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HD137

Three State Rep race overviews

In the order of their publication, beginning with HD149:

Rep. Hubert Vo

Rep. Hubert Vo

For more than a decade in Texas House District 149 – where Harris and Fort Bend counties meet – a growing, ethnically diverse voting population has done something rare for the Houston suburbs: Elect a Democrat.

State Rep. Hubert Vo, whose district includes Alief and Katy, hopes the trend will carry him to a seventh term in Austin.

In 2004, his path to the Texas Capitol proved an ordeal, as he sought to unseat longtime Republican state Rep. Talmadge Heflin, who was chairman of the powerful House Committee on Appropriations. Vo won the race by 33 votes and, after a short-lived challenge by Heflin, Vo became the first Vietnamese-American elected to the state Legislature.

Vo has fended off Republican attempts to take back the seat, including in 2014, when he defeated Al Hoang, a former Houston City Council member, thanks to a majority coalition of Latino, African-American and Asian-American voters.

Come November, the Democratic legislator will face his latest GOP challenger: Bryan Chu, a Houston dentist who moved to Texas from California about a decade ago.

Born in Vietnam, Chu and his family fled the Southeast Asian country by boat in 1980, when he was 13, “in order to escape the harassment from the government.”

Chu said the district’s voters have kept Vo, a 60-year-old businessman and real estate developer, as their state representative largely because of ethnic-based loyalty.

[…]

Vietnamese-American voting preferences since 2000 have shown a sharp swing toward Democratic candidates, locally and nationally, for a group that once strongly supported Republicans, said Karthick Ramakrishnan, a public policy professor at the University of California-Riverside.

“Over time, we’re seeing that issues like the social safety net, health care are the kinds of things that are becoming more important in Vietnamese communities,” said Ramakrishnan, who directs the annual National Asian American Survey. “But there’s also a generational shift, much like the Cuban story, where (younger Asian-American voters) tend to be more Democratic.”

To Prof. Ramakrishnan’s point, I would note that HD149 voted for President Obama over Mitt Romney 58.8% to 40.1% in 2012, with every downballot Democrat carrying the district by at least 15 points. I’d call that a bit more than “ethnic-based loyalty”, which last I checked didn’t help Al Hoang very much. I suppose anything is possible, but you’d get long odds on Rep. Vo losing this race.

HD144:

Mary Ann Perez

Mary Ann Perez

One challenger has an unusual pitch in one of the state’s few competitive House races.

“I am former state Representative Mary Ann Perez and I’m coming by to ask your support to get my seat back,” the Democrat tells residents on a residential Pasadena street.

She is block-walking almost daily in her campaign to once again represent District 144, which includes Pasadena, Baytown and parts of east Houston. Her 2012 victory was the first time the district had sent a Democrat to Austin since Ann Richards won the governor’s mansion in 1990.

Perez, a 54-year-old insurance agent, ticks off her experience: She already served one term in the Legislature, losing to Gilbert Peña’s shoestring Republican campaign in 2014. She chaired the Houston Community College board and shepherded the system’s largest-ever bond package to passage. She led her homeowners association, volunteered with the Little League where her boys played and led a youth group at a nearby Catholic church.

Perez portrays herself as an experienced public servant and a pro-business Democrat with local roots who lost her seat practically by accident. Peña’s 152-vote victory surprised even Republicans, who had given him little support. “He got lucky,” Perez said.

Now, observers say, the socially conservative GOP incumbent is fighting for his political life in a presidential election year when Democratic turnout is expected to be strong. Donald Trump’s polarizing candidacy also may hurt down-ballot Republicans, especially in a district that is 70 percent Hispanic.

Here’s the interview I did with Perez in the primary; she won a three-way race without a runoff. This is a genuine swing district, but every Democrat carried it in 2012, with Perez outperforming the other Dems, winding up with a five point win against a stronger candidate than Gilbert Pena. The Republican establishment seems to consider this a lost cause based on fundraising totals in the July and 30 day reports. Again, anything can happen, and a stronger incumbent would make this a much more interesting race, but it would be a pretty big upset if Perez lost.

And finally, HD137:

Gene Wu

Gene Wu

Kendall Baker proudly admits that before deciding to try to replace his state representative, he had no idea who his state representative was.

“Nobody knows who he is,” Baker said. “That’s part of the reason I wanted to run. Because he is not visible to the community, and he’s not known to the community.”

The representative, Gene Wu, has a different take.

“We’re not a flashy office, but we are a responsive office. And I’ve been in this area for 30 years, and I’ve been always been a volunteer and community busybody,” Wu said. “And this is the first time I’ve ever seen his face pop up at any community event.”

The disagreement highlights the dynamics of the District 137 race, where the two candidates appear to be operating in different worlds.

Wu, a Democrat who is running for his third term representing the west and southwest Houston district, said he has built a reputation as a hardworking policy wonk who has helped the area by reaching across the aisle to achieve commonsense accomplishments in energy policy and criminal justice reform.

Baker, a Republican and high-profile opponent of Houston’s equal rights ordinance who ran unsuccessfully for city council last year, said that years of poor representation has left the district dilapidated and in need of a “good ol’ fashioned politician” to cut taxes and create jobs.

Here’s my primary interview with Rep Wu. Let’s just draw a curtain over this one, because Kendall Baker is an idiot who was a complete non-factor in the District F Council race last year and who was “indefinitely suspended” from his job at the city for being a sexual harasser. HD137 is strongly Democratic – 63.9% to 34.5% for Obama over Romney in 2012 – and Rep. Wu is a damn fine legislator who campaigns tirelessly. Donald Trump will shave his head and join the board of directors at Our Bodies Ourselves before Kendall Baker wins this race.

July finance reports for State Rep candidates

Hey, it’s July, and you know what that means: Campaign finance reports! There aren’t many State Rep races of interest this November, but there are four that I wanted to look at.

HD134

Rep. Sarah Davis
Ben Rose


Name        Raised    Spent     Loans    On Hand
================================================
Davis       92,972  252,457         0     53,839
Rose        83,047   31,278         0     54,691

I don’t really expect HD134 to be particularly tight – it will never be “safe” in the sense that most districts are, but it also won’t be any closer than 55-45 barring anything odd. Which, to be fair, could happen this year. Ben Rose has been pretty active so far, and he raised a decent amount of money; his campaign sent out an email on Tuesday bragging that they are “currently in 1st place with more cash on hand than our incumbent opponent”, which is true enough but not perhaps the most accurate way of viewing things, given that Davis spent a bunch of money in a contested primary. If he gets to make the same boast after the 30 Day reports come out, I will be genuinely impressed. In the meantime, it will be interesting to see if Rep. Davis retains the endorsement she received in 2014 from Equality Texas. She hasn’t done anything to forfeit it as far as I know, but unlike 2014 she has a viable opponent. We’ll see what happens.

HD144

Rep. Gilbert Pena
Mary Ann Perez


Name        Raised    Spent     Loans    On Hand
================================================
Pena        14,920   15,932         0     13,643
Perez       38,304   37,814         0     48,362

Bear in mind here that Gilbert Pena is the incumbent, not the challenger. How an incumbent, even an accidental one like Pena, could have that little to show for two years in office is a good question, but perhaps the answer is that he’s a clear underdog, based on 2012 results. Mary Ann Perez, who lost to Pena in 2014 by a close margin, had to win a three-way primary and will likely have an incumbent-sized bank account by the time the next report is filed.

HD149

Rep. Hubert Vo
Bryan Chu


Name        Raised    Spent     Loans    On Hand
================================================
Vo          34,763   44,541    45,119     56,071
Chu         27,668   42,732    46,475     17,593

As with Hd134, I don’t expect anything exciting here, but Republicans sometimes throw a bunch of money at Rep. Vo, and sometimes they find a self-funder to spare them the effort. Chu actually had a decent number of small-dollar donations, but in the end I doubt it will amount to much.

HD137

Rep. Gene Wu
Kendall Baker


Name        Raised    Spent     Loans    On Hand
================================================
Wu          42,851   35,928    45,000    124,611
Baker           20   23,424         0         20

This district is closer to safe than swing, but Rep. Wu’s opponent was one of the anti-HERO leaders, who ran for District F last year and finished third in a field of three. I was curious to see if any of Kendall Baker’s fellow HERO-haters would show him some love in this race, for old time’s sake if nothing else. I think you can guess what the answer to that is. Baker’s expenditures all came from personal funds, including $20K to Aubrey Taylor Communications for “Election related banners on blog posts thru 11/8/2016”. I’d always heard there was money to be made in blogging, I guess I was just too dumb to figure out how to do it. Maybe next election.

2016 primaries: State races

Let’s start with the Democratic race for Railroad Commissioner, and a few words from Forrest Wilder:

Not that Gene Kelly

The Gene Kelly Effect: Texas Democrats are almost perennially embarrassed by what you might call the Gene Kelly Effect — the depressing tendency of many Democratic primary voters to vote for a name they recognize on the ballot, without any regard to the person’s experience or qualifications.

Gene Kelly is the clever/annoying fellow who shares a name with a long-dead dancer and ran repeatedly in the ’90s and ’00s, garnering millions of votes and forcing expensive and time-consuming runoff elections without even pretending to run a campaign. (Perhaps it’s also a reflection of the electorate’s average age, since the dancer Gene Kelly’s heyday was in the ’40s and ’50s.)

Though Gene Kelly hasn’t run for office since 2008, a new spoiler has arrived on the scene. His name is Grady Yarbrough and his last name sounds awfully similar to (but is in fact different from) Ralph Yarborough, the legendary liberal Texas senator. In 2012, Yarbrough won 26 percent of the vote in a four-way race to be the Democratic nominee for U.S. Senate. That was enough to muscle his way into a runoff with former state Representative Paul Sadler and score 37 percent of the vote.

This year, Yarbrough is running against former state Rep Lon Burnam and Democratic labor activist Cody Garrett for a spot on the Texas Railroad Commission. Burnam is by far the most serious candidate — if measured by endorsements, money raised, legislative experience, etc. Can Burnam (or Garrett) clear 50 percent and avoid a costly runoff, or will Yarbrough, like Gene Kelly, be singin’ in the rain (of ballots)?

Sadly, that was not to be, as Yarbrough led the field with about 40% and Burnam coming in third at 26%. I’ll be voting for Cody Garrett in the runoff, thanks. Burnam did raise a little money, but it was a pittance, the kind of total that would get you laughed at in a district City Council race. I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again, one of these days the big Democratic check-writers are going to have to realize that they need to robustly support qualified candidates in these low-profile primaries, or we’re going to stop getting any qualified candidates for these offices. I know that the Republican nominee is the overwhelming favorite to win in November, but that’s not the point, and besides, who knows what might happen with Trump at the top of the GOP ticket. One of these days a Democrat is going to win one of these races, and if we’re not careful it’s going to be whatever schmo that bothered to pay the filing fee. Do we want to avoid that fate or actively court it?

Anyway. The marquee race was the rematch in SD26, and it was headed for the same result as before, with Sen. Jose Menendez holding a comfortable lead. However you viewed this race, I’m sad for TMF and sorry to see him leave the scene. He’ll be missed. Congratulations, Sen. Menendez. Also winning, by a much wider margin, was Sen. Carlos Uresti over the widow of former Sen. Frank Madla.

For the State House races, I had said yesterday that I was a little worried about the four Harris County Democratic incumbents who had drawn challengers. Thankfully, I had nothing to worry about. Reps. Alma Allen and Jessica Farrar cruised with nearly 90% (!) of the vote, while Gene Wu and Hubert Vo were up by two-to-one margins. Whew! There was good news also out of El Paso, where Rep. Mary Gonzalez was over 60% against former Rep. Chente Quintanilla. In not so good news, Rep. Ron Reynolds was headed towards a clear win in HD27. All I can say is that I hope he’s not in jail when the gavel bangs next January. As long as he’s still in office, any calls for Ken Paxton to resign are going to ring just a little hollow.

For the open seat races, Randy Bates led in early voting in HD139, but as the evening wore on he was passed by Kimberly Willis and Jarvis Johnson. Former Rep. Mary Ann Perez started slowly but eventually won a majority in HD144, with Cody Ray Wheeler next in line behind her. Other races of interest:

HD49: Gina Hinojosa, daughter of TDP Chair Gilbert Hinojosa, was headed towards a clear win to succeed Elliott Naishtat. Huey Ray Fischer was in third place.

HD77: Lina Ortega wins big to succeed Rep. Marissa Marquez.

HD116: Diana Arevalo was over 50% to succeed TMF. Runnerup Martin Golando was TMF’s chief of staff. To say the least, not a good day for Trey Martinez-Fischer.

Hd118: Tomas Uresti gets another shot at winning that seat. Hope he does better than in that special election runoff.

HD120: Barbara Gervin-Hawkins, daughter of former Spurs legend George Gervin, will face Mario Salas in a runoff.

SBOE6: Jasmine Jenkins and Dakota Carter head to the runoff.

SBOE1: Georgina Perez, the more interesting candidate, won without a runoff.

On the Republican side, there is too much so I will sum up: Supreme Court incumbents all won, while there will be runoffs for the Court of Criminal Appeals. Reps. Byron Hughes and Susan King were the leading candidates for the two open Senate seats. Speaker Joe Straus won his race handily, but several incumbents were losing at last report: Stuart Spitzer, Byron Cook (a top lieutenant for Straus), Marsha Farney, Molly White, Wayne Smith (surprise #1), and Debbie Riddle (surprise #2). I can’t wait to hear some of those stories. Here’s the story on the GOP Railroad Commissioner race, one in which there was a lot of money spent. Last but not least, the crazy may be back in the SBOE, as Mary Lou Bruner was close to a majority of the vote. Praise the Lord and pass the bong.

For plenty of other information on these and other races, here’s your supplemental reading assignment:

Trib liveblog

Observer liveblog

Chron live coverage

Rivard report

Austin Chronicle

BOR

Harris County Dem resultsHarris County GOP results

Democratic statewide resultsRepublican statewide results

Primary Day is today

From the inbox:

vote-button

“Visit www.HarrisVotes.com to ensure you go to the correct voting location and to find your personal sample ballot for the Tuesday, March 1, Republican Party and Democratic Party Primary Elections,” said Harris County Clerk Stan Stanart, encouraging voters to use the information provided by the County Clerk’s election website before heading to the polls. “Voters can find everything they need to vote, including polling locations, their personal sample ballot, and a list of acceptable forms of Photo ID at www.HarrisVotes.com.”

On Election Day, polling locations will be open from 7 am to 7 pm. In Harris County, the Republican Party will have 401 polling locations and the Democratic Party 383. “Remember, voters are required to vote at the polling location their precinct is designated to vote at on Election Day. During primary elections, the political parties determine where the voting locations are situated based on their respective voter strongholds,” Stanart reminded voters.

In Texas, a registered voter may vote in either party’s Primary Election during an election cycle, but only one party, not both. Overall, in Harris County, there are over 150 races for each party. “Voters can expect to see about 50 contests on their personal ballot. I recommend voters print out their personal ballot, do their homework, and bring their marked up ballot with them into the polling booth,” advised Stanart.

At the close of Early Voting on Friday, 216,961 voters cast their ballots early, or by mail surpassing the 115,958 who voted early in the 2012 primary elections. “Voter participation in the Primary Elections is very important,” concluded Stanart. “If you have not voted, go vote. Your vote will make a difference.”

For more election information, voters can visit www.HarrisVotes.com or call 713.755.6965.

You can find your precinct location here. Do not assume that your normal November location will be open – check first and be sure. You can get a free ride from Metro to your polling station if you need it.

PDiddie names the races he’ll be watching tonight. I agree with his list, and would the four contested Dem primaries involving incumbent State Reps as well – Alma Allen in 131, Gene Wu in 137, Jessica Farrar n 148, and Hubert Vo in 149. All four are vastly better than their opponents, and a loss by any of them would be deeply embarrassing and a kick to the face. I don’t expect any of them to be in danger, but one never knows, and the stakes here are high. The only other contested-incumbent race on the Dem side of interest is in El Paso, where Rep. Mary Gonzalez is being challenged by former Rep. Chente Quintanilla in a race that’s as much about the present and future versus the past as anything else. Quintanilla is one of several former members trying to get back into the game. At least in his case, I’d prefer he stay retired.

Beyond that, I will of course be interested in the rematch in SD26, plus the open seat fight in CD15, where Dolly Elizondo has a chance to become the first Latina elected to Congress from Texas. Most of the rest of the action of interest is on the Republican side, where the usual wingnut billionaires are doing their best to buy up the Legislature, and several incumbent members of Congress are running scared of the seething hoards in their districts. Turnout will be high, which may or may not be good news for Ted Cruz. It’s especially amusing to see professional Cruz cheerleader Erica Greider freak out about Cruz voters ganging up on House Speaker Joe Straus in his primary. I find myself having to root for members like Byron Cook and Charlie Geren, not because they’re great legislators from my perspective but because they’re part of a decreasing faction that still acts like grownups. The Senate is sure to get worse with the departure of Kevin Eltife, thought there’s at least a chance a small piece of that difference could be made up by whoever replaces the execrable Troy Fraser. One must find the small victories where one can. The SBOE is always good for either an atrocity or a belly laugh, depending on how you look at it. Lastly, to my Harris County Republican friends, if you let Don Sumners beat Mike Sullivan for Tax Assessor, you deserve to never win a countywide race again.

I may or may not post results tonight, or I may save them for the morning. Whatever the case, go vote if you haven’t. Remember, you forfeit all right to bitch about who gets elected if you don’t participate.

Endorsement watch: State reps

The Chron makes endorsements in some State Rep races. Here are the ones I’m interested in.

District 126: Cris Hernandez

Two strong candidates who grew up in district are running in the primary and hope to replace Republican Patricia Harless, who is not running for re-election. Cris Hernandez, a projects coordinator for a fiber optics company, is making his second bid for the northwest Harris County district that’s surrounded by Jersey Village, Cypress, Tomball and Spring. In 2014, Hernandez, who described himself as a “policy wonk,” ran as a Libertarian and received 13.7 percent of the vote. Our choice is Hernandez because of his firm grasp of the issues – holding the line on property taxes, equitable funding for Texas public schools and expansion of Medicaid – that will likely come up in the 2017 legislative session. His opponent, Houston attorney Joy Dawson-Thomas has the credentials and the potential to be an influential voice in the district in years to come. The winner of this race will face Republican Kevin Roberts, who is running unopposed.

District 131: Alma A. Allen

Incumbent Alma A. Allen is seeking her seventh term representing this southwest Houston District that includes part of Missouri City, and we believe she well deserves to be returned to Austin. A retired career public school educator who serves as vice chair of the House Education Committee, Allen has been a strong, powerful advocate for children and public education. Her expertise will be especially needed given the anticipated Supreme Court ruling on the way Texas funds its public schools and the possibility of a 2016 special legislative session. Her seniority, wisdom and voice in the education debate will be a plus for residents of House District 131 and greater Houston. Allen’s opponent is businessman John Shike.

Gene Wu

Gene Wu

District 137: Gene Wu

When the federal government announced that it would start resettling Syrian refugees in Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott looked at the fleeing families and saw a dangerous threat. State Rep. Gene Wu saw his next constituents. His southwest Houston district of Gulfton and Sharpstown might as well be the Ellis Island of Houston, serving as home to the waves of immigrants that come to our nation in search of freedom and safety. Burmese, Afghani, Iraqi, Syrian, Lebanese, Libyans – Wu can tick off the timeline of new arrivals over the past several years. He knows who they are and knows he’ll be there to help. In the Legislature, he worked to pass an important bill that protected children who were victims of human trafficking, directing them to Child Protective Services instead of jail. And as a former Harris County prosecutor, he’s an important figure in the criminal justice debates in Austin. In this race he’s being challenged by attorney Edward Pollard, a self-proclaimed “conservative Democrat” who opposed the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance.

District 148: Jessica Cristina Farrar

Rep. Jessica Farrar

Rep. Jessica Farrar

With 22 years in office, Jessica Farrar has become the 10th most senior state representative in Austin. And now that Sylvester Turner has left Austin for City Hall, Democrats are going to need all the seniority and institutional knowledge they can muster if they want to wage an effective defense against the Republican majority.

Over her 11 terms, Farrar has used her political power to become one of the foremost advocates for women’s issues in the state Legislature. While Farrar has been consistent in her advocacy, her changing north Houston district, which covers Spring Branch East, the Greater Heights, Near Northside and Northline, has brought new challenges to the office. Higher incomes and engaged citizens demand more from her office, and we hope she’s up to the task.

Farrar is being challenged by Dave Wilson, Houston Community College trustee for District II. Wilson told the editorial board that he is running to advocate for the middle class, but voters probably best know him for his anti-gay, anti-abortion stances, and all-around social conservatism.

District 149: Hubert Vo

First elected in 2004, Vo has grown comfortable as an advocate for economic development. He takes pride in supporting the Tier 1 bill that helped push the University of Houston into top ranks – and is still paying dividends as schools like Texas Tech climb the stats. Working to attract new tech companies to Texas, like SpaceX, also sits on his list of accomplishments. If reelected, he said he wants to focus on bolstering the infrastructure around the Port of Houston to accommodate increased trade after the expansion of the Panama Canal.

They call this “Part 1”, but the only Democratic race left to evaluate is in HD144. As such, I suspect Part 2 will be the Republican side, minus the three races they commented on here. In HD126, Joy Dawson-Thomas has so far won all the endorsements from the various clubs that have offered an opinion in this race, which makes me wonder what the Chron saw that they didn’t. Perhaps it was Hernandez’s previous Libertarian candidacy, or perhaps he just didn’t screen with them. As for the incumbents, the case for them all is clear. I’ve begun to hear some chatter that some of their opponents, in particular Dave Wilson and Demetria Smith, are being pushed by Republicans as an exercise in what Karl Rove once called ratf**king. I don’t know how seriously to take that, since Republicans will be plenty busy with their own long slate of contested races (not to mention, you know, the Presidential primary), while Democratic turnout is likely to be high enough to make any such attempt an exercise in futility, but the reward from a GOP perspective of getting one of those clowns nominated is pretty damn big, so a little paranoia is warranted. If only there were a deep-pocketed Democratic donor or two in this town who could write a check for some mailers in support of these candidates. Anyway, pay attention and for goodness’ sake don’t skip out after voting for Hillary or Bernie. The rest of these races matter.

Interview with Edward Pollard

Edward Pollard

Edward Pollard

Four Democratic legislators in Harris County have drawn primary challengers this year. Three of them – Reps. Alma Allen, Jessica Farrar, and Hubert Vo – drew opponents who filed at the last minute. None of their challengers can be described as serious. The fourth incumbent Democratic State Rep to have a contested primary is Rep. Gene Wu in HD137, and his opponent announced his intentions early while having a resume that is in line with expectations for this office. Edward Pollard, who characterizes himself as a “conservative Democrat”, is an attorney and former professional basketball player. He has served as legal clerk to Harris County Attorney Vince Ryan, legislative aid for State Representative Dawnna Dukes through Sen. Rodney Ellis’ legislative internship program, and as President of the Houston Black American Democrats. He is now in private practice at a small law firm that focuses on civil litigation and governmental affairs.

I do all my interviews in advance, sometimes well in advance. This is partly about my availability and partly about how quickly an interview subject gets back to me, but mostly about the reality that this process takes time, and I need to ensure I have enough of it. In this case, I interviewed both Rep. Wu and Edward Pollard during the Christmas break. I interviewed a lot of candidates at that time, because it worked well with my schedule. As I said, this helps me ensure that I can get the job done in a timely fashion, which is a big consideration for a short campaign season like this primary.

The down side to this is that sometimes things happen after the interviews are done that change how I would have done them in the first place. The out-of-the-blue ruling on HERO, which occurred after I had spoken to multiple candidates last year, is a prime example of this. Sometimes the thing that happens directly involves one or more of the people in a given race. I can’t go back and change the interviews I’ve done, but I can edit the post I write about it. With that in mind, let me direct you to this Facebook post by Beth Martin, who is the District Director for Rep. Wu, who had a very unpleasant encounter with Mr. Pollard at Rep. Wu’s district office. What she experienced is clearly unacceptable, especially for a candidate. I try to give everyone a fair shake in these interviews and stay away from the political aspect, but I would be negligent the extreme if I did not mention this.

Having said that, here’s the interview I did with Mr. Pollard:

You can see all of my interviews as well as finance reports and other information on candidates on my 2016 Election page.

Interview with Rep. Gene Wu

Gene Wu

Gene Wu

We turn now to legislative races, where there are a couple of open seats and a couple of challenged incumbents to keep an eye on. State Rep. Gene Wu is in his second term, having won a four-way primary in 2012 to succeed the retiring Rep. Scott Hochberg; here’s the interview I did with him at that time. A former prosecutor with the Harris County District Attorney’s office who is now in private practice, Rep. Wu has served twice on the Energy Resources Committees and once each on the Elections and County Affairs committees. Wu has also worked on criminal justice issues, authoring a bill to reduce penalties for marijuana possession in the 2015 session, and recently formally requested a Justice Department investigation into state directives concerning Syrian refugees, for which he was lauded by the Chronicle. He was also an active supporter of HERO in the 2015 election.

I do all my interviews in advance, sometimes well in advance. This is partly about my availability and partly about how quickly an interview subject gets back to me, but mostly about the reality that this process takes time, and I need to ensure I have enough of it. In this case, I interviewed Rep. Wu and his opponent, Edward Pollard, during the Christmas break. I interviewed a lot of candidates at that time, because it worked well with my schedule. As I said, this helps me ensure that I can get the job done in a timely fashion, which is a big consideration for a short campaign season like this primary.

The down side to this is that sometimes things happen after the interviews are done that change how I would have done them in the first place. The out-of-the-blue ruling on HERO, which occurred after I had spoken to multiple candidates last year, is a prime example of this. Sometimes the thing that happens directly involves one or more of the people in a given race. I can’t go back and change the interviews I’ve done, but I can edit the post I write about it. With that in mind, let me direct you to this Facebook post by Beth Martin, who is the District Director for Rep. Wu, who had a very unpleasant encounter with Mr. Pollard at Rep. Wu’s district office. What she experienced is clearly unacceptable, especially for a candidate. I try to give everyone a fair shake in these interviews and stay away from the political aspect, but I would be negligent the extreme if I did not mention this.

With all that said, here’s what Rep. Wu and I talked about:

You can see all of my interviews as well as finance reports and other information on candidates on my 2016 Election page.

Rep. Ruben Hinojosa to retire

A second open Congressional seat for 2016.

Rep. Ruben Hinojosa

First elected to Congress in 1996, Hinojosa has largely had a dormant campaign operation for most of this cycle, and he drew a Republican challenger this year in former Rio Grande City Mayor Ruben Villarreal.

Hinojosa’s office didn’t immediately return a request to comment for this article. The Monitor, a McAllen newspaper, reported the retirement earlier Thursday. It said that Hinojosa had scheduled an announcement for Friday in McAllen.

Hinojosa is the 12th U.S. House member and second Texan to announce a departure from Congress this term. U.S. Rep. Randy Neugebauer, R-Lubbock, announced in September that he would not seek re-election.

Congressional District 15, which Hinojosa represents, has traditionally been a reliable seat for Democrats. President Obama carried the district by 16 points in the 2012 presidential election.

As the news of Hinojosa’s retirement broke Thursday, names already began to circulate about possible Democrats who could run to replace them. Names floating among state Democratic operatives included: state Rep. Armando “Mando” Martinez, D-Weslaco, Hidalgo County Commissioner Joseph Palacios, Hidalgo County District Attorney Ricardo Rodriguez and former state Rep. Veronica Gonzales of McAllen.

At least one women’s Hispanic group, Texas Latina List, which bills itself as a progressive political action committee, has its eye on the 15th District.

Rep. Hinojosa has since made it official. CD15 is a slightly purplish blue. Every Dem got at least 54% of the vote in 2012, winning by at least ten points in each case. It was a much closer call in 2014, with John Cornyn and Baby Bush holding their Dem opponents under 50%, but each Dem still got at least a plurality. I’d be more worried about this in an off year than in a Presidential year, but it’s still not a sure thing. I’m rooting for a viable female candidate to emerge – it would be awesome to have the first Latina elected to Congress from Texas in a year where we (hopefully) elect the first female President. Trail Blazers has more.

Elsewhere in Democratic primary news, we have our second contested legislative primary in Harris County, and our first involving an incumbent, as Edward Pollard announced on Facebook and Instagram his candidacy for HD137, against two term Rep. Gene Wu. Pollard’s tag line is “The Conservative Democrat”, which ought to make for an interesting debate. Yes, I’ll be doing primary interviews, which will be on me before I know it, so you’ll get a chance to hear what that means and whatever else I think to ask about. By the way, today is the start of filing season. I’ll do my best to keep track of who is filing for what.

January campaign finance reports for Harris County legislative candidates

BagOfMoney

This could take awhile, and that’s with me limiting myself to contested races. First, the Senate.

SD04
Brandon Creighton
Steven Toth

SD07
Paul Bettencourt
James Wilson
Jim Davis

SD15
John Whitmire
Damian LaCroix
Ron Hale

SD17
Joan Huffman
Derek Anthony
Rita Lucido

Here’s a summary chart. For the record, Davis, Whitmire, LaCroix, and Lucido are all Dems, the rest are Rs.

Candidate Office Raised Spent Cash on hand =================================================== Creighton SD04 296,267 205,591 1,002,464 Toth SD04 107,752 48,048 123,116 Bettencourt SD07 140,100 55,873 103,041 Wilson SD07 7,675 5,129 3,224 Davis SD07 1,250 1,250 0 Whitmire SD15 298,874 148,973 6,978,885 LaCroix SD15 16,329 33,866 0 Hale SD15 123 1,441 123 Huffman SD17 136,600 91,142 701,583 Anthony SD17 0 0 0 Lucido SD17 41,625 10,489 29,829

Technically, SD04 is not on the ballot. It’s now a vacant seat due to the resignation in October of Tommy Williams, and the special election to fill it has not been set yet; I presume it will be in May. Reps. Creighton and Toth aren’t the only announced candidates, but they both have the right amount of crazy, and at least in Creighton’s case plenty of money as well. It’s a statement on how far our politics have gone that I find myself sorry to see Tommy Williams depart. He was awful in many ways, but as the last session demonstrated, when push came to shove he was fairly well grounded in reality, and he did a more than creditable job as Senate Finance Chair. I have no real hope for either Creighton or Toth to meet that standard, and the Senate will get that much stupider in 2015.

Paul Bettencourt can go ahead and start measuring the drapes in Dan Patrick’s office. I honestly hadn’t even realized he had a primary opponent till I started doing this post. The only questions is in what ways will he be different than Patrick as Senator. Every once in awhile, Patrick landed on the right side of an issue, and as his tenure as Public Ed chair demonstrated, he was capable of playing well with others and doing collaborative work when he put his mind to it. Doesn’t come remotely close to balancing the scales on him, but one takes what one can. Bettencourt is a smart guy, and based on my own encounters with him he’s personable enough to fit in well in the Senate, likely better than Patrick ever did. If he has it in mind to serve the public and not just a seething little slice of it, he could do some good. The bar I’m setting is basically lying on the ground, and there’s a good chance he’ll fail to clear it. But there is some potential there. It’s all up to him.

I don’t have anything new to add to the SD15 Democratic primary race. I just don’t see anything to suggest that the dynamic of the race has changed.

I hadn’t realized Joan Huffman had a primary challenger until I started this post. Doesn’t look like she has much to worry about. I’m very interested to see how Rita Lucido does with fundraising. Senators don’t usually draw serious November challengers. The district is drawn to be solidly Republican, but Lucido is the first opponent Huffman has had since the 2008 special election runoff. I’m very curious to see if Lucido can at least begin to close the gap.

On to the House:

HD129
Sheryl Berg
Briscoe Cain
Mary Huls
Jeffrey Larson
Chuck Maricle
Dennis Paul
Brent Perry
John Gay

HD131
Alma Allen
Azuwuike Okorafor

HD132
Michael Franks
Ann Hodge
Justin Perryman
Mike Schofield
Luis Lopez

HD133
Jim Murphy
Laura Nicol

HD134
Sarah Davis
Bonnie Parker
Alison Ruff

HD135
Gary Elkins
Moiz Abbas

HD137
Gene Wu
Morad Fiki

HD138
Dwayne Bohac
Fred Vernon

HD144
Mary Ann Perez
Gilbert Pena

HD145
Carol Alvarado
Susan Delgado

HD148
Jessica Farrar
Chris Carmona

HD149
Hubert Vo
Al Hoang
Nghi Ho

HD150
Debbie Riddle
Tony Noun
Amy Perez

HDs 129 and 132 are open. Each has multiple Republicans, all listed first in alphabetical order; the Dem in each race is listed at the end. In all other districts the incumbent is first, followed by any primary opponents, then any November opponents. I will note at this point that the last time I mentioned HD129, I wrote that Democratic candidate John Gay appeared to me to be the same person that had run in CD14 in 2012 as a Republican, based on what I could and could not find on the Internet. Two Democrats in HD129 contacted me after that was published to assure me that I had gotten it wrong, that there were two completely different individuals named John Gay, and that the one running as a Dem in HD129 was truly a Democrat. While I was never able to speak to this John Gay myself to ascertain that with him – I left him two phone messages and never got a call back – other information I found based on what these folks told me convinced me they were right and I was mistaken. That post was corrected, but I’m pointing this out here for those of you who might not have seen that correction.

With that out of the way, here’s the summary:

Candidate Office Raised Spent Cash on hand =================================================== Berg - R HD129 28,101 13,597 29,530 Cain - R HD129 17,246 9,614 4,131 Huls - R HD129 1,254 3,784 1,969 Larson - R HD129 325 1,130 4,226 Maricle - R HD129 3,520 30,207 879 Paul - R HD129 14,495 19,436 95,058 Perry - R HD129 51,297 19,100 52,687 Gay - D HD129 0 1,221 778 Allen - D HD131 8,877 13,662 21,573 Okorafor - D HD131 0 1,689 0 Franks - R HD132 0 4,604 43,396 Hodge - R HD132 51,330 19,741 41,925 Perryman - R HD132 26,550 7,178 30,788 Schofield - R HD132 43,665 15,449 45.454 Lopez - D HD132 Murphy - R HD133 102,828 44,004 184,174 Nicol - D HD133 2,380 750 1,640 Davis - R HD134 171,990 70,369 145,561 Parker - R HD134 0 10,213 10,161 Ruff - D HD134 0 750 0 Elkins - R HD135 28,150 17,136 331,672 Abbas - D HD135 0 0 0 Wu - D HD137 15,390 20,439 11,641 Fiki - R HD137 2,320 167 2,320 Bohac - R HD138 35,975 45,797 14,168 Vernon - D HD138 500 0 500 Perez - D HD144 18,400 23,705 34,386 Pena - R HD144 0 750 0 Alvarado - D HD145 51,915 6,585 54,035 Delgado - D HD145 0 750 0 Farrar - D HD148 37,771 6,739 75,861 Carmona - R HD148 325 883 2,442 Vo - D HD149 7,739 9,129 20,935 Hoang - R HD149 4,550 17,550 4,222 Ho - R HD149 4,198 1,211 3,736 Riddle - R HD150 23,200 15,327 61,809 Noun - R HD150 16,879 83,388 43,490 Perez - D HD150 3,139 452 116

I’m not going to go into much detail here. Several candidates, especially in the GOP primary in HD129, have loaned themselves money or are spending personal funds on campaign expenses. If you see a big disparity between cash on hand and the other totals, that’s usually why. I’m impressed by the amount Debbie Riddle’s primary challenger is spending, though I have no idea whether it will have an effect or not. I’m as impressed in the opposite direction by Bonnie Parker in HD134. Maybe she’s just getting warmed up, I don’t know. I figure her 8 day report will tell a more interesting story. What catches your eye among these names and numbers?

Filing deadline today

Before I get into the details of who has or hasn’t filed for what, I have a bone to pick with this AP story.

Perhaps what the candidate filings reveal most is the relative strength and depth of the political parties in Texas. Four top Republicans are in a fierce battle for lieutenant governor, three for attorney general and five for agriculture commissioner.

Three Republicans are in the race for the Railroad Commission, an entry-level statewide office that gives the winner routine access to the state’s biggest campaign donors as well as the governor and attorney general. The only competition in the judicial races is for open seats vacated by Republican incumbents.

If a party can be judged by the number of people who want to lead it, Republicans certainly remain popular and thriving. Most of their statewide candidates have decades of experience winning elections.

Democrats have yet to field a complete slate of statewide candidates and have just one candidate each for lieutenant governor, attorney general, comptroller and land commissioner. The only potentially competitive race pits failed gubernatorial candidate Kinky Friedman against Jim Hogan for agriculture commissioner.

San Antonio Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, the only Democrat running for lieutenant governor, was first elected to the Texas House in 1990 and to the Senate in 1999. She has the most campaign experience among Democratic candidates followed by Davis, who won her Senate seat in 2008. Freidman and attorney general candidate Sam Houston have run statewide offices before, but have never won.

That lack of experience and the shortage of candidates reveal the shallowness of the Democratic bench after 20 years out of power. There are young Democrats who have statewide potential, such as San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro and his twin brother U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro, but they’ve decided like some others to sit out the 2014 race, likely to let others test the waters before they take the plunge themselves.

I’ll stipulate that the Republican side of the ballot has more overall experience. For obvious reasons, it’s the only primary that features statewide officeholders. But to say “most of their statewide candidates have decades of experience winning elections” overstates things considerably. Outside of the Lt Governor’s race, most of their candidates are current or former legislators, and I submit that decades of winning a gerrymandered legislative district is hardly indicative of statewide potential.

To break it down a bit more scientifically, the GOP field for the non-Governor and Lt. Governor races are made up of the following:

Railroad Commissioner: One former State Rep and three people you’ve never heard of.
Land Commissioner: One scion of a political dynasty making his first run for office, and some other dude.
Ag Commissioner: Two former State Reps, the Mayor of a small town, and a state party functionary who lost a State Rep race in 2004.
Attorney General: A State Senator, a State Rep, and an appointed Railroad Commissioner that defeated a Libertarian in 2012 in the only election he’s run to date.
Comptroller: A State Senator, a State Rep, and a failed gubernatorial candidate.

Not exactly Murderer’s Row, is it? What they have first and foremost is the advantage of their party. That’s no small thing, of course, but it has nothing to do with anything any of them has done.

That said, most current statewide officeholders made the initial leap from legislative offices – Rick Perry and Susan Combs were State Reps before winning their first statewide elections, with Combs spending two years in Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison’s office in between; Todd Staples and Jerry Patterson were State Senators. Dems have plenty of legislators that would make fine candidates for state office – two of them are currently running – but it’s a lot harder to convince someone to give up a safe seat for what we would all acknowledge is an underdog bid for higher office. How much that changes in 2018, if at all, depends entirely on how well things go this year. If we have one or more breakthroughs, or even if we come reasonably close, you can bet there will be plenty of candidates with “decades of experience winning elections” next time.

Anyway. As we head into the last day of candidate filing, the local Democratic ballot is filling in nicely. Dems have at least one candidate for nineteen of the 24 State House seats in Harris County. Four are GOP-held seats – HDs 126, 127, 128, and 130 – and one is HD142, which is currently held by Rep. Harold Dutton. Either Rep. Dutton is just dithering until the last day, or he’s planning to retire and his preferred successor will file sometime late today. I guess we’ll find out soon enough. The two additions to the Democratic challenger ledger are Luis Lopez in HD132, who appears to be this person, and Fred Vernon in HD138, about whom I know nothing. Dems also now have two Congressional challengers, James Cargas in CD07 as expected, and Niko Letsos in CD02, about whom I know nothing.

By the way, for comparison purposes, the Harris County GOP is only contesting 14 of 24 State Rep seats. The three lucky Dems that have drawn challengers so far are Rep. Gene Wu in HD137, Rep. Hubert Vo in HD149 – we already knew about that one – and Rep. Jessica Farrar in HD148, who draws 2011 At Large #3 Council candidate Chris Carmona. I have to say, if they leave freshman Rep. Mary Ann Perez in HD144 unopposed, I would consider that an abject failure of recruitment if I were a Republican. Beyond that, the thing that piqued my interest was seeing the two worst recent officeholders – Michael Wolfe and Don Sumners – back on the ballot, as each is running for the two At Large HCDE Trustee offices. Putting aside their myriad and deep incompetencies while in office, the only possible reason these two clowns would be running for the HCDE is that they want to screw it up for the purpose of killing it off. As we know, Dems have Traci Jensen and Lily Leal running for one of those seats. Debra Kerner is the incumbent for the other seat and I believe she has filed but with petitions, so her status hasn’t been finalized yet. All I know is that we have enough chuckleheads in office already. We don’t need to put these two retreads back into positions of power.

Statewide, Texpatriate noted on Saturday that Dale Henry has filed to run for Railroad Commissioner, which will pit him against Steve Brown. Henry ran for this office as a Dem in 2006, 2008 (he lost in the primary to Mark Thompson), and 2010. Henry is a qualified candidate, but he’s a dinosaur in terms of campaign techniques and technologies. That might have been charming in 2006 or 2008, but it’s way out of place in 2014. All due respect to Dale Henry, but I’ll be voting for Steve Brown. We are still waiting to see how many statewide judicial candidates we’ll get. Word is we’ll have them, but who and how many remain unknown. Finally, between the Harris County primary filings email and the TDP filings page, I see that Dems have at least two candidates for the 14th Circuit Court of Appeals – Gordon Goodman for Place 7, and Kyle Carter, who was re-elected to the 125th Civil District Court in 2012, for Chief Justice. There are still slots on that court and on the 1st Court of Appeals, so I hope there are more of these to come. As always, if you are aware of other filings or rumors of filings, leave a comment and let us know.

It was a very good year for Gene Wu

Rep.-elect Gene Wu has some big shoes to fill in HD137, but I am confident that he will do a fine job of it.

Rep. Gene Wu

Wu relates much of what he plans to do and why he sought public office to his experiences growing up in Sharpstown.

His family emigrated to the United States from China when he 5.

“When my family first moved here we were dirt poor,” he said.

His parents settled first in Odessa and then found an apartment in Houston’s Parkgreen Apartments near the Sharpstown Golf Course.

Wu’s father, Zhengyi Wu, worked as a nurse. At age 45, he pursued a new dream, and started attending law school. He now has his own immigration law practice.

His mother, Anmei Tang, is an electrical engineer.

“The first thing we did was save money for a house,” Wu said. “My parents worked long, crazy hours.”

The family ultimately found an affordable house in Sharpstown’s Crane Park subdivision. Wu’s parents still live there today.

[…]

Wu said he knows the idea of saving world sounds idealistic. But he’s unapologetic about his goals.

“It’s still possible to save the world, and it’s still worth saving,” he said.

During his graduate studies, Wu completed a fellowship at the Texas Workforce Commission, where he worked on improving community college and technical school standards.

After graduation, Wu became the chief clerk for the House Higher Education Committee for the Texas Legislature.

Wu came to the conclusion that while his master’s degree in public policy helped prepare him to create law, he needed a better understanding of how the law is enforced.

“Half the coin was missing,” he said.

Wu was drawn to the trial advocacy program at South Texas College of Law and earned his law degree there in 2008.

Shortly after graduation, he joined the Harris County District Attorney’s office.

“I went to trial on my second day in the office,” Wu said. “I won that trial.”

Throughout his time with the DA’s office, Wu volunteered in the community. He has been president of the Houston 80-20 Political Action Committee, a board member with community advocacy organization OCA Greater Houston, a mentor and teacher for Skills for Living, a tutor for at-risk youth at Sharpstown High School’s Grad-Lab and Twilight programs and a trainer for Neighborhood Centers Inc.

“The quality that stands out about him is his dedication to the community,” said Sacha Lazarre, senior director of civic engagement for Neighborhood Centers.

For the past five years, Wu has trained Neighborhood Center volunteers to help community members complete their citizenship applications during monthly citizenship forums.

“I think he loves what he does,” Lazarre said. “He’s passionate about it. And he takes time to bring in stories to make it relevant to (the volunteers). That’s appreciated.”

All this and he got married to KTRK’s Miya Shay this year, too. Having interrupted his blogging to help get Wu elected, Greg Wythe will continue to interrupt his blogging to work for Wu in Austin. Needless to say, I expect great things. May 2013 be an even better year for Rep.-elect Gene Wu than 2012 was.

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.

Endorsement watch: Wu and Vo

Clearly I was wrong about the Chron ignoring legislative endorsements, as they now have two more to follow Ann Johnson‘s. First up is an endorsement of Gene Wu to be Rep. Scott Hochberg’s successor in HD137.

Gene Wu

We believe that Democrat Gene Wu has the educational background and passion for policy that make him the best candidate to succeed Hochberg.

A former Harris County assistant district attorney, Wu’s experience isn’t limited to the legal arena. With a master’s in public policy from the University of Texas, Wu worked at the Texas Workforce Commission to improve standards for community colleges and technical schools and served as chief clerk for the House Higher Education Committee. These are particularly pertinent areas of experience, given the importance of building an educated workforce and the education budget battles in Austin.

Wu talks about education policy with the specificity of an experienced politician, arguing for proper student-to-teacher ratios, reforming high-stakes testing and improving vocational training. He also offers high praise for schools like KIPP and YES Prep that create a cultural respect for learning, which can often help students more than anything else.

Wu also has a deep connection to his district, regularly volunteering with the Skills for Living program and tutoring at-risk youth at Sharpstown High School. He exhibits an exhaustive understanding of his home turf and hopes to attract the businesses that will serve and support the middle-class families that are the growing base of the area. This is the sort of forward thinking that voters should want for a district that covers areas like Gulfton and Sharpstown.

The Chron has made three endorsements in HD137, having gone with Joe Madden in the primary and Jamaal Smith in the runoff. This was a testament to the depth and quality of the candidates running in the Democratic primary, as they said at the time. I’d encourage you to go back and listen to the interview I did with Wu for the primary, because the qualities the Chron talks about in this endorsement really came through in that conversation. I’ve no doubt at all that Wu will be an excellent representative.

The Chron also endorsed four-term Rep. Hubert Vo for re-election.

Rep. Hubert Vo

Texas House District 149 is one of the most diverse in the state, covering west Harris County from I-10 south to Alief, including Mission Bend. The Democratic incumbent Hubert Vo, a Vietnamese immigrant, reflects the diversity of his district and is the right choice in this election.

In his past races, Vo stood as an attractive alternative to candidates who embodied some of Texas’ worst policy instincts, such as underfunding government services and leaving available federal dollars on the table. Since his first election to the Texas House in 2004, Vo has fulfilled his promises of working to fully fund CHIP, support education and serve local needs at the Legislature. A reliable defender of these important issues, Vo rightfully points out that budget fights will happen every year due to a structural budget shortfall – the kind that we can’t cut our way out of. Voters should appreciate this sort of honest talk from a politician.

One of Vo’s greatest achievements for his district was the creation of the International Management District, located along Bellaire and Bissonnet between Beltway 8 and Highway 6. This district has allowed for reinvestment in local infrastructure and a dedicated focus on attracting businesses. And the district’s success in improving public safety by contracting with the constable’s office and private security has not only bolstered business but created safer neighborhoods.

I’ve been a fan of Rep. Vo’s since his first run for office in 2004. Good guy, good representative, good fit for his district.

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  www.wendydavisforsenate.com
S.D. 25: John Courage, D-San Antonio www.couragefortexassenate.org
S.D. 29: Sen. José Rodríguez, D-El Paso www.senatorjoserodriguez.com

Texas House of Representatives
H.D. 23: Rep. Craig Eiland, D-Galveston  www.craigeiland.net
H.D. 24: Greg Bonnen, R-Friendswood  www.drgregbonnen.com
H.D. 29: Ed Thompson, R-Pearland  www.electedthompson.com
H.D. 34: Abel Herrero, D-Robstown  www.abelherrero.com
H.D. 41: Bobby Guerra, D-McAllen  www.voteguerra.com
H.D. 43: Yvonne Gonzalez Toureilles, D-Alice  www.voteyvonne.com
H.D. 45: John Adams, D-Dripping Springs  www.votedonna.com
H.D. 54: Rep. Jimmie Don Aycock, R-Killeen   www.jdaycock.com
H.D. 59: J. D. Sheffield, R-Gatesville  www.jdfortexas.com
H.D. 74: Poncho  Nevárez, D-Eagle Pass  www.ponchonevarez.com
H.D. 78: Joe Moody, D-El Paso  www.moodyforelpaso.com
H.D. 85: Dora Olivo, D-Richmond  www.doraolivo.com
H.D. 94: Rep. Diane Patrick, R-Arlington  www.dianepatrick.org
H.D. 95: Nicole Collier, D-Fort Worth  www.votenicolecollier.com
H.D. 101: Chris Turner, D-Arlington  www.votechristurner.com
H.D. 102: Rich Hancock, D-Richardson   www.hancockfortexas.com
H.D. 105: Dr. Rosemary Robbins, D-Irving   www.voterosemaryrobbins.com
H.D. 107: Robert Miklos, D-Dallas  www.robertmiklos.com
H.D. 115: Bennett Ratliff, R-Coppell  www.bennettratliff.com
H.D. 117: Philip Cortez, D-San Antonio   www.philipcortez.com
H.D. 118: Rep. Joe Farias, D-San Antonio  www.joefarias.com
H.D. 125: Justin Rodriguez, D-San Antonio  www.justin125.com
H.D. 134: Ann Johnson, D-Houston  www.voteannjohnson.com, TV spot
H.D. 136: Matt Stillwell, D-Cedar Park  www.mattstillwell.com
H.D. 137: Gene Wu, D-Houston  www.genefortexas.com
H.D. 144: Mary Ann Perez, D-Pasadena   www.votemaryannperez.com
H.D. 149: Rep. Hubert Vo, D-Houston   www.hubertvo.com

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?

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

Fall interview season begins tomorrow

I know that we just finished the primary runoffs, but we’re also now more than halfway through August, so it’s time to start doing interviews with candidates for the fall. I’ll be up candid, I don’t know exactly how many interviews I plan to do. For the most part, I don’t anticipate re-interviewing candidates that I spoke to for the May election – I’m already too far behind even if I did want to do that. I’m mostly going to concentrate on area races, but as always things can and do change, so don’t hold me to that. In the meantime, here’s a list of the interviews I did earlier with candidates who will be on the ballot in November:

Senate: Paul SadlerWebMP3

CD07: James CargasWebMP3

CD14: Nick LampsonWebMP3

CD20: Joaquin CastroWebMP3

CD23: Pete GallegoWebMP3

CD27: Rose Meza HarrisonWebMP3

CD33: Marc VeaseyWebMP3

SBOE6: Traci JensenWebMP3

SD10: Sen. Wendy DavisWebMP3

HD131: Rep. Alma AllenWebMP3

HD137: Gene WuWebMP3

HD144: Mary Ann PerezWebMP3

HD146: Rep. Borris MilesWebMP3

HD147: Rep. Garnet ColemanWebMP3

Harris County Sheriff: Sheriff Adrian GarciaWebMP3

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

You may notice if you click on the Web links above that the embedded audio player no longer works. The code comes from Google, and they unfortunately appear to have disabled it. I should have an alternate solution in place going forward, but just clicking on the MP3 file ought to work for you as well. And of course you can always download it for your iPod or whatever.

I am going to try again to reach Beto O’Rourke and Filemon Vela, but you know how that goes. I’ve given up on Rep. Lloyd Doggett; though I did finally make contact with a staffer before the primary, at this point I doubt there’s any interest on his end. There was a contested primary in CD10, but both candidates were late filers. I am trying to reach Tawana Cadien, who won the nomination, but she has no phone number that I can find and she has not as yet responded to an email I sent. If anyone knows how to reach her, please ask her to drop me a note: kuff – at – offthekuff – dot – com.

2012 Democratic primary runoffs

All state results here. Best news of the night was Paul Sadler‘s easy win. Can we please raise some money for this guy?

Congressional results: James Cargas in CD07, Pete Gallego in CD23, Rose Meza Harrison in CD27, Marc Veasey in CD33, and Filemon Vela in CD34. I’m delighted that three quality members of the Texas Democratic legislative caucus will have a shot at serving in Congress next year. As for Filemon Vela, I’m still suspicious of the guy, but we’ll see how it goes.

In the Lege, Gene Wu had another strong showing in HD137, and I feel very good about his chances to win this Dem-favored-but-not-a-lock seat in November. Parent PAC didn’t have any skin in the runoffs, but Annie’s List did, and they went one for two, as Nicole Collier will succeed Veasey in HD95, but Tina Torres lost to Phillip Cortez for the nomination in HD117. That’s a critical race in November.

The biggest surprise of the night was also some good news, as Erica Lee romped to a huge win in the HCDE Position 6, Precinct 1 runoff. She won with close to 75% of the vote, so maybe, just maybe, that will be enough to convince anyone who might file another lawsuit that they’d be wasting their time. I truly hope this is the end of it, because this is by far the best possible outcome. Congrats to Erica Lee, to Alan Rosen in Constable Precinct 1, to Zerick Guinn in Constable Precinct 2, and to all the other winners last night. Onward to November, y’all.

UPDATE: Litigation is coming for the HCDE election.

The Department of Education has filed a federal lawsuit seeking to void the May primary and Tuesday’s runoff. Lee, Harris County and both political parties want to dismiss the case, which is ongoing.

Johnson said he had planned legal action on behalf of the 1,400 excluded voters whether he won the runoff or not.

“The whole point of this was to make sure the disenfranchised voters had a voice,” Johnson said.”

I guess it was too much to hope for otherwise.

UPDATE: When I went to bed last night, Zerick Guinn was leading by what I thought was a safe margin. Apparently, not safe enough as today Chris Diaz is shown as the winner by 3 votes. I smell a recount coming.

UPDATE: The plot thickens. Here’s the 10:12 PM update from the County Clerk website, which the last update I saw before I went to bed. See how Zerick Guinn has 2695 votes? Now here is the 12:43 AM update in which Guinn has mysteriously dropped to 2061 votes, which puts him behind Diaz and his 2064. How does that happen?

Election night returns

For your convenience:

Statewide Democratic results

Looks good for Paul Sadler. Going to be a long night in CDs 23 and 33.

Statewide Republican results

Ted Cruz has a modest early lead. Wackjob John Devine is leading Supreme Court Justice David Medina. Steve Stockman is leading in CD36, and Donna Campbell is crushing Jeff Wentworth. The crazy flag is flying high.

Harris County Democratic results

Looking good for Gene Wu, Alan Rosen, and especially Erica Lee, who has over 70% in the disputed HCDE runoff.

Harris County GOP results

Louis Guthrie will get to oppose Sheriff Adrian Garcia.

I’ll post full results in the morning.

Runoff Day

At long last, the 2012 primary season is about to be over in Texas, other than perhaps the HCDE race. To say the least, it’s been a long, strange trip, one that I hope goes down in the books as a bizarre aberration, never to be repeated or approximated. If you have not voted yet in Harris County, you can find all the information you will need here. PLEASE be aware that only a handful of locations will be open, and they are not guaranteed to have both primaries at them. Check your location before you head out and avoid any needlessly unpleasant surprises.

As far as turnout goes, recent runoff history suggests that most of the votes have already been cast:

Year Mail Mail % Early Early % E-Day E-Day % ======================================================== 2006 D 2,920 21.3% 4,296 31.3% 6,510 47.4% 2006 R 5,432 51.6% 2,019 19.2% 3,077 29.2% 2008 D 4,568 47.4% 3,045 31.5% 2,056 21.3% 2008 R 11,373 28.0% 14,912 36.8% 14,262 35.2% 2010 D 5,885 38.7% 5,122 33.6% 4,218 27.8% 2010 R 12,220 28.4% 14,769 34.3% 16,025 37.3% 2012 D 7,304 11,715 2012 R 17,441 53,043

Final EV turnout numbers for this year are here. As there were no statewide Democratic primary runoffs in 2010, I had forgotten there were Harris County countywide runoffs that year. I have added in those numbers to my earlier post to complete the picture on that. My apologies for the oversight. Anyway, what we learn from this, other than the need for a good absentee ballot program, is that in each primary runoff of the past three cycles more than half the ballots were cast before Runoff Day. In fact, outside of the 2006 Democratic primary runoff, more than 60% of the ballots were cast before Runoff Day. Given that, don’t expect too much to be added to the vigorous early turnout so far. It could happen that the final total will be more than double what it is now for either primary, but history suggests otherwise.

Of course, we’ve never really had anything like the GOP Senate primary and runoff, so if there’s going to be another aberration, that would be where and why. I’m not dumb enough to try to guess who will win that race, but I will say that anyone who had made a prediction based on turnout level ought to be giving the matter more thought. It would also seem that Sarah Palin and Rick Perry are no longer BFFs. High school sure can be rough, can’t it?

The other GOP runoffs of interest to me are in SD25 and HD43. In the former, generally sane if occasionally eccentric Sen. Jeff Wentworth is trying to hang on against the decidedly crazy Donna Campbell, whose election would be another big step in the stupidification of the Senate, as well as a clean sweep for the teabaggers in the legislative primaries. HD43 is where turncoat Dem Rep. JM Lozano is hoping to not be yet another Latino Republican knocked off in a primary by a white guy. Expect some narrative-related punditry on that race no matter who wins.

On the Democratic side, obviously I’m rooting for Paul Sadler to carry the banner in the Senate race in the fall. Like EoW, I don’t know if a Cruz-Sadler matchup will be the definitive test of the myth/hypothesis that moderate Republicans may finally be willing to cross over and support a mainstream Dem over a nutty Republican – I’d argue that Bill White already provided some evidence to that, he just picked the wrong year to do it in – but if you want to start your speculation engines, Burka quoted a “nationally known Republican consultant” who said that “if Ted Cruz wins the Senate race, Texas will be a purple state in four years.” Campose says, why wait?

Why not accelerate things starting Wednesday morning?

A little over a million GOPers will cast votes in the GOP runoff tomorrow. In the 2008 General Election in the Lone Star State, eight million of us cast votes. That’s seven million voters that aren’t participating in the GOP mudfest. A lot of voters across the state have been turned off by the onslaught of negative ads that now have a mom blaming her kid’s suicide on Ted Cruz.

I think if Cruz wins he is damaged goods that Dems can seize upon over the next 99 days.

[…]

If Cruz does pull it off tomorrow we need to immediately paint him and the rest of the GOP ballot as too extreme for the Lone Star State and Harris County. Commentary has said it before that in order for Dems to grow here in Harris County we have to head northwest. Commentary is also partial to my client, State Board of Education, District 6 candidate Traci Jensen. Traci’s GOP opponent Donna Bahorich is State Senator Dan Patrick’s former district director and every bit as scary as Ted Cruz. The showcasing of Traci Jensen, Rep. Sadler, and Sheriff Adrian Garcia against extremist candidates in that part of the county will result in more Dem votes up and down the ballot countywide.

Sometimes unexpected opportunities just show up at your doorstep. If Cruz wins, an opportunity is at our doorstep.

If the Dems in charge just shrug it off and go on about business as usual and cede the state to Cruz, the Tea Baggers, and extremism, then a “shame on you” would be letting them off too lightly.

Well, it sure would be nice if Sadler had 45 million bucks to spend to remind everyone of all the awful things Dewhurst and Cruz have been saying about each other, but I don’t think that’s going to happen. But Campos is right, there’s no time like the present, and there’s no place like our own back yard to get started. What are we waiting for?

Beyond that, there are three Congressional runoffs that are big. It’s been clear for a few years now that the future of the Texas Democratic Party has been in the State House, and depending on how things go we could have as many as three former members of last year’s delegation on the November ballot (Joaquin Castro, who is already the CD20 nominee; Marc Veasey in CD33; Pete Gallego in CD23), with two of them all but guaranteed a win in November. I’d consider that a down payment on future state races. In addition, the woefully under-reported CD34 primary will determine whether or not the husband of a Republican judge will be the Democratic nominee for that newly created Congressional district. I have a hard time believing that, too, but here we are. There are numerous State House races of interest as well, with HD137 being the focal point for me. On the GOP side, seven House runoffs plus the Wentworth race feature Parent PAC candidates, so those are worth keeping an eye on, too. What races are you watching today?

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.

Endorsement watch: Smith in HD137

The Chron makes its second runoff endorsement in a race where its original endorsee failed to make it out of the first round.

Jamaal Smith

Whoever wins the race for Texas House District 137 will have big shoes to fill, replacing longtime Rep. Scott Hochberg. The results from the Democratic primary on May 29 cut an impressive slate of candidates down to two, Jamaal Smith and Gene Wu, who will compete in the July 31 runoff. Of these candidates, we believe Jamaal Smith has the greater potential to rise to the level of experience, focus and know-how that this district has come to expect from its representative in Austin.

Before running to be the Democratic nominee for this seat, Smith served as policy advisor and community liaison for state Sen. Rodney Ellis, acting as a link between Austin and Houston and helping to craft the legislation that would eventually come to the floor of the Texas House. This background gives him experience with the local issues that face Houston, but also the ability to navigate the often byzantine processes of the state legislature.

If elected in the fall (the Democratic primary winner will face Republican M.J. Khan), Smith is also well positioned to represent the large Hispanic population in his district. Before working for Sen. Ellis, Smith held various senior positions within the Harris County Democratic Party, where he was known for actively seeking the advice of Houston’s Hispanic establishment. Smith also began his political career serving as legislative director for the late state Rep. Joe E. Moreno, the East End Democrat from District 143.

We live in a diverse city, and it needs representatives who can build coalitions out of our multifaceted makeup. Smith promises to be that sort of representative.

Unlike their previous runoff endorsement, this one was a choice between two good candidates. I’m neutral in this race precisely because of that – both Smith and Gene Wu would make excellent representatives, and I’ll be happy whoever wins. You can listen to my interview with Smith here, and read the guest post he submitted; Wu’s interview is here and his guest post is here. Stace has more.

Endorsement watch: Who’s your fourth choice?

The Chron endorses a new candidate for the CD36 Republican primary runoff.

Two survivors emerged from the crowded May Republican primary race to fill the new congressional seat for U.S. District 36, one of four new congressional districts added to the Texas delegation in Washington as a result of the 2010 Census.

The remaining candidates are Stephen Takach, a political newcomer from Baytown with deep roots in the district, and Steve Stockman, a former one-term congressman who upset veteran Democratic U.S. Rep. Jack Brooks in the 1994 Republican sweep.

We urge District 36 Republican runoff voters to cast their ballots for Takach. The runoff winner will face the unchallenged Democratic primary winner, businessman and pilot Max Martin, in November. The sprawling district encompasses Newton, Jasper, Tyler, Polk, Orange, Hardin and Liberty counties in East Texas, as well as Chambers County and a portion of east Harris County.

Remember, this was the race in which the Chron had made a three-way endorsement for the May primary. As none of those three made the cut, they had to dig a little deeper for the runoff. Given that one of the two candidates left standing was the notorious whackjob Steve Stockman, the choice was easy if not obvious when they started. Hey, you endorse from the pool of candidates you have, not the pool of candidates you wish you had.

Of the other runoffs – and I’m going off the top of my head here, so jump in and make whatever additions or corrections are needed – the only other one I can think of where the Chron’s first round choice was eliminated was the HD137 primary, in which the Chron originally recommended Joe Madden. Since the May field was as they called it an “impressive slate of candidates”, their second choice will hardly be a consolation prize. Beyond that, the Chron did not make a choice in CD07, HCDE Precinct 1 Position 6, or Constable Precinct 2, so we’ll see if they get around to it this time. For all the other races I can think of, the runoff candidates include the Chron’s pick from May. On the Democratic side that includes Paul Sadler and Cindy Vara-Leija; for the GOP that includes David Dewhurst, David Medina, and Carl Pittman. Again, if I’ve missed anyone, let me know.

Jamaal Smith: Cracking Down on For-Profit Colleges in Southwest Houston

The following is from a series of guest posts that I will be presenting over the next few weeks.

Jamaal Smith

I come from a family of educators. Four out of five of my aunts were teachers, and my wife is currently working on her Doctorate in Education. I was made to understand from an early age the power and promise of basic and higher education. In my campaign to become the next State Representative from District 137, an area that covers most of Southwest Houston, I have made education the core of my message to voters. I know that good, accessible, and affordable education options can be the silver bullet to solving some of the other issues which my District faces, including crime and low levels of economic development.

In the area of higher education, Southwest Houston faces an array of huge challenges. First, area high school graduates are often unprepared for college-level coursework. Secondly, because of the economic and demographic profile of Southwest Houston, most students are first-generation students, generally from low socio-economic backgrounds. Thirdly, options for higher education in Southwest Houston are more and more centered on the for-profit
college industry.

For-profit colleges such as Everest Institute, University of Phoenix, and Sanford-Brown College have come under scrutiny recently because of their excessive tuition prices, overreliance on public money, and deceptive – at times criminal – recruitment practices. According to a federal investigation led by Sen. Harkin of Iowa, the number of students at for-profit colleges has grown from 553,000 to 1.8 million, an increase of 225%. At the same time, employment rates for graduates of these schools are dismal, with unemployment rates hovering around 23%, more than twice the national rate. Currently, 25% of for-profit school graduates default on their student loans, making up 44% of all defaults. Most egregiously, these schools charge 6 to 10 times more for similar programs at local community colleges.

It’s easy to see why the Wall-Street-traded parent companies of these colleges (Kaplan Inc., Corinthian Colleges, the Apollo Group, etc.) collectively earned 2.7 billion dollars in profits in 2009 alone. Over 90% of the revenue earned by these businesses comes from federal tax dollars, effectively making these companies highly profitable and terribly ineffective government contractors.

Unfortunately, Southwest Houston is home to dozens of these predatory institutions, including American Intercontinental University, Westwood College, Texas School for Business, and Everest Institute. They target low-income students, single mothers, and veterans through aggressive recruitment and marketing programs. Allegations made in a Government Accountability Office report include recruiters harassing prospective students, entering false data to reach recruitment quotas, and attempting to make applicants sign a contract of enrollment before speaking to a financial counselor. An undercover GAO prospective student received over 180 calls in one month, some as late as 11 pm, after signing up for a college information website.

Along with these recruitment practices, for-profit schools are doing a disservice to students in Southwest Houston by charging exorbitant prices for their programs. We can put these types of schools out of business and meet the educational needs of the residents of Southwest Houston by bolstering the availability of affordable public higher education. For example, tuition for the popular Medical Assistant program at the Bissonnet Campus of Everest Institute costs $17,023, while the same program at HCC’s Coleman Health Professions campus costs a total of $2716. That’s a premium of 526% at the private institution. Moreover, students at HCC likely will not borrow to attend the program, as Pell Grants are more than enough to cover tuition, books, and living expenses.

The problem, and one of the primary reasons these colleges are able to continue to prey on low-income students, is that HCC does not have sufficient funding to offer enough courses to meet the demand from non-traditional students. Southwest Houston is especially hit hard because while for-profits have dozens of campuses, HCC only has two – one in Alief and the other in Gulfton.

If elected to the Legislature, I will push for state funding to open a career education-focused HCC campus in the heart of Southwest Houston, one that directly competes with the for-profit colleges. The campus will provide training for careers most needed in the current economy including physical therapy and information technology. I will work with HCC and with other organizations to increase awareness of these programs, and to make sure that the enrollment and financial process is streamlined. Lastly, I will propose legislation to increase state oversight of the recruitment practices of for-profit colleges. The future of Southwest Houston will depend greatly on the quality of the higher education it provides to its residents. As State Representative, I intend to make it as great, as accessible, and as affordable as possible.

Jamaal Smith is a candidate for State Representative in House District 137 in Southwest Houston.

Gene Wu: Backyard Progressivism

The following is from a series of guest posts that I will be presenting over the next few weeks.

Gene Wu

Before I became involved in politics, I learned that there are real people in our communities who need hands-on assistance, people who are desperate for others to help lead them out of poverty. Beyond the typical political rhetoric of what we would like to see government do (or, in the case of some, not do) for people, it should be very evident that in order to accomplish progressive ideals, more work is needed in the community on a one-on-one basis. One example that always reminds me that our battle against poverty does not end at the statehouse is that of Yolanda (whose name has been changed here for the sake of respecting her privacy).

Helping people like Yolanda is why I chose a path of public service. I believe that government has an active role in helping people achieve upward mobility. However, my life in Southwest Houston has shown me that accomplishing progressive goals require more than just government action. Southwest Houston has one of the lowest voter participation rates in Harris County because a large percentage of the population consists of non-citizen immigrants and the working poor. Their voices are often ignored in the political process because they cannot vote or do not have the means to contribute financially.

Yolanda was an unusually quiet student when I first met her in the Skills for Living program. Most of the adult students there were shy at first, but joined in once they realized that they had similar life stories. But Yolanda seemed more reluctant to share her life with the rest of the class. Unlike many of the other students, Yolanda was employed, and had been with the same trucking firm for nearly 19 years. She eventually confided in us that she was embarrassed that she could not provide a better life for her children. I was a volunteer mentor and teacher in the program, and we helped Yolanda change her life.

Yolanda was fresh out of high school when she was hired at the company. She had planned to go to college after saving up a little money. However, she became pregnant at 19, and had to keep working because her husband didn’t make enough to support the family. Shortly after their second child was born, her husband simply left one night and never came back. In one of our first exercises, we pored over each student’s finances, looking for areas to make improvements. When I reviewed Yolanda, one single item jumped out at me. Why would a person who had been working at a company for 19 years make so little money? What Yolanda explained shocked me.

In all those years, Yolanda had never once gotten a promotion or a merit raise. Despite the fact that she now trained the people who would become her supervisors, Yolanda had never asked for a raise or promotion. She felt that she was not worthy of one because she lacked a college education.

More importantly, she was worried that she would be fired if she ever asked because she was “just a secretary.” We worked with Yolanda and the other students every week for several months. We fixed their resumes; coached them on interview skills; taught them how to ‘market’ their experience; and Dress for Success even provided them with proper business attire. Yolanda’s final task was to accomplish her own goal of getting a promotion. While we had helped Yolanda with her anxiety, it was hard for her to shake nearly two decades of self-doubt and fear. But she knew that she had to do this because she wanted her kids to have a better life.

In our next class, the students who had successfully completed their objectives shared their stories. I could already see that Yolanda was beaming with pride. She said that when she met with her boss, she told him she wanted to be promoted and he simply said ‘yes.’ She never even had to use any of the approaches or strategies that we practiced. Her boss told her that he had thought that she wasn’t interested in taking on more responsibility and that she just liked her low level position. Yolanda was given a promotion, nearly doubled her salary, and was put on a track to ascend further up the company.

The more important lesson here was not for Yolanda; it was for her children. Her two kids, now young adults, saw their mother succeed through hard work and self-marketing. Yolanda not only began her climb out of poverty, but she taught her children to never fall into that same trap.

We’re only a few months away from another November election. But, as much as we may love the legislative fights or savor the electoral victories, I believe that the bigger accomplishments are not what we can see on 24-hour cable news or the front page of the newspaper. Our real goals are people in our communities. Being ‘progressive’ should be more than just a label, it should mean that a person takes personal responsibility in their community to make sure no one is left behind.

Gene Wu is a candidate for State Representative in House District 137 in Southwest Houston.

Democratic results, Harris County

The good:

– Lane Lewis won a full term as HCDP Chair by a 55-45 margin. If you heard a whizzing noise this evening, it was the bullet we all dodged in this race.

– Sheriff Adrian Garcia easily won renomination with over 70% of the vote.

– State Reps. Garnet Coleman and Borris Miles won their races. We may finally have seen the last of Al Edwards.

– Sean Hammerle held off Dave Wilson in Commissioners Court Precinct 4. It was a close race, but the forces of good prevailed.

The bad:

– Jarvis Johnson, who finally held a campaign event during the first week of early voting, nearly won HCDE Position 6, Precinct 1 outright. A late surge by Erica Lee pushed him into a runoff. It’s not that I have anything against Johnson, but he didn’t lift a finger during this race and he was up against two much more qualified opponents. There’s nothing like being a familiar name in a race like this.

– Elaine Palmer drubbed Judge Steve Kirkland, winning over 60% of the vote. I’ll be honest, I had thought that Palmer and Keryl Douglas would win or lose together, but Douglas didn’t have much money, and really didn’t do that much campaigning. Palmer had plenty of money and it worked for her. I wonder if her financial backers will be there for her in November.

The ugly:

– Perennial candidate Lloyd Oliver became the heir apparent to Gene Kelly by defeating the vastly better qualified Zack Fertitta for the DA nomination. I just about threw up when I saw the early numbers, and they never got any better. Let this serve as a very painful example of what can happen when a good candidate doesn’t have enough money to raise his name ID up to the level of the barnacle that is running against him. You can assess the blame however you like for this debacle, all I know is that I will be skipping this race in November.

– If that isn’t bad enough, Kesha Rogers will once again be the “Democratic” nominee in CD22. KP George had an early lead based on a strong showing in Fort Bend County, but he lost in Harris and Brazoria, and that was enough. I don’t even know what to say.

The rest:

– Diane Trautman won the HCDE Position 3 At Large race against David Rosen. Traci Jensen scored a clean win in the three-way SBOE 6 primary. Dexter Smith won in SBOE 8.

– Rep. Alma Allen also successfully defended her seat, winning with 59% against Wanda Adams. Mary Ann Perez had a late burst to win the nomination in HD144 outright, while Gene Wu rode a strong early showing to the top spot in HD137. He garnered 44%, and will face Jamaal Smith, who had 23%, in the runoff.

– Lissa Squiers led the three-way race in CD07 with 40%. She will face James Cargas, who was second with 33%. Tawana Cadien will be the nominee in CD10.

– Incumbent JP Mike Parrott won re-election, as did incumbent Constables Ken Jones, Victor Trevino, and May Walker. In Constable Precinct 1, Alan Rosen and Cindy Vara-Leija will face off in overtime; Grady Castleberry had been running second but Vara-Leija overtook him late. In the Constable Precinct 2 cattle call, Zerick Guinn and Chris Diaz made the cut.

– Turnout was about 73,000, with almost exactly half of it coming on Election Day. Some people just don’t like voting early.

Three primary stories

TX Trib: 4 Democrats Vying to Replace Hochberg in HD-137

Observers say the winner of the contest for HD-137 is likely to be decided in the Democratic primary, whose four candidates are former Capitol staffers Joseph Carlos Madden and Jamaal Smith, Harris County prosecutor Gene Wu and Alief Independent School District board member Sarah Winkler.

“It’s a [minority-opportunity] district,” [HCDP Chair Lane] Lewis said. “People from all around the world are attracted to the district when they move to Houston. I’ve heard some people refer to it as the United Nations of Harris County.”

Only one Republican candidate, former Houston City Councilman M.J. Khan, is running for the seat. Several Democratic candidates said Khan’s name recognition could make him an opponent to be reckoned with in the general election. Khan has not filed any campaign finance reports with the Texas Ethics Commission.

Khan and the Harris County Republican Party did not return interview requests.

The Trib has done a number of stories about races like this, and they’ve done a good job of it. As they have done in other such articles, they manage to talk to all of the candidates and actually tell you something about them. It’s the mention of Republican candidate Khan that piqued my interest. As the story notes, he could be a formidable candidate in this Democratic-leaning but not rock solid district; in addition to the other factors cited, Khan could write his own check for the race and easily outspend whichever Dem wins the nomination. Yet so far at least he’s been completely disengaged. Maybe he’s just biding his time on the not-unreasonable theory that no one is really paying any attention right now, but I can’t escape the feeling that being a state legislator is not something MJ Khan has a burning desire to do. I understood his candidacy for City Controller – for sure, if he has it in his head to be Mayor some day, that’s a good way to go about it – but I never got the impression that state issues were a driving force for him. I could be wrong, and if someone out there knows better I’d love to hear from you, but I get kind of a Joe Agris 2008 vibe from him.

TX Trib: Two SBOE Rivals Each Facing Tough Primaries

Two influential incumbents on the State Board of Education — who are often at odds with each other — are both facing primary challenges that could result in a power shift on the fractious board.

Thomas Ratliff won a spot on the board after a 402-vote victory in the 2010 GOP primary over Don McLeroy, who brought international attention to the state with his spirited defense of creationism. Ratliff, a Mount Pleasant native who campaigned on a platform of taking politics out of education, has become one of the Republican-controlled board’s reliably moderate voices.

He has also been a thorn in the side of David Bradley, widely considered the ringleader of the strictly allied social conservatives who led the board to adopt science standards that required educators to teach “all sides” of evolution in 2009 and pushed for ideologically driven revisions to social studies standards in 2010.

During their time on the board, the two have been on opposing sides of issues like withdrawing money from the $25 billion Permanent School Fund to bridge the state-funding gap for public schools, requiring amendments to curriculum to be laid out at least 24 hours before a vote, and handing more authority to school districts for textbook purchases.

Now they both find themselves entangled in what are likely the board’s two most closely watched primary races.

Another Trib story, which I see as being what that lame Chron story should have been. It’s also a reminder that while the potential is there for the SBOE to become less crazy if the likes of Bradley and Cargill get defenestrated, the potential is also there for the pendulum to swing back hard towards Wackytown if Ratliff loses. TFN Insider has a handy list of the candidates to watch out for. It’s a bit unnerving to have to rely on the sanity of GOP primary voters, but for the SBOE there’s not much choice.

TX Observer: House District 26 – As Fort Bend Goes

HD26 under current interim map

Fort Bend has been called a bellwether county so often that it’s easy to become skeptical about the use of the term—even if the description is accurate.

Fort Bend, which sits just southwest of Houston, is among the most diverse and fast-growing counties in Texas, part of the “Big Five” fast-growing suburban counties along with Collin, Montgomery, Denton and Williamson. It has pleasant subdivisions with genteel names like First Colony and Sugar Creek and an abundance of retail outlets along Highway 6, which barrels through Sugar Land, the heart of state House District 26.

After 16 years, Republican incumbent Charlie Howard is leaving the legislative seat once held by Tom DeLay, long before he became U.S. House majority leader. Four Republicans, including two women of color, are running for the open seat.

[…]

HD26 under original interim map

Democrats hope to claim the county through building coalitions among its United Nations assembly of residents. Republicans are also courting the melting pot. Of the four competitors for the District 26 seat, the people of color are—Sonal Bhuchar, a trustee and former board president of the Fort Bend Independent School District, and Jacquie Chaumette, mayor pro tem of Sugar Land. Bhuchar is originally from India. Chaumette is from St. Croix, the U.S. Virgin Islands. The other candidates are Rick Miller, former chairman of the Republican Party of Fort Bend County, and Diana Miller (no relation to Rick Miller), a real estate agent.

Bhuchar and Chaumette have big fundraising hauls and are considered strong contenders in the four-way race. [County GOP Chair Mike] Gibson, not surprisingly, downplays the candidates’ race. “We don’t look at Sonal as South East Asian or Jacquie as Caribbean, but as Americans with strong skill sets that we feel good about running as Republicans,’’ he says.

One thing this article doesn’t talk about is the fact that HD26 is one of the disputed districts in the ongoing redistricting litigation. Plaintiffs claim that districts such as HD26 are protected under the Voting Rights Act as minority coalition districts. In that fashion, a district that is more than 50% minority cannot be retrogressed even if no single racial group has more than a plurality of the population. The state argues that only districts in which a single protected minority is 50% or more does the VRA apply and as such there is no such thing as a protected coalition district; mapmakers are free to slice and dice as they see fit. That was how the Lege treated HD26, which is why it has that bizarre mutant Tetris piece shape, which it retained in the current interim map and which allows it to be a solid red 65% GOP district. In the original interim map, the judges drew a much more compact district that was also near partisan parity – both President Obama and Supreme Court candidate Sam Houston scored a bit over 48% in it. This is one of the questions that the DC court will address in the preclearance lawsuit, whether districts like HD26, SD10, CD25, and CD33 are covered by Section 5. If they rule for the plaintiffs, and if SCOTUS doesn’t come along behind them and gut the VRA, we could see a very different HD26 in two years’ time.

Endorsement watch: Madden in HD137

The Chron picks Joe Madden as their preferred candidate to succeed Rep. Scott Hochberg in HD137.

Joseph Carlos Madden

In the Democratic primary on May 29, an impressive slate of candidates has come forward to run for Hochberg’s seat representing the 137th District in the Texas House. But one would be hard pressed to find a first-time candidate more knowledgeable about how Austin works than Joseph Carlos Madden.

If elected in the fall (the Democratic primary winner will face Republican M.J. Khan), Madden would be a freshman representative, but one with years of legislative know-how in his portfolio. Currently serving as chief of staff for Rep. Garnet Coleman and as executive director of the Texas Legislative Study Group, Madden has a thorough familiarity with the bills that end up on the House floor, and the often byzantine methods by which they get there.

During an interview with the Chronicle editorial board, Madden described in intricate detail the process of working with both the Perry and Obama administrations to improve managed health care in Texas. Anyone who can successfully help build bridges between camps as diverse as Gov. Perry’s and the White House demonstrates a talent much needed in Austin.

They specifically cite Jamaal Smith as one of that impressive slate of candidates. I certainly agree it’s a strong field and a tough choice. Bloggers were divided on this one – BOR went with Madden, but Stace endorsed Smith and Greg is on Gene Wo’s team. Carl Whitmarsh announced his support of Madden to his email list on Thursday. With four quality candidates, this race is highly likely to go to a runoff. We’ll see how supporters reorganize themselves after the first round. My interview with Madden is here, with Smith is here, with Wu is here, and with Sarah Winkler is here.

Completely unrelated to this except that it also appeared in yesterday’s paper, the Chron also endorsed Leslie Johnson in the GOP primary for Harris County Attorney.

We recommend a vote for Johnson in the GOP primary.

Her experience in the County Attorney’s Office, serving under both Michael Fleming and Mike Stafford, and her private practice experience as a litigator, are impressive credentials that tip our endorsement in this primary in her favor.

Talton, her opponent, practices in the Woodfill Pressler law firm headed by GOP County Chairman Jared Woodfill. Interestingly, he is one of three attorneys from that relatively small firm running for office in the GOP primary. It seems to us that Harris County voters deserve a choice of candidates and officeholders from a wider political and intellectual circle than that.

They don’t say who else is connected to Woodfill like that and I’m too lazy to look it up. I just thought it was interesting that they’d go out of their way to mention that. Obviously, I have no dog in this fight, and I’ll be pushing the button for Vince Ryan in the fall, but I will once again note that Johnson was a late filer in this race and that it interests me that someone who might not have been a candidate at all has gotten so much establishment support. I can’t think of another such candidate in a race that wasn’t affected by redistricting.

30 day reports, Harris County candidates for state office

We’re now 26 days out from the May 29 primary, which means more campaign finance reports from candidates for state and county offices who are in contested primaries. I’m going to post about all of these, starting today with reports from Harris County candidates for state offices. Here are the Democrats, whose reports are linked from my 2012 Democratic primary election page:

Candidate Office Raised Spent Loans Cash ==================================================== Nilsson SBOE6 1,100 1,267 0 1,092 Jensen SBOE6 8,105 9,462 0 4,699 Scott SBOE6 200 474 0 346 Allen HD131 103,451 52,965 0 60,002 Adams HD131 17,930 70,768 411 24,110 Madden HD137 15,968 12,232 0 13,987 Smith HD137 29,352 24,993 0 6,255 Winkler HD137 15,575 4,170 20,000 35,914 Wu HD137 35,579 30,539 0 73,468 Perez HD144 48,120 20,238 0 40,729 Risner HD144 9,315 15,158 0 4,156 Ybarra HD144 4,650 7,586 0 27 Miles HD146 16,600 27,776 730,000 58,573 Edwards HD146 14,449 13,685 0 764 Coleman HD147 41,525 39,052 0 84,433 Hill HD147

My post on the January reports is here. Some thoughts about these reports:

I think we can say that Rep. Alma Allen has eradicated the early lead Wanda Adams had in cash on hand. The establishment has rallied to Rep. Allen’s side, as is usually the case with an incumbent in good standing. A lot of money has already been spent in this race, and I don’t expect that to change over the next four weeks.

Usually, establishment support and fundraising prowess go hand in hand, but not always. HD137 is one of the exceptions, as Gene Wu has been the strongest fundraiser despite garnering only one endorsement (that I’m aware of) so far – HAR, which is certainly a nice get but not a core Democratic group. Joe Madden and Jamaal Smith have racked up the endorsements but don’t have the financial support to match. Other than there will be a runoff, I have no idea what will happen in this race.

For a variety of reasons, many organizations have not endorsed in HD144. The candidates got off to a late start thanks to the changes made to the district in the second interim map, and no one had much to show in their January finance reports. HCC Trustee Mary Ann Perez, who has the backing of Annie’s List, clearly distinguished herself this cycle, which will undoubtedly help her in a part of town that’s not used to having competitive D primaries for State Rep. The other news of interest in this race has nothing to do with fundraising. Robert Miller reported on candidate Kevin Risner having had three arrests for DUI, a fact that I’m sure was going to come out sooner or later. Miller, who’s a Perez supporter, thinks Risner is in a good position to win the primary. I’m not sure I agree with his analysis, but we’ll see.

Poor Al Edwards. It’s hard running a race without Tom Craddick’s buddies, isn’t it? I think Rep. Miles is going to break the pattern of alternating victories this year. On a side note, the Observer’s Forrest Wilder listened to my interview with Rep. Miles, even if he didn’t link to it. I guess he’s not much of a fan of either candidate in this race.

As of this writing, Ray Hill had not filed a 30 Day report. He finally did file a January report that listed no money raised or spent.

Here are the Republicans:

Candidate Office Raised Spent Loans Cash ==================================================== Cargill SBOE8 4,474 10,059 0 18,626 Ellis SBOE8 6,614 2,795 0 5,224 McCool SD11 5,957 4,959 0 997 Norman SD11 6,200 44,086 30,000 1,007 Taylor SD11 344,708 330,586 0 169,468 Huberty HD127 77,536 44,423 0 64,691 Jordan HD127 791 1,731 0 0 Davis HD129 49,816 42,193 0 70,317 Huls HD129 1,482 1,314 0 167 Callegari HD132 67,385 27,632 0 258,286 Brown HD132 2,275 2,380 0 93 Murphy HD133 110,665 89,167 0 211,004 Witt HD133 9,043 139,943 240,100 34,207 Bohac HD138 38,975 18,931 0 44,094 Smith HD138 22,998 13,562 100,000 105,504 Salazar HD143 Weiskopf HD143 Pineda HD144 28,100 6,591 0 19,613 Pena HD144 3,968 1,368 0 0 Lee HD149 Williams HD149 Mullins HD149 Riddle HD150 8,175 24,461 0 92,216 Wilson HD150 11,900 8,520 1,100 4,272

Note that there are differences from the last time. In January, there was a four-way race for HD136, which was eliminated by the San Antonio court in each of the interim maps. Ann Witt, who had been one of the candidates in HD136, moved over to HD133 and replaced the previous challenger, who apparently un-filed during the second period. In that second period, HD144 incumbent Ken Legler decided to drop out, and incumbent Dwayne Bohac picked up an opponent, and multiple people filed in HDs 143, 144, and 149.

Candidates Frank Salazar in HD143 and Jack Lee in HD149 did not have reports filed as of posting time. Their opponents did have reports filed, but those reports are not viewable until each candidate in the race has filed.

Witt had loaned herself $100K as of January; she has since more than doubled that amount. Whet Smith dropped $100K on himself in his challenge against Bohac. Why he’d do that and not have spent any of it as of the reporting deadline is a question I can’t answer. His $23K raised is a decent amount for the time period, but having more cash on hand with 30 days to go than the amount you loaned yourself makes no sense to me.

I’m surprised there hasn’t been more money raised in HD144. That’s a key pickup opportunity for Dems. Gilbert Pena has run for office twice before – HD143 in 2010, and SD06 in 2008 – and I had assumed he’d be the frontrunner in this primary because of that. Am I missing something here?

That’s all I’ve got. I’ll work on the other Dem primaries in Texas and the Harris County races next.

Interview with Sarah Winkler

Sarah Winkler

Wrapping up a week of conversations with candidates who hope to succeed Rep. Scott Hochberg in HD137, today we have Sarah Winkler. Winkler has served on the Alief ISD Board of Trustees since 1997 and on the Texas Association of School Boards (TASB) Board of Directors since 2001; she was TASB President in 2009-10. She is a longtime neighborhood activist and also serves on the SPARK Park Board of Directors. I interviewed her for the 2009 election Alief ISD election here. Oh, and she’s a Rice grad as well, which I am constitutionally required to mention. Here’s what we talked about:

Download the MP3 file

You can find a list of all interviews for this cycle, plus other related information, on my 2012 Harris County Primary Elections page. You can also follow this blog by liking its Facebook page.

Interview with Jamaal Smith

Jamaal Smith

Continuing with the candidates who hope to succeed Rep. Scott Hochberg in HD137 we have Jamaal Smith, whom you may remember from his time as Executive Director of the HCDP and as the Deputy Campaign Manager and Campaign Manager from the 2008 and 2010 Coordinated Campaigns. Before his stint with the HCDP Smith was the Legislative Director for the late Rep. Joe Moreno, and more recently has been a policy advisor and community liaison for Sen. Rodney Ellis. Here’s what we talked about:

Download the MP3 file

You can find a list of all interviews for this cycle, plus other related information, on my 2012 Harris County Primary Elections page. You can also follow this blog by liking its Facebook page.

Interview with Gene Wu

Gene Wu

The second candidate running to succeed Rep. Scott Hochberg in HD137 that I interviewed is Gene Wu. Gene is currently a felony prosecutor in the Harris County District Attorney’s office, and he also has legislative experience, having previously been the Chief Clerk for the House Higher Education Committee for the Texas Legislature. He is currently the President of the Houston 80-20 Political Action Committee and a Board member for OCA Greater Houston. Here’s what we talked about:

Download the MP3 file

You can find a list of all interviews for this cycle, plus other related information, on my 2012 Harris County Primary Elections page. You can also follow this blog by liking its Facebook page.

Interview with Joseph Carlos Madden

Joseph Carlos Madden

There’s one open Democratic seat in Harris County for the State House: HD137, in which State Rep. Scott Hochberg decided not to run for re-election. There are four Democrats vying to succeed Rep. Hochberg, and I will be presenting their interviews this week. First up is Joseph Carlos Madden, who currently serves as the Chief of Staff for Representative Garnet Coleman (D-Houston) and the Executive Director of the Texas Legislative Study Group (LSG), a public policy caucus of the Texas House of Representatives. I’ve definitely taken advantage of the LSG’s research in past sessions. My conversation with Madden is below, and you can read a brief interview he did with NewsTaco here:

Download the MP3 file

You can find a list of all interviews for this cycle, plus other related information, on my 2012 Harris County Primary Elections page. You can also follow this blog by liking its Facebook page.

We have maps

From The Trib:

Is this finally the end?

Federal judges in San Antonio unveiled maps for the state’s congressional delegation and for the state House this afternoon, and they did it in time to allow the state to hold its delayed political primaries on May 29. The court also signed off on Senate plans agreed to earlier this month.

Here is a link to the Congressional map on the Texas Legislative Council’s redistricting website.

Here is a link to the House map on TLC’s website.

Here is a link to the Senate map on TLC’s website.

And here (courtesy of TxRedistricting.org) are links to the court’s orders on the three maps: Congress,House and Senate.

Barring appeals, these maps will be used for the 2012 elections. Below are the new maps. We’ll fill in details throughout the afternoon.

2008 election results for the State House are here and for Congress are here. See here and here for 2010 data; I am told that there will be more stuff uploaded to the TLC FTP site soon. By all accounts I’ve seen, as well as my own two eyes, the maps are substantially the same as the Abbott maps, though at least in the Lege there are some differences – HD43 is more Republican, HDs 78, 80, 117, and 137 are more Democratic. I have not had the time to do a thorough examination, but if you start with Plan H303 (2008 data here) you’ll be pretty close. The good news is that HDs 137 and 149 in Harris County were restored, with HD136 going away; HD144 remains winnable by a Dem though GOP-leaning. Unfortunately, that means HD26 will retain its bizarre, GOP-friendly shape, modulo anything the DC court may do. As for Congress, Rep. Lloyd Doggett will run in the new CD35, though presumably not against Joaquin Castro, who (again presumably) will stick to the open CD20. What happens to Ciro Rodriguez and Sylvia Romo in CD35 – Rodriguez at one point was running in CD23 – remains to be seen. And all this assumes there are no further appeals. Which is no guarantee given that there’s something for everyone to complain about. But maybe, just maybe, we can now start planning for primaries. Next step is to re-open filing, and we’ll go from there. Hang on, it gets faster from here. BOR has more.

UPDATE: Via Robert Miller, who forwarded this email from Rep. Burt Solomons’ Chief of Staff, Bonnie Bruce:

There was no primary information in the order, which is pretty thin. The parties have until Wednesday at 2:00pm to get primary deadline information to the court, so it will be forthcoming and it looks like a go for May 29th.

The Court adopted the Compromise map for the Congressional districts. Yes, that means that Travis is split five ways and Doggett currently lives in a Republican district or could move to a Hispanic majority Democrat district. It also means that there is a coalition district in the DFW area, however, it leans more toward Hispanics than African Americans. Could be a fight between Veasey and Alonzo – well, and a whole lot of people.

The Senate Map is the legislatively adopted map with the exception that SD 10 is the benchmark (Davis’ old seat) and a couple of precincts were moved to allow SD 9 to wrap around. Welcome Senator Birdwell to Tarrant County.

In the House, The Court went with the Compromise map, except that they did not split Nueces County (meaning Scott/Torres are paired and Hunter and Morrison are not), they accepted MALC’s version of Bexar County making Garza’s district more Hispanic and D, and made some changes to the compromise in Harris County between Murphy, S. Davis, Hochberg which may be to increase Hochberg’s Hispanic numbers, but I have not run those yet.

So there you have it.

UPDATE: One question answered, via the inbox:

Bexar County Tax Assessor Collector Sylvia Romo announced she will continue her campaign for Congress in the newly reconfigured Congressional District 35 following the release of new interim redistricting maps by a three-judge federal panel in San Antonio.

“I am pleased that the Federal Court has concluded its work and am ready to mount an aggressive campaign to bring new leadership to the citizens of Bexar, Travis, Caldwell, Comal, Guadalupe, and Hays Counties,” Romo said.

“We need leaders in Congress who will do more to ensure job creation in our area, act on the concerns of our veterans, and fight to protect Social Security and Medicare,” Romo continued. “We need a member of Congress who will go to Washington and do the serious work of the people in this district,” she said.

Your move, Ciro. Here’s the Chron story on the maps, which notes that the DC court could (among other things) put Doggett’s CD25 back together again. It would be for 2014 if that were to happen, and that’s assuming the Lege doesn’t take another bite at the apple in 2013. So yeah, my original predictions that this would all still be in flux through the 2016 election continues to hold.

UPDATE: More from the Lone Star Project.

UPDATE: Here’s the TDP’s statement. And here’s word that the re-filing period will run from Friday through Tuesday. I’ll update my elections pages as we go.

UPDATE: State Rep. Marc Veasey confirms that he’s in for CD33:

Today, State Representative Marc Veasey announced his candidacy in the court ordered North Texas Congressional District 33. The new court-drawn district is heavily Democratic and encompasses nearly all of Veasey’s current state house district. Veasey led the fight to overturn the Republican-controlled redistricting plan and worked hard to make sure a new Congressional district is located North Texas.

“From early in this election cycle it became clear that North Texas should receive an additional Congressional district. I’ve been urged by friends and colleagues to run for the new District 33 to insure that working families have a voice in Congress. The new district overlaps almost all of my current House District and includes neighborhoods where I have many friends and supporters. I will be proud to stand with them and fight for them in the US House,” said Veasey.

The new district encompasses African American and Latino neighborhoods in Fort Worth and Dallas that overall were easily carried by President Obama in both the primary and general elections. Tarrant County voters made up 60 percent of the turnout in the 2008 and 2010 Democratic primaries. More importantly, Veasey’s current state house district (95) forms the Tarrant County base of this new Congressional district and accounts for over 30% of the expected primary turnout giving Veasey a significant edge in the race.

“I am honored to have a coalition of support within many neighborhood and civic associations and will work hard in Congress to fight for good paying jobs, access to healthcare and be an ally for President Obama. He needs strong support from new Members of Congress to help turn back Republicans who will stop at nothing to undermine the President on the key issues most important to us all.” Veasey said.

Here’s a statement from MALC about the interim maps.