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Going after human traffickers

This is a great story about Ann Johnson, the Democratic candidate in HD134 last year, who is now back with the District Attorney’s office fighting against pimps and traffickers who prey on kids.

Ann Johnson

Johnson, a 39-year-old juvenile law attorney, is fluent in the language of the street, rattling off facts about Houston’s tracks, where pimps take prostitutes to pick up “tricks” or dates with johns.

She talks about “gorilla pimps” who control prostitutes with violence and “mack pimps” who use flattery, safety and the promise of love to lure prostitutes.

After cementing the relationship with sex, the mack asks the prostitute to help the “family” by selling sex.

That fluency means she can talk to minors about what they’re going through. And she can also explain that world to a jury.

“It’s such a foreign world, a hidden world and Ann knows about it,” said Jen Falk, a prosecutor who helped put Kentish in prison. “She brings such a unique background, especially in talking to victims who typically just get lost in the system.”


Although domestic child prostitution is not typically considered human trafficking, prosecuting those cases is a top priority and part of a three-pronged attack for newly elected District Attorney Mike Anderson.

“Houston is one of the top five cities in the world for human trafficking,” Anderson said. “We’re going to be busting the people who see this as their business and the mid-management, which are the pimps, and the johns as well.”

Anderson said he expects to see more cases filed against Houston’s cantinas and massage parlors where men and women are brought to Houston from all over the world to work as sex slaves.

“Just as sad, there are runaways here that are recruited with promises of a job or safety and they’re made to be prostitutes,” Anderson said.

After he decided to make trafficking one of his administration’s top priorities, Anderson set out to recruit Johnson. He hired her at a typical chief’s salary of $110,000 a year and said she may soon be creating an entire new trafficking division at the office.

“She’s extremely well respected in that area, she’s passionate about it, and she’s very good at what she does,” Anderson said. “She has a reputation at the courthouse.”

She is also well-known after an unsuccessful campaign last year to unseat incumbent Republican Sarah Davis for House District 134. A Democrat, Johnson lost the race but was widely supported by courthouse insiders, including Chris Tritico, president of the Harris County Criminal Lawyers Association.

“Every dealing I’ve had with her, when she was a prosecutor before and as a private practitioner has been very positive,” Tritico said. “I think the world of her.”

I had the pleasure of getting to know Ann during her candidacy in HD134, and she is indeed a fine person. I have no doubt that she will do a lot of good in this role. Kudos to Mike Anderson for hiring her, and best of luck to her and everyone in her division for the work they do.

Precinct analysis: The range of possibility

Here’s a look at selected districts in Harris County that shows the range of votes and vote percentages achieved by Democratic candidates. I’ve thrown in the Obama and Sam Houston results from 2008 for each to provide a comparison between how the district was predicted to perform and how it actually did perform. Without further ado:

HD132 Votes Pct ======================== Garcia 22,336 43.52 Ryan 20,945 40.63 Bennett 20,454 40.35 Obama 21,116 40.29 Oliver 19,873 38.52 08Obama 18,886 39.60 08Houston 18,653 40.60

HD132, which runs out to the western edge of Harris County, incorporating parts of Katy, is a fascinating district. For one thing, as Greg showed, there are these fairly large blue patches out that way, surrounded otherwise by a sea of red. Much of that blue is in HD132, which is why this district wound up overperforming its 2008 numbers by about a point. As Greg said in reply to my comment on that post, you could build a pretty reasonable Democratic district out that way if you were in control of the mapmaking process. In fact, the non-MALDEF intervenors in the San Antonio lawsuit did propose a map that drew HD132 as a lean-Dem district. It wasn’t addressed by the DC court in its ruling denying preclearance on the maps, so we won’t see any such district this decade, but just as the old 132 came on the radar in 2008, the new HD132 should be viewed as an attainable goal, perhaps in 2016. Take the continued population dynamics of Harris County, add in a good candidate and a concerted voter registration/GOTV effort, and I think you could have something.

HD134 Votes Pct ======================== Garcia 36,781 48.07 Ryan 35,431 45.96 Johnson 36,366 45.35 Obama 34,561 42.49 Bennett 29,843 39.47 Oliver 25,886 33.79 08Obama 39,153 46.50 08Houston 33,667 42.60

I think you’ll be hard-pressed to find a district with a wider vote spread than HD134. A couple things stand out to me. One is that four years ago in the old 134, President Obama ran five points ahead of Democratic judicial candidates. I haven’t done the math on the judicials this time around – even in Excel/Calc, it gets mighty tedious after awhile – but I’d bet money that’s not the case this year. I’d call this evidence of Obama losing ground with Anglo voters in Texas, as he did nationwide. Note also that Adrian Garcia did not carry HD134 this time around, unlike in 2008 when he was the only Democrat besides then-Rep. Ellen Cohen to win it. (Michael Skelly, running in CD07, carried the portion of HD134 that was in CD07, which was most but not quite all of it.) Garcia’s overall performance was a couple of points lower this year, but this shows how tough HD134 really was, something which I think wasn’t fully appreciated by most observers. Ann Johnson ran hard and did a good job, but the hill was too steep. I’m sure HD134 will remain a tempting target, but the name of the game here is persuasion, not turnout, and that’s a harder task.

HD135 Votes Pct ======================== Garcia 23,507 44.91 Ryan 21,620 41.26 Obama 21,679 40.37 Bennett 20,786 40.26 Morgan 20,997 39.63 Oliver 20,119 38.42 08Obama 20,430 38.70 08Houston 19,912 39.50

Another not-on-the-radar district that wound up being better for Dems than you would have expected. As with HD132, this would be a good place to focus registration and turnout energies going forward.

HD137 Votes Pct ======================== Garcia 15,682 67.58 Ryan 15,498 65.88 Wu 15,789 65.72 Obama 15,899 65.25 Bennett 14,875 64.63 Oliver 14,700 62.62 08Obama 16,755 62.30 08Houston 16,008 62.40

I haven’t looked this deeply at all of the Democratic districts, but the early indicators are that Democratic candidates generally outperformed the 2008 numbers in the districts that were considered to be competitive. Even by the 2008 numbers, HD137 wasn’t particularly competitive, but with a first-time candidate in an open seat against someone who’d won elections in the same general vicinity before and who could write his own check, who knew what could happen. Rep.-elect Gene Wu had a strong showing in a district where all Dems did well. I mean, if Lloyd Oliver outperformed Obama 08, you know Democrats kicked butt in this district.

HD144 Votes Pct ======================== Garcia 13,555 57.96 Ryan 12,668 53.96 Bennett 12,382 53.63 Perez 12,425 53.35 Obama 12,281 51.47 Oliver 11,966 51.07 08Obama 11,983 48.00 08Houston 13,129 54.50

The disparity between Obama and Sam Houston in 08 makes it a little hard to pin this district down as overperforming or underperforming. It’s fair to say that Rep.-elect Mary Ann Perez won by a more comfortable margin than most people, myself included, might have expected, and it appears that Obama closed the gap a bit this year. This will surely be a race to watch in 2014, whether or not the district gets tweaked by the courts or the Lege. (The DC court rejected the intervenors’ claims about retrogression in HD144, in case you were curious.) Oh, and I hadn’t thought about this before now, but Perez’s win means that there will need to be a special election for her HCC Trustee position in 2013. I have no idea off the top of my head what the procedures are for that.

HD145 Votes Pct ======================== Alvarado 20,829 68.86 Garcia 19,180 67.67 Ryan 17,860 63.04 Obama 17,890 61.13 Bennett 17,252 61.90 Oliver 16,778 59.22 08Obama 16,749 57.10 08Houston 17,315 61.70

Rep. Alvarado was unopposed, so the percentage shown for her is her share of all ballots cast in HD145. I was a little concerned about the possibility of Republicans maybe stealing this seat in a special election if Rep. Alvarado wins in SD06 – one possible incentive for Rick Perry to shake a leg on calling that special election is that he could then call the special election for HD145 in May if that seat gets vacated, as surely that would guarantee the lowest turnout – but I’m less concerned about it looking at these numbers. Yes, I know, the electoral conditions would be totally different, but still. By my count there were 7,013 straight-ticket Republican votes in this district and 12,293 straight-ticket D votes. I think even in a low-turnout context, that would be a tall order for a Republican candidate.

HD148 Votes Pct ======================== Farrar 25,921 64.56 Garcia 23,776 63.87 Ryan 22,413 59.91 Obama 22,393 57.92 Bennett 21,061 57.80 Oliver 19,848 53.34 08Obama 22,338 57.50 08Houston 21,887 59.20

Rep. Farrar had a Green opponent but no R opponent, so as with Rep. Alvarado her percentage is that of the total number of ballots cast. Again, one’s perception of this district as slightly overperforming or slightly underperforming for Dems depends on whether one thinks the Obama or Houston number from 2008 is the more accurate measure of the district from that year. Given the re-honkification of the Heights, I feel like this district needs to be watched in the same way that HD132 needs to be watched, only in the other direction. I feel certain that if there is to be any change in the makeup of HD148, it will happen a lot more slowly than in HD132, but nonetheless it bears watching. I’ll reassess in 2016 as needed. Oh, and there were 9,672 straight-ticket Republican votes to 13,259 straight-ticket D votes here, in case you were wondering.

HD149 Votes Pct ======================== Vo 25,967 61.12 Garcia 25,056 60.64 Ryan 24,325 58.61 Obama 24,770 57.72 Bennett 23,659 57.64 Oliver 23,337 56.27 08Obama 24,426 55.50 08Houston 23,544 56.30

If you wanted to know why I tend to worry less about Rep. Hubert Vo than I do about some other Dems and districts, this would be why. Anyone who can outdo Adrian Garcia is someone with strong crossover appeal. Note again the general overperformance of Dems here compared to 2008. Consider this some evidence of Asian-American voters trending even more blue this cycle.

SBOE6 Votes Pct ======================== Garcia 229,058 43.48 Ryan 216,249 40.88 Jensen 207,697 40.58 Obama 215,053 39.33 Bennett 199,169 38.27 Oliver 188,555 35.69 08Obama 224,088 40.80 08Houston 210,965 40.20

I was hopeful that Dems could build on 2008 in this district, but it wasn’t to be. I think the potential is there going forward, but it will take time and resources. Traci Jensen was a great candidate, who ran hard as the first Democrat in SBOE6 in over 20 years, but there’s only so much you can do in a district twice the size of a Congressional district without a Congressional-size campaign budget.

CD07 Votes Pct ======================== Garcia 99,355 43.93 Ryan 93,819 41.30 Obama 92,128 39.13 Bennett 84,451 37.73 Cargas 85,253 37.44 Oliver 79,037 34.83 08Obama 96,866 40.40 08Houston 88,957 39.10

As with SBOE6, a small step back in performance instead of the step forward I had hoped for. Not sure if it was something John Culberson did to enable him to run ahead of the pack instead of lagging behind it as he did in 2006 and 2008, or if James Cargas’ weak performance had something to do with the ridiculously bitter primary runoff he was in. Be that as it may, I don’t expect much if anything to be different in this district in the near future.

What I’ll be looking for tonight

Just a reminder that I’ll be on KPFT tonight starting at 7 PM to talk about the elections. Here’s a preview of the things I’ll be looking for:

1. SD10 – Sen. Wendy Davis vs Mark Shelton: Easily the most important race on the ballot in Texas. Davis has been a progressive champion and a pain in Dan Patrick’s rear end, and will make for a strong statewide candidate when she’s ready. She also ensures that the Dems maintain enough votes in the Senate to invoke the two-thirds rule until whenever Rick Perry calls the special election to succeed the late Sen. Mario Gallegos. I am heartened that Robert Miller thinks Davis is leading, though he subsequently amended that, but I won’t rest easy until I see that lead on the Secretary of State’s election results webpage.

2. Legislative races – While Dems start out with only 48 seats in the Lege, they will automatically pick up three today – HDs 35, 40, and 101 – because there are no Republicans running in them. Beyond that, the over/under line for Dems is 55 seats total. Three in particular to watch: HD23, in which Rep. Craig Eiland is one of the only, if not the only, threatened Democratic incumbents; HD134, in which Ann Johnson’s challenge to freshman Rep. Sarah Davis will be a good test of how well a message attacking the Rs for cutting $5.4 billion from public education will work; and HD136, the open seat in Williamson County, which will be a test of whether 2008 was a fluke or a trend for Democrats in places like that.

3. Adrian Garcia and Mike Anderson – Everyone expects both candidates to win, as both have become poster children for not voting a straight ticket this year. As such, they will both likely represent the high-water mark for each party this year, as Garcia and Ed Emmett were in 2008. I’ll be paying particular attention to how they did in various legislative and other districts once the precinct data is out, because that may provide an early roadmap for future electoral targets.

4. Fort Bend County – Fort Bend came very close to going Democratic in 2008. President Obama received 48.49% of the vote there, and no Republican won the county by as much as 10,000 votes out of 200,000 cast. Is this the year Democrats break through? Also worth keeping an eye on is freshman County Commissioner Richard Morrison in his race against double voter Bruce Fleming.

5. CCA – Hampton vs Keller – I think we’re all familiar with this one by now. Whether Hampton has a chance to win depends largely, though not entirely, on how well Obama does in Texas. The presence of a Libertarian candidate in this race means that Hampton can win with less than 50% of the vote. Most of the statewide judicial races in 2008 had Libertarians in them, and they got about 3% of the vote on average. I suspect the ceiling for that may be higher in this case, as some Republicans may prefer to not vote for Keller but not vote for a Dem, either. I will not be surprised if 48% is enough to win. If Obama can improve on 2008, even a little, it makes it that much easier for Hampton to get over the hump. If not, we may be stuck with Keller for another six years or until she finally has the grace to resign.

6. 1st and 14th Courts of Appeals – Jim Sharp broke through for Democrats in 2008, and there’s a nearly full slate of them running for seats on these courts, whose jurisdictions cover multiple counties, this year. As was the case in 2008, a sufficiently strong showing in Harris County may be enough to make it across the finish line, though if Fort Bend is blue as well, that would be a big help. This is where future Supreme Court and Court of Criminal Appeals candidates can emerge.

7. Bonds, Metro, and SA Pre-K – I expect the Houston bonds to pass. Keep an eye on the charter amendments, since if they pass as well there can be no further charter amendments on the ballot till May of 2015. I think the Metro referendum will pass, but I would not bet my own money on it. The San Antonio Pre-K initiative is expected to be close. Given the recent love affair in the national media and from the national party for Mayor Julian Castro, a loss here will undoubtedly be portrayed as a setback for him.

I think that’s plenty to think about. What races are you watching?

Cuts are not increases, no matter how you spin it

This is the Chron overview of HD134, which is once again the highest profile legislative race in the county, in part because it’s a referendum on the 2010 election and the cuts to public education funding that resulted from that election.

Ann Johnson

In an area that takes great pride in its schools, [Rep. Sarah Davis] went along with her fellow Republicans and voted for major cuts in education funding.

As a result, District 134 is one of the few House seats believed to be in play. Although Davis has the incumbent’s edge in a Republican-leaning district, the race has become one of the most competitive – and expensive – in the state. Both candidates are spending freely, blanketing the district regularly with mailers.

“We knew there were funding cuts coming down the line for Texas schools,” said Sue Deigaard, a stay-at-home mom, “so, as a community, on a grass-roots level, we organized, we engaged other parents to give Sarah Davis the support as a legislator to say, ‘Hey, as you’re casting your vote on the budget, you have hundreds of parents, 400 petitions, hundreds of letters, phone calls, emails in a district you won by 750 votes.’ ”

Their message, Deigaard said, was “to, basically, give her the support, so that she could vote in a different direction from her party. And, as her record shows, she didn’t do that. So now we have this very motivated base of parents, bipartisan – Republicans and Democrats – who are supporting Ann Johnson.”

Davis, a fiscal conservative who is moderate on social issues, insists that Deigaard and other parents should not have been surprised.

“When I was campaigning, we all, particularly me, were campaigning on a message that we had a $27 billion budget deficit, and we’re going to have to balance the budget,” she said one evening recently. “I am opposed to increasing taxes or finding revenue, and I won, as did a hundred other Republicans, probably campaigning on the exact same message.”

So Davis, who as I have said before is a reliable, down-the-line Republican representative, claims that she campaigned and won on a promise to cut spending in 2010. Which is fine, as far as it goes, except for one small thing: She is now running away from those cuts that she made as fast as she can. Patti Hart calls Davis out for a blatantly dishonest campaign mailer that tries to claim she didn’t do what she actually did.

I called [Scott] McCown to get his reaction after seeing Republican Houston Rep. Sarah Davis’ latest campaign mailer, which claims that her Democratic challenger, attorney Ann Johnson, is spreading fiction in her assertion that Texas Republicans cut $5.4 billion from public education last year. On the cover, Davis invokes the dictionary, sharing this definition of fiction: “A belief or statement that is false, but that is often held to be true because it is expedient to do so.”

To back up her allegation that school budget cuts are a figment of Johnson’s imagination, Davis then asserts that Texas lawmakers actually added $1 billion to our schools. Johnson’s math, she tells us, includes “President Obama’s one-time stimulus money, that simply wasn’t available the following year.”

The mailer goes on to assert, with great umbrage: “So Johnson is blaming Republicans in Austin for what a Democratic President did in Washington. This happens all the time: liberals in Washington throw a bunch of money at programs, and then in later years leave the state to find the money to keep them going.”

In a campaign season full of tall tales, this may be the whopper that tops them all. State lawmakers in 2009 used $3.6 billion in federal stimulus money instead of state dollars to fund public education – essentially supplanting federal support for state support. In 2011, the Legislature added back only $1.6 billion in state money to replace the federal dollars.

To claim that the Legislature “increased” funding to public ed is, as I wrote when Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst made this claim, to have giant amnesia about the stimulus.

Now, Davis is using the state’s 2009 contribution to education as a baseline for comparison to state funding in 2011, and blaming Obama that the dollars fall short. It’s as if Davis is saying, two meals a day is more than what those kids were getting before Uncle Sam stepped in!

This outrageous claim – that Republicans didn’t cut public education funding – has been rated “Pants on Fire” by the newspaper fact-checking service, Politifact, on several occasions this year.

And Politifact’s researchers didn’t rely on the opinions of Democrats, noting that during the legislative session, Senate Education Chairman Florence Shapiro, R-Plano, said: “Nobody wants cuts. But we have to have them.” And House Education Chairman Rob Eissler, R-The Woodlands, predicted the cuts would amount to 4 percent to 5 percent, which he characterized as “not that big a cut.”

The writers’ conclusion: “So, lawmakers ultimately cut public school aid, with key leaders even acknowledging so as those decisions were sealed. To tell constituents otherwise is not only inaccurate, it’s misleading and ridiculous. Pants on Fire!”

Even Hart is understating how egregious this is, because Davis and her fellow Republicans all voted for the House budget that cut $10 billion from public education. It was the Senate’s refusal to accept that budget, and to restore half of the cuts made by the House, that left us with the $5.4 billion in cuts that we got. Try to square that with a claim that Davis “increased” funding to public education.

Maybe none of this will matter. It’s still a Republican-leaning district. Johnson may well not be able to convince enough people what happened and what they need to do about it now. Maybe that day of reckoning isn’t here yet, though if it hasn’t come by the 2014 elections I don’t know when it ever will. Be that as it may, I’m happy to have any campaign be waged on these terms. The more that candidates an officeholders run away from the idea of cutting education funding, the better.

Endorsement watch: The Parent PAC November slate

For your approval.

Texas Parent PAC is delighted to endorse the following candidates in the general election.  They are men and women of integrity, open and responsive to parents, actively involved in their communities, and committed to investing in public education to achieve economic prosperity in Texas.

Please vote for these endorsed candidates and encourage your friends and family to vote as well!  Early Voting is October 22 – November 2 and Election Day is Tuesday, November 6.

Read about the endorsement process here.  To find out your district number for State Senator and State Representative, look on your voter registration card or enter your address on the “Who Represents Me?” section at the Capitol web site.

Texas Parent PAC is a bipartisan political action committee.  In the 2012 Texas primary and general elections, the PAC has endorsed 28 Republicans and 25 Democrats.

Texas Senate
S.D. 10: Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth
S.D. 25: John Courage, D-San Antonio
S.D. 29: Sen. José Rodríguez, D-El Paso

Texas House of Representatives
H.D. 23: Rep. Craig Eiland, D-Galveston
H.D. 24: Greg Bonnen, R-Friendswood
H.D. 29: Ed Thompson, R-Pearland
H.D. 34: Abel Herrero, D-Robstown
H.D. 41: Bobby Guerra, D-McAllen
H.D. 43: Yvonne Gonzalez Toureilles, D-Alice
H.D. 45: John Adams, D-Dripping Springs
H.D. 54: Rep. Jimmie Don Aycock, R-Killeen
H.D. 59: J. D. Sheffield, R-Gatesville
H.D. 74: Poncho  Nevárez, D-Eagle Pass
H.D. 78: Joe Moody, D-El Paso
H.D. 85: Dora Olivo, D-Richmond
H.D. 94: Rep. Diane Patrick, R-Arlington
H.D. 95: Nicole Collier, D-Fort Worth
H.D. 101: Chris Turner, D-Arlington
H.D. 102: Rich Hancock, D-Richardson
H.D. 105: Dr. Rosemary Robbins, D-Irving
H.D. 107: Robert Miklos, D-Dallas
H.D. 115: Bennett Ratliff, R-Coppell
H.D. 117: Philip Cortez, D-San Antonio
H.D. 118: Rep. Joe Farias, D-San Antonio
H.D. 125: Justin Rodriguez, D-San Antonio
H.D. 134: Ann Johnson, D-Houston, TV spot
H.D. 136: Matt Stillwell, D-Cedar Park
H.D. 137: Gene Wu, D-Houston
H.D. 144: Mary Ann Perez, D-Pasadena
H.D. 149: Rep. Hubert Vo, D-Houston

Here was their slate from the primaries, and an accounting of who won among those candidates. You may notice that there are four candidates that were endorsed in the GOP primary that are not on this list – Cecil Bell (HD02), Chris Peddie (HD09), Trent Ashby (HD57), and Jason Villalba (HD114). The first three have no Democratic opponents and are therefore for all intents and purposes already elected. As for Villalba, I asked Carolyn Boyle about that race, and received this response:

From the beginning, Jason was a “primary only endorsement” because Texas Parent PAC had endorsed Carol Kent in the past and she is great. Jason agreed that once the primary was over he would delete any reference to the Parent PAC endorsement for the primary, and the PAC did as well. It was important to defeat Bill Keffer in the primary, and Jason is a supporter of public education. We are staying out of the general election with Jason vs. Carol…let the voters decide, as both will advocate for public education.

So there you have it. As I did with the primary, I’ll check the scoreboard for Parent PAC after the election is over.

30 Day campaign finance reports, selected legislative races

Here’s a sampling of 30 day finance reports from state legislative campaigns. I used the Back to Blue list as a starting point and added a few races of interest to me from there.

Dist Candidate Raised Spent Loan Cash ========================================================== SD10 Davis 843,878 346,466 0 1,537,783 SD10 Shelton 606,586 153,204 0 566,825 SD25 Courage 27,603 14,791 0 14,546 SD25 Campbell 566,920 592,332 90,000 7,407 HD12 Stem 29,228 23,325 0 24,566 HD12 Kacal 58,460 33,438 0 30,196 HD23 Eiland 134,051 80,923 0 101,419 HD23 Faircloth 92,890 46,816 30,000 43,089 HD26 Nguyen 12,051 22,808 0 10,840 HD26 Miller 45,765 27,995 1,000 9,496 HD34 Herrero 69,722 49,667 0 25,655 HD34 Scott 125,430 68,349 0 255,629 HD43 Toureilles 46,170 23,973 0 11,585 HD43 Lozano 260,590 185,421 0 89,770 HD45 Adams 48,020 25,800 36,000 32,241 HD45 Isaac 128,502 44,595 140,250 69,918 HD78 Moody 73,754 48,371 0 21,858 HD78 Margo 306,071 82,170 0 202,898 HD85 Olivo 9,738 3,490 2,150 10,143 HD85 Stephenson 34,696 16,146 0 21,677 HD102 Hancock 27,245 4,924 0 7,380 HD102 Carter 112,821 109,543 0 66,776 HD105 Robbins 24,687 36,999 1,505 30,583 HD105 H-Brown 123,449 68,244 52,615 87,997 HD107 Miklos 74,020 56,401 0 24,707 HD107 Sheets 280,354 96,777 0 146,778 HD114 Kent 121,236 89,824 0 132,748 HD114 Villalba 172,885 147,326 0 42,612 HD117 Cortez 48,015 44,610 1,844 18,620 HD117 Garza 52,559 72,669 0 62,371 HD118 Farias 51,015 34,925 0 25,482 HD118 Casias 23,730 21,714 0 852 HD134 Johnson 217,346 103,699 0 263,301 HD134 Davis 332,120 99,582 0 232,383 HD136 Stillwell 61,060 20,842 2,000 8,632 HD136 Dale 112,273 22,798 35,000 82,853 HD137 Wu 58,221 55,152 50,000 32,263 HD137 Khan 55,351 40,877 10,000 23,894 HD144 Perez 104,939 30,082 0 107,729 HD144 Pineda 77,357 49,460 0 33,428 HD149 Vo 38,665 27,632 45,119 48,768 HD149 Williams 134,990 56,342 1,500 74,222

Here’s a sampling of July reports for comparison. A few thoughts:

– I don’t think I’ve ever seen a greater disparity in amount raised and cash on hand as we see here with Donna Campbell. Campbell, of course, had a runoff to win on July 31, which covers the first month of this filing period, and a cursory perusal of her detailed report shows the vast majority of the action was in July, as you’d expect. I’d still have thought she’d collect more cash after the runoff, since she’s a heavy favorite to win in November. Assuming she does win, we’ll need to check out her January report from 2013.

– Overall, the Republicans have done a very good job of raising money to protect their vulnerable incumbents. The main exception to this is John Garza in HD117, though he still leads his opponent, Phillip Cortez. The difference between Rs and Ds on amount spent is a lot smaller, which may indicate that their strategy is to do a late blitz, or it may mean they’re just sitting on a lot of cash.

– Turncoat Rep. JM Lozano initially filed a report with almost no cash raised and no expenses listed. Apparently, he “forgot” over $250K in contributions. That total includes $100K from Associated Republicans of Texas, almost $68K from Texans for Lawsuit Reform, $25K from Texas Republican Representatives Campaign Fund, $6K from the Texas House Leadership Fund, $15K from Bob Perry, and just for good measure, $2K from Koch Industries. Hey, I’d want to forget about all that, too. Here’s his current corrected report; there may be another to come.

– After a somewhat anemic July report, Rep. Sarah Davis kicked into overdrive for this period. Ann Johnson, who has an ad I’ve seen a few times on the Headline News Network, did a pretty good job keeping pace, and still has a cash on hand advantage. I presume Davis has some ads running as well, since she got a $100K in kind contributions from Texans for Lawsuit Reform for TV advertising, but I have not seen any such ads myself. She also collected $100K total from Associated Republicans of Texas ($65K) and Texas Republican Representatives Campaign Fund ($35K), plus $20K from Bob Perry.

– Mary Ann Perez had the next most impressive haul after Ann Johnson, showing some very strong numbers for that open swing seat. I presume her strategy is the do a late push as well, given the cash she has on hand. And given the money they’ve sloshed around to so many other candidates, I’m surprised David Pineda hasn’t been the beneficiary of a few wads of dough from the usual suspects. We’ll see what his 8 day report looks like.

– If your eyes bugged out at Dianne Williams’ totals in HD149, I assure you that mine did as well. A closer look at her detailed report shows that nearly $115K of her total came from one person, a Mrs. Kathaleen Wall. Another $5K or so was in kind from various Republican PACs. Take all that out and her haul is much less impressive. The money is hers to spend, of course, it’s just not indicative of some broad-based support.

That’s all I’ve got. Anything interesting you’ve seen in the reports?

Endorsement watch: For Ann Johnson

I noted on Monday that the Chron listed Ann Johnson as one of its endorsed candidates. Yesterday they wrote the endorsement editorial to go along with that.

Ann Johnson

The tea party turnout of 2010 gave Republican candidate Sarah Davis the narrow victory she needed to win in District 134, a prosperous swing district that covers areas from River Oaks to Meyerland and the Medical Center, as well.

Davis speaks about politics with a fiery passion, but her passion often seems aimed more at Washington than Austin.

She successfully navigated the minefield of wedge-issue votes that defined the previous legislative session – voting no on the sonogram bill, for example. But voters deserve a representative who doesn’t just avoid bad votes, but leads on good ones. We believe Democratic challenger Ann Johnson can be that sort of leader.


Issues like education and health care aren’t just matters of compassion, they’re necessary to ensure that Texas has the healthy, educated workforce we need to power our economy.

In this race, Ann Johnson is the better bet for Texas’ future.

It’s interesting to see the Chron buy into the “independent” image that Rep. Davis is peddling. As I did before, I would challenge them to come up with two bills of significance besides the sonogram bill on which David voted against her party. On Monday I saw for the first time a broadcast of Davis’ TV commercial, for which Texans for Lawsuit Reform bought her $100K worth of airtime. Not surprisingly, Davis pushes this idea hard, claiming to support public education despite voting to cut $10 billion from it and to oppose restrictions on women’s health care despite voting to de-fund Planned Parenthood and to kill the Women’s Health Program if Planned Parenthood is successful in its lawsuit against the state. It’s very simple: Sarah Davis was a reliable Republican vote in the 2011 legislature. Her record bears this out. You would think that a reliable Republican, running in a district drawn by Republicans to elect a Republican, would be willing to tout her Republican-ness for her re-election rather than try to obfuscate it. In the case of Rep. Sarah Davis, you would be wrong about that.

Anyway. The Chron made the right call with Ann Johnson, whose interview with me is here if you haven’t had the chance to listen to it. You can also watch this TV ad that Texas Parent PAC did on Johnson’s behalf:

And here’s that ad by the Johnson campaign that I’ve seen on Headline News:

In case you’re wondering, Bill White beat Rick Perry by a 51.0-47.7 margin in 2010. Maybe that’s why Davis is pressing her “independent” credentials. I guess I would too if I were her. Neil has more.

Finally, on a tangential note, the San Angelo Standard Times joins the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal in endorsing Keith Hampton over Sharon Keller. Has anyone seen a newspaper endorse Keller yet? Again, this probably doesn’t matter much, but it could matter just enough.

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

Endorsement watch: E-N for Sadler, Parent PAC for Ann Johnson

Having made a good choice for the State Senate, the Express News follows it up with a good choice for US Senate.

Paul Sadler

Former state Rep. Paul Sadler is unequivocally the right choice on the Nov. 6 ballot to represent Texas in the U.S. Senate.

Sadler has a strong record as an effective legislator who understands the need to work with both sides of the aisle.

The Democrat is best known for his impressive work teaming up with former Republican state Sen. Bill Ratliff to rewrite the state’s education code in 1995 in a bipartisan effort.

A legislator for six terms from 1991-2003, Sadler rose in the Texas House to be chairman of the House Public Education Committee and was named one of Texas Monthly’s 10 best legislators four times.

Sadler is a pragmatic problem-solver, who advocates a balanced approach to ending the national deficit and comprehensive immigration reform that includes a pathway to citizenship for law-abiding immigrants, a work visa program and the DREAM Act.

Republican nominee Ted Cruz, a tea party favorite and a former state solicitor general, is touting troubling policy proposals that would not serve the state well.

If a grasp of policy is a factor in these editorial board interviews, Sadler ought to sweep the endorsements, much like Keith Hampton deserves to do. Cruz lives in a fantasy world, with a fairy-tale understanding of economics, foreign policy, and government in general. Assuming he wins, and he is certainly the overwhelming favorite to do so, you have to figure there are two ways for his term in office to go. One, he comes to learn the facts of life, and puts himself in position to be labeled just another sellout RINO by the ever-insatiable GOP primary base, or he remains steadfast in his delusions, and becomes the Senate version of someone like Michelle Bachmann, a sideshow freak who eventually exits elected office with few if any actual accomplishments to show for it. One wonders what his 2018 re-election campaign might look like under the latter scenario. Will whatever remains of the GOP establishment that actually likes getting stuff done – you know, building roads, steering defense contracts to the state’s military bases, that sort of thing – do something to derail him, or will they just accept their fate and bend over when called upon? I’d rather not find out, but I suspect it’ll be the latter if it comes down to it.

Meanwhile, the Texas Parent PAC, which has now begun making additional endorsements for the November election, announced that Ann Johnson was one of the first recipients of their recommendation. From their press release:

Ann Johnson

“Ann Johnson is a proven and effective advocate for children and families, and she will be a respected leader at the state Capitol,” said Darci Hubbard of Houston, a member of the Texas Parent PAC board of directors. “Ann will put kids before politics.” Hubbard said Johnson will seek permanent solutions for public school finance and work for meaningful tax relief for property owners.

Texas Parent PAC was created in 2005 by parents who joined together to elect state legislators who will stand up for schoolchildren. It is recognized as one of the state’s most successful political action committees.

Johnson is an attorney in private practice who represents children, including child victims of harassment and bullying in schools. Her practice includes representation in the newly created alternative courts: Growing Independence Restoring Lives (GIRLS) Court and the Harris County Mental Health Court. In addition, Johnson has been an adjunct professor at South Texas College of Law for 10 years. Earlier in her career, she was a Harris County prosecutor.

Johnson grew up in Houston, and she is carrying on her family’s tradition of public service. Her father, attorney Jake Johnson, was formerly a state representative, U.S. Marine Corps pilot, and teacher at Jones High School. Her mother, former Civil District Judge Carolyn Marks Johnson, taught at Alvin Community College, the University of Houston, and South Texas College of Law.

“Houston families deserve a legislator of Ann Johnson’s caliber,” said Texas Parent PAC Chair Carolyn Boyle. “She is an authentic leader with a unique combination of knowledge, experience, and personal gifts unmatched in the legislature.”

And unlike her opponent, who voted for the House budget that would have cut $10 billion from public education, Ann Johnson is a genuine advocate for public ed. So it all makes sense. In the meantime, take a look at what her former colleague with the Harris County DA’s office, Murray Newman has to say about her.

A question of how many

Yes, Democrats will pick up seats in the Lege this election. The question is how many seats.

Texas political experts expect Democrats will gain at least seven House seats.

“If the Democrats don’t get to 55 seats or more, the party has committed malpractice,” said GOP campaign consultant Eric Bearse.

Most of the competitive legislative races feature state House races. The lone state Senate seat in play involves a Fort Worth area district with Democratic incumbent Sen. Wendy Davis battling Republican state Rep. Mark Shelton. The GOP holds 19 of the Senate’s 31 seats.

Changing demographics should help Democrats narrow the gap in coming years, but GOP-directed redistricting last year created only about a dozen swing House districts this fall.

“It was not possible with the most skillful and artful redistricting effort to protect 102 seats, which includes two party switchers in South Texas and two in East Texas,” Bearse said. “It’s not 2010. The floodwaters only rise so high every once in awhile.”


Rep. Lyle Larson, R-San Antonio, a member of Texas Republican Representatives Campaign Committee, estimates his party will lose between seven and nine seats.

“Some people are more optimistic than that,” he said. “It depends on who turns out, the 2008 (pro-Democrat) group or the 2010 (pro-Republican) group.”

The four toughest seats for GOP incumbents to keep, according to Larson are: Rep. Connie Scott of Corpus Christi, Rep. J.M. Lozano of Kingsville, Rep. Dee Margo of El Paso and Rep. John Garza of San Antonio. All won their seats in 2010. Scott, Lozano and Margo each face a former Democratic House member. Scott and Margo face the same opponents they defeated in 2010. Lozano flipped from Democrat to Republican last year.


Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer, chairman of the House Mexican American Legislative Caucus, believes Democrats will gain between seven and 14 House seats next month.

He also expects more Hispanics to win House seats in the 2014 election, which will again have new boundaries.

“Artful” and “skillful” are two words that can describe the redistricting effort. “Illegal” and “discriminatory” also work. I did my own analysis on this last month. Note that I miscounted the Democratic caucus – I thought it was 47 after Rep. Lozano’s switch, not 48, so add one to my totals where appropriate. Given that the Dems have already effectively picked up three seats, I think seven is a fair minimum, and I concur with Rep. Larson’s assessment of the most vulnerable incumbents. Fourteen is a bit of a stretch, but ten is a reasonably optimistic goal. As Rep. Martinez-Fischer notes, there will be other opportunities in 2014 when the next map is in place.

There’s not much to add to this. The numbers are what they are, though as I’ve noted elsewhere, continued population growth and demographic change may result in some surprises. Two additional things to note. First, as much as the numbers can tell us, there is still the matter of issues:

Carolyn Boyle, founder and chairman of the pro-public education Texas Parent PAC, said the public education funding issue has generated considerable enthusiasm among the organization’s financial donors.

“Candidates who are canvassing (neighborhoods) are telling us it’s the top issue as they go door-to-door talking to people,” Boyle said.

Democrats would certainly like this election to be as much about education as possible. The success Democrats had in 2006 and 2008 in picking up Republican-held seats was due in large part to then-Speaker Craddick’s hostility to public education. Opposition to vouchers drove a lot of that, too, though apparently no one told Dan Patrick about that. Be that as it may, the Trib had a story a couple of weeks back about GOP freshmen touting their pro-education credentials on the campaign trail. It may not be till the 2014 election for the full effect of this to be felt, but I’m happy to be fighting on that turf in the meantime.


Democrats also hope to win back the seat of Rep. Sarah Davis, R-Houston. The freshman lawmaker defeated Democrat incumbent Ellen Cohen two years ago by 701 votes out of more than 51,000 ballots. Davis now faces a challenge from attorney Ann Johnson in one of the districts fairly high on the Democrats’ target list.

Bearse, who is working for Davis, is counting on her to prevail.

“She is a perfect fit for her district. She has an independent streak as wide as Texas,” Bearse said. “Those Republicans who vote their district and show some independence should win if they raise money and get their message out.”

The numbers make Rep. Davis a favorite to be re-elected, so much so that it’s rather surprising and a bit telling to see her “moderate” bona fides being touted. I’ll agree that Davis is a “moderate” in tone, by which I mean she’s too smart to say anything as obnoxiously ignorant as Debbie Riddle or Leo Berman are wont to do. But I would challenge Eric Bearse to name two bills of substance other than the sonogram bill on which Davis voted against her party. I can’t think of any. She voted for the House budget bill, which would have cut $10 billion from public education, she voted to cut family planning funding and to de-fund Planned Parenthood, and she voted for the “sanctuary cities” bill. In short, she was a loyal Republican. You’d think someone running in a 55%+ GOP district wouldn’t feel the need to talk that much about their “independence”.

Interview with Ann Johnson

Ann Johnson

Harris County has been a hotbed of interesting legislative races over the past decade, with five incumbents losing general elections in State Rep. contests since 2004. Two of those victories by challengers occurred in HD134. Trying to make the third time a charm is Democrat Ann Johnson, running against freshman Sarah Davis. Johnson is an attorney and advocate for children who won a landmark case before the Supreme Court than forced the state to recognize child prostitutes as victims and not offenders. Johnson is a cancer survivor and the daughter of a former State Rep and a former Civil District Court judge. If she wins, she would join Representative-Elect Mary Gonzalez of El Paso as one of the only two out GLBT legislators in Austin.

Ann Johnson MP3

You can still find a list of all interviews I did for this primary cycle, plus other related information, on my 2012 Harris County Primary Elections page and my 2012 Texas Primary Elections page, which I now need to update to include fall candidate information. You can also follow this blog by liking its Facebook page.

Back to Blue

The Texas House Democratic Campaign Committee has announced its list of targeted districts for 2012. From their press release:

The list of nine includes five former House members — Abel Herrero (HD 34), Yvonne Gonzales Toureilles (HD 43), Carol Kent (HD 114), Robert Miklos (HD 107), and Joe Moody (HD 78); and four new candidates — Phil Cortez (HD 117), Ann Johnson (HD 134), Mary Ann Perez (HD 144), and Rosemary Robbins (HD 105).

The organization also announced that two of their major donors have pledged to match up to $75,000 in contributions to kick off the “Back to Blue” effort.

“The HDCC has a proven track record of helping Democratic House candidates win,” said state Representative and HDCC Board Member Jessica Farrar, “Our mission is to turn Texas House seats blue and with these candidates on our team in 2012, we will be successful.

“Thanks to our generous contributors, we have an incredible opportunity to double down and raise the money needed to win these seats,” continued Farrar.

In addition to organizational assistance, staff support, and message training, candidates targeted by the HDCC will receive financial support.

“My campaign has knocked on over 25,000 doors in Dallas County and from the conversations I’ve had with voters, I know that Democrats are on the right side of the issues. We continue to support our neighborhood schools, fight to protect women’s health and stand up to Republican lawmakers who chose not to play by the rules,” said Robert Miklos. “I know that with the HDCC’s support, the hard work of my campaign team, and the generous help of those who care about the future of our state, I will win on Election Day.”

“I am proud to have the support of the Texas HDCC and to be recognized as a ‘Back to Blue’ candidate. This shows our hard work in Houston is paying off,” said Ann Johnson. “Our voters and the people we’ve talked to don’t want politics as usual. They want someone they can count on and will be held accountable for the promises they make.”

See here for more; the HDCC is also on Facebook and Twitter. In addition to those nine, they have a five-member second tier, and three incumbents they’ve identified as in need of some protection – Reps. Craig Eiland, Joe Farias, and Hubert Vo. The five B-listers are Robert Stem (HD12), John Adams (HD45), Dora Olivo (HD85, another former member), Rich Hancock (HD102), and Matt Stilwell (HD136). I’m a numbers guy, so here are some numbers:

Top tier Dist Incumbent Obama Houston ================================== 034 Scott 52.58 58.83 043 Lozano 47.94 54.68 078 Margo 55.31 56.84 105 Harper-Brown 46.14 48.18 107 Sheets 46.71 48.46 114 Open 46.57 45.66 117 Garza 52.52 52.76 134 Davis 46.68 42.56 144 Open 47.95 54.53 Second tier Dist Incumbent Obama Houston ================================== 012 Open 39.38 46.67 045 Isaac 46.92 45.84 085 Open 40.68 45.22 102 Carter 46.64 46.75 136 Open 45.92 42.93 Incumbent protection Dist Incumbent Obama Houston ================================== 023 Eiland 47.77 54.22 118 Farias 55.10 57.61 149 Vo 55.52 56.35 Others of interest Dist Incumbent Obama Houston ================================== 017 Kleinschmidt 41.93 47.24 032 Hunter 42.57 46.20 041 Open* 57.05 59.68 047 Workman 44.75 41.27 052 Gonzales 46.18 45.01 054 Aycock 47.93 49.01 065 Open 43.04 42.36 074 Open* 57.91 61.32 113 Burkett 46.05 47.87 115 Open 43.86 43.24

Electoral data can be found here; look in the RED206 for the relevant information. The “others of interest” are my own selections. The two starred seats are open D seats; HD41 was Veronica Gonzales and HD74 was Pete Gallego.

Democrats are going to pick up three seats by default: HDs 35, 40, and 101. The former two were left open by Reps. Aliseda and Pena, the latter is a new district in Tarrant County. Strictly by the numbers, I’d classify HDs 34 and 78 are Democratic Favored; HD117 as Lean Democratic; HDs 43 and 144 as Tossup; HDs 105 and 107 as Lean Republican; and HDs 114 and 134 as Republican Favored. There are plenty of other factors to consider – candidate quality, fundraising, demographic change since 2008, etc – but let’s stick with just the numbers for now. Let’s be optimistic and say Dems can pick up seven of these nine top tier seats and not lose any they currently hold; honestly, only Eiland would seem to be in real danger. That’s a ten-seat net, which with Lozano’s switch gets them to 57. Better, but still a long way to go. The map for 2012 is unlikely to expand beyond the indicated second tier, as not all of the “other districts” I’ve identified have Dems running in them.

Certainly it’s possible for things to go better for the Dems, but worse is also in play. You could imagine a true disaster in which they get nothing but the three gimmes and lose Eiland along the way for a net +2 and only 49 seats, or one more than they had in 2011. I don’t think that’s likely, but it’s not out of the question. The long-awaited ruling from the DC Court will almost certainly trigger a new map from the San Antonio court, and for all we know the Lege may take another crack at drawing a map. The original San Antonio Court interim map made a 60-member Dem caucus likely, with friendlier Dallas districts, a Dem-favored HD54, and a tossup HD26 in Fort Bend among the differences. All I can say at this point is that I don’t believe we should get too accustomed to this interim map.

So that’s the state of play for this cycle. Go look at the candidates, pick a few favorites, and give to them or give to the HDCC. Change isn’t going to happen without your help.

July finance reports for area State House candidates

Here’s a brief look at the July campaign finance reports for candidates in area State House races of interest.

HD23 Raised Spent Cash Loan Wayne Faircloth 8,320 31,139 36,655 30,000 Bill Wallace 0 0 507 20,500 Craig Eiland 0 0 30,160 0 Craig Eiland 57,770 80,685 74,922 0

Faircloth and Wallace are in a runoff to take on Rep. Craig Eiland, whose red-leaning district is a rare pickup opportunity for the GOP. Bear in mind that candidates who had a competitive primary had to make an 8 day report for it, so their reporting period began May 21. Candidates like Eiland that had no primary opponents last reported in January, so they had much more time to raise funds for this report. If you’re wondering why Eiland is listed twice, it’s because he has both a regular candidate/officeholder report and a specific purpose committee report.

HD26 Jacquie Chaumette 16,461 35,730 39,079 0 Rick Miller 19,312 10,281 12,262 1,000 Vy Nguyen 6,150 1,008 7,650 0

HD26 was not drawn to be a competitive district, but it could become one after the DC court issues its long-awaited redistricting opinion. Vy Nguyen has been in this race from the beginning, however many maps ago that was, and I believe will do better than the district’s numbers predict. She’s smart and energetic and has a good future.

HD85 Phil Stephenson 3,925 21,965 3,127 20,000 Dora Olivo 4,312 2,349 3,991 2,150

The new Fort Bend district that spreads southwest into Wharton and Jackson Counties doesn’t seem to have drawn much financial interest so far. Olivo is a former State Rep who was defeated in the 2010 primary by Rep. Ron Reynolds and should have some fundraising capability, but a brief look through some previous report suggests this was not a strong suit of hers.

HD134 Sarah Davis 75,593 75,836 99,603 0 Ann Johnson 161,389 15,985 138,837 0

Once again a marquee race for Harris County. I have to say, Davis’ totals are distinctly unimpressive, and her burn rate is potentially troublesome for her. Lot of money spent on consultants and printing. Mostly, I’m stunned by her relatively meager haul, less than half of what challenger Ann Johnson took in. Maybe I’m just used to the prodigious totals that her predecessors, Ellen Cohen and Martha Wong, used to rack up. Both of them eventually lost, so consider this Exhibit A for “Money Isn’t Everything”, but it’s still strange to see a targeted incumbent get doubled up by a challenger. I can’t wait to see what the 30 Day reports will look like in this one.

HD137 MJ Khan 9,700 649 15,689 10,000 Gene Wu 40,157 39,895 40,310 50,000 Jamaal Smith 23,545 12,546 13,705 0

Like I said before, I don’t quite get what MJ Khan is doing. Maybe he’s just keeping his powder dry, I don’t know. I still don’t think state issues are a driving passion for him. We’ll see.

HD144 David Pineda 38,500 21,593 27,802 0 Mary Ann Perez 47,803 20,283 57,254 0

This may be the most competitive races in the state, with both parties getting their strongest candidate for November. One thing I’ve been meaning to comment on but haven’t gotten around to yet is Mary Ann Perez‘s amazing showing on Election Day in May. She collected 67% of the vote on E-Day, more than half of her final total, to vault past the 50% mark in her three-candidate race and avoid a runoff. Whatever she had going for a ground game, it worked. I suspect a good ground operation will be key in November as well.

That’s all I’ve got. Texas on the Potomac has the local Congressional roundup, Kos has a national view, and I’ll take a look at county reports in a separate post.

The out candidates

There are four LGBT candidates running for the Lege this year.

Ann Johnson, Carlos Vasquez, Ray Hill, and Mary Gonzalez

Since 2003, when Austin Democrat Glen Maxey left the Texas House, no out LGBT person has served in the Texas Legislature.

The Lone Star State is now one of only 18 states that lacks an openly LGBT state legislator, according to the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund, the Washington, D.C.-based PAC that backs out candidates nationwide.

But at least four LGBT candidates for Texas House will be seeking to change that this year.

Victory Fund spokesman Dennis Dison said the group has not yet endorsed any of the candidates, and the filing period for May 29 primaries just ended last week. But Dison said he believes electing openly LGBT candidates to public office is a crucial part of passing pro-equailty legislation.

“No state legislature has instituted [same-sex] partnership rights without having out LGBT officials in the legislature,” Dison said. “We have seen in cases where there is just a sole legislator, that it can have a huge impact in terms of our community and changing people’s minds about who we are.”

This story was run in March, and it’s been on my to-be-blogged list since then. Of the four, I knew about Ann Johnson and Ray Hill, both of whom are here in Harris County. I did not know that Mary Gonzalez (HD75, El Paso) or Carlos Vasquez (HD90, Tarrant County) were gay prior to reading this. Apparently, Gonzalez’s sexual orientation has become an issue in the campaign, though thankfully not without some pushback. Gonzalez, who is running for the seat that has been vacated by Rep. Chente Quintanilla, appears to be the frontrunner; she has been endorsed by Annie’s List, she is working hard, and she’s the leading fundraiser. Of the four, only Johnson is assured of being on the November ballot, but she’s also the only one who goes into November as an underdog – the others are all basically assured of election if they win in May. Hill, who is running what can fairly be described as a quixotic campaign against State Rep. Garnet Coleman, is highly unlikely to get that far. Vasquez is running against Rep. Lon Burnam. That’s unfortunate in the sense that there are many other districts where a Vasquez win would advance the cause of gay rights and other progressive ideals a lot more than a win against Burnam would, but that’s how it goes. Burnam was recently endorsed by the Star-Telegram and also has a significant fundraising lead, but he’s in a district that was drawn to be won by a Latino and the heightened turnout generated by the CD33 primary is likely to work against him. This one could go either way. Anyway, read the story and see what these candidates are about.

On a related note, a more recent edition of the Dallas Voice has a profile of George Clayton, the Dallas-area SBOE member who won his seat in an out-of-nowhere victory in the 2010 primary against long-time member Geraldine “Tincy” Miller. Clayton is the first out gay person to be elected to office in Texas as a Republican (and only one of 20 out of over 500 total nationwide), though his orientation was not widely known at that time. He’s opposed by Miller and two other candidates in this year’s primary and says his sexuality has not been an issue on the campaign trail; nonetheless, if he wins again I’d have to say it’s at least as remarkable an achievement as his first win was. He’s generally been aligned with the non-crazy Republican wing of the SBOE, so I wish him the best of luck.

A place to start

At least one elected Republican is feeling a bit angsty about the Republican war on women’s health.

For some GOP lawmakers, the issue gets deeply personal, and the line between party loyalty, allegiance to anti-abortion politics and public health is a tough balancing act. State Rep. Sarah Davis, a first-term Republican lawmaker from Houston, said she survived breast cancer because it was detected early.

“It pains me to think that there’d be another 32-year-old diagnosed with breast cancer and not be able to get screened or treated until stage 4, whereas I was treated at stage 1 and had a much better outcome,” she said.

Though she supported the Women’s Health Program during the session, Davis was visibly reluctant to discuss whether she would prefer to keep Planned Parenthood and its preventive services in the program in order to keep it going. The state estimates 44 percent of Women’s Health Program clients go to Planned Parenthood clinics for their well woman exams, birth control and STD screenings.

“It’s a very tough one,” she said. “I think it’s a shame. We’re losing $40 million, and that’s our tax money we paid that we’re not getting back. And it’s going somewhere else outside of Texas.”

Sorry, Sarah. I’m afraid you own this. I don’t remember you speaking out on this issue back when it mattered, during the session. I admit, you probably couldn’t derail the crazy train, but you could have showed a little leadership. Hand-wringing after the fact doesn’t do squat.

Ann Johnson

If there’s a Republican-favored district where an issue like the Women’s Health Program can and should have traction, it’s HD134. Whether you think the court-ordered maps are good for Republicans or Democrats, Dems aren’t going to gain any real ground in the Lege until they can be competitive in places like that. Between the demise of the WHP and the House budget that would have cut $10 billion from public education instead of “just” $5.4 billion, there’s plenty of material to work with in HD134. The new map moved me out of HD134 and back into HD145 again, but I’m still going to do whatever I can to get Ann Johnson elected. This and HD144 are the two legislative races to watch in Harris County. How Dems do in those races will go a long way to determining how much less awful the next legislative session could be.

By the way, I can’t let this pass without noting that HHSC Commissioner Tom Suehs appears to have completely freaked out.

In an uncharacteristically angry letter sent to Gov. Rick Perry, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and House Speaker Joe Straus, Health and Human Services Executive Commissioner Tom Suehs argues that if the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) won’t let Texas exclude Planned Parenthood from the Women’s Health Program, “then no state can ever confidently apply policies and requirements that advance important and legitimate state interests to regulate providers’ participation in Medicaid.”

What that means, Suehs wrote, is that “the state must allow tax cheats, deadbeat parents, and even people suspected of serious abuse to participate in the Medicaid program. This is a risk I am unwilling to expose our clients to.”

Seriously, Tom? You could probably sneeze at the Capitol any day of the week and give your cold to at least half a dozen tax cheats, deadbeat parents, and spouse abusers. Are you saying these people should be denied health insurance? Because it serves such an awesome purpose to force people to use the emergency rooms. Clearly, Commissioner Suehs is from the school of thought that only good people deserve to be helped. How much glass is there in your house, Tom? I continue to be amazed at the ability Planned Parenthood apparently has to turn seemingly normal adults into raving lunatics. I mean, I expect this kind of thing from idiots like Rick Perry, but I thought Suehs was a grownup. Silly me.

UPDATE: Did I mention that Tom Suehs was cracking up? Dude, take a vacation or something before you hurt yourself.

January finance reports: Harris County state races

In addition to county candidates, my 2012 Democratic primary election page has information about state and federal candidates who will be on the ballot in Harris County. There are numerous contested primaries, and while I’m not tracking information about Republican races on that page, I thought it would be useful to check on the finance reports for all races of interest. Here’s the relevant data for candidates that have submitted reports, with my comments at the end. Candidates without a party affiliation listed are Democrats, and incumbents are noted as such.

Candidate Office Raised Spent Cash on hand ===================================================== Nilsson SBOE6 1,600 431 1,552 Jensen SBOE6 0 1,088 0 Scott SBOE6 1,010 362 647 Bahorich (R) SBOE6 325 669 50,320 Cargill (R, I) SBOE8 38,586 18,710 25,626 Ellis (R) SBOE8 2,195 7,019 1,163 McCool (R) SD11 10,047 8,515 31 Taylor (R) SD11 329,124 154,172 169,778 Norman (R) SD11 9,981 6,512 11,534 Huberty (R, I) HD127 58,075 37,575 36,811 Jordan (R) HD127 1,763 967 0 Davis (R,I) HD129 20,475 45,286 62,852 Huls (R) HD129 1,684 1,501 182 Allen (I) HD131 5,565 14,542 18,764 Adams HD131 0 4,697 59,572 Callegari (R,I) HD132 8,250 28,593 222,340 Brown (R) HD132 975 779 195 Murphy (R,I) HD133 72,015 38,365 182,682 Johnston (R) HD133 6,244 6,015 6,244 Johnson HD134 7,347 0 7,347 Davis (R, I) HD134 83,035 61,807 102,570 Witt (R) HD136 4,821 85,139 25,218 Schofield (R) HD136 67,203 34,899 29,245 Holm (R) HD136 142,997 98,594 44,402 DeAyala (R) HD136 144,860 39,105 106,253 Smith HD137 2,500 750 2,500 Madden HD137 11,002 750 10,252 Wu HD137 71,700 831 70,869 Winkler HD137 850 750 1,378 Khan (R) HD137 Risner HD144 0 0 0 Perez HD144 1,300 2,569 14,547 Ybarra HD144 Legner (R,I) HD144 27,475 57,949 34,040 Miles (I) HD146 15,900 2,750 6,800 Edwards HD146 0 0 1,199 Coleman (I) HD147 158,474 106,581 106,823 Hill HD147 Riddle (R,I) HD150 89,401 54,384 108,874 Wilson (R) HD150 4,160 4,366 893

My notes:

– Donna Bahorich loaned herself $50,000, which is where her cash on hand figure comes from.

– Despite having the opportunity to support a “Senator McCool”, it seems clear that Republicans prefer State Rep. Larry Taylor in SD11.

– As noted before, Wanda Adams’ money comes from her Council campaign coffers. I will be interested to see who gives to her between now and the primary. Rep. Allen unsurprisingly has the support of her legislative colleagues, at least if a recent notice about a fundraiser for her is any indication.

– Given that HD134 is likely to be the highest profile legislative race in November regardless of what the next map looks like, I was curious how Rep. Sarah Davis’ efforts stacked up against her predecessors as they headed into their first re-election campaign. In 2008, Ellen Cohen reported $188K raised, $45K spent, and $203K on hand. None of Martha Wong’s 2004 included cash on hand information, so I can’t get an exact comparison with her. Her January 2004 report showed only $7K raised and $18K spent, but I doubt that indicates that she was cash-poor, as she was a generally strong fundraiser. Her July 2005 report is the first to include cash on hand, and she had $250K at that time. For January 2006 her numbers were $127K raised, $24K spent, and $349K on hand. All this is to say that Davis is not starting out in any better shape than either Cohen or Wong, at least financially.

– I have to say, that’s an impressive amount of fundraising in HD136, which currently does not exist in Harris County. As Greg noted, the one guy with no electoral experience had quite a strong showing, and Ann Witt’s burn rate is almost as impressive. Witt also has $100K in loans to herself outstanding.

– Not much action in HD137 so far. It’s the opposite of HD136 in the sense that it was originally obliterated by the Lege but restored by the court. My guess is that if it gets folded back into HD149, none of the Dems will remain in the race. Gene Wu’s money came primarily from himself ($50K) and a relative ($20K). MJ Khan had not filed a report at the time of this publication.

– Also not much action in HD144, which is currently a Dem-favorable district, but was originally made a stronger Republican district. Legler may be feeling the effect of the uncertainty, though he surely had plenty of time before the court got involved to raise a few bucks. Ybarra had not filed a report at publication time, and Risner reported no money raised or spent.

– Don’t be fooled by Rep. Borris Miles’ numbers. He’s perfectly capable of self-funding; he has $655K in loans to himself outstanding. This is Al Edwards’ first run as a non-incumbent in the post-Craddick era. Will his old buddies still support him?

– Ray Hill had not filed a report as of publication time. I don’t really expect him to get much financial support, but you never know.

That’s about all I’ve got. As the Trib had reported earlier, uncertainty over the map for 2012 has made fundraising more of a challenge for many candidates. We can see some of that here, but I daresay things will be clearer in the next reports, which would now be due in early March but presumably will get pushed back along with the primary date, if need be. On a related note, for a look at cash on hand among Senators, see Robert Miller.

Filing report: Who is Ann Johnson?

On Friday afternoon, Annie’s List sent out an email to supporters naming some new candidates they’re supporting. One of the names given was Ann Johnson, who has filed to run in HD134, the first Democratic challenger to an incumbent Republican State Rep so far. A lot of us looked at that and said “Who’s Ann Johnson?” This is what the Annie’s List email says:

Ann is a respected attorney, law professor, cancer survivor and is no stranger to politics after having worked in both the Texas Legislature and the Clinton White House. She is the daughter of former State Representative Jake Johnson and former Judge Carolyn Marks Johnson. Today she manages the family’s law firm and represents plaintiffs in civil and criminal cases with a specialization in juvenile cases. In fact, she recently made statewide headlines after winning a landmark case in front of the Texas Supreme Court that helps protect children charged with prostitution.

The Republican incumbent, Sarah Davis, showed her true colors as a right-wing partisan when she voted for a budget that cut over $4 billion from Texas public schools; financial aid for 30,000 low-income students; basic healthcare for almost 300,000 women, almost $2 billion from nursing homes and more. Annie’s List believes that Ann Johnson is the right candidate to hold the incumbent accountable for her atrocious and out-of-step voting record and win by building a coalition of progressive and moderate voters that want a thoughtful, independent leader in Austin.

I would remind Annie’s List that Davis also voted for the initial House budget, which cut $8 billion from public education. Be that as it may, here’s Ann Johnson’s bio from her law firm’s page. Here’s a newspaper report and a Rick Casey column about cases she argued successfully; here’s a video of her before the Supreme Court in the latter case. She’s got an impressive resume, no question about it. Mostly at this point I’d say she needs to introduce herself to Democratic voters, as she doesn’t appear to have much of a recent history of activism. As a potential future constituent, I certainly plan to introduce myself to her.

In other news that affects my November ballot, we now have a challenger to SBOE member Terri Leo. Classroom teacher Patty Quintana-Nilsson, who left a comment on my post about SBOE races, has filed to challenge Leo. Her About Me page contains an early contender for Best Fact About A 2012 Candidate:

She is bilingual English/Spanish and has a good understanding of Swedish.

My college roommate’s best friend from back home in El Paso was half Mexican and half Swedish. This makes me happy in a way that I can’t quite articulate. Anyway, in other SBOE news, freshman member and Trinity University professor Michael Soto has filed for re-election, and according to the TDP, a fellow named Ruben Cortez Jr. has filed to succeed Mary Helen Berlanga in District 2. Cortez is Vice President of the Brownsville ISD Board of Trustees. No challenger yet for Republican freshman Charlie Garza in District 1.

The Trib has a pretty good guide to who has filed for what so far, if you’re as obsessive about that sort of thing as I am. There’s still a lot of races that lack candidates, but it’s early days yet. One last thing to add is that there is a third person looking at HD137, which is being vacated by Rep. Scott Hochberg, and that is Brandon Dudley, who is (I believe) State Sen. Rodney Ellis’ chief of staff, and was a judicial candidate in Harris County in 2010. None of the three reported candidates have filed yet.

State objects to court-drawn maps

No surprise.

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott’s office on Friday slammed an interim redistricting map proposed by a three-judge panel in San Antonio, saying the federal jurists overstepped their bounds in redrawing House and Senate district lines that could cost Republicans a half-dozen seats next year.

“Contrary to (a) basic principle of federalism, the proposed interim redistricting plan consistently overturns the Legislature’s will where no probability of a legal wrong has been identified,” Lauren Bean, a spokeswoman for Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, said in a statement.

Texas Redistricting has all of the response briefs, including the whiny one from AG Abbott. The Statesman quotes him saying that a court’s job is to “apply the law, not make policy”. Funny, but that’s exactly what they did do. Texas’ maps violated federal law, and the court said No. It’s not that hard to understand.

The “court-ordered plans send a strong message that it will not accept the State’s excuses for reducing Latino voting strength,” Nina Perales, the lead attorney for the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund, said in a statement applauding the court-drawn maps released Thursday.

State Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer, who chairs the largest organization of Hispanic lawmakers, could not be reached for comment. He told the Associated Press that the court’s proposal “reflects the natural demographic progression in a state that is changing day by day.”

Parties to the redistricting lawsuit had until noon Friday to file their responses to the judge’s interim map. The judges have not indicated when the will make a final decision on district lines.

Here’s MALDEF’s full statement, and here’s a Lone Star Project analysis of the court’s maps. In addition to a final ruling on what maps are to be used for the State House and State Senate, we are still awaiting a Congressional map. With the filing season set to open November 28, you have to figure we’ll get something Monday. There’s just not much time left.

We know we’re getting maps from the San Antonio court for this election, but what happens after the 2012 election is anybody’s guess, as far as I can tell. If the DC court eventually rules in Texas’ favor on preclearance, that would presumably pave the way for the legislatively drawn maps to be reinstated for the 2014 election. But the San Antonio lawsuit will still be litigated, and I have no idea which ruling might take precedence, or if it would all go to the Supreme Court as health care litigation has done with nothing really settled. If the DC court rules against the state on preclearance, I suppose it could let the San Antonio maps stand or draw its own. And of course, there’s nothing to stop the Lege from taking another crack at this in 2013, though any new maps they drew would still be subject to preclearance as well. It would not surprise me if we have one set of maps for 2012, a second set for 2014 after the two federal courts make their rulings, and a third set for 2016 after the Supreme Court settles it once and for all, or at least for the rest of the decade.

Anyway. Michael Li notes some objections to the court-drawn plans from African-American legislators, Greg takes a tour of some area districts, and Kos diarist W. Mayes has an exhaustive look at all 150 districts under H298. We’ll know soon enough how much of that will need to be modified. Finally, I only just now noticed that H298 moves me and most of the Heights into HD134, meaning that if this stands I now have a personal reason to help defeat Sarah Davis in 2012. I see a house party in my future.

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.

Redistricting committee votes out State House map

Texas Politics:

By a vote of 11 to 5, the House Redistricting Committee approved a plan redrawing the Texas House map that, according to its sponsor, committee chairman Burt Solomons, R-Carrollton, creates a total of 30 minority opportunity districts.

The committee rejected several amendments offered by the four Democrats on the committee, who contended that the Solomons plan, House Bill 150, does not properly reflect the growth in the state’s Latino population during the past decade. Latino growth made up 65 percent of the 4.3 million overall population increase in Texas since 2000.

“The plan passed out of committee today splits communities of interest and denies proper representation to people of color – but particularly Hispanics – who drove the population growth in Texas for the past decade,” said state Rep. Robert Alonzo, a Democratic member of the committee from Dallas.

In addition to the four Democrats on the committee, state Rep. Harvey Hilderbran, R-Kerrville, voted against the bill.

State Rep. Carol Alvarado, D-Houston, one of the four, objected to the speed with which the Solomons plan was adopted. She said the fast track didn’t allow the committee time to consider the changes made to the bill during today’s committee meeting.

She also opposed reducing Harris County districts from 25 to 24, ostensibly because the county’s population growth was not enough to warrant a 25th seat. Alvarado argued that the county grew by 20.3 percent from 2000 to 2010, a rate that’s close to the 20.7 percent growth from 1990 to 2000 that justified a map with 25 districts.

The adopted plan is Plan H153. Here again is the Harris County view:

Harris County State Rep districts as currently proposed

As before, Harris County gets 24 districts, with Reps. Scott Hochberg and Hubert Vo being paired. I had to zoom way in to realize it, but this map puts me in HD147, Rep. Garnet Coleman’s district. As before, I have the same mixed feelings of delight and heartbreak. I’m also more than a bit peeved to see just how much my neck of the woods gets sliced and diced:

So much for keeping communities of interest together

For comparison, here’s what it looks like today:

This is more like it

The difference between the two is pretty jarring. The fact that the only opportunity to give feedback to the committee was last weekend makes it all the worse. Say what you want about the Houston City Council map, at least you had a chance to be heard.

You can see a PDF of the map here. On the plus side, the weirdly uterus-shaped district in and around Williamson County has been replaced by something that doesn’t appear to have been drawn by a prankster. Beyond that, I don’t have much good to say.

UPDATE: Just got this statement from Rep. Carol Alvarado:

State Representative Carol Alvarado’s Statement on the committee vote and passage on the committee substitute of HB 150 as amended, the redistricting map for the Texas House of Representatives.

“The map that was voted out of the Redistricting Committee is bad for Harris County. I stand by my “no” vote on this proposed plan as it would cause Harris County to lose representation by merging two predominately minority districts.

As a county boasting more than 4.1 million residents and a consistently strong growth rate, Harris County deserves to maintain their twenty-five House districts. Unlike other areas in Texas, the populations of our urban areas did not abandon our county, they simply shifted across our county while staying within our borders. Harris County did not lose population and there is no justification for the loss of a House district.”

NYT on Ellen Cohen

You don’t expect Houston City Council races or candidates to get written up in the Times, but Ellen Cohen isn’t your everyday candidate. Well, and there’s the partnership with the Texas Tribune, too. Of interest is the question of whether going from the Lege to Council represents a step down of some kind.

Running for City Council “is on a different scale, sure,” [Cohen] said, “but the immediacy of being able to do something in the city you chose to move to is really appealing.”

Given Texas’ current political climate, it is a shrewd move for an effective Democrat, said Bill Miller, a political consultant in Austin who has worked with candidates on both sides of the aisle. Most politicians run “upward,” Mr. Miller said, from city government to statewide office and beyond. Some fall backward, running unsuccessfully for unrealistic seats, then working their way back to local government.

It is the rare candidate who is committed enough to public service to run for the seat where he or she will have the most impact — even if it is not the most high profile.

Cohen isn’t the first person around here to attempt this kind of move – HISD Trustee Carole Mims Galloway was Council Member for District B before being elected as Trustee in 2007; she had served as HISD Trustee for two terms before her time on Council, so perhaps that’s not an apt comparison. Be that as it may, as the story notes Cohen would have more constituents as a Council member than as a State Rep, and she’d be in a body just over ten percent the size of the House. I suppose the idea that it’s a step down is that it’s municipal government versus state, so it must be smaller somehow. I guess it’s all in how you look at it. Speaking of which:

Houston political observers suggest that Ms. Cohen, who would have more constituents in her City Council district than she did in the House, would have greater influence and more authority at home than she had in Austin. There is already buzz about whether she would make a possible mayoral candidate down the line.

Ms. Cohen scoffs at that buzz and said she is intensely focused on her City Council race, in which the appeal is all local.

What say we figure out the district in which Cohen lives first? Just a thought. And while I agree with the basic thesis of this story, let’s remember that we’re still in a strong-Mayor system here, so there’s only so much that any Council member can do – unlike the Lege, a Council member can’t introduce a bill, for instance. However you look at it, it’s a different experience.

Endorsement watch: ParentPAC

I haven’t mentioned the Texas ParentPAC lately, as there’s been so much other stuff going on lately, but they are as busy with endorsements as ever. Here’s a list of candidates that they have announced they are backing for the general election. The links are to the press releases they sent out in each case:

State Rep. Robert Miklos, HD101

State Rep. Carol Kent, HD102

State Rep. Joe Moody, HD78

Loretta Haldenwang, HD105

State Rep. Ellen Cohen, HD134

State Rep. Joe Heflin, HD85

I’ll pass along any others that come my way.

UPDATE: Add the following to the tally:

State Rep. Chris Turner, HD96

State Rep. Allen Vaught, HD107

Another poll in HD134

Back in April, the Ellen Cohen campaign released a poll showing her to be in strong position to win re-election. Nearly six months later, they have released another poll showing the same thing.

The initial (uninformed) trial heat in the HD 134 race currently shows Cohen leading by a 57% – 30% margin and holding a substantial lead among every demographic group. Various tests demonstrate that Cohen is unscathed by the traditional Republican wedge issue attacks at the same time that she is clearly in tune with the voters of her district on important issues like insurance reform, taxes and education.

Ellen Cohen is remarkably well-known for an urban State Representative. Her very positive image and job ratings are virtually unchanged from those recorded in March and her “re-elect” margin stands at 52% to 21% – very strong numbers in a down-ballot race. Republican Sarah Davis’ image ratings have barely crept up in the past six months, with only 10% offering a Favorable rating while 72% have never heard of her.

As before, I don’t have any further data on this poll, so I cannot offer a critique of its methodology, sample, or assumptions. Nobody releases poll results when they look bad, so polls of this kind are always positive in nature. For what it’s worth, this is consistent with my own anecdotal observations from driving through the district nearly every day. I see plenty of Cohen signs, and only a handful of Davis signs. There’s no issue on which Cohen is obviously vulnerable. Cohen continues to do well in fundraising – the accompanying press release says she’ll report $235K on hand for the 30-days-out deadline, which is about what she had in July. I suppose anything could happen, but this race isn’t high up on my list of Things I’m Worried About.

Interview with State Rep. Ellen Cohen

Rep. Ellen Cohen

Rep. Ellen Cohen was elected to the House in 2006 after an 18-year stint as the President and CEO of the Houston Area Women’s Center (HAWC) in a high-profile and hard-fought race that tipped the partisan balance of the Harris County House delegation in favor of the Democrats. Cohen is a cancer survivor and a longtime advocate of women’s health issues. In 2007, she was the first House sponsor of the bill creating the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT) that funds grants addressing cancer research, clinical trials, and laboratory facility construction in Texas. We talked about this and other issues in the interview:

Download the MP3 file

On a side note, Rep. Cohen’s birthday is this Saturday. You can visit her Facebook page to pass along your best birthday wishes.

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

Fundraising: Harris County State Reps

I’ve collected fundraising reports for Harris County State Rep races of interest; they’re all beneath the fold. Here are the highlights:

– In the rubber match between State Rep. Kristi Thibaut in HD133 and former State Rep. Jim Murphy, Thibaut has a slight lead in fundraising – she collected $116K to Murphy’s $112K – and cash on hand, $150K to $125K. I’m actually a little surprised there wasn’t more money raised in this race, but I figure by the time it’s all done at least double the amount raised so far will have been hauled in.

– Ellen Cohen has a commanding lead over Sarah Davis. Cohen took in $230K and has $265K on hand. Davis collected $54K, but thanks to a total of $114K in loans, all coming from Kent and Edie Adams beginning with the January 15 reporting period, she has $103K on hand.

– In HD138, Kendra Yarbrough Camarena did well, raising $106K, with $120K on hand. Dwayne Bohac clearly wasn’t taking any chances, as he raked in $201K, with $228K on hand.

– Possibly the biggest surprise was in HD144, where challenger Rick Molina out-raised first-term incumbent Ken Legler, $92K to $82K, and also held more cash, $23,597 to $11,545. It’s not clear to me why Molina’s COH figure isn’t higher, since he only spent $36K; Legler spent almost as much as he raised, $81K in all.

– As of last night, the reports for Hubert Vo and Jack O’Connor in HD149 were not available. According to the explanation, “the Ethics Commission may not make a report filed with the Commission available on the Internet unless all candidates and related specific-purpose political committees in a race have filed. To date, all reports in this race have not been filed. Therefore, this report is not currently viewable.” Note that there is a Libertarian candidate in this race as well. I’ll add these reports to the post when I find them.

As I said, other races of interest are posted below. Overall, I’d say the Democratic candidates have done a good job, with Republicans other than Legler and his puzzling cash shortage in decent shape, too. With no Congressional races of interest, and the County Judge race not evenly matched early on, these may be the highest profile contests in the county this year.

UPDATE: Vo and O’Connor’s totals are in. Vo raised $15K and has $37K on hand. He’s always done some self-funding, and has $95K in loans outstanding. O’Connor took in $12K and has $6500 on hand, but those numbers are a bit misleading. $10K of O’Connor’s contributions were two $5K in-kind donations, each for a month’s rent. He also reported $6K in a loan to himself on his detailed report, but for some odd reason that didn’t show up in the summary.


Early poll in HD134

Despite the fact that they left her basically unchallenged in 2008, I get the impression that local Republicans are excited about the possibility of defeating two-term State Rep. Ellen Cohen this year. Certainly, she will face a stronger challenge from a more active candidate. To get an early feel for what the landscape looks like, here’s a polling memo sent to me by Annie’s List, which has been a supporter of Cohen’s since she first ran.

Partisan Atmosphere. Over the past three cycles, HD 134 has gone from a Republican-held seat to a relatively secure Democratic-leaning district. In party identification, Democrats have moved from a six point deficit to a 31% – 25% advantage. And that small advantage in partisanship is likely to be magnified at the polls with the Democratic ticket led by former Houston mayor Bill White. The current trial heat in the Governor’s race in this district shows White with a 60% to 31% margin over Rick Perry. Perry has a 64% negative job rating and 54% Unfavorable image rating in this district.

Candidates. Ellen Cohen is remarkably well-known for an urban State Representative. She has a 49% Favorable image rating with very few negatives, and also enjoys a 49% positive job rating. Her “re-elect” margin is 52% to 18% – about three-to-one. All of those numbers are strong ones in a down-ballot race. Republican Sarah Davis is, of course, an unknown; 82% have never heard of her, and only 7% offer a Favorable rating.

Trial Heat. The initial (uninformed) trial heat in the HD 134 race shows Cohen with a 58% – 22% margin, trailing Bill White by only a couple of percentage points, and polling a majority in every demographic group. Various issue tests demonstrate that Cohen has a number of accomplishments on which to build a positive campaign, and that she is unscathed by the traditional Republican attacks.

Crosstabs and question composition were not made available to me, so I can’t give you a detailed analysis of this. I can tell you that Cohen’s re-elect and trial heat numbers are right in line with her 2008 performance, and offhand I can’t think of anything she’s done or not done that might have voters mad at her. I guess we’ll get some idea of that when Davis’ campaign gears up. I’m a bit dubious of the partisan makeup cited in this poll, given that Cohen and CD07’s Michael Skelley were the only Democrats to win in HD134, but it may just be that a significant number of the respondents who didn’t claim a party label tend to vote Republican. HD134 was more Republican in 2008 than it was in 2006, when six other Democrats carried the district (they were Jim Henley, Bill Moody, Jim Sharp, Mary Kay Green, Richard Garcia, and Andrew Burks, who was Roy Morales’ opponent for HCDE Trustee, if you’re curious), after two cycles of it becoming bluer. That may be because it’s redder in Presidential years, or it may be because it’s bucking the overall trend in Harris County, I couldn’t say for sure. If 2010 is more like 2006 than 2008, Cohen’s task is a bit easier.

Anyway, there’s a data point for you. I hope you noticed the Bill White/Rick Perry numbers in there, too. You can be sure that every poll conducted in any given district this year will include a question about the Governor’s race as well, whether they publicize it or not.

Joe Agris

I read with great interest this feature story on Houston plastic surgeon Joe Agris, who was a longtime collaborator with the late Marvin Zindler in getting medical help to indigent children. I did so partly because Agris is a fascinating person with a distinguished career, and partly because he was the Republican candidate for HD134 against Rep. Ellen Cohen in 2008, and his accomplishments and high profile seemed to make him a formidable challenger to the incumbent. Yet his candidacy went nowhere, due in part to the fact that he raised absolutely no money, and had nothing resembling a visible campaign as far as I could tell. I spend a lot of time in HD134 – I drive through it every day on my way to and from work, and my in-laws live there – and I never saw as much as a single yard sign for him; there had been several for Carlos Obando, the opponent he defeated in the GOP primary for the nomination, but they were never replaced by Agris signs. I wish I had some insight as to why he put forth no apparent effort into that race – does anyone doubt that Obando would have run a more vigorous campaign? – but alas, the story does not mention his candidacy at all. So, if you know something about this that I don’t, please leave a comment, because this one is still a mystery to me. Thanks.

Interview with Carlos Obando

Carlos ObandoWe don’t get a lot of competitive Council race in Houston that don’t involve an open seat. As I’ve noted before, we may get one this year for At Large #5. One of the candidates seeking to unseat incumbent Council Member Jolanda Jones is Carlos Obando, who was the first to announce his candidacy. Obando is a Bellaire native who has worked abroad in the investment industry, and owns his own public relations firm. He was a candidate in the GOP primary for HD134 last year. Obando is a resident of Midtown.

Download the MP3 file


Karen Derr, At Large #1
Brad Bradford, At Large #4
Stephen Costello, At Large #1
Lane Lewis, District A
Lonnie Allsbrooks, At Large #1
Noel Freeman, At Large #4
Brenda Stardig, District A
Oliver Pennington, District G
Amy Peck, District A
Herman Litt, At Large #1
Natasha Kamrani, HISD Trustee in District I, not running for re-election
Alex Wathen, District A
Robert Kane, District F
Council Member Melissa Noriega, At Large #3
Jeff Downing, District A
Mike Laster, District F
Council Member Jolanda Jones, At Large #5
Mills Worsham, District G
Rick Rodriguez, At Large #1
Council Member Sue Lovell, At Large #2

We need more early voting locations

Greg made an observation about the District H result that I’d like to explore a bit.

Yolanda’s early numbers were a little surprising as it would have meant a runoff between her and Ed if those numbers held. But even more surprising than that was Welsh leading the E-day returns with 36% to Ed’s 29%.

I was at Maverick Welsh’s return-watching party on Saturday night, and I can tell you that this wasn’t unexpected at all by his crew. They knew that the early voting locations were in parts of the district that were less favorable to Welsh, and they planned to make up the difference on Election Day itself. Which is exactly what happened, as turnout in the Heights was heavier than in other areas. I was a little surprised at how much ground he made up, but the final result wasn’t that surprising.

While I don’t think there was much that could be done about it for an election of this kind, I do think in general that there is a real need for more early voting places. In particular, I think there’s a need for more EV locations inside employment centers, because I think having more of them near where people work would make voting a lot easier. Moody Park is closer to where I live than any other EV location, but I never used it before this election because it’s not convenient to my daily commute; I work southwest of where I live, and Moody Park is northeast from my house. I generally vote at the Multipurpose Center on West Gray because it’s between where I live and where I work, or at the Fiesta on Kirby because it’s walking distance from where I work.

Unfortunately, as the trend towards more early voting continues, those locations become less convenient because the lines are so long. Here’s the early voting by location for this past November. The Multipurpose Center had by far the most votes cast of any EV location. When you realize that it serves basically the entire Montrose/Upper Kirby/Greenway area, and likely a good chunk of the Galleria area, that’s no surprise. Where else are all those people going to go?

The two State Rep districts that have only one EV location and which had the largest number of early votes cast were HDs 134 and 136. The former encompasses the Greenway Plaza area, and the latter includes the Galleria area. Yet neither of those highly dense business districts has an early voting location of their own. Looking at the EV map from November, all of that area is served by the West Gray MSC, which I believe is why it is so ridiculously crowded all the time. I say this has to change.

What makes sense to me would be a new location in the Greenway area, and a new location in the Galleria area, one in HD134 and one in HD136. I don’t know what the requirements and restrictions are on EV locations, but if I could just wave a magic wand I might pick something like the Houston Intown Chamber of Commerce building at 3015 Richmond, and something in the vicinity of San Felipe and Post Oak. Again, I don’t know what the details are, but geographically speaking that’s what I have in mind. Bonus points for locations that will be served by the eventual light rail expansion, as these would be.

None of this would have changed the calculus of the District H special election early voting, of course. You’d have needed an EV location in the Heights for that, and that really doesn’t make sense given that HD148 already has two EV sites, which happened to be the two District H sites as well. But a lot of people, all throughout early voting, expressed surprise to me that the West Gray MSC wasn’t open for this. They didn’t think about it not being in H, they thought about it as being the one place they’ve ever gone to vote early. It’s time for there to be more places like that.

UPDATE: Marc Campos suggests that the reason Heights turnout was so much bigger on Election Day was because voters there didn’t want to cross I-45, which he calls “the Mexican-Dixon line”. I’m sure that has something to do with it, but again, I think people go where it’s convenient to their daily routine, which neither Ripley House nor Moody Park are for me, or likely for anyone who lives west of I-45 and works south of where they live. During the afternoon, traffic on I-45 North becomes appreciably worse north of downtown. Who wants to deal with that if they don’t have to?

UPDATE: Greg adds on.

UPDATE: To clarify something here, I do not claim that the early voting locations had any effect on the total turnout in this election. Rather, I believe, as does Marc Campos, that the fact that Maverick Welsh did better on Election Day had to do with where the early voting locations were. I also believe, as I wrote in this post, that there should be more early voting locations, including some in high-density employment centers, since I believe that people vote early where it is convenient for them.

We need more early voting locations

Greg made an observation about the District H result that I’d like to explore a bit.

Yolanda’s early numbers were a little surprising as it would have meant a runoff between her and Ed if those numbers held. But even more surprising than that was Welsh leading the E-day returns with 36% to Ed’s 29%.

I was at Maverick Welsh’s return-watching party on Saturday night, and I can tell you that this wasn’t unexpected at all by his crew. They knew that the early voting locations were in parts of the district that were less favorable to Welsh, and they planned to make up the difference on Election Day itself. Which is exactly what happened, as turnout in the Heights was heavier than in other areas. I was a little surprised at how much ground he made up, but the final result wasn’t that surprising.

While I don’t think there was much that could be done about it for an election of this kind, I do think in general that there is a real need for more early voting places. In particular, I think there’s a need for more EV locations inside employment centers, because I think having more of them near where people work would make voting a lot easier. Moody Park is closer to where I live than any other EV location, but I never used it before this election because it’s not convenient to my daily commute; I work southwest of where I live, and Moody Park is northeast from my house. I generally vote at the Multipurpose Center on West Gray because it’s between where I live and where I work, or at the Fiesta on Kirby because it’s walking distance from where I work.

Unfortunately, as the trend towards more early voting continues, those locations become less convenient because the lines are so long. Here’s the early voting by location for this past November. The Multipurpose Center had by far the most votes cast of any EV location. When you realize that it serves basically the entire Montrose/Upper Kirby/Greenway area, and likely a good chunk of the Galleria area, that’s no surprise. Where else are all those people going to go?

The two State Rep districts that have only one EV location and which had the largest number of early votes cast were HDs 134 and 136. The former encompasses the Greenway Plaza area, and the latter includes the Galleria area. Yet neither of those highly dense business districts has an early voting location of their own. Looking at the EV map from November, all of that area is served by the West Gray MSC, which I believe is why it is so ridiculously crowded all the time. I say this has to change.

What makes sense to me would be a new location in the Greenway area, and a new location in the Galleria area, one in HD134 and one in HD136. I don’t know what the requirements and restrictions are on EV locations, but if I could just wave a magic wand I might pick something like the Houston Intown Chamber of Commerce building at 3015 Richmond, and something in the vicinity of San Felipe and Post Oak. Again, I don’t know what the details are, but geographically speaking that’s what I have in mind. Bonus points for locations that will be served by the eventual light rail expansion, as these would be.

None of this would have changed the calculus of the District H special election early voting, of course. You’d have needed an EV location in the Heights for that, and that really doesn’t make sense given that HD148 already has two EV sites, which happened to be the two District H sites as well. But a lot of people, all throughout early voting, expressed surprise to me that the West Gray MSC wasn’t open for this. They didn’t think about it not being in H, they thought about it as being the one place they’ve ever gone to vote early. It’s time for there to be more places like that.

UPDATE: Marc Campos suggests that the reason Heights turnout was so much bigger on Election Day was because voters there didn’t want to cross I-45, which he calls “the Mexican-Dixon line”. I’m sure that has something to do with it, but again, I think people go where it’s convenient to their daily routine, which neither Ripley House nor Moody Park are for me, or likely for anyone who lives west of I-45 and works south of where they live. During the afternoon, traffic on I-45 North becomes appreciably worse north of downtown. Who wants to deal with that if they don’t have to?

UPDATE: Greg adds on.

UPDATE: To clarify something here, I do not claim that the early voting locations had any effect on the total turnout in this election. Rather, I believe, as does Marc Campos, that the fact that Maverick Welsh did better on Election Day had to do with where the early voting locations were. I also believe, as I wrote in this post, that there should be more early voting locations, including some in high-density employment centers, since I believe that people vote early where it is convenient for them.