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HD27

Ron Reynolds reports to jail

We’ll see how long a year lasts.

Rep. Ron Reynolds

State Rep. Ron Reynolds has turned himself in to authorities in Montgomery County to begin serving his year-long jail sentence.

Reynolds, a Democrat from Missouri City, was convicted in 2015 on misdemeanor charges for illegally soliciting clients for his personal injury practice and sentenced to a year in jail. He was out on an appellate bond for years while his case wound through the appeals process.

On Friday morning, he had a hearing in Montgomery County after all his appeals were denied, and he turned himself in, according to a court clerk. He has not resigned his seat and state law does not force resignations for misdemeanor convictions, meaning it’s likely he’ll be in jail when the next session of the Texas Legislature convenes in January.

Reynolds has won several elections since his conviction, including his primary in March. He faces no opposition in the general election this November.

The exact length of time he will spend behind bars, however, remains uncertain. Though he was sentenced to one year, county jails will often allow “good time credit” which can drastically cut time served in some cases. Joel Daniels, the main prosecutor in Reynolds’ trial and chief of the white collar division in the Montgomery County District Attorney’s Office, said that decision is left up to the sheriff.

“The sheriff can have him serve day-for-day, he can give him credit for two days for every day that he serves or three days,” he said. “It’s really just on the discretion of the sheriff and it depends on Mr. Reynolds’ behavior.”

If Reynolds served only one day of every three of his sentence, he could conceivably get out of jail just one or two days before the next legislative session starts on Jan. 8.

[…]

On Friday, a Texas Democratic Party leader said Reynolds was taking responsibility for his actions.

“No politician is above the law,” said Manny Garcia, the party’s deputy executive director. “Today, Rep. Reynolds took responsibility for his actions and is facing the consequences, when will indicted Republican Attorney General Ken Paxton do the same?”

Paxton is facing a criminal trial for securities fraud charges, but has not been convicted of a crime.

Garcia said he had “no further comment at this time” when asked if the party saw any need for Reynolds to resign or face disciplinary action. State Rep. Chris Turner, head of the House Democratic Caucus, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

See here for the previous update. You know where I stand on this, so I will just note that there’s an excellent chance Reynolds will be absent when the next Speaker is chosen. Given how Democrats are working to be in position to affect the election of the next Speaker, being shy a member diminishes their influence, even if only at the margins. I sympathize with Manny Garcia, as the TDP has zero power to make Reynolds do anything, but until Ken Paxton is convicted of something, this is not an apt comparison. Reynolds should have taken responsibility for his actions a long time ago. And judging by the press release I got in my inbox shortly after this news hit, the Republicans are already making hay about it, as well they should. We wouldn’t be in this position now if Reynolds had stepped down or declined to run again this year.

CCA refuses to hear Ron Reynolds’ appeal

It’s getting awfully close to midnight.

Rep. Ron Reynolds

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals has refused to review state Rep. Ron Reynolds’ criminal conviction and one-year jail sentence, according to online court records.

The Missouri City Democrat had asked the court to overturn a 2015 misdemeanor conviction in Montgomery County for illegally soliciting clients for his personal injury practice. Reynolds still has 15 days to file a motion for a rehearing, according to a staffer at the court, but it is likely that Reynolds will soon serve his year-long jail sentence.

Joel Daniels, the main prosecutor in Reynolds’ trial and chief of the white collar division in the Montgomery County District Attorney’s Office, said the court’s next step would be to issue a mandate to the trial court to carry out the sentence.

“That will mean that Mr. Reynolds’ case will be put back on the docket, and he’ll be brought into court” and taken to jail, Daniels said.

Before then, Reynolds can request a rehearing, as the court staffer said, and, in theory, he could request time to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, Daniels said. But that would be “extremely unusual and very rare.”

See here and here for the background. I don’t know if Rep. Reynolds has any tricks remaining in his bad to stay out of jail at this point. If not, then this will come to exactly the point I’ve been saying it will, which is that he’ll be in jail while a legislative session is happening, leaving his constituents without representation during that time, all because he was too self-centered to recognize the need to put their needs first and step down. To be fair, he can still do that: If he resigns effective November 6, we can at least get a special election in January and a new rep in place by March. Not ideal, but better than a Rep in the pokey. Reynolds sent me a whiny message via Facebook back in 2015 when I first called on him to leave office and get his personal life in order so I have no illusion that he’ll listen to me this time, but there it is. You did some good things in the Legislature, Ron Reynolds. Now do one more good thing and let someone else take your place. There’s nothing more to say about this.

2018 primary results: Legislative

Rep. Sarah Davis

Statewide Dem totals
Statewide GOP totals

Harris County Dem totals
Harris County GOP totals

(Please note that all results were coming in very slowly. I expect there will still be some precincts not yet reported by the time this publishes. So, I’m going to be less specific than usual, and may have to make a correction or two by Thursday.)

I’m gonna lead with the Republicans this time. Sarah Davis and Lyle Larson, both viciously targeted by Greg Abbott, won their races easily. Sarah, here’s that picture I mentioned before. Also, too, the anti-vaxxers can suck it (in this race; they unfortunately appear to have claimed a scalp elsewhere). Abbott did manage to unseat the mediocre Wayne Faircloth, who was the most conservative of his three targets. Party on, Greg!

Back to the good side: Rita Lucido was leading Fran Watson in SD17, but was short of a majority. Beverly Powell won in SD10, Wendy Davis’ old district. Mark Phariss was leading in SD08, but it was too close to call. On the Republican side, Rep. Pat Fallon destroyed Sen. Craig Estes in SD30, but Sen. Kel Seliger beat back the wingnuts again in SD31. Sen. John Whitmire won easily. Joan Huffman easily held off Kristin Tassin on her side of SD17. And Angela Paxton won in SD08 over the lesser Huffines brother. Apparently, two Paxtons are better than one, and also better than two Huffineses.

Other incumbents in both parties had more trouble. On the D side, longtime Rep. Robert Alonzo lost to Jessica Gonzalez in HD104; her election increases the number of LGBT members of the Lege by one. First term Rep. Diana Arevalo lost to former Rep. Trey Martinez-Fischer in HD116, and first-term Rep. Tomas Uresti, no doubt damaged by his brother’s legal problems, lost to Leo Pacheco. And Dawnna Dukes’ odyssey came to an end as challengers Sheryl Cole and Chito Vela both ran way ahead of her. Other Dems, including (sigh) Ron Reynolds hung on, though Rep. Rene Oliveira was headed to a runoff with Alex Dominguez in HD37. For the Rs, Rep. Jason Villalba was going down in HD114 – he was an anti-vaxxer target, though there were other factors in that race, so it sure would be nice for Dems to pick that one off in November. Rep. Scott Cosper was headed to a runoff in HD54. Other incumbents, including those targeted by the extreme wingnut coalition, made it through.

For Harris County, the following challengers won: Natali Hurtado (HD126; she celebrated by going into labor, so double congratulations to her), Gina Calanni (HD132), Adam Milasincic (HD138). Sandra Moore was briefly above 50% in HD133, but ultimately fell back below it to wind up in a runoff with Marty Schexnayder. Allison Lami Sawyer had a slightly easier time of it, collecting over 90% of the vote against the idiot Lloyd Oliver. Maybe, just maybe, this will be enough to convince Oliver that his run-for-office marketing strategy has come to the end of its usefulness. Sam Harless was on the knife’s edge of a majority in HD126 on the R side; if he falls short, Kevin Fulton was in second place.

There will be a few runoffs in other races around the state. I’ll get back to that another day.

Endorsement watch: A veritable plethora, part 4

Part 1 is here, part 2 is here, part 3 is here, and the full endorsements page is here. I had thought this would finish up all the races of interest for us, but then I decided the Republican races were sufficiently interesting as well, so I’ll do those tomorrow.

CD18: Sheila Jackson Lee

Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee

Sheila Jackson Lee is so deeply entrenched in her congressional seat, knocking her off her throne is pretty close to mission impossible.

She won her post 24 years ago after downtown power brokers — notably Enron CEO Ken Lay — abandoned then-congressman Craig Washington over his opposition to NAFTA and the space station. Since then Jackson Lee has become legendary for her aggressive self-promotion, whether it’s speaking at Michael Jackson’s funeral or planting herself on the aisle before State of the Union speeches to get her picture on television shaking the president’s hand.

But even Democratic politicos who joke about her insatiable appetite for camera time have come to respect Jackson Lee as a hardworking voice for progressive causes. With almost a quarter-century of seniority, she now serves on the House Judiciary, Homeland Security and Budget committees. She likes to brag about her role in securing federal funds for a wide range of needs — from education to veteran services — for constituents in her district.

As you know, I agree. Nothing to see here, let’s move on.

SBOE4: Lawrence Allen

Lawrence Allen, Jr. who was first elected to the board in 2004, has been a principal, assistant principal and teacher across town and is now community liaison at Houston Independent School District. He holds a bachelor’s and two master’s degrees from Prairie View A&M University. As the senior Democrat on the board, Allen, 56, says that he sets the tone for his fellow Democrats about how to approach an issue in a professional way that’s not cantankerous. His collaborative style has been useful in steering this board away from the shores of political controversy and toward fact-based governance.

Since Allen has been on the Board for more than a decade, some could argue that it’s time for a change. However, Allen’s opponent, Steven A. Chambers, is not the person that voters should turn to as his replacement. Chambers, a pastor and educator, told the editorial board that he believes creationism should be taught as an option alongside evolution in Texas schools. After years of struggles with religious fundamentalists, the board has finally started embracing science standards and rejecting dogma. Electing Chambers to the board would risk reigniting this debate and undo the progress made by the board.

This isn’t my district, but I’ll sign on to that. Say No to creationism, always and in every form.

SD15: John Whitmire

Sen. John Whitmire

Long-time State Senator John Whitmire, 68, is facing two talented challengers in the March 6 Democratic primary, but we endorse him for re-election because his experience and political skills will be needed as recovery from Hurricane Harvey continues.

State storm aid has been hard enough to come by even with him in Austin. We can only imagine how it would be without him and his 44 years in the state legislature, the last 35 in the Senate.

He is the dean of that body, has a deep knowledge of how it works and a rare ability in these polarized times to bridge political differences to get things done.

[…]

Of his two opponents, we were particularly impressed by Damian Lacroix, 43, a lawyer who offers a vision of a Texas Democratic Party that fights for its ideals and tries to heighten the contrast with Republicans rather than working behind the scenes for smaller and smaller gains.

“Being a state senator is more than just passing legislation and regulation,” Lacroix told the editorial board. “It is also being able to galvanize people and getting a message out to people, bringing them into the fold.”

There’s something to what LaCroix says, but especially when you’re in the minority you need some of each type. Whitmire’s the best we’ve got at the first type. There are more appealing options elsewhere in the Senate to add to the LaCroix type.

HD147: Garnet Coleman

Rep. Garnet Coleman

After 27 years on the job, state Rep. Garnet F. Coleman, 56, knows his way around the Texas Legislature about as well as anybody there and better than most. He’s a liberal Democrat in a sea of conservative Republicans who manages to get a surprising number of things done.

“Some people know how to kill bills, some people know how to pass bills. I know how to do both,” he told the editorial board.

[…]

Coleman has a long history of working on issues of mental and physical health and of seeking funds for the University of Houston and Texas Southern University, both in his district, which extends from downtown southeast past Hobby Airport.

He also says the state needs a revolving fund like the water development fund that local governments can tap into for flood control projects.

It was an oversight on my part to not include Rep. Coleman on the list of people I endorse. He’s one of the best and he deserves our support.

HD146: Shawn Thierry

Rep. Shawn Thierry

Freshman state Rep. Shawn Nicole Thierry, a 47-year-old attorney, showed a lot of promise in her first session of the Texas Legislature last year as she learned the ropes of being a Democratic legislator in a heavily Republican body.

She was successful enough to get six bills through the House of Representatives — not bad for a rookie legislator — and worked with Republican state Senator Lois Kolkhorst to pass a bill in the special session that extended the Task Force on Maternal Mortality and Morbidity.

The task force, which is studying our state’s Third Worldish maternal mortality rate and what to do about it, was scheduled to end next September, but now will continue until 2023.

Thierry has learned the importance of the personal touch in legislating – it was her letter to Gov. Greg Abbott that convinced him to include the task force issue in the special session.

As noted, Rep. Thierry was selected by precinct chairs as the substitute nominee for HD146 in 2016 after Borris Miles moved up to the Senate to succeed Rodney Ellis. She wasn’t my first choice for the seat – I’d have voted for Erica Lee Carter if I’d been one of the chairs who got to vote – but I agree that she’s done a good job and deserves another term. And with all due respect to her two male opponents, the Lege needs more women, not fewer.

HD142: Harold Dutton

Rep. Harold Dutton

State Rep. Harold V. Dutton, Jr. has served as representative for District 142 since 1985 and we see no compelling reason to lose his seniority and its advantages at a time when Democrats need all the help they can get.

The 73-year-old attorney has been a loyal fighter for his heavily black and Hispanic district that starts in the Fifth Ward and goes east then north to 1960. In last year’s legislative session he authored 106 bills, a big part of them having to do with criminal justice.

He cites improvements to the Fifth Ward’s Hester House community center as his proudest achievement, but he also passed laws that restored the right to vote to ex-felons, effectively stopped red-lining by insurance companies and protected home-buyers from fraud in the use of contracts for deeds. He is involved in efforts to improve struggling district high schools Kashmere, Worthing and Wheatley.

He is also responsible for the state bill under which the Texas Education Agency is threatening to shutter those schools. That might make him vulnerable to a strong challenger.

Rep. Dutton is definitely getting dragged on social media over his authorship of that bill, and also over some nasty remarks he’s directed at Durrel Douglas, who’s been among those fighting to save the mostly black schools that are at risk. His opponent isn’t particularly compelling, but he could be vulnerable going forward. I don’t have a dog in this fight – like most veteran legislators, Dutton has some good and some not-so-good in his record, but his seniority gives him a fair amount of clout. I expect him to win, but this is a race worth watching.

HD139: Jarvis Johnson

Rep. Jarvis Johnson

State Rep. Jarvis Johnson is being challenged by former Lone Star College board chairman Randy Bates in the largely black and Hispanic District 139 on the city’s near northwest side.

He served three terms on the Houston City Council before winning his first term in the Texas House in 2016, succeeding Sylvester Turner who left to run for mayor.

Johnson, 46, is a strong supporter of vocational education, proposes that police officers be required to get psychological exams every two years, holds job fairs in the district and wants to prevent gentrification of historic neighborhoods such as Acres Homes.

Bates, 68, was on the Lone Star board for 21 years, seven of those as chairman, and the main building on its Victory Center campus is named for him. He’s an attorney who heads Bates and Coleman law firm.

He ran for the state seat in 2016 and is running again because he said people in the community complained that Johnson “is not doing enough for our district.”

We have a lot of respect for the work Bates did on the Lone Star board, but he didn’t give us a compelling reason to support him over Johnson.

This is almost certainly the best chance to defeat Rep. Johnson, who doesn’t get the seniority argument that most of the other incumbents listed above have. He didn’t do much as a freshman, but that’s hardly unusual for a member of the minority caucus. I don’t have a strong opinion about this one.

HD27: Wilvin Carter

Four-term incumbent state Rep. Ron Reynolds is running for re-election despite the fact that he may be facing a year in jail for his conviction in 2016 for five cases of misdemeanor barratry, also known as ambulance chasing for his law practice.

He’s being challenged in his Fort Bend district by another lawyer, Wilvin Carter, a former assistant attorney general and Fort Bend County assistant district attorney. The district includes Sienna Plantation, Stafford and most of Missouri City. No Republicans are running for this seat so this Democratic primary essentially serves as the general election for District 27.

[…]

The unfortunate thing about Reynolds is that he is has a strong record for supporting environmental protection and gay rights, but with the possible jail sentence hanging over his head it’s hard to support him. He is a lawmaker who has been convicted of breaking the law, which is a breech of trust. Also, practically speaking, how much can he do for his constituents if he’s behind bars?

Voters should support Carter instead.

Reynolds is good on reproductive choice and a whole host of other issues as well. The Chron has endorsed Reynolds’ opponents in recent years due to his legal troubles and they have been pretty harsh about it, but here they recognize the dilemma. Reynolds’ voting record and personal charm have helped him maintain support, and I would bet on him being re-elected. I continue to hope he will step down and get his life straightened out, but that doesn’t appear to be in the cards.

The women challenging Democratic men

One more point of interest from The Cut:

And Democratic women aren’t leaving the men of their own party undisturbed. In Minnesota, former FBI analyst Leah Phifer is challenging incumbent Democratic representative Rick Nolan; Sameena Mustafa, a tenant advocate and founder of the comedy troupe Simmer Brown, is primarying Democrat Mike Quigley in Illinois’s Fifth District. And Chelsea Manning, former Army intelligence analyst and whistle-blower, announced recently that she’s going after Ben Cardin, the 74-year-old who has held one of Maryland’s Senate seats for 11 years and served in the House for 20 years before that.

While the vision of women storming the ramparts of government is radical from one vantage point, from others it’s as American as the idea of representative democracy laid out by our forefathers (like Great-great-great-great-grandpa Frelinghuysen!). “Representative citizens coming from all parts of the nation, cobblers and farmers — that was what was intended by the founders,” says Marie Newman, a former small-business owner and anti-bullying advocate who is challenging Illinois Democrat Dan Lipinski in a primary. “You come to the House for a while and bring your ideas and then you probably go back to your life.” Not only has her opponent been in office for 13 years, Newman notes, but his father held the same seat for 20 years before that. “It’s a family that has reigned supreme, like a monarchy, for over 30 years,” she says.

In the wake of Donald Trump’s defeat of Hillary Clinton, Newman and the rest of this girl gang are eyeing the aging cast of men (and a few women) who’ve hogged the political stage forever and trying to replace them. Replacement. It’s an alluring concept, striking fear in the hearts of the guys who’ve been running the place — recall that the white supremacists in Charlottesville this summer chanted “You will not replace us” — and stirring hope in the rest of us that a redistribution of power might be possible.

So naturally that made me wonder about what the situation was in Texas. For Congress, there are eleven Democrats from Texas, nine men and two women. Two men are not running for re-election, and in each case the most likely successor is a woman. Of the seven men running for re-election, only one (Marc Veasey) has a primary opponent, another man. Both female members of Congress have primary opponents – Sheila Jackson Lee has a male challenger, Eddie Bernice Johnson has a man and a woman running against her. That woman is Barbara Mallory Caroway, who is on something like her third campaign against EBJ. Basically, nothing much of interest here.

Where it is interesting is at the legislative level. Here are all the Democratic incumbents who face primary challengers, sorted into appropriate groups.

Women challenging men:

HD31 (Rep. Ryan Guillen) – Ana Lisa Garza
HD100 (Rep. Eric Johnson) – Sandra Crenshaw
HD104 (Rep. Robert Alonzo) – Jessica Gonzalez
HD117 (Rep. Phillip Cortez) – Terisha DeDeaux

Guillen’s opponent Garza is a district court judge. He was one of the Dems who voted for the anti-gay marriage constitutional amendment back in 2005. I’d like to know both of their positions on LGBT equality. Speaking of which, Jessica Gonzalez is among the many LGBT candidates on the ballot this year. Note that Alonzo was on the right side of that vote in 2005, FWIW. Crenshaw appears to be a former member of Dallas City Council who ran for HD110 in 2014. There’s an interesting story to go along with that, which I’ll let you discover on your own. Cortez was first elected in 2012, winning the nomination over a candidate who had been backed by Annie’s List, and he drew some ire from female activists for some of his activity during that campaign. I have no idea how things stand with him today, but I figured I’d mention that bit of backstory.

And elsewhere…

Women challenging women:

HD75 (Rep. Mary Gonzalez) – MarySue Fernath

Men challenging men:

HD27 (Rep. Ron Reynolds) – Wilvin Carter
HD37 (Rep. Rene Oliveira) – Alex Dominguez and Arturo Alonzo
HD41 (Rep. Bobby Guerra) – Michael L. Pinkard, Jr
HD118 (Rep. Tomas Uresti) – Leo Pacheco
HD139 (Rep. Jarvis Johnson) – Randy Bates
HD142 (Rep. Harold Dutton) – Richard Bonton
HD147 (Rep. Garnet Coleman) – Daniel Espinoza

Men challenging women:

HD116 (Rep. Diana Arevalo) – Trey Martinez Fischer
HD124 (Rep. Ina Minjarez) – Robert Escobedo
HD146 (Rep. Shawn Thierry) – Roy Owens

Special case:

HD46 (Rep. Dawnna Dukes) – Five opponents

We know about Reps. Reynolds and Dukes. Bates and Owens represent rematches – Bates was in the 2016 primary, while Owens competed unsuccessfully in the precinct chair process for HD146, then ran as a write-in that November, getting a bit less than 3% of the vote. Alonzo and Bonton look like interesting candidates, but by far the hottest race here is in HD116, where TMF is seeking a return engagement to the Lege, and a lot of his former colleagues are there for him. I imagine things could be a bit awkward if Rep. Arevalo hangs on. Anyway, I don’t know that there are any lessons to be learned from this, I just wanted to document it.

Filing roundup: Outside Harris County

A look at who filed for what on the Democratic side in the counties around Harris. These are all predominantly Republican counties, some more than others, so the Democrats are almost all challengers. On the flip side, there are many opportunities for gains.

Lisa Seger

Montgomery County

CD08 – Steven David

HD03 – Lisa Seger
HD15 – Lorena Perez McGill
HD16 – Mike Midler

County Judge – Jay Stittleburg
District Clerk – John-Brandon Pierre
County Treasurer – Mandy Sunderland

First, kudos to Montgomery County, hardly a Democratic bastion, for having so many candidates. They’re a County Clerk candidate away from having a full slate. I’m not tracking judicial candidates, County Commissioners, or Constables, but the MCDP has those, too. Steven David is a business and efficiency expert for the City of Houston. He’s running against Kevin “Cut all the taxes for the rich people!” Brady. Lisa Seger, whose district also covers Waller County, is a fulltime farmer in Field Store Community who has helped feed first responders during the fires of 2011 and is also involved in animal rescue. Her opponent is Cecil Bell, who was possibly the most fanatical pusher of anti-LGBT bills in the State House. She’s also a Facebook friend of my wife, who knows a lot of local farmers through her past work with Central City Co-Op. Jay Stittleburg is a Navy veteran and Project Management Professional who has worked in oil and gas. John-Brandon Pierre is a Marine Corps veteran who served in Iraq. A very solid group.

Fort Bend County

CD22 – Letitia Plummer
CD22 – Margarita Ruiz Johnson
CD22 – Mark Gibson
CD22 – Sri Preston Kulkarni
CD22 – Steve Brown

SD17 – Fran Watson
SD17 – Rita Lucido
SD17 – Ahmad Hassan

HD26 – Sarah DeMerchant
HD27 – Rep. Ron Reynolds
HD27 – Wilvin Carter
HD28 – Meghan Scoggins
HD85 – Jennifer Cantu

County Judge – KP George
District Clerk – Beverly McGrew Walker

Gotta say, I’m kind of disappointed in Fort Bend. They had a full slate for county offices in 2014, but this year there wasn’t anyone to run for County Clerk or County Treasurer? I don’t understand how that happens. Mark Gibson and Steve Brown list Fort Bend addresses, while Letitia Plummer and Margarita Johnson are from Pearland and Sri Kulkarni is from Houston. The Senate candidates we’ve already discussed. For the State House, Sarah DeMerchant ran in 2016, while Wilvin Carter is the latest to try to take out Rep. Ron Reynolds, who is the only incumbent among all the candidates I’m listing in this post and whose story you know well. Meghan Scoggins has a background in aerospace but works now in the nonprofit sector, while Jennifer Cantu is an Early Childhood Intervention therapist for a Texas nonprofit. KP George is a Fort Bend ISD Trustee and past candidate for CD22.

Brazoria County

CD14 – Adrienne Bell
CD14 – Levy Barnes

SBOE7 – Elizabeth Markowitz

HD29 – Dylan Wilde Forbis
HD29 – James Pressley

County Judge – Robert Pruett
County Clerk – Rose MacAskie

CD22 and SD17 also contain Brazoria County. HD25, held by Dennis Bonnen, is in Brazoria but it is one of the few districts that drew no Democratic candidates. I haven’t focused much on the SBOE races, but as we know longtime Republican member David Bradley is retiring, so that seat is open. It’s not exactly a swing district, but maybe 2018 will be better than we think. Adrienne Bell has been in the CD14 race the longest; she’s a Houston native and educator who was on both the Obama 2012 and Wendy Davis 2014 campaigns. Levy Barnes is an ordained bishop with a bachelor’s in biology, and you’ll need to read his biography for yourself because there’s too much to encapsulate. Dylan Wilde Forbis is one of at least three transgender candidates for State House out there – Jenifer Pool in HD138 and Finnigan Jones in HD94 are the others I am aware of. The only useful bit of information I could find about the other candidates is the Robert Pruett had run for County Judge in 2014, too.

Galveston County

HD23 – Amanda Jamrok
HD24 – John Phelps

CD14 and SBOE7 are also in Galveston. Remember when Galveston was a Democratic county? Those were the days. I don’t have any further information about these candidates.

Hope these posts have been useful. There are more I hope to do, but they’re pretty labor intensive so I’ll get to them as best I can.

You can’t legislate from jail

That’s the Ron Reynolds story.

Rep. Ron Reynolds

There’s a chance state Rep. Ron Reynolds could be sentenced to serve a year in jail next year. If that happens, he wouldn’t have to resign, according to state officials.

The Houston-area Democrat recently lost his appeal to a 2016 conviction of five misdemeanor barratry charges for illegal solicitation of legal clients. Reynolds, a once-practicing personal injury lawyer, says his attorney is working to submit a petition to the Texas Criminal Court of Appeals to review the opinions issued by Texas’ 8th Court of Appeals, which upheld his conviction. It’s a last-ditch attempt to avoid serving his sentence of a year in jail.

In an interview with the Tribune, Reynolds refused to address what he would do if his final appeal fails.

“We’re very – and I’ve even got a second opinion – are very confident that we’ll prevail, so I don’t think it will get to that point,” Reynolds said in a phone interview.

Should Reynolds end up in jail next year, the four-term lawmaker could still hold office and continue to run for re-election. According to Sec. 141.001 of the Texas Election Code, the only criminal misconduct that would require an elected official to resign would be a felony conviction. Reynolds’ convictions qualify as misdemeanors.

“So technically, the representative could be serving out his sentence for a misdemeanor and still be a state representative,” said Sam Taylor, communications director for the Texas Secretary of State’s Office.

[…]

Joel Daniels, a Montgomery County assistant district attorney who was among the lawyers who tried Reynolds’ case, noted that the opinions issued by the three-judge Eighth Court of Appeals on Nov. 29 were unanimous for each of the five charges. That bodes well for the prosecution’s case, he said.

“We are greatly gratified by the appeals court rejecting Mr. Reynolds’ attempt to overturn a jury’s verdict,” Daniels said. “This important decision brings Mr. Reynolds one step closer to justice.”

See here for the last update. I honestly don’t know what Reynolds’ end game is. I understand having hope, but you gotta be realistic, too. Reynolds received a decent amount of establishment support in his re-election bid two years ago. I got the sense at that time that patience was running out for him. In this environment, I have a hard time seeing how anyone could endorse him again, regardless of his voting record and their past personal relationship. Wilvin Carter is Reynolds’ opponent this time around. Perhaps the voters will render moot any concern about how Rep. Reynolds could perform his legislative duties while in jail.

Appeals court upholds Reynolds barratry conviction

Not good.

Rep. Ron Reynolds

A Texas appeals court has upheld the conviction of state Rep. Ron Reynolds, who was found guilty in 2015 of engaging in a scheme to illegally solicit potential clients for his law firm.

The three-judge appellate panel ruled Wednesday that there was sufficient evidence to convict Reynolds and that the trial judge did not violate any rules relating to the introduction of evidence.

[…]

In a phone interview Thursday, Reynolds said he plans to continue appealing his conviction and remain free on a $25,000 bond. He said he couldn’t respond to the appellate judges’ ruling because he hadn’t read their opinion.

“It would be premature of me,” Reynolds said. “Once (my lawyer) gets everything filed and once everything is adjudicated, I feel very confident I’ll be vindicated and cleared on appeal.”

In his appeal, Reynolds argued that he believed Valdez did not initiate contact with the potential clients for legal representation. Reynolds said he thought Valdez referred clients who had initially sought out Valdez for treatment at his medical clinics.

The judges found enough evidence to uphold the conviction, noting that Reynolds paid Valdez in cash, did not document the payments and used code words in text messages to cover potentially nefarious motives, among other tactics.

“The evidence here supports a rational construct that (Reynolds) was aware of Valdez’s scheme and knowingly permitted his conduct,” Eighth Court of Appeals Chief Justice Ann Crawford McClure wrote.

Rep. Reynolds was convicted of misdemeanor barratry in November of 2015, and received the maximum sentence of a year in jail a couple of days later. He has alleged that racial bias was a factor in his prosecution and conviction. His law license is on suspension while his case is being litigated. You know how I feel about this – I wish Rep. Reynolds would step down so he can better take care of his own business. I have no idea what his plan is for dealing with his legal issues at this time, but he’s once again running for election, and once again he has a primary opponent. One way or another, at some point this saga will come to an end.

Post-holiday weekend filing update

Pulling this together from various sources.

– According to the Brazoria County Democratic Party, Beto O’Rourke has company in the primary for Senate. Sema Hernandez, whose campaign Facebook page describes her as a “Berniecrat progressive” from Houston, is a candidate as well. I’d not seen or heard her name before this, and neither she nor Beto has officially filed yet as far as I can tell, so this is all I know. Some free advice to Beto O’Rourke: Please learn a lesson from the Wendy Davis experience and run hard in South Texas and the Valley so we don’t wake up in March to a fleet of stories about how you did surprisingly poorly in those areas against an unknown with a Latinx surname. Thanks.

J. Darnell Jones announced on Facebook that he will be filing for CD02 on November 30, joining Todd Litton in that race. Jones is a retired Navy officer (he has also served in the Army) who ran for Pearland City Council this past May. He had been associated with this race for awhile, so this is just making it official.

– The field in CD10 is growing. Richie DeGrow filed at TDP headquarters before Thanksgiving. He lives in Austin has kind of a meandering biography that among other things indicates he has had a career in the hospitality industry; I’ll leave it to you to learn more. Tami Walker is an attorney in Katy who has experience with various state and federal regulatory agencies; I’m told she’s active with Indivisible Katy. Tawana Cadien, who has run a couple of times before, is still out there, and Ryan Stone has filed campaign finance reports, though I can’t find a web presence for him, and neither has filed yet as far as I can tell. Finally, Michael Siegel, who is an assistant City Attorney in Austin is collecting petition signatures in lieu of paying the filing fee.

– In CD22, we have Mark Gibson, a businessman and retired Army colonel who was the candidate in 2016, and Letitia Plummer, a dentist in Pearland who is unfortunately an object lesson in why you should register your name as a domain before entering politics. I am also hearing that Steve Brown, the 2014 Democratic candidate for Railroad Commissioner and former Chair of the Fort Bend County Democratic Party, is planning to jump in.

– We have some interesting primaries for State House in Harris County. The rematch from 2016 in HD139 between first term Rep. Jarvis Johnson and former Lone Star College trustee Randy Bates may be the headliner, but there’s also Adam Milasincic versus two-time Council candidate Jenifer Pool for the right to run in a very winnable HD138. Finally, there’s Marty Schexnayder and Sandra Moore (about whom I can find no information) in the much less winnable HD133.

– In Fort Bend County, Sarah DeMerchant is back for a return engagement in HD26, Meghan Scoggins is running in HD28, and Jennifer Cantu, who does not yet have a web presence, is in for HD85. Rep. Ron Reynolds will once again have an opponent in HD27, this time facing Wilvin Carter.

– Still missing: Candidates in HDs 132 and 135 in Harris County, and 29 in Brazoria County. Also, Fort Bend has a number of county offices up for election this year – District Attorney, County Clerk, District Clerk, Treasurer – and no candidates for those offices that I am aware of. There’s two weeks left. Let’s not miss out.

Precinct analysis: Fort Bend State Rep districts

Following on from yesterday’s post, here’s a look at the vote in Fort Bend from the perspective of the State Rep districts.


Office	            Rep    Dem    Rep %   Dem %
===============================================
President        35,005  31,558  52.59%  47.41%
CJ, 1st CofA     40,047  28,336  58.56%  41.44%
1st CofA #4      39,311  28,940  57.60%  42.40%
14th CofA #2     39,351  28,873  57.68%  42.32%
14th CofA #9     40,008  28,185  58.67%  41.33%
240th JD         39,743  28,291  58.42%  41.58%
400th JD         39,954  28,130  58.68%  41.32%
County Court #5  39,194  28,774  57.67%  42.33%
Sheriff          41,342  27,454  60.09%  39.91%
HD26             39,672  28,876  57.87%  42.13%
President 08     39,210  24,076  61.96%  38.04%
President 12     39,595  22,554  63.71%  36.29%


Office	            Rep    Dem    Rep %   Dem %
===============================================
President        18,471  47,471  28.01%  71.99%
CJ, 1st CofA     21,234  46,194  31.49%  68.51%
1st CofA #4      20,732  46,629  30.78%  69.22%
14th CofA #2     20,635  46,766  30.62%  69.38%
14th CofA #9     21,235  46,072  31.55%  68.45%
240th JD         20,912  46,159  31.18%  68.82%
400th JD         20,999  46,161  31.27%  68.73%
County Court #5  20,590  46,422  30.73%  69.27%
Sheriff          21,147  46,215  31.39%  68.61%
HD27             21,531  45,648  32.05%  67.95%
President 08     18,186  42,374  30.03%  69.97%
President 12     18,939  42,811  30.67%  69.33%


Office	            Rep    Dem    Rep %   Dem %
===============================================
President        44,604  36,032  55.32%  44.68%
CJ, 1st CofA     50,370  33,133  60.32%  39.68%
1st CofA #4      49,824  33,595  59.73%  40.27%
14th CofA #2     49,791  33,655  59.67%  40.33%
14th CofA #9     50,503  32,857  60.58%  39.42%
240th JD         50,064  32,972  60.29%  39.71%
400th JD         50,238  32,827  60.48%  39.52%
County Court #5  49,563  33,405  59.74%  40.26%
Sheriff          51,110  32,457  61.16%  38.84%
HD28             56,777       0 100.00%   0.00%
President 08     30,636  21,813  58.41%  41.59%
President 12     40,593  22,001  64.85%  35.15%


Office	            Rep    Dem    Rep %   Dem %
===============================================
President        19,132  19,414  49.63%  50.37%
CJ, 1st CofA     20,705  18,695  52.55%  47.45%
1st CofA #4      20,563  18,773  52.28%  47.72%
14th CofA #2     20,484  18,845  52.08%  47.92%
14th CofA #9     20,795  18,524  52.89%  47.11%
240th JD         20,864  18,405  53.13%  46.87%
400th JD         21,064  18,238  53.60%  46.40%
County Court #5  20,502  18,726  52.26%  47.74%
Sheriff          21,365  18,214  53.98%  46.02%
HD85             20,876  18,539  52.96%  47.04%
President 08     28,328  19,638  59.06%  40.94%
President 12     30,652  19,087  61.63%  38.37%

I want to begin by noting that HD85 is only partly in Fort Bend; it also encompasses Jackson and Wharton counties. I have no explanation for why the Republican vote dropped off by 10K from 2012 while the Democratic vote has held more or less steady over the past three elections. I didn’t include the 2012 and 2008 Presidential numbers when I first drafted this post, so I wouldn’t have even noticed that had I not added them in later. Maybe there are fewer people in the district? I have no idea. Feel free to enlighten me in the comments.

HD26 is the revelation here. It’s never been on anyone’s radar as being potentially competitive, having been drawn as a 62% or so Republican district in 2011. What appears to be happening is that much like Commissioner’s Precinct 4, HD26 gained Democratic voters, about 6,000 of them over 2012, without gaining any Republican voters. This is not a coincidence, as 26 of the 41 voting precincts in HD26 are in CC4, so the fortunes of the two are clearly correlated. The non-Presidential numbers don’t really qualify HD26 as a swing district, but the trend is in the right direction, and if 2018 winds up a lower turnout year for Republicans, this could interesting. And while I’ve consistently downplayed the Presidential numbers in various contexts, one does have to wonder if a Republican who was persuaded to vote for Hillary Clinton in 2016 might be open to the possibility of voting for a good Democratic candidate against a Trump-supporting Republican officeholder in 2018. The more we can test messages that might move the needle a point or two, the better. Whatever the case, even if 2018 is too soon for demographic change to make HD26 competitive, 2020 may not be. And remember that overlap between Commissioner’s Precinct 4 and HD26. A good candidate in one race can help the other, and vice versa.

Neither HDs 27 nor 28 are competitive, and neither are all that interesting to look at from this view. HD28 is clearly the fast-growing part of Fort Bend – it mostly overlaps with Commissioner’s Precinct 3, in case you were wondering. Turnout has increased by over 60% in HD28 since 2008. Democrats have kept up since 2012, but are behind overall from 2008. My guess is that if redistricting were to be done today, HD28 would be used to shore up HD26, while perhaps also dumping some Democrats into HD27, which hasn’t grown much. I don’t see HD28 becoming competitive based on what we observe here, but as a population center it’s imperative for Dems to engage here, because this area will have an outsized impact on countywide races. You have to keep the margin here manageable, and make sure that new residents who lean Democratic are aware that their votes are needed even if their local races aren’t really winnable.

Chron overview of HD27

Like it or not, Rep. Ron Reynolds will be back for another term.

Rep. Ron Reynolds

When State Rep. Ron Reynolds learned he would face Democratic primary opposition this year for the first time since he won his seat, he called it “the biggest challenge of my political career.”

Reynolds went on to battle three candidates from the party who sought to serve House District 27, an area Reynolds has represented since 2010. Victory did not come in a landslide: a close finish forced him into a run-off, which he won by a slim but safe margin.

Reynolds, after all, was not entering the primary untarnished. Late last year, a Montgomery County jury convicted him on five counts of misdemeanor barratry, the illegal solicitation of legal clients known as “ambulance chasing.” He represented himself in the trial, fighting allegations that he unlawfully paid someone to solicit clients involved in accidents. He lost and subsequently received a year-long jail sentence, a conclusion he deemed racially-motivated and “a modern-day lynching.” He has appealed the conviction.

The 43-year-old incumbent now faces one last barrier to victory in November: a Republican and fellow lawyer named Ken Bryant.

Reynolds, the House Democratic whip, said he expects to be re-elected. Bryant, who has served as a Fort Bend ISD trustee, declined to comment for this story without knowing who the Houston Chronicle was going to endorse. The Chronicle news division and editorial page are separate divisions and the editorial board ultimately made no endorsement in the November race because Bryant did not meet with them.

A Reynolds loss in November would represent a “huge upset,” said Jay Aiyer, assistant professor of political science at Texas Southern University.

[…]

Aiyer attributed this success so far to what he called a “disconnect” in voters’ minds between the criminal allegations Reynolds faces and his ability as a legislator. Reynolds has been well liked and respected by leadership and peers in the House, Aiyer said, opinions that seem to have been strong enough to overcome personal allegations some may find troubling, and on which his Democratic primary contenders had sought to capitalize. “I think voters, by and large, stood by me because of my strong record and my advocacy for them in my three terms in office,” Reynolds said. “I believe that we’ve weathered the storm and we haven’t missed a beat.”

No doubt Reynolds survived his primary and runoff due to his constituents generally liking him, based on his record and personal affability. He’ll survive in November because HD27 is a heavily Democratic district – President Obama received 68.8% of the vote there in 2012. Beyond that, we’ll see. Good will with voters and other elected officials got Reynolds through this cycle, but good will is a finite resource. Reynolds still has a jail sentence and the suspension of his law license hanging over him, and I’ll bet someone challenges his leadership position in the Democratic House caucus. Maybe conditions will be better for him in 2018, and maybe they will be worse. He himself took two tries to win his seat; perhaps it will take two tries for someone else to win it. He’s in a stable position now, but his saga is far from over.

Endorsement watch: Back to the State House, part 1

The Chron ventures outside Houston to make some Legislative endorsements.

Cecil Webster

Cecil Webster

State Representative, District 13: Cecil R. Webster

As an engineer who worked in weapons testing and procurement, retired Col. Cecil R. Webster knows his way around a firearm. But decades of experience couldn’t prepare him for the challenge of open-carry in Texas – specifically, procuring the exact state-mandated signs necessary to keep his church gun-free.

“I spent the last days of 2015 going around trying to find some cheap signs to put on my church that met the specifications so that we could tell folks: ‘Guns are not welcome inside my Rose Missionary Baptist Church,'” Webster said in his meeting with the Houston Chronicle editorial board. “I find it ludicrous that we have to do that.”

State Representative, District 26: D.F. “Rick” Miller

After two terms in Austin, retired military veteran D.F. “Rick” Miller has tried to strike a balance between his Republican conservatism and the limited time available in session to address our state’s immediate needs. During the last session, Miller, 71, promoted bills to expand higher education in Fort Bend County and to empower county officials in going after game rooms. He said he relies on local committees to keep him informed about local issues, and plans to push during the next session on improving public education funding, mental health services for veterans, health care and transportation – a key challenge in this growing Fort Bend County district, which covers most of Sugar Land and part of Richmond.

But Miller’s record isn’t sterling. He made news for pushing a bill that would rescind local anti-discrimination ordinances, earning condemnations from his own son, an HIV-positive gay activist.

State Representative, District 27: No endorsement

Ron Reynolds certainly has found a way to turn lemons into lemonade. After being found guilty of barratry – a charge that he is currently appealing – this Democratic three-term state representative had to declare bankruptcy and is now prohibited from working as a lawyer. So how has this affected Reynolds’ ability to represent his Fort Bend County district, which covers most of Missouri City and Stafford? If anything, he told the editorial board, he now has an excess of free time to focus on his constituents.

“Honestly, I’ve been a full-time legislator,” he said.

State Representative, District 85: Phil Stephenson

Beyond the bathroom debates and firearm fiascos, the next legislative session in Austin will have to tackle dry, numbers-heavy topics like fixing education funding and Houston’s public pensions. State Rep. Phil Stephenson is well-equipped to tackle these important issues, and voters should send him back to Austin for his third term representing District 85, which stretches from Rosenberg and parts of Missouri City in Fort Bend County south through Wharton and Jackson counties.

Stephenson, 71, is a longtime certified public accountant and member of the Wharton County Junior College Board of Trustees. He told the editorial board that he wants to address unfunded liabilities – specifically pensions ­- and the property tax burden on homeowners.

However, he did seem a bit out of touch on other issues, such as when he referred to the “Spanish community” in his district – we presume he meant Hispanic. Stephenson also said that he supported the campus carry bill last session because it maintained prohibitions on guns in classrooms – it doesn’t.

State Representative, District 126: Kevin Roberts

In this race for a Spring-area seat being vacated by five-term state Rep. Patricia Harless, we endorse Kevin Roberts. A Chamber of Commerce Republican, Roberts, 50, is charismatic and loquacious – perhaps to a fault. He’s already well-practiced at a politician’s ability to speak at length without saying much, but he demonstrated a passionate knowledge about the issues facing his largely unincorporated district, which is centered around the intersection of FM 1960 and the Tomball Parkway. Throughout his meeting with the editorial board, Roberts dropped a few key shibboleths that revealed a deep understanding of the challenges facing our state, such as confronting “intergenerational poverty” and extending the expiring 1115 waiver that allows Texas to access Medicaid funds. He also recognized that state recapture of Houston Independent School District tax revenue is, in his words, “crazy.”

An experienced businessman and deacon at Champion Forest Baptist Church, Roberts told the editorial board that he wanted to focus on the state budget, economic development in his district, the systemic problems in Child Protective Services and public education funding.

Neither incumbent Rep. Leighton Schubert in HD13 nor Rep. Reynolds’ Republican opponent visited with the Chron editorial board, which eliminated them from consideration. I don’t recall the Chron endorsing in some of these races before, perhaps because there hadn’t been a contested campaign in them, but it’s a trend I support. They had some nice things to say about challengers Sarah DeMerchant in HD26 and John Davis in HD85 – the latter has an outside shot at winning if the Trump effect in Texas is sufficiently devastating to Republicans – but deferred to the incumbents. Cecil Webster ran in the special election for HD13 that was necessitated by Lois Kolkhorst getting a promotion to the Senate; he finished third in a district that’s probably never going to elect a Democrat. He’s doing something right, however, and I’ll be interested to see if he can move the needle a bit, no doubt with help from The Donald.

Rep. Reynolds files for bankruptcy

This was expected.

Rep. Ron Reynolds

Embattled state Rep. Ron Reynolds has filed for personal bankruptcy following a judge’s order to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to a former client.

The filing comes as Reynolds, the Democratic whip in the House, is also appealing a conviction last year in Montgomery County on barratry charges, commonly known as ambulance chasing. He has also been suspended by the state bar.

[…]

Reynolds filed for Chapter 7 personal bankruptcy on July 14, federal court records show. Legal experts said Texas law allows filers to keep their homes while selling other assets to pay their debts.

In his filings, Reynolds listed $580,000 in assets against more than $1.3 million in liabilities, including the debt to Calloway. He also listed $3,000 in unpaid Houston-area tolls and $15,000 in fines owed to the Texas Ethics Commissions for failing to file financial disclosure forms.

Reynolds was convicted of barratry last year in Montgomery County after jurors agreed he paid a middleman to approach recent accident victims within 30 days of accidents, which Texas law forbids in an effort to fight fraud and keep mourning relatives from being swarmed by personal injury lawyers.

He said his legal troubles are personal issues that “won’t have any impact” on his work for the district, which includes Missouri City, Stafford, Sienna Plantation and parts of Houston and Sugar Land. Questions about his ability to effectively legislate are “just campaign rhetoric,” he said.

“It’s easy to say it from afar, and maybe someone else would be distracted … but for me I’ve been very focused,” Reynolds said in a phone interview. He said his office helps constituents with issues ranging from air quality to road construction and child support.

You know the story; by now, it’s too depressing to bother doing a recap. Reynolds has debts he says he can’t pay, a law license he can’t use, and a jail sentence hanging over his head. Sooner or later, something’s gotta give.

Democratic primary runoff results

vote-button

Harris County results

Fort Bend County results

Statewide results

Trib liveblog

Just for the record, we didn’t get any precinct results until 8:34, at which time only 8% of precincts had reported. I’m pretty sure it wasn’t because of overwhelming turnout this time. We did get a big batch just after 9, but thanks to some close races, Harris County results will be the last ones I write about in this post.

Grady Yarbrough cements his position as this generation’s Gene Kelly by winning the Railroad Commissioner runoff. I’ll say again, you want a decent candidate to win these downballot primaries, especially against a perennial candidate, you’re going to need some investment in those races.

On a more interesting note, first-time candidate Vicente Gonzalez won the runoff in CD15 to succeed retiring Rep. Ruben Hinojosa. Gonzalez drew support from a bunch of Congressional incumbents, including the Congressional Progressive Caucus. Someone at least thinks he has a bright future, so keep an eye on him.

In Bexar County, Barbara Gervin-Hawkins will succeed retiring Rep. Ruth Jones McClendon in HD120.

In fairness to Stan Stanart, the Fort Bend County result reporting was even worse. They posted some precinct results a few minutes before Harris did, then bizarrely went back to showing early votes with zero precincts in. That was still the case as of 9:45 PM, then finally at 10 PM all the results came in at once. The deservedly maligned Rep. Ron Reynolds led 59-41 after early voting, then held on for a 53-47 margin. I wonder if voters were changing their minds, or if it was just the nature of Reynolds supporters to vote early. Whatever the case, he won.

And from Harris County:

– Dakota Carter wins in SBOE6.
– Ed Gonzalez will be the nominee for Sheriff.
– Judge Elaine Palmer easily held off JoAnn Storey for the 215th Civil District Court. Kristin Hawkins had an easy win for the 11th. The closest race of the evening was in the 61st, where Fredericka Phillips nosed out Julie Countiss by 210 votes after overcoming a small early lead by Countiss.
– Eric William Carter won in JP Precinct 1, while Hilary Green held on in JP Precinct 7.
– Chris Diaz romped in Constable Precinct 2, while Sherman Eagleton cruised in Constable Precinct 3.

And finally, Jarvis Johnson won in HD139, entirely on the strength of absentee ballots. Kimberly Willis won the early in-person vote as well as the Runoff Day vote, but not by a large enough margin given the modest number of people who turned out. Johnson will have the seniority advantage over his fellow freshmen thanks to his win in the special election, but this is not the kind of result that will scare anyone off for the next cycle.

Final runoff early voting numbers

EarlyVoting

Here are your final early voting numbers for the Republican and Democratic primary runoffs in Harris County. Note that in both cases, mail ballots have accounted for the majority of the total so far: On the Dem side, there have been 10,913 mail ballots to 10,364 in-person votes, and for the Rs it’s 15,297 to 12,742. For that reason, I don’t expect Tuesday’s results to provide a big boost to turnout, though there are still plenty of people who could vote if they wanted to. We’ll see how good a job the campaigns do at getting their people out.

There are two legislative runoffs in Harris County. In the increasingly nasty HD128 runoff between Republican incumbent Wayne Smith and challenger Briscoe Cain, the effect can be seen in the daily totals from the County Clerk. There were 1,858 in person votes in HD128, nearly double the amount of the next busiest district. It’s more muted on the Democratic side, where 932 people have shown up to pick between Jarvis Johnson and Kimberly Willis. That total trails HDs 146 (984) and 142 (949), not to mention the 1,012 votes cast at the West Gray Multi-Service Center. Of course, the dailies from the Clerk are for in person votes only. We won’t know how many absentee ballots have been cast in each district until Tuesday night.

Speaking of Jarvis Johnson, I could swear I saw a story late last week saying he had been sworn into office after his win in the May 7 special election to fill the remainder of now-Mayor Sylvester Turner’s term, but if so now neither Google nor I can find it. Johnson did pick up Mayor Turner’s endorsement for the primary runoff last week, and he has been endorsed by the Texas AFL-CIO COPE as well. Kimberly Willis has the support of the Texas Parent PAC, but not as far as I can tell Annie’s List. The Houston GLBT Political Caucus did not make an endorsement in this runoff.

Outside of Harris County, you know about the HD27 runoff. The other legislative runoff of interest is in HD120, where candidate Barbara Gervin-Hawkins (who is endorsed by Annie’s List) kicked up a bit of a fuss with labor by appearing to give support to “right to work” laws at a candidate forum. That cost her one endorsement she’s previously received; you can read Express News columnist Gilbert Garcia for the details. By the way, the basically useless special election to fill the unexpired term in HD120, which involved four people who are not in the primary runoff, will have its runoff election on August 2. Lord help us all.

Finally, in the Republican runoff for State Board of Education, District 9, Mary Lou Bruner, this cycle’s winner of the Biggest Idiot Who May Actually Get Elected To Something award, may have inadvertently demonstrated that even in a Republican primary runoff for SBOE in East Texas, there are some limits on stupidity. Maybe. That’s not a proposition I’d want to bet my own money on, but we’ll see. SBOE 9 did elect Thomas Ratliff once, so there is hope and precedent. Ask me again on Wednesday.

Board of Disciplinary Appeals suspends Rep. Reynolds’ law license

More bad news.

Rep. Ron Reynolds

Convicted of five misdemeanor counts of illegally soliciting clients to his personal injury law practice, state Rep. Ron Reynolds is now without a license to practice law.

As Reynolds appeals his convictions, the Texas Supreme Court’s Board of Disciplinary Appeals has suspended the Missouri City Democrat’s law license, saying it would render a final judgment when the appeals process is done.

The embattled Democratic lawmaker has spent years fighting accusations of wrongdoing in his work as an attorney in the Houston area. In November, a Montgomery County jury found him guilty of five barratry counts in an “ambulance-chasing for profit” scheme and sentenced him to one year in jail and a $4,000 fine.

Reynolds attended the April 29 Disciplinary Appeals Board hearing in Austin, in which he asked the board to not suspend his law license while his appeal is pending.

Click here for all things Ron Reynolds. You know how I feel, so I’ll spare you the tedium. This action was not unexpected, and all I can say is that I hope Reynolds has a way to provide for his family while he can’t practice law. Both the Trib last week and the Observer this week covered the HD27 runoff, which despite everything remains Reynolds’ to lose. If he does win, then I hope he’s able to actually serve, because despite his continued assertions of innocence and prosecutorial zeaoltry, he’s still got a jail sentence hanging over his head, and Democrats are going to need all hands on deck next session. And I’ll stop here so I don’t violate my promise from the second sentence above. We’ll know soon enough.

Endorsement watch: Still saying No to Reynolds

The Chron reiterates its opposition to Rep. Ron Reynolds in the HD27 primary runoff.

Angelique Bartholomew

Angelique Bartholomew

Texas’ Attorney General Ken Paxton has been indicted for securities fraud. Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller is under criminal investigation by the Texas Rangers for misusing state funds.

When corruption and criminality become the go-to descriptors for statewide Republicans, it becomes that much easier for Democrats to claim a moral high ground.

State Rep. Ron Reynolds makes it that much harder.

[…]

If Democratic voters want to show that theirs is the moral compass that points to true north, then they should vote out Reynolds and replace him with his challenger in the runoff for District 27: Angelique Bartholomew.

Bartholomew, 46, is a certified mediator and director of compliance for a medical firm. A mother of five, she has degrees from Fisk University and Miles Law School and has been endorsed by Annie’s List. She’s running for office on a platform of meat-and-potatoes issues such as education and affordable healthcare.

The Chron had previously endorsed Steve Brown in HD27, but he did not make it to the runoff. You know how I feel about this, so I won’t belabor it. Reynolds was recently profiled by the Trib, in which he expressed confidence about the runoff. He nearly made it over the 50% line in March, so all his issues aside, he’s got to be seen as the favorite in this race. As always, it’s a matter of who is motivated to show up for this election. I’m hoping those who are motivated are ready for a change.

Roundup of runoff candidate interviews and Q&As

vote-button

As we know, early voting for the primary runoffs begins in a week. I did my usual series of interviews and judicial Q&As for the primary, but there were a few candidates I didn’t get to for one reason or another. So, to refresh everyone’s memory and to give another chance to get acquainted with who will be on the Democratic runoff ballot, here are links to all those interviews and Q&As for your convenience. Remember that turnout in this election is likely to be quite low, so your vote really matters.

SBOE 6

Dakota Carter
Jasmine Jenkins

HD27

Rep. Ron Reynolds
Angelique Brtholomew

(Note: Rep. Reynolds declined a request for an interview.)

HD139

Kimberly Willis
Jarvis Johnson

District Judge, 11th Judicial District

Kristen Hawkins
Rabeea Collier

District Judge, 61st Judicial District

Julie Countiss
Fredericka Phillips

District Judge, 215th Judicial District

Judge Elaine Palmer
JoAnn Storey

Sheriff

Ed Gonzalez
Jerome Moore

Justice of the Peace, Precinct 1, Place 1

Eric William Carter
Tanya Makany-Rivera

Reynolds hit with $500K judgment

Geez.

Rep. Ron Reynolds

State Rep. Ron Reynolds has been ordered to pay $504,000 in damages for failing to give a grieving mother her share of settlement money from a 2010 lawsuit.

The embattled lawmaker, who is also an attorney, failed to give his former client, Nancy Ann Calloway, her share of a $250,000 settlement from a lawsuit stemming from her 23-year-old daughter’s death in a car crash, a Harris County judge ruled Friday.

After the award was handed down, the 55-year-old flight attendant teared up as she described Reynolds repeatedly putting her off when she asked for money that she had earmarked for a tombstone for her daughter, April Cherisse.

“It’s more pain in a painful situation,” Calloway said. “It’s a tragedy.”

[…]

State District Judge Grant Dorfman agreed with Calloway that the lawyer owed her $168,000 in actual damages and $336,000 in punitive damages.

Reynolds had given Calloway about $82,000 – about half of what he owed her – about 18 months after he received the settlement check, according to testimony.

On Friday, the judge agreed that Reynolds should forfeit his share of the mediated settlement because of his misdeeds.

After he ruled, the judge told Calloway that he had seen other consumers wronged by unethical business practices, but said Calloway’s circumstances were “crueler” than most.

“It’s especially troubling that it is a member of the state bar, much less a state rep,” the judge said.

It was in his capacity as a state representative that Reynolds approached Calloway, she testified Friday. He came to her home to console her two days after her daughter’s death in his role as her local legislator, she said. He then offered to represent her in a lawsuit.

Calloway’s attorney, Jim Culpepper, said authorities may also look at the case as another charge of barratry or in a grievance to the state bar, the agency that licenses attorneys and has the power to disbar them. Culpepper said he has not pursued those kinds of actions because he did not want to be accused of seeking criminal charges to leverage his position in the lawsuit.

As you know, I’ve been following both the primary and runoff in HD27, between Rep. Reynolds and Angelique Bartholomew, and the ongoing saga of Ron Reynolds’ legal problems – see here for plenty of related posts. I’ve said before that I like Rep. Reynolds personally, and I understand why his friends have continued to support him. But I have to say, with each of these stories, it gets harder for me to understand it. Beneath the fold is a long missive from Annie’s List, which is backing Bartholomew, detailing Reynolds’ history of judgments against him by former clients. To be as blunt as I can, this shit is unacceptable. I don’t know all the facts in all these cases, and I’m sure that as his political opponents in this runoff, Annie’s List has put everything in as unflattering a light for Reynolds as they can. But you can grant all the mitigating circumstances and more-to-the-story explanations you like, the pattern of behavior is clear, and we haven’t even mentioned the barratry conviction. Just look at the list of excuses and justifications Reynolds gives in this Trib story, and you’ll see that he’s still not willing to own the problems he has caused. I’m sorry it’s come to this, and I feel terrible for Rep. Reynolds’ family, but we do him no favors by continuing to support his political career. He needs to drop out of the runoff, and get his affairs in order. He owes that to his constituents, his clients, his family and friends and supporters, and himself.

(more…)

Runoff watch: Legislative races

I’m going to spend a few posts looking at the runoff elections that will be on the ballot this May. Primary runoffs are completely different than regular primaries, mostly because the races involved are low profile and only the hardest of hardcore voters come out for them. Remember how much time we spent this primary cycle talking about the 2008 Democratic primary and how off-the-charts high the turnout was? Well, turnout for the 2008 Democratic primary runoff in Harris County, which decided one District Judge nomination and one Justice of the Peace nomination, as well as voting on the nomination for Railroad Commissioner, drew all of 9,670 votes. Republican primary runoff turnout that year was 40,457, considerably higher but still quite paltry. The exception to this rule is when there is an actual high-profile race on the ballot, such as in 2012 when Ted Cruz and David Dewhurst went into overtime for the US Senate nomination. That year, in a runoff that happened in July, over 135,000 people came out to vote. The Democratic runoff, which also included a Senate race, drew 30,000 votes. Point being: Don’t expect much this year.

The bottom line is that there are two types of primary runoff voters: Those who are super plugged into the process and who turn out any time there’s an election, and those who are brought out by a campaign. In the absence of a high-profile campaign, the kind that draws news coverage and maybe TV advertising, the main kind of campaign that will draw out voters is one with a ground game. Legislative races are the best for that. There are three legislative runoffs of interest, two in Harris County and one in Fort Bend.

HD128 – Republican runoff

Rep. Wayne Smith

I don’t pay that much attention to most Republican primary races, and even if I did I doubt I’d have given this one much thought. Rep. Wayne Smith in HD128 is a low-key guy, serving as the Chair of the Licensing & Administrative Procedures Committee and generally not doing much to attract my attention. He hadn’t had a competitive primary since he was first elected in 2002, and hadn’t had a non-third party opponent since 2004. Yet there he was on Election Day, trailing some guy named Brisco Cain by four points and coming close to losing outright in a three-candidate field. What happened?

I’ll leave you to read this Big Jolly post to get an idea. Basically, it’s one part Smith not being “conservative” enough – Cain drew a ton of support from the “grassroots” organizations – and one part this being yet another proxy fight over Speaker Joe Straus. That’s likely to be how the runoff plays out, though so far it’s been as under the radar from the perspective of an interested outsider like myself as the March race was. Smith’s best chance, it seems to me, is for Straus’ money to buy him some voter outreach, and get as many people who think he’s been good for Baytown to the polls. Cain, who ran for HD129 in 2014 but finished fourth in the seven-candidate primary, needs to harness the same seething anger that propels candidacies like his. He had a 500-vote lead on March 1, and the kind of people that vote for the kind of candidate that he is tend to be highly motivated to turn out, so I see this as Cain’s race to lose. I predict there will be at least one controversy over a mailer or online ad attacking Smith, because that’s the way these things tend to go and also because groups like Empower Texans are backing Cain. If you’re a Republican, how do you see this race?

HD139 – Democratic runoff

This is the race for Mayor Turner’s open seat, with the winner of the primary runoff the winner of the office, since there is no Republican running. (The same is true for the HD128 runoff.) Candidate Randy Bates collected the most institutional support, and he led the field when the initial results, from early and absentee voting, were published. He then collected only 20% of the vote on Election Day, and slid into third place behind Kimberly Willis and Jarvis Johnson. I’m not sure what happened there, but if I had to guess I’d posit that 1) Willis had a better ground game, and 2) Johnson benefited from the high turnout on Election Day, as perhaps it featured a higher percentage of voters who were voting for a familiar name. Like I said, that’s just a guess.

I could see this runoff going either way. I have not yet seen updated endorsements from the groups that had backed Bates in March, but I’ll be surprised if it isn’t the case that Willis cleans up among them. She has been by far the more active campaigner of the two, and Johnson’s legacy as Council member isn’t the best. I think Willis will be able to turn out some voters for this race, and that gives her the edge, but Johnson’s name recognition can’t be denied. Willis’ model needs to be Erica Lee’s runoff win for HCDE in 2012, which she accomplished despite Johnson nearly taking a majority in the first round. If she can reach enough voters, she can win.

On a side note, there is a complicating factor for this race, and that’s the special election to fill out the remainder of Turner’s term, which will be held on May 7, a mere 17 days before the primary runoff. I don’t know when the filing deadline is for this, and I don’t know who all will be in that race, but surely Willis and Johnson will file for it. If nothing else, it’s another opportunity to get out there before the voters. As long as they understand that their obligation doesn’t end with that race and they come out again on May 24, that is.

HD27 – Democratic runoff

The one non-Harris County race of interest, and the one with the highest profile so far. You know the story – three-term Rep. Ron Reynolds and his tsuris, with Annie’s List-backed Angelique Bartholomew the last candidate standing against him. Reynolds, like Briscoe Cain in HD128, was above 50% for most of the night on March 1. In fact, I went to bed around midnight having stated that Reynolds had pulled it out. Not so fast, as it happened.

What Reynolds has going for him is that a lot of people still genuinely like him – for all his self-inflicted wounds, even his opponents have compassion for him – and he hasn’t lost the support of elected officials and many establishment groups. What he has going against him, besides his conviction for barratry, is at least one establishment group that is sure to spend money to try to defeat him, money that he doesn’t have and probably won’t be able to raise. There’s also ammunition to use against him that goes beyond the barratry issue. I think he’s buoyant enough that this is still his race to lose – again, he came very close to winning outright in the first place – but he’s not invulnerable. If there are any further cracks in his support, it could shatter on him.

2016 primary reactions and initial impressions

First, a couple of minor notes. Rep. Byron Cook ultimately pulled out a win in his nasty and high-profile primary. That’s good news for Speaker Joe Straus and the general forces of “government that isn’t like a three-year-old coming off a sugar high”. Rep. Wayne Smith was forced into a runoff but did not lose outright. Also forced into a runoff was Rep. Doug Miller in HD73 – I missed that one on Tuesday night – and on the Democratic side, Rep. Ron Reynolds in HD27. That one apparently happened after midnight; Reynolds will face Angelique Bartholomew in May.

With all 7,963 now having reported, Democratic primary turnout statewide was 1,433,827, with over 800,000 votes coming on Election Day. To put that into some perspective, since the only point of reference any news story I’ve seen lately seems to be the off-the-charts year of 2008, here’s was turnout was for every Democratic primary through 1992, which is as far back as the SOS archives go:


Year      Turnout
=================
2016    1,433,827
2014      554,014
2012      590,164
2010      680,548
2008    2,874,986
2006      508,602
2004      839,231
2002    1,003,388
2000      786,890
1998      654,154
1996      921,256
1994    1,036,907
1992    1,483,047

In other words, 2016 will have had the second highest turnout in any Democratic primary since 1992. Yes, I know, there are a lot more voters now than there were in 1992, but still. That’s not too shabby. Republican turnout with all precincts in was 2,832,234, so while it’s obviously a record-breaker for them, it falls short of the Dem number from 2008. So there.

One thing to touch on here is that in both primaries, well more than half the vote came on Election Day, which as a result meant that the final turnout projections were low. Over 1.6 million Republicans voted on E-Day, so in both primaries about 43% of the vote was early, and 57% came on Election Day. You may recall that the early/E-Day split was similar in 2008, whereas in 2012 the early vote was about 52% of the total. The two lessons I would draw from this are 1) Final turnout projections are always a guess that should always be taken with a healthy serving of salt, and 2) The more hotly contested and high-profile a race is, the more likely that people will wait till the last minute to decide. Someone with more resources than I have should take a closer look at the makeup of the early and late voters to see what percentage of each are the hardcore and the casual voters; my guess, based on a completely unscientific survey of my Facebook friends, is that more hardcore voters than you might think waited till Tuesday. There’s an opportunity here for someone with an enterprising spirit and some number-crunching skillz.

Also on the matter of turnout, 226,825 Democrats and 329,014 Republicans cast ballots in Harris County. 61.4% of all Democratic votes and 59.1% of all Republican votes were cast on Tuesday. See my previous paragraph for what that means to me.

On the matter of the Republican primaries for Court of Criminal Appeals, here’s what Grits had to say during early voting:

Statewide, I’ll be watching the Sid Harle/Sid Smith race on the Court of Criminal Appeals to see if Texas GOP voters have flat-out lost their minds, and the Keel-Oldner-Wheless race to see if Judge Wheless’ strategy of ignoring the establishment and seeking Tea Party, pro-life and generally conservative movement support is enough to win a primary in a low spending, low-profile race.

Well, of the four candidates running in the primary for Judge, Court of Criminal Appeals Place 5, Steve Smith and Sid Harle came in third and fourth, respectively. A couple of guys named Scott Walker and Brent Webster will be in the runoff. As for Judge, Court of Criminal Appeals Place 2, Raymond Wheless came in second and will face Mary Lou Keel in the runoff, while Chris Oldner of Ken Paxton grand jury fame is on the outside looking in. I’ll leave it to Grits to tell me What It All Means.

There were a few races on the Dem side that had people shaking their heads or their fists, but there weren’t any truly bizarre results. For sure, there was nothing on the Dem side that compares to this:

The newly elected chair of the Republican Party in the county that includes the Texas Capitol spent most of election night tweeting about former Gov. Rick Perry’s sexual orientation and former President Bill Clinton’s penis, and insisting that members of the Bush family should be in jail.

He also found time to call Hillary Clinton an “angry bull dyke” and accuse his county vice chair of betraying the values of the Republican Party.

“The people have spoken,” Robert Morrow, who won the helm of the Travis County GOP with 54 percent of the vote, told The Texas Tribune. “My friends and neighbors and political supporters — they wanted Robert Morrow.”

Morrow’s election as Republican chair of the fifth-largest county in Texas left several members of the Travis County GOP, including vice chair Matt Mackowiak, apoplectic. Mackowiak, a Republican strategist, immediately announced over social media that he would do everything in his power to remove Morrow from office.

“We will explore every single option that exists, whether it be persuading him to resign, trying to force him to resign, constraining his power, removing his ability to spend money or resisting any attempt for him to access data or our social media account,” Mackowiak told the Tribune. “I’m treating this as a coup and as a hostile takeover.”

“Tell them they can go fuck themselves,” Morrow told the Tribune.

All righty then. Morrow, whose comedic stylings are collected here, was a regular inhabitant of the comment section at BurkaBlog, back when Paul Burka was still writing it. He was also Exhibit A for why one should never read the comments. I’d feel sorry for Travis County Republicans, but as the story notes Morrow is now Greg Abbott’s county party chair, and that’s just too hilarious for me to be empathetic about. Have fun with that, y’all, because there’s not much you can do to make him leave before his term expires. Trail Blazers has more.

I’ll start digging into the data tomorrow, when I hope all the precinct results will be in for the SOS website, and when I get a draft canvass from the Harris County Clerk. The Trib has a graphical view for the Presidential race if you can’t wait for me. Any other results or tidbits you want me to look at? Let me know. David Collins lists the races that will go to runoffs, and Harold Cook, Marc Campos, PDiddie, the Obserer, and the Current have more.

Endorsement watch: What Brown can do for you

The Chron picks its favorite among the challengers in HD27.

Steve Brown

Steve Brown

[Rep. Ron] Reynolds, a three-term incumbent, was named Freshman of the Year by the House Democratic Caucus at the end of the 2011 session; two years later he landed on Texas Monthly’s “Worst” list. This year he needs to attend to his own problems while someone else takes on the task of representing District 27. The district covers most of Missouri City and parts of Houston and Sugar Land.

Challenging the incumbent are first-time candidate Angelique Bartholomew, 46, a certified mediator and director of compliance for a medical firm; Chris Henderson, 30, an assistant district attorney in Galveston County who also is running for the first time; and Steve Brown, 40, a former White House intern who owns a public affairs firm. The former Democratic Party chairman of Fort Bend County, Brown also worked as a budget analyst for then-state Rep. Sylvester Turner and was the Democratic nominee for a seat on the Texas Railroad Commission in 2014.

Our choice for the Democratic primary is Brown. With 15 years of experience in politics and public affairs, including an unsuccessful run for the District 27 seat in 2006, he’s conversant with issues that resonate in this diverse, fast-growing district, including education and school finance, health care and economic development.

My interview with Steve Brown is here, and with Angelique Bartholomoew is here. The Chron has been pretty harsh on Reynolds lately – they begged people to challenge him after he was sentenced to jail time for barratry – so it was just a matter of who they liked. They had some good options here.

And as long as we’re discussing candidates the Chron doesn’t like:

Candance White brings a broad perspective and a wealth of experience to her quest to secure the Democratic party’s nomination for [Justice, 14th Court of Appeals District, Place 2]. White, 49, who graduated from the University of Texas School of Law and obtained a master’s in law from the University of Houston Law Center, began her career as an environmental lawyer. She has worked in private practice, served as a city of Houston municipal court judge, as an attorney for Adult Protective Services and as the inter-regional managing attorney for both Adult Protective Services and Child Protective Services. Currently, White serves as the Child Welfare Director for Protective Services for Harris County. “I know how to make complex decisions. I make them every day,” White told the editorial board. Her record is even more impressive when compared to that of her primary opponent. Former state appellate court judge Jim Sharp – booted out of office by voters following an episode of bullying behavior – lacks the necessary temperament to hold judicial office. Primary voters should unite behind White and give her a chance to serve on this important bench.

That was from last week. Strictly speaking, Sharp lost a general election in which all Democratic candidates for the 1st and 14th Courts of Appeal were defeated, so the Chron is assuming facts not in evidence. Be that as it may, it was clear who they were going to pick in that race.

Interview with Angelique Bartholomew

Angelique Bartholomew

Angelique Bartholomew

As noted, three-term Rep. Ron Reynolds has drawn three challengers in HD27. You’re aware of Rep. Reynolds’ recent issues, and he is aware of what I have said about him here. As such, he declined to be interviewed. You can check out the interview I did with him for his first campaign in 2008 here if you’re interested. My interview for today is with Angelique Bartholomew, who is a certified mediator and director of compliance at a medical firm. A resident of Missouri City and the mother of five, Bartholomew has led the Angels of Education Auxiliary and served as a community mediator for the Houston Police Department. She was also recently endorsed by Annie’s List. Here’s the interview:

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

Interview with Steve Brown

Steve Brown

Steve Brown

While HD137 is the only Democratic legislative primary in Harris County that features an incumbent and a serious opponent, it’s not the only one in the greater area. Over in Fort Bend, three-term Rep. Ron Reynolds has drawn three challengers in HD27. You’re aware of Rep. Reynolds’ recent issues, and he is aware of what I have said about him here. As such, he declined to be interviewed. You can check out the interview I did with him for his first campaign in 2008 here if you’re interested. Steve Brown was the first person to declare his candidacy against Reynolds this cycle. A former White House intern and legislative staffer, Brown owns a public affairs firm that has counted Houston Metro as a client. He served two terms as the Fort Bend County Democratic Party chair, ran for Railroad Commissioner in 2014 (you can listen to that interview here), and made a previous run for HD27 back in 2006. Here’s the interview:

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

Chron overview of HD27 primary

Also known as Ron Reynolds versus the world.

Rep. Ron Reynolds

“This is the biggest challenge of my political career,” Reynolds said. “It will be an uphill climb, but I’m confident.”

The March 1 primary includes lawyer Angelique Bartholomew, prosecutor Christopher Henderson and Steve Brown, former chairman of the Fort Bend County Democrats. House District 27 covers most of Missouri City and parts of Houston and Sugar Land.

[…]

Despite the legal mess, Reynolds said he has held onto the support of many local Democratic officials, including Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner and U.S. Reps. Sheila Jackson Lee and Al Green.

“No one has told me to resign,” Reynolds said. “It has been the opposite. They tell me, ‘You have got to keep fighting.’ They see (the conviction) for what it really is. They know the history of Montgomery County, and they know the charge.”

Prosecutors and media, he said, “made it appear that I was convicted of a heinous felony. It was a misdemeanor.”

Reynolds, 42, is well-known and well-liked within the district, said Don Bankston, chairman of the Fort Bend County Democrats. Still, the lawmaker is taking the challengers seriously.

“Reynolds is all over the place,” Bankston said. “His signs are everywhere, and he attends every event.”

[…]

Whether Reynolds’ criminal case matters to voters remains to be seen. While campaigning door-to-door, Brown said he has heard few people bring it up.

“People hear bits and pieces of it, but I don’t think they know details,” said Brown, who entered the race in part because he considers Reynolds’ legal problems a distraction. “I’m sympathetic. But we have to separate sympathy from being able to move forward as a district.”

Bartholomew, a first-time candidate who has raised money for other Democrats, said she also was concerned about how well Reynolds can serve the district with legal and professional problems swirling about him.

“Distractions like that are difficult for anyone to manage,” she said.

Bartholomew has not mentioned Reynolds in her campaign. Instead she has focused on fixing the school finance system and reducing class sizes, often using the hashtag #allschoolsmatter on Twitter.

“I’m focused on what is important to the district and families like mine,” said Bartholomew, who has five children, ages 7 to 18.

Henderson, meanwhile, has made an issue of the incumbent’s legal woes. On his campaign site, he wrote that barratry is the legal profession’s version of fraud because attorneys are “duping” clients into hiring them.

Anyone committing fraud should not be allowed to hold public office, wrote Henderson, an assistant district attorney in Galveston County. “Elected officials are put in place to create the law. They must also follow the laws they create.”

I will have interviews with Brown and Bartholomew (who was recently endorsed by Annie’s List) next week. I inquired with Rep. Reynolds to do an interview with him as well, but he declined.

I’ll say again, I like Rep. Reynolds and I respect his service in the Lege, but I believe it’s time for a change in HD27. Of course, I don’t live there and I don’t vote there, so it’s not up to me. Objectively, Rep. Reynolds ought to be in political trouble, but it doesn’t always work that way. His legal woes have certainly been news, but they’ve hardly drawn the kind of coverage that Rick Perry or Ken Paxton have for their cases. It’s likely that a fair number of voters know little about his barratry conviction. That’s just the way things are. Those who do know of his travails may well agree with him that he’s being railroaded, or they may decide that this issue doesn’t affect his ability to serve in the Legislature, or that his good service outweighs this problem, or that he’s still the better choice than his opponents. People will make their own decisions for their own reasons, and it doesn’t matter what you or I think. What I do think is that everyone would be better off if Rep. Reynolds dropped out to focus on taking care of his personal business. I think he’s still a favorite to win, though he’ll probably have to survive a runoff to do that. We’ll see what the voters think.

Reynolds loses another request in court

More bad news.

Rep. Ron Reynolds

State Rep. Ron Reynolds has lost his bid to resume practicing law while he appeals his conviction for illegally soliciting clients.

Montgomery County County Court-at-Law Judge Mary Ann Turner on Thursday denied the request by Reynolds, who argued that the bond condition prevents him from being able to financially support his family.

Turner also rejected his request for a new trial, prosecutors said. His case was assigned to the state’s Eighth Court of Appeals in El Paso.

[…]

Reynolds, the first African-American elected to the Texas House from Fort Bend County since Reconstruction, has drawn three opponents in a Democratic primary set for March.

See here and here for the background. I assume the story means that the appeal of his case was “assigned to the state’s Eighth Court of Appeals in El Paso”, though I don’t know why that would be so. Can someone explain that to me? Not being able to practice law while his appeal is ongoing is definitely going to be a hardship for Reynolds, but barring anything unexpected it’s not an injustice. He’s in a tough spot, but unless he can prove his bias claim, he didn’t get there by chance.

Reynolds alleges bias in his conviction

Anything is possible.

Rep. Ron Reynolds

A Fort Bend County lawmaker is waging a public counter-offensive against prosecutors in nearby Montgomery County after his unusual conviction for illegally soliciting clients for his law practice, saying that he was the victim of selective prosecution and racial bias.

“I believe this was a modern-day lynching,” state Rep. Ron Reynolds, 42, said in a statement after being released from jail on bond. He is the first African-American since Reconstruction to be elected to the Texas House from Fort Bend County.

But prosecutors say Reynolds is wrongfully crying racism rather than accepting that he did something wrong. He has a history of bad conduct as an attorney, they say. And the other lawyers charged in a scheme that employed a convicted felon to recruit clients accepted plea deals, while he went to trial and lost.

“It’s a desperate ploy by someone who has been convicted in a full and fair jury trial,” Montgomery County prosecutor Joel Daniels said.

[…]

Texas law prohibits lawyers, among others, from soliciting clients for claims within 31 days of an accident. The rule is meant to protect victims from fraud and swarms of attorneys. But experts said proving barratry is tough because potentially illegal solicitations also could be considered free speech in some instances.

In the trial, Robert Ramirez Valdez Sr., a four-time felon, testified that Reynolds paid an average of $1,000 for each client he recruited for him.

Afterward, Reynolds said in a statement that the jury disregarded evidence showing that he didn’t know cases referred to him by Valdez had been illegally solicited. He said that will be the basis of his appeal.

“In 2015, it’s a crying shame that discrimination still takes place,” Reynolds said. “I have never made my career about race until this case. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once eloquently stated, ‘Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.’ I experienced a gross injustice in Montgomery County, one of the most conservative counties in Texas.”

Reynolds also criticized County Court-at-Law Judge Mary Ann Turner for not proceeding with a bond hearing immediately after his sentencing – a decision that led to him spending a night in jail. And he objected to wearing a jail uniform and shackles on his hands and legs for the hearing the next day, when television cameras were present.

Turner said she could not comment because the case is pending.

Reynolds said he was “singled out because of my status as an African-American elected official.” But his statement didn’t provide specific examples of how race played into his conviction.

See here and here for the background. I mean, sure, there could be bias at work here. I don’t know why Montgomery County would care that much about a legislator for Fort Bend, and there’s the uncomfortable fact that this isn’t Rep. Reynolds’ first brush with barratry; he also has a past history of other ethical issues. As I said, anything is possible, and if Reynolds has evidence of bias to show, I’m more than willing to listen. But I think it’s fair to say that the burden of proof is on him.

Reynolds receives jail sentence in barratry case

He got the max for the misdemeanor charge on which he was convicted.

Rep. Ron Reynolds

State Rep. Ron Reynolds could spend up to a year in jail after he was sentenced Monday to the maximum penalty following his conviction on charges arising from what prosecutors called an “ambulance chasing for profit” scheme.

A Montgomery County jury sentenced Reynolds to up to 12 months in jail and a $20,000 fine following the attorney’s conviction last week on five counts of misdemeanor barratry, or illegally soliciting clients.

The Missouri City Democrat showed no emotion as County Court-at-Law Judge Mary Ann Turner read the sentence late Monday. He took off his suit jacket and tie and handed it to a friend, and gave his cellphone and watch to his wife. Then he was escorted from the courtroom by deputies and taken to county jail.

The sentence comes as Reynolds, the first African-American since Reconstruction elected to the Texas House from Fort Bend County, was starting to campaign for a fourth term. The misdemeanor convictions don’t require him to give up his seat, but deal a blow to his political and legal careers.

Reynolds’ attorney said he intends to appeal, and the court scheduled a hearing for Tuesday on his request to remain free pending that appeal.

See here for the background. You know how I feel about this, so let me just note that a lot of people have called for our indicted Attorney General to step down from his office. To be sure, the charges hanging over Ken Paxton have had an effect on his ability to do his job, but he’s a long way from seeing a courthouse, much less being convicted of something. If one believes Paxton is unfit to serve, it’s hard to see how one argues in favor of Rep. Reynolds staying in office, and that’s before taking into account the possibility that his jail sentence (if it stands) might overlap with a legislative session. Rep. Reynolds has been barred from practicing law while his appeal is ongoing, which I suspect will put a lot of pressure on him and his family. Again, it brings me no joy to say any of this, but the facts are the facts. The Press has more.

Rep. Ron Reynolds convicted of misdemeanor barratry charge

The word “tawdry” applies to this.

Rep. Ron Reynolds

State Rep. Ron Reynolds was convicted Friday of illegally soliciting clients in an “ambulance chasing for profit” scheme, a verdict that carries the threat of jail time and deals a blow to his political career but won’t require him to leave office.

A Montgomery County jury convicted Reynolds, a Missouri City Democrat, of five counts of misdemeanor barratry after a week-long trial in which he represented himself. He was among eight Houston-area lawyers charged in 2013; Reynolds is the only one who did not accept a plea deal.

A teary-eyed Reynolds hugged his wife after the verdict was read. “I always respect the jury’s verdict. But while I respect it, I disagree. Based on the evidence, it did not show that I ever knowingly accepted a solicited case,” said Reynolds, the first African American elected state representative in Fort Bend County since Reconstruction.

Reynolds said he planned to appeal because he doesn’t believe the law was followed.

See here for the past history, and be sure to read the whole story to see why I described it the way I did. I’ll say again what I’ve said before: I like Rep. Reynolds personally, and I value his service as a State Representative, including and especially his leadership on important issues. It is with no joy that I say it’s time for him to conclude his service in the Legislature so he can straighten out his personal life. However well he has served the people of HD27, it’s time for them to have another choice.

Rep. Ron Reynolds to be tried again on barratry charges

Just a misdemeanor this time, for what it’s worth.

Rep. Ron Reynolds

Reynolds was originally charged in 2013 with felony barratry for an alleged “ambulance chasing for profit scheme,” but was convicted by a jury of six counts of a lesser misdemeanor charge “solicitation of professional employment” – essentially acquitting him of the felony charge, his attorney said at the time.

Prosecutors accused Reynolds and seven other Houston-area attorneys of paying thousands of dollars to Robert Ramirez Valdez of Conroe, a four-time felon now serving five years in prison, for his part in scouring Houston police records to recruit car accident victims to become the attorneys’ clients.

Texas law prohibits lawyers – as well as licensed chiropractors, physicians and private investigators – from seeking out and soliciting a client for personal injury, wrongful death, accident or disaster claims.

His conviction was then thrown out in November because a juror reported having been influenced by outside information. The case resumed after the legislative session concluded and was set to go to trial next week.

Prosecutors agreed with the defense that charging Reynolds again with felony barratry would have constituted double jeopardy. The allegations against Reynolds and facts of the case remain the same.

“After significant research on the issue we concluded going forward on the felony is barred by the double jeopardy,” said first assistant district attorney Phil Grant.

See here for all the past history. I’ll say what I said before: I’ve met Rep. Reynolds and I like him. He’s got a good voting record, and he’s been out front on issues like voting rights and reproductive freedom. On that score, we could do a lot worse. But this isn’t his first brush with barratry charges, and he’s got some baggage beyond that. I wish him well in his defense and regardless of what else happens I hope this is the last we ever hear of this sort of thing, but I think it’s time the voters in HD27 had another choice of who to represent them. Win or lose this particular fight, Rep. Reynolds needs to give some thought to calling it a career as a legislator. The Trib has more.

On being Ron Reynolds

Just because everyone’s out to get you doesn’t mean your behavior is above reproach.

Rep. Ron Reynolds

To hear Ron Reynolds tell it, the embattled state representative is just plain misunderstood.

Over the past decade, Reynolds has been sanctioned twice by the state bar, fined $10,000 by the Texas Ethics Commission, sued a half-dozen times and investigated twice for ambulance chasing -though he is quick to note he was indicted only once.

Three days after being re-elected to a third term earlier this month, the Missouri City legislator found himself facing possible jail time after a jury convicted him on the second of those lesser barratry charges. Three days later, the judge ruled it a mistrial. He is due back in court in January.

“It doesn’t define my character. It doesn’t define my work ethic. It doesn’t define my dedication to serving as a state representative,” Reynolds said with defiance in an interview last week. “I’ve made mistakes that I regret. I’m not a perfect person.”

Reynolds’ current ignominy is the latest in a record of ethics troubles that have plagued him since he first ran for office in 2008. Reynolds and his supporters contend those marks should not mar his reputation. Instead, they say, consider the job fairs he’s helped plan and the voters he’s helped register.

[…]

Reynolds was among eight Houston-area personal injury lawyers indicted by a Montgomery County grand jury, accused of working with a felon to steer accident victims to their law practices, an illegal practice known as barratry. Five of those lawyers have pleaded guilty or no contest to lesser misdemeanor offenses in exchange for fines or probated sentences. Two others are awaiting trial on the felony barratry charges.

A jury earlier this month found Reynolds guilty of six counts of misdemeanor solicitation of professional employment, a lesser barratry charge that could carry a short prison term. The judge later declared a mistrial after a juror confessed to being influenced by outside information about the case.

The judge last week issued a gag order barring any of those connected with the case from discussing it.

“This stuff is nothing new because it’s been played out by every opponent I’ve had,” Reynolds said. “The people who are demonizing me? They have an agenda.”

See my previous posts on Ron Reynolds for the background. I’m not demonizing and I have no agenda here. I like Rep. Reynolds as a person and I think he’s generally done a good job as a State Rep. He’s been out front of a lot of the hot button issues, which I appreciate. He’s also now been indicted twice for barratry, and as the story notes there have been questions about his ethics that go back to his first campaign in 2008. Some of that is just politics, but it doesn’t come from nowhere. Reynolds says he doesn’t want to be defined by these issues. It would help if he took more care to avoid them in the first place.

Reynolds’ convictions overturned

My head is spinning.

Rep. Ron Reynolds

State Rep. Ron Reynolds, D-Missouri City, will be back in a Montgomery County courtroom a week before the 2015 legislative session gets underway. The legislator, who just won his third term in office, is facing a new trial related to allegations of “ambulance chasing.”

On Monday, a judge declared a mistrial in the latest case against Reynolds, who was found guilty Friday of six misdemeanor counts of solicitation of professional employment.

Steve Jackson, one of Reynolds’ defense attorneys, said state district Judge Lisa Michalk granted a request for the mistrial because of a “juror experiencing what she said was outside influence that affected her saying ‘guilty.'”

Reynolds, a Houston-area personal injury attorney, was facing 10 felony counts of barratry. He is accused of illegally offering legal services to accident victims within 30 days of their incidents.

Reynolds has denied any wrongdoing, saying that the case against him has been a miscarriage of justice and that the charges were “selective prosecution by a very conservative delegation” in Montgomery County. “The only thing they wanted was me to do was resign my seat,” Reynolds said Monday in an interview.

Kelly Blackburn, the assistant Montgomery County district attorney trying Reynolds’ case, confirmed the mistrial and said that a new trial had been set for Jan. 5. He said the judge declared a mistrial based on a juror stating that the verdict was influenced by fellow jurors talking about “outside information” during deliberations. “All other 11 jurors denied this and stated that they reached their verdict based on the evidence that was submitted during the trial,” Blackburn said.

He said that his team is working to determine if it can legally retry Reynolds on felony barratry charges.

See here for the background. The Chron fills in some details.

Michalk declared a mistrial after the jury’s only African-American member, identified only as juror No. 2, told a bailiff that before the verdict was reached, another juror told her about plea deals accepted by five other Houston-area attorneys arrested in the same sting operation.

Juror No. 2 told Michalk that this information had influenced her decision, but she was unable to identify the juror who told her about the pleas.

Some of the 11 remaining jurors said they, too, had heard the remark about the plea deals, but not until after the verdict was rendered and before testimony was heard in the punishment phase. Reynolds faced a maximum penalty of a year in prison and a $4,000 fine for his misdemeanor convictions.

[…]

Prosecutors contend the mistrial may open Reynolds to a possible felony conviction on the barratry charge again.

“We will all be researching it,” said Montgomery County Assistant District Attorney Phil Grant.

Kelly Blackburn, the lead prosecutor, called the mistrial an “unfortunate incident,” stressing that it had “nothing to do with the actual facts in the case.”

Geoff Corn, a law professor at the South Texas College of Law, said it was unusual to declare a mistrial after a verdict was reached.

Since a jury found Reynolds guilty of the misdemeanor, the jury had found that he was not guilty of felony barratry, Corn said.

“The prosecution had their chance,” he said, but didn’t meet the burden of proof required to convict.

“It’s going to be an interesting battle,” he said. “One of the things that most lawyers will tell you about double jeopardy is it’s so convoluted, you never know for sure.”

Years of watching Law & Order has not adequately prepared me for this. I wonder if there’s any precedent for the double jeopardy question. In any event, even if Rep. Reynolds avoids a redo on the felony charges, he’s still got more trouble than just the misdemeanors.

The State Bar of Texas’ civil case against Reynolds, alleging professional misconduct in connection to the barratry scheme, is set for trial to start on Dec. 15. A ruling against him could lead to his disbarment.

My suggestion to Rep. Reynolds stands. Good luck, but get your house in order.

Rep. Reynolds convicted of six misdemeanors

He actually got off easy since he was facing felony charges.

Rep. Ron Reynolds

A Montgomery County jury Friday found state Rep. Ron Reynolds guilty of six counts of misdemeanor solicitation of professional employment – a lesser charge than the felony barratry charge he faced.

Reynolds stood and stared straight ahead as state District Judge Lisa Michalk read the verdict. The case is now in the punishment phase, and will continue Monday morning, almost a week after the Missouri City Democrat was re-elected to a third House term.

Prosecutor Kelly Blackburn declined to comment, stating that the case is still ongoing.

Reynolds declined comment after his conviction, referring questions to his attorney, Vivian King.

“I am not happy with it because I still believe there was no intent. It should have been a ‘not guilty’ verdict,” King said.

Her client last fall was arrested in a sting operation along with seven other Houston-area attorneys. All were accused of participating in an “ambulance chasing for profit” scheme that revolved around a four-time felon, Robert Ramirez Valdez of Conroe.

Attorneys for Reynolds said Friday’s jury conviction of six counts of misdemeanor solicitation of professional employment would not bar him from continuing to serve on the state Legislature.

See here and here for the background. I like Rep. Reynolds personally, and he’s been good on the issues, but this is unacceptable. It’s not the first time he’s faced charges of this nature; the first time the case was dropped due to some problems with the lead investigator. As my high school band director used to say, once is a mistake and twice is a habit. This is a bad habit for any lawyer to have, let alone an elected representative. My advice to Rep. Reynolds would be to announce that this is his last term in office, then spend the extra time he will have after the spring getting his ethical affairs in order.

A constituent’s letter to Rep. Reynolds

I was forwarded the following email to Rep. Ron Reynolds:

Dear Representative Reynolds,

Rep. Ron Reynolds

I wanted to believe you when I voted for you in 2010 despite knowing that you had been sanctioned twice by the State Bar, and subsequently had your law license suspended. You said that you had made a mistake, and would do better.

Then in 2011, you were leveled massive fines from the Texas Ethics Commission for failure to file required financial disclosure reports. The state had to garnish your pay just to get you to pay those penalties back. This was in addition to the federal income tax liens placed on you and your law firm. You said that you had made a mistake, and would do better.

Then in 2012 you got arrested. Later that year you told me you attended your interim committee hearings. But those committee minutes showed that you never bothered to go. A few months ago you lied saying that you were the Democratic Whip “the second highest ranking position” in the House Democratic caucus. First, we know that the Whip is not the second highest ranking position. Second, you’re not even the Whip. You’re one of 14 Deputy Whips.

Now we’ve learned that you’ve just been arrested for very similar charges as those you faced last year. Your second arrest finally confirms for me that WE can do better. You can’t possibly do your job in Austin while fighting ongoing legal and ethical issues at home.

I respectfully ask that you resign your position immediately and take some time to get your affairs in order. The people in this district deserve representation we can trust.

A Missouri City, TX Constituent,

Elizabeth Lyles

This was sent after Rep. Reynolds recent arrest on barratry charges. It was also sent to the Fort Bend Independent, though I can’t link directly to it – use their silly magazine interface to go to page 4 to see the letter. If Ms. Lyles is not alone in how she feels, I think we can expect Rep. Reynolds to have some opposition in next year’s primary.