed to fill.

[…]

Turner, whose influence is seldom hobbled by showmanship, deflects the significance of his departure.

“The Texas House, the Texas Senate and the Legislature was in existence way before I came, and it’ll be in existence a long time after I’m gone,” he said during a recent interview in his Capitol office.

Turner attributed his success to becoming fluent in House rules, learning the ins and outs of the legislative process and making himself valuable to leadership.

“Because even when you find yourself in the minority — numerically speaking — the process sometimes becomes the equalizer,” he said.

Rep. Turner has certainly made a mark, and his session in 2013 was especially good, but he’s right: No one is irreplaceable. His departure will change things for the Democratic caucus, and the dynamics of the 2017 session will necessarily be different from this one, but his leaving is an opportunity for others to step up and show what they can do. That’s the way of the world, and it happens every time someone of Rep. Turner’s experience and ability leaves the Lege.

I’m a little surprised to hear that he’s stepping down and not waiting to see how the Mayoral race plays out, which is what happened in 2003. He may just be ready for a change, and for what it’s worth I’d heard that he’d been thinking about calling it a career before now. There ought to be quite the scramble to fill his seat when it comes up, with a second shot at it in the March primary. If Allen Fletcher gets appointed Sheriff that will make two legislative specials, presumably on the November ballot. Never a dull moment, that’s for sure. I thank Rep. Turner for his service in the Lege and look forward to seeing him more regularly on the campaign trail here.

UPDATE: The following has been appended to that Trib story:

*Clarification: This story has been updated to reflect that the timeline for Rep. Sylvester Turner’s departure from the House has not been set.

They appear to have edited out a quote from statement attributed to Turner in which he insisted he’d be stepping down regardless of the result of the Mayor’s race. So it looks like we’ll be waiting to see what Turner does.

UPDATE: Sorry, that wasn’t a direct quote that I remember, but something that the story said Turner had said.

Fletcher will run for Sheriff in 2016

Not unexpected.

Rep. Allen Fletcher

The day after Harris County Sheriff Adrian Garcia announced he is running for mayor of Houston, Republican state Rep. Allen Fletcher of Cypress said he would abandon his House seat for a bid to replace Garcia.

“I will not be filing for re-election. I will be filing to run for sheriff of Harris County,” Fletcher told the Texas Tribune on Thursday.

Fletcher, who served as a Houston police officer for 21 years, had been rumored as a potential candidate for the job.

[…]

Fletcher, who was first elected to the House in 2008, said he is making the necessary calls to be considered for the appointment, which will be decided by the Harris County Commissioners Court. He said he hoped to obtain that appointment and enter the 2016 sheriff’s race as an incumbent.

See here and here for the background. It’s a clever move on Fletcher’s part, one that his main rival for the appointment Ron Hickman can’t match without resigning his position as Constable. Whether that affects Commissioners Court’s decision or not, I couldn’t say. I suspect that will come down to their own personalities and preferences, but who knows. In any event, Fletcher, who was elected in the 2008 primary over then-incumbent Rep. Corbin Van Arsdale with the backing of Dan Patrick, had an eventful first session and a fair amount of baggage that came out as a result. He’s been fairly nondescript since then, but there’s plenty of material for the oppo research teams of whoever runs against him next year.

Adrian is in

Speculation time is over.

Adrian Garcia

Adrian Garcia

Ending months of speculation, Harris County Sheriff Adrian Garcia has declared his candidacy for mayor of Houston Wednesday.

Garcia, whose strong name recognition and deep law enforcement experience make him a likely frontrunner, will make his formal announcement at 2 p.m. at the Lindale Park Civic Association, in north Houston.

His campaign website, www.adriangarcia.com already is live.

He joins a crowded field seeking to replace term-limited Mayor Annise Parker. In doing so, he must resign as sheriff, leaving open one of the two county-wide offices currently held by a Democrat. Harris County Commissioners Court will meet next Tuesday to discuss appointing his successor.

County Judge Ed Emmett, who received Garcia’s resignation letter Wednesday, has not decided who he wants to replace Garcia, though he prefers someone who wants to run for office in 2016, said Emmett’s spokesman Joe Stinebaker.

Noting that it would be beneficial for Garcia’s replacement to have a combination of law enforcement and management experience, Stinebaker added that “speed is of some importance here.”

State Rep. Allen Fletcher and Constable Ron Hickman were the first two potential replacement candidates mentioned for Sheriff. We’ll see if they’re still at the top of the list when everyone else who wants in makes their wishes known. If either of them gets appointed, they themselves will have to be replaced as well, via special election for Fletcher or another Commissioners Court appointment for Hickman. Further, rumor has it that at least a couple of current Democratic Constables have been eyeing the Sheriff’s race sans Garcia, so even more dominoes are likely to fall. The 2016 election just got a whole lot busier in Harris County.

As for the Mayor’s race, I plan to be one of those annoying “undecided” voters, at least until one of the candidates distinguishes himself by talking about something other than pensions and potholes. I ran into Laura Spanjian at the City Hall farmer’s market last week and said only half-jokingly to her that I would vote for the first candidate to say something about the One Bin proposal. I feel like we’ve had a steady diet of junk food so far in this election, and I’m starving for some meat and vegetables. Maybe Garcia’s entry will be a sign that we’re finally going to get to something substantial in this campaign, and maybe we’ll just get more of the same with a side dish of attack ads. I’m ready to move on to the next phase, whatever it is.

Don’t forget about apartments

On the subject of how Battleground Texas can achieve its aims, Greg adds a note and some numbers about apartment complexes.

I opted to look at one of the most GOP-friendly places in Harris County: HD130 in the northwestern corner of the county. Simply put, this district won’t be turning blue with anything short of multiple miracles. But part of the approach outlined by Bird, and one that I feel like I’ve been beating my head against a wall on, is that it is just as important to raise some areas from 25% Dem to 35% Dem in order to improve the overall showing. Having driven through HD130 on the way to/from Austin, I noticed that there were a few new apartments along Highway 290. I’m also familiar enough with the area to know that there are some hubs of apartments full of kids moving out from mom & dad’s place.

In just a quick scan of apartment complexes, I ended up with four quick sample studies. One was a Senior complex, but I opted to leave it in to prove a point that any perceived GOP tilt among seniors in a heavily GOP district wouldn’t harm the overall showing. The five units I ended up with had a score of 67% Dem based on Clarity‘s partisanship score for 2012. For all apartments in HD130, the score came to 52.4% Dem. So while there are certainly good and mediocre targets within the district, comparing this to a district that gave Obama 23% of the vote in 2012 shows a far healthier target for where to improve.

Furthermore, we have some valuable data from apartments: namely how many units there are in each. For the five complexes I identified, the turnout clocked in at 25% of apartment units turning out to vote. The traditional metric of turnout comes in at 45.3% turnout of registered voters. How to increase these numbers comes down to what you believe. If you believe that the registered voters track pretty closely with actual, current residents in the complex, then you face a turnout issue. But if you’re like me and believe that the registered voters track significantly less with actual, current residents, then you have to add a voter registration component to the mix in order to capture the new voters and replace the old, out-of-date information.

Good stuff, and a reminder that a lot of the voters we want to target need to be registered first, and will need to be registered again in the future. I haven’t seen Jeremy Bird specifically address the matter of apartment dwellers in the various interviews I’ve seen so far, but as Greg notes this fits well with the overall philosophy of Battleground Texas. In an interesting coincidence of timing, David Jarman of the Daily Kos does related research showing how apartment renters correlate with the Democratic-ness of a Congressional district. As it happens, three of the five districts with the highest percentage of renters that happen to be held by Republicans are in Texas. File this away for future reference and comparison.

New map, new opportunities: Harris County

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

Harris County's new districts

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

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

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

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

Allen Fletcher

Rick Casey gives a short summary of this Texas Monthly feature article about State Rep. Allen Fletcher and his, um, colorful business partners, who are under investigation by the feds for running various kinds of ripoffs. There’s no indication that Fletcher himself did anything untoward, but reading the article one can’t help the impression that he was a king-sized fool to have anything to do with these people. One wonders if this will be the basis of a campaign against him next year. It would have to be a primary challenge, as HD130 is the reddest district in Harris County, but I daresay there would be no shortage of material. Read the story and see for yourself.