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HD17

More thoughts on the special election results

There has been very little news about the four legislative special elections that were decided last week, other than the brief hubbub over what the result in SD26 meant. Among other things, I’ve been looking for any kind of reporting on the results in the other three races, as well as on the fact that there will need to be yet another special election to fill Sen.-elect Jose Menendez’s seat in HD124. This Trib story about Sen. Leticia Van de Putte’s upcoming departure from the upper chamber to focus on her race for Mayor of San Antonio contains the first tidbit of news concerning any of that I’ve seen:

Sen.-elect José Menéndez, who was on the floor on Tuesday, won the race for Van de Putte’s Senate seat on Feb. 17 and is set to be sworn in on March 5.

Sen. Jose Menendez

RG Ratcliffe also wrote about VdP’s good-bye if you want more of that. Me, I want more on the other stuff. If Menendez won’t be seated will next Thursday, that means the clock won’t start ticking for a special election to be called in HD124 until then. That puts such an election in April at least, and unless someone wins it outright it pretty much guarantees that whoever succeeds Menendez won’t be seated until there’s precious little left to do in this session. That said, there will almost surely be a special election sometime next year to (one hopes) fix school finance, so the stakes will still be as high as ever. I have not seen any names floating around as possible candidates for HD124, so if you know something I don’t know, please leave a comment and enlighten us.

One thing I’d like to add to my earlier commentary on the SD26 runoff: As much as I downplayed the pronouncements about that election being “decided” by Republican voters and bad actors like Texans for Lawsuit Reform, there is no question that some number of Republicans voted in that runoff. And why shouldn’t they? This wasn’t a primary, and the winner would be representing them, too. You may recall that just because the Houston City Council At Large #3 runoff in 2013 was between two Republicans doesn’t mean Democrats weren’t involved or courted by both sides. Quite the contrary, in fact. Some number of Republicans voted in the SD26 runoff. It’s likely that they went heavily for Menendez, and it’s entirely possible that they made up a good chunk of his margin of victory, if not all of it. The problem with making statements about this is that we have no “normal” election to compare this one to. For all we know, the number of Republicans voting in that runoff was about what it should have been expected to be. We don’t know, because the conditions for this election were unique, and will never be replicated. We can compare November elections, in Presidential years and not, and make statements about the partisan mix and whether a given cycle was remarkable in some way. We can’t do that here because there’s no other election like it. It stands on its own.

As for the other elections, however you feel about SD26 I think you should consider the election of Diego Bernal in HD123 a reason to celebrate. Bernal is like Rep. Martinez-Fischer in style and tenacity, and will be a more progressive voice in that district than Mike Villarreal, who cast himself as a moderate, business-friendly type. Having said that, I should note that Villarreal was in many ways “conservative” the way Menendez was “conservative”. It shows up much more in tone and rhetoric than it does in voting records. Villarreal’s record, at least in 2013, compares quite well – an A+ from Equality Texas, a 93% from the TLCV, and another nice, round zero from Texas Right to Life. Villarreal was more business-friendly, and I’m sure his fans and detractors could point to some votes he made that stood out from the caucus. His style is not like Diego Bernal’s has been, and especially if you were a TMF supporter in this special election, that should make you feel good.

The HD17 runoff was in a way a mirror image of the SD26 runoff, with the candidate who emphasized his crossover appeal emerging as the winner. That was a much closer election, and I have to wonder if the TLR crowd regrets not going all in on it. If John Cyrier had lost after running that campaign and being the big leader in round one, the articles about What It All Means pretty much write themselves. I’m a little surprised no one has taken this race and used it to run with a “Republican moderation” narrative. Assuming he doesn’t get primaried out in 2016, Cyrier ought to have a bright future under Speaker Straus.

And as for HD13, it remains as under-reported and mysterious as ever. Here’s a little factoid for you to consider: Rep.-elect Leighton Schubert defeated runnerup Carolyn Bilski in all but two counties in the runoff. One of them was Austin County, where Bilski had previously served as County Judge. Bilski had won a clear majority in Austin County in January, against three opponents. Schubert doubled his vote total in Austin County in a month, and it was enough to slip past her there. How in the world did that happen? Even more remarkable is the margin in Burleson County, Schubert’s home, which he won by the ridiculous total of 1,181 to 72. That’s the kind of margin you expect to see in a race featuring a major party candidate against a Green or Libertarian. Schubert won Burleson big in January as well, but with 75% of the vote, not almost 95%. Again, how does that happen? It sure would be nice if some professional reporter tried to figure that out.

Special election runoff results

Here you go, from the Secretary of State webpage.

SD26 Trey Martinez Fischer 9,623 40.95% Jose Menendez 13,888 59.04% HD123 Diego Bernal 5,170 63.66% Nunzio Previtera 2,950 36.33% HD13 Carolyn Cerny Bilski 4,763 42.85% Leighton Schubert 6,350 57.14% HD17 John Cyrier 4,149 52.06% Brent Golemon 3,820 47.93%

Sen. Jose Menendez

Here are stories from the Trib and Rivard Report. As usual, I can’t find a damn thing about HDs 13 or 17. I’ll do another Google News search today and see if anything comes up, and will either add them to this post or do a new one later.

Obviously, the biggest surprise to me is the Menendez/Martinez-Fischer result. I mean, I had suggested that Menendez take one for the team and drop out, in the face of TMF’s big lead and in the interest of getting the next special election, to fill the to-be-vacated legislative seat, done as quickly as possible. So it’s fair to say I didn’t see this coming. Maybe that TLR money made a difference, or maybe Menendez just had a better ground game in overtime. Either way, I congratulate Sen.-elect Jose Menendez, and apologize to him for my disturbing lack of faith.

Rep. Leighton Schubert

The other surprise is in HD13, where newcomer Leighton Schubert had an easy time of it against Carolyn Bilski. Schubert trailed by less than 11 points in Round One, and he had a decent grassroots fundraising base, so his win isn’t that big a surprise, but any time a newcomer defeats a seasoned veteran with broad establishment backing, it’s an upset. Congratulations, Rep.-elect Leighton Schubert.

HD123 was a satisfying result, with numbers that look like they likely would in a Presidential year. The first press release that hit my inbox after the polls closed was from the SEIU reveling in this outcome, and I join them in congratulating Rep.-elect Diego Bernal. I expect big things out of you, sir.

The result in HD17 is a good one, as anytime a less-conservative Republican beats a wingnut, it’s a victory. It was the one close race, and for a few moments there as the numbers trickled in it looked like it could have gone the other way, but in the end the better candidate won. Congratulations, Rep.-elect John Cyrier.

Finally, as you know, this isn’t quite the end of it. With his win, Sen. Menendez will vacate his seat in HD124, and you know what that means: One more special election, with a runoff a lively possibility to follow. At this point, I have no idea who might be lining up for that race. He or she may not get sworn in until there isn’t much left to do in the session, depending on when Greg Abbott sets the next election date and whether or not two rounds are needed. I will of course keep an eye on that. In the meantime, we can all take a breath. Congratulations again to all the winners. Get some sleep, and get ready to get to work.

HD17 runoff overview

It’s Runoff Day today for the legislative special elections, and this overview of the HD17 runoff gives a good idea of what to expect from the winner in that race.

Jon Cyrier

As Republicans John Cyrier and Brent Golemon prepare to settle the score Tuesday, that ho-hum first round seems like the distant past. The once low-key affair has turned into an increasingly bitter runoff that has exposed intra-party divisions and highlighted political fault lines in the largely rural, Central Texas district.

“It’s has been one the more contentious political campaigns in my recollection for Bastrop County or for District 17, particularly since there was no clear winner in the special election and then the runoff was delayed for a few weeks,” said Bastrop County Judge Paul Pape, one of the highest-ranking Republicans in the district. “Each side kind of had more time to state their case and try to build their, excite their constituencies.”

Cyrier, a Lockhart construction executive and former Caldwell County commissioner, emerged as the top vote-getter in the Jan. 6 special election for the district, which spans five counties. Kleinschmidt, a Republican from Lexington, vacated the seat to serve as general counsel for the Texas Department of Agriculture.

Cyrier is favored to ride his first-round momentum to victory Tuesday, potentially notching a win for the more moderate faction of the Texas GOP that suffered some high-profile losses in last year’s primaries. From the outset of the race, Cyrier has pitched himself as an unabashed bridge-builder while Golemon has emphasized his conservative credentials.

[…]

On the issues, Golemon has sought to distinguish himself as a more forceful supporter of education reform and anti-abortion policies. He supports a ban on abortion without exceptions, while Cyrier believes an abortion should be allowed if a mother’s life is at risk. On school choice – a top priority of Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick – Golemon has offered his full-throated support, while Cyrier has expressed concern about how it would impact rural schools.

Perhaps the most notable contrast has been Cyrier’s decision to strike a decisively bipartisan tone in what is effectively a GOP primary. [Mark] Jones, the political science professor, called it the “most prominent storyline of the campaign,” a departure from other intra-party faceoffs in which each candidates race to the right.

See here for some background. It’s interesting that Golemon hasn’t drawn the kind of big money support from the professional nihilist crowd that a candidate with his talking points in a race like this usually gets. I’m not sure what’s up with that – if it’s worth spending big bucks for a marginal potential upgrade in a Democratic Senate district, you’d think it’d be worth a few bucks for a more clear upgrade here, with a presumably more receptive audience. Not that I’m complaining, mind you, just a little puzzled. We’ll know soon enough if those folks will have any reason to regret sitting this one out.

Early voting is up in the special election runoffs

Make of that what you will.

Rep. Trey Martinez-Fischer

Rep. Trey Martinez-Fischer

If three days of early voting are any indication, the tense runoff fight for the state Senate 26 seat between Trey Martinez-Fischer and José Menéndez is attracting more voters than cast ballots in the first round election on Jan. 6, the result of record spending in the campaign that has pitted two Bexar County Democratic members of the House against one another in the fight to succeed departing Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, who is running for mayor.

The Jan. 6 state Senate ballot included two Republicans, Alma Perez Jackson and Joan Pedrotti, and a third Democrat, Al Suarez. Voter turnout was a miserable 5%. The five candidates in the first round drew only 19,158 voters, including 8,215 early voters. Martinez-Fischer finished well ahead of Menéndez and the others with 8,231 votes, or 43.28%. Menéndez finished a distant second with 4,824 votes, or 25.37%.

Special elections seldom draw many voters, and in most cases, a runoff would draw even fewer voters with one party knocked off the ballot. This time it’s different. A total of 6,977 people voted in the first three days of early voting this week, which continues today and Friday. At the current pace, that would add up to more than 11,000 early votes, or a 35% increase in the early turnout. If the same increased turnout occurs on Election Day the race will draw more than 25,000 voters, still a low percentage of registered voters, but enough of an increase to suggest a tight race.

You know I can’t turn down an opportunity like that to do some number-crunching. I looked at all the special legislative elections that included runoffs since 2010. Here are their respective vote totals:

Election Total Runoff Pct ===================================== SD22 5/10 29,851 24,557 82.3 HD14 11/11 13,519 6,736 49.8 SD06 1/13 16,369 18,141 110.8 HD50 11/13 14,936 10,520 70.4 SD04 5/14 30,348 22,605 74.5

“Pct” is the ratio of runoff turnout to total Round One turnout. Note that two of these special elections coincided with regular November elections, so it’s not terribly surprising that those runoffs lagged the most. Note also that the special election in SD06 in 2013 to succeed the late Mario Gallegos had higher turnout in the runoff than it did in the first round. That’s also the only race among these that was between two prominent Democrats, and as is the case this year it featured a nasty, negative overtime period. Not enough data to draw a firm conclusion, but the parallels are easy enough to see.

Having said all that, I kind of buried the lede a bit.

The increased turnout appears to be driven by negative campaigning and the role of outside money that aims to rally Republicans to cross party lines and vote for Menéndez. What’s different about this race is the role the powerful Texans for Lawsuit Reform (TLR), an ultra-conservative lobby, is playing, contributing more than $550,000 to finance broadcast ads and direct mail pieces attacking Martinez Fischer and supporting Menéndez. The Express-News reported Tuesday that more than $2.3 million has been spent on the race, including the TLR money that actually exceeds the $513,000 that Menéndez has spent to date.

[…]

Martinez-Fischer is a plaintiff’s lawyer and a vocal, at times coarsely spoken Mexican-American. He looks and sounds like a boxer. Menéndez, also a lawyer, is softer spoken and less combative. People who watch Austin politics more closely than I say newly elected Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick would prefer to keep Martinez-Fischer out of the Senate, which is now a bastion of ultra-conservative Republicans, who now outnumber Democrats 20-11. Regardless of the runoff outcome, the winner will be the least senior of the minority party, but Martinez-Fischer would be a thorn in Patrick’s side, while Menéndez has said he would cross party lines to try to be effective.

I’ve said all along that TMF was my preferred candidate in this race. I had and continue to have nothing against Menendez, and I seriously doubt he’d be any more supportive of the evil trolls that make up TLR if he wins than he was in the House. But maybe he’ll be a little more supportive of them than TMF would be, and a couple hundred thousand bucks isn’t even pocket change to these guys, so all in they go. (They were a presence in the SD06 race as well, much as head lice is a presence in most elementary schools.) The point I’m making here is that even though this runoff is to them a choice between two candidates with whom they have little in common, they didn’t sit it out. They picked their lesser evil and did what they do to support him, in the hope that if it pays off, they’ll have an ever-so-slightly better Senate from their perspective. Say what you want about these guys – and believe me, I think they’re a greedy, rapacious, destructive force, too – it’s hard to argue that their approach had been anything but a big success. There may be a lesson in there for us somewhere, I dunno.

Anyway. It’s hard to know what effect this may have on the HD123 runoff, as HD123 is almost entirely within SD26. Like SD26, most Dems won HD123 by about ten points in 2010, the main exceptions being Bill White, who won it by more than 20 points, and Barbara Radnofsky, who lost it by a half point to Greg Abbott. I expect Diego Bernal to win easily enough, but one should never take anything for granted. Get out there and vote if you didn’t already do so. As for HDs 13 and 17, other than this report on campaign finances in HD17, there’s precious little news out there. I’ll have final results when they come in.

Early voting for special election runoffs has begun

EarlyVoting

It began yesterday, but I forgot to queue up a post in time to mention it. Here’s some relevant information for those of you who need to get out and vote in one or more of these runoffs.

For SD26 and HD123, here are the Bexar County early voting locations. The Bexar County Elections page is here as well.

For HD17, here are the early voting locations for Bastrop County, Caldwell County, and Lee County. The Bastrop County Elections page is here, and they already have Election Day voting locations up as well. Both the Caldwell and Lee pages have early voting and election day locations. As for Karnes County and Gonzales County, you’ll need to call the elections administrators for information, as you had to do for the January election.

For HD13, here are the early voting locations for Burleson County, Colorado County, Fayette County, Grimes County, Lavaca County, and Washington County. All of those pages also have Election Day locations, except for Fayette and Washington. I could not find information for Austin County, so call the elections administrator there for the scoop.

Googling around on the candidates’ names, I found basically zero new information since the original election, except for a couple of stories relating to the SD26 runoff. The only endorsements I found, as was the case in January, was from the Express News, which reiterated their choices from the first round.

In the Senate race, we recommend Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer to replace mayoral candidate Leticia Van de Putte.

The district will be in good hands regardless of who wins the showdown between Martinez Fischer and Rep. José Menéndez. Both Democrats who have been in the House since 2001.

But Martinez Fischer’s strong leadership ability unequivocally makes him the right choice for the Senate.

[…]

We strongly encourage voters to cast their ballots for former City Councilman Diego Bernal, who faces Republican Nunzio Previtera.

Bernal represented San Antonio’s City Council District 1 from 2011 until resigning late last year to seek the House seat. During his tenure at City Hall, Bernal showed courage by successfully sponsoring a highly controversial nondiscrimination ordinance that provided new protections for sexual orientation, gender identity and veteran status.

The 38-year-old Bernal also played a lead role in creating an advisory panel to study the future of Alamo Plaza. The city has failed to nurture the downtown asset, and Bernal’s efforts have revived hope for real improvements. This is an issue of statewide importance.

They also had a recent story about how Bexar Dems are dismayed by the negativity in the all-Dem SD26 runoff. Those of us who remember the SD06 special election from two years ago feel their pain. I figure turnout will be less than or equal to the first round, so if you live in any of these districts, your vote counts for a lot. There are no Dems in either HD17 or HD13, but John Cyrier and Carolyn Bilski are backed by the Texas Parent PAC, and Cyrier’s opponent in particular is aligned with the likes of Empower Texans, so even without a home team there’s still a rooting interest. I’ll keep an eye on the voting as we go. The Rivard Report has more.

HD13 runoff date set

We are now all set on special election runoffs.

Sen. Lois Kolkhorst

Gov. Greg Abbott on Tuesday scheduled a Feb. 17 runoff in the special election for Lois Kolkhorst’s old seat in the Texas House.

Austin County Judge Carolyn Bilski and Caldwell attorney Leighton Schubert — both Republicans — were the top two finishers in the Jan. 13 special election to replace Kolkhorst, a Brenham Republican. Last year, she won a promotion to the upper chamber, vacating her seat in House District 13, which includes parts of seven counties west of the Houston area.

Early voting in the HD13 runoff has been set for Feb. 9-13.

See here for the first round result in HD13. This means that all four runoffs are now scheduled for the same date, which makes the most sense. I presume the delay in adding this runoff to the calendar was because it hadn’t been canvassed yet. I approve of the quick turnaround, and I hope the special election that will be needed to succeed either Trey Martinez-Fischer or Jose Menendez in San Antonio gets the same consideration. On that note, the Express News’ Gilbert Garcia identifies MALDEF attorney Marisa Bono as a likely candidate in HD116 if TMF is the runoff winner. I can’t see the story, so I can’t tell you more than that (Ms. Bono is on Twitter, if you’re interested), but I’m sure we’ll start to hear about who might be interested in either of those seats soon enough. If we do get the kind of short turnaround I’m hoping for, they’ll need to hit the ground running.

First three runoff dates are set

Greg Abbott completes a bit of business left to him by Rick Perry.

Diego Bernal

Diego Bernal

Gov. Greg Abbott has scheduled runoffs from the Jan. 6 special elections for Feb. 17, according to his office.

The decision officially sets head-to-head match-ups in state Senate District 26, state House District 17 and state House District 123. Early voting in the runoffs will be held from Feb. 9-13.

In SD 26, two Democrats — Trey Martinez Fischer and Jose Menendez — are facing off for the seat being vacated by Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, D-San Antonio. In HD 17, Republicans John Cyrier and Brent Golemon are vying to replace Rep. Tim Kleinschmidt, R-Lexington. And in HD 123, Democrat Diego Bernal is up against Republican Nunzio Previtera for the seat formerly held by Rep. Mike Villarreal, D-San Antonio.

As you may recall from the January 6 election, TMF, Bernal, and Cyrier all led in their races, each collecting at least 43% and leading by a minimum of 18 points. No lead is ever insurmountable in a runoff, but I’d have to make them all strong favorites. Cyrier and Bernal are endorsed by the Texas Parent PAC, while Bernal and TMF have the backing of the San Antonio Central Labor Council and Texas AFL-CIO COPE. Bernal’s opponent in particular is a nut, so I especially look forward to him winning.

This means that the runoff for the HD13 special election will be scheduled separately, presumably a week later. Seems to me it would have made more sense to put all four of them together, but I guess that election hadn’t been canvassed yet. I’ll keep my eyes open for that announcement. The Rivard Report has more.

More on the three legislative runoffs

From the Chron/Express News on the Bexar County races.

Sen. Leticia Van de Putte

Sen. Leticia Van de Putte

In the Senate contest, Martinez Fischer and Menéndez, both D-San Antonio, are vying to replace District 26 state Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, who’s exiting the Legislature to run for mayor of San Antonio.

“I think I’m in a very good spot,” Martinez Fischer said late Tuesday, adding he reserved funds to wage a competitive runoff race. Menéndez finished nearly 20 percentage points behind Martinez Fischer, who was targeted for defeat by Texans for Lawsuit Reform.

“Now it’s a brand new race,” Menéndez said.

In the race to replace another San Antonio mayoral candidate, state Rep. Mike Villarreal, D-San Antonio, the two top vote-getters were former Councilman Diego Bernal and Republican Nunzio Previtera, who serves on the State Republican Executive Committee.

Bernal, a civil rights attorney, missed an outright victory by a handful of percentage points. Previtera, an insurance firm owner in his first bid for office, trailed in second place with about half the votes that Bernal had garnered.

The two rose from a crowded six-candidate field that included two other Democrats – Melissa Aguillon and Walter Martinez. Libertarian Roger Gary and Green Party candidate Paul Ingmundson accounted for less than 3 percent of the overall vote.

Bernal said he and his team would soon regroup to build a game plan for the runoff election. On Tuesday, he offered thanks to those who pushed him to the No. 1 spot.

“I’m humbled by the support I’ve received. I’m almost embarrassed by the amount of work people have put in on my behalf,” he said. “Honestly, it always felt very competitive and I am proud of the work I’ve done with the community, and I plan to do more when I’m a state representative.”

Previtera said campaigning for the runoff starts Wednesday.

“I think we have a very good opportunity to win a runoff election,” he said. “What a lot of people don’t realize is the voters in HD 123 are not like the voters all across the city.”

Many of the district’s residents, he said, make less than $30,000 a year and share the same core values as the GOP – they just don’t know it. Voters there cast ballots for Democrats because that’s what their parents did, Previtera said.

“They don’t realize that many of them, if their parents were still alive today, they’d be voting Republican,” he said.

By law, the runoff must take place within 45 days of the results being canvassed, which in practice should mean by February 21. As I said before, there’s a case to be made for Rep. Menendez to drop out instead of going to the runoff. Menendez trails TMF by about 18 points, which isn’t insurmountable – Borris Miles trailed Al Edwards 48.18 to 32.76 in the 2006 Democratic primary for HD146 and won in the runoff – but it’s a steep hill to climb, especially given that the bulk of the remaining votes went to the two Republican candidates. Menendez could try to persuade some Republicans that he’d be better for them in SD26 than TMF would be, not an unreasonable argument but one that must be made delicately if one doesn’t want to piss off one’s own base. He could try to bring back more of his voters to the runoff than TMF does, and he could try to bring out some folks who didn’t participate in Round One, which might be doable now that the holidays are over. Maybe.

You have to weigh the odds of success against the stark reality of the calendar: The day after the runoff there’s another legislative vacancy that would need to be filled. That special election would likely be at the end of March, and if there’s a runoff needed, which seems like a good bet, it might not happen till the first week of May or so. Against that, if Menendez concedes and TMF resigns his legislative seat to move up, the special election in HD116 would likely be in early to mid-February, with a runoff in mid to late March. That’s a big difference in terms of when a lot of the action happens, and when a lot of key votes need to be cast. If we want to beat back regressive constitutional amendments, we will need all hands on deck.

I recognize that what I’m saying here is that Rep. Menendez might consider taking one for the team. I want to be clear that he is in no way obligated to do so. If he believes, as I’m sure he does, that he has a path to victory, then by all means he should fight on. I have nothing but respect for Rep. Menendez and wish him good luck. For better or worse, the calendar is what it is. It could be a factor in how this session plays out. I feel it is worthwhile to point that out.

As for the HD123 runoff, putting aside Previtera’s adorable invocation of that old Reagan chestnut about Latinos being Republicans that just haven’t figured it out yet, I would note that 75% of the vote cast in that race was for Democrats. Good luck finding a way to 50% plus one with that.

Meanwhile, in HD17:

Cyrier and Golemon might be from the same party, but they come from different corners of the GOP.

Cyrier, who started the contracting firm Sabre Commercial and who served on the Caldwell County Commissioners’ Court, boasts the support of some Democrats and says he is ready to reach across the aisle to govern.

Meanwhile, Golemon sees himself as the more conservative choice, he said. An entrepreneur and the son of a high-dollar lobbyist, Golemon doesn’t have a record to run on, but his campaign consultant, Luke Macias, has a reputation for helping to elect some of the Legislature’s most conservative and tea party-backed members.

Both Golemon and Cyrier have said they would focus on protecting water resources in the district, if elected.

Golemon’s website says he also wants to pass legislation dealing with education, securing the border, advancing Second Amendment rights and opposing the Affordable Care Act.

Cyrier’s other priorities include improving the state transportation system and funding public education, he said.

Like I said, not a pickup opportunity, but it’s clear what the better outcome is at this point. Now we await word of the runoff date.

All special elections will go to runoffs

From the Bexar County Elections webpage:

STATE SENATOR, DISTRICT 26 VOTE FOR 1 Votes Pct (WITH 322 OF 322 PRECINCTS COUNTED) Al Suarez (DEM) . . . . . . . . 644 3.39 Alma Perez Jackson (REP) . . . . . 3,892 20.46 Joan Pedrotti (REP) . . . . . . . 1,427 7.50 Jose Menendez (DEM) . . . . . . . 4,824 25.37 Trey Martinez Fischer (DEM) . . . . 8,231 43.28 STATE REPRESENTATIVE, DISTRICT 123 VOTE FOR 1 Votes Pct (WITH 96 OF 96 PRECINCTS COUNTED) Roger V. Gary (LIB) . . . . . . . 103 1.45 Melissa Aguillon (DEM) . . . . . . 1,257 17.69 Diego Bernal (DEM) . . . . . . . 3,372 47.46 Walter Martinez (DEM) . . . . . . 780 10.98 Nunzio Previtera (REP) . . . . . . 1,512 21.28 Paul Ingmundson (GRN) . . . . . . 81 1.14

So it’s TMF versus Menendez in SD26, and Diego Bernal versus Nunzio Previtera in HD123. One could make a case for Menendez to drop out, so that the inevitably vacant legislative seat, presumed to be TMF’s given his advantage in Round One, can be filled as quickly as possible. I don’t know if anyone will make that case, and even if someone does I don’t know that Menendez would, or should, be receptive to it. He isn’t trailing by that much, though his path to victory isn’t clear. I expect there will be a runoff, followed by that inevitable subsequent special election. We’ll see. As for HD123, a solid showing by Bernal. I like his chances in the runoff there.

And for HD17, from the Secretary of State:

State Representative District 17 Votes Pct Shelley Cartier DEM 290 3.80% Linda Curtis IND 1,046 13.71% John Cyrier REP 3,515 46.10% Brent Golemon REP 1,866 24.47% Ty McDonald DEM 907 11.89%

And it’s Cyrier versus Golemon, so no pickup opportunity. Cyrier is the ParentPAC candidate, so if you want to root for someone, he’s the choice. Runoffs should be in about six weeks. I’ll have more in the next day or so.

Special Election Day for SD26, HD123, and HD17

At long last, we have some endorsements. The Express News recommends TMF for SD26.

Martinez Fischer has demonstrated distinctive leadership that makes him the clear-cut choice for the Senate.

Early in his career, Martinez Fischer stirred the pot ineffectively. The 44-year-old lawyer admits he is “rough around the edges,” but he learned his legislative lessons well and emerged as a powerful force in recent years.

More than any other Democratic legislator from San Antonio, Martinez Fischer has demonstrated a knack for being in the center of the action when it matters most.

Martinez Fischer has generated the most headlines for the confrontational aspects of his role as the chairman of the Mexican American Legislative Caucus and his sometimes overexuberant partisan comments.

But his use of the levers of power to be positioned to help make crucial decisions — even in the Republican-dominated House — is the more important aspect of his performance.

[…]

We are confident that Martinez Fischer will be as effective as a Democrat is able to be in the GOP-dominated Senate. He has the standing to be a go-to guy for progressives as well as San Antonio’s pragmatic civic leaders.

They also recommend Diego Bernal in HD123.

During his tenure at City Hall, Bernal showed courage by successfully sponsoring a highly controversial nondiscrimination ordinance that provided new protections for sexual orientation, gender identity and veteran status.

Bernal, 38, also took the lead in creating an advisory panel to study the future of Alamo Plaza. The plaza has received lip service over the years, but the city has failed to nurture the downtown asset. Bernal’s efforts have revived hope for real improvements.

The former councilman has demonstrated a commitment to public service, and voters have good reason to expect that he will get up to speed on state issues quickly.

Both excellent choices, in my opinion.

vote-button

I don’t know what to expect from the three legislative special elections today except low turnout, the likelihood of at least one runoff, and the eventual need for another such election to fill the seat of either State Rep. Trey Martinez-Fischer or Rep. Jose Menendez. For those of you in one of these districts, here’s where you are voting today if you have not already done so:

Bexar County polling sites.
Bexar County Precinct Finder.

Bastrop County Precinct Finder. There’s no general listing of polling sites. It appears you have to do the precinct location lookup to find out where you need to go to vote.

Caldwell County polling sites.

Gonzales County election information. There is no information specific to the January special election that I can find. I recommend calling the voter registrar at 830-672-2841 to inquire.

Karnes County election information. There is no information specific to the January special election that I can find. I recommend calling the elections administrator at 830-780-2246 to inquire.

Lee County elections information. They still have info pertaining to the SD18 special election up, but nothing for this one. I recommend calling the elections administrator at 979-542-3684 to inquire.

According to the Bastrop County Elections webpage, 3,114 early votes were cast in the HD17 election. I didn’t see any similar data for Bexar County. There were 35,196 total votes cast in the HD17 election in November, so you can get a feel for just how minuscule overall turnout is going to be. The Austin Chronicle has a good last-minute look at the races and the candidates if you’re still undecided.

Finally, yesterday was the filing deadline for the January 13 special election to fill the HD13 seat vacated by Sen. Lois Kolkhorst. The list of candidates that have filed, according to VoteTexas.govBecky Berger, Republican. Berger was a candidate for Railroad Commissioner least year. She’s also a wingnut.

Carolyn Cerny Bilski, Republican. Bilski is the Austin County Judge. Here’s a brief profile of her.

Leighton Schubert, Republican. This appears to be the press release announcing his candidacy.

Cecil R. Webster, Sr., Democrat. Webster was a candidate for Fayette County Judge last year, and garnered 22% of the vote, which put him ahead of the statewide Democrats in that county.

Here’s a Victoria Advocate story about the HD13 election. I’ll do some more searching for stories later this week.

Special elections roundup

I haven’t seen any newspaper endorsements in the special elections that will conclude on Tuesday. I can tell you that the Texas Parent PAC has endorsed Diego Bernal in HD123 and John Cyrier in HD17. In the absence of further endorsements to report on, here’s a news roundup based on Google searches of the various candidates.

In SD26, it’s all about the money.

Rep. Trey Martinez-Fischer

Rep. Trey Martinez-Fischer

A powerful special interest group that has contributed millions of dollars mostly to state Republicans over the years is targeting Democrat Trey Martinez Fischer’s bid to fill a vacant Senate seat.

And now Martinez Fischer is attempting to draw connections between the group, Texans for Lawsuit Reform, and his main opponent in the race, Democratic state Rep. José Menéndez.

TLR is the richest and most influential tort reform group in the state, and its political action committee has already spent close to $180,000 to influence Tuesday’s special election in District 26, state records show. That includes research and polling, along with TV ads and mailers blasting Martinez Fischer.

In a campaign memo released Wednesday, Martinez Fischer leveled his strongest public accusations to date about links to the group and Menéndez, claiming the head of TLR has personally made calls to help Menéndez and to “thwart” Martinez Fischer’s own fundraising efforts.

Martinez Fischer, in the memo, goes on to note that TLR contract lobbyist Ed Lopez was named earlier this month as part of the Menéndez finance team and then claims another unnamed lobbyist working for the group recently held a fundraiser for Menéndez.

[…]

“In my estimation, José’s relationship with TLR is obvious,” Martinez Fischer says in the memo.

On Wednesday, Menéndez remained steadfast that he’s not in cahoots with the group.

“It is obvious to me that Trey is desperate to try to create a connection between TLR and myself that doesn’t’ exist,” he said. “We’re running our campaign, and we’re not in a position that we feel like we need any help from outside sources.”

Menéndez also said that Lopez, the TLR lobbyist Martinez Fischer cited in his memo, is a personal friend dating back to his days on San Antonio City Council, and that “he’s a supporter of mine because he believes in me as a person.”

TMF has greatly outraised Menendez, though a lot of his donations have been non-local. Both candidates are spending heavily on TV ads. When the first order of business is to make sure people are aware that there is an election going on in the first place, you do what you have to do.

Meanwhile, the candidates in HD123 are trying to be heard over that volume.

The ballot includes three Democrats: businesswoman Melissa Aguillon, former San Antonio City Councilman Diego Bernal, and Walter Martinez, also a former city councilman, who served in the Texas House in the ’80s.

The lone Republican is insurance agent Nunzio Previtera. Clinical psychologist Paul Ingmundson is the Green Party candidate, while Libertarian Roger Gary rounds out the ballot.

Gary, like the others, has education reform high on his list. He wants to get back to the basics, like, he says, teaching basic math. ”I’ve asked some other people who say they’re doing it all on computers; people’s grammar and spelling and math, let’s get back to those basics. That’s what we need. The rest of the stuff they’re squabbling about, what’s in a high school history book? Well, who cares if they can’t read and write.”

Republican Nunzio Previtera wants schools to put as much emphasis on vocational training as they do on college preparation. “The primary goal of our school system needs to be to provide our students with opportunities to prosper as working adults, get them ready to be adults. Our magnet schools have done a pretty good job, but they need to be expanded, and our primary schools need to put a lot more emphasis on vocational skills and training people for their adult life.”

Paul Ingmundson went to UT Austin, where he paid $50 a semester. He says college tuition today is outrageous. He wants the first two years of college to be free. He’d pay for that by taxing oil and gas producers. “We can address the fossil fuel problem and the education problem with one policy change. I think even Republicans are going to start to get used to this. They are going to look around for money, and if you’re going to look around for money, the deepest pockets are in the oil and gas fields.” 


More affordable higher education and technical training are also high on the agendas of Democrats Melissa Aguillon and Walter Martinez.

“It was challenging for my parents to put me through college,” says Aguillon. “I actually had to pretty much fund my own college tuition, and so, I want to make sure that higher education is accessible for all students that want to go to college.” But she adds, there are far more career paths available to those students now, and far more jobs being created, “21st century jobs that don’t necessarily require a four-year education.”

“I think it’s important that the necessary skills for trades are also accessible to them,” says Aguillon. Fellow Democrat Martinez agrees, and adds, “The delivery and implementation of workforce training, also providing technical training, to be able to provide the workforce that modern technology requires, those are all part of the agenda as far as supporting public education.”

Democrat Diego Bernal says the first bill he’d file would overhaul the way the state decides how much money each school district will receive. “The very first one I would file would have to do with public education and the formula that we use to pay for students who are either economically disadvantaged or English language learners. There’s a formula they use to give districts extra money and that formula hasn’t been updated since the mid-’80s. So if you want to know what my very first attempt at a bill would be, that would be it.”

Here’s an Express News overview of this race. The SA Current did Q&As with four of the candidates in the HD123 race – with Diego Bernal, Melissa Aguillon, Walter Martinez, and Roger Gary. They also profiled Bernal and noted that Aguillon had received financial support from a Georgia-based auto title loan business owner.

As for HD17, news is a lot harder to find. What little I have is from the Gonzalez Inquirer. Here’s their overview of the race:

Republican candidate John Cyrier, 41, of Lockhart, was in town Monday morning for a brief rally at the Roger M. Dreyer Memorial Airport to kick off early voting. He arrived by air in his Cessna Skylane II— which appropriately sported the colors red, white and blue.

[…]

The other Republican in the race, Brent Golemon, 46, of Bastrop, got a taste of politics early in life. Golemon worked as a legislative aide and chief-of-staff at the capitol after graduating Hampden-Sydney College while his father was a 35-year lobbyist in Austin.

Golemon co-founded GalleryWatch, the nation’s first online legislative tracking service in 1996, which was sold eight years later. His current occupation is listed as “entrepreneur.”

The closest Golemon gets to an elected office credential is a stint on the Tahitian Village Property Owners Association and a board appointment to the Bastrop County Water District. In his spare time, he enjoys coaching six-man football at a Christian-based athletics program for home-schooled and private school families.

The first of two Democrats on the ballot is Ty McDonald, 43, also of Bastrop. She is a 1993 graduate of Texas A&M University and is married to former Bastrop County Judge Ronnie McDonald.

McDonald’s early education into elected public service was as legislative director for State Rep. Yvonne Davis in the early 90s. She also served as campaign coordinator for John Sharp during his failed bid for comptroller.

After serving as a public school teacher for seven years, she was elected to a single term to the board of the Bastrop Independent School District. Her last year was served as president of that body.

After flirting with a run for state rep earlier this year, McDonald switched races to challenge incumbent Bastrop County Judge Paul Pape. She lost that contest in November.

The other Democrat is Shelley Cartier, 51, yet another candidate from the Bastrop area. Her business card describes her as a non-politician and small business owner.

On the issues, she supports local control and small growth. Public education is also in her platform and she says she is a “defender of property and water rights for all.”

In her spare time she advocates for the humane treatment of animals and hosts several rescue horses on her property.

Rounding out the list is the lone Independent candidate, Linda Curtis, 63, the final Bastrop resident. Her tagline is “If you can’t join ‘em, beat ‘em!”

They also have a profile of Cyrier.

Cyrier hails from Caldwell County where he and his wife Rachelle live on a ranch south of Lockhart. His political fact sheet touts many accomplishments for the 42 year-old—successful businessman, past county commissioner and former commander of the Fightin’ Texas Aggie Band. He now wishes to be State Representative for District 17, which includes Gonzales County.

His business career began after he received a degree in Mechanical Engineering Technology from Texas A&M University. A couple of stops in the general contracting business and branch office management led him to launch Sabre Commercial, Inc. in 2008, a commercial construction services company specializing in general contracting. It employs 51 people and has won numerous distinctions from the Austin Business Journal including a nomination for Best CEO Award in September.

“I surround myself with good people and I take care of them,” said Cyrier. The good working morale has led Sabre to three top-10 “Best Places to Work in Central Texas” designations from the Journal.

Cyrier’s political career began in 2010. There was a vacancy on the commissioner’s court in Caldwell County and longtime County Judge H.T. Wright, Jr., a Democrat, picked Cyrier based on his community accomplishments. The judge knew that he would take heat for the appointment since Cyrier was a Republican, but he saw a need to balance the court and invite all ideas to the table.

Turns out that Cyrier was only the second Republican to ever hold a seat on the court. Party designation didn’t matter to most voters, for he was elected outright later that year by 60 percent of the ballots and was named Judge Pro-Tem in 2012.

“I loved being a county commissioner,” he said.

Cyrier decided to serve out his term but opted not to run in the general election in 2012. He figured that he could do just as much good for the community away from the commissioner’s court than he could on it. The list of boards on which he currently serves include: Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization (CAMPO), Caritas of Austin, Lockhart ISD Education Foundation, Caldwell County Republican precinct chair—and the list goes on — prove just that.

During the Thanksgiving holiday he received a call from Bastrop County Judge Paul Pape. Rep. Tim Kleinschmidt had resigned and the county’s leadership was looking for a candidate to promote. One GOP candidate had already popped up in Bastrop, but they were looking for something more. They believed that Cyrier had the vision to be the district’s next leader.

With the added urging of longtime Bastrop County Commissioner Clara Beckett, Cyrier decided to run and continue his community service at the elected level. Soon he had a list of supporters that any candidate would envy.

There are three things that Cyrier lists as top priorities in the upcoming legislative session: education, water and infrastructure. Luckily for District 17, all three topics resonate throughout the five rural counties he would represent.

On education, Cyrier already counts superintendents from Bastrop, Smithville, Karnes, Lockhart, Gonzales and a host of other education professionals as supporting his candidacy.

He shows a strong command of the issues facing public schools in the state. His concerns are on elected officials that look to defund public education to send dollars elsewhere. Oftentimes school is the only place a child can eat a regular meal for breakfast, lunch— and more often now— even dinner.

Diverting public dollars would have an adverse affect on education, especially in communities like this one where the school system is the major employer. Cyrier looks to be a strong advocate for these independent school districts.

He also draws a parallel between the growth the district has seen based on underground resources—water to the north and oil to the south. Where Bastrop County has seen sprawl eat on its western flank, water developers look to siphon off the precious resource to far-flung housing developments throughout the I-35 corridor and down to San Antonio. Similar concerns can be seen here.

The other boom is down south with the shale explosion in the Eagle Ford. Gonzales County is experiencing growth and road degradation associated with this as is its neighbor to the south, Karnes County. Cyrier understands this and how public infrastructure funding is so important to the area.

Since all five counties in the district are still largely rural, he feels that the area shares the same challenges.

So there you have it. If you live in one of these districts, please make sure you vote.

Interview with Ty McDonald

Ty McDonald

Ty McDonald

The discussion of the special elections going on this week and culminating on January 6 has been dominated by Bexar County, home of two of the three races, including the Senate race, but the HD17 election is important in its own right. It’s centered in a growing part of the state and it has a decent shot at being an R versus D race in the runoff. There are two Ds running in this race, with one of them, Ty McDonald, having the better chance to make it to overtime. McDonald, whom I profiled here, is a teacher and former Bastrop ISD school board member, whose husband Ronnie, a former Bastrop County Judge, was a candidate for CD27 in 2012 (my interview with him is here). She had given thought to running for HD17 in November before making a run for County Judge herself. We covered a lot of ground in the interview:

As of this publication, I am still trying to work out an arrangement to interview Rep. Jose Menendez for his campaign in SD26. I hope to have this for Friday, or at worst for Monday.

HD17 overview

The Chron provides an overview of the special election in HD17. Given that current Rep. Tim Kleinschmidt hadn’t planned to resign till January 14, it seems that the swift date for this election, the same day as the ones in Bexar County, caught the prospective candidates a bit by surprise.

Rep. Tim Kleinschmidt

Kleinschmidt has not made any endorsements in the race, though his chief of staff is actively campaigning for Republican candidate John Cyrier and is expected to stay on if Cyrier wins.

Cyrier, a construction executive who served on the Caldwell County Commissioners Court from 2010-2013, is positioning himself the only serious contender with a voting record and one who will not require on-the-job training at the Capitol. Endorsed by the Texas Farm Bureau and several state representatives from the area, Cyrier has been working to consolidate support from the region’s GOP power brokers and seize the mantle of odds-on establishment favorite.

[…]

Bastrop entrepreneur Brent Golemon is running as a different kind of Republican, expressing concern over the direction of the state while pitching himself as the only “principled conservative” in the race. If elected, he said he would work to undo burdensome regulations on businesses and schools that have kept Texas from reaching its full potential.

“We’re not the lesser of two evils – we’re actually a positive place to be,” Golemon said. “‘At least we’re not as bad off as California.’ That’s not a good way of saying: ‘Come to Texas. Be a Texan.’ ”

[…]

Two Democrats are also running, though just one of them – pastor Ty McDonald – is seen as having a shot at spoiling either Republican’s chances of winning more than half the vote and avoiding a runoff Jan. 6. The other Democrat, Cedar Creek real estate agent Shelley Cartier, has kept a lower profile than McDonald, who last year weighed a challenge to Kleinschmidt.

McDonald also has somewhat of an advantage in name recognition as a one time congressional candidate and wife of former Bastrop County Judge Ronnie McDonald. Plus, she fashions herself as more conservative than liberal on social issues, creating the opportunity for crossover appeal in a district where voters’ priorities are hardly partisan lightning rods.

“People tend to have a hard time boxing me in,” McDonald said. The seat, she added, is “up for grabs, and I’m ready to part the red sea.”

Rounding out the five-person lineup is independent Linda Curtis, a longtime Bastrop activist who helps run a political action committee that boosts independent politicians. She also has been mindful of the race’s quirks as a self-styled populist looking to rebuke the leadership in Austin.

“Rick Perry is sneaking an election during the Christmas holiday,” Curtis said in a news release announcing her candidacy. “Lets not make this The Grinch That Stole An Election.”

I will have an interview with Ty McDonald later this week. The presence of Linda Curtis, whom the Austin Chronicle notes has been plying a gadfly/professional outsider schtick for many years, adds an interesting dimension to the race. In a November election, I could see her peeling off a fair number of votes, which I’d guess would more from the R column than the D though not by a huge amount. I don’t know how well that will play in a January election, where the large majority of the participants will be hardcore partisans. One can make an impact as an indy in a race like this, but it likely takes a certain level of resources, since you have to make sure people know that there is an election in the first place, and/or a certain level of name recognition – perhaps “notoriety” is a more accurate term – to cut through the noise. We’ll see how it plays out here. If you live in HD17, what (if anything) are you hearing about this election? Leave a comment and let us know.

Perry sets HD13 special election date

For all the writing I’ve done about the various legislative special elections, I’d almost forgotten that this one was still out there.

Sen. Lois Kolkhorst

Just hours after Lois Kolkhorst was sworn in as the newest state senator Monday, Gov. Rick Perry called a Jan. 13 special election to fill the Brenham Republican’s former seat in the Texas House.

At least three Republicans have already launched bids for House District 13: Austin County Judge Carolyn Bilski, Caldwell attorney Leighton Schubert and Becky Berger, a member of the Republican State Executive Committee. All of them announced they were interested in the seat before Kolkhorst’s victory earlier this month in the special election to replace Katy Republican Glenn Hegar, the incoming comptroller.

[…]

Perry has given prospective candidates a week to file applications for the HD13 special election with the secretary of state’s office. Early voting commences Jan. 5.

In other words, everything is exactly one week after the elections in HDs 17 and 123 and SD26. And as a reminder, if either Rep. Trey Martinez-Fischer or Rep. Jose Menendez wins in SD26 – an outcome that seems highly likely now that Sylvia Romo has dropped out of the race, having been found to not be a resident of the district – we will need one more special election before the session is over. Via the Secretary of State, here are the candidate lists for each race:

SD26

Trey Martinez Fischer
Democrat

Alma Perez Jackson
Republican

Jose Menendez
Democrat

Joan Pedrotti
Republican

Al Suarez
Democrat

HD123

Melissa Aguillon
Democrat

Diego Bernal
Democrat

Roger V. Gary
Libertarian

Paul Ingmundson
Green

Walter Martinez
Democrat

Nunzio Previtera
Republican

HD17

Shelley Cartier
Democrat

Linda Curtis
Independent

John Cyrier
Republican

Brent Golemon
Republican

Ty McDonald
Democrat

As for HD13, that election was set shortly after Kolkhorst was sworn in as the new Senator from District 18, which triggered the vacancy there. I’ll keep an eye out for other candidates, but as I noted before, it’s considerably less hospitable to a Democratic candidate than HD17 is, so the best we can hope for is a non-crazy Republican. I expect there to be some interesting endorsement action in these races, with such short turnarounds and big rewards for hitting the jackpot. We’ll see how that goes as well.

UPDATE: The Express News has more on the Bexar County elections, while the Trib adds some details and another name to the HD13 lineup:

Republican Austin County Judge Carolyn Bilski, 61, is playing the experience card, hoping her 20 years as a county judge and eight years as a city council member will give her a leg up. “I think the voters deserve someone who has done research and solved problems,” said Bilski, who listed education and infrastructure as high-priority issues.

Caldwell attorney Leighton Schubert, also a Republican, said he has worked for every level of government from federal to county. He said keeping Texas’ economy strong and fiscally conservative is his top priority, plus protecting private property rights. “Any issue starts with the economy,” Schubert said. “We got to help keep this economy moving — that helps from the top down.”

Becky Berger, Republican No. 3 and a geologist, has lost twice in Republican primary races for the Texas Railroad Commission.

Cecil Webster, a veteran who’s been active in Democratic politics in Fayette County for years, said restoring education funding would be one of his top priorities if he’s elected, and rejected the premise that the district is unwinnable for a Democrat. “I am convinced that if you look at the actual number of folks here, there are more blue folks then red folks,” Webster, 60, said. “Democrats just don’t vote.”

Good luck to you, sir. I can’t do the exact same calculations of the Democratic vote potential as I did in HD17 because Kolkhorst was unopposed in 2014 and 2012, but I can say there were 1,837 total Democratic primary votes in the 2014 Democratic primary in the seven counties that make up HD13, and 3,093 votes in the 2012 Dem primary. Bill White received 16,250 votes total in HD13 in 2010. Hope you can track those folks down for this race.

Overview of the Bexar County special legislative elections

From The Rivard Report:

Texas House District 123

Former District 1 City Councilmember Diego Bernal resigned his city seat in mid-November to launch his campaign for Villarreal’s former seat. His VoteDiego website offers voters his positions on a number of issues, ranging from education to civil rights.

Melissa Aguillon, a small business owner and the principal of Aguillon & Associates, a public relations and digital marketing firm, also is running. Her VoteAguillon website displays her digital media acumen, offering videos, her Twitter feed, Facebook feed, etc.

Former District 5 Councilmember Walter Martinez (1985-92) and the Texas House District 119 representative for a single term (1983-85) is making a run to regain elected office after a two-decade-plus hiatus that began with a failed bid to win a seat on Commissioners Court. Martinez apparently does not have a campaign website.

Republican candidate Nunzio Previtera, with Integrity Insurance Agency in San Antonio, jumped into the race this week. His campaign website lists his support for small business, job growth and his pro-life position.

Libertarian candidate Roger Gary, who apparently sought his party’s nomination for president in 2012, also is running. He does not have a campaign website.

Click here to see a map of District 123, which extends from the Southside through the central city and north in Castle Hills and part of the Northside.

Texas Senate District 26

This vacant seat has attracted two strong and respected state representatives among other candidates.

Disrtrict 116 state Rep. Trey Martinez Fisher and District 124 state Rep. José Menéndez are the two leading candidates for the seat.

Sylvia Romo, the former Bexar County tax assessor-collector who served two terms in the Texas House in the 190s and who lost a Democratic primary race against U.S. Rep Lloyd Doggett in 2012, is looking to regain elected office.

Converse Mayor Al Saurez also is running for the seat as a long shot contender.

Here is a great map of the districts and the early voting locations within them. Early voting runs from December 29 through January 3, with a day off on January 1. Election Day will be January 6. Assume turnout will be low, so if you live in HD123 and/or SD26, your vote really counts.

These elections are important, especially the one in SD26 since Senate seats don’t have that much turnover, but please don’t get sucked into a narrative about it being some kind of proxy battle for the soul of the Texas Democratic Party. This is a low-turnout special election for a vacancy that no one knew would exist less than two months ago. It’s also no longer a straight-up battle between a liberal State Rep and a somewhat less liberal State Rep thanks to the entry of a third major candidate. Listen to the candidates and support whoever you think is the best choice. Don’t give a thought to what the nattering nabobs (of which I am one) think. But if you do care what I think, I’d vote for Trey Martinez-Fischer in SD26, and Diego Bernal in HD123. All due respect to Jose Menendez and Sylvia Romo, both of whom I think would be fine Senators, but TMF is my first choice, as is Bernal for the House. Just make sure you get out there and vote, in these races or in HD17, if you live in one of these districts.

UPDATE: Sylvia Romo has dropped out of the race for SD26 after it turned out out that she didn’t live in the district.

Legislative special elections set

Gear up quickly, here they come.

Mike Villarreal

Mike Villarreal

Gov. Rick Perry on Monday afternoon set three special elections for Jan. 6, including the race to replace state Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, D-San Antonio.

Van de Putte, who lost her bid for lieutenant governor last month, is stepping down to run for mayor of San Antonio, leaving a vacancy in Senate District 26. State Rep. Mike Villarreal, D-San Antonio, resigned earlier this month to also launch a campaign for City Hall, a move that created an open seat in House District 123.

In addition, Perry scheduled a special election for Jan. 6 in House District 17, where Rep. Tim Kleinschmidt, R-Lexington, is resigning to become general counsel for the Texas Department of Agriculture. The district covers a five-county area east of Austin.

Democrats have already lined up to vie for the two seats in solidly blue Bexar County. San Antonio State Reps. Jose Menendez and Trey Martinez Fischer as well as Converse Mayor Al Suarez are running to replace Van de Putte. Former San Antonio Councilmen Diego Bernal and Walter Martinez as well as public relations consultant Melissa Aguillon are competing for Villarreal’s House seat.

See here for the background. Al Suarez is a new name for the SD26 seat; Converse is a small town inside Bexar County, but beyond that I know nothing about him. I can’t find any news about potential candidates for Kleinschmidt’s seat – as you know, I’m rooting for a Democrat to file for it – but I’m sure we’ll hear something soon enough. I wasn’t expecting it to be part of this set, but it makes sense for it to be. If either Martinez-Fischer or Menendez wins in SD26 we’ll need one more special, and then I presume we’ll be done for the near term. The Current has more.

San Antonio special legislative elections appear to be set

Rumor has it.

Mike Villarreal

Mike Villarreal

State Rep. Mike Villarreal said Friday that Gov. Rick Perry has set Jan. 6 as the date for a special election to fill his position in the state House and a Senate seat being vacated by Leticia Van de Putte.

Villarreal and Van de Putte are leaving the Texas Legislature to run for San Antonio mayor.

In social media posts Friday, Villarreal divulged a snippet of a conversation he had with Ken Armbrister, a top Perry staffer, about the scheduling of the special election.

“He just called to let me know that the election will be called on Jan. 6,” Villarreal said in a phone interview. “This will minimize the possibility that there’s a vacancy in the House.”

The legislative session starts Jan. 13.

A Perry spokeswoman declined to confirm the date, saying: “We don’t have anything to announce on this. When we do, we will put out a press release.”

A formal announcement from Perry’s office could come as early as Monday.

Villarreal tweeted and Facebooked the news, which as you can see is unconfirmed at this time. Villarreal seems to be the only one willing to state this for the record, but we’ll know for sure soon enough.

Former San Antonio Councilmen Diego Bernal and Walter Martinez, who is also a former state representative, and Melissa Aguillon, who runs a public relations firm, all Democrats, are vying for Villarreal’s House seat. Nunzio Previtera, a Republican, and Libertarian Roger Gary are also eyeing the race.

[…]

State Reps. Jose Menendez and Trey Martinez Fischer, both Democrats, have launched campaigns to replace Van de Putte in the upper chamber. GOP activist Alma Perez-Jackson is also mentioned as a candidate, but has not officially announced her campaign.

I’ve said before that the special election in SD26 is a worthwhile shot for the Republicans to take, though I wouldn’t bet any money on their candidate making it to a runoff. Worst case scenario is a few fat cat donors waste some money.

Bexar County election officials already were urging reconsideration of the Jan 6. date.

Elections Administrator Jacque Callanen said Friday the date wouldn’t allow the two days needed to prepare polling sites in schools that will be closed for the holidays until Jan. 5.

Surely there is an accommodation that can be made here. Both these races are near locks to need runoffs, so the sooner they are held, the better.

On a tangential note, January 14 – Day Two of the session – is the day that Rep. Tim Kleinschmidt is planning to resign to take the job of general counsel for the Ag Department. I would presume a special election to fill that seat, for which I have urged Dems to take a shot, will follow shortly thereafter. Assuming one of Reps. Martinez-Fischer or Menendez wins in SD26, we will need one more special election, likely in early March, to fill that vacancy. Barring any unforseen additional departures, that should be it for the time being.

Kolkhorst wins SD18

One special election begets another.

Rep. Lois Kolkhorst

State Rep. Lois Kolkhorst won a promotion to the Texas Senate on Saturday, leveraging her 14-year incumbency and high-profile endorsements to fend off a fellow Republican opponent who spent nearly $2 million of his own money portraying Kolkhorst as soft on the border.

Kolkhorst eclipsed the 50 percent mark needed to avoid a runoff with Fort Bend businessman Gary Gates in Senate District 18, which stretches from Katy and Rosenberg to near Corpus Christi and Austin. Kolkhorst won 55 percent of the vote, 20 percentage points higher than Gates earned.

“We have an opportunity to have the most conservative session in recent history, responding to the demand of the voters of Texas,” Kolkhorst said. “I’m truly humbled by the results.”

Though the three-week sprint only officially began when Glenn Hegar announced his intention to resign after winning statewide office last month, the leading candidates have treated the seat as vacant since Hegar won the GOP primary for comptroller in the spring. Hegar officially resigned Friday.

Kolkhorst and Gates have spent that time looking to outflank one another on perhaps the most resonant issue in this largely rural district along U.S. 59: border security. Gates has hammered the seven-term state representative for a vote granting in-state tuition to undocumented immigrants a decade ago, which Kolkhorst now says she regrets.

Strictly speaking, of course, this applied to people who were brought to this country as children. Because we once thought it was a good idea to encourage college-ready students to go to college. Now Republicans want to deport such children, which is as compassionate as it is sensible. I don’t even know what to say any more.

Kolkhorst’s elevation creates yet another vacancy in Austin: A special election will now be held for her old seat, House District 13. Just as Kolkhorst ran for Hegar’s seat, candidates are already running for hers.

There are currently vacancies in HDs 13 and 17, with one to come in HD123 and later on in SD26; the special election in SD26 will likely create another vacancy in either HD116 or HD124. And you thought the 2014 election season was over.

Full election results are here. Turnout was 39,200 votes, or maybe less than percent overall. The dollars per vote total was pretty high in this race. The Trib has more.

Kleinschmidt to resign in HD17

Just in case you thought there weren’t enough special elections on the horizon.

Rep. Tim Kleinschmidt

Newly elected Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller is reaching out to a former House colleague to fill a key staff position in his new administration.

A source close to the Miller transition team said Friday afternoon that Miller reached out to state Rep. Tim Kleinschmidt, R-Lexington, to become the agriculture department’s next general counsel.

According to the source, Kleinschmidt agreed to take the job “after careful thought and discussions” with family and his law partners.

Kleinschmidt will resign his House seat effective Jan. 14 and has plans to send a resignation letter to Gov. Rick Perry in the coming days.

Kleinschmidt’s departure from the House would create a vacancy in House District 17, which stretches across five Central Texas counties east of Austin. Kleinschmidt has served in the Texas House since 2009.

A special electionin HD17 presents the same opportunity for Democrats as the special election in SD26 will for Republicans, with about the same odds of success. Kleinschmidt won 64.6% of the vote this November; his Democratic opponent, Carolyn Banks, had 35.4%. In 2010, Bill White got 43.3%, while Linda Chavez-Thompson got 32.8%, though with more total votes than Banks had. In 2012, President Obama took 37.3%, Paul Sadler had 39.8%, and Michelle Petty was the standard-bearer with 40.6%. A surprise win here would almost certainly be a one-term rental, but you never know, and it’s not like there’s anything to lose.

I even have a suggestion for a candidate to recruit: Ronnie McDonald, former three-term Bastrop County Judge and candidate for CD27 in 2012. He considered challenging Kleinschmidt in 2012 before jumping into a crowded field for CD27, so the concept of running for State House has occurred to him. I don’t know what he’s up to and I have no idea if he’d be amenable, but it can’t hurt to try. Whether he’s a viable possibility or not, this would be a good opportunity for Battleground Texas to try to begin their rebuilding process and keep volunteers engaged as they work towards 2016. Find a candidate and support that candidate. There’s nothing to lose.

Back to Blue

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Good news and bad news

Good news.

Ronnie McDonald

Big news today: Bastrop County Judge Ronnie McDonald is stepping down from his position. At a press conference today, he announced today that he will either run for the 17th Legislative District, anchored in Bastrop and currently held by Republican Tim Kleinschmidt, or for the 27th Congressional District, currently held by Republican Blake “Ducky Pajamas” Farenthold.

Running for CD-27 would be somewhat surprising decision given that the maps drawn by the San Antonio panel make the district R+19. Obama would have gotten 40% in the district in 2008 to McCain’s 59%. The previous incarnation that accidentally elected Farenthold in 2010 was D+7. However, the district changed so dramatically in redistricting, one can argue that there isn’t any huge benefit of incumbency here. But, make no mistake, it’s still an uphill climb for any Democrat.

[…]

House District 17, on the other hand, would be a much easier pick-up opportunity for Democrats. The district, pictured at left, encompasses Lee, Bastrop, Caldwell, Gonzales, and Karnes County. McDonald has the clear advantage in Bastrop, and Caldwell is a majority-minority county that has gone Democratic in downballot races in Presidential election cycles. Furthermore, since part of Caldwell is in the new CD-35, you can bet that whatever Democrat wins the primary will be beating the bushes hard to turn out votes in November. (Plus, you get to represent Lockhart, which, I mean, come on!) There’s also some good data to back this up — the 2008 Democratic candidate for Court of Criminal Appeals Susan Strawn narrowly won in the district 48-47, and Democrats Mark Thompson (Railroad Commish) and Sam Houston (SCOTX) lost by less than 2 points in what is the new 17th House District. If McDonald makes a go for it, wins big in Bastrop and turns out Caldwell, he can win this thing.

I’d think HD17 would be the better choice. Among other things, I will not be surprised if the DC court finds significant further problems with the legislative map, which may well lead to something more like the original interim map for the 2014 elections. (Assuming the Voting Rights Act hasn’t been gutted by SCOTUS, in which case all bets are off.) HD17 is more attainable, and less likely to be significantly changed between now and then. But either way, it’s a good bit of recruitment news for the Democrats. Postcards has more.

Which helps somewhat to balance out the bad news.

Rep. J. M. Lozano (D – Alice) has decided to switch to the Republican Party and will file for reelection as a Republican in HD 43 this week. George P. Bush was instrumental in his recruitment, and Governor Perry, Speaker Straus, and other GOP officials have contacted him and welcomed him to the party. A press conference is in the works for this week.

Lozano’s HD43 was redrawn by the court as a tossup/lean Dem district:

McCain Obama Cornyn Noriega Wainwright Houston ===================================================== 51.45 47.94 46.90 50.69 42.24 54.68

Lozano has since confirmed Miller’s scoop. Not clear to me that he’s any better off as an R than as a D, but one would think that as an incumbent he’s better placed than anyone else. Lozano was unopposed in the 2010 general election after knocking off the scandal-plagued Tara Rios Ybarra in the primary; Ybarra had in turn defeated Juan Escobar in 2008, with some help from the Craddick machine. All I can say is that if this report is true, I hope someone is on the phone talking to Escobar about taking another run at his old office.

New map, new opportunities: Outside the urban areas, part 1

Here’s the first post in my series of analyses of the new districts. I’m using 2008 electoral data, since the next election is a Presidential year, and I feel confident that the districts were drawn with an eye strongly towards protecting Republican gains in such a year. Without further ado, here we go.

HD12

District: 12

Incumbent: None

Counties: McLennan (part), Limestone, Falls, Robertson, Brazos (part)

Best 2008 Dem performance: Sam Houston, 46.67%

This district contains parts of Jim Dunnam’s old district, with the eastern part of the old HD57 being chopped off and reconstituted to accommodate Marva Beck. Lack of an incumbent is a big part of the draw here. A big downside is the eight point spread from the top of the ticket – neither Obama nor Noriega cracked 40% – to the Sam Houston number, which suggests that any Democratic candidate may have to swim against the tide. Lack of an incumbent also means you can’t accuse the other guy of voting to gut public education. Not a top priority, and may never be on the radar, but deserves a decent candidate for the first go-round at least.

HD17

District: 17

Incumbent: Tim Kleinschmidt (first elected in 2008)

Counties: Lee, Bastrop, Caldwell, Gonzales, Karnes

Best 2008 Dem performance: Susan Strawn, 48.27% (plurality)

Big change in this district, which used to contain Burleson, Colorado, Fayette, and parts of Brazos. Basically, it shifted south. Bastrop is the population center, and it was a purple county in 2008, with Strawn and Sam Houston scoring pluralities there. The more it becomes an Austin suburb a la Hays and Williamson, the better the prospects for a win. This district was on the radar for Dems in 2008 as an open D seat and in 2010, and I expect it will continue to be.

HDs 32 and 34

District: 32
District: 34

Incumbent: Todd Hunter (HD32, first elected in 2008); Raul Torres and Connie Scott (HD34, first elected in 2010)

Counties: Nueces

Best Dem performance in 2008: For HD32, Sam Houston, 46.20%. For HD34, Sam Houston, 58.83%

HD32 can charitably be described as a reach if Hunter runs for re-election. Nueces County has been trending away from the Democrats, the three counties that were removed from HD32 (Aransas, Calhoun, and San Patricio) were a net winner for Juan Garcia, whom Hunter defeated in 2008, and Hunter has done very well both in terms of fundraising and moving up the ladder in his two terms. However, it’s the worst kept secret in the state that Hunter wants to run for Congress, and if that map is at all favorable to him this seat may be open in 2012. So keep that in the back of your mind.

I’ll be honest, I’m not really sure why Torres and Scott were paired, unless they were considered to be hopeless cases for salvation. This is the more Democratic part of Nueces, with all Dems in 2008 winning a majority, up to 20 points in their favor downballot. This has got to be one of the easiest pickup opportunities for the Dems in 2012.

HD35

District: 35

Incumbent: Jose Aliseda (first elected in 2010)

Counties: Atascosa, LaSalle, McMullen, Live Oak, Bee, San Patricio, Duval

Best 2008 Dem performance: Sam Houston, 50.77%

Republicans have been trying to carve out a South Texas district for themselves for awhile, and this one may be their best shot going forward. The good news for them is that McCain and Cornyn scored solid wins in 2008, with McCain getting nearly 55% and Cornyn 51%. The bad news is that Dems carried the rest of the races, with Houston, Strawn, and Linda Yanez all getting majorities. Aliseda got into one of the more entertaining kerfuffles during the House debate over HB150; I don’t know if he got what he wanted or not, but what he got is a very swingy district that may be a battleground through the decade.

HD41

District: HD41

Incumbent: Aaron Pena (first elected as a Democrat in 2002, switched parties after the 2010 election)

Counties: Hidalgo (part)

Best Dem performance in 2008: Sam Houston, 60.15%

I can’t think of a single seat the Democrats would like to win more than this one. Technically, Pena is the incumbent in HD40, and Veronica Gonzales is the incumbent in HD41, but as the Legislative Study Group noted:

CSHB150 also radically changes Hidalgo County districts in an effort to squeeze a partisan performing district out of the existing population. The incumbent in HD 40 would only represent 1.5 % of his current district, and the incumbent in HD 41 would only represent 1.1 % of her district. The gerrymandered map in Hidalgo County takes great pains to draw the incumbents in HD 40 and 41 into almost entirely new districts, narrowing down to one city block at times.

For this reason, the district numbers were swapped, thus giving Pena and Gonzales most of their previous constituents back. Despite being on the Redistricting Committee and drawing what one presumes was the best map he could for himself, Pena isn’t exactly sitting pretty. The low score among Democrats was Obama’s 54.83%, with everyone but Jim Jordan getting at least 56%. Do his constituents love him enough to overcome the party label or not? Assuming he does run for re-election, that is.

Peña said he is in employment negotiations with a law firm that would require him to move out of the Valley. If he does take the job, he said, he won’t seek office in 2012.

In other words, he’s got a graceful way out if he decides that he can’t win his custom-designed district. We’ll find out soon enough. More non-urban areas coming up next.